Saturday, 28 June 2008

Ajax will listen to offers for Huntelaar

Ajax Amsterdam sports director Danny Blind has said in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that the renewal negotiations with Ajax forward and Dutch international Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (24) are temporarily put on hold:

"The negotiations are stopped for now. We have agreed that we will listen to offers coming in. If the interested clubs don't pay what we ask, then we hope we can sit again around the table with Klaas-Jan later on. We don't really want to see him go. He's our top goalscorer and we would want him to stay, even if he doesn't sign a renewal. He still has two years left on his contract."

Although Ajax offered Huntelaar a serious pay rise, the player couldn't accept the fact that the Dutch club wanted to include a buyout fee of 25 million euro in the new contract. Huntelaar has now set his mind on a transfer to a foreign club.

The paper claims that Huntelaar could this summer probably leave for a transfer fee between 15 and 20 million euro°. Barcelona has over the last months been rumoured to be interested in the Dutch striker.

Read more:

Vice president confirms Trezeguet off the list

Asked about the rumours linking Juventus forward David Trezeguet (30) with a summer move to Barcelona, Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano has said in an interview with Italian sports paper Tuttosport that the French striker is not an option anymore (read more here):

"It's true that we were thinking about David, but in the end we preferred other options and I don't think we will come back for him. We're not interested anymore in Trezeguet and we are close to sign another great striker."

Read more:

Looking for a club for Gudjohnsen

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is still searching the market for a club who would be interested in buying Barcelona attacker and Iceland international Eidur Gudjohnsen (29), who doesn't figure in the plans of new Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola.

Despite the fact that Barcelona received last summer several offers for Gudjohnsen, no interesting proposals have for now arrived in Barcelona over the last months. English Premier League club West Ham United would be the last club who has shown some interest in the Icelandic player.

Read more:

Neeskens plans sabbatical year

Asked about his plans for the future, Barcelona assistant coach Johan Neeskens (56), who will officially leave Barcelona at the end of this month, has said in an interview with Dutch television channel NOS that he is at this moment not considering to accept any offer.

The initial plan of Neeskens, who also played for Barcelona between 1974 and 1979, is now to take a sabbatical year during which he plans to stay and live in Barcelona.

Neeskens joined Barcelona as first assistant of manager Frank Rijkaard in the summer of 2006 after having acted as assistant of Australian national team coach Guus Hiddink at the World Cup in Germany. With Barcelona, Neeskens won one Spanish super cup in 2006.

Read more:

Henrique transfer is one fax away

Brazilian club Palmeiras has confirmed on its official website that the negotiations with Barcelona on the transfer of Palmeiras central defender and Brazilian international Henrique Adriano Buss (21) has entered the final stage.

A deal is very close and Henrique has therefore been removed from the Palmeiras squad for this weekend's Brazilian league game. During yesterday afternoon's training session, the central defender did even have to leave the training pitch.

André Cury, a representative of sports marketing agency Traffic that ownes the rights on Henrique (read more
here), confirmed the advanced stage of the negotiations to Brazilian sports site UOL Esporte: "Henrique is almost transferred. We're now just waiting for a last fax from Barcelona."

Barcelona would pay 10 million euro° for Henrique, who will sign a five-year contract. Palmeiras receives twenty per cent of the difference between the transfer fee and the 2,5 million euro fee paid by Traffic in January (read more
here). Three and a half per cent of the final fee will go to Brazilian club Coritiba as training rights.

Palmeiras sports director Toninho Cecílio said in an interview with Brazilian radio station Rádio Globo that his club, that initially had hoped to be able to loan Henrique back from Barcelona until the end of the year, is alreay looking for someone to replace the player:

"We will miss Henrique but there are market conditions that don't make it easy to hold on to the player. The agents of the players have found today (this is yesterday) a deal on the salary and the duration of the contract. They reached a verbal agreement for five years. The deal isn't yet one hundred per cent finalized. There are still some details left between Barcelona, Palmeiras and Traffic but I believe that there won't be any problems. In terms of return on investment his time with us has surely been excellent."

Catalan sports paper Sport, who claims that Barcelona will pay between 8 and 10 million euro°, says that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain found last week a deal with the player. This week Barcelona agreed with the owners on the transfer fee.

It seems that Henrique will start the pre-season with Barcelona. After that, the technical staff will decide if they keep the Brazilian with the team or find another solution. Despite having German roots, Henrique doesn't have an passport of a European Union country, which shouldn't be a problem since Barcelona still has some non-EU spots available.

Brazilian sports site Globo Esporte claims that Henrique, who can play on all defense positions and as defensive midfielder, will travel to Barcelona in the beginning of next week.

Watch video:
Henrique presented as Palmeiras player earlier this year

Read more:
Agent confirms Henrique talks

Barcelona taking part in reopened Guiza race

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that the race for the transfer of Mallorca forward and Spanish international Dani Güiza (27) could be reopened because Turkish club Fenerbahçe, which has a pre-agreement with the player (read more here), has problems finding the funds to pay the 15 million euro° buyout fee.

Mallorca president Vicenç Grande has in the last days been receiving phone calls from several clubs that are willing to pay the fee immediately. Barcelona is said to be amongst the candidates.

Despite closing an earlier deal with Fenerbahçe, Nuria Bermúdez, the wife and one of the agents of Güiza, would now be again looking at the offers that the Spanish striker received from other clubs.

Read more:

Alves deal to be closed next week

Sevilla president José María del Nido has said at a press conference that some last details concerning the transfer of Sevilla right back defender and Brazilian international Daniel Alves (25) to Barcelona will be fixed next week:

"Everything has virtually been agreed upon. We're finalizing the last details needed for him to become a Barcelona player. If everything goes like planned, Daniel will come to Sevilla on Tuesday to say goodbye to the Sevilla fans at a press conference."

pep's opinion:
tuesday is the first day of a new accounting year for barcelona (2008-2009). the financial impact of the operation was probably why barcelona didn't want to close a deal earlier (certainly when for example ronaldinho hasn't yet been sold to balance the alves fee in the books). this also means that alves can and will be presented few days before the vote of no confidence next sunday.

Read more:

Friday, 27 June 2008

Russian energy company considering Messi bid

Russian news agency RIA Novosti claims that Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg are interested in Barcelona right wing attacker and Argentinian international Lionel Messi (21).

During the annual general meeting of Russian energy consortium Gazprom today, the rumour has been spreading amongst the shareholders.

Having seen what the performances of the Russian national team at the European championships in Switzerland and Austria have provoked inside and outside Russia, Gazprom would want to try to get Messi to Russia, namely to Zenit, the club that is owned by the company.

Zenit would consider to offer Barcelona 20 million euro° plus Zenit Saint Petersburg forward and Russian international Andrei Arshavin (27).

Read more:
Record renewal offer for Messi
100 million euro Chelsea offer for Messi
Formal offer for Arshavin

Adebayor cannot make his mind up

Apparently only one hour after he said during a press conference that he would stay at Arsenal (read more here), Arsenal forward and Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor (24) said in an interview with British television channel Sky Sports that he hasn't yet made a decision on his future:

"I am a footballer, I have a three-year contract at Arsenal but as you know, a lot of clubs are interested in me. At the moment we are just going to sit down and talk and decide what to do. Nothing has been decided yet. We will decide next week."

Read more:
Adebayor will stay at Arsenal
Newcastle and West Ham have Gudjohnsen on list
Arsenal opens door for Adebayor transfer

Eto'o wants to talk with Guardiola

Asked about his future, Barcelona forward and Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o (27) has said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport during a promotional event in Vienna that he wants to meet with Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola before making any decision on his future:

"I've never said that it wasn't for the club to decide on my future (read more here). I have only said that I didn't want to talk about it until after my vacations. I'm still in my days off and I just don't want to think about it now. When I return I will talk with the coach and with his collaborators about football issues and about the future. If we see each other again in twenty days, I will be able to tell you everything."

Guardiola has repeated at press conferences yesterday and today that he's not planning next season thinking about Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto'o (read more here) but he didn't exclude the players to stay in the end: "If they will start the pre-season with us, they will train with the group and will be threated exactly like the other players. And if it won't be possible to sell them, I will do anything to get the best out of them."

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona and Inter Milan would be close to reach an agreement on a transfer of Samuel Eto'o for 25 million euro°. The main obstacle would be the approval of Eto'o, who wants to leave Barcelona in a dignified way.

Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano said earlier this week in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that it would be better if Eto'o left the club: "The technical department says that he has lost the motivation to play at Barcelona and Samuel himself thinks the same."

Read more:
Eto'o prefers to stay
Benzema likes Barcelona
Eto'o for sale

Heart problem could cause end of Thuram's career

While the French media believed a transfer would be made public, Barcelona central defender Lilian Thuram (36) has announced today at a press conference in Paris that during the medical tests prior to the player signing for French club Paris Saint-Germain (read more here) the doctors have detected a problem with his heart:

"When I'm holding this press conference, it's sadly not to announce my transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, but to tell you that the doctors have found a heart malformation. It seems like it could be the same problem my brother had and which has cost him his life on a basketball court."

Thuram will now wait for the complete results of the tests, which will be available in one month time. After that the Frenchman will decide if he will continue his career or not.

Read more:

Adebayor will stay at Arsenal

Asked about the rumours linking him with a summer exit (read more here), Arsenal forward and Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor (24) said during a sponsor event in Vienna that he doesn't have any plans to leave his club: "Of course I'm staying at Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and have three years left on my contract. The most important thing for me is to enjoy my football so I'm staying.

When I was young I had a dream to be a good footballer and play for a big team. I can see some more years at Arsenal because I have a good contract and a good team there. I am playing for one of the biggest teams in the world and I am more than happy to keep on enjoying myself and that is all.

I was born in Togo so I never cared about playing for money, my happiness was to play to enjoy myself. That's what I've been doing until now. You can see people changing clubs because of money, because they want a change of atmosphere or to get their names in the big leagues. I just play football to enjoy myself. I play because I love it."

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain confirmed yesterday at a press conference that Barcelona was holding talks on a transfer of Adebayor: "It's not the only name on the list. We're working on several options. But of course he's amongst the candidates."

Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano said earlier this week in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that the negotiations on the Togolese player were ongoing: "We're very engaged in the operation and I can say that the transfer doesn't depend on Eto'o having to leave first."

Catalan sport paper Sport claims that the transfer was seen by the Barcelona board as being very complicated and that they only expected to close a deal by the end of the month of July. With Adebayor being the absolute priority of Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola, the club was ready to push hard for the player. A bid of 45 million euro° for both Adebayor and Hleb was being prepared.

Read more:

Caceres presented

Martín Cáceres (21), who signed a four-year contract earlier this month (read more here), has today been officially presented as new player of Barcelona. At a press conference Cáceres showed his satisfaction with the transfer: "I'm very proud to play for a club like Barcelona, that represents so much. I'm arriving with all the motivation in the world, looking forward to spend time with players like Puyol and Milito and willing to give everyting for this shirt.

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola was pleased with the transfer of the Uruguayan defender: "His youth, his excellent physical abilities and his velocity will help us a lot. What I like the most about this player is that he clearly has the south-american caracter. When we watched him so many times and transfered him in the end, that's just because we're convinced that he will add something to the team. He can play on different positions. His speed will allow us to play with the defensive line higher up the pitch. It's not easy to find that kind of player."

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain added that Cáceres has an excellent mentality, made clear he can play as centre or left back defender and said that Barcelona has been following the player since he arrived in Spain: "We have been watching him since he arrived at Villareal. We liked him and we have monitored him very closely over the past season."

It's not yet decided which number Cáceres will wear. The list will be drawn up later on this summer.

Read more:
OFFICIAL: Martín Cáceres

Read the whole Cáceres transfer story from the first rumours to the official presentation

Youth: Nikola Saric (Herfolge Boldklub)

Danish second division club Herfølge Boldklub yesterday announced on its official website that Herfølge Boldklub playmaker and Danish youth international Nikola Saric (17) will join English Premier League club Liverpool this summer.

After a test at the Barcelona youth academy three years ago, Barcelona offered Saric a contract. Back then the player was only 14 years old and his family thought it was better for him to develop further in Denmark.

It is unclear if Barcelona was still interested in signing Saric. Reports claim that several European top clubs have been in the race for the attacker with Serbian roots over the last months. Herfølge Boldklub sports director Per Rud says that he travelled around Europe since the beginning of the year to hold talks on the player but that things rarely became concrete.

Danish newspaper Dagbladet Køge thinks that Liverpool will pay between 400 000 and 700 000° euro for Saric, whose contract with Herfølge Boldklub expired at the end of this year.

Read more:
Youth: Dani Aquino (Murcia)
Youth: Thiago Alcantara
Youth: Diego Polenta (Danubio)

Paris Saint-Germain denies Thuram deal

In a reaction to a report yesterday that a deal had been found between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona central defender and French international Lilian Thuram (36) (read more here), the French club issued a statement on its official website denying that everything has already been agreed upon:

"PSG wants to make clear that at this moment no agreement has been reached with Lilian Thuram. The negotiations are still ongoing."

Read more:

Hleb transfer again very close

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that a deal with Arsenal on the transfer of Arsenal midfielder and Belarus international Alexander Hleb (27) is very close.

Barcelona would pay Arsenal a transfer fee of between 18 and 20 million euro°, with a fixed amount and a variable part depending on trophies that are won. The only remaining issue would be the fractionation of the fee.

A four-year deal with Hleb was already agreed upon earlier this year (read more here) and although German champions Bayern Munich would have offered Arsenal 24 million euro, the Belarussian midfielder, whose contract with Arsenal expires next summer, seems to stick to his choice to play in Spain next season.

Catalan sports paper Sport, who said earlier this week that the Hleb option would be closed if Arshavin was transferred and that Hleb anyway was not a priority anymore, now claims that Barcelona could make a 45 million euro° offer for both Hleb and Adebayor (read more

Asked if the arrival of Arshavin would exclude the transfer of Hleb, Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola said at a press conference yesterday that this is not the case: "Good players can always play together and those two are good players."

Read more:
Deal with Hleb
Mutu renewal talks monitored
Hleb option falls back

Guardiola convinced Marquez to stay

Barcelona central defender and Mexican international Rafael Márquez (29) has said in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that a meeting with Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola took away the doubts on his future:

"I had the chance to talk with him. He told me that he counts on me and I'm very happy for that. I have to admit that before the meeting I wasn't sure about what to do this summer, staying or leaving. But Guardiola has put his trust in me and I'll work very hard to translate that trust into performances on the pitch.

I am committed to the new project. I want to return to be the player I was two years ago. I'm always the first to be critical with myself and I'm aware that I didn't play well over the last two seasons. That's why I want to start the pre-season in good conditions, work hard and play a good season. I know that I still have a lot to give and I hope to do that playing for Barcelona for many more years to come."

Read more:

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Euro 2008: Russia-Spain (semi final)

The picture proves it: he did play! He even touched the ball!!! But we canot say much more on the performance of Arshavin cause he simply was invisible.

Also because Hiddink had ordered him that his main task was to put pressure on Xavi. And he actually did that quite well in the first half. Like the Russian team was very well-organised then.

The game nonetheless totally changed when Villa got injured and Cesc entered. That was the turning point, the Spain midfield took the whole businees over and Russia just didn't find an answer to that. Excellent second period by the Spanish team with some great goals.

Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta all played the whole match. Puyol was again very solid at the back, Xavi and Iniesta had a difficult first half but took part in that great second half of the Spanish midfield, very nice first goal by the two.

Read everything about Barcelona at the Euro 2008 here

Two weeks ago Spain won this game with 4-1. Since then just one thing changed: Arshavin appeared. Will he be able to confirm his good performance against the Netherlands tonight? Who will face Germany in the final? You can comment on the match here.

Sao Paulo holding on to Hernanes buyout fee

Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo claims that Barcelona could make a formal offer for São Paulo attacking midfielder and Brazilian international Hernanes (23) before the end of this week.

With São Paulo owning 75 per cent of the rights on the player, they will be the ones who will decide on a transfer. Sports marketing agency Traffic holds 17 per cent while Hernanes holds 8 per cent.

São Paulo football director João Paulo de Jesus Lopez said in an interview with Brazilian sports site Globo Esporte that his club didn't receive any bid from Barcelona so far and again referred to the 25 million euro° buyout fee (read more here): "Two representatives from Traffic keep on talking about a presumed offer of 11 million euro°. But we want to talk from club to club. And since we're not interested to sell Hernanes, we will only start negotiating if the offer is the equivalent of the buyout clause."

Hernanes, whose contract with São Paulo expires in 2012, said earlier this week in an interview with Brazilian television channel SporTV that everything will depend on the position of his current club:

"I am happy in São Paulo but I knew this moment would come although I didn't expect it to come that soon. I'm calm about the whole situation cause I know everyting will depend on São Paulo. There's nothing official yet, but the board should anyhow first give the green light. If that comes, I will be more relaxed to think about what I want. But if the club doesn't want to negotiate, I will just stay here."

Read more:

Keita presented

Seydou Keita, who signed a four-year contract last month (read more here), has today been officially presented as new player of Barcelona. At a press conference Keita showed his happiness about the transfer: "I'm very happy to join the club that I consider to be the greatest club in the world. It was my dream as a little boy to come to Barcelona and I'm very happy that dream has come true. I will defend the colours of Barcelona with a lot of pride. This is an important step in my career."

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola showed his satisfaction at the press conference: "I am more than satisfied with the transfer, he's a player with different qualities compared to our other midfielders which gives me more options. I'm convinced that he will help us to be a competitive team. I hope he'll feel comfortable at the club soon. I plan to use him at the left, although he also can play as defensive midfielder. I hope we can bring out all of his talent. He has impressive physical abilities. He has a powerful long shot, is good with the head and will bring a lot of depth to the team."

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain explained that Barcelona had been following Keita for some years: "When he played for Lens, Touré and Keita were the best players in France. At that time, the team needed more a player like Touré but back then we already thought Keita could we a Barcelona player. He's a very complete player, very dynamic, who will give more balance to the team."

It's not yet decided which number Keita will wear. The list will be drawn up later on this summer.

Read more:

Read the whole Seydou Keita transfer story from the first rumours to the official presentation

Formal offer for Arshavin

Asked about a possible summer transfer of Zenit Saint Petersburg forward and Russian international Andrei Arshavin (27), Zenit sports director Konstantin Sarsania has confirmed in an interview with Russian sports paper Sovietski Sport that Barcelona has launched a first bid:

"Barcelona has made a formal proposal to Zenit for the transfer of Arshavin. But we will only discuss it once Andrei returns to Zenit." The paper claims that Zenit would agree on letting Arshavin go for 15 million euro°.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo even claims that an agreement between all parties was already found back in April. The deal will be made public after the European championships. Barcelona would pay Zenit 15 million euro°.

Since Barcelona talked directly to the player, the only remaining problem could be that agents or intermediaries show up. Arshavin reconfirmed yesterday to the paper that he would like to join Barcelona and that the Liga is his favourite league.

Asked about the rumours linking Arsahavin with a summer move to Barcelona, Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano admitted in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that Barcelona has been interested in the player for a while now:

"It's true that we are interested in Arshavin. But our interest hasn't started recently since we're already following the player for several months in a discrete way. We watched him against Bayer Leverkusen back in April and then we thought his best position was in the centre. But now it has been proven that he can play on the wing and that's exactly the profile we're looking for. But since all teams want him now, I don't think it will be easy to sign him."

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that during a yesterday meeting of the so-called Comisión Delegada (a club committee consisting of the most important board members and the highest ranked management representatives) the transfer strategy for the next weeks has been established.

Arshavin is, together with Adebayor, the main objective but Barcelona sports vice president Marc Ingla and Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain won't move until Russia has been eliminated from the Euro. The club would nevertheless already have information about the transfer fee asked by Zenit and the salary asked by the player.

Barcelona would already have been following Arshavin for several months, namely since Zenit manager Dick Advocaat talked about the player with Barcelona assistant coach Johan Neeskens which lead Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard to ask the club for scouting reports on the Russian.

Dennis Lachter, the presumed agent of Arshavin, denied during an interview with Catalan radio station COM Ràdio that he has already talked with Barcelona: "It's very unlikely that Arshavin will continue with Zenit. At this moment we have received seven proposals and we'll see what will happen after the Euro. Despite everything that has been talked about in the last days, I didn't hear anything from Barcelona."

In an interview with Spanish television station La Sexta, Lachter said: "The time has come for the player to look for new challenges and this could be his big chance to leave Russia. And it doesn't only have to do with money or with great clubs. That's important but it's also important who his coach will be, how the coach wants him to play, where the coach will put him, which other players are there in the squad for his position. Andrei will take all of that into consideration.

Nobody has called me for now, not even Barcelona. And Zenit wants to hold on to the player since he's their most important man. They won't have any problem to offer him the same as the big clubs will do. A transfer to Barcelona will mainly depend on the interest of Barcelona and the will of the player to play there.
If he leaves, I think the transfer fee could be around 25 million euro°."

Russian player's agent Alexei Safonov gave his view in an interview with Russian radio station Business FM: "Zenit has received more than five proposals from England and France, but Arshavin wants to go to Spain cause the football there is suited for him. His transfer price is around 20 million euro°."

Both main Catalan sports papers meanwhile agree that it looks like the Barcelona attacking line could next season well look like (from right to left): Messi - Adebayor - Arshavin.

Read more:
Arshavin confirms that he is a Barcelona fan
Pavlyuchenko new name on striker list
How things stand: Wing attackers

Thuram underwent PSG medical

French sports paper L'Equipe claims that Barcelona central defender and French international Lilian Thuram (36) underwent this morning medical tests in Paris prior to the player signing a contract with French club Paris Saint-Germain.

An agreement between the player and the Parisian club has been found: Thuram will sign a one-year contract with an option for a second year (read more here).

After leaving Monaco twelve years ago, Thuram could now return to France. A PSG spokesperson nevertheless couldn't yet confirm the deal to the paper: "We're still negotiating."

The contract of Thuram at Barcelona expires at the end of this month and with Barcelona not planning to offer the Frenchman a renewal (read more here), the player is free to negotiate with other clubs.

Read more:

At least three more transfers coming up

Asked about the transfer operations, Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano (picture) has said in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that Barcelona plans to make a few more transfers this summer:

"We still have to close three or four transfers, but that number can still change depending on the players who will leave the club."

Barcelona sports vice president Txiki Begiristain said at a press conference that the club plans to do three more transfers: "We're still looking for a centre forward, a winger and an attacking midfielder. For the three positions we're working on different options."

Read more:

Euro 2008: Should we support Spain?

Being a Barcelona fan leaves one a little in doubt on supporting or not the Spanish national team in international games with Barcelona being the symbol of Catalan pride.

And those Spanish flags we use to see all over the Bernabeu stadium and that are now overly present in the stands in Austria and Switzerland, don't make it easier to cheer along without any slight feeling of guilt, even with some of our boys playing a key role in the Spanish team.

A look at the issue:

Spain march on: with or without Catalan support

Andy Mitten -

It’s a strange one watching Spain’s Euro 2008 games in Catalonia, because Catalans are divided on the fortunes of the national side.

Mariano, one of the Manchester La Fianna players, is a Catalan who watches Spain. He was in Austria for one of their group games last week, but he estimates that while 70% of his Catalan mates want Spain to win, 30% of them would rather Louis Aragones' side lost – despite several Barcelona players being in the side.

Spain’s King was in the stands in Vienna on Sunday night with his wife Sophia, while back in Barcelona almost every bar - and there are 700 in my ultra Catalan neighbourhood alone - advertised ‘Espana v Italia’. I’d do that little squiggle over the ‘n’, but it always comes out wrong.

I once had a full-page article printed in The Independent, which frequently mentioned a club called ‘Baria’. That was The Indy’s system not picking up the squiggle (a cedilla to those who need to know these things) under the ‘c’ of Barca.

Around 45% of Catalans watched Spain’s group games, the lowest of any region in Spain, with 56% of people watching in Madrid. Much of that 45% will be immigrants who moved to Catalonia from other regions, but the bars are still full for the matches.

When Barca play away, you can hear the shouts of fans in my neighbourhood as they celebrate a goal they have seen on television. Population density is much higher than in Britain as people live on narrow streets in apartments, so it can be quite a racket.

If it’s a big result, the streets are soon filled with cars beeping their horns to the accompaniment of fireworks. It didn’t reach the same level on Sunday, but I heard cheers and saw fireworks when Spain went through. They were louder because it was a Catalan, Cesc Fabregas, who scored Spain’s final penalty.

With Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol in the starting line up, there are more Barca than Madrid players. Madrid, for those who don’t know, are a team from the Spanish capital who were outplayed by Roma in the last 16 of the European Cup. Roma were then outplayed by Manchester United, the champions of England, who then beat Barcelona and Chelsea to be crowned Champions of Europe. Just in case anyone needs reminding of Madrid’s current status in European football.

People in my neighbourhood have less time for Madrid than Sir Alex Ferguson - the finest football manager in the world - but there appeared to be relief and surprise that Spain managed to get beyond a quarter-final, as if the country’s famous inferiority complex had been (temporarily) laid to rest.

Spain play Russia in Thursday’s semi-final, but I’ve got a slight problem. I bought a smart Russia football t-shirt in Moscow when I was there for the Champions League final – which Madrid came nowhere near reaching. They were probably too busy working out how to sack their 30th manager in three years. But if I wear the shirt this week then people will think I’m an ultra nationalist Catalan who hates Spain so much that I support the opposition.

Or a Russian.

Read the full story here

Read everything about Barcelona at the Euro 2008 here

Guiza's blaugrana dream won't come true

Spanish newspaper El Mundo claims that Mallorca forward and Spanish international Dani Güiza (27) had set his mind on moving to Barcelona this summer. His dream was to return to the club where he couldn't force his break through a few years ago and take this second chance.

But with Barcelona focusing on Arsenal forward Adebayor, a transfer didn't seem very likely, forcing Güiza to take other offers into consideration. The newspaper claims that the striker has signed a pre-agreement with Turkish club Fenerbahçe and that he underwent a medical in Munich last week.

Read more:

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Looking for Arshavin

Txiki: "I'm looking for a wing player who can make it
to the goal line and give great centres... Let's hope
I have some luck and find something interesting."

Negotiations on Henrique ongoing but unclear

Asked about how things stand regarding the interest of Barcelona in Palmeiras central defender and Brazilian international Henrique Adriano Buss (21) (read more here), the player's agent Marcos Malaquias has said in an interview with Brazilian news agency Gazeta Press that they are waiting for a concrete offer in the coming weeks:

"We met with Barcelona officials and they showed a clear interest. We keep on talking and we'll see how things go. We have made progress and now we're waiting for the official offer to come, like they have promised. When the offer comes, we will talk with the owner Traffic and his club Palmeiras."

Traffic representative André Cury meanwhile said to the news agency that sport marketing agency Traffic, who ownes the transfer rights of Henrique, has received an 8 million euro° bid from Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam. The bid will be discussed with Palmeiras soon. Henrique has a contract with Palmeiras until the end of this year.

It is believed that all Brazilian parties involved would prefer to postpone a deal until the Brazilian olympic selection has been announced. If Henrique is selected and plays a good olympic tournament, it can be expected that his price will rise.

Naor Malaquias, the player's other agent, seemed nevertheless to suggest to Brazilian journalists that an agreement on the transfer of Henrique could be reached in the coming days: "We had a meeting with Barcelona representatives a few days ago and the talks are very well-advanced. Now we only need to talk to Palmeiras to look at the situation and then we could make a decision later this week."

Read more:
Agent confirms Henrique talks
Brazilian defender Alex Silva high on list
Record MLS offer for Ronaldinho

The 2008-2009 shirts

The Barcelona kit for the new season has today been presented:

A game of two halves


FC Barcelona have rediscovered the mythical half-and-half design of the club's centenary for the new home shirt that has been introduced for the 2008/09 the 2008/09 campaign, while the away shirt is yellow.The new kits were presented on Wednesday on the pitch at Camp Nou at midday with the change of look for the Blaugrana's goalkeeper's outfit too.

Blaugrana either side
Nike and Barça have chosen to make a complete change for the home shirts with the stripes being done away with and two halves of blau and grana being introduced as a nod to the club's centenary shirt of ten seasons ago.

Barça hymn included
Next season's shirts will incorporate the senyera once again with the club motto 'mès que un club' on the rear of the collar above the labels. There is another major details, however, with the Barça hymn being printed out on the inside of the shirt. The word Barça is also imprinted throughout the shirt.

Yellow away kit
While the home shirt mirrors the 199 jersey, the away top pays homage to the team of 1974. Next season's away colours for the team will be a bright yellow with a blaugrana stripe down the side that the crest of the club is on.

Security tags
In order to try and avoid forgeries and fakes finding their way into unsuspecting customers' hands this year, Nike have introduced a label in the lower left side of the garment that is a technological innovation that can tell whether the shirt is genuine or not.

Club president Joan Laporta was present for the presentation of all the new kits along with some directors, and Nike executive Albert Baronet.

Modelling assignment
Three Barça youth team players donned the new 2008/09 kits on Wednesday afternoon. Marc Muniesa, Adrià Carmona and Rubén Miño all became models for the day. Muniesa came out to applause in the new home kit, while Carmona donned the yellow away shirt and Miño was dressed in the black goalkeepers outfit.

Trezeguet to stay in Italy

Asked about the rumours linking Juventus forward David Trezeguet (30) with a summer move to Barcelona (read more here), the player's agent Antonio Caliendo has said in an interview with Italian radio station Teleradiostereo that he doesn't see the transfer of the French striker go through:

"I don't see it very possible that Juventus will let David leave, even if Barcelona would keep insisting. I think that Juventus would possibly take into consideration an offer of at least 30 million euro° but I don't know how much Barcelona is prepared to pay. I have signed a four-year contract to represent David and I know he would like to stay at Juventus."

Read more:

Arshavin confirms that he is a Barcelona fan

Asked about the club of his dreams, Zenit Saint Petersburg forward and Russian international Andrei Arshavin (27) confirmed in an interview with the official website of Euro 2008 that (read more here, for further prove see the 'holiday in Dubai' pictures in Barcelona outfit below):

"I have supported FC Barcelona all my life. Barcelona are my dream. I never thought I would have a genuine chance to play for the club. Let's see how the situation unfolds. For now I can't say anything for sure. At the moment I'm a player of team Russia and I'm only thinking about doing well in the semi-finals."

Arshavin's agent, Dennis Lachter, repeated the wish of the player to join Barcelona this summer in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport, who claims that Arshavin is now a serious option for Barcelona also due to the difficult negotiations on Hleb and Hernanes:

"Zenit is a very rich club who pays Andrei a lot to continue with them but now he's looking for a new football challenge. If Barcelona and the coach count on him, he wants to play with Barcelona. I know that Barcelona is interested in Andrei but Guardiola, Txiki or Laporta haven't directly called me yet. I cannot confirm that other clubs are interested but I can assure you that at this moment nothing has been signed with anyone."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Zenit will probably organize a bid race between the main European clubs for Arshavin, whose contract with the Russian club expires in 2009 and who rejected a renewal proposal last month.

Arsenal could have an advantage since they are already negotiating with Zenit for several months, Inter Milan manager Mourinho has urged his club to push hard for Arshavin and the troubled relations between Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Zenit president Alexander Dukov would complicate a move to Chelsea.

Read the whole interview with Arshavin here

Read more:
Arshavin option looked at
Pavlyuchenko new name on striker list
Boca president reveals contact with Palacio

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