After Paul Pogba announced his departure from Manchester United, another midfield superstar is also heading out the door of Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Arsenal star Alexandre Lacazette has confirmed his time at the Gunners is almost up.
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LACAZETTE CONFIRMS ARSENAL EXIT
Arsenal has confirmed forward Alexandre Lacazette will leave the Gunners once his contract expires on June 30, with the 31-year-old set to return to home club Lyon.
Lacazette wraps up his Arsenal career having played 206 games since joining from Lyon in 2017, scoring 71 goals.
“Five years ago, my dream came true.. To sign for @arsenal .. It’s been an honour to wear the jersey, to be a part of this family. I won trophies, I met real and nice [people], and I fell even more in love with this club,” he wrote on Instagram.
“Good luck for the future of the club and the fans, it’s been a pleasure.
“Once a gunner, Always a Gunner. Thank you Arsenal.”
Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta paid tribute to Lacazette in a statement, calling him a “fantastic player”.
“Laca has been a fantastic player for us,” head coach Mikel Arteta said in a statement.
“He’s been a real leader on and off the pitch and has been a very important influence to our younger players.
“His commitment with us has been exceptional and we wish him and his family success and happiness.”
CHELSEA LOSE DEFENSIVE STAR
German international defender Antonio Rudiger has joined Spanish and European champions Real Madrid from Chelsea, the two clubs confirmed on Thursday.
The 29-year-old centre-back, who was out of contract at Chelsea, has signed a four-year deal in the Spanish capital, Real announced.
In a statement on their official website, Madrid said Rudiger would be unveiled at a press conference at the club’s training ground on June 20.
He is currently with the Germany squad for a series of UEFA Nations League matches, with Hansi Flick’s team playing Italy away on Saturday and then taking on England and Hungary before facing Italy again on June 14.
Rudiger, who started his professional career at VfB Stuttgart, spent two seasons at Roma before joining Chelsea in 2017 for a reported £29 million ($36.4m).
In his time at Stamford Bridge, Rudiger notably won the FA Cup in 2018 and the Europa League in 2019, although he didn’t play in the latter final.
He then helped Thomas Tuchel’s side to win the Champions League last year. “We bid farewell to Antonio Rudiger as he departs Stamford Bridge with his Chelsea contract expiring, bringing to a close his five trophy-filled years with the club,” the London side said in a statement.
Rudiger joins a Real side who are fresh from winning the Champions League by beating Liverpool 1-0 in last weekend’s final in Paris.
He will compete with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Nacho Fernandez for a slot in the heart of the Real defence.
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MATA JOINS UNITED EXODUS
Juan Mata will be the latest player to leave Old Trafford when his contract expires at the end of the month Manchester United said on Thursday.
A major overhaul is expected at United over the coming months as new manager Erik ten Hag tries to put his stamp on the club after a hugely disappointing season.
United confirmed the departures of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard on Wednesday, while Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani will also exit the club this summer.
Mata made 285 appearances and won three trophies since joining from Chelsea in 2014 for £37 million.
However, the 34-year-old former Spanish international has only played a peripheral role in recent seasons.
“Thank you for dedicating eight years of your career to United, Juan,” United said in a statement.
“Everyone at the club wishes you all the best for the future.”
BALE PENS FAREWELL TO REAL
Gareth Bale wrote a farewell letter to Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Welshman bringing an end to his nine-year spell at the Spanish club, where he said his “dream became a reality”.
Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires at the end of June, with the 32-year-old yet to confirm what he will do next.
His future is likely to depend on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, with retirement a possible option if they miss out.
“I write this message to say thank you to all my teammates, past and present, my managers, the backroom staff and to the fans that supported me,” Bale wrote in a letter to Real Madrid, posted on social media in both English and Spanish.
“I arrived here nine years ago as a young man who wanted to realise my dream of playing for Real Madrid. To wear the pristine white kit, to wear the crest on my chest, to play at the Santiago Bernabeu, to win titles and to be part of what it’s so famous for, to win the Champions League.
“I can now look back, reflect and say with honesty that this dream became a reality and much, much more.
“To be a part of this club’s history and to achieve what we achieved while I was a Real Madrid player has been an incredible experience and one I will never forget.” Real Madrid later published a statement, describing Bale as “a player who is now part of the legend of this club forever”, who “lived in these nine years one of the brightest times in our history.” “Real Madrid is and will always be his home and we wish him and his whole family the best of luck,” the statement added.
After joining Madrid from Tottenham for 100 million euros in 2013, Bale went on to win 19 major trophies with Real Madrid, including five Champions Leagues, three La Ligas and one Copa del Rey.
More than his trophies, Bale will be remembered for a handful of spectacular moments, including his two goals scored off the bench against Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv, the first coming from a stunning bicycle kick.
He scored another hugely important goal in the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, his header at the back post giving Real Madrid the lead against Atletico Madrid in extra-time, as they went on to win the club’s long-awaited 10th European Cup.
A frosty relationship with the Spanish press harmed his reputation, with aspects of his personal life – including his passion for playing golf and a lack of fluency in Spanish – increasingly used to support the idea he had lost interest in his Real Madrid career.
The issue exploded in 2019 after Bale celebrated Wales’ qualification for Euro 2020 by standing behind a flag that read: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”
Last season, Bale played only five times in La Liga and seven minutes in the Champions League, again saving his best for Wales, as he scored a hat-trick against Belarus in September and then twice against Austria in March to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive.
REAL ‘LEGEND’ LEAVES
Real Madrid confirmed Isco’s departure on Wednesday and called the Spanish midfielder a “legend of the club”.
Isco’s contract expires at the end of the month and the 30-year-old is weighing up his next move. He has been linked with Real Betis and Sevilla.
“Real Madrid would like to express its gratitude and affection to Francisco Alarcon ‘Isco’, who in these nine years in which he has defended our badge and our shirt has managed to become the legend of our club,” a club statement read.
“His football has left its mark on all the Madridistas who have shared with him this long road full of successes with great unforgettable moments.”
Isco joined Real Madrid from Malaga aged 21 and went on to win five Champions Leagues, three La Ligas and one Copa del Rey.
He made 353 appearances in his nine seasons for the club and played in four Champions League finals, including two as a starter, against Juventus in 2017 and Liverpool in 2018.
But Isco has been a fringe player in recent seasons and was not picked by Carlo Ancelotti to play a single minute of Real Madrid’s latest triumphant Champions League campaign.
On Monday, Isco wrote a farewell message on social media. He said: “After nine years I finish my time at the club that has made it possible for me to fulfil all the dreams I had when I was little.”