Saturday 1 March 2008

A look at the coming transfer summer (1)

Last weekend Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo gave a global analysis of the possible transfer activity in the summer.

With relation to the outward transfers, the paper states it is clear three players will leave at the end of the season: Italian full back Gianluca Zambrotta (31), French central defender Lilian Thuram (36) and Basque left winger Santiago Ezquerro (31). Zambrotta will return to Italy (Milan or Inter), while the expiring contracts of Thuram and Ezquerro won’t be renewed, so that both are already looking for another club.

What will happen to the three other players whose contracts run out in June, namely Spanish goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto (32), Brazilian left back Sylvinho Mendes (33) and Brazilian defensive midfielder José Edmílson (31) is still unsure. In the coming months Barcelona will decide if the players will be offered a contract renewal.

A delicate issue is the situation of Mexican central defender Rafael Márquez (29). Barcelona has some very interesting offers on the table for him and it is believed that in the end it will be the player himself who will decide if he will stay or go.

The big question mark however remains Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27). Barcelona has postponed the decision about his future at the club until June.

(tomorrow you’ll find here the second part of the analysis, concerning the incoming transfers)

Koeman owes Barcelona

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Valencia at the last moment raised the salary of manager Ronald Koeman (44), who joined the Spanish club in October last year, to 9 million euro gross for two and and a half year in exchange for including a buyout clause in the contract. Valencia would have been afraid that Barcelona would come after Koeman at the end of this seaon.

Gerrard flirting with Barcelona

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that several persons from the environment of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (27) have let Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain know that the player would love to play for Barcelona.

Gerrard wouldn’t feel comfortable anymore in Liverpool and in the Premier League and would like to try something new. Because the player dislikes the Italian league, he recently rejected serious offers from Inter and Juventus. The English international would prefer to end up in the Spanish league and is attracted the most by Barcelona, because of the way they play, because of the players who play there and because of manager Frank Rijkaard.

Two years renewal for Jorquera

Like the player himself announced in earlier Febuary (read more here), Barcelona goalkeeper Albert Jorquera (28), whose current contract expires in June, signed a new deal with Barcelona. The player, who is at the moment recovering from a knee injury, accepted an offer to stay at the club for two more years, until 2010.

Jorquera told the club's television channel Barça TV that he was very happy and that his first choice has always been to continue. Barcelona president Joan Laporta stressed, apart from the football qualities of the goalkeeper, that he's a great person: "He brings a lot to the club, he gives the squad stability and serenity and knows at any moment what he has to do."

Albert Jorquera entered the Barcelona youth academy in 1994 at the age of fifteen. Since the 2003-2004 season the goalkeeper is a member of the first team.

Ronaldinho brother denies exit

In an interview with Catalan radio station Ona FM, Roberto de Assis, brother and agent of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27), denied all exit rumours: “The press is creating things, while our idea is to continue and we have said that a thousand times. And the board says the same thing.”

Roberto made clear his brother has never thought about a transfer, that he wants to stay a long time and that he feels supported by the fans: “The most important thing is the passion and the love of the people and that’s not something you can forget about overnight.”

Youth: Diego Polenta (Danubio)

In an interview with Italian football website, player’s agent Vincenzo D’Ippolito said Barcelona has shown interest in Uruguayan central defender Diego Polenta (16). D’Ippolito compares the Uruguayan youth international, who is also represented by Pablo Betancourt, with fellow compatriot and former Juventus player Paolo Montero: “Despite his young age, he has exceptional physical qualities.”

Notwithstanding the interest of teams like Barcelona, Milan, Inter and Tottenham, Polenta, who also has an Italian passport, is expected to sign this Sunday for three years (renewable to five years) with Italian league team Genoa. His Uruguayan club Danubio would receive a transfer sum of 1,8 million euro.

Chelsea scout pushing for Rijkaard

British tabloid The Sun claims that Chelsea chief scout and youth development officer Frank Arnesen is the one who has been trying to attract Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45). The former Danish international is said to have a close relationship with Rijkaard and would love to see him take over from current manager Avram Grant, who is under increasing pressure. A Chelsea insider is quoted saying: “Grant still has the support of his bosses but Arnesen’s relationship with Rijkaard is causing a lot of unrest.”

Friday 29 February 2008

Mourinho waiting for Barcelona

French football magazine France Football claims that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) has recently rejected an impressive long term offer from French champion Olympique Lyon because he would prefer to join Barcelona. Bernard Lacombe, the adviser of Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, confirms the talks but says they did not go very far.

Besides reporting on the January meeting in which Mourinho and Barcelona would have principally agreed on a future collaboration (read more here and here), the French magazine claims a number of possible summer signings were then discussed, including Bayern Munich full back Philipp Lahm (24), Sevilla right back Daniel Alves (24), Inter right back Maicon (26), Sevilla midfielder Seydou Keita (26), Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (29), Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric (22), Lyon forward Karim Benzema (21) and Chelsea forward Didier Drogba (29). If Eto’o stays, Drogba will not come. And Ronaldinho could well leave.

Garay back on the market

Madrid tabloid Marca claims that the agents of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21), Fabián Basualdo and Ricardo Schlieper, have decided to put the player back on the market after they didn’t hear anything from Barcelona for the last three weeks (read more here). The deal would have been totally agreed upon (14 million euro transfer price, contract for five years), but nothing has been signed yet.

Now that Barcelona apparently wants to postpone the operation and because the offers for the Argentinian from other clubs (mainly from Manchester United and Juventus) are still coming in, the agents would now start talks with other teams to put pressure on Barcelona.

Transfer history: Trezeguet (Juventus)

During his statement as a witness in the trial against the player’s agency GEA, Juventus striker David Trezeguet (30) said he was close to signing for Barcelona a few years ago: “In the end of 2004, I was thinking about leaving Juventus for Barcelona but I changed my mind when manager Fabio Capello told me he would solve the problems I had with the club.”

Trezeguet is currently still playing for Juventus, the club he joined in the year 2000. Last summer he renewed his contract until 2011.

(read more Barcelona transfer history stories here)

Ronaldinho's future in God’s hands

During a promotional act for a brand of food supplements, Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) spoke out on his future in his current club. Although the Brazilian international declared his future belongs to God, he said that he is very happy in Barcelona, that he is equally motivated like on his first day and that he thinks he will still be there next season: “I think we have everything to continue to do a great job.”

Ronaldinho did not want to pronounce on a possible renewal cause for him that is not yet an issue since his contract only expires in 2010.

Everything is possible for Poulsen

Asked at a press conference about the rumours linking him with a summer move to Barcelona, Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (28) said that he only read about the story in the paper and that he doesn’t plan to leave Sevilla: “I have a contract until 2009. In football everything is possible but at the moment I’m very happy here. If everything stays like this, there is a big chance I will continue.”

The Danish international, who says his future in any case does not depend on Sevilla qualifying or not for the Champions League, is nevertheless not in a hurry to talk about a renewal with Sevilla: “All I desire is to play a good season here. My lawyer is there to listen to offers, but I’m very relaxed about all this.”

(read more on the Poulsen transfer story here)

Rijkaard brother denies Chelsea

In an interview with British newspaper The Independent, Herman Rijkaard, the brother and adviser of Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) denies the rumours (read more here) about a possible move to Chelsea at the end of the season: “Maybe Chelsea would like to have him because he is a good trainer and a decent guy, but it is not an option at the moment.” Not even Chelsea’s millions could attract the manager: “Frank has money. He can eat two or three steaks a day if he wants.”

Herman Rijkaard says his brother is having a very good time in Barcelona and wants to stay until 2009: “He has still one year left and he’s not the kind of guy who signs a deal and then doesn’t fulfil it.” After Rijkaard leaves Barcelona, his brother expects him to take one year off.

Thursday 28 February 2008

Garay talks in the fridge

Catalan sports paper Sport says the signing of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) isn't progressing as fast as the player's environment had expected.

Two weeks ago the agents of the Argentinian, Fabián Basualdo and Ricardo Schlieper, flew over to Spain to close the deal (read more here). But they didn't find an agreement and without a clear reason the parties drifted somewhat apart with Barcelona seeming less motivated to rapidly seal the deal. Garay, who also has offers from -amongst others- Manchester United, Olympique Lyon, Juventus and Real Madrid but who prefers to end up in Barcelona, is now hoping Barcelona will push to finalize the transfer soon.

(read more on the Garay transfer story here)

Rijkaard wants Chelsea

After the news broke earlier this week that Chelsea is interested in signing Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) in substitution of coach Avram Grant (read more here), British newspaper The Guardian claims today that the interest for a future cooperation comes from both sides.

The tabloid says a source close to Rijkaard confirmed that the Dutchman would consider a move to Chelsea at the end of the season instead of taking a one year sabbatical after five years at Barcelona, like he originally had planned. The source is quoted as saying: “Frank is leaving Barcelona at the end of the season, that has always been the plan. The only thing that could change his mind is if they win the title or the European Cup again.”

Capel (Sevilla)

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Sevilla left winger Diego Capel (20) is on the Barcelona transfer list for next summer. Capel, one of the Liga revelations of the season, has a buyout clause of 12 million euro.

It wouldn't be the first passage of the player in Barcelona. When Diego Capel was twelve years old, he was spotted by the Barcelona scouts and was invited to join the Barcelona youth academy. Because the boy got homesick, he however returned to his family and friends in the south of Spain a few months after arriving in Barcelona.

Valverde has supporters

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Espanyol manager Ernesto Valverde (44) is Johan Cruijff’s first choice to become the new Barcelona manager in case current coach Frank Rijkaard (45) would leave at the end of the season. Valverde, who played for Barcelona (under Cruijff) between 1988 and 1990, would also be supported by Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain. By choosing for a less outspoken personality like Valverde, both Cruijff and Txiki would want to prevent losing influence.

The main problem to bring in Valverde would be the contract that binds the manager to Espanyol Barcelona until June of 2009. Since Barcelona didn’t want to let go Argentinian forward Javier Saviola to Espanyol in the summer of 2006, Espanyol president Daniel Sánchez Llibre is still waiting to pay the city rival back.

(read more about Cruijff's opinion on Valverde here)

Alves will leave (one day)

In an interview with football website, Sevilla right back Daniel Alves (24) repeated once again his desire to leave his club (read more here). The Brazilian says he needs another environment to become a better player: “The only thing I know is that one day I will have to leave Sevilla since I would like to continue to grow.”

Alves, who is been followed by Barcelona, knows Sevilla president José María Del Nido isn’t keen on letting him go (read more here and here), but doesn’t plan to force an exit: “I want to leave in total agreement between all parties concerned and by the front door.” The player says he doesn’t have a preference and that, when the time has come, he wants to join the club in Spain or abroad whose offer convinces him the most (read more here).

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Garay, the new Marquez

Former Barcelona player Òscar Garcia, one of our favourite Barcelona analysts, gave last week in the Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo his opinion on Ezequiel Garay (21), the Santander central defender who could be Barcelona's first signing for the new season. Garcia compares the Argentinian with current Barcelona player Rafael Márquez: "He's good with the head, he has a great pass, he's solid and he could adapt to playing before the defence."

Giovani four more years

In an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport Barcelona forward Giovani Dos Santos (18) denied that his contract expires at the end of this season or that he wants to renegotiate his contract, like has been rumoured in recent months.

Although the player says he has some more years to go but that he doesn’t know when his contract actually ends, Giovani is now believed to be linked with Barcelona until 2012. As a result of that, the Mexican is not thinking about a new contract: “I don’t care about a renewal. I’m feeling very happy and relaxed with the contract I have at present, so I don’t see a reason to sit around the table now. The only thing I care about is playing and growing as a footballer.”

Rijkaard was on his way out

Barcelona president Joan Laporta revealed yesterday that manager Frank Rijkaard was close to an exit after Barcelona lost at home against Real Madrid last December.

The growing pressure from the fans and from within the board lead the president to have a crisis meeting with Rijkaard in which the situation of the team was analyzed and in which Laporta asked the coach if he still had the will and the motivation to go on. Rijkaard answered he was more motivated than ever and that he thought he was capable to turn the situation around. The answer convinced the president and Rijkaard was not dismissed.

Laporta said he thought it was now clear the board took the right decision: “Rijkaard is a skilful manager with clear ideas who knows how to manage a squad. He’s a man from the club, who spreads an image of Barcelona we all want the club to spread. He’s capable, honest and composed. I believe in the manager and what he stands for, he has my total confidence. A change wouldn’t have been the right thing.”

The Barcelona president repeated that, if it was only up to him, Rijkaard could stay on as long as he wants.

Ronaldinho at least until 2010

During an interview with the Catalan radio station Ona FM, Barcelona sports vice president Marc Ingla said that the Barcelona board hopes Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27) will at least fulfil his current contract that expires in 2010: “And if he performs at the level we expect him to, we could even consider to start renewal negotiations”.

(read the opinion of Barcelona vice president Ferran Soriano about a possible Ronaldinho renewal here)

Sylvinho willing to renew

Asked about his future, Barcelona left back Sylvinho Mendes (33) told at a press conference he certainly would consider an offer from the club to renew his contract, which expires at the end of this season: "I'm happy here, it's been four great years. I'm aware of my role in the club and I know what I can mean for the team." The Brazilian thinks he can perform two or three more years at the highest level.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Meeting with Mourinho confirmed (but…)

Barcelona vice president Marc Ingla admitted in an interview with the Catalan radio station Ona FM that he met with former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (read more here and here). He nevertheless denied that he and Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain had been negotiating about the Portuguese coming to Barcelona next season to replace current manager Frank Rijkaard.

Although Ingla considers Mourinho to be “a great manager”, Barcelona is still very happy with the way Frank Rijkaard is doing his job and a change is therefore not considered: “We don’t have a list of managers who could replace Rijkaard. We’re satisfied by his work and together with him we’re already planning for the next season."

Zambrotta not thinking about Milan

Asked about the persistent rumours linking him with a summer move to Milan, Barcelona right back Gianluca Zambrotta (31) told the Italian radio station Radio Kiss Kiss that nothing is certain and that for now he’s totally focussing on his current club: “I’m in Barcelona and I only think about Barcelona, with whom I hope to win a major trophy by the end of the season.”

Chelsea wants Rijkaard

British tabloid The Daily Mail says that Chelsea manager Avram Grant is under growing pressure after the League Cup final defeat against Tottenham last weekend. If Chelsea doesn’t win a trophy this season, Grant will be on his way out in the summer.

The Daily Mail claims that Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) is the clear favourite to replace Grant. Rijkaard would have plans to leave Barcelona at the end of the season and a move to Chelsea would give him the opportunity to link up again with his former assistant Henk Ten Cate.

Transfer history: Laudrup

In the Flemish football magazine Voetbalmagazine, current Getafe manager Michael Laudrup (43) explains his transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid in the summer of 1994:

“A lot of people thought I did it out of ill-will but that was not the reason why I went to Madrid. I played five years for Barcelona and that’s a long time. In my last year I didn’t play every game, but I also had the feeling the magic had disappeared from the team. We lost the final of the Champions League and only won the Liga on the last day with some luck. Everything went more difficult, so I just wanted to leave. What happened afterwards with Barcelona proved me right.”

(read more Barcelona transfer history stories here)

Llorca (Elche)

Madrid tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona has shown interest in central defender Samuel Llorca (22), who currently plays for Elche in Spain’s Segunda División. Deportivo La Coruña and Premier League team Fulham are also said to be following the Elche youth product. The player has a buyout clause of 2 million euro.

Chelsea holding on to Lampard and Drogba

In an interview this weekend with the British radio station BBC Radio, Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon reacted to the rumours linking midfielder Frank Lampard (29) and forward Didier Drogba (29) to a summer exit, with Barcelona appearing in both cases as a possible destination (read more here and here).

Kenyon insisted the club intends to keep the players and that this is the wish of the players too. Renewal negociations with Lampard are nevertheless postponed until the end of the season: “He's still got a year left on his contract. He is a great player by anybody's standards and of course we would like him to see his career out with us.”

Monday 25 February 2008

Hleb wants to stay

Asked about the rumours linking him with a summer move to Barcelona, Arsenal midfielder Aleksandr Hleb (26) said he doesn't plan on leaving London. In British tabloid News of the World the Belarusian international is quoted as saying: "I am very proud to play for Arsenal and I hope I will be with the club for a long time."

Lahm is the first option

Madrid tabloid As claims that one of the Barcelona priorities for the summer is to bring in a right back since both Gianluca Zambrotta (31) and Oleguer Presas (28) would seem to be on their way out. Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm (24) is named as being the top candidate to fill in the right back position as of next season.

Cruijff on Cruijff

In an interview last weekend with Catalan television station TV3 (read more here), two days before he officially became advisor to Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam (read more here), Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff was also asked about the possibility we would ever see him back on the bench.

Cruijff told that this was almost impossible: “It wouldn’t make sense and I don’t want it. To coach a team you have to be 200% ready for it. Before I liked football more and I think that’s why I won’t return to coaching. Now I give advice, which is something I like to do and in a way gives me some peace.”

Albelda on the list

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Valencia defensive midfielder David Albelda (30) is on the Barcelona list of possible transfers for next summer. The Spanish international, who would also have offers from Villareal, Tottenham and Real Madrid, took his club to court in an attempt to break up his contract and to leave on a free transfer (read more here).

Alonso not for sale

Asked about the rumours linking midfielder Xabi Alonso (26) with a summer move to Barcelona (read more here), Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez told the press that the player, although not playing a lot lately, stays an important part of the squad and is not for sale.

Benítez revealed he talked with Alonso’s agent last week and that Liverpool made clear they don’t want the Spanish international to leave at the end of the season: “He has signed a new contract only recently. To us, he’s a key player for the future.”

Sunday 24 February 2008

Meeting with Mourinho (report)

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that last month there was a first face to face meeting between Barcelona representatives and former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (read more here). The Barcelona board would have agreed that, if the team doesn't win a major trophy this year, the Portuguese will replace coach Frank Rijkaard.

During the meeting that took place last January, Mourinho explained the main lines of his football project. He even handed Barcelona vice president Marc Ingla and sports director Txiki Begiristain a dvd that contained a more complete analysis and his view on the team and the players.

The issue of his assistant was also discussed. Barcelona thinks the first asistant should be someone who connects well with the squad. They prefer it would be someone who already knows the club. Mourinho agreed with that point of view. The three names that came on the table were Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola, former Barcelona player Luis Enrique and Eusebio Sacristán, who is now Rijkaard's second assistant.

Despite all the above, Mourinho will only join Barcelona if the team doesn't win the Champions League or the Liga this season. That may mean Mourinho will have to wait some months to know more about his future. The Portuguese accepted to take that risk, but nevertheless made clear that he wouldn't let an offer pass that would be on the same level as the Barcelona one. Mourinho already rejected offers from -amongst others- the English Football Federation, Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich and Valencia. He would now also be on the Liverpool list, although the biggest threat would be Inter Milan, who could push for Mourinho if they would be eliminated from the Champions League next week.

Garay ready to sign

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo states that the interest for Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21), who is close to joining Barcelona, is still growing. Manchester United and Olympique Lyon would even be ready to pay the buyout clause of 20 million euro. The player nevertheless prefers to keep on playing in Spain and would like to sign for Barcelona next week.

Mourinho in? Lampard in

British tabloid The Mail on Sunday states that the further approach between former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) and Barcelona (read more here), makes the Chelsea future of English international Frank Lampard (29) more uncertain. The close relationship the Chelsea midfielder has with his former manager would make it almost certain that Lampard would join Barcelona if Mourinho becomes their next manager.

Crosas goes French / 6

Olympique Lyon won this weekend at home against Metz (2-0) and stays on top of the French league. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) had to serve a suspension (read more here).

Ronaldinho too old for Chelsea

While commenting the club's financial situation, Chelsea's chief executve Peter Kenyon told at a press conference that the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) is getting more unlikely, since the club's new policy will be to sign younger players with a greater resale value.

And the Brazilian international just doesn't fit the new profile, Kenyon said: "I'm pretty sure we won't be signing Ronaldinho. We're looking to keep the age profile right. It's fundamentally got to be somebody who will contribute to the team and have a long-term view."

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