Miralem Pjanic

Miralem Pjanic reveals why he rejected Barca move in 2008

Third time lucky. Miralem Pjanic is a Barça player after two unsuccessful attempts to sign him by the club, as revealed by the Bosnian midfielder himself in this part of the interview he gave to SPORT.

First, in 2008, when he was a promising but unknown midfielder for French team Metz. Later, already consecrated as a player in Serie A, Barça knocked on his door again.

You were a kind of Barcelona hero when you scored the goal that eliminated Madrid from the Champions League in 2009. A year before, you were close to signing for Barça. What happened?

I was not prepared to arrive at a club like Barça. I was 17 years old, I was too young and I was starting my professional career. I was not ready to take the step of joining a club of the magnitude of Barça. I preferred to go to Olympique de Lyon: I knew French football, I had been at Metz for years, and at that time I believed that the best thing was to go to the best club in France at that time, Lyon. The best thing for me was to keep learning, to keep training without missing minutes of play. When I look back and think about my career, I realize that whatever team it is, Metz, Lyon, Roma or Juventus, I was always going step by step, growing, having minutes and becoming important.

At that moment, did Barça call you for the first team or the B side?

For the B-team. But I think I chose well. It felt like that at the time. In my career I have always been able to choose, following my instincts, and I think I have done well. I remember that I was also at Uli Hoenness’s house, Bayern loved me at that time too, but for me the best thing was to stay in France. I never wanted to fly too high, or too quick, but to go step by step. And at that time the only way to learn was to keep playing.

Barça tried signing you again a couple of years ago.

Yes, we spoke two or three times in recent years. But it could not be because the clubs did not agree on terms, neither with Roma nor with Juve. Now things have turned out well and I am very proud to be part of this team. I have always considered myself a Barça fan.

Arturo Vidal

Arturo Vidal gives up a fortune to join Inter Milan

Arturo Vidal is on the verge of completing his move to Inter Milan although there are only minor details that need to be resolved as well as the player passing a medical.

After reaching an agreement with Barcelona over the amount owed on his deal, Vidal will soon be an Inter player.

Media reports confirm the Chile international footballer gave up €6.5m in order to push through his move to Inter.

The move was inspired by Antonio Conte’s presence at Inter.

According to the Italian outlet ‘Tuttosport’, “Vidal has given up €6.5m in order to rejoin Conte”. ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ claim both the Vidal and Luis Suarez deals are being held up by minor details.

Whilst those transfers are yet to be completed, both are expected to leave Barça very soon. The Chilean will give up the money owed on the final year of his contract with Barcelona in order to force through his move to Inter.

This means Vidal is likely to leave in a deal structured similar to the one agreed with Sevilla for Rakitic.

The Chilean is expected to fly out to Italy soon in order to pass a medical and be presented to the media there. The chance of joining up with Conte is a key factor behind the move.

‘Gazzetta dello Sport claims the 33-year-old midfielder has agreed to forgo the money owed on his contract with Barça, although some reports in Italy claim Vidal wants the €2.4m owed from bonuses accrued.

Ansu Fati officially Spain’s youngest scorer

Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Spanish national team on Sunday by scoring against Ukraine in the Nations League.

Aged 17 years and 311 days, Fati netted in the 32nd minute of the League A, Group 4 clash at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium when he cut in from the left and curled into the bottom corner to make it 3-0.

The Barcelona forward, who was making his first start for Spain, beat the previous record held by Juan Errazquin, who scored three goals aged 18 against Switzerland in 1925.

Fati is the youngest player to score for Spain as well as for Barca in La Liga and the youngest to score in the Champions League as well.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, the teenager made his Barca debut at the start of last season, becoming the second youngest player ever to play for the Catalan giants.

He was the club’s youngest ever scorer in La Liga after he netted off the bench against Osasuna and the he also scored on his first Barca start, against Valencia, aged 16.

The next day, Barcelona newspaper Mundo Deportivo wrote “A star is born” and he continued breaking records by hitting the winner against Inter Milan in the Champions League in December.

Fati was expected to be given his debut for Spain earlier this year but he had to wait as fixtures were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His goal against Ukraine came after a spell-binding opening half an hour from the youngster as he caused havoc down the left wing and almost scored with a bicycle kick.

Fati’s goal put Spain almost out of sight against Ukraine after Sergio Ramos scored the opening two goals, the first from the penalty spot.

 

Coutinho still chasing dreams at Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho is back at FC Barcelona. The Brazilian has returned to training ahead of schedule as he looks to convince Ronald Koeman that he still has a future at Barça.

On Friday morning, Coutinho once again donned the Barça shirt after cutting short his holiday following his Champions League win with Bayern Munich.

The forward wasn’t expected back until next Tuesday (8th September).

It remains to be seen what happens with Coutinho going forward. With some of the biggest earners at the club being told they aren’t needed, it could provide the Brazilian with another chance to establish himself at the Camp Nou.

The Brazilian is optimistic about his future at FC Barcelona and is desperate to prove himself under new head coach Ronald Koeman.

Coutinho showed glimpses of his talent in Lisbon, even if he didn’t start, and helped his side win the Champions League. He’s reportedly told people close to him that he’s ready to prove himself to Barça. A new coach with new ideas has given Coutinho renewed optimism.

Messi not certain about future at Camp Nou

Ronald Koeman and Leo Messi had a face to face meeting in Barcelona this evening to discuss the superstar’s future at the club.

Leo explained that he still had doubts about staying at Barça after the crushing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich.

Koeman’s main task now is winning over the club icon and convincing him that he’s the man to turn the ship in the right direction.

Koeman understands Messi’s problems – and they are very real. It’s the first time that Messi has genuinely felt like it might be time to call an end to his time at the club.

It shows how important Leo is to any project at Barça that less than 24 hours after he signed his contract, Koeman was meeting with Messi to explain his plans for the team going forward.

Messi has been on holiday with his family in La Cerdanya when he received a phone call from the club. He didn’t need too long to think about it before he was in his car to meet with Koeman and discuss his feelings. Leo knows that as captain of the team, it’s important he plays a positive role in the changes the club wants to make.

Koeman is a huge fan of the Argentina international footballer and wants to know as much about the man as possible in order to get him back on side. The meeting was said to have gone well and that both parties are open to future talks about the status of the proposed changes.

Time to reflect

Despite the meeting going better than expected, at least better than it started, Leo still wants some time to consider his future plans. He’s got a year left on his current contract and Barça are hopeful he’ll extend his contract for at least another year. Despite those doubts, Leo has never told Barça he wants to leave, only that he has doubts about the current direction of the club.

Barça know it’s vital that Messi is on board with Koeman otherwise this experiment will go south quickly. No one wants to be the coach who Messi didn’t believe in. There’s also hope that one Leo is back training and sees Koeman’s methods, he will be won over. Barça must do everything possible to turn this situation around and to do that, they need Messi to be pulling in the same direction.

Barcelona appoint Larsson and Schreuder as assistant coaches

There hasn’t been a dull moment at FC Barcelona over the past few days and this Friday morning is no different. The club have confirmed that Alfred Schreuder and Henrik Larsson will join Ronald Koeman’s coaching staff.

Those two joins Koeman on deals which run until 2022.

The accompanying image shows all three together at the Ciutat Esportiva.

Schreuder was at Hoffenheim last season and has previously been Ten Hag’s assistant at Ajax. He was also Nagelsmann’s assistant at Hoffenheim. Now at Leipzig, Nagelsmann is regarded as one of the best coaches from the new generation.

Henrik Larsson played for Barça between 2004 and 2006. He was one of the heroes in Paris when he came on in the second half, the team losing 1-0 at the time, and assisted both Eto’o and Belletti as Barça claimed European glory. He’s well remembered for his performances at the Camp Nou.1

Image: Henrik Larsson

Ronaldo ready to play for Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly been offered to Barcelona in a shock move to link-up with Ballon d’Or rival Lionel Messi.

Despite a record-breaking campaign in front of goal and another Serie A title, the Juventus superstar’s season ultimately ended in disappointment.

Defeats in the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia final were compounded by crashing out of the Champions League to Lyon on Friday.

The shock European exit cost Maurizio Sarri his job while Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport claim that Ronaldo was also considering his future.

The 35-year-old, who has two years left on his Juve deal, has reportedly been offered the chance to conquer France alongside Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet Spanish football expert Guillem Balague has sensationally claimed that a return to LaLiga with Barcelona is another option for Ronaldo.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The reason why Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked to PSG is not so much that PSG are thinking of getting him, it is because Jorge Mendes has been given instructions to find a team for Ronaldo.

“We’ve seen this in the last six months, he was linked to Real Madrid.

“They said no chance, he’s not coming back.

“And there’s been talks about the MLS because Juventus want to get rid of that wage.

“It is as drastic as that. He’s been offered everywhere, including Barcelona.

“I’m not sure if they can get rid of him easily [because] with the kind of money he still earns – 23 million euros net – that he was earning at Real Madrid and I think he equaled those wages when he went to Juventus.

“Who is going to pay that kind of money?”

Argentinian superstar Messi has been battling his Portuguese counterpart Ronaldo for the crown of the world’s best player for over a decade.

The pair have never played together but Brazil legend Rivaldo recently claimed it was football agents’ dream for the two icons to link up.

Ronaldo has previously admitted it would interest him to feature in the same colours as Messi but true to form added he’d still get more goals.

According to AS, Ronaldo’s camp have denied claims he has been offered to Barca and insist he is focused on fulfilling his Juve contract.

Barcelona boss reveals plan to keep Messi at the club

With the LaLiga title seemingly slipping from their grasp, FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has being doing his best to put ‘out another fire’ after it emerged that Leo Messi ordered his father to put a hold on negotiations with the club over a contract renewal.

The news broke via Cadena SER last week with the network claiming that the Argentine was contemplating on not renewing his deal which expires on 30 June (2021).

“I can’t go into detail but Messi will end his career at Barça. I can’t reveal any more as our priority is to focus on the final stretch of the season. We’re currently in a negotiation process with a series of players but Messi has stated that he wishes to stay and we’ll be able to have him playing for us for quite some time”, stated Josep Maria Bartomeu on Movistar.

The Barça was adamant that there were obstacles in the way regarding the renewal process but was anxious to transmit a message of calm for supporters who are confident that the Argentine will pen his ninth renewal contract with the Catalan cub.

Messi’s current FC Barcelona deal runs out next summer when the player will be 34 years-old and his release clause is currently set at 700 million euros.

Xavi expected as next Barcelona coach

Xavi Hernandez is alert to what is happening on Barcelona’s bench at this moment. With the present and the future uncertain, his time may come soon.

The team have virtually lost La Liga and there is a lack of feeling between the players and the coach. They aren’t in a great position to take on the Champions League either.

Xavi Hernandez 2

Setien’s future is on the line and it’s not even impossible that he is axed before the season is out.

Xavi spoke to Jordi Evole about his plans.

“The biggest hope I have in the world is being Barca coach and to succeed again. Not me, but these players, and Barca. And as a consequence, our staff are preparing a lot to be ready.”

His dream has not changed.

However, Xavi also would like to start from zero, rather than coming in to save another person’s project. Ideally after the elections next summer.

The only doubt about Xavi is when he will take over. He would rather it was later but the club could convince him sooner.

Does Griezmann regret leaving Atletico Madrid?

Much like FC Barcelona’s title challenge in LaLiga, hope is running out for Antoine Griezmann at the club. A year after his arrival and he isn’t eating at the same table as Messi, he’s not even allowed into the same restaurant.

Griezmann is concerned about his performances and that shows whenever he steps out onto the pitch. He scored an important goal against Napoli which felt like he had turned a corner but his form has crashed ever since. He’s gone from “untouchable” to benched.

IS GRIEZMANN TO BLAME FOR HIS SITUATION?

Before he signed for Barça, the French striker knew he would need to adapt to his new team. He isn’t the first player to find it tough to settle at the Camp Nou either.

However, in most other cases, the player in question has slowly grown to understand his role over the course of that initial year. With Griezmann, he’s gone backwards. A solid start saw many believe the foundations were in place for him to become a star. Griezmann’s efforts can’t be questioned and some onlookers believe the team isn’t trying to adjust to his needs either.

Yet, the other side of the argument is that a World Cup winner should have the confidence and personality to adapt to any situation.

WILL HE RETURN TO THE XI IN THE NEXT FEW MATCHES?

After starting on the bench against Celta and Atletico, it’ll be interesting to see what Setien does against Villarreal on Sunday. The coach hinted at Griezmann returning to the XI, although Riqui Puig and Arturo Vidal’s form won’t make that an easy decision. If he’s overlooked again, Setien might lose the player’s trust for good. The league might be a tough ask but there’s still the matter of the Champions League next month.

HAS PLAYING OUT OF POSITION HURT HIS CAUSE?

Without a doubt. Barça signed him to play out wide but it’s clear that isn’t his best position. He doesn’t have the speed or trickery to beat his marker so when he receives the ball, he often turns inside or goes backwards. Griezmann has shown for both Atletico and France that his best role is just behind the main striker. However that role and position doesn’t exist at Barça and those spaces are usually occupied by Lionel Messi.

IS HE STRUGGLING TO CONNECT WITH MESSI AND SUÁREZ?

Only those in the dressing room know for sure but, on the pitch, there’s plenty of room for improvement. It isn’t easy to reach the level of understanding Leo and Suarez have but it’s a concern that Griezmann is still struggling to find any type of connection with the old guard.

WHAT’S GOING WRONG ON THE PITCH?

Griezmann shines when he finds pockets of space and defence turns to attack quickly. That doesn’t exactly work with Barça as the opposition tend to sit much deeper and look to frustrate. This is where the one-on-ones become important and that isn’t Griezmann’s forte. When teams step up or defend higher up the pitch, Antoine has excelled.

DOES GRIEZMANN REGRET LEAVING ATLETICO?

What’s clear is that Griezmann played with a smile on his face at Atletico and that isn’t the case at Barça. He went from being the big fish in a smaller pond, to just another big fish in a much larger pond. Griezmann said he left in pursuit of adding trophies to his career but that doesn’t look like happening this season. It’s possible that the opportunity to return home, to where he felt happiest, would be tempting for him.

SHOULD BARÇA CONSIDER SELLING HIM?

That depends on how confident the club are on turning the situation around. There’s also the fact Setien’s position hardly feels secure beyond this season and a new coach might get the best out of Griezmann. It feels unlikely he would be sold this summer due to how few clubs could afford his fee and wages, plus market prices are set to crash due to the coronavirus pandemic.

COULD THE SITUATION BE TURNED AROUND?

There are no reasons to think that Griezmann’s performances won’t improve before the end of the season. Another factor is what might happen next season. A new coach might change the system or look for alternative ways of getting the best out of this current squad. Many players have exploded into life during their second season at the club. What’s clear is, with or without Setien in charge, Griezmann has been unable to find his best form in the current setup. Without playing the blame game, Griezmann needs to demonstrate more if he’s to succeed at the Camp Nou.

Rakitic finds favor in new coach

Ivan Rakitic said in November 2019 that “they have taken my ball away”.

The comment was made when former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde lost faith in the Croatian footballer.

While he is still in and out under Quique Setien, he’s definitely more involved now, having scored a vital goal against Athletic Club to grab a win for Barcelona.

Barcelona know his signing is more than amortized.

The club wanted to force Rakitic out and make money ahead of his contract expiring next summer.

“I’m not a sack of potatoes,” said Rakitic. The club’s relationship with him is not in its best moment. Ivan would have liked to go back to Sevilla but the club won’t make a big investment for him, knowing he will walk free within a year.

Setien has used him for 665 minutes in the 12 league games since he took over, more than the 607 that Valverde picked him in this season, across 10 games from the 19 he handled.

Barca identify possible replacement for Coutinho

Barcelona are willing to help French midfielder Ndombele leave Tottenham and coach Jose Mourinho, whom he has fallen out with.

It could also be a good way of moving on Philippe Coutinho.

The Independent say that Barcelona, conscious of Ndombele’s situation, have spoke to the English side about a trade deal for Coutinho or Nelson Semedo.

However they say this operation would be difficult given that Tottenham want to recoup the 55 million they paid Olympique Lyon in 2019.

Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested so Barcelona would have tough competition.

Barcelona legend Rivaldo shows support for Quique Setien

In his weekly column, Barcelona legend Rivaldo says Quique Setien needs more time before being judged and it’s unfair to compare Antoine Griezmann with Philippe Coutinho.

Here’s what the Brazilian had to say:

“Barcelona beat Leganes 2-0 last night but they didn’t produce a great performance and many are still skeptical about Quique Setien’s new system. I think it’s difficult to pass judgment after just two matches post-lockdown.

“We need to wait a few more weeks to see how the team evolves. It’s understandable that their rhythm and intensity isn’t at its peak yet as they were a lot of time without playing or training. There are players returning from injuries and others still looking to be fit, so we must give them some more time before deciding if Setien’s system can truly work in the long run.

“At the moment, and while the quality of play is not yet at his best, the most important thing is for Barcelona to continue grabbing wins, to keep the leadership of La Liga ahead of Real Madrid and put pressure on them.”

Griezmann can shed ‘new Coutinho’ tag with improved performances

“Barça have won both their games since the restart, with Antoine Griezmann as a starter, but he continues to be far from the player he was at Atletico Madrid and some are wondering if he may become a ‘new Coutinho’ at Barcelona.

“It’s a harsh to start making those comparisons, but it’s up to the player to prove it on the pitch. The lack of goals is demotivating and damages Griezmann’s confidence, so I believe it’s important for Lionel Messi to help him. Messi could, for example, let Griezmann take penalties when Barcelona are winning comfortably — just to get the Frenchman scoring — just like he did with Luis Suárez in the past.”

Messi most likely to start training on Monday

Lionel Messi will continue to follow his personalised plan to be in perfect shape for the return of LaLiga, with Barcelona taking on Mallorca at Son Moix on June 13.

Barcelona’s medical staff decided that it was best not to force himself in training this week, so he will return to the pitch with his teammates on Monday.

With eight days to go until Mallorca, Messi has time to do specific work in the gym on certain muscle areas before getting back to full training next week.

Messi has no major problem, so his presence when LaLiga returns is not in doubt.

Information from FC Barcelona

“Barça captain Leo Messi has a minor right quadriceps injury and trained in isolation, doing specific exercises to avoid unnecessary risks with just eight days remaining before Barça finally get back to playing matches,” the Catalan club said on Friday. “He should be able to rejoin his team-mates in a few days’ time.”

Therefore, the club are calm about the problem and believe he will soon be back working under coach Quique Setien.

Tests

Messi felt some discomfort in training on Tuesday and on Wednesday underwent tests to rule out anything serious.

On Thursday, the whole squad had the day off, and on Friday he worked in the gym.

On Monday 8 June, he will return to full training.

Ousmane Dembele to leave Barcelona this summer

Ousmane Dembele’s third year at Barcelona has resulted in another lost season despite the undoubted potential the French forward possesses.

Barça, therefore, have taken the decision to put him on the transfer market and they will let his agent, Moussa Sissoko, know once the current season finishes in August.

La Liga is due to end in July, with the Champions League taking place in August. It’s not been ruled out that Dembele returns to fitness for European football this summer.

If he doesn’t play — and perform — in the Champions League, it will be difficult to sell well a player that cost an initial 105 million euros, the second biggest fee in the club’s history, after the 160 million paid for Philippe Coutinho.

No firm offers

Barça have no firm offers on the table. Dembele’s name has been discussed in some deals and he’s been linked with Juventus, PSG and Liverpool. But his injury history and the fact that he has missed as many games as he has played means they are treading with caution.

The ‘Mosquito’ wants to stay

The player, through his camp, has expressed his desire to stay at Barça and become a success, but the club have other plans and will let his agent know with the objective of moving him on and bringing in necessary money.