Saturday 8 March 2008

Capel is on the list

Madrid tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona is interested to bring in Sevilla left winger Diego Capel (20) in the summer (read more here). Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain would already have contacted people close to the former Barcelona youth player to inform themfirst hand.

Capel has a contract with Sevilla until 2009, with a buyout clause of 12 million euro. Sevilla is trying for some time now to trenew the player and to fix a higher buyout clause, but didn't achieved that goal yet. Barcelona wouldn't be the only club wanting the player.

Ex-Barça: Johan Cruijff

Two weeks after he accepted to restructure the technical organization of Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam (read more here), Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff (60) has already put an end to the cooperation.

The reason is a dispute between him and future Ajax manager Marco Van Basten, who was appointed a few days after the arrival of Cruijff as 'external sports advisor' (read more here), about the structure of the youth academy. While Cruijff wanted an immediate and drastic reform, Van Basten wanted to take more time to make an analysis and act afterwards.

Poulsen denies Barcelona deal

The official website of Sevilla states that midfielder Christian Poulsen (28) has made clear that he nor his agent knows anything about a deal the Danish international is said to have closed with Barcelona (read more here).

Rijkaard prefers Marquez over Garay

Catalan sports paper Sport says that reports coming from Santander suggest that the negotiations on the transfer of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) have not been paralyzed cause of financial reasons like had been rumoured (read more here).

While Barcelona intended to bring in Garay to replace central defender Rafael Márquez (29), for whom the club received several interesting offers (one of them coming from Atlético Madrid), Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard has now vetoed the exit of the Mexican considering him a key player.

Earlier this year Barcelona reached an agreement with Santander, giving Barcelona the first option to sign the Argentinian defender. The talks with the player's agents were expected to follow shortly but haven't yet taken place.

(read more on the Garay transfer story here)

Education is important for Mourinho

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) has already reserved a place for his children Matilde and José jr in an English college in Barcelona, for in case he would become the next Barcelona manager as of next season.

Gudjohnsen not thinking about leaving

Asked about his football future, Barcelona attacker Eidur Gudjohnsen (29) told in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that, although he sometimes feels disappointed by a lack of playing time, he doesn't think about moving to another club in the summer: "I have a contract for two more years and I plan to continue here as long as I possibly can."

Friday 7 March 2008

Rijkaard feels used

Spanish news site El Confidencial claims that Frank Rijkaard (45) is blaming his former Barcelona assistant Henk Ten Cate for the rumours that appeared in the English media last week that Rijkaard decided not to continue in Barcelona and could be interested to join Chelsea (read more here and here). The Dutchman's brother and advisor, Herman Rijkaard, had to come out and deny the rumours (read more here).

Rijkaard thinks he is being used by Ten Cate who doesn't have a good relationship with current Chelsea manager Avram Grant and who would like to return to work together with Rijkaard.

Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04)

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona is closely following Schalke 04 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (21). The player caught the attention of the Barcelona scouts rather accidentally when they were spying on other Schalke players. Barcelona has now several detailed and very positive scouting reports about the German youth international.

Because the contract of Barcelona second goalkeeper Albert Jorquera (29) expired in June of this year and it was believed he could leave to have more playing time elsewhere, Barcelona has been seriously looking to transfer another goalkeeper who could rival with regular Víctor Valdés (26). Neuer was one of the names on the list of the technical staff.

The situation nevertheless changed when Jorquera got injured last December and Barcelona had to hurry to bring in a reliable back-up for Valdés. During the January transfer window, the club transferred Celta Vigo goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto (32) on loan until the end of the season, with an option for a permanent deal (read more here). Meanwhile, the contract of Albert Jorquera has been renewed for two more years (read more here). Because of the seriousness of Jorquera’s injury, who could not be totally fit when the new season starts, there still would be a possibility a new goalkeeper will be looked for.

Mourinho checkmate

At a press conference in Valencia during the presentation of a personal coaching program, former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) spoke out on his future. He repeated that he will end up in Spain or Italy, that he will go to a club that totally believes in him and his project and that he doesn’t have any form of agreement with any club at this moment (read more here).

When Mourinho declared that he never lies, a journalist asked him if it was true that he had a meeting with Barcelona officials (like had been rumoured lately, read more here and here). The Portuguese couldn’t avoid smiling and said: “You are really bad!” Adding: "I'm a man of football and I talk with a lot of people about the game."

Garay not for now

Catalan sports paper Sport says that Barcelona is still interested in Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21), but that the club will reopen the negotiations later in the season, when the value of the placer can be better estimated.

Over one month ago, after the first talks, the parties involved agreed they would close the deal within one month, but since then Barcelona didn’t contact the player again. Barcelona wants to pay Santander a transfer sum of 14 million euro (plus incentives), and wants the player to accept a contract in accordance with the club’s salary policy.

The whole situation is a disappointment for Garay, who thought he would have his future assured soon and had stopped every negotiation with other interested top clubs like Manchester United and Olympique Lyon. Now that the talks with Barcelona are paralyzed, his agents have put the Argentinian defender back in the market.

(read more on the Garay transfer story here)

Laudrup is in the race too

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Getafe manager and former Barcelona player Michael Laudrup (43) is also on the list of possible successors if current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) would leave at the end of the season. The way of playing promoted by the former Danish international would fit the club's football philosophy.

(read more on Laudrup's transfer to Real Madrid here)
(read everything on the manager debate here)

Albelda not wanting to exclude Spanish move

After he lost a court case against his club (read more here), Valencia midfielder David Albelda (30) has returned to the negotiating table trying to assure his exit at the end of the season.

The main obstacle for Valencia to let the player go on a free transfer is that the Spanish international, who has a buyout clause of 60 million euro, doesn’t want to accept to restriction that he cannot sign for any other Liga team: “If they don’t want me anymore in Valencia, it’s just not fair that not only I lose money but I also should leave Spain.” Barcelona is one of the Spanish clubs rumoured to be interested in Albelda (read more here).

Thursday 6 March 2008

Barcelona president wants to renew Rijkaard

Barcelona sports paper Sport claims that, despite almost daily rumours about possible successors (read more here), Barcelona not only wants to continue with current manager Frank Rijkaard (45) until his contract expires in 2009, but that a part of the board even would like to see the Dutchman renew for one extra year.

This option is especially been put forward by Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who will leave in 2010 and who would prefer to finish his mandate together with the coach with whom he started back in 2003 instead of having to deal with a new coach in his last year as president.

Deal with Poulsen

Catalan television channel TV3 claims that Barcelona have found an agreement (through player's agent Bayram Tutumlu) with Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (28). Now Barcelona will have to start negotiating with Sevilla. The current contract of the Danish international expires in 2009 and includes a buyout clause of 10 million euro. Barcelona will try to lower that sum. Poulsen would sign a contract of three seasons.

The transfer of Poulsen, who can also play as central defender, would cause Barcelona not to renew the contract of Brazilian defensive midfielder José Edmílson (31) and would also make an exit of Mexican central defender Rafael Márquez (29) more probable.

(read more on the Poulsen transfer story here)

Spain or Italy for Mourinho

In an interview with Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) says he will return to the bench next season. The Portuguese is already preparing the new season, watching a lot of games on television and developing a computer program that will him allow to make better use of all the information about players and teams he has gathered in the past.

Mourinho, who is strongly rumoured to be the number one candidate to become the next Barcelona manager if Frank Rijkaard would leave at the end of the season (read more here), says his next club will be the one who really wants him and totally believes in his project. Although he is limiting the options by stating Spain or Italy will be his next destination. After that, Mourinho, who declares not to have any pre-contract or gentlemen’s agreement with anyone, would like to return to England and finish his career as Portuguese national team coach.

Luis Enrique waiting for a call

Asked about the rumour that he could become an assistant coach if José Mourinho (45) would become the next Barcelona manager (read more here), former Barcelona right winger Luis Enrique (37) told in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that he hasn’t heard anything about the issue yet but that he certainly would consider such an offer: “To be able to return to Barcelona as assistant of José Mourinho would be something fantastic.”

Luis Enrique, who was playing for Barcelona when the former Chelsea manager was part of the technical staff between 1996 and 2000, had words of appraisal for the Portuguese: “You really have to make the difference between the Mourinho the fans got to know and the one I have known in the dressing room, where he was a great guy who contributed a lot to the mental strength of the team.”

Milan door definitely closed for Ronaldinho

In an interview with Italian television channel Sky Italia, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi repeated (read more here) he had never seriously thought about the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (27) and that the club has now definitely decided to not try to bring in the Brazilian. This statement was confirmed by Milan vice president Adriano Galliani.

(read more on the rumours linking Ronaldinho to Milan here, here and here)

Benzema in, a "fantastico" out

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Olympique Lyon striker Karim Benzema (20) is still a main transfer objective for Barcelona (read more here). Bringing in the French international would nevertheless oblige the club to dispose of one of the four so could “fantásticos” (Ronaldinho, Messi, Eto'o and Henry).

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Lining up Lippi

Italian television channel Italia 1 claims that former Italian national team coach Marcello Lippi (59), who wants to return to the bench as of next season, would have two main options: Barcelona and Juventus (read more here).

Lippi would be a top candidate to replace current manager Frank Rijkaard in Barcelona, cause former Chelsea manager José Mourinho is not convincing everyone. Six-seven months ago, Lippi would have received the first indication of a Barcelona board member that an offer could be underway. The Italian manager would be very attracted by the idea to coach the team.

Cristiano Ronaldo in, Ronaldinho out

British tabloid The Daily Star claims that Barcelona have joined the race for Manchester United right winger Cristiano Ronaldo (23), after rumours of recent talks between the player's agent and Real Madrid (read more here).

Barcelona would plan to sell players like Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27), Portuguese midfielder Deco (30) and Icelandic attacker Eidur Gudjohnsen (29) to enter the transfer market in the summer with over 100 million euro at their disposal, half of which would be spent to finance a deal with Manchester United over Cristiano Ronaldo.

Amauri on the list

In an interview with Italian television channel Rai Sicilia, Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini declared that Barcelona is one of the clubs having shown interest in Brazilian forward Amauri (27). Zamparini claims Palermo has received a 22 million euro offer from abroad for the player that the club refused, but an agreement could nevertheless be close. Amauri can leave Palermo in the summer but the asking price is clear: “For less than 25 million euro, nothing will happen.”

Second thoughts about Garay

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the transfer of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) is under discussion in Barcelona: the Argentinian player is still considered as an interesting option, but not to every price.

The transfer sum of 15 million euro for a central defender, a position that is already well occupied, makes Barcelona hesitate. And the transfer seems to get more expensive as time goes by: the interest from several other European top clubs makes the player, his agents ànd Santander ask more money. Santander would now have received an offer from Manchester United consisting of 16 million euro cash plus central defender Gerard Piqué (21).

(read more on the Garay transfer story here)

Who could go?

In an interview with Catalan television channel TV3 (read more here), Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain commented on the possible outward transfers in the summer (read more here). In general, he pointed out that the club will never retain players against their will: “The door is open for those who want to leave.”

Begiristain assured the club wants Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27) to continue, although he stated that the player should return to his best form. About Portuguese midfielder Deco (30), the sports director was clear: “It’s a very complete player, our most aggressive midfielder, someone who never hides himself on the field. If he keeps performing well and he feels comfortable here, it is clear he will stay.”

The players whose contract expires in June, French central defender Lilian Thuram (36), Brazilian left back Sylvinho Mendes (33), Brazilian defensive midfielder José Edmílson (31) and Spanish left winger Santiago Ezquerro (31) could all renew, but everything will depend on their performances on the pitch. The same goes for Icelandic attacker Eidur Gudjohnsen (29), “who is fighting very hard for his spot in the team”, and Catalan defender Oleguer Presas (28), “who I really wouldn’t want to see leaving”.

Crosas goes French / 8

After a 0-1 away loss against Manchester United, Olympique Lyon got eliminated from the Champions League last night.

Although Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) was not allowed to participate in the Champions League with Lyon since he played with Barcelona (half an hour against Stuttgart) in the group stage, he travelled with the group to Manchester.

(read more on the adventures of Crosas in Lyon here)

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Mourinho sets a deadline

Catalan sports paper Gol claims that José Mourinho's patience is running out and that the former Chelsea manager has set a deadline: if Barcelona doesn't take a decision in the next month, he will start listening to the offers coming from other clubs. Barcelona wants to wait to see if the team wins a trophy this season. But Mourinho already said 'no' to the English Football Association, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Valencia and Lyon and with possible offers from Inter and Juventus coming, he now wants a clear commitment from Barcelona.

The paper says that, since Mourinho received the first signs from Barcelona officials that he could be the substitute of manager Frank Rijkaard, his two main assistants are closely following every Barcelona game. This helped the Portuguese to write a detailled (and to some Barcelona board members very impressive) analysis of over fifty pages about how he sees the team and the club, going from the organizaton of the pre-season of the first team to the structure and the transfer policy of the youth academy (read more here).

Milan welcomes Zambrotta but rejects Ronaldinho

In an interview with Italian television channel Italia 1, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi commented on the interest of his club to bring in Barcelona full back Gianluca Zambrotta (31) next summer: "He's an excellent player who has expressed his desire to join Milan. I hope we will be able to find an agreement with his club."

Asked about the rumours linking Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27) to Milan, Berlusconi said he never really believed the transfer would go through. Specifying that, although the Brazilian is a great player, his character probably wouldn't allow him to connect well with some members of the Milan squad.

Modric approved

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona is still working on the transfer of Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric (22). The Croatian has now been followed by all usual scouts and they all agree the player has the right profile. Once sports director Txiki Begiristain has also given his approval, Barcelona will have to face a battle with Premier League teams Chelsea and Arsenal, with Dinamo Zagreb wanting to make big money out of their star.

Txiki on Cesc, Bojan and Cristiano Ronaldo

Asked about the rumours linking Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) with a return to Barcelona (read more here), Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain seemed to close the door for the Barcelona youth product in an interview with Catalan television channel TV3: “He decided to leave, and the people who go take the risk of not being able to return.” Begiristain added that Cesc probably would have played in the first team if he had stayed, like other youth players who refused Premier League offers: “Bojan had faith, he refused an offer from England and preferred to rely on the opinion of our coaches who advised him to stay.”

Begiristain made clear that Manchester United right winger Cristiano Ronaldo (23) is "transferable" but not really a Barcelona target since that would mean that Barcelona would only focus on one player and that’s not the club’s policy.

Messi wants to be captain

Asked about some rumours having linked him in the past with a move to Inter, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (20) told Spanish football weekly paper Don Balón repeated (read more here) there’s no truth in that: “I didn’t even think about playing in Italy. I live from day to day and at this moment I only think about Barcelona and the joy this city is bringing to my family and friends.” Messi also said a move to Real Madrid is impossible: “Like in Argentinia, when you have played for a big one, you cannot play anymore for the other.”

Rumours and speculation apart, the Argentinian youngster is totally focusing on his current club: “I came to Bacelona at a very young age and I wish to stay here for a long time. Who knows, maybe one day I will become the captain of the team.”

Monday 3 March 2008

Pinto will stay

Despite the recent contract renewal of Barcelona goalkeeper Albert Jorquera (29) until 2010 (read more here), Catalan sports paper Sport claims that José Manuel Pinto (32), whose contract expires in June, will also continue next season.

The technical staff is very satisfied by Pinto’s way of behaving and his work ethics and he rapidly integrated into the squad. Besides that, the minimum recovery period for Jorquera would be around six months and Barcelona doesn’t want to take the risk of starting the new season without an experienced substitute for first choice goalkeeper Víctor Valdés (26) in case Jorquera’s revalidation would get complicated.

Pinto came to Barcelona in January of this year on a loan deal to replace the injured Jorquera (read more here). Barcelona paid Celta Vigo 500 000 euro for a six month loan but the agreement included the option to make the deal with the goalkeeper permanent without having to pay an additional sum to Celta.

Rijkaard is planning for next season

In an interview with Catalan television channel TV3, Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain said the club fully supports the continuation of manager Frank Rijkaard (45): “We like the image of the club he is spreading to the outside world and we hope Frank will stay and at the moment nothing leads us to think he might leave.” Begiristain added the club is planning the future in close collaboration with Rijkaard.

Asked about the rumours linking former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) to Barcelona, the Barcelona sports director said that Mourinho isn’t the central figure in the whole manager debate: “We are working with the coaches that are here. And right now, we could talk about many others who also have the capacity to coach Barcelona. Every manager should in any case adapt to our way of playing.”

Garay offered to Manchester United

British tabloid The Daily Mail claims that Manchester United have been contacted by Fabián Basualdo and Ricardo Schlieper, the agents of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) (read more here). Santander would like to sell the Argentinian, who was said to be very close to signing for Barcelona last month, and would prefer to see Manchester United central defender Gerard Piqué (21) being involved in the deal.

(read more on the Garay transfer story here)

Transfer history: Ben Arfa (Lyon)

In an interview this weekend with Catalan sports paper Sport, Olympique Lyon left winger Hatem Ben Arfa (20) revealed that Barcelona tried to transfer him three years ago.

The agent of the French international was contacted by Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain who proposed the player to join Barcelona but to keep on playing for Lyon. The player rejected the offer, thinking is was better for his development to just keep on growing some more years in France.

(read more Barcelona transfer history stories here)

Guardiola to cover Mourinho

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol says that Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) is in certain club circles seen as the ideal assistant if former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) would become the Barcelona head coach next season (read more here). The presence in the staff of the popular former Barcelona captain would probably soften the negative feelings that part of the Barcelona fans have towards Mourinho since some emotional Champions League ties the latest seasons.

Sunday 2 March 2008

A look at the coming transfer summer (2)

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

With relation to the incoming transfers, the paper states that the technical staff has three priorities: a right back defender, a central defender and a scoring midfielder.

For the right back position Inter defender Maicon (26) is being followed for a while now. At the moment he would be, together with Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm (24), the preferred option. Sevilla defender Daniel Alves (24) is a case apart: there are mixed opinions about the question if his capacities justify the huge transfer price.

The central defender the club is looking for should be a young player who can grow, who is strong and who has a good pass. Racing Santander defender Ezequiel Garay (21) fits this perfectly.

In midfield Barcelona wants to bring in a strong player, who can score ten goals in a season, who has a good distance shot and works hard. Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (29) looks like the ideal candidate and there aren't many other options. Arsenal midfielder Aleksandr Hleb (26) could be an alternative, although he's a different type of player. Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric (22) is looked at but will be hard to get since Chelsea will probably make a very high offer.

Up front Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) is the main target. Barcelona could try in the coming months to get an option to buy the player in the summer of 2009. If Eto'o stays, Chelsea forward Didier Drogba (29) probably won't come.

(read here the first part of the analysis, concerning the outward transfers)

Benzema prefers the Liga

Asked by British tabloid The Daily Mail about the rumours linking him with a summer move to Manchester United, Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) repeated (read more here) that he prefers the Spanish and Italian leagues over the Premier League: "I'm sure I'd be able to play in England. But I believe my style is perhaps better suited for Spain or Italy. I don't want to play that direct game all the time."

Although he has a contract until 2012 and Lyon president Aulas has valued the player at 90 million euro, French international Benzema, who is aware of and feels honoured by the interest of clubs like Barcelona, thinks he'll be sold one day. The striker says leaving Lyon will be necessary to keep progressing in the future.

Crosas goes French / 7

Olympique Lyon won yesterday away against Lille (0-1) and stays on top of the French league, having a six points lead on Bordeaux, who plays tonight. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and stayed there for 90 minutes.

(read more on the adventures of Crosas in Lyon here)

Barcelona vice president pushing for Mourinho

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano is the one who is pushing the most for the arrival of former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45). Soriano would have the support from the majority of the board, liking the inflexibility and the professionalism of the Portuguese.

In mid-January, Soriano would even have contacted Mourinho, through his agent Jorge Mendes, to deny the rumours about a veto from Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff and Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain. Convinced by those words, Mourinho has since then postponed every decision on his future.

Ferran Soriano would prefer to bring in Mourinho because he thinks the Portuguese manager is the one who can lead the team to success in the coming years, which could make Soriano's road to the presidency in 2010 a lot smoother. The same reason would lead current president Joan Laporta to start supporting more the Mourinho option: Laporta wants to leave in 2010 by the front door, with a trophy.

Case closed: Mascherano

Liverpool defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano (23) will not play for Barcelona as of next season, like had been rumoured last month (read more here).

On Friday, Mascherano signed a four year contract with Liverpool, the club he joined in February of 2007. Liverpool is reported to have paid a transfer sum of 24,4 million euro to investment group MSI.

Ronaldinho repeats wish to stay

After a clear statement earlier this week (read more here) and the confirmation by his brother and agent Roberto (read more here), Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (27) keeps repeating that he is happy in Barcelona and that he doesn't think about leaving.

In an interview with Spanish news agency EFE the Brazilian made clear that he wants to fulfil his contract: "I imagine myself staying here a long time. That's why I signed a contract until 2010 and I want to complete this dream."

And in an interview with Spanish television channel Cuatro Ronaldinho said: "I never thought about leaving the club because I am feeling very happy here. I don't have words to describe the good times I'm having in Barcelona. I don't care about what some people are saying, I want to stay."

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