Is Joan Laporta right about Barcelona?

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Ever since Joan Laporta was beaten in the FC Barcelona 2015 presidential elections, the former man in charge has made a habit of popping up every now and then with a soundbite or two.

His ire towards Josep Maria Bartomeu is clear, given that when he first took the post it was by default, after his running mate, Sandro Rosell, was deposed.

Suffice to say that it was a shock when Bartomeu was voted in on his own merit (albeit after a treble win), leaving Laporta in a ‘no man’s land’ of sorts.

But is the latter right in his critique of the way the club is being run? Continue reading

Have Real Madrid forgotten about Vinicius?

Real Madrid tend to get their man, even if it takes a few years. Eden Hazard had long appeared destined to one day pull on the famous white jersey of the Spanish giants with the Belgian finally making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It’s a move that had been a long, long time in the making.

Of course, Real Madrid still have a void to fill after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Not just in terms of goals, but in terms of stardust. They need players who can handle the weight of carrying a club of such stature. Hazard certainly fits the bill in that regard.

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But positionally and tactically, did Real Madrid really need Hazard? He is a left-sided attacker and it’s on the left side where Zinedine Zidane’s side are strongest. They have Marco Asensio, but more notably it’s where Vinicius Junior made himself the brightest teenage talent in Spanish football last season.

Indeed, the Brazilian was the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season. He was a revelation for Real Madrid, becoming their most important player for a spell between the turn of the year and Easter. Were it not for injury he might well have done more to save Real Madrid’s campaign.

It was expected that Vinicius would hold down a starting place next season, but will that still be the case now that Hazard has been signed? Can Zidane find a way to fit both the Brazilian and the Belgian into the same team? If he can’t, could the money used to spend Hazard have been used elsewhere?

Real Madrid had a number of positions to fill this summer. They needed a centre forward and got one in the form of Luka Jovic, signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after an excellent season in Germany. They needed a left back and got one in the form of Ferland Mendy, signed from Lyon.

Zidane also needs a central playmaker, with Real Madrid linked with both Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. Might it be the case that Hazard becomes more of a central force so that both he and Vinicius can be accommodated in the same side? He has, after all, played that role on occasion for Belgium.

Real Madrid needed players who could perform here and now. But they mustn’t neglect their future in the process of overhauling their team. Hazard represents the here and now, while Vinicius represents their future. The challenge for Zidane is to look after both.

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De Ligt is right to delay the decision on his future

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At just 19 years of age, Ajax’s Matthijs De Ligt has already shown himself to be a true leader of men.

Mature beyond his years, he commands his team with the authority of someone much older.

But the fact is that he’s still a kid.

And FC Barcelona will do well to remember that in the immediate future, whilst the player makes the most important decision of his professional career.

Continue reading

Griezmann, de Ligt and Neymar are toying with Barcelona

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What an important season coming up in La Liga it will be for Barcelona as their main rivals Real Madrid are showing their intent to be back. While Madrid splash the clash on the likes of Eden Hazard- Barcelona have yet to bring in a superstar player to rival that.

True Barca now have Ajax talent Frenkie de Jong but that deal for a reported 75m euros was actually concluded at the beginning of the year. Of course it’s not that Barca have been quiet because they have actually been very vocal in bringing in more quality names have been mentioned but it seems that some star players are actually toying with the club and showing a lack of respect.

The biggest of these seems to be Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt a brilliant prospect for defence. Barcelona showed their interest and the fact that they now have his team mate de Jong the deal seemed set in motion for the outstanding 19 year old. And who wouldn’t want that opportunity at such a young age? The problem is that just when it looked like de Ligt would say yes to Barca, PSG came in and offered the player 400,000 euros a week to play for them and everything has now stalled as de Ligt wonders about that amount of insane cash. Barcelona might be the bigger team than PSG but it is questionable that they would pay that type of salary to a teenager. So de Ligt is now making them wait on an answer.

Then there is the case of Antoine Griezmann so loyal at Atletico Madrid. It’s no secret that Barcelona have been after the French international for some time. They came close last season, but Griezmann was unsure if he wanted to play second fiddle to Lionel Messi. Also he wanted to respect his club because they had a transfer ban and he thought the timing would have been wrong to leave the club who wouldn’t have been able to replace him.

It is also no secret though that Griezmann wants to win the Balon D’or, and he will realise doing so in a Barca shirt may just give him a better advantage. But like de Ligt he is making Barca wait for a decision. What is the delay in reality- there are no major summer European competitions. Either say yes or no.

Finally there is the story of Neymar, who of course was a Barcelona player two season ago before his shock move to PSG in a deal that made the transfer the biggest in footballing history at a reported 200m euros. Neymar is giving all of the body language that he wants out of Paris and wants a return to Barcelona, even though he has been linked to another shock switch to rivals Real Madrid. It is thought though that only Barcelona is on his mind.

But just how are Barcelona going to afford all of these proposed deals? Well that is where Phillipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele come in. Here we have two players who have failed to live up to expectations and have cost Barca over 200m euros to buy. Good players, wrong club to summarise, and it feels inevitable that both could be sold this summer albeit at a cut price to make way for any of the above players.

What is sure is that Barca must strike big in the transfer market this summer if they want to hold off what will be a huge challenge from Real Madrid this season, and then, of course there is the case of the Champions League, a trophy that Messi desperately wants to win for a 5th time.

Top La Liga Strikers in 2018/19: Luis Suarez

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Remembered for his time with Ajax and Liverpool, Luis Suarez is now known as a veteran of Barcelona after completing his 5th season with the club and as a result he was one of the finest strikers in La Liga this past season.

In winning the league title Suarez has picked up his 13th major title with Barcelona and his switch from Liverpool was certainly a good one for the Uruguayan. He instantly found a chemistry with both Neymar and Lionel Messi and continued that this year with Messi even if at times Suarez has not had his strongest season.

But at the end of the day Suarez still managed 21 goals in La Liga coming joint 2nd with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and only beaten by Messi. Yet because of picking up 5 yellow cards Suarez dropped a few points and as a result finished 3rd in European Fantasy League rankings for La Liga strikers.

Along with his goals Suarez also assisted in 6 further goals and finished on a total of 93 points for the season. His value this season was 15m.

Suarez’s highlight of the 2018/19 season came in the biggest game in Spain if not world football when Barcelona at home played Real Madrid in El Clasico. The game ended up being one sided in which Barca ran out 5-1 winners with Suarez scoring a magical hat trick, he finished with 13 points, which could have been more but he picked up a yellow card in the game.

The beginning of the La Liga campaign was in fact a slow one for the striker and apart from picking up 10 points when he scored 2 goals and made an assist in Barcelona’s emphatic 8-2 victory over Huesca Suarez was really struggling to pick up the points. Take out the Huesca game and in his first 7 games of the season the 32 year old player picked up seven points. It was all tit for tat and there was no consistency to his game. This form inevitably brought on pressure from the media and the fans who thought that Suarez was finished as a Barcelona player. But as the season went on he had points to prove and prove he did.

His goal and assist in a tricky match against Sevilla which ended up in a 4-2 victory for Barcelona was vital. There was also his dominance in the Eibar victory which ended 3-0 with Suarez grabbing 2 goals and setting up the third to earn 9 points.

Towards the end of the season only Atletico Madrid had any chance of catching Barcelona for the league after Real Madrid’s chaotic season and Barcelona beat them 2-0 which effectively ended the league title that day- again Suarez was on hand to get one of the goals.

In all Suarez had a very good season, perhaps not his best but still good enough to star in a team that won the league with what seemed like ease. The one minus against him will be the 15 games where he failed to score and he also had a very quiet time at the turn of the year. But Suarez remained with enough quality to at least convince Barcelona to retain him for a 6th season.

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Top LaLiga Defenders in 2018/19 – Diego Godin

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Now 33, Diego Godin is about to draw the curtain down on his fantastic era at Atletico Madrid.

Godin joined Atleti in 2010 for just €8 million from fellow LaLiga side, Villarreal. The Uruguayan international went on to win one LaLiga title, two Europa Leagues, one Copa del Rey and three European Super Cups in his time with the club.

He was also a member of the Atletico Madrid team which reached the Champions League finals on two occasions, in 2014 and 2016. Unfortunately for Godin and Atleti, they lost to their city rivals Real Madrid in both games.

Godin turned down a move to Manchester United last summer due to personal reasons. Continue reading

Top LaLiga Goalkeepers in 2018/19 – David Soria

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Getafe’s David Soria has just finished the best season of his relatively young career to date. The former Sevilla goalkeeper played a huge part in helping Getafe to their best-ever LaLiga finishing position – 5th – in 2018/19.

The 26-year-old Spanish ‘keeper only signed from Sevilla last July for a bargain-basement cost of €3 million.

Soria went on to start 37 of Getafe’s LaLiga games, keeping 13 clean sheets along the way. He also saved two of the seven penalties he faced in the league during the season. Continue reading

Barcelona barking up the wrong tree with Filipe Luis

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It’s been contended for a while now that Barcelona’s transfer policy has become a little ‘scattergun,’ with the right sort of players often not being signed by the club.

A preference for bigger names over what’s truly required.

Antoine Griezmann is a case in point, with the Barca dressing room allegedly split on his arrival.

A move for the Frenchman’s current Atletico Madrid team-mate, Filipe Luis, is another head scratcher. Continue reading

Eden Hazard can put Real Madrid back on the map after £88m deal is completed

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Football’s worst kept transfer secret saga has finally been completed and Eden Hazard has joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in an £88m deal.

That deal could rise to £130m after add ons and Madrid will be relived to have got their man, a player that they had originally targeted at the beginning of the decade. In fact it was Zinedine Zidane still youth coach at Madrid that asked the then Madrid manager Jose Mourinho to go for Hazard, alas Mourinho didn’t but Madrid usually get what they want in the end.

After a frustrating season at the Bernabeu the fans will be happy with the clubs first major summer transfer and Hazard should be able to fill the missing magic at the club. He is the ultimate play maker and surely will only improve with the club the longer he stays. Hazard and Madrid seem like the perfect fit and Hazard’s objective apart from scoring goals and setting them up will be to deliver Madrid only their 3rd La Liga title in the past 9 seasons.

Hazard is obviously looking forward to a new chapter in his life and was respectful also to the Chelsea fans and his club, he had this to say: “I hope you understand I had to pursue my next chapter, just as each and every one of you should when you have the chance to pursue your dreams. Leaving Chelsea is the biggest and toughest decision in my career to date. Now it’s in the open I would like to put on record one thing was always clear to me, I have loved every moment at Chelsea and not once did I ever consider, nor would I have left for any other Club.

Hazard went on to say: “Even when we were not playing well, I tried to do my best and this has been thanks to your amazing support. Chelsea and especially Chelsea fans will always be special to me and next season I will look for your results first. I hope that we are drawn against each other in the Champions League next season and every season so we can meet again. I must thank the owner Mr Abramovich and his board for helping me realise not one, but two dreams, my first in becoming a Chelsea player and today my second, becoming a player at Real Madrid.”

It will be interesting to see how Hazard will develop within the team and it is sure that Luka Modric will be some kind of mentor to the player. At the same time Hazard has years of experience and make no mistake Zidane will make it clear to the team that Hazard is the big fish, he is the stardust and in that Real Madrid’s set up will be formed around the Belgian player.

El Clasico the match Madrid play against Barcelona just got that much more interesting as Real Madrid clearly mean business once again after a chaotic season.

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Four possible summer transfers for Barcelona

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There’s still three weeks to go before the summer transfer window officially opens, but that hasn’t stopped all of the major European clubs either announcing deals or positioning themselves to do so as soon as it hits midnight on June 30.

Barcelona have already secured Frenkie De Jong from Ajax, and after a string of world class performances since the announcement was made, it already looks like the Catalans are getting a bargain, and a player who is ready made for their midfield.

He won’t be the only new player to ply his trade at the Camp Nou next season, however, so let’s take a look at four more who are being rumoured to be wearing Blaugrana in 2019/20. Continue reading