Saturday, 19 April 2008

Manchester City admits Ronaldinho talks

Manchester City executive director Taweesuk Jack Srisumrid has confirmed in an interview with British news agency Reuters that Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) is a transfer target of the English club: "We've had discussions with Ronaldinho but we'll see how that pans out."

The talks with Ronaldinho should be seen in a bigger plan of Manchester City to ensure Champions League football within the next two years and to enlarge the fan base both in England as in Asia: "What we will look to do in the summer is to further boost the squad, bring in top quality, internationally-recognised players. Superstars would help fill the stadium and help our global branding. We have the finance for an initial investment period, but we will need some returns at some point and that's where global branding comes in."

Read more:
Ronaldinho used Manchester City
Manchester City serious about Ronaldinho
Everybody wants Ronaldinho

Cesc not sure about Arsenal future

Asked about his future after his team's Premier League victory over Reading, Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) spread doubts on his Arsenal stay in an interview with British television channel Sky Sports this Saturday afternoon: "My future? I really hope it belongs to Arsenal."

The Spanish international aired his disappointment about the end of the season with all trophies slipping away in the last weeks: "We are all disappointed for the season, how it finished. I think we did pretty well all season but at the end it was disappointing." Cesc, who recently has been linked with a return to Barcelona, clearly showed his impatience about winning trophies: "We don't want to always say 'next year, next year'. I think it is a mistake. We want to do it now."

Asked about the rumours that link several players of his team with a summer exit, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger reacted with an indirect but clear message towards Cesc: "You can go to Real Madrid and Barcelona, but you have no more guarantees to win trophies. It would be criminal not to believe we could do it because we were so close this year. From this season we should get the belief we can win trophies and come back to win the title. That is why I am so insistent that I keep this team together and that we try to come back and have a good go next year. We have a very young team with a great future."

Wenger added: "Fabregas is part of our future and I want this team to stay together and prove we can win things with style. "

Read more here:
Barcelona prepares Cesc bid
New Cesc agent on good terms with Barcelona
Barcelona has first option on Cesc

Youth: Dani Aquino (Murcia)

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is interested in Real Murcia forward Dani Aquino (17). The Spanish youth international is followed by all Spanish top clubs and foreign clubs like Chelsea and Liverpool. Although several of these clubs already wanted to transfer him last summer, Aquino stayed with Murcia, that was just promoted to the Liga.

Daniel 'Dani' Aquino is playing with Real Murcia since eight seasons. Last season he made his debute with the first team in the Segunda División. In January of this year, Aquino played for the first time in the Primera División. Dani Aquino is the son of former Argentinian professional football player Daniel Toribio.

Read more:
Youth: Gai Assulin
Youth: Jozy Altidore (Red Bull New York)
Youth: Miralem Pjanic (Metz)

Read all youth transfer stories here.

Ronnie's week --- 2. Ronaldinho - Barcelona

While last week a deal seemed close, this week's events, which this blog brings to you in three parts, lead to think that the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) to Milan will not be agreed upon between all parties shortly.

1. Milan - Ronaldinho
(this part was published yesterday, you can read it here)

2. Ronaldinho - Barcelona
After his time in Italy, Roberto de Assís, the brother and agent of Ronaldinho, arrived in Barcelona, where he met at his resquest with Barcelona officials on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the future of Ronaldinho and to inform the club about the negotiations with AC Milan.

The Spanish and Catalan media couldn't agree on the club persons he spoke with: president Joan Laporta, economic vice president Ferran Soriano, sports vice president Marc Ingla and sports director Txiki Begiristain were all mentioned as possible participants in the talks.

After the meeting, Roberto gave a short and vague comment to Catalan radio station COM Ràdio: "It has been a while since we saw each other, but everything is going well." Barcelona board member and spokesperson Alfons Godall didn't comment on the meeting and didn't even want to confirm that it actually took place.

The Catalan sports papers meanwhile report that one of the issues discussed and agreed upon during the meeting was that Ronaldinho will leave through the front door. There won't be mutual reproaches, that only could damage the image of the player and the club. And if the player recovers on time from his injury, Ronaldinho will be able to say goodbye to the fans wearing the blaugrana shirt.

It was supposedly Roberto who proposed the idea of a farewell match. Barcelona was open to the suggestion as they realize that Ronaldinho has been one of the greatest players in the history of Barcelona and the club doesn't want another star player to leave with a fight. The last home game of the season, on May 11th against Mallorca, could be the chosen day.

If Barcelona would qualify for the Champions League final in Moscow, Ronaldinho could play as a substitute. After the season the club will organize a last press conference where Ronaldinho would take his leave of the club, the fans and the city in the presence of president Joan Laporta, sports director Txiki Begiristain and manager Frank Rijkaard.

3. Barcelona - Milan
(this part will be published tomorrow)

Mourinho postpones return decision

Former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) says in an interview with British newspaper The Times that he enjoyed his time off since he left Chelsea last September but that he's now ready to return to the bench: "I had time to do things that I don’t have when I’m working. But now it’s enough. I will be somewhere next season. I’ve not agreed anything but it’s a good time for me for many reasons. I will come back with the same motivation as always."

Although the manager did not talk himself to any club, his agent has recently turned down a number of interesting deals, including international jobs. And while it first was thought that Mourinho wanted to make a quick decision allowing him to start preparing next season as soon as possible and avoiding the risk of being left without a top club (read more
here and here), the Portuguese manager now declares that a decision should not be expected in the next few weeks: "I had some good options this month. Some good clubs and some good countries. But I decided to wait until the beginning of next season. That is right for me."

Read more:
Mourinho preparing to take over
Guardiola takes Mourinho's pole
Spain or Italy for Mourinho
Meeting with Mourinho
Mourinho waiting for Barcelona

Read everything:
The José Mourinho transfer story

Barcelona can talk with Amauri

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini spoke in an interview with Napoli local radio station Primaradio about the possible transfer of Palermo forward Amauri (27) and seemed to invite Barcelona to start talks with the Brazilian striker and with his club: "With Juventus we are holding serious negotiations but Amauri himself will decide on his future. Other interested club, like Barcelona, should talk to him first and after that they can come and discuss with us."

Read more here:
Amauri on the list

Friday, 18 April 2008

Van der Vaart to replace Ronaldinho

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Barcelona is lining up Hamburg midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (25) to replace Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28).

Barcelona would have excellent scouting reports about the Dutch international and is in a constant dialogue with his agent Bayram Tutumlu. If Barcelona wants to oficially announce the transfer of Van der Vaart soon after the transfer of Ronaldinho to Milan is made public, the negotiations with German club Hamburg on the transfer price should nevertheless be speeded up. Van der Vaart, whose mother is Spanish, would be delighted to play for Barcelona.

pep's opinion:
nice try, Tutumlu!

Read more:
Barcelona sightseeing for Van der Vaart
The Poulsen problem: Bayram Tutumlu

Lippi likes the port of Barcelona

"In Livorno you have the sea and a port? In Barcelona they also have one, and it's more modern since they just rebuilt it." This comment of former Italian national team coach Marcello Lippi (59) during a meeting with a local Livorno politician lead to speculation in Italy that the Italian manager could become the next Barcelona manager.

Lippi, who wants to return to the bench next season, also told he will only consider offers from club teams, since he doesn't want to take the risk of having to play against the players with whom he won the World Cup in 2006.

Read more:
Lining up Lippi
Lippi is in the race too
Guardiola or Laudrup

Ronnie's week --- 1. Milan - Ronaldinho

While last week a deal seemed close, this week's events, which this blog brings to you in three parts, lead to think that the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) to Milan will not be agreed upon between all parties shortly.

1. Milan - Ronaldinho
Everybody agrees that Milan still wants Ronaldinho and that Ronaldinho still wants Milan. For Milan, the transfer of the Brazilian star could move the attention away from the disappointing season that even could get worse if the team doesn't qualify for the next edition of the Champions League.

On Monday evening, Roberto de Assís, brother and agent of Ronaldinho, drove from Milan to Arcore in the north of Italy in the car of AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani. In Villa San Martino, Roberto was the surprise guest at the dinner where family, close friends and staff members of Milan president Silvio Berlusconi celebrated his election victory.

Roberto offered Berlusconi a congratulation gift: a shirt of his brother with "a very affectionate message", as Berlusconi told that night to Monaco radio station Radio Monte Carlo. Asked if Ronaldinho will join Milan in the summer transfer window, the Milan president said: "For the time being, only his brother has arrived. But I have very high hopes."

Ronaldinho indeed would have set his mind on playing together with his compatriots Kaká and Pato. A move to Inter Milan or Manchester City, two clubs who also have contacted with Roberto, is a this stage not even considered.

On Wednesday, Berlusconi repeated to Italian television channel Sky Italia that Ronaldinho made clear to him that he wants to sign for Milan and gave three reasons for that: "First, this club is the world champion. Second, there are three Brazilians playing in the team. And third, the whole world knows how good we treat our players."

The next Italian prime minister insisted that Milan's prestige is decisive in the decision of the player, and not the economic conditions of the offer: "We're possibly paying a little less than some other teams but we can afford that since we can guarantee him more glory."

The latter is contradicted by a report of Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo, which claims that Roberto closed on Wednesday a super deal with Milan: Ronaldinho would sign for five years and receive a record salary of 12 million euro° a year. Milan would be convinced that Ronaldinho could get back on his top level and lead the club to new trophies.

2. Ronaldinho - Barcelona
(you can read this part here)

3. Barcelona - Milan
(you can read this part on this blog the day after tomorrow)

Read more:
Ronaldinho agent met with Milan and Inter
Everybody wants Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho agent stirs things up

Kuranyi is on the long list

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Schalke 04 forward and German international Kevin Kuranyi (26) is on the transfer list of Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain. People close to the Schalke board have assured the paper that Barcelona is ready to offer the striker a contract in the summer.

Sylvinho accepts renewal offer

Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (34), whose current contract expires at the end of this season, has said in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that he will accept the one-year contract renewal that was offered to him by the club: "I'm staying one more year and I'm very motivated. We're talking with the club. They have said that they count on me and there are just some details left. I'm grateful the club appreciates the job I have done over the last four years."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claimed yesterday that Sylvinho took some time to reply to the offer because he had some doubts. The Brazilian had the feeling he didn't get enough chances to play this season, certainly giving the latest troubles of Eric Abidal, and the expected exit of the majority of the Brazilians, especially his close friend José Edmílson, made him think a while about continuing or not.

The fact that he could leave on a free transfer, would have put him also in a good position to negotiate the economic conditions of a new contract with other clubs. The paper claimed that Italian club AS Roma could have been interested in Sylvinho.

pep's opinion:
excellent decision, I would have made that one year with an option for another year, good back-up for Abidal, great player both on and off the pitch, a well deserved renewal

Read more:
Sylvinho willing to accept every renewal offer
Renewal offer for Sylvinho
Sylvinho willing to renew

Pique still dreaming in blaugrana

In an interview with British television channel Sky Sports, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he's delighted about central defender Rio Ferdinand's new five-year contract renewal, but seemed to suggest that this could mean that Manchester United central defender Gerard Pique (21) is on his way out: "Rio is on the point of signing a new contract and we're very happy about that. We always try to get everyone, all the players, on new and longer contracts. Sometimes we maybe slip but not often."

This last comment is seen as an indication that Gerard Piqué, who wants to play more (read more here), will not sign the contract renewal that has been proposed to him and would therefore leave in the summer. Cause with the stable central duo Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic, it doesn't look like the Catalan defender will get a fixed starting spot next season.

Barcelona would be looking at a return of their youth academy product (read more here). And British newspaper The Guardian claims today that Piqué, whose contract expires next year, is giving strong consideration to returning to the Primera División.

Piqué told in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that he feels good in Manchester but repeats that he wants to play more. The defender, who admits that he is missing life in Barcelona, says he has already received offers from several clubs, but he did not personally hear anything of the interest from Barcelona: "I read about it in the papers. It makes me proud. I am a Barça guy, I grew up in the club and played there for many years. I did not forget that dream of playing in the Camp Nou in a blaugrana shirt."

(read everything on the Piqué transfer story here)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Inter wants Henry on loan

Italian football site Il Reca claims that Italian top club Inter Milan is interested in Barcelona forward and French international Thierry Henry (30). Inter president Massimo Moratti would have contacted Barcelona president Joan Laporta to inform him first hand about the interest. Moratti is considering to offer Barcelona to take over the Frenchman on a two year loan, paying his full salary of 7,6 million euro° a year. At Inter, Henry should form an attacking duo with Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich.

The same site claims that Inter central defender Marco Materazzi (34) could go the other way. The Italian international, who cannot be not sure of his place next season, has an offer from Barcelona but would nevertheless prefer to return to his old club Lazio.

Read more:
Exchange between Henry and American youngster
Premier League clubs circling around Henry
Henry realistic target for Manchester City

Read everything:
The Thierry Henry transfer story

The Guardiola report

Because he is, together with Getafe manager Michael Laudrup (43), the main candidate to succeed current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45), Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) was asked by Barcelona to prepare a report explaining his view on the club and the team (read more here).

Catalan sports paper Sport apparently traced a copy of the report, since they published a summary earlier this week. The former Barcelona captain wants to bring some change to the way of working and playing of the team. These are the headlines of the Guardiola project:

Time at the club
The players have to spend more time at the club in order to get more unity in the squad and to enable the club to better control the food and resting habits of the players. The Barcelona training centre in Sant Joan Despí should therefore be used more by the first team. The players will gather there in the morning for a first training session. Between the first and the second session, late in the afternoon, the players will have to stay at the centre to eat, to rest, to attend the press, for physical treatment and tactical classes.

Medical staff
The structure of the medical staff should be changed. There's a need to have the best diagnosis people because the players want to know inmediately which injury they have and how long they will have to recover.

Physical preparation
The way the team is physically prepared for the season should be changed, new people have to be brought in. The commercial summer tours should be more adapted to the training schedule and not the other way around.

The sports director has to ask the permission of the manager to transfer a player. Related to the current squad, there is a lack of players with power and pace that should be dealt with in the summer transfer window.

Way of playing
The team should have an attacking style, but should not always hold on to a 4-3-3 when another scheme is better adapted to the characteristics of the opponent team.

Ezquerro assumes he's out

Barcelona left wing attacker Santiago Ezquerro (31), whose contract expires in June, told at a press conference that he realizes that Barcelona won't offer him a renewal in the coming months.

The Spanish player, who arrived in Barcelona in the summer of 2005, said that he would have liked to contribute more but that this was not possible since he wasn't given enough playing time: "It was not to be but I have always tried to help the team the way I could, I have always kept my good mood and I will keep on doing that until the season ends."

Read more:
Transfer period analysis: Winter 2008
Who could go?
A look at the coming transfer summer

Benzema agent excludes exit

Asked about the most recent rumours linking the player with a summer move to Barcelona (read more here), Karim Djaziri, the agent of Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20), said in an interview with Madrid sports tabloid Marca that the French international does not have any plans to leave his current club at the end of the season: "Benzema will not leave Lyon. I know a lot of clubs are interested, but he's still young and wants to stay with the club to gain more experience. That's why he signed a renewal a few weeks ago. There's no buyout clause, Benzema does not want to leave and Lyon does not want to sell, so next season he'll be in Lyon. After that we will see."

Djaziri assured that he did not met with Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain on Tuesday when the latter went to watch Benzema in the quarter final of the French cup (read more here): "I didn't talk to him but I cannot exclude that he met with Lyon officials." Catalan sports paper Sport nevertheless claims today that it was Benzema's agent who received Begiristain at the Lyon airport and accompanied him to a hotel and later to the stadium.

It's clear to all parties that Benzema will stay for at least one more year in Lyon. Benzema's agent and Olympique Lyon sports director Bernard Lacombe did not spread any doubts about that. The Catalan paper says that Barcelona just wanted to be the first to make an official contact with the French club and claims that Begiristain could offer Olympique Lyon midfielder and Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) for free in exchange of a first option on Benzema, something Barcelona already tried when the loan deal on Crosas was agreed upon back in January.

Sport thinks that next summer, Lyon will only start to talk if an offer from at least 50 million euro° comes in, with that price possibly even going up after this summer's Euro 2006 and another Champions League campaign next season.

Ex-Barça: Romario retires

He has don it before, but this time it could be for real. At the presentation earlier this week of a dvd compilation with almost all the goals he scored during his career, former Barcelona forward Romário de Souza Faria (42) announced the end of his career as a professional football player:

"It's officially over. My time is up. I don't have the physical condition anymore. Now it's up to the others. I've done everthing that I wanted in football. I'm happy with all the things I've done, with the shirts I have worn and the trophies I have won."

Romário played his last game last year with Brazilian club Vasco da Gama. During his career, the striker played for clubs in Brazil (Vasco da Gama, Flamengo and Fluminense), the Netherlands (PSV Eindhoven), Spain (Barcelona and Valencia), Qatar (Al-Sadd), the United States (Miami) and Australia (Adelaide).

In 1994, Romário won the World Cup in the United States with the Brazilian national team and was awarded the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball. At the end of that year, he was chosen FIFA World Player of the Year.

Arriving from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 1993, Romário played one and a half season for Barcelona. Due to disciplinary problems, "O Baixinho" (the little one) left for Flamengo in January of the year 1995. Romário won the Spanish league title with Barcelona in 1994, becoming that same season the top goalscorer in the Liga with 30 goals. In the same year, he won the Spanish Super Cup with the team.

Read more:
Ex-Barça: Ronald de Boer
Ex-Barça: Llorenç Serra Ferrer
Ex-Barça: Phillip Cocu

Read all ex-Barça stories here.

Garay doesn't convince anymore

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the transfer of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) is becoming more and more unlikely.

Although the first reports on the player were good and Barcelona contacted with Racing Santander (read more here), the Argentinian couldn't convince the Barcelona scouts anymore later on in the season. Besides that, the economic conditions of the transfer could be getting too high (read more here).

Milan also wants Marquez and Deco

With Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) and Barcelona right back Gianluca Zambrotta (31) already being close to join AC Milan in the summer (read more here and here), Catalan sports paper Sport claims that the Italian club is also interested in Barcelona central defender Rafael Márquez (29) and Barcelona midfielder Deco (30). Milan vice president Adriano Galliani is personally involved in all negotiations and has already talked by phone to Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain, Barcelona sports vice president Marc Ingla and Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano.

Although Barcelona could be willing to give Márquez another chance after his disappointing season, the club would let the Mexican international leave if a good offer for him comes in from Milan or from any other club. Since the technical staff has decided that Deco should leave at the end of the season, they are now looking for a destination that is satisfactory to all parties. And Milan is one of the clubs the Brazilian born Portuguese international likes.

pep's opinion:
Barcelona night club owners will undoubtedly start a petition against the exit of Ronaldinho, Márquez ànd Deco. With all three of them leaving, this could lead to a serious crisis in the business.

Read more:
Inter and Juventus rival for Deco
Inter is monitoring Marquez
Deco out? Lampard in

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Alves repeats exit wish

Asked about the rumours linking him with a summer move to Barcelona (read more here), Sevilla right back Daniel Alves told in an interview with Catalan sports paper El Nou Esportiu that he likes the way of playing of the club a lot: "Barcelona is one of the few teams who always come out trying to win. I would be delighted to wear the Barcelona shirt, but other big clubs are also good destinations."

The Brazilian international, who says he prefers to stay in Spain because he already knows the league, repeated his wish to leave Sevilla at the end of the season: "This phase in my career is over. They have to understand that I want to make progress and that I have to leave to do so. This club has given me everything and now we should come to an agreement that benefits all parties involved."

(read everything on the Alves transfer story here)

Messi is Chelsea top target

British tabloid The Daily Mirror reports that Chelsea owner and Russinan billionaire Roman Abramovich is ready to hand Chelsea manager Avram Grant 125 million euro to spend in the summer transfer market, giving the Israeli manager the chance to prove himself next season with a squad he has built himself.

The tabloid claims that, together with AC Milan playmaker Ricardo Kaká and Bayern Munich right winger Franck Ribéry, Barcelona right wing attacker and Argentinian international Lionel Messi (20) is heading the list of Chelsea summer targets.

Asked about the rumours, Chelsea manager Grant admitted in an interview with British tabloid The Daily Star that he's planning serious changes in the squad and didn't want to exclude any names: "We need to do something. We want to be more consistent and we want a different style of football, and of course I need players who can help with this. Will it take a flair player like Kaka or Messi? I will not reject that one of those names will be here. Will they come? I think so, yes. This is a big club."

In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Grant nevertheless seems less sure about the possibility of Chelsea being able to transfer the Argentinian striker: "The advantage we had three years ago was that the other big clubs didn't have the money, including Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona, so we could show the money and get the player. Now it has changed. For example, I don't think Barcelona would give you Messi even if you showed them big money."

Read more:
Messi to stay for life
Inter president wants Messi at any price
Messi wants to be captain

Transfer history: Cruijff

Former Barcelona player Johan Cruijff told in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that an armed raid on his house during the 1977-1978 season was one of the reasons that made him leave Barcelona in the summer of 1978:

"I had serious problems at the end of my period as a player in Barcelona. At a certain moment I had a gun pointed at my head, I was tied up, my wife was tied up, the children were there in the apartment... From that moment, the children had to go to school under police protection, the police slept in my house for three or four months, I went to the matches with a bodyguard. These are moments when you realize that there are other values in life."

Johan Cruijff played for Barcelona from 1973 until 1978. In his first season he helped the club win the first league title since 1960. In the summer of 1978 he signed for the Los Angeles Aztecs.

Read more:
Transfer history: Zidane
Transfer history: Iaquinta (Juventus)
Transfer history: Cesc

Read all transfer history stories here.

First contact with Lyon on Benzema

Catalan radio station RAC 1 revealed yesterday that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain flew to Lyon yesterday to watch the quarter final of the French cup between Olympique Lyon and Metz. The main objective of the visit was to see Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) in action. Although the player just recently renewed his contract with Lyon until 2013 (read more here), he is still on the Barcelona list for next season. Talking to the radio station, Olympique Lyon midfielder and Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas confirmed that he had been informed of the presence of Begiristain.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Txiki held a meeting with Olympique Lyon sports director Bernard Lacombe to inform him personally about Barcelona's interest for the Lyon striker. Before there would already have been a contact with the agent of Benzema. Barcelona now wants to start negotiating with Olympique Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and is ready to offer the French club 30 million euro° for the transfer.

pep's opinion:
he is absolutely great but when you play 4-3-3 and you know Benzema prefers to play in the centre and you already have Eto'o, Bojan and Henry for the centre forward position, there are probably better ways to spend your money (30 million euro no way being enough to convince Lyon)

Read more here:
Benzema prefers the Liga
The four Barcelona summer objectives
Case closed: Benzema

Guardiola or Laudrup

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that, with the Barcelona board having decided that they don't want a change in the style of the team, there are only two candidates left to replace current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) as of next season: Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) and Getafe manager Michael Laudrup (43).

Josep María Casanovas, the founder of Sport, described the elimination process in his column yesterday as follows: "Van Basten fell off the list when he preferred to go to Ajax. Mourinho had the sympathy of some board members but was rejected because of his character and his way of playing. Benítez was just a passing rumour. Pellegrini has been closely analized but stays in the waiting room. Laurent Blanc, the manager of the moment in France, had some sympathy but little more. The name of Lippi was considered but was disapproved because the Italian Calcio style has never worked in the Liga. The possibility of bringing in a young Spanish manager, like Marcelino or Emery, wasn't supported by anyone."

At this moment Guardiola would have the most support in the board. Some board members nevertheless think that the former Barcelona defensive midfielder lacks some experience and that appointing him would therefore be a risk both for Barcelona and Guardiola. They prefer Laudrup who is having an excellent season with Getafe.

While Barcelona has not yet contacted Laudrup, who plays tonight the final of the Spanish cup with Getafe against Valencia, they would have asked Guardiola to make a report about how 'his' Barcelona would look like. Guardiola has already handed his report to Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain, who has spread it to the board.

( you can read the headlines of the report here )

Read more:
Guardiola takes Mourinho's pole
Could Guardiola be the emergency solution?
Everybody loves Michael

Crosas goes French / 20

Olympique Lyon qualified for the semi finals of the French Cup last night by beating Metz at home with 1-0. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started the game as defensive midfielder and was replaced by French midfielder Mathieu Bodmer in the 76th minute.

After the game, Crosas said to OLTV, the club's television channel: "I think I have played a good match, even though it was hard physically. I feel good in Lyon. My decision is to stay here, we're gonna discuss the situation with Barcelona and Lyon and then we'll take a decision all together."

(read more on Crosas in Lyon here)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Youth: Gai Assulin

Dutch soccer site Europe Soccer claims that Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam is interested in Barcelona B player Gai Assulin, who turned 17 last week. Barcelona would consider to loan out the player for one season in order for him to get some more experience at the top level. It is believed that the player could fall somewhere between the first team and Barcelona B next season. Gai would like the option to play one year for Ajax. The Israeli international is speaking some Dutch since he lived before in the Netherlands and in Belgium cause of his father's work.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo meanwhile claims that Gai has good options to be part of the first team squad as of next season. The good performances of Catalan forward Bojan Krkic (17) and Mexican right winger Giovani Dos Santos (18) are opening the door for other players from the Barcelona youth academy. And Barcelona is anyhow looking for left wing attackers (read more here), which is the current position of Gai with Barcelona B.

Gai Assulin was born in Israel and came to Barcelona four years ago. Since a few months, Gai is playing with Barcelona B in the Spanish fourth division. Last september he made his senior debut with the first team in the semi-final of the Copa Catalunya. Last month he made his debute with the senior Israeli national team. In August last year, Gai signed a three year contract with Barcelona, that includes a buyout clause of 20 million euro°.

(read more on Gai Assulin here)

(read more youth transfer stories here)

Inter trying to change Ronaldinho's plans

Although last week it seemed that a deal on the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) to Milan was close, Inter Milan has not given up on the Brazilian. The fact that both Inter and Ronaldinho are sponsored by American sportswear supplier Nike could play a role in the process.

On Saturday, Inter president Massimo Moratti said in an interview with Italian television channel Sky Italia that his club is looking at the issue: "Next week we will asses the possbility and decide if we will act. We certainly have excellent relations with Barcelona and with the agent of Ronaldinho, so we'll see if we can go all the way. Milan for sure has done a good job opening this possibility."

That same day, Roberto de Assís, brother and agent of Ronaldinho, denied in an (unconfirmed) interview with Brazilian sports site Globo Esporte that he is holding talks with officials from the two Milan teams: "We are not holding a Ronaldinho auction. At this moment I talk with Milan and I don't want to know about other teams. I haven't discussed with anyone from Inter. It would be against all ethics to do such a thing with Milan, who is opening their doors for us."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Moratti has been talking with Roberto over the phone the past days and that the two will meet this week. Although this could just be a courtesy visit since Roberto would have promised the Inter president not to sign anything before the two have met, Moratti most probably will try to convince Roberto to change the plan to sign for Milan. Catalans sports paper Sport claims that Inter officials could arrive in Barcelona today to try to stop the transfer of Ronaldinho to Milan.

Read more:
Ronaldinho realizes it's over
Ronaldinho agrees terms with Milan
Inter president not giving up on Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho to Milan: principal agreement
Ronaldinho agent met with Milan and Inter

Looking for a left winger

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona will bring in a left wing attacker to fill up the gap left by the exit of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho. Barcelona is looking for a young, fast and technical player, who can score, is adapted to the Liga and is hungry for trophies.

The first name on the list would be that of Valencia left winger David Silva (22). He is seen as the most complete candidate for the spot. With a contract until 2014 and a buyout clause of 90 million euro°, a transfer of Silva will nevertheless be a difficult operation. Barcelona hopes the crisis in Valencia could make the player put pressure on his club to allow him to leave.

Another option is Deportivo La Coruña left winger Andrés Guardado (21). The Mexican international has a buyout clause of 25 million euro° and Deportivo president Augusto César lendoiro would be willing to lower that price in exchange for some players from the Barcelona youth academy.

A third player on the list would be Sevilla left winger and Spanish youth international Diego Capel (20) (read more here) . Capel is considered to be technically the least of the three but he compensates that with his pace. His buyout clause of 12 million euro° is attainable for Barcelona (read more here).

pep's opinion:
With Ronaldinho (and Ezquerro) on their way out and Henry not being able to adapt to the position on the left, we definitely need to bring in one (if not two) players for the left wing. Since on the right we have already two players (Messi and Giovani) who tend to leave the wing and cut inside and since Abidal isn't really an attacking left back able to connect with and double his left wing partner, I guess the right option is to go is for a real left-footed winger, who can go all the way and who keeps the field open.

Major squad reshuffle coming up

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is planning an important reshuffle of the team in the summer. One third of the current squad (8-9 players) would have to leave and will be replaced by other and more motivated players.

The big names that are on top of the Barcelona wish list are Sevilla right back Daniel Alves (24) and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20). While Barcelona would already have found a deal with the Brazilian defender (read more here), the two clubs will now have to start negotiating (read more here). Alves has let Sevilla president José María del Nido know that he wants to move to Barcelona. Meanwhile, Barcelona would have made Arsenal a first offer regarding Cesc (read more here).

Besides the four players whose contract expires in June - Brazilian midfielder José Edmilson (31), Brazilian left back Sylvinho Mendes (34), Spanish left winger Santiago Ezquerro (31) and French central defender Lilian Thuram (36) - some other members of the squad, like Catalan defender Oleguer Presas (28) could leave in the summer.

Key players Ronaldinho (28) and Deco (30) seem also on their way out (read more here). And if French forward Thierry Henry (30) would decide that he wants to leave, Barcelona would let him, although some are convinced the player can still offer Barcelona a lot in the future. Henry could have started talks with English club Chelsea (read more here).

Hleb agent confirms Barcelona interest

Nikolai Shpilevski, the agent of Arsenal midfielder Aleksandr Hleb (26), has confirmed that Barcelona is one of the clubs that have informed him about their interest in the Belarusian international. Shpilevski is quoted in British tabloids The Daily Mail and The Daily Express as saying: "I'm often approached about Hleb. Besides Inter Milan, also Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid are interesteed in him. But there are no offical offers."

Read more:
Hleb to strengthen Barcelona midfield
A look at the coming transfer summer
Hleb wants to stay

Monday, 14 April 2008

Renewal offer for Bojan

Catalan television channel TV3 claims that Barcelona has offered forward Bojan Krkic (17) to renew and extend his contract until 2013. Barcelona president Joan Laporta would be personally involved in the negotiations.

When he was 16, Bojan signed his first contract with Barcelona (read more here). Although he signed for five years (three years plus an option for two more years), the Spanish legislation limits the contracts for minors to three years, which means that the contract of Bojan expires in 2009 (read more here). The player has a buyout clause of 60 million euro.

While Bojan earns now 60 000 euro plus incentives a year, his salary would rise to 1,75 million euro plus incentives a year. It can be expected that this salary will have to be adapted again quite soon if the player can confirm his current form in the coming months and years. Although Milan and Chelsea are offering the player more money (up to 2,5 million euro a year), Bojan doesn't think about leaving and it is expected he will sign a new contract soon after he turns 18 in August of this year.

Read more:
Bojan renewal coming up

Luis Enrique would like to return

Asked about a possible return to Barcelona, former Barcelona player Luis Enrique (37), who has been rumoured to be a candidate to become an assistant coach if José Mourinho or Josep Guariola becomes the next Barcelona manager, told in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that he would love to be back one day: "Football is the sport I like the most, I'm in love with it. I was lucky to be a professional player and after that I have been out for a while, trying not to bother anyone. Lately I'm pronouncing more on football issues and my dream is to return to Barcelona one day."

Luis Enrique nevertheles doesn't want to push anything: "It should happen in a natural way. Things will happen when they have to happen. Time will tell, I'm not in a hurry. And if it doesn't happen, I'll just stay a Barcelona fan like I have been until now and enjoy watching the team play."

Read more:
Luis Enrique did not send his cv
Mourinho preparing to take over
Luis Enrique waiting for a call

Ronaldinho realizes it's over

Although this weekend there has been a lot of speculation and comments about the possible transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) to Milan, the deal has not been closed yet and it's not entirely clear if it will be officially announced soon. An update.

1. Ronaldinho
2. AC Milan
3. Barcelona
4. Inter Milan
5. Other clubs
6. Transfer price

1. Ronaldinho
Roberto de Assís, the brother and agent of Ronaldinho, declared Saturday afternoon in an (unconfirmed) interview with Brazilian sports site Globo Esporte that the talks with Milan are actually just starting: "There is no real negotiation going on. What happened is that Milan has requested authorization to start talking with the player and that we had a first meeting." Roberto said a deal doesn't have to be expected soon, although the good relation between the parties could make things easier.

Saturday night, Roberto watched the Italian league game Juventus-Milan alongside AC Milan vice president Adrino Galliani. He told Italian television channel Italia 1 that his brother wants to join Milan and that he therefore will try to find an agreement: "But at the moment we are still at an early stage. We have asked Barcelona for permission to begin talks so that we can reach a deal. Now we are waiting for a response from them."

Roberto said yesterday an interview with French television channel Canal+ that the parties are coming closer: "Milan is enthusiastic about a possible transfer. Our positions have come closer, but you cannot say the deal is done. At this moment we still have a contract with Barcelona."

Meanwhile, Madrid sports tabloid As says that Ronaldinho is starting to realize his time in Barcelona is over, while he always had planned to stay until his contract expires in 2010, even convincing his brother who wanted to transfer Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Germany in 2006. People from the entourage of the player would have told the tabloid that Ronaldinho, who has disappeared from public life, is feeling "sad" and that he's going through some "bad days".

2. AC Milan
Milan vice president Galliani kept declaring the deal with Ronaldinho is in fact already closed: "When before we had a principal agreement, now we have an agreement. Barcelona has given us the permission to negotiate with the player and now that we have found a deal, we will return to talk with Barcelona."

Catalan sports paper Sport confirms that the deal with Milan is complete and claims that the Italian club wants to officially announce the transfer as soon as possible to please the fans after a disappointing season.

Milan general director Ariedo Braida said on Saturday that the transfer is "a done deal". It is believed that Ronaldinho will sign a contract for four seasons, until 2012, and earn 8 million euro a year (read more here).

3. Barcelona
Barcelona officials don't want to react to the latest developments (read more here). Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain said on Saturday that he doesn't want to talk about proceedings but only about facts.

Asked about a meeting last week between Begiristain, Roberto de Assís and a Milan representative (read more here), Barcelona sports vice president Marc Ingla seemed to confirm that meeting by saying: "It's normal that Txiki talks with people from the world of football."

Meanwhile, Catalan sports paper Sport reports that rumours are going around that Barcelona president Joan Laporta has allowed AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi to use Ronaldinho in his campaign for the Italian elections and that the whole thing has been a set up.

4. Inter
(this subject will treated in a separate contribution that will be published tomorrow)

5. Other clubs
Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Roberto de Assís has offered his brother to Real Madrid (read more here) as soon as Barcelona announced to him that they didn't count on Ronaldinho for next season. Real Madrid doesn't see Ronaldinho as a priority and is now first focusing on winning the Liga. If the player is still available after the season, they will look at the option.

Roberto would also continue to talk with English Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City (read more here).

6. Transfer price
Media reports suggest that the transfer price could become a serious obstacle in the transfer process. Barcelona has rejected the initial Milan offer of 20 million euro and is asking 30 million euro for Ronaldinho (read more here). While leaving on a free transfer, like Roberto had asked in the beginning, doesn't seem an option anymore, Roberto and Milan still could consider to use the FIFA transfer regulations allowing Ronaldinho to leave for 16 million euro.

Catalan sport paper Sport claims that Barcelona is willing to be flexible but that they would prefer to receive at least 27 million euro, the price they paid to French club Paris Saint-Germain in 2003. Inter Milan would be ready to pay 25 million euro, Manchester City wouldn't mind to put 30 or even 40 million euro on the table in an attempt to win the race for the Brazilian star.

(read more on the Ronaldinho transfer story here)

Deco could be new Bayern star transfer

German tabloid Bild claims that Bayern Munich is interested in Barcelona midfielder Deco (30). Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness has said his club will sign a first class player and the tabloid says that Deco is on the list, together with Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini and AS Roma defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi. Bild claims that Hoeness was spotted in Barcelona on Thursday. The Portuguese international would at least cost 8 million euro°.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona will let Deco go if a good bid comes in. It's believed that the player is still rated highly by many clubs who could push hard fot the Brazilian born midfielder. Inter Milan and Atlético Madrid are rumoured to have Deco on their wish list and are expected to present an important offer. Asked about his club's interest in Deco, Inter president Massimo Moratti said yesterday that they are now focusing on winning the league and that they will look to the player's market later.

Madrid sports tabloid As thinks that the future of Deco in Barcelona is linked with that of Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard. The delicate relationship with the coach means the player will almost surely leave if Rijkaard would continue next season. With another manager on the Barcelona bench, Deco, who already thought about leaving in January but in the end decided to stay because he feels good in the city, will consider to be part of the new project and to start his fifth season in Barcelona.

Read more:
Inter and Juventus rival for Deco
Newcastle held first talks on Deco
Deco out? Diego in

Villareal loan out Caceres scouted

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona scouts have been following Recreativo Huelva central defender Martín Cáceres (21) (read more here). The Villareal loan out is mentioned high on wish the list of the Barcelona tecnical staff but since Cáceres will return to Villareal after this season, it seems highly unlikely that the Barcelona interest in the Uruguayan will result in a transfer in the coming summer.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Barcelona prepares Cesc bid

British tabloid The Daily Star claims that Barcelona will make a move in the coming transfer window to bring Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) back to the club he left in the summer of 2003. Barcelona would be preparing an offer of 25 million euro°.

Although Arsenal has always said that the player will not be sold, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger would be worried about the close ties a new advisor of the Catalan midfielder would have with Barcelona (read more here). The current contract of Cesc is expiring in 2014, with Arsenal wanting to renew and extend the contract for two more years, lifting the player's salary from 60 000 euro to 100 000 euro* a week.

Read more:
New Cesc agent on good terms with Barcelona
Cesc fires his agent
Cesc not pronouncing on return

Read everything:
The Cesc Fàbregas transfer story

Youth: Jozy Altidore (Red Bull New York)

American sports radio talk show World Soccer Daily reports that a rumour is going around that American Major League Soccer team New York Red Bulls would be willing to let striker Jozy Altidore (18) leave to Barcelona if that would mean that Barcelona forward and French international Thierry Henry (30) would come the other way.

Asked about his favourite clubs, Altidore (who also coincidentally indicates that his favourite player is Thierry Henry) says today in an interview with American newspaper The New York Times that he admires Barcelona: "Barcelona and Arsenal. It’s the way they play, their style. When I see their games on TV, I feel like I should be paying just to watch. It’s just a joy."

Josmer 'Jozy' Altidore is an American of Haitian descent. He joined Red Bull New York in 2006, making his first team debute in August of that year. Last November he made his debute with the American national team. Altidore is considered to be one of the most talentented young strikers around and is expected to make the move to Europe in the coming summer transfer window, with several English top clubs apparently preparing for a bidding war.

Read more:
Can pay rise convince Henry?
Youth: Gai Assulin
Premier League clubs circling around Henry

Pique tempted by Barcelona return

British tabloid News of the World claims that Manchester United central defender Gerard Piqué (21) is tempted by the Barcelona interest to resign him and is considering his Manchester United future. The contract of the Spanish youth international expires in June of next year and despite several offers from the club, Piqué does not seem very keen on a renewal.

Asked about the rumours linking him with a return to Barcelona, the Catalan defender said in an interview with British sports site Setanta Sports that he isn't aware of that: "I don’t know about Barcelona’s interest. The Spanish press knows more about those stories than me."

Although the recent injury of his team-mate Nemanja Vidic gives him more playing time, Piqué is thinking about his future and considering an exit: "I don’t know how long I can wait before I play every week. This year has been difficult as I want to play more. My contract with United ends in 2009, so I have plenty of time to think."

Read more:
Pique return looked at
Second thoughts about Garay
Pique could return

Crosas goes French / 19

Olympique Lyon played yesterday 1-1 against Rennes. On top of the French Ligue 1, Lyon has now a seven point lead on second placed Bordeaux, who can reduce the gap to four points later today. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and replaced Brazilian playmaker Juninho in the 82nd minute.

(read more on Crosas in Lyon here)

Poulsen waiting for a free transfer

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (28), whose contract expires in 2009, is not planning to leave Sevilla in the summer despite the interest of several European top clubs, including Barcelona (read more here). Poulsen has informed his lawyer and legal representative Jorn Bonnesen about his decision.

Like he did in his former club Schalke 04, the Danish international wants to stay until his contract ends next year and then leave on a free transfer. This puts Poulsen in a better position to negotiate the economic conditions of the new contract with his next club. French champion Olympique Lyon would already have offered to pay the Dane's buyout clause of 10 million euro°, but Poulsen rejected the offer.

Poulsen is convinced that some of the big clubs that are interested now, will still be next year. Although Turkish go-between Bayram Tutmlu, who brought the midfielder to Sevilla, had been talking to different clubs, Poulsen came out to assure during a press conference that Tutumlu is not his agent (read more here). Sevilla has been trying several times to renew and extend the player's contract and to raise the buyout clause, but Poulsen has always made clear he does not want that.

Read more:
Deal with Poulsen
The Poulsen problem
Poulsen deal under lock and key

Read everthing:
The Christian Poulsen transfer story

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