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

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.

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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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Is Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt really worth €400,000 a week?

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Death and taxes are two things certain in this life, the other is Ajax selling their best players before they have got full use of them. Frankie de Jong is already a Barcelona player and it seems almost certain that Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt will be leaving in the summer.

French champions PSG have emerged as the forerunners to buy the player and they have reportedly made an offer of around €60m euros to Ajax with future add on’s for the young prospect. It doesn’t stop there though and PSG have reportedly offered de Ligt wages of 400,000 euros a week. This is a stunning amount and PSG obviously mean business if this is indeed true. It seems like it is as when the news broke PSG did not rush to deny it.

But let’s take a few steps back here and ask is de Ligt a player that most of us had not heard of at the beginning of the season worth so much?

True Ajax have just won the Dutch league and followed that up with the cup and it is true that de Ligt has had a good season. With Ajax in the league he was part of a defence that conceded 29 goals all season and kept 15 clean sheets.

But what has really turned PSG and other European superpowers onto the 19 year old was his performances in the Champions League. His team knocked out Real Madrid who had won the competition for 3 years running and then ended Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream by dumping out Juventus. However they couldn’t overcome a passionate Tottenham side who beat them on the away goal rule. Therein lies a problem.

And the problem is a normal one- de Ligt for all his greatness is still a teenager and is still sometimes naïve. He has a tendency to make basic errors- that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good defender, but one should question the money that PSG want to offer Ajax for a player who hasn’t won anything out of the Dutch league and is still so young.

Of course PSG’s answer would be that he will only get better- but surely that is the risk at stake. True everything does point to de Ligt having a fantastic future in football. He is currently captain of Ajax, which in itself is stunning given his age and he is now a regular starter for the Netherlands. And yet it could still not work out as it should for the player.

PSG have laid down a marker and that amount of wages per week has made de Ligt sit up and think. Think because it is fairly obvious that he has Barcelona or Real Madrid more on his mind than PSG. But will he take the money? Both Barca and Madrid one would feel are unlikely to offer de Ligt that type of money at 19- but then again in the world of football who really knows?

 

 

 

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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Why PSG should sell Neymar and get Gareth Bale

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For all his brilliance Neymar is becoming a headache for French champions PSG and perhaps now is the time to sell the Brazilian, and in his place they should get Gareth Bale.

At the moment Neymar is clearly unhappy at PSG and if we are being honest he never wanted to be at the club, his desire was to remain at Barcelona. However two seasons ago even Barca could not resist the 200m euros that PSG were offering for Neymar’s services and the Brazilian soon became the most expensive player in football history.

Neymar has not been able to help PSG with their ultimate dream of winning the Champions League but they have dominated in France and Neymar has been brilliant with only a succession of injuries hampering his time in Paris.

The truth is Neymar is unhappy and there was talk that he could be sold to Real Madrid, however Neymar only has one destination on his mind and that is to play again for Barcelona. The Catalan giants would most probably welcome him back as they look to sell Phillipe Coutinho who has had a terrible time with the club after his 120m move to them from Liverpool. Ousmane Dembele hasn’t adapted well too and he is another player who could be sold. This means that Barcelona would have the funds to buy Neymar back.

But what of PSG, who would rather not lose the services of Neymar? Well you have to question why they would want to keep a player who doesn’t want to play for them anymore. The solution then for PSG is to look around for a quality playmaker that is currently unhappy with his club and situation and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid seems to fit that description perfectly.

Bale has been tremendous at Madrid but it is clear that he is not in coach’s Zinedine Zidane’s future plans. The problem for a move for most clubs is that Bale demands around 14m euros salary a year. Again this is a figure that PSG could most likely afford and if the French club made a bid for Bale one would expect that the Welshman would be happy to join the club.

And that really is the key for both Neymar and Bale, motivation. Both would feel re energised and refreshed with their new clubs, scaling new heights and get their hunger and their mojo back. Could Neymar really go back to Barcelona and could Bale be on his way to PSG? In football you never know but on the face of it the moves would make perfect sense for both players.

Top LaLiga Defenders in 2018/19 – Gerard Pique

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Gerard Pique was this season’s second-highest scoring defender in fantasy LaLiga, coming in just one point behind his Barcelona and Spain teammate, Jordi Alba.

Pique finished the season with a total of 83 fantasy football points which was a good return for a defender costing a relatively cheap 7.5 million.

The former Manchester United player started at centre-back for Barcelona in 35 of their 38 league games in 2018/19. He received six yellow cards and zero red cards throughout the season.

From an attacking point of view, Pique contributed four league goals and two assists as Barcelona strolled to an 11-point LaLiga title victory. Continue reading

Top LaLiga Goalkeepers in 2018/19 – Marc-Andre ter Stegen

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Barcelona’s 27-year-old German international was the second-highest scoring goalkeeper in fantasy LaLiga in the season just ended.

Ter Stegen, who moved to the Catalan club from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, started in 35 of Barcelona’s 38 LaLiga fixtures in 2018/19.

He has been the first-choice goalkeeper at Barcelona since the 2016/17 campaign.

This season, Ter Stegen won his fourth LaLiga title at Barcelona. He adds this medal to his four Copa del Rey wins, one UEFA Champions League title and one Club World Championship. Continue reading