Xavi close to Barca deal
Barcelona midfielder Xavi is close to an agreement on a new contract that will mean he ends his playing career at the La Liga club he joined more than 20 years ago, the Spain international said on Thursday. Xavi, who will be 33 at the end of next month, enrolled in Barca’s youth academy in 1991 at the age of 11 and made his debut for the first team in a Spanish Super Cup match against Real Mallorca in 1998. Considered one of the finest playmakers of his, or any, generation, he has helped the club win 20 trophies, including three Champions League crowns and six La Liga titles. He has also been at the heart of Spain’s success in recent years, playing a key role in their triumphs at Euro 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup. “The two sides didn’t take long to reach an agreement and all that remains is to sign the contract,” Xavi said at a post-training news conference when asked about the negotiations. “My dream of seeing out my career at Barca will come true,” he added.
Saint-Etienne climb to fourth
AS Saint-Etienne climbed from fifth to fourth place in Ligue 1 on Thursday despite stretching their sequence to four games without a goal in all competitions after a 0-0 draw at Girondins de Bordeaux. The visitors went closest to scoring when left back Faouzi Ghoulam’s superb lob from 25m struck the crossbar in the 33rd minute. Saint-Etienne now have the same points total (27) as fifth-placed Bordeaux and Lorient in sixth, but possess a superior goal difference. “We were very disappointed with last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat [against leaders Olympique Lyonnais], but tonight we played great,” Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier told reporters.
Hamilton set to join Angels
Outfielder Josh Hamilton is joining fellow Major League Baseball star sluggers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout with the Los Angeles Angels, reportedly inking a five-year deal on Thursday worth US$125 million. ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and the major leagues’ official Web site reported the deal as completed even as the club refused to confirm the move. “As per team policy and MLB rules, the Angels will not comment on the status of any contract negotiations with players,” the club said. “With that said, we continue to look for ways to improve our team. As soon as we have something formal to announce, we will do so.” The Angels signed a US$240 million free-agent deal with Pujols last year as well as landing C.J. Wilson, a former teammate of Hamilton at Texas as the Rangers won American League titles in 2010 and last year, but each time lost in the World Series. Hamilton, 31, has hit .304 with 161 home runs and 553 rubs batted in over 737 major league games.
AC Milan beat Reggina 3-0
AC Milan beat second-division Reggina 3-0 on Thursday night to set up a showdown with Serie A leader Juventus in the Italian Cup quarterfinals. Colombian defender Mario Yepes put Milan ahead in the 51st minute on a snowy night at San Siro, 17-year-old French forward M’Baye Niang doubled the lead in the 79th and Giampaolo Pazzini added a goal in the 81st. Juventus beat Cagliari 1-0 on Wednesday. Yepes scored with a header following a cross from Urby Emanuelsson, before Niang slotted a shot past the goalkeeper to finish off a counterattack for his first goal since transferring from Caen.