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 this the year that Lionel Messi wins a trophy for Argentina at the Copa America?

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The Copa America kicks off tomorrow and all eyes will be on the most important competition in South America, which welcomes other nations this year such as Japan and Qatar who have been invited. But what is surely on everyone’s minds is can Lionel Messi finally win a major trophy for Argentina?

Time is running out for arguably one of the best players to ever grace the game to win something for his country. True Messi has actually won the under 20 World Cup and an Olympic Gold for the national side, but he will be well aware that what really counts is either a World Cup or a Copa America.

It’s not as if Messi hasn’t been close either. Argentina reached the World Cup final in 2014, their best performance since 1990 but lost 1-0 in a dire final against the more slicker Germany. In 2015 Argentina then reached the Copa America final but there would be more heartbreak for Messi and co when they lost on penalties to the hosts Chile after the game had finished 0-0 after extra time.

Then there was the major rub the salt in the wounds type of result when the following year the Copa America was held again this time in America. The reason for it being held in 2016 was to mark the 100th anniversary of the competition. Argentina were superb which included beating the USA 4-0 on their way to the final where they would meet Chile again. And again the match ended 0-0 after extra time and again Argentina lost the final on penalties, which included Messi missing his one.

This led Messi to quit the national team- everyone knew he hadn’t really not with a World Cup in Russia coming up and at the time he was still in his 20′s but it was a real shocker for Messi to lose yet again in a major final, his 3rd loss in a row.

The big news in Brazil is that the host nation will be without Neymar, that can only be good news for any rival nation. But can Argentina win the competition? Well they are the second favourites to do so, but as we’ve seen time and again even if Brazil falter at home there are some other strong teams and the likes of Chile who have won the competition two times in a row cannot be ignored.

Argentina will kick off their competition on June 15th against Colombia and will also play Paraguay in two potentially tough games. Their final group game is against Qatar where they will be big favourites to win, at the same time Qatar have improved significantly over the last year but Argentina should be able to qualify for the knockout stages.

July 7th will already be etched into Messi’s mind. That is the final date and could well end up being one of the most special nights in Messi’s career- who said the football season had finished?

Does Neymar’s injury prove that friendlies are pointless matches?

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Neymar, Brazil’s gold dust will miss this summers Copa America which is being held in his native Brazil because of ankle ligament damage and it is a massive blow for the player and his country.

The frustrating situation is that one of the best attacking players in the world will miss a major competition in his home country because of an injury sustained not in a Champions League final or a league title run in, but because he played in a money spinning friendly against Qatar, in a match that meant nothing, save to please some sponsors.

It is a desperate situation in modern day football how many games players have to play every year, some play as much as 70 when you take in internationals, and for the most part if you are playing for nothing, what is the point in playing? Of course it comes down to money and contracts, which is evidently ruining the game.

Now Neymar cannot play in what will be one of the biggest tournaments for Brazil in their home country. The last time they had this opportunity was in 2014 in the World Cup. Though for the semi-finals they missed Neymar through injury yet again.

But this injury feels different as it was obtained in a meaningless friendly. If we go back a few years the same situation happened to Zinedine Zidane. Picture the scene, France came to the 2002 World Cup as the champions and Zidane was now a Real Madrid player, he was rightly seen as the best player on the planet. But alas we were robbed of his talent when he was injured in a nothing game, a warm up for the World Cup. He missed the bulk of group games, and was rushed back for the final by which time they were virtually out and he was rusty, the champions were knocked out at the group stage that year.

It may seem harsh on neutral fans especially who want to watch their heroes but one wonders if friendly matches should only be played by up and coming players and not recognised ones such as the Zidane’s and Neymar’s of this world. What difference would it have made if Neymar had played against Qatar? From his ability/fitness point of view the answer is none, again it comes down to bums on seats and money, but it’s incredibly unfortunate that the Copa America will now be robbed of Neymar’s skills and inevitable goals.

 

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 Ligue 1 Strikers of 2018/19: Kylian Mbappe

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Kylian Mbappe had another fantastic season as he scored 33 goals and topped the lead goal scorers list in France as a result. His goals were the primary cause for PSG winning another Ligue 1 title as Mbappe underlined his reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe.

This season in particular was a massive step up for Mbappe when we consider his previous seasons. Before the start of 2018/19 season the most league goals Mbappe had scored in one season was 15, for Monaco, in season 2016/17. This season he managed 18 more goals and the plaudits need to be lauded on the player for the following reason; he was able to step up after PSG lost the services of both Edinson Cavani and Neymar and Mbappe then became the main player and forward for the club.

Let’s analyse his season. Mbappe started off with a bang when he scored a brace against Guingamp in a fairly routine win and all of this happened despite him only playing 50 minutes of the game. Within the first 2 games of the season he had acquired 14 points and never really looked back.

His best game of the season happened in matchday 5 when PSG destroyed league rivals Lyon 5-0 in Paris. Mbappe was heavily involved and scored an incredible 4 goals, he also picked up bonus points for getting a hat-trick and ended the game with 18 points. Other highlights of the season included scoring a hat-trick and making an assist in PSG’s 9-0 victory over Guingamp, that earned him 16 points and he earned another 14 with another hat-trick against Monaco later in the season.

There were only 4 games when Mbappe failed to record any points and he remained consistent throughout the season. One such instance of this was at the beginning of the season where Mbappe scored points in the first 8 weeks of the season.

Mbappe finished on a huge 144 points in Ligue 1 Fantasy Football rankings and finished 35 points ahead of Nicolas Pepe. His value going into last season was 10.5m and perhaps after having such a great season his value may go up next season. Overall Mbappe would rank 2nd in the strikers list with only Lionel Messi at Barcelona having gained more points.

It is still incredible to think that he is only 20 years old and he has already won 6 major trophies including a World Cup and 3 Ligue 1 titles with PSG and Monaco.

As for his future it looks destined to be away from Ligue 1, but he looks like he will stay with PSG for the foreseeable future and will remain the main focus point of Ligue 1 football. He is arguably the most special talent in classic centre forward style since the Brazilian Ronaldo.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Angel Di Maria

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PSG became champions yet again in Ligue 1 but their superiority isn’t just confined to their front three players of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani and that was underlined this season with how brilliant Angel Di Maria has been for the side.

The Argentine who loves to play out on the wing scored 12 goals and assisted in a further 11 goals in the league this season. To put that into perspective he was responsible for just over 20% of PSG’s goals in Ligue 1. In the European Fantasy League rankings Di Maria is 1st in his position and beat off competition from Florian Thauvin who was the only other midfielder who could compete with him. Di Maria finished on 96 points and Thauvin finished on 95.

Di Maria has been at PSG for the past four seasons and after a difficult period with Manchester United in the Premier League he has really settled into life at Parc des Princes creating goals and scoring important ones. Just counting his league goals this season was also Di Maria’s most successful with 12 league goals that is his highest of his career surpassing the 11 goals he got last season and doing so with one less game played. His overall ranking with all midfielders combined would be 11th.

Di Maria had a consistently good season for PSG and his best game was against Marseille when he scored 2 goals and assisted in another in a 3-1 win. He earned 9 points in that match and the only thing that let him down was losing 2 points for getting a yellow card. The game before that PSG had won 4-0 against Dijon and again it was Di Maria who got man of the match, with a goal and an assist and he earned extra points given that his team kept a clean sheet.

Di Maria’s best form was towards the end of the season with his best month being March where he was averaging 8 points a game. He also had a strong April and May.

What is also interesting is when we look at his value and remember that the season before he was worth 12m to buy for your team. This season he went down to just 9m and ended up being one of the best performers in Ligue 1 where in the end he was ranked in 3rd place. Only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe had better seasons in the rankings.

Di Maria who is now 31 doesn’t look like he will be leaving PSG anytime soon and his best years could still well be ahead of him, certainly if this season is anything to go by it appears that the player is getting better.

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Top 4 all win in Ligue 1 as relegation battle boils down to Caen and Amiens

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That was more like it from PSG who have been a shadow of themselves since winning the league in April. They beat Dijon 4-0 which included a brace from Kylian Mbappe who ends the season as top goal scorer. Perhaps the real story was that PSG were 2-0 up within the first ten minutes and Edinson Cavani scored. It looks increasingly likely that Cavani will leave the club in the summer and if so, then this is his last match in Paris. He crowned it well.

Neymar was missing as he has been suspended for the last 2 games of the season and of course there is speculation that he will not be at PSG next season. Lille finally confirmed 2nd place and the runners-up spot with a fantastic 5-0 win over Angers and yet again Nicolas Pepe starred for the team and scored a couple of goals. Like others Pepe’s name is now being talked about, could he make a Premier League move next season?

Lyon confirmed 3rd place and the final Champions League spot, although they will have to qualify for the competition proper. They beat Caen 4-0 which was significant given that Caen are fighting relegation. It is now between Caen and Amiens to see who stays up as Monaco look safe. Amiens have a 2 point advantage over Caen.

Saint Etienne won with a great 3-0 victory over Nice to confirm their Europa League participation next season. They have pulled 5 points clear of fifth place, and the European spot was well deserved after such brilliant form especially in the second half of the season.

Montpellier’s draw with Nantes ended their slim hopes of European football next season and the result also let in Marseille who have closed the gap over them to just 1 point. That is because Marseille beat Toulouse in a thrilling match that ended 5-2 to the L’OM. The score was 3-2 in the 90th minute but Florian Thauvin scored 2 goals in a matter of 60 seconds to give the final score more of a gloss.

Nimes drew 2-2 against bottom team Guingamp, but this wasn’t seen as a disappointing result given that both teams were not playing for anything and the season has clearly wound down and both sets of players enjoyed the game, which was entertaining for the fans. Nimes will have to win next weekend or could lose their 7th place to Nice, and as mentioned before Nice’s good form went out the window with a 0-3 loss at Saint Etienne.

If Reims win their last game and Nice and Nimes lose the club could leapfrog both of them. The final round of games will take place this weekend.

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Kylian Mbappe makes demands to PSG in front of stunned crowd at awards show

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The French have a saying for when you put your foot in it, it’s called faux pas and PSG striker Kylian Mbappe did just that at the French football awards at the weekend. Mbappe received the highest award with winning the player of the season in France and then hinted in front of a packed audience that included PSG’s owners and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel that his future may lie elsewhere, it was a stunning moment.

Mbappe took his award and then told everyone listening: “It’s a very important moment for me, I come to a turning point in my career. I have discovered a lot here, and I feel it is maybe the moment to have more responsibility.I hope that can perhaps be at Paris St Germain, that would be a great pleasure. Or maybe elsewhere with a new project.”

Mbappe’s statement is one of intent and he is clearly not happy at PSG. This in part may be to do with the fact that the club keep blowing up at the knockout rounds of the Champions League but at the same time there is a strong feeling that Real Madrid have approached PSG and offered upwards of 250 million euros for the player.

The 20 year old joined the club in 2017 after guiding Monaco to a Ligue 1 title, initially this was on a loan deal before he joined for a transfer fee in the region of £160m becoming the 2nd most expensive player in history behind Neymar his PSG teammate.

While Mbappe has had a fantastic season scoring 32 goals in just 28 games and 38 overall this season his speech will strike some as shocking. At just 20 he wants to rule the roost and have his say, and while he undoubtedly has the talent to be remembered as one of the greats one could wonder if he isn’t getting too ahead of himself. Or could it be that Real Madrid have already made contact and Mbappe was asked to stoke the fires somewhat- to do that in this company, well he has got a reaction that is for sure.

So what can PSG do to keep the player happy? First will be a wage rise, next could be that Mbappe wants more say, what exactly that extends to is anyone’s guess, but he has now laid down a marker and it feels that it is only a question of when and not if Mbappe leaves the club. The destination looks set for Madrid, rare has any player in the past turned the club down, why should that stop at Mbappe?

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Lille secure Champions League football and Neymar redeems himself ahead of PSG ban

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It’s been a tough month for PSG star Neymar who learned that he would receive a 3 game Champions League ban next season for being critical of match officials when PSG lost to Manchester United. Then the Brazilian was handed a 3 game ban by Ligue 1 after he hit out at a fan at the end of the Coupe de France final. PSG are appealing on that, but he was on target to open the scoring as PSG beat Angers 2-1 at the weekend.

It was Neymar’s 15th goal of the season which with his long term injury considered is a decent return. The win was also PSG’s 2nd win in 5 games as they have gone through the worst form of their season in the last month which included losing in the final of the Coupe de France to Rennes. Of course they became champions weeks ago and the players seem to have switched off but the win away to Angers was still an important one.

The big news came from Lille and saw the side secure their Champions League place for next season after they beat Bordeaux 1-0. They will almost certainly finish 2nd but even if they lost their last two games and Lyon won their next two, they would finish 3rd which would still be good for the qualifying stages, but the odds are looking great for them to finish in the runners up spot. The Bordeaux victory was the clubs 19th of the season.

Lyon went away to Marseille and secured a brilliant 3-0 win to give them a huge advantage in finishing the season in 3rd place and possible Champions League for next season. Playing at Stade Velodrome was no mean task and the game was loaded with tension throughout. Maxwell Cornet who has been brilliant for the team this season scored a brace and was the eventual hero. Lyon remains 6 points behind Lille but have now pulled four points clear of Saint Etienne.

Saint Etienne who had won 4 games on the bounce really had to win at home to Montpellier but they were downed by a Gaetan Laborde goal, which more or less ended their Champions League hopes. They would have to win their last 2 games and hope that Lyon lost both or lost one and drew one and that seems unlikely.

Could Montpellier pip Saint Etienne for that final Europa League place though? The club at least gave themselves a chance by beating the club at the weekend but they are still 4 points adrift and it looks like, despite their heroics, that they will just miss out.

Marseille certainly will as they have just 55 points and the best they can hope for now is to finish in 5th place. The club started strongly this season only to fade away in the winter months and then bounce back again soon after. But they look to be going through poor form once again and have no wins in their last 3 games.

Any European football officially ended for Nice this past weekend but they still pulled off a decent 1-1 draw against Nantes who came into that game having won 5 matches in a row including wins over PSG, Lyon and Marseille. That was the 11th draw this season for Nice though, just 3 of those matches converted into wins and the team would be challenging for Europe.

And Nimes continued their fine form by beating Monaco 1-0, that’s 3 wins from their last four games and they took advantage of Reims poor form to move 3 points clear of them and firmly establish 8th place. Nimes could finish as high as 6th if their form continues and others drop points around them.

Finally matchday 36 was one that saw referees having to work over time with no less than 6 red cards dished out. Four of those to top 8 sides and a few players will have played their last games of the campaign for their respective clubs.

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