Saturday 29 March 2008

Inter goalkeeper linked with Barcelona

Different sources in Italy have been linking Inter Milan goalkeeper Júlio César (28) with Barcelona in the past days (read more here).

Italian sports paper Tuttosport claimed that Barcelona is searching a valid competitor for current regular goalkeeper Víctor Váldes and that Inter would be willing to consider a transfer of Júlio César cause the club wants to rejuvenate their squad.

Meanwhile, Italian news site Virgilio claimed that Barcelona would be ready to pay between 12 and 15 million euro (°) for the Brazilian international. Although Inter does not really plan to let go Júlio César, they would already be looking for a substitute, with Almería goalkeeper Diego Alves being mentioned as an important option, in case the player would like to move to Spain.

The four Barcelona summer objectives (1)

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that the Barcelona tecnical staff has determined during a meeting on Tuesday the four main objectives in the coming transfer summer.

1 - Right back defender
The more than probable return of Barcelona right back Gianluca Zambrotta (31) to Italy, in all likelihood to AC Milan, obliges Barcelona to bring in a substitute. Because of his good price-quality relationship, Bayern Munich full back Philipp Lahm (24), whose contract expires in 2009, is at this moment the first option.

2 - Central defender
Since the contract of French central defender Lilian Thuram (36) expires in June and the situation of Mexican central defender Rafael Márquez (29) is uncertain, Barcelona wants to sign a first class central defender. The club would not be interested in Deportivo La Coruña central defender Fabricio Coloccini (26) or in Bayern Munich central defender Lúcio (29), who both would have been kind of offering themselves in the past few weeks. The transfer of Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) was well on the way until everything got too expensive due to the demands of the player's entourage.

(this was the first part of this contribution, you can read the second part here)

Henry negotiating with new MLS team

American sports radio talk show World Soccer Daily claims that Barcelona forward Thierry Henry (30) is in advanced negotiations with Seattle, a club that will begin to play in the US-Canadian professional soccer league MLS as of next year. The French international, whose Barcelona contract expires in 2011, has always expressed he wanted to go and live in the United States one day.

(read more on the Henry transfer story here)

Deal with Milan on Zambrotta

Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Barcelona and AC Milan have reached a couple of months ago a verbal agreement on the transfer of Barcelona full back defender and Italian international Gianluca Zambrotta (31). Milan would pay Barcelona a transfer fee of 7 million euro (°) and will offer Zambrotta, whose contract with Barcelona expires in 2010, a long-term contract.

(read more on the Zambrotta transfer story here)

Benitez waiting for the Barcelona bench

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez (47) is the main candidate to replace Frank Rijkaard (45) as Barcelona manager next season (read more here). With his efficiency on the pitch and his strong hand in the dressing room, the Spaniard would fit perfectly the profile set by Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who is since a while convinced the Rijkaard era is over.

When Benítez earlier this season was rumoured to have serious problems with the American owners of Liverpool, Laporta contacted the manager a first time. At the end of last year Laporta held a meeting with persons close to Benítez. Upon that, Benítez, who was attracted by the Barcelona interest, stopped the ongoing negotiations with Bayern Munich to replace manager Ottmar Hitzfeld in the summer. At this moment, Benítez, whose contract expires in 2009, don't want to force an exit and is waiting until Liverpool makes the first move.

Friday 28 March 2008

Eto'o top target for Milan

Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the possible exchange of AC Milan forward Alberto Gilardino and AS Roma central defender Philippe Mexès, has caused AC Milan to contact Barcelona to let them know about their renewed interest to sign Barcelona forward Samuel Eto'o (27). The Cameroonian international, who has the support of Milan vice-president Alberto Galliani and Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti, would be the top candidate to replace Gilardino in case the latter leaves.

Barcelona last summer already rejected a Milan offer of 40 million euro (°) for Eto'o, who was then said to be not amused because Barcelona brought in French international Thierry Henry (30). The paper now suggests that Chelsea forward Didier Drogba (30) will join Barcelona if former Chelsea manager Mourinho would become the sucessor of current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard, which could lead Eto'o to leave the club in the summer. Barcelona would then be ready to accept an offer of around 30 million euro (°°).

Sylvinho willing to accept every renewal offer

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (33), whose contract expires at the end of this season, would love to keep on playing for Barcelona. Therefore the former Brazilian international would even be ready to accept an offer from the club to renew for only one year, while in principle it was thought the Brazilian could get a two year extension.

(read more on the Sylvinho renewal here)

New Cesc agent on good terms with Barcelona

Catalan sports paper Sport reclaims (read more here) that, after the split with Joseba Díaz (read more here), the new agent of Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) will be Darren Dein, who won't only assist the player in sports matters but will also help him in picking publicity contracts. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo confirmed the appointment, adding that it was at the demand of his family that Cesc broke with Díaz but that in exchange the player himself could choose his new agent.

Although no immediate action will be undertaken, the switch could make future transfer negotiations more easy for Barcelona, since, on the one hand, Joseba Díaz was declared 'persona non grata' in Barcelona after the way Cesc left the club back in 2003 and, on the other hand, the relations between Darren Dein and Barcelona are excellent. Last summer, Dein negotiated the transfer of French forward Thierry Henry from Arsenal to Barcelona with Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano and Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain.

Darren Dein is the son of David Dein, the former vice-president of Arsenal. He has worked as external adviser of Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM), where he advised players like Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand and Dennis Bergkamp. Dein is considered to be a close friend and confidant of Henry.

Rafinha dreaming of Barcelona

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that, if a transfer of Sevilla right back Dani Alves (24) or Bayern Munich full back Philipp Lahm (24) wouldn't be possible, the alternative to replace Gianluca Zambrotta (31) could well be Schalke 04 right back Rafinha (22). The Brazilian is quoted as saying: "Signing for Barcelona, since always one of my favourite clubs, would be dream come true."

The paper thinks the market value of the player, whose contract expires in 2011, would be between 10 and 16 million euro (°).

Ronaldinho agent stirs things up

In an interview with Brazilian sports site Globo Esporte, Roberto de Assís, brother and agent of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28), said anything can happen at the end of this season and seems to suggest he would be willing to use the - since the so-called 'Webster ruling' famous - Article 17 of the FIFA transfer regulations, stating a player can leave after three year, having only to pay a compensation equalling the amount of the final years wages: "We know that there's a buyout clause of 125 million euro (°), but we also know of the existence of Article 17, which would make it possible to leave for far less." If the article is used, this would concretely mean Ronaldinho could leave Barcelona for about 16 million euro (°°).

Roberto, who says everything would change if Barcelona would win the Champions League, denied the rumour that he could use Porto Alegre, a club he owns, to transfer Ronaldinho to another club (read more here): "It's ridiculous to link Ronaldinho with Porto Alegre, a small second division team. His name should be linked with big clubs like Real Madrid or AC Milan without needing to pass by Porto Alegre." Adding that he doesn't want to exclude a transfer to Real Madrid, nor to any other club, mentioning the two Milan based teams.

Yesterday night, Roberto denied to Catalan radio station RAC 1 that he's planning to use Article 17 to dissolve Ronaldinho's contract with Barcelona: "I only replied when it was asked to me if I knew this legislation and of course I do." Rodrigo Sirico, the journalist of Globo Esporte who spoke with Roberto, nevertheless holds on to the first version and persists it was Ronaldinho's brother who brought up Article 17.

Roberto also said to RAC 1 there hasn't been any contact with Real Madrid. In an interview with Spanish television channel Cuatro, Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón denied that his club has any interest in Ronaldinho: "We consider that the players we have now in our squad are the best ones, so we don't have plans to change anything." In the coming days, Roberto will fly to Barcelona, where he could hold talks about the whole situation with Barcelona officials.

Meanwhile, Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that, of the many clubs following attentively the events surrounding Ronaldinho, English club Chelsea, who has been interested in the player for years and made an offer for him last summer, is at this moment the best placed team to bring in the Brazilian (read more here). Ronaldinho would have been discussed during a meeting on Tuesday between Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and player's agent Pini Zahavi, who has close relationships with Chelsea.

And to conclude: the rumour spread by different media since yesterday that Tottenham manager Juande Ramos would be interested in signing Ronaldinho is due to a misinterpretation of some quotes by the Spaniard in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport.

Xavi is on the Chelsea list

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Chelsea is seriously considering an offer for Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernández (28). A few years ago, former Chelsea manager José Mourinho tried a first time to bring the player to London. Iván Corretja, the agent of Xavi, then made clear that the player would like to retire with Barcelona and this idea probably hasn't change in the meantime (read more here).

In an attempt to convince the Spanish international, Chelsea would be offering Xavi a long-term contract until 2012. This offer could lead Barcelona to soon renew the player's contract until the same date. Xavi's current contract with Barcelona expires in 2010, having a buyout clause of 60 million euro (°) for foreign clubs and 150 million euro (°°) for Spanish clubs. British tabloid The Daily Mirror claims that Chelsea would make a 31,6 million euro (*) bid for Xavi, offering the player a weekly salary of 113 639 euro (**).

Sport reports that Chelsea is also interested in other players of the Barcelona squad, namely Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho (28) (read more here) and Portuguese midfielder Deco (30). Deco and Xavi would be the main candidates to replace Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard (29), who could be leaving the club in the summer.

Asked about the issue, Xavi's agent Iván Corretja made clear to British sports site Setanta Sports that he didn't receive a formal Chelsea offer for the player: "In the last few seasons I have had a few indirect enquiries about the player but that is normal in the world of football. Xavi is happy at Barça and has a deal for the next seasons, so the decision about a possible exit is Barcelona’s."

Crosas goes French / 16

Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) told in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE that he's feeling good with Olympique Lyon. Although his ultimate dream is still to triumph with Barcelona, Crosas has found in the French champion a good alternative: "If I had to stay in a place that is not Barcelona, I would like to make a career here."

This is the fourth time in two weeks times that Crosas pronounces on his future and says he wouldn't mind staying with Lyon (read more here, here and here).

Thursday 27 March 2008

Cesc agent split monitored

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona is re-evaluating the situation of Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) after the player has broken with his agent Joseba Díaz (read more here). The latter didn't have a good relation with Barcelona, and especially with sports director Txiki Begiristain, after Cesc's transfer to Arsenal in 2003.

Although the player's family and a big part of the Barcelona fans are very much in favour of a return to Catalunya, this seems very unlikely at the moment since the player is very comfortable with Arsenal and the transfer price of supposedly around 50 million euro (°) is not attainable for Barcelona. For possible future negotiations, the agent switch is nevertheless seen as a positive thing, with Mariano Aguilar, Iván Corretja and Ramon Sostres said to be amongst the candidates to replace Díaz. Cesc, who was in Spain for an international friendly on Wednesday, didn't want to pronounce on the issue to Spainish journalists: "I don't want to speak about this issue."

Meanwhile, Arsenal is reacting surprised to the agent split, just when a contract renewal deal with Cesc, whose current six years contract expires in 2012, seemed close. A spokesperson of the English club is quoted as saying that the news comes as a "tremendous surprise". Díaz, who also represents Arsenal players Manuel Almunia and Fran Mérida, has an excellent relationship with Arsenal manger Arsène Wenger.

Rivals in the field for Coloccini

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that, after the rumour spread that Barcelona has been approaching Deportivo La Coruña central defender Fabricio Coloccini (26) (read more here), Real Madrid contacted the agent of the Argentinian international, Marcelo Lombilla, to let him know they would also like to sign the player. Madrid doesn't seen to have a lot of confidence in players like Cannavaro or Metzelder and thinks Coloccini could be the ideal player to strengthen the central defence. And even more so if the player would only cost 10 million euro.

Bayern not planning to let Lucio go

Bayern Munich central defender Lúcio (29) has said in an interview with Munich tabloid TZ that some people misunderstood the rumours linking him with Barcelona and that nothing has been signed yet. The Brazilian international nevertheless says his dream is to play in Spain: "An offer from a club like Barcelona is the biggest thing for every player. If a concrete offer comes, I would want to go. I know it wouldn't be easy to leave this club but every problem has a solution. I think that a transfer could also be to the advantage of Bayern."

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told in an interview with German weekly sports paper Sport Bild that the club doesn't want to let go top players like Lúcio: "It's a known fact that he has a contract until 2010 and we don't plan to let him leave before that date."

(read everything on the Lucio transfer story here)

Youth: Gai Assulin

British tabloid The Daily Star claims that Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City are interested in Barcelona attacking midfielder Gai Assulin (16), who made his debut with the Israeli national team yesterday. The agent of the player, Pini Zahavi, admits the interest of several clubs but told in an interview with the paper that the player has no plans to leave. Zahavi is quoted as saying: "Those teams are interesting and we will never say no. But Gai feels good in Barcelona."

Gai Assulin was born in Israel and came to Barcelona four years ago. Since a few months, Gai is playing with Barcelona B in the Spanish fourth division. Under the management of former Barcelona defensive midfielder Josep Guardiola he already scored seven goals this season, having an important part in the second place of the team in the classification. Last september he made his senior debut with the first team in the semi-final of the Copa Catalunya.

In August last year, Gai signed a three year contract with Barcelona, that includes a buyout clause of 20 million euro (°).

(read more youth transfer stories here)

Mourinho deadline approaches

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) has set a deadline: at the end of the first week of April the Portuguese will make a decision about his future and determine which club he will be coaching next season. Mourinho no longer wants to take the risk of being left without a top club if he keeps waiting until Barcelona, his first option, decides to continue or not with their current manager Frank Rijkaard (45).

Real Madrid and Inter Milan are widely believed to be the other two main candidates to sign Mouriho, with the latter supposedly being the best placed at this moment.

(read more on the Mourinho story here)

Ronaldinho decision expected in June

Barcelona president Joan Laporta told at a conference that Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) isn't the main theme within the club at this moment, since Barcelona is still in the race for the two major trophies and the team, and not the individuals, is the most important thing for now. Still, Laporta denied that the relations with the club are permanently broken: "There is no divorce between Barça and Ronaldinho, nor between the player and myself. I've always had the utmost respect for the player. Ronaldinho has given a lot to Barcelona and I hope and believe that he will keep on doing that."

Catalan sports paper Sport nevertheless reports that the Ronaldinho case has been discussed for hours during the board meeting on Tuesday. The board decided that the members wouldn't pronounce anymore on Ronaldinho to avoid an intensification of the debate and that any decision is postponed until the end of the season. Madrid tabloid Marca assures that the Barcelona board has already taken the decision: Ronaldinho has to leave in the coming summer, even if this would mean they should let him go on a free transfer.

Meanwhile, British tabloid The Sun claims today that Barcelona would be willing to sell the Brazilian international for 15,3 million euro (°), with Chelsea being interested to sign the player. And Madrid tabloid Marca claims that Roberto de Assís, brother and agent of Ronaldinho ànd owner of Brazilian football club Porto Alegre, could use a new FIFA ruling to sign his brother for 16 million euro (°°) and then negotiate freely with interested clubs.

(read more on the Ronaldinho transfer story here)

Giovani not thinking about leaving

Asked about the rumours linking him with a summer move to the English Premier League (read more here), Barcelona right winger Giovani Dos Santos (18) has told in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE that he cannot avoid these kind of rumours but that he has never thought about leaving Barcelona: "I just live in the present. I am here now and what I would like the most is to be here for many more years to come."

(read more on the Giovani transfer story here)

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Barcelona president pushes Benitez option

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona president Joan Laporta has put forward the name of Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez (47) as the one who should become the next Barcelona manager if the results force current manager Frank Rijkaard (45) to leave at the end of the season.

Is it said it was a go-between and personal friend of Laporta who informed the Barcelona president about the fact that the Liverpool manager is, contrary to what is generally believed, not untouchable. Laporta would have given the go-between the permission to contact Benítez discretely through the manager's former agent Manuel García Quilón.

With Benítez, who was not on the initial list of the technical staff, Barcelona president Laporta wants to have a valid successor for Rijkaard that is not former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45), who Laporta thinks could give problems cause of his character and the negative view of Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff and some media. Mourinho is nevertheless strongly supported by some members of the Barcelona board, including economic vice president Ferran Soriano and sports vice president Marc Ingla, and by an important part of the Barcelona fans.

Meanwhile British tabloid The Daily Mirror claims that Benítez, who has also attracted the interest of Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Valencia, is supported by Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff, who would have made a report to Barcelona president Laporta about the manager issue.

(read more on the manager debate here)

Fenerbahçe wants Ronaldinho

In an interview with Madrid tabloid Marca, Fenerbahçe left back defender and former Brazilian international Roberto Carlos claims that his current club is interested in the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28). Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yildirim would be ready to make an offer of 90 million euro (°) for the Brazilian international.

Cesc fires his agent

Spanish blog El Soplón reports that Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) has broken all ties with his agent Joseba Díaz, who brought the player from Barcelona to Arsenal. The decision would be inspired by the family of the player, and especially his mother, who didn't like the frequent media appearances of Díaz and who blocked a possible transfer to Real Madrid in the summer of 2006. Player's agent Mariano Aguilar is for the moments handling some issues for the player.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo thinks this new situation could affect the renewal negotiations between Cesc and Arsenal. The player didn't want to react to the news. Earlier this month Catalan sports paper Sport suggested the dismissal of Díaz could be a first move towards a future return of the Spanish international to Barcelona (read more here).

Meanwhile, asked about rumours linking him with different clubs, amongst others Barcelona, Cesc said in an interview with Madrid tabloid As: "I don't see a reason to leave Arsenal. It would be a mistake."

(read more on the Cesc transfer story here)

Barcelona confirms Lahm interest

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that, although the intial deal was to bring in the player in 2009, the almost certain departure of Barcelona right back Gianluca Zambrotta (31) in the coming transfer period, would make Bayern Munich full back Philipp Lahm (24) sign already for Barcelona at the end of this season.

While Bayern is initially asking 15 million euro (°) for the player, the paper thinks the transfer price could drop to 9 million euro (°°), because the contract of the player expires in 2009, which obliges the club to sell this summer if they don't want to see the player leave for free, and because both clubs have good relations.

Meanwhile, Munich tabloid TZ claims that Barcelona has confirmed the interest in the German international.

A spokesperson of Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain is quoted as saying: "Yes, Lahm is on our wish list. We are following the player for years now, but at this moment we can and may not give more details on a possible transfer." The paper says Barcelona has already officially contacted Bayern over Lahm, who is expected to leave at the end of the season unless future Bayern Munich manager Jürgen Klinsmann can convince him to stay.

(read more on the Lahm transfer story here)

Ronaldinho linked with Inter

Yesterday Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) was twice linked with Italian top club Inter Milan, without being very clear where the rumours came from and with no confirmation to be found.

First, Catalan sports paper Sport reported that "some Italian media" claimed that Inter was ready to make an offer for the Brazilian international, given the tense relations between Ronaldinho and Barcelona. Inter would already have contacted Barcelona through player's agent Ernesto Bronzetti. Barcelona would have asked for more time saying "This is not the time", suggesting that the negotiations could be launched once the season has ended.

Later, football site Goal reported that "sources in Italy" claimed that Inter president Massimo Moratti and sports supplier Nike are intensifying their efforts to transfer Ronaldinho. In the beginning of next week a meeting between Inter officials, Nike representatives and the agent of the player would be held. Inter would be ready to pay 60 million euro (°) for Ronaldinho, although not wanting to include Brazilian goalkeeper Júlio César (28), estimated at 30 million euro (°°), in the deal, like Barcelona has been asking. Barcelona would also still be interested in Inter central defender Marco Materazzi (34).

Manchester City discussing Giovani deal

British tabloid The Daily Mirror claims that Manchester City is negotiating a deal on Barcelona right winger Giovani Dos Santos (18).

While Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon already tried to sign the Mexican international back in January, Manchester City manager Sven-Göran Eriksson would now have used his connections with Giovani's agent Pini Zahavi to get ahead of other interested clubs. Manchester City would be discussing a permanent deal as well as a one-year loan with an option to buy the player, who is rated at 9 million euro (°).

(read more on the Giovani transfer story here)

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Ronaldinho is becoming a major problem (3)

Not only within the club less and less people are supporting Ronaldinho. Since his performances on the pitch cannot compensate anymore for his lack of training intensity and his supposedly very active party life, the majority of the fans and the press has apparently also given up on the Brazilian. Josep María Casanovas, the founder of Catalan sports paper Sport, hit hard at the player in his column last weekend, and concluded: "To recover the best version of Ronaldinho seems an impossible task."

With a lot of people in and around the club wishing for the player to leave in the summer, Ronaldinho seems on the contrary more than ever decided to stay in Barcelona until his contract expires in 2010. Madrid tabloid As claimed that the player has already let some friends know nothing will make him change his mind. Ronaldinho would be annoyed by the fact that Barcelona president Joan Laporta in the end didn't renew his contract until 2014, like had been discussed a few years ago.

In an interview with the German edition of the monthly magazine Vanity Fair, Ronaldinho repeated once again he doesn't have plans to leave. Asked about the the rumours linking him with clubs like AC Milan or Chelsea, the Brazilian said: "With Barça I have a wonderful future. The guys here are my family. I'm still as happy here as I was the first day. I would like to stay and will do everything that I can to regain my best form."

Meanwhile, last Friday Ronaldinho celebrated his 28th birthday. An age at which most players reach their top...

(this is the third and last part of this contribution, the first part and the second part were published yesterday)

(read more on the Ronaldinho transfer story here)

Father Giovani confirms Manchester City

Asked about the rumours linking his son with some English Premier League teams (read more here), Zizinho, the father of Barcelona right winger Giovani Dos Santos (18), confirmed in an interview with Mexican newspaper El Universal the talks with Manchester City: "Yes, Manchester City has shown interest, although I cannot give more information because his agent is the one who is negotiating."

Giovani's father nevertheless stresses the player is now focusing on Barcelona: "I want him to finish the season in a good way and after that we can say more on his future." The paper says Giovani's buyout clause of 30 million euro (°) has been the main obstacle in past negotiations.

(read more on the Giovani transfer story here)

Messi to stay for life

Jorge Messi, the father of Barcelona right winger Lionel Messi (20), told in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that he believes the Argentinian international, whose recovery is going well and who will return to Barcelona next week, will stay his whole career in Barcelona: "I don't think there's any chance to see him wear another jersey one day. He feels comfortable in the club and I don't see him leave."

Lucio denies Barcelona

Football site Goal reports that Bayern Munich central defender Lúcio (29) told a German press source that it's time to leave Germany and to look for a new challenge. Asked about the rumours linking him to Barcelona (read more here), the Brazilian international denied that there's an agreement and is quoted as saying: "I have heard the talks about Spain, but there's nothing official at this moment."

Drogba determined to leave Chelsea

British newspaper The Times claims that Chelsea striker Didier Drogba (30) is still determined to leave England at the end of this season. After his return from the African Cup of Nations, the Ivorian international and Chelsea agreed that the player wouldn't comment anymore on his future, like he had done regularly the months before, until the end of the season. Nevertheless nothing has changed for Drogba and he will formally express his wish to leave in a meeting with the Chelsea board when the season has ended.

The player wants to take on a new challenge and this summer may be his last chance to end up playing for another major European club. The paper says AC Milan and Real Madrid, who were interested in Drogba last summer, are likely to come after him again. The club where former Chelsea manager José Mourinho will end up, is another possible destination for the Ivorian, since both coach and player would love to be reunited. Last month, Drogba was linked with a summer move to Barcelona.

(read more on the Drogba transfer story here)

Monday 24 March 2008

Ronaldinho is becoming a major problem (2)

Last week's incidents (read more in the first part of this contribution) seem a public expression of the deteriorated relations between Ronaldinho and Barcelona.

Catalan sports paper Sport claimed last week that the tecnical staff would have lost patience with Ronaldinho's unprofessional behaviour. Manager Frank Rijkaard's statements during a Saturday press conference, in which he didn't defend the player anymore - like he used to do before - against critical questions, seemed to confirm this. Although Rijkaard changed his tone again after last night's win over Valladolid: "Ronaldinho didn't let me down, I'm with him. I cannot be disappointed with him, since he has gven a lot to the club and the team."

Different sources have been reporting that the Barcelona board has taken the decison to listen to offers coming in for the player. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo even says that some board members think the Brazilian shouldn't play ever again for the club. Madrid tabloid As claims that especially Barcelona president Joan Laporta is fed up with the player and is constantly trying to leak stories to the press, aiming to discredit the player and make it that way possible to sell Ronaldinho, without too much critical comments from the fans, as soon as an interested club comes knocking.

But the latter seems a problem. Catalan sports site Info Esports claims that of course no club is willing to pay the 125 million euro (°) buyout clause, but that no club is at this moment even considering to negotiate with Barcelona about a transfer. And the three main candidates to transfer Ronaldinho - Chelsea, AC Milan and Inter Milan - indeed seem to have stopped their efforts to bring in the player, like all three have explicitly admitted in the last weeks (read more here, here and here).

(this is the second part of this contribution, the first part was published earlier today, the third and last part will be published tomorrow)

Sylvinho waiting for renewal offer

Asked about his future at a press conference, Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (33) said that he still didn't receive a renewal offer from Barcelona: "It's my fourth season here. I'm happy and satisfied with my role, so I hope to renew. Let's see what the club will do." The contract of the former Brazilian international, who is performing well the last weeks, expires at the end of the current season.

(read more on the Sylvinho renewal here)

Coloccini is excited but cautious

Asked about the rumours linking him with a summer move to Barcelona (read more here), Deportivo La Coruña central defender Fabricio Coloccini (26) told in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE that he now is focusing on a good season finish with Deportivo but he admitted: "Barcelona is a great team and when one is linked with such a team one feels excited."

The Argentinian international nevertheless tries to keep a cool head about the possible interest: "Every time the end of the season is coming near, these kind of things are appearing, so we'll see."

(read everything on the Coloccini transfer story here)

Crosas goes French / 15

Olympique Lyon won last night against Paris Saint-Germain with 4-2 and has now a nine point lead on second placed Bordeaux on top of the French league. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and stayed there for 90 minutes.

(read more about Crosas in Lyon here)

Ronaldinho is becoming a major problem (1)

Last week wasn't the best week for Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28). It began in the beginning of the week when the medical staff put out a report stating that the player was not injured, while Ronaldinho didn't play against Almería on Sunday cause he said he didn't feel fit.

Ronaldinho's brother and agent Roberto de Assís reacted to the news on the Catalan radio station station Ona FM saying that he nor his brother had given permission for the publication of the report. On Catalan radio station RAC 1, Roberto went further: "The medical report that was published in the press, was not the one we have seen."

When the rumour spread that the report had been made public under his supervision in an attempt to damage the player, Barcelona president Joan Laporta had to come out and declare that the report was perfectly clear in stating that Ronaldinho didn't have an injury, which does not mean the player couldn't have troubles or be in pain, and that all the fuss around the report was due to the misinterpratation by "twisted minds".

Although Ronaldinho has said on Catalan radio station Ona FM that he wanted to play against Valencia "with or without pain", Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard decided not to include the Brazilian in the squad considering that one training session was not enough to be ready for the return of the Spanish cup's semi-final.

On Saturday, Ronaldinho was again left out for the yesterday league game against Valladolid because he continued to have troubles with his right foot. At a tense press conference, Rijkaard seemed to drop the player, amongst other things by saying that "this time" Ronaldinho was in good physical shape when he arrived at the training ground.

Barcelona legend Johan Cruijff declared on the offical club television channel Barça TV that players should be able to put themselves over some physical troubles when there are important games to come and trophies at stake.

(this is the first part of this contribution, the second part will be published later today, the third part will be published tomorrow)

Sunday 23 March 2008

Deco thinks about England or Atletico

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona midfielder Deco (30) has told people in his environment that he probably won't be playing for Barcelona anymore next season.

The Portuguese international thinks next season he could be playing for Atlético Madrid or a club from the English Premier League. The latter not being one of the big four, but "a mythical team that has offered him an amount of money he could very difficult say no to". A return to Brazil would also be an option for Deco, although staying in Europe is his first wish.

(read more on the Deco transfer story here)

Transfer history: Cesc

In an interview with Catalan television channel TV3, Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas (20) talked about his transfer from Barcelona to Arsenal in 2003, when the player was 16 years old.

The Spanish international told it was a very difficult decision to make. One of the reasons that made him choose to leave was that players from the same age group, like current Manchester United central defender Gerard Piqué (21) and current Barcelona right winger Lionel Messi (20), were allowed to play for a higher youth team while he had to stay in his age category.

Cesc explicitly denied that he left cause of president Joan Laporta (previously it had been said that Laporta, after getting elected as president in the summer of 2003, wouldn't have tried to keep the player), calling those rumours "a big lie". The player said about his transfer: "It all happened in the election period", suggesting there was a power vacancy in the club at the time.

(read more transfer history stories here)

Crosas goes French / 14

After he already declared in the French media he would like to stay with Olympique Lyon after the loan deal ends in June of this year (read more here and here), Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) has now also spoken about his future in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport.

Crosas says he has regained the trust in himself in Lyon, after a complicated first half of the season, having to switch the whole time between Barcelona's first and second team. Because he also realizes it will be very difficult to play in Barcelona, the player prefers to stay in Lyon next season: "I would like to play here for one more year, so I can keep on growing." Crosas says he doesn't yet know how both club think about this idea.

(read more about Crosas in Lyon here)

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