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We have reached the final weekend of the season in most of Europe's top soccer leagues with Ligue 1, Serie A and La Liga set to finish up. As if that was not enough, there is also the matter of the Manchester derby in the FA Cup final, the DFB Pokal final and the Women's Champions League final as we gear up for next week's UEFA Champions League and Europa Conference League finals. I am Jonathan Johnson with the Golazo Starting XI newsletter ahead of another massive weekend in soccer.

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📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

🇪🇺 Euro U-17 final: Germany vs. France, 2 p.m. ➡️ ViX
🇮🇹 Serie A: Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina, 2:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🌎 Concacaf Women's U-20: USA vs. Costa Rica, 6 p.m. ➡️ FS2
🇦🇷 Argentina: Estudiantes vs. Barracas Central, 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 FA Cup final: Man City vs. Man United, 10 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇪🇺 Women's CL final: Barcelona vs. Wolfsburg, 10 a.m. ➡️  Paramount+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Torino vs. Inter, 12:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇩🇪 DFB Pokal final: Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, 2 p.m. ➡️ ESPN U
🇫🇷 Ligue 1: PSG vs. Clermont, 3 p.m. ➡️ beIN Sports
🇦🇷 Argentina: River Plate vs. Defensa y Justicia, 3:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers, 4:30 p.m. ➡️ Fox
🇧🇷 Brasileirão: America Mineiro vs. Corinthians, 5:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 NWSL: Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

🇮🇹 Serie A: Napoli vs. Sampdoria, 2:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇪🇸 La Liga: Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid, 2:30 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Udinese vs. Juventus, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇪🇸 La Liga: Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona, 3 p.m. ➡️ ESPN Deportes
🇧🇷 Brasileirao: Fluminense vs. RB Bragantino, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 NWSL: NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. San Diego Wave, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🌎 Concacaf CL final: LAFC vs. Leon, 9 p.m. ➡️ FS1

⚽  The Forward Line

Benzema and Messi illustrate strong Saudi lure

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The Saudi Pro League has enjoyed arguably its strongest week so far with Cristiano Ronaldo declaring his future lies with Al-Nassr and high-profile flirtations with Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema. We know that the legendary Argentine is leaving Paris Saint-Germain with Saudi Arabia a potential destination although Barcelona and Inter Miami have tried hard to persuade him otherwise. The Frenchman's potential Real Madrid exit was a bit more surprising, but nothing is official. When asked on Thursday if he would stay, he didn't give away much but did not state that he would be there next season.

"I have a game on Saturday, I train tomorrow, so at the moment I'm in Madrid," Benzema said. 

Regardless of whether Messi and Benzema join Ronaldo in the Saudi topflight, the reality is that the money on offer is going to land these clubs some serious talent in the coming months. Lucrative offers to the likes of veteran stars such as Angel Di Maria of Juventus at the end of their contracts is understandable both from a player and club point of view, but this will quickly extend beyond that to players in their prime with European clubs who can earn more money and play alongside some of these star names in a competition that will keep taking leaps in quality.

Perhaps the next shockwave that we should be bracing ourselves for are the sorts of mind-boggling transfer fees that some European clubs could be tempted by for some of their star names in the near future. For now, the monied Saudi clubs are happy to hoover up available talent while blowing other clubs out of the water with lucrative one or two-year deals. Soon, though, more talent will be needed than is available on the free market and offers will start to be put to clubs which will then bring an entirely new threat to European soccer with it.

"At the moment they are merely hoovering up this generation's Peles and Eusebios," CBS Sports soccer reporter James Benge wrote of Saudi's talent pursuit. "Indeed one might contend that they only got Ronaldo because his time at Juventus and Manchester United had turned him into such damaged goods that no other clubs would touch him. Benzema might not have proven to be such a poisonous figure in locker rooms but how many of Europe's elite clubs would have been hankering to offer big money to a player who turns 36 this year? 

"This is an age where a premium is placed on youth rather than experience. The Pro League is merely one of the last competitions standing that is prepared to pay veterans what they think they deserve. And yet there is something rather more assertive about the Saudi approach. The Chinese Super League's great snares were Oscar and Hulk, Russia also picked up the latter Brazilian star along with Axel Witsel and Malcom. There were players of great talent who made the move east but none who were the holder of the Ballon d'Or, nor indeed, in Messi, the odds-on favorite to win the next edition."

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

Cup final weekend ahead of European bonanza

The next seven days promise to be some of the most trophy-laden of the season with domestic cup finals in England, Germany and Portugal, as well as in the Women's Champions League. All of that is just an appetizer, though, for next week's UEFA doubleheader of the Europa Conference League which builds towards the Champions League final itself on June 10 on Paramount+. Manchester City will feature in two of those with the FA Cup final this weekend against bitter rivals United before the UCL showpiece event against Inter. The Europa League final, which was won by Sevilla, has already whet the appetite, but this weekend will step it up another notch.

On top of the FA Cup, there is the DFB Pokal which will see RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt meet in an intriguing German battle between two of the Bundesliga's better representatives on the continental stage these past few years. There is also the mouthwatering Women's Champions League final which pits 2021 winners Barcelona against 2013 and 2014 champions Wolfsburg in what promises to be an absorbing watch. Sunday gives us the Portuguese Cup final between Braga and Porto with the latter looking to shake off final-day disappointment after they lost out to Benfica in the domestic title race. If that was not enough, there is also Germany vs. France in the Under-17 Euros if you want to check out the German and French stars of tomorrow.

Time for some links:

🔗 Chuck Booth looks at Real Madrid's striker options if Benzema leaves.
🔗 Rafael Leao extends his AC Milan contract until 2028.
🔗 West Ham players walk out over alleged racial slur in The Soccer Tournament.
🔗 Wrexham beat the U.S. women 12-0 in The Soccer Tournament.
🔗 Booth examines the latest U.S. men's national team's Nations League squad.
🔗 Europa ref Anthony Taylor was harassed by Roma fans at the airport.
🔗 UCL final referee Szymon Marciniak to keep role after addressing Polish far-right event.
🔗 Benge offers up 2023-24 Premier League Power Rankings.
🔗 Messi's suitors Inter Miami have sacked coach Phil Neville.
🔗 We rank Messi's five greatest moments at Paris Saint-Germain.
🔗 Sandra Herrera has her latest edition of NWSL Power Rankings.
🔗 French superstar Amadine Henry is returning to NWSL with Angel City.
🔗 The latest NWSL club out west will be known as Bay FC.
🔗 Jose Mourinho wants us to think that Roma missing out on the UCL is a positive.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: The crew reacts to the latest USMNT roster.
🔗 House of Champions: Transfer news with Fabrizio Romano.
🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman look at who is on the bubble for USA's World Cup roster.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with cup final bets..

  • FA Cup final: Man City vs. Man United, Saturday, 10 a.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Draw (+375) -- Although Pep Guardiola's men are the favorites for this one as part of what could be a treble to match their fierce foes' 1999 exploits, Erik ten Hag and his men would dearly love to deprive them of that -- or at least make them work hard for it. This game going beyond 90 minutes will not be what City want, but it may well happen before an extra time or penalties success.
  • DFB Pokal: Leipzig vs. Frankfurt, Saturday, 2 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Frankfurt (+320) -- It has not been the best of league seasons for Frankfurt who struggled with their Champions League involvement, but they have already secured Europa Conference League soccer at the least. Win this, though, and they could reach the Europa League with Leipzig already UCL-bound regardless of the result. That said, RBL would dearly love to defend their title to add to their growing collection of silverware.