Saturday 16 February 2008

Blanc is in the race too

Another day, another possible name to replace Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona manager next season. Spanish radio station Cadena Ser and Catalan radio station Ona FM claim that former Barcelona defender Laurent Blanc (42) is also one of the candidates. The Barcelona board would be impressed by his personality and his attacking playing style. His lack of experience could be a minus.

Laurent Blanc played for Barcelona in the season 1996-1997. He was signed by Johan Cruyff, who was however sacked on the day of Blanc's signing and later replaced by Sir Bobby Robson. Since last summer Blanc is the manager of Girondins Bordeaux, second in the French league.

Ronaldinho not keen on Milano

During an interview on the Italian television station Italia 1, Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) told he was in no way interested in a move to Milan or Inter. The Brazilian said that knowing a big club appreciates your work is a stimulus, but that he's only trying to get into a new momentum so he can play at the top level for Barcelona.

Xavi dreams about retirement

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandéz (28) said this week in an interview with his club's television channel Barça TV that he dreams about ending his career with the club: "Nevertheless, I know it's gonna be difficult, cause the level here is incredibly high."

This weekend, Xavi plays his 400th official game in the Barcelona shirt. He came to the club in 1991 and made his first team debut seven years later under manger Louis Van Gaal. Xavi's current contract expires in 2010.

The Milito brothers

During a presentation of a new football shoe, Zaragoza striker Diego Milito (28) was asked about new rumours linking him to with a Barcelona move next summer. The Argentinian said that he feels honoured a club like Barcelona could be interested in him but that he's comfortable at his club: "We'll see what happens at the end of the season, if there's an offer and if it suits the club and myself."

Diego Milito is the older brother of Barcelona central defender Gabriel Milito.

Thuram advisor denies Arsenal

Oscar Damiani, personal advisor of Barcelona defender Lilian Thuram (36), told British sports site Setanta Sports that the player has not held talks with Arsenal.

Damiani claims that Thuram, whose contract expires in June, didn't even decide yet whether he will stop playing football or not when the season ends: "It's difficult to make a statement because Lilian does not know yet if he is going to continue to play next season."

Friday 15 February 2008

Drogba to Barça? Ronaldinho to Milan

Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport says today Ronaldo’s new injury obliges AC Milan to buy a class forward during the summer, with Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (29) being the top priority. Because the italians do not want to wait until José Mourinho (45) joins Barcelona and the Ivorian follows his favourite manager, Milan wants to close the deal as soon as possible now.

When Drogba in the end wòuld sign with Barcelona, Milan could come after Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27). They assume that, with the transfer of Drogba, Barcelona would have to let go the Brazilian because he wouldn’t be needed anymore. Milan vice president Adriano Galliani is said to have for some months now regular contacts with Ronaldinho’s brother and agent Roberto, who would also be talking with Inter and Chelsea.

Lippi is in the race too

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that former Italian national team coach Marcello Lippi (59) rejected offers from, amongst others, Newcastle United and the Irish Football Federation because he is, as Lippi is quoted, “waiting for Barcelona”. Since he quit after winning the World Cup with Italy in 2006, Lippi has always been seen as a possible substitute for current manger Frank Rijkaard, although his name has been staying in the shadow of names like Mourinho, Van Basten or Wenger.

Possible Thuram-Wenger reunion

British tabloid The Daily Mail claims that Arsenal would be interested to sign Barcelona central defender Lilian Thuram (36), whose contract expires in June with Barcelona not planning a renewal. The French international is said to have a very close relationship with manager Arsène Wenger since their Monaco time in the early nineties. It is believed that Thuram could act as a mentor for the young Arsenal squad. In that perspective British newspaper The Daily Telegraph even claims Thuram would join Arsenal in a player-coach capacity.

Transfer history: Saviola

Real Madrid forward Javier Saviola (26) told an Argentinian newspaper this week how his Barcelona team mates reacted when the first rumours appeared that he could be heading to Madrid on a free transfer. Some players couldn't understand the move, especially Barcelona midfielder Xavi: "He's a big Barça fan and very catalan. He just couldn't understand how I was able to join the eternal rival. In the end though, he realised it was the best thing for me."

Ronaldinho talks upcoming

Barcelona’s economic vice president Ferran Soriano has stated that the club will start talking this summer with playmaker Ronaldinho (27), whose contract expires in 2010: “I think that the right time to talk about a renewal is when you have two contract years left. So, this summer we’ll start talking, without any pressure.”

Soriano said the club will start the negociations with the intention to renew and that Barcelona doesn’t plan to sell the player: “We’ve always rejected offers for him, and if another one comes in, we’ll repeat he’s not for sale.”

Thursday 14 February 2008

Mascherano offered

Madrid tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona is considering the transfer of Liverpool defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano (23). The Argentinian would have been offered to the club and the technical staff likes the player. Because the economical intentions of investment group MSI, owner of the player's transfer rights, aren't clear for the moment, Barcelona is waiting to put a first step.

Talkative Drogba

In an interview with British tabloid Daily Star Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o talks about the rumours linking Chelsea's Didier Drogba (29) to his club (read more here). And also to Eto'o, the Ivory Coast forward has talked about his desire to join Barcelona: "I am a friend of Drogba and I know that he has always been interested in playing in Spain and in Barcelona."

Although Eto'o acknowledges he doesn't know what the intentions of his club are, he thinks Drogba would perfectly fit in: "A team with Messi, Henry, Drogba and me is possible in the pitch without anybody having to leave the club."

Mourinho or Van Basten

Catalan sports paper Sport joins today the next season's manager debate. They claim the first option of the board is still the continuation of Frank Rijkaard (45), whose contract expires in 2009. As a manager and as a person, he's seen as the right man to represent the club and its philosophy. And nobody can forget the change that Rijkaard brought, bringing a struggling team back to the European top.

Anyhow, if the team doesn't win a trophy this season, the club will have to look for a successor. Sport thinks the two main candidates for the job would be former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) and current Dutch national team manager Marco Van Basten (43). While Van Basten would be the continuity candidate, Mourinho could be bringing a more radical change to the team. Arsène Wenger (58) would not be a real option since he's tied to Arsenal.

First Poulsen contact

Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain has contacted Jorn Bonnesen, the agent of Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (27), to inform him about the Barcelona interest in signing the player.

Cesc renegociating his contract

Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) reacted yesterday on the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser to the rumours linking him again with a return to Barcelona. The player admitted his former club is following him: "I feel proud about this because I am a barcelonista". But for now he only thinks about winning titles with Arsenal. The Barcelona youth player is holding talks with his club because they want to renegociate his current contract that ends in 2014.

Transfer history: Aimar (Zaragoza)

Presumed Barcelona insider Diego Valor writes on his blog this week that Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar (28), then playing for Valencia, was close to joining Barcelona in the summer of 2003. Both sports director Txiki Begiristain and newly elect president Joan Laporta (following the advice of Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff) preferred Aimar over Ronaldinho to become the central figure of the new squad. In the end vice president Sandro Rosell won the discussion and Ronaldinho came to Barcelona.

In the summer of 2006, Pablo Aimar left Valencia for 12 million euro and signed with Zaragoza.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Giovani's price tag

As Madrid tabloid Marca announced yesterday, Barcelona youth product Giovani Dos Santos (18) would be one of the players having to leave when Barcelona doesn't win a major trophy this season. The technical staff thinks the Mexican winger doesn't have the capacities to shine at the top level and with several European top clubs interested Barcelona could make a profit out of a transfer. The club is willing to sit around the table with everyone ready to pay 12 million euro.

Transfer history: Zanetti (Inter)

In an interview with Italian sports magazine Guerin Sportivo Inter Milan right back Javier Zanetti (34) told last week he refused in the past an offer from Barcelona. The Inter captain said: "I refused the offer because I wanted to stay and live in Milan."

Ex-Barça: Llorenç Serra Ferrer

One day before the Uefa Cup tie against Getafe, former Barcelona manager Llorenç Serra Ferrer (54) was sacked yesterday by his team AEK Athens following a series of disappointing results in the Greek League. The contract was terminated with immediate effect, but the two sides are still negotiating a compensation package. Serra Ferrer joined AEK in the summer of 2006.

Llorenç Serra Ferrer was appointed as Barcelona manager by the newly elect president Joan Gaspart in 2000. In April 2001 he was replaced by Carles Rexach.

Mourinho or Wenger

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo analizes today the question who will be the Barcelona manager next season. While it's clear current manager Frank Rijkaard (45) will only be able to continue if the team wins the Liga or the Champions League, the board seems to be divided over who would have to be his successor in case he fails: former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) or Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger (58).

Some board members think it's time for the strong hand of Mourinho, but external advisor Johan Cruijff keeps opposing the Portuguese. Vice president Ferran Soriano is said to have a good relationship with Wenger after negociating Thierry Henry's transfer last summer. Meanwhile, Mourinho was staying in the same hotel as two Barcelona board members last week in Ghana. Accidentally as it seems, but this will probably only strengthen the rumours.

Pinto says goodbye (for now)

José Manuel Pinto (32), the goalkeeper who joined Barcelona on loan from Celta Vigo last month, wrote a goodbye letter to the Celta fans. Whatever will happen with the option that Barcelona has to buy him (for free) at the end of the season, Pinto wanted to express the gratitude he feels towards the club and the fans: "Together with you, I have lived moments of big joy and moments of big sadness. Wherever I will be, I will always be thankful for all the love I have received."

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Messi closes Inter (and Calcio) door

Asked about the interest of Inter Milan, and especially Inter president Massimo Moratti, Lionel Messi (20) told Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport he was flattered by the interest of a prestigious club and a great president: "Nevertheless, for the moment I only want to become a Barcelona symbol." The Argentinian added: "And if I was to leave Barcelona, I would prefer the Premier League over the Serie A."

Kaka invited over

In an interview with Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi replied to Milan's Kaká (25) who told he would like to play with the Argentinian: "I don't think about a future away from Barcelona, I want to lead the club to many trophies. So, it's clear: he should come to Barcelona."

The big summer clean up

Madrid tabloid Marca claims today that Barcelona will have a seriously clean out of the squad if Barcelona wouldn't win a trophy this season. Besides manager Frank Rijkaard and the five players whose contracts expire (Edmilson, Thuram, Ezquerro, Sylvinho and Pinto), six other players would have to leave: Ronaldinho, Deco, Zambrotta, Giovani, Zambrotta and Oleguer.

Cesc on the cheap

In contrast with what competitor El Mundo Deportivo suggested yesterday (read more here), Catalan sports paper Sport today claims that Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) is seriously considering leaving Arsenal, with Barcelona being his preferred destination. The player rejected an Arsenal proposal to start negociating a contract renewal and made clear he doesn't want to hear anything about it till the end of the season. A new FIFA ruling would allow Cesc to leave for only 7 million euro.

Drogba’s dressing room secret

Returning from the Africa Cup, Barcelona midfielder Yaya Touré told the Catalan radio station Ona FM that fellow compatriot Didier Drogba (29) not only talks about his desire to leave Chelsea for Barcelona in the papers, but also in the dressing room: "Drogba would love to play for Barcelona because it's a great club with a lot of great players."

Transfer history: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)

During the presentation of a new football shoes line by Adidas, Sevilla forward Luis Fabiano (27) told that former Barcelona vice president Sandro Rosell was one of the first persons trying to get him to Europe when he played for São Paulo and that he was close to signing for Barcelona: "We had everything agreed upon, but in the end it didn't go through. Sandro even came to look for me in Hungary, but São Paulo didn't want to let me go."

In the summer of 2004 Luis Fabiano signed with Porto. One year later he was transferred to Sevilla.

False Mourinho alarm

Catalan sport paper Sport reports that all news desks were in a state of maximum alert yesterday when the rumour spread in Barcelona that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) was in the city. After a few hours Mourinho was traced in Accra, Ghana where the Portuguese has been following the Africa Cup of Nations. And the calm returned...

Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)

During the presentation of a new football shoes line by Adidas, Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano (27) was asked about his contract expiring in 2009. He said he thought there would be an exodus when Sevilla wouldn't be able to qualify for next season's Champions League.

On the rumours linking him again with Barcelona, the player explained his particular situation: "The transfer rights are divided between several persons. There's an investment group who holds 65% of the rights. This makes everything more complicated since no one can tell me exactly what my current market value is."

Deco out? Diego in

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Werder Bremen playmaker Diego Ribas (22) is on top of the priority list in case Deco (30) would want to leave at the end of the season. The Brazilian international has been followed many times by Barcelona scouts, the last time during Ireland-Brazil on February 6th.

Alves looking at the exit door

Sevilla right back Dani Alves (24) keeps repeating that, although it's a honour to play for Sevilla, he doesn't plan to spend the rest of his life at the club. After stating this last week in the Catalan sports paper Sport and during a chat on, he again told on the Spanish radio station Cadena COPE he wants to play for a European top club.

Asked for a reaction about the statement of Sevilla president Del Nido that he only would be willing to let Alves go in exchange for Messi ànd 30 million euro, Alves said: "30 million euro for a right back is too much, no club is ready to pay this."

Monday 11 February 2008

Mourinho? Why not…

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol spoke out on the constant rumours linking former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) with his club. He told Catalan magazine Vall Parc Tennis: “Could Mourinho replace Frank Rijkaard? Why not? He’s a great manager.”

Cesc return not imminent

Despite his blaugrana heart and the fact that Barcelona has contacted people close to the player to inform them about the club's interest in the player, Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) is seriously considering a contract renewal. The Barcelona youth player feels he owes Arsenal something since the club has always treated him well and has given him every opportunity. Cesc now has a contract until 2011.

Transfer history: Puyol

Over the past years rumours about Real Madrid trying to sign Barcelona captain Carles Puyol (29) have appeared on several occasions. In a interview with the Catalan magazine Vall Parc Tennis Puyol now acknowledges that in the past Madrid tried to transfer him. The player turned down the abundant offer.

Puyol added he wants to retire playing for Barcelona: “If that wouldn’t be possible, I would prefer not to play for another Liga team”.

There's Lampard again...

British newspaper The Mail on Sunday is again linking Barcelona with Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (29). The player’s contract expires in June 2009 and without a renewal in the coming months a new FIFA ruling would enable Barcelona to sign Lampard at the end of the current season for 6,8 million euro. The appointment of former Chelsea manager José Mourinho as the successor of Frank Rijkaard could be a crucial element.

Garay close to signing

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona will sign Santander defender Ezequiel Garay (21) this week. There would already be a verbal agreement between all parties involved. Barcelona will pay Santander 14,2 million euro and Garay will sign a five year contract. Garay’s agent, the Argentinian Fabián Basualdo, will travel to Spain on Wednesday in order to officially seal the deal.

Poulsen knows nothing

After the game on Saturday, Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (27) denied there have been contacts with Barcelona: "All I know is what I read in the press. I have a contract until 2009 and for now I'm happy in Sevilla."

Sunday 10 February 2008

Transfer period analysis: Winter 2008 (2)

Despite having played only 20 minutes in the first half of the season and despite the interest of Espanyol Barcelona and Real Valladolid and concrete offers from Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo La Coruña, Barcelona forward Santiago Ezquerro (31), whose contract expires in June, preferred to stay until the end of the season when he will be able to leave for free.

When Barcelona youth player Marc Crosas (20) was permanently promoted to the first team in December 2007, it was already made clear the player would be loaned out in January in order to give him more playing time. For a while it seemed he would go to Segunda División team Real Sociedad, but Crosas quite surprisingly ended up joining French champion Olympique Lyon.

Loaning out Crosas was the right choice cause his chances to play when staying in Barcelona would have been very limited. While it cannot be expected he'll be an absolute regular in Lyon, his stay there and the adapting to another country, another league and other team mates can only make him grow as a player and as a person.

Transfer period analysis: Winter 2008 (1)

The Barcelona board declared in December that they wouldn't sign anyone in the January transfer window. Because second goalkeeper Albert Jorquera got seriously injured playing for Catalunya in mid season, sports director Txiki Begiristain still had to enter the market. The sixth month solution was found in the Segunda División: Celta Vigo goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto (32) was signed on loan till the end of the season.

In my opinion Barcelona did a great job in solving this unexpected problem. They had to improvise but came up with what seems the perfect guy: Pinto has probably the class, he can play all competitions, he has experience in the Liga ànd the Champions League, he accepts his status as back up and he only costed 500 000 euro (with the possibility to get him for free in June).

Crosas goes French / 2

Olympique Lyon won 4-1 at home against Sochaux this weekend. With Juninho recovered from a toe injury, Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and stayed there for 90 minutes. At the top of the tabel Lyon has a four points lead on Bordeaux.

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