Saturday 23 February 2008

Meeting with Mourinho

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona vice president Marc Ingla and Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain met earlier this year with former Chelsea managerJosé Mourinho and his agent Jorge Mendes. The meeting would have had place in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on January 10th.

The trip was discovered by the Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio, which made the club spread the news that their people went to Portugal to talk about the transfer on loan of Porto goalkeeper Nuno (to replace the injured Jorquera), while in fact the negociations with Celta Vigo goalkeeper Pinto were almost reaching the end.

Alves wants to come

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Sevilla right back Daniel Alves (24) already made clear to president Del Nido that he wants to leave for Barcelona in the summer. Barcelona would be very interested to bring in the Brazilian international and would be ready to put money ànd players on the table.

Garay prefers Barça

Catalan sports paper Sport thinks that the transfer of Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) could be definitely sealed in the coming days. Although Garay has other options on the table that he has been analyzing - Real Madrid and Manchester United, amongst others, would be interested - the wish of the player would be to join Barcelona.

Barcelona and Santander would already have found an agreement on the transfer price last month. Barcelona would pay 14 million euro, with an extra 4 million euro when certain objectives will be attained.

Ronaldinho discussed in Chelsea

Although Chelsea president Bruce Buck admitted in an interview with British television station Sky Sports that Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) is on the Chelsea list, he told that he does not expect the Brazilian international to arrive at Stamford Bridge over the summer: "No, I don't see it being likely that Ronaldinho will be here next year. Anything was a possibility and certainly there had been rumours and discussions of that, but I don't see it happening."

Case closed: Van Basten

Marco Van Basten (43) will not be the Barcelona manager as of next season, like had been rumoured the last months.

The Dutch national team coach yesterday signed an agreement that will link him to Ajax Amsterdam for the next four seasons.

Barcelona linked with Mallorca's Jonas

Mallorca midfielder Jonás (24) reacted this week to the rumours linking him with Barcelona. In Madrid tabloid Marca the Argentinian is quoted as saying: "I don't know if it's true but i would be very happy and proud if one of the best clubs in the world would be following me." Adding with a tongue in his cheek: "I will try to keep on working hard, so those scouting reports will be good."

Friday 22 February 2008

Alonso waiting for the summer

British tabloid The Daily Mail claims that Barcelona is preparing a 17,3 million euro bid for Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso (26) (read more here).

The Spanish international, who is losing the battle with Mascherano and Leiva for midfield places, would want to wait until the summer before deciding on his future. After an injury, Alonso has fallen out of favour with manager Rafael Benítez. In Barcelona he should replace Portuguese playmaker Deco (30), who could be leaving in the summer.

Mourinho or Blanc

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that, with the probable appointment of Dutch national team coach Marco Van Basten (43) as the new Ajax manager (read more here), the two remaining top candidates to become the next Barcelona coach (if current manager Frank Rijkaard would leave due to a board decision or out of his own free will) are José Mourinho and Laurent Blanc.

Former Chelsea manager Mourinho (45) would be the favourite of a part of the Barcelona board who thinks a firm hand and immediate results are needed.

Current Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc (42) would have the support of sports director Txiki Begiristain who is said to be impressed by the attacking and spectacular playing style of Blanc’s team.

Garay agent wants more

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the transfer of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) is very close, but still not sealed. The player’s agent, Fabián Basualdo, would now want to receive a higher fee.

In Santander the general belief is still that Garay will end up playing for Barcelona, although Real Madrid and Valencia have also asked for the player and cannot be excluded. As it stands now, the transfer price would not be less than 15 million euro.

Benzema prefers Barça

Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20), who is rumoured to be number one on the Barcelona forward list, has told in an interview Spanish football weekly paper Don Balón that Barcelona is his favourite club.

Benzema is quoted saying he doesn’t feel attracted by the English Premier League because he doesn’t like the style of play. Spain and Italy are his preferred destinations. When it comes down to clubs, Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan are the clubs the French international has always liked. With Barcelona being his favourite one: “When it comes down to the game, for now I like Barcelona the most because they play in a very attractive way.”

Albelda wants Barça door open

Valencia and their former captain David Albelda (30) still didn't find an agreement on how to solve the problem that rose when the player, together with his team mates Cañizares and Angulo, was told in December last year he would not play for the club anymore.

Albelda wants to leave on a free transfer and under certain conditions Valencia can agree with that. One the remaining problems is that the club wishes to prevent the midfielder from signing for some other Liga clubs, one of them being Barcelona. Albelda don't want to accept such terms.

The club and the player have only a few hours left to reach a bilateral agreement. If not, a court will decide on Friday.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Analysis: Cruijff’s new job and the Barcelona manager debate

The return of Johan Cruijff (60) to Dutch top club Ajax Amsterdam as advisor has caused a lot of speculation on the influence this move will have on who will be the Barcelona manager next season.

The most heard comment is that Cruijff’s new job will distance him from the Catalan club and will therefore increase the chances of former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) to become the new Barcelona manager, since Cruijff won’t be there to veto him next summer.

I think the new twist indeed makes the arrival of Mourinho more probable but not because of the above mentioned reason. Cause if Cruijf really is influential in the Barcelona board, it doesn’t matter where he is or how much time he has. He will always be one phone call away and saying ‘no’ only takes a second.

The thing is that with Cruijff taking charge of his first love, it is almost certain that current Dutch national team coach Marco Van Basten (43) will become the new Ajax manager after Euro 2008. With Van Basten being seen as his biggest rival for the position, Mourinho is now clearly the front runner to replace current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard at the end of the season.

Said all that, it should nevertheless be kept in mind that if Barcelona wins a major trophy this season, Rijkaard will just continue and start his sixth season as Barcelona manager later this year.

Lahm battle coming

British tabloid The Daily Mail claims that there is a battle coming up between Barcelona and Manchester United to sign Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm (24). The player, whose contract expires in 2009, did not want to renew with his current club, although the appointment of Jürgen Klismann as the new Bayern manager for next seaon could change his position. If Lahm does quit Germany, his personal preference for the Premier League and his friendship with Manchester’s Owen Hargreaves could make him choose a move to Britain.

While Manchester sees the placer as an option for both the right and the left back position, Barcelona would like to bring in Lahm as a right back to replace Gianluca Zambrotta (31), who is rumoured to return to Italy in the summer. Barcelona would be prepared to pay the 11,5 million asking price and to offer the player a lucrative contract.

Pique return looked at

Because the transfer of Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) could be troubled by the salary demands of the player (see more here), Barcelona is said to have started looking at alternatives for in case the Garay option fails.

Madrid tabloid As claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain held a meeting a few days ago with Arturo Canales, the agent of Manchester United central defender Gerard Piqué (21) to discuss the situation of the player, whose contract expires in 2009. It seems for the moment unlikely that Manchester would want to let go the Barcelona youth product for a reasonable price.

Crosas goes French / 5

Olympique Lyon drew one all with Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League first knock out round. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) is not allowed to participate in the Champions League with Lyon since he played with Barcelona (half an hour against Stuttgart) in the group stage.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Garay transfer in doubt

Madrid tabloid As claims that the transfer of Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) is getting uncertain. Some weeks ago, everything seemed to lead to the conclusion that a transfer was imminent.

During a meeting between Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Fabián Basualdo, the agent of the player, it would have appeared that the difference between what Barcelona wants to pay the player and what the player pretends to get is substancial. Besides that, the Argentinian is said to have received at least two more offers from Spanish clubs, one of them being Real Madrid.

Mourinho on campaign trail

Spanish news site El Confidencial claims that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45), who would be the best placed candidate to become the next Barcelona manager, has started a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Barcelona fans. His attitude during recent Chelsea versus Barcelona games has created fierce opposition amongst a part of the culés.

Mourinho would have contacted several journalists, who he knows from his time in Barcelona as assistant coach, to tell them he always has kept the club and the city in his heart. The negative attitude of Johan Cruijff towards Mourinho, who would be very closely following the performances of Barcelona, would also have changed in recent weeks.

Ex-Barça: Johan Cruijff

A meeting yesterday evening brought a radical change to the organization of Dutch top club Ajax Amsterdam. The whole structure of the club will change and the current board will resign before the end of the season, once the new structure will be in place. Former Ajax player and manager Johan Cruijff (60) was asked to shape the new sports policy. Cruijff has accepted the offer. Ajax is currently second in the Dutch league, nine point behind leader PSV Eindhoven.

Johan Cruijff played for Barcelona from 1973 to 1978. In his first season he helped the club win the first league title since 1960. In 1988 Cruijff returned to Barcelona as manager. He was the architect of the so called "Dream Team" that won four consecutive league titles between 1991 and 1994 and the club’s first Champions League in 1992. Cruijff left Barcelona in 1996 but he always stayed an influential figure in the background.

Does Lampard wear the breeches?

Italian television station Italia I claims that Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (29) is still considering leaving Chelsea at the end of this season. The player is quoted as saying: “Going to another country, getting to know another language and culture, would certainly make me a better person.”

Lampard, who still didn’t sign a renewal with his current club and who due to a new ruling could leave Chelsea for some 7-8 million euro, would be close to make a decision about his future, with Barcelona and Juventus being named as the most likely destinations for the English international. Lampard’s fiancé and the mother of his two children, Catalan ex-model Elen Rives, would be wanting to leave London and return to her home ground.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Cruijff on Mourinho, Blanc and Valverde

In an interview with the Catalan television station TV3, Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff gave this weekend his opinion about the manager debate.

Cruijff made clear he did not veto or recommend former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45), like has been rumoured in several media. He said no one has asked him, nor did he talk to anyone about the Portuguese, denying at the same time he's the technical advisor in the background: "If I talk to Joan Laporta two or three times a year about football, then that's would be a lot."

Because he didn't yet see Bordeaux playing, Cruijf said he couldn't pass a judgement on Laurent Blanc (42). The Dutchman did however have words of praise for Espanyol manager Ernesto Valverde (44), who was also linked with Barcelona earlier this season: "He's doing a great job. I like to watch his team and I'm happy managers like him or Rijkaard try to make people enjoy."

(Cruijff's opinion on Rijkaard and Van Basten: see
yesterday post)

Alonso summer target

British tabloid The Daily Star claims that Barcelona will make a bid for Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso (26) next summer. Also because of injuries, Alonso has less playing time this season and since Liverpool has similar players in the squad, they would be willing to let him go. Barcelona would prepare an offer of 13,2 million euro for the Spanish international.

No spending limits

During the presentation of the economic results of the first half of the season last week, Barcelona vice president Ferran Soriano said that the financial situation will allow the club to bring in the players that are asked for by the tecnical staff. The board will nevertheless act in a reasonable way: "There is no transfer budget nor a limit, except that set by common sense."

Monday 18 February 2008

Cruijff on Rijkaard and Van Basten

In an interview with the Catalan television station TV3, Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff gave this weekend his opinion about the manager debate.

Cruijff didn't want to enter the discussion if Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) had to leave or not, although he praised the current manager for his achievements: "Rijkaard has brought fantastic results and Barcelona has regained the sympathy of the world of football. He turned the club again into an institution of good football."

In case Rijkaard in the end would have to go, Cruijff thinks his succesor could well be Dutch national team coach Marco Van Basten (43). Cruijff says Van Basten combines quality play and results. Because he played for big teams, he also wouldn't be impressed by the fact of having to lead such a team.

Crosas goes French / 4

On Sunday, Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) played a game with Olympique Lyon's reserve team. Following two yellow cards, the player had to leave the field in the second half.

Sevilla's end-of-season sales

In an interview with Spanish financial newspaper Expansión, Sevilla president José María Del Nido has said last week that his club will have to sell if they aren't able to qualify for next season's Champions League: "Twenty per cent of our budget depends on the Champions League. If we cannot qualify, we'll have to sell assests, meaning players, to compensate the money we don't receive."

With still fourteen games to go, Sevilla is currently 6th in the Spanish league, 5 points behind the last Champions League spot. Since Barcelona is rumoured to be interested in players like Dani Alves, Christian Poulsen or even Luis Fabiano, some Catalans probably wouldn't mind Sevila not entering the Liga top four this season...

Transfer history: Rijkaard, Ronaldinho and Deco

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claimed last week that the Barcelona board was last summer on the verge of making a radical change to the team and is now regretting not having done so.

Manager Frank Rijkaard (45) was close to being dismissed but ultimately he got the confidence of the board to stay on for one more year, on the condition that he would ask more from his players. In the end it then was Rijkaard who stopped the sale, favoured by a lot of board members, of Ronaldinho (27) and Deco (30).

Garay's price tag

Catalan sports paper Sport yesterday claimed the deal with Racing Santander over central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) has now been fully closed. Barcelona would pay 18 million euro for the Argentinian player.

Sunday 17 February 2008

Cech to counter Casillas

Spanish news site El Confidencial claimed this week that one of the main Barcelona targets for next summer could be Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech (25). The Czech international would be one of the players wanting to leave Chelsea after the club dismissed manager José Mourinho. Barcelona for its part would like to bring in Cech to fully rival with Real Madrid's Iker Casillas.

Crosas goes French / 3

Olympique Lyon lost 1-0 against Le Mans this weekend. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and stayed there for 90 minutes. Tonight, second placed Bordeaux can reduce the gap to one point.

Cesc not amused

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claimed this week that Arsenal midfiemder Cesc Fàbregas (20) was not happy about how Barcelona tried to show their interest in their youth product. Instead of contacting directly Cesc's agent and close friend Joseba Díaz, Barcelona would have sounded other persons form the player's entourage.

Sylvinho had to stay

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona received in January an offer for left back Sylvinho Mendes (33). The technical staff refused the offer. Sylvinho, whose contract expires in June and probably won't be renewed, is said to be disappointed by the Barcelona attitude, because he could sign a contract for two and a half years with a salary that was higher then what he gets at this moment.

Ronaldinho's price tag

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera says that Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) is, together with Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Palermo's Amauri, one of the candidates to replace injured striker Ronaldo at Milan.

The top candidate would be Ivorian forward Drogba because he's willing to leave his current club and because, as the paper claims, Barcelona has put a 40 million euro price tag on Ronaldinho, which would be out of reach of the Italian club.

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