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I have no regrets leaving Real Madrid – Bale

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Gareth Bale says he “grew up” during his time with Real Madrid and has “no regrets” having departed the Spanish club to return to Tottenham.

Bale joined Spurs on a season-long loan earlier this month seven years after having departed north London for a then world-record transfer fee.

Despite having played a key role in Real winning four Champions League titles, Bale fell out of favour with manager Zinedine Zidane and made just 20 appearances last season as he was frozen out by the Frenchman.

 

The 31-year-old also endured a strained relationship with the Spanish media, who were highly critical of him, particularly towards the end of his time in Spain.

“No I don’t have any regrets, no,” Bale told Sky Sports. “I just try and play football, that’s all I can do and everything else that’s said externally is out of my control.

“As I said, I have no regrets of what I’ve done, whatever anyone else has said, that’s up to them. I know my opinion of myself and my family know exactly what I am, so that’s all I’m worried about.

“Obviously going into a different culture, a different country, I’ve had to grow up as a person, never mind a footballer.

“You just learn how to deal with the situations that you’re in. Obviously I’ve been in immense pressure situations. I’ve had people on the pitch whistling in the stadium to me.

“So yeah I’ve just learned how to deal with those type of things, to not take it to seriously, take it too much to heart, and yeah just get on with it. It’s football – something that you love doing and you just need to give your best and sometimes that’s all you can do.”

Tottenham finished sixth in the Premier League last season, and with Bale’s arrival, the club will be aiming for a return to the top four and Champions League qualification.

After a surprise defeat at home to Everton in their season opener, Spurs overcame a lacklustre first-half performance to thrash Southampton 5-2 on Sunday, giving them some much-needed momentum to take into this weekend’s match against Newcastle.

 

“Of course when you come into any club you want to do well, you want to help the team as much as you can,” Bale said.

“We have a great team here now with a great squad. They’ve been doing great. Obviously in the time that I’ve gone away they’ve gone on and on and obviously reached the Champions League final, the club’s got a new stadium, the club itself is better, they’re doing better in the Premier League every year.

“So I just want to add to that. I want to try and bring a bit more to the team and try and progress even more and keep pushing in the right direction.”

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Pedro scores as Watford defeat Rooney’s Derby

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Joao Pedro’s strike saw Watford to a 1-0 win as Derby suffered a fifth consecutive home English Championship defeat at Pride Park on Friday.

Pedro settled the match 14 minutes from time.

England great Wayne Rooney could have equalised late on but shot wide, with Derby now having lost four of their opening five matches, while Watford are up to fifth place in the table.

Watford had scored only two goals in four league games this season prior to this match.

In a game of few chances, Derby created an opening in the 40th minute only for Duane Holmes to shoot over the crossbar from 15 yards out.

On the hour, Watford had a penalty appeal rejected when Nathaniel Chalobah’s shot appeared to hit George Evans on the arm.

Eventually, Pedro produced a rare moment of quality when he curled in a shot from the left edge of the area.

Rooney could have made it 1-1 moments later but the former Manchester United striker was off target and he then saw a free-kick just go over the bar.

 

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Olympics: NBBF prepares ahead of likely NBA players’ ban

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vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Babs Ogunade, says the country has enough players to prosecute their 2020 Olympics campaign in Tokyo, should the event coincide with the 2021 NBA season.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver warned players hoping to represent their countries at the Games that it was “unlikely” the league would accommodate Tokyo 2020 by pausing their delayed 2021 season.

NBA stars Al-Farouk Aminu, Josh Okogie, Chimezie Metu and D’Tigers prospects are among several other players that may miss out on the global sports showpiece following Silver’s declaration.

Ogunade, however, disclosed that the country had players that could conveniently represent the country well at the Olympics should the NBA be in session while the Games were ongoing.

“Until we have clarity on the situation, we are going ahead with our plans. We have a lot of players in Europe, we have players in America and all around the world,” Ogunade told The PUNCH.

“If players in the NBA won’t be part of the Olympics, it will affect everyone.

“Luckily for us, we are going to be in the Afrobasket before the Olympics and there are also the Afrobasket qualifiers in Rwanda. All of these will help us discover new players as we go.

“During the World Cup qualifiers the only player that came from the NBA was Al-Farouk Aminu and we were the first to qualify globally, so we have fallback positions.”

Ogunade also stated that not having NBA players at the Games may take away some of the glamour of the Games.

“It will bite the Olympics if the NBA players are playing when the Games are going on, but if they can’t make it, we have where to fall back on.”

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French Open: Nadal beats Sinner to reach 13th semi-finals

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Rafael Nadal reached his 13th Roland Garros semi-final early Wednesday, defeating Italian teenager Jannik Sinner in a high-quality clash which ended at 01:30, the tournament’s latest ever finish.

Nadal, the 12-time champion, won 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-1 to clinch his 98th victory in his 100th match at the French Open.

The 34-year-old will now face Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, who knocked out third seeded US Open champion Dominic Thiem, the runner-up in Paris to Nadal in the last two years, for a place in Sunday’s championship match.

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