Guardado talks Betis’ Euro qualification, Depay’s Lyon exit, Valbuena on Benzema, more under-the-radar stories

Although it has been one of the quieter weeks in European soccer for a while as domestic seasons come to a close this weekend, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain still celebrated midweek cup success while there was also promotion and relegation play-off action.

Real Betis and Mexico’s Andres Guardado spoke with CBS Sports about the Spanish outfit’s return to UEFA continental competition next season while Marco Reus will not be at this summer’s Euros, attempted blackmail victim Mathieu Valbuena gave his thoughts on Karim Benzema’s return for France and much more.

Our pick of the stories you might have missed this week.

Evergreen Guardado on Pellegrini, Joaquin

Speaking at a LaLiga international press call ahead of Betis’ season closer against Celta Vigo this weekend, the Mexico international discussed the positive impact of coach Manuel Pellegrini and club legend Joaquin after EuroBetis’ return was confirmed last weekend with the top seven guaranteed.

“Pellegrini has been really important,” said Guardado of the Chilean tactician to CBS’ question. “He is a coach with so much experience, who has experienced many different situations throughout his career and known great success. In particular, he knows how to handle difficult times and grapples with those tough moments. 

“In good times, we are all good and it is perfect. However, you also have to know how to handle the bad times when things are not going the way that you want. It is important to be convincing in those moments so that the squad believes they can overcome those hard times. Pellegrini has passed these experiences on to the squad and his message has always been very clear. We have embraced that message.”

“What can I say about Joaquin?” Guardado said of the 39-year-old. “Not just this season, but many others, he has been so important to Betis’ history — over both phases. Maybe he will retire when he is 50, who knows? 

“He is somebody who contributes beyond the pitch. Off the pitch, he is respected and loved — he is an icon for us. He is deeply loved by those in Spanish soccer everywhere he goes. This makes our job easier as we really work for Betis and Joaquin contributes greatly towards that. He still has so much to offer on the pitch.”

On the Mexican players he thinks could be on the move to Europe soon, Guardado mentioned three names who he feels could join him as early as this summer after Concacaf Nations League finals duty (on Paramount+) and the 34-year-old is also targeting a fifth FIFA World Cup in 2022.

“(Sebastian) Cordova of America has a lot of talent, he could come to test himself in Europe,” he said. “There is also Orbelin (Pineda) or Cruz Azul, who is a bit more mature. He is at the right time to make the switch to Europe. (Luis) Romo too — he has had a few spectacular seasons and is now in the national team. I think he has enormous talent. There are many candidates, those are just three.

“I do not know for a return to Mexico,” Guardado added. “I do not close any doors. I love it here with Betis. I would like to see out my contract here. Things can change for the club, as well as the player. I am not closing out any opportunities in Mexico or elsewhere. I do want to play at the 2022 World Cup, though.”

Germany’s Reus out as Muller and Hummels return

While Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller and Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels returned to the Germany squad for this summer’s Euros, BVB’s Reus has decided to miss the competition to allow his body to recuperate: “After a complicated, strenuous and — thank God — ultimately successful season, I have decided along with the national team coach (Joachim Low) not to travel to the Euros,” wrote the 31-year-old.

“I have not taken this decision lightly, since I am always incredibly proud when I have the chance to play for my country. But after an intense year for me personally, and having achieved our aims with BVB, I have come to the conclusion that I need to give my body time to recover!”

Meanwhile, 2014 World Cup Sami Khedira confirmed that he has decided to call time on his career at 34.

Valbuena on Benzema return

After Benzema’s return to the France fold, Mathieu Valbuena gave his opinion to RMC Sport and believes that coach Didier Deschamps will emerge as “a winner in every case” with the Real Madrid man back: “I do not have anything to add,” said the 36-year-old. “If he can bring a boost for France, all the better for Les Bleus. 

“Aside from that, it will be on the pitch that things will play out, quite simply. I have nothing more to say. There was a decision made by the manager. In my view, Deschamps comes out of this as a winner in every case. If the French national team works, we will say that he had to make a change despite a difficult context. If France performs less well, people won’t be annoyed with him.”

Allardyce leaves West Brom

After failing in his mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League Sam Allardyce will be leaving the club when the season ends this weekend: “West Brom made me a generous offer to stay at The Hawthorns that shows the commitment of an ambitious club,” he said. “After serious consideration, I have decided not to accept that offer.

“If I were to stay and achieve promotion next season the expectation would be for me to continue for at least another season and, sadly, that is not a commitment I feel able to make at this stage of my career.”

Schalke release 10

The fallen German giants have started to prepare for life alongside the likes of Hamburger SV in the 2. Bundesliga by releasing a host of players and staff from their contracts, including Shkodran Mustafi, Benjamin Stambouli, Nabil Bentaleb and Alessandro Schopf, with loanees also returning to their parent clubs.  

Depay departure confirmed

Memphis Depay has confirmed in an interview with L’Equipe that he will leave Olympique Lyonnais after this weekend’s final Ligue 1 clash with OGC Nice: “I have changed, I have grown up,” he said. “Here, I became a man. When I look back, I think it is a wonderful thing. I have built memories that will stay with me for a long time, friendships too. This was my home.”  

According to CBS Sports soccer insider Fabrizio Romano, Barcelona are inching closer to a deal with Depay, who confirmed to his new lawyers that he wants to join Catalan club.

Seoane takes over at Leverkusen

Bayer 04 Leverkusen have named Gerardo Seoane as their new coach after his success with Young Boys in Switzerland and have confirmed the 42-year-old on a contract until 2024: “We want to challenge again next season with him,” said sporting director Simon Rolfes. 

“He has won the Swiss league title three times in succession with Young Boys and also won the cup in 2020 and that with an attractive and attacking approach that is very close to our philosophy at Leverkusen. For a long time, we have defined ourselves by our attacking, dominant and technical style. And in the coming years, we want to develop that way of playing in tandem with Gerardo and achieve success.”

Mallorca back in LaLiga

Almeria’s defeat to Cartagena earlier this week confirmed Real Mallorca’s return to the top level in Spain without a ball even being kicked, meaning that another American-owned club will be represented across Europe’s top-flight leagues.

Szoboszlai extends

RB Leipzig have added an additional year to Dominik Szoboszlai’s contract until 2026 after an injury-hit spell in the Bundesliga so far: “A contract extension is certainly a bit unusual when a player has not played for their new club yet,” said commercial chief Florian Scholz. “However, for us it is an important indication that Dominik will be a very key player at RB Leipzig for the coming years and that we have a lot of expectations with him.”

Scamacca’s father arrested

In one of this week’s most bizarre stories, Il Messagero reported that Gianluca Scamacca’s father was arrested this week after entering AS Roma’s training facility and damaging multiple cars with a tire iron, leaving youth team players and staff in shock. The Sassuolo man, an under-21 Italy international, is currently on loan with Genoa and was part of ASR’s academy between 2012-15 with La Repubblica adding that it was money-related.

Superstar Slutskiy 

Finally, Rubin Kazan boss Leonid Slutskiy continues to embrace his role as the corny uncle of European soccer after he danced in celebration of the Russians securing their berth in UEFA’s Europa Conference League for next season and then his club gifted him with a selection of cover songs performed by his own players for his 50th birthday!  

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