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.

Ajax take a step back to go forward and are on the verge of Champions League final

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Ajax beat Tottenham in London in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final to claim a vital away goal and a fantastic win.

To be fair it isn’t often that we have witnessed both teams get this far in the competition. Indeed for Tottenham it is the first since the rebranding of the competitions name in 1992/93 and their first since 1962.

For Ajax the last time the team were this good was in 1996 when they reached their second Champions League final in a row only to lose on penalties against Juventus. But rewind a year before when Ajax won the competition and beat the great Milan side of the 90s in the process.

That Ajax side were remembered for the youths that came through the side and stunned European football. Players such as Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Jari Litmanen just to name a few. All went on to play for the biggest sides in Europe- but that night will always remain the most special for the players.

The 1995 win was also the first for the club since 1973 when they won 3 European Cups in a row between 1971-73, headed by the great Johan Cruyff. There has always been quality and a sense of total football with Ajax since the 70s but since the early 2000s the club have suffered.

Youngsters were not coming through as frequently and when, on rare occasions, they did they would be sold and moved on when they were clearly too young. A new generation did threaten a couple of years ago when Ajax reached the Europa League final against Manchester United, but the Dutch side were simply not ready for Jose Mourinho’s side at that point.

This season has been unbelievable for them. They look on course to win the Dutch league and have been phenomenal in the Champions League. Not only did they end Real Madrid’s 3 year hold on the competition they destroyed them in their own back yard winning 4-1.

Next up was Juventus and not just any old Juventus, but the club that had bought Ronaldo from Madrid in order to win their first Champions League since 1996. But Ajax stayed professional throughout and won 3-2 over 2 legs, impressively beating Juventus in Italy.

In some ways this match up with Tottenham was fascinating. Ajax had rarely faced a stronger Tottenham side but Tottenham had never faced such a skilful and peaceful Ajax team. The way Ajax started the game in Tottenham’s new stadium was incredible- one was reminded of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona from 2011.

It is a joy to behold to see how strong Ajax have become- the 2nd leg is still up for grabs of course but it does look like Ajax have one foot in the final. The likes of Matthijs De Ligt, Donny van de Beek,- who scored against Tottenham, Frenkie de Jong and Hakim Ziyech have been a revelation and a shot in the arm for European football.

Can Ajax recall teams of the past and make it to the final and possibly even win it- it’s not such a pipedream like it was at the beginning of the year. It feels like a reality and it is clear that Ajax mean business.