Barcelona’s incentive to end Real Madrid’s season

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There was a 50 percent chance of it happening, and once Valencia and Real Betis had been drawn out of the Copa del Rey hat, it meant that, yes, we were going to see a two-legged El Clasico semi-final.

Moreover, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu precedes a league match between the two teams at the same venue just 72 hours later.

It’s the first time in Barcelona’s history that they will have played two consecutive games at the Bernabeu, and given their recent record there, the Blaugrana will be entirely confident of continuing their run of victories. Continue reading

Tottenham interested in Barcelona’s Malcom

Malcom

Tottenham are eyeing a move for Barcelona forward Malcom, according to media reports in Spain, with the reigning La Liga champions open to offers for the Brazilian.

The 21 year old signed from Bordeaux in the summer for a fee of €40 million, plus add ons, however injuries and the impressive form of French international Ousmane Dembele has restricted his first team opportunities so far in 2018-19.

Ernesto Valverde is now believed to be willing to listen to bids for the speedy attacker, although the club will be determined to see a financial return on their initial investment.

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Where does Coutinho fit in at Barcelona now?

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Against Getafe on Sunday night, Barcelona’s record signing, Phillipe Coutinho, was again left on the bench.

That’s right, €160 million worth of talent being given a cursory eight-minute cameo at the end of the match.

Predictably it wasn’t enough time for the Brazilian to really make an impact, and that is becoming a consistent theme for him of late. Continue reading

Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

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Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.

They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

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Three players who could leave Barcelona in January

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There are just another few weeks remaining until the transfer window is open for business once again.

Noises have already been made from various players and clubs, some more subtle than others it must be said.

Most of the spadework on deals will have been done prior to January 1, 2019, with the nuts and bolts of any switch to be ironed out in good time after that date. Continue reading

Who will strike first for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé?

Promised by many as the next big thing, Ousmane Dembélé appears to be at a crossroads in his career at the tender age of 21 years old.

Signed by Barcelona for an eye-watering £105 million from Borussia Dortmund last summer, the France international has been a visitor rather than a difference maker for the Spanish giants. Dembélé has failed to make a lasting impact so far and his off-field distractions, such as gaming, has landed him in trouble on more than one occasion with the leaders of Barça.

There is no denying that Dembélé is a generational talent, with his quick feet, dizzying runs and raw ability, but unless he hones it with discipline and improves his work ethic, there is a possibility that Barcelona might cut ties with him so early on in his career. Reports are already coming out suggesting the La Liga giants are considering allowing the Frenchman to leave as early as January.

The facts are that Dembélé has only featured in 16 appearances this season, scoring seven times and assisting on two occasions. While his overall game has been largely disappointing, he does continue to help Barça come up with late finishes that saves games – just as his most recent goal salvaged a point against Atlético Madrid.

In truth, the move to Spain with Barcelona in particular was possibly too soon in his career. He made the right decision to leave France for Dortmund, where he was excelling, but it was too short of a period for Barça to launch that type of money at him. Of course, no player is going to reject a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, but it was always going to be a risk given how raw he was and still is.

If the reports are to be believed and Barcelona are truly open to either loaning him out or selling on a permanent transfer, Dembélé will not be short of suitors. The most obvious destination would be England, but which Premier League club will strike first?

England

The Premier League has a number of clubs who can not only afford the fee should Barça be inclined to sell permanently, but also his wages, which are considerable to say the least.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even Arsenal would all make room to sign the France international, which puts Dembélé in a very strong position indeed.

Pep Guardiola’s City have a whole host of mercurial talents on their books and it is slightly difficult to understand where Dembélé would fit into his side; however, that has not stopped the Spanish manager before when recruiting and if Dembélé is available, the Citizens are likely to be joining the queue. It goes without saying that they are in a position to cover any proposed deal financially.

The Red Devils have been crying out for a right winger for multiple years and so this could be a blessing in disguise. With Dembélé’s nationality being French, he would settle well into the first-team with the likes of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba by his side, along with other French-speaking players in the dressing room.

Man United find themselves off the pace so far this season and Dembélé could well provide the spark needed to reinvigorate their season and qualify for the Champions League next year. It will be a hard sell convincing him to join over other clubs who can offer immediate success, but as seen with Alexis Sánchez, money sure does go a long way to helping make a decision.

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea would be open to the idea of the Frenchman coming to Stamford Bridge, but only if they manage to sell Willian. It was no secret that Barcelona were willing to sign the Brazilian last summer before they opted for Bordeaux’s Malcom, and so a swap deal might be on the cards if Ernesto Valverde’s team are still open to that idea.

Liverpool will probably be the most difficult sell for Dembélé due to their front three already being at an elite level with no glaring gaps. Mohamed Salah plays on the right, so there is little to no chance of the former Rennes player leapfrogging the Egyptian, while Sadio Mané is on the left and Roberto Firmino through the middle as a false nine. The Reds would possibly sell the idea as a first substitute, but for the type of money being talked about, it’s likely they’ll look elsewhere as they did with Xherdan Shaqiri.

Arsenal are the other frontrunner in landing Dembélé due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close relationship with the France international. Friendship does not always materialise in transfers, but there is no chance that Unai Emery would not be interested in signing him to bolster the right-hand side of Arsenal’s forward line.

Arsenal’s Director of Football, Raúl Sanllehí, used to be one of the leading members on Barcelona’s board a few years ago, and so can use that relationship to harness any potential deal for Dembélé.

Italy

While England seems the obvious choice given the money involved, Italy might not be so abstract given Juventus’ new, £88 million signing in Cristiano Ronaldo.

While the Bianconeri are unlikely to be interested given their wealth of talent within their stable, but a team like Inter might well be. A loan deal is the only feasible nature of this given Financial Fair Play is burdening the Milanese club, but if Barça prefer to only send Dembélé out for a year, then Inter might well be the perfect destination.

Napoli and Milan will be interested, but with club president Auerlio di Laurentiis favouring Edinson Cavani as their wage buster and Zlatan Ibrahimović returning to the latter, both remain unlikely destinations.

Germany

The only realistic option for Dembélé is Bayern Munich given the lack of funds elsewhere in the division. While Niko Kovac is struggling this season and a player of Dembélé’s quality could help him magnificently, Karl-Heinz Ruminegge has never been one to splash an absolute fortune on players and with a manager whose position is uncertain, it’s unlikely that tune will change.

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In conclusion, they most likely outcome is that Dembélé will come to the Premier League, should he be given the green light, with Manchester United and Arsenal leading the way to land him. With his technical ability and direct approach, the French star will be an asset to either team and should add real quality where it has been lacking.

Time to stop talk of a Neymar return to Barca

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Not too long ago, Barcelona’s Pep Segura made a simple statement that could be easily understood and with no room for misinterpretation.

Any player that leaves the club is not welcome back.

It was almost as if he was saying ‘if we weren’t good enough for you then, you’re not good enough for us now.’

An understandable point of view, particularly when it relates to one of the biggest names in world football. Continue reading

Barcelona do and don’t need Ousmane Dembele

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So the story goes like this, Ousmane Dembele Barcelona’s 100m euro signing missed training. He had a stomach bug and needed to rest at home. The problem just like any other normal job is that Dembele did not call his employers to tell them of his absence immediately and with everyone wondering where he was he finally phoned a reported 90 minutes later. Further more when Barcelona sent their doctor over to Dembele’s house he had dramatically recovered from his bug- Dembele had not only been found out he had also shown his grave immaturity.

Dembele who is just 21 has been criticised this season after his big money move from Borussia Dortmund last year. A move that only came about because Antoine Griezmann rejected Barca’s advances and stayed with Atletico Madrid. The criticism of Dembele on the pitch does seem harsh. One has to be reminded that he is only 21, and has had injuries that have stopped him from having frequent games. He has scored some goals- not enough for a forward but his goals have either been important ones or spectacular ones. And anyway it is clear that Dembele won’t be a 25 goal a man goal scorer, he’s a luxury player that will put in more assists than goals.

The finger has been pointed at Dembele because of the money involved in his transfer fee from Dortmund to Barcelona, which was indeed insane. Dembele at that point considering the market value should have been half of what Barcelona paid to the Bundesliga club. But they believed, he was worth it and went ahead.

Dembele on the pitch despite the critics is doing a calm and calculated job, he’s certainly not the finished product but neither was Lionel Messi at 21. If he is given the time in 2-3 years Dembele could be a solid regular in this side. But that’s if he is still at the Catalan giants.

Respect goes a long way at any huge club, because there are millions of kids not in Dembele’s position who would give everything to be there and who would not have missed training without a valid excuse. It’s a real shame this new state of affairs and it has been reported that Dembele has now been given an ultimatum by the club- any more mishaps and he will be sold.

And Barcelona would do that just, the problem of course is that they will lose a lot of  money on the player who actually has a buyout clause of 400 million euros. That would of course be waived and the reality is that Barcelona would be hard pressed to get 50m for him, a massive loss of around 55m in just 18 months.

Hopefully Dembele can see the error of his ways. For now Barcelona are ready to forgive him and put it down to the stress of being at a high profile club for a 21 year old. The media pressure on Dembele can’t be easy, granted. One hopes that he realises the unique position he is in, if he doesn’t then he deserves to be discarded no matter how good he is on the pitch.

Would Ousmane Dembele be the right fit for Arsenal?

From the moment Ousmane Dembele arrived in Barcelona as the most expensive teenager, and the second most expensive player, in football history, questions were asked. The French winger was the replacement for Neymar, sold to Paris Saint-Germain in the sale of the summer, possibly even of this century, but he is not a player in the mould of the departing Brazilian.

Injuries hampered Dembele’s first season in Spain, but even when he did make it on the pitch he looked short of confidence, sometimes even short of ability. Some doubted whether he would truly ever be good enough for Barcelona, even at such a young age.

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A full pre-season and a run of games saw Dembele hit the ground running at the start of the season, but familiar doubts have started to rise to the surface once again. The Frenchman has made headlines in Spain over the past week, with it being reported that Barcelona are growing increasingly concerned at what they view to be a lack fo discipline from their player.

Some of this criticism has been grossly unfair on Dembele, who has shown himself to be a valuable member of Ernesto Valverde’s team a number of times over the past few months. He has scored important goals and has started to forge relationships with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Nonetheless, there are rumours that Dembele could soon leave Camp Nou, with Arsenal reported to be leading the chase for the French winger. So would Dembele be a good fit for the Gunners? Or would Unai Emery suffer many of the same problems in trying to fit him into his team that Valverde has over the past season-and-a-half?

If Arsenal can get Dembele for a cut price deal, around £60 million as has been mooted, then they would be foolish not to make a move. At just 21 years old, the former Borussia Dortmund winger is still growing as a player, and as a person. It would be a pretty solid investment in the future, even if Dembele currently suffers from dips in form. It’s the same for most young players.

What’s more, Emery’s system and approach would suit Dembele better than Valverde’s presently does. Arsenal have taken to playing with speed and directness in the final third under their new Spanish manager this season. This has seen Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette find their groove.

There’s space for Dembele on the right side of their attacking line, with Aubameyang on the left, Lacazette as the central striker and Mesut Ozil in behind. In fact, he could be exactly the player Arsenal need to rebalance their team which, at present, places too much of an emphasis on the left side. If Barcelona are selling, as unwise and as hasty as that would be, Arsenal should be in line to buy.

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Has Dembele blown it at Barcelona?

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After a disappointing opening campaign at Barcelona, which was mainly as a result of an untimely injury not long after joining, Ousmane Dembele was expected to hit the ground running at the start of 2018/19.

Though there were some suggestions that the Catalans should cash in, with Liverpool allegedly interested in his services, Ernesto Valverde was clear that the young Frenchman was absolutely part of his plans. Continue reading