Saturday 3 May 2008

How things stand: Central defenders

(a few weeks before the end of the season, Barça Transfer Zone looks forward to the coming transfer summer making an analysis for each position, in part 3 we look at the central defenders)

Like was expected in the beginning of the season, the central pair Puyol-Milito started the most games until now. Due to injuries, this was nevertheless only the case in 18 games. The other most used pairs were Márquez-Milito (12 starts), Thuram-Milito (11 starts) and Thuram-Puyol (9 starts). Oleguer played only in the beginning of the season a few times as central defender.

With Carles Puyol (30) and Gabriel Milito (27) no doubt going to stay, French international Lilian Thuram (36) will leave Barcelona at the end of the season. Since his contract expires in June and will not be renewed, the player has been given the permission to start talking with other clubs. There have been rumours about Arsenal and Salzburg.

Mexican international Rafael Márquez (29) could probably leave if a good offer comes in and if the club can find someone to replace him. The defender has been linked with Inter Milan, Atlético Madrid and AC Milan. Oleguer Presas (28) has been linked with an Ajax loan deal.

With Thuram leaving, Barcelona wants to bring in at least one first class central defender. If Márquez would also go, that would mean a second player should be transferred for that position, although it is not impossible that a new coach could use French left back defender Eric Abidal (28) in the centre.

Barcelona's first choice was apparently Ezequiel Garay (Racing Santander - 21). It is believed that a deal with Santander was already found in the beginning of the year but that everything didn't went through in the end because of financial reasons (read more here and here).

At this moment Fabricio Coloccini (Deportivo - 26) seems to be the first option and an agreement between all parties could be found in the coming weeks. Gerard Piqué (Manchester United - 21) is another player who probably has been contacted. Blocked in Manchester, the Catalan defender could return to Barcelona in the summer.

Other players that have been mentioned are Marco Materazzi (Inter Milan - 34), Lúcio (Bayern Munich - 29), Federico Fazio (Sevilla - 21), Martín Cáceres (Recreativo - 21), Daniel Jarque (Espanyol - 25) and Samuel Llorca (Elche - 22).

Read all How things stand contributions here or read the contribution about:
Goal keeper - Right back defender - Central defenders - Left back defender - Defensive midfielder - Attacking midfielders - Wing attackers - Centre forward

Formal offer for Hleb

Vincenzo Morabito, the agent of Arsenal midfielder and Belarusian international Aleksandr Hleb (27), has said in an interview with Italian radio station Teleradiostereo that Barcelona has submitted to Arsenal an important bid for the player: "There is a formal offer of Barcelona for Hleb. Barcelona likes the player a lot and already made a first approach back in February."

The agent suggests that Barcelona is leading the race for the player: "In Italy, Inter is the club who wants him the most, which proves the value of a player like Hleb. He is not always recognized like other players but he has a very important role in the team. If Inter wants the player, they will nevertheless have to speed up, cause at this moment Barcelona has a serious advantage."

Hleb has a contract with Arsenal until 2010 and it is expected that he could leave for a transfer price of around 15 million euro°.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the agents of Hleb will start talking with Arsenal about the player's future in the coming days. Barcelona could know by the end of the week if Arsenal is willing to sell the player and to accept Barcelona's offer for Hleb, who could become the first signing for the new season.

Read more:
Hleb agent confirms Barcelona interest
Hleb to strengthen Barcelona midfield
Hleb wants to stay

Poulsen punished for meeting with Barcelona

Sevilla midfielder and Danish international Christian Poulsen (28) has been left out of the squad for this weekend's game against Real Valladolid. Since the player is not injured and although the player has denied the rumour, it is believed that the club wants to punish the player for a meeting with Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain earlier this week (read more here) while Sevilla had asked the players to focus on the last games of the season and to set personal things aside.

Asked about a possible meeting, Sevilla president José María del Nido said yesterday that he could not say anything about it: "I know everything what has happened but I cannot deny or confirm that Poulsen has met with a representative of Barcelona. I do can tell you that they have not talked with us, in the first place because they know that I don't talk about players before the season ends. In any case, I don't think the meeting was with Txiki, cause he is dealing with other things."

Catalan sports paper Sport says that Barcelona is not interested in Poulsen. The only Sevilla player they want to transfer is right back defender Dani Alves and to keep good relations with Sevilla the club is very careful not to approach other players. Barcelona officials would therefore have denied that a meeting with Poulsen took place and that Begiristain was working in Barcelona on Wednesday and did not travel to Sevilla that day.

Read more:
Meeting with Poulsen
Poulsen deal under lock and key
First Poulsen contact

Van der Vaart to lift up midfield scoring

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Hamburg midfielder and Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart (25) is high on the Barcelona list and could become the offensive and scoring midfielder the club is looking for. Barcelona is already following Van der Vaart for several years and he was already close to joining Barcelona in 2006.

Over the last months Hamburg has declined several offers from European top clubs for Van der Vaart but the player, whose mother is Spanish and comes from a 'culé' family, would like to set another step in his career and prefers to leave for the Liga. Van der Vaart's contract with Hamburg, the club he joined in the summer of 2005, expires in 2010 and the Dutchman is rejecting all renewal proposals.

Hamburg would be holding on to a transfer price of 20 million euro°, although it has been rumoured that a clause in his contract allows Van der Vaart to leave in the summer of 2009 for only 1,5 million euro°, which could lead the German club to try selling the player this summer. Van der Vaart is represented by Turkish player's agent and intermediary Bayram Tutumlu who has a good relationship with Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain.

Madrid sports tabloid As says that the transfer of Van der Vaart is strongly supported by Barcelona unofficial adviser Johan Cruijff and that Getafe manager Michael Laudrup, who is one of the candidates to replace Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard, would have asked to sign Van der Vaart.

Read more:
Van der Vaart to replace Ronaldinho
Barcelona sightseeing for Van der Vaart
The Poulsen problem: Bayram Tutumlu

Sylvinho wants an extra year

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that the renewel negotiations with Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (34), whose contract expires in June of this year, are still ongoing.

The Barcelona technical staff is satisfied with the performances and the attitude of the Brazilian player and wants him to stay next season. Despite the player admitting two weeks ago that he had received and would accept the one-year renewal proposal (read more here), the talks about the conditions could not yet be finished. While Barcelona is offering Sylvinho to renew for one year, the player would prefer to stay two more years at Barcelona. It is nevertheless expected that an agreement will be reached soon.

Read more:
Sylvinho accepts renewal offer
Renewal offer for Sylvinho
Sylvinho had to stay

Youth: Gai Assulin

Catalan sports papers El Mundo Deportivo and Sport claim that Barcelona B left wing attacker Gai Assulin (17) will be part of the first team squad as of next season. The good performances of Bojan and Giovani would have convinced the Barcelona technical staff to not needless lengthen the stay of talented youth academy players with Barcelona B (read more here).

Gai Assulin was born in Israel and came to Barcelona four years ago. Since the end of last year, Gai is playing with Barcelona B in the Spanish fourth division. Last september he made his senior debut with the first team in the semi-final of the Copa Catalunya. Six weeks ago, he made his debute with the senior Israeli national team. In August last year, Gai signed a three year contract with Barcelona, that includes a buyout clause of 20 million euro°.

Read more:
Youth: Jonathan Dos Santos
Youth: Miralem Pjanic (Metz)
Youth: Jozy Altidore (Red Bull New York)

Read more on Gai Assulin here

Henry contacts Chelsea

British tabloid The Daily Express claims that representatives of Barcelona forward and French international Thierry Henry (30), whose contract with Barcelona runs until 2011, have made a first contact with Chelsea. Barcelona admits that the transfer has been a mistake and is willing to let the player go if a good offer comes in.

Henry prefers to leave for a London club because this would give him the possibility to spend more time with his two-years old daughter Téa. Because his relationship with Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has cooled, a return to Arsenal seems unlikely. Henry would now like to team-up with his fellow compatriote Nicolas Anelka. Although Chelsea is somewhat concerned about the age of the Frenchman, Henry is seen as one of the main candidates to replace forward Didier Drogba if the latter would leave in the summer.

Read more:
Henry wants to return to England
Could Henry return to Arsenal?
Premier League clubs circling around Henry

Friday 2 May 2008

Giovani close to Manchester City loan deal

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona and Manchester City are holding talks on Barcelona right wing attacker and Mexican international Giovani Dos Santos (18). Due to the friendship between Manchester City manager Sven-Göran Eriksson and Pini Zahavi, the agent of the player, the English club has been following Giovani for a while now.

The negotiations are well-advanced and there seems to remain only one major obstacle: while Barcelona just wants to loan the player out for one season, Manchester City wants to include an option to buy the at the end of next season. The Mexican youngster would be aware that he needs more playing time to keep making progress and would therefore be ready to accept a loan deal and move for one year to the English Premier League.

Giovani Dos Santos would be one of the Barcelona players for whom the club is receiving the most offers. Inter Milan would be one of the other clubs interested in the Mexican winger. Italian football site Il Reca claims that the Italian champion would be willing to let São Paulo forward and Inter loan out Adriano (26) join Barcelona on loan to make a transfer of Giovani possible.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona wants to keep Giovani and would only consider to let him go if that would be necessary to make an incoming transfer financially more attainable (read more here).

Read more:
Father Giovani confirms Manchester City
Giovani four more years
Inter willing to pay Giovani buyout clause

Meeting with Poulsen

Spanish local radio station Radio Sevilla claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain met on Wednesday at the 'El Boticaria' hotel in Alcalá de Guadaira (near Sevilla) with Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen (28) and Bayram Tutumlu, the Turkish go-between who brought Poulsen to Sevilla (read more here).

Poulsen, whose contract expires in 2009, would be one of the main candidates to strengthen the Barcelona midfield. The Danish international, who has a tense relationship with his club because the player is rejecting all offers to renew his contract, has a buyout clause of 10 million euro°.

Read more:
Poulsen waiting for a free transfer
Deal with Poulsen
Bigger club but lower salary for Poulsen

Gudjohnsen could be the first to leave

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona has contacted a go-between who should look for a club that wants to transfer Barcelona attacker and Iceland international Eidur Gudjohnsen (29).

The intermediary has already started with the job and is almost exclusively focusing on the English Premier League. With several English clubs having already indicated that they are interested in the player, it looks like Gudjohnsen could be one of the first players to leave Barcelona by joining a new club before the month of May ends.

Read more:
Gudjohnsen has many offers
Newcastle interested in Gudjohnsen
Gudjohnsen not thinking about leaving

Personal agreement with Alves

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Sevilla right back defender and Brazilian international Dani Alves (24) has reached a total agreement with Barcelona after negotiations between Barcelona officials and the player's agent. The player has informed his club that he wants to leave for Barcelona.

It seems like the Brazilian right back will be able to leave Sevilla this summer, although things are difficult to predict when dealing with someone like Sevilla president José María del Nido. If Sevilla does not qualify for the Champions League, Sevilla would certainly find itself in a tougher position to keep Alves, both for sports and financial reasons.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona and Alves have closed a five-year deal. The player would triple his current salary. Sevilla president Del Nido would have agreed to start talking with Barcelona. A first meeting between both clubs did nevertheless not yet take place but Barcelona president Joan Laporta has already sent his Sevilla colleague a fax containing a formal offer.

Read more:
Deal with Alves
Sevilla president denies Alves offer
Deal with Sevilla on Alves

Eto'o not giving credits to exit rumours

Asked about his future at the club, Barcelona forward Samuel Eto'o (27) has said at a press conference that he wishes to stay and is confident to win more trophies: "I have a contract and if you look at the players we have, I think the team can do great things. I believe in this team."

The Cameroonian international, whose contract expires in 2010, nevertheless said the club should do what it deems necessary: "Txiki and Laporta are my bosses, they should do what they think is best for the club. The club is bigger than whatever player or whatever person. I am just an employee, it's the club who should make the decisions. But I'm not at all worried by the rumours in the press about me having to leave."

Catalan sports paper Sport meanwhile also claims that Barcelona is willing to listen to offers coming in for the Cameroonian striker (read more here). But the club would only be ready to let Eto'o go if they would receive a very high transfer fee and would be able to sign a first class goal scorer to replace him.

Read more:
Eto'o for sale
Berbatov in exchange for Eto'o
Eto'o could be Fenerbahçe star transfer

Porto's Lucho Gonzalez to replace Deco

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is interested in Porto midfielder Lucho González (27). The Argentinian international, whose contract expires in 2011, could be the ideal successor of Barcelona midfielder Deco.

Last summer, Porto achieved full ownership of the player in an operation that made González the most expensive player the Portuguese club ever signed. If González would leave this summer, it is expected the player will not leave the Portuguese champion for less than 25 million euro°.

Read more:
Deco plays it hard
Deco out? Lampard in
Deco out? Diego in

Messi repeats he will stay

Asked about the rumours on a serious renewal of the squad and about his future, Barcelona right wing attacker and Argentinian international Lionel Messi (20) has said during a charity act organized by a Spanish bank at the Godó tennis tournament in Barcelona that he does not have any plans to look elsewhere in the summer: "I am, sincerely and obviously, not thinking about leaving Barcelona. I don't know what will happen with some of my team-mates, but I want to stay here. And those who stay will have to start from scratch. But first we have to finish this season. Next year, we will see who will be here and what will happen."

Read more:
Messi wanted by European top clubs
Inter president still likes Messi
Messi to stay for life

Thursday 1 May 2008

How things stand: Right back defender

(a few weeks before the end of the season, Barça Transfer Zone looks forward to the coming transfer summer making an analysis for each position, in part 2 we look at the right back defender)

With Belletti joining Chelsea in late August, everything was clear at the start of the season: Gianluca Zambrotta (31) would act as regular with Oleguer Presas (28) as his back-up.

Consecutive injuries of Oleguer caused the return of captain Carles Puyol (30) for more than ten official games to the place where he started his first team career. It even looked for a while like Puyol would become the first-choice right back, with Márquez replacing him in the centre. An injury of the Mexican could have prevented this from happening.

Italian international Zambrotta, whose contract expires in 2010, is almost certainly returning to his home country in the summer. A deal with AC Milan seemed close (read more
here and here), but the difficult negotiations on a transfer of Ronaldinho could postpone the final agreement. Milan seems to offer between 5 and 7 million euro° for the player. There have also been rumours about Juventus and Inter Milan.

Being a good team player, Oleguer is probably not very high on the Barcelona exit list. But if the player would like to leave to have more playing time, the club would not prevent that from happening. After being linked with Lazio Roma and Wolfsburg during the January transfer window, a few weeks ago there were claims about
Ajax wanting to sign the Catalan defender on loan.

With Zambrotta on his way out, one of the main tasks in the coming transfer window is the transfer of a top right back defender. The first choice for this position is undoubtedly
Dani Alves (Sevilla - 24). If Sevilla wants to sell this time, the player is not expected to leave for less than 30 or even 35 million euro°.

Second choice is Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich - 24), whose contract with Bayern expires in 2009 and who is not planning to sign a renewal. If Bayern accepts the full back to leave, the transfer price is expected to be between 9 and 15 million euro°. Lahm can also play as left back defender.

Other players that have been mentioned are
David Cortés (Getafe - 28), Rafinha (Schalke 04 - 22), Emmanuel Eboué (Arsenal - 24), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich - 31) and Maicon (Inter Milan - 26). Central defenders Fabricio Coloccini (Deportivo - 26) and Gerard Piqué (Manchester United - 21) and defensive midfielder Stéphane Mbia (Rennes - 21) have also experience on the right back position.

Read all How things stand contributions here in the coming weeks or read the contribution about:
Goal keeper - Right back defender - Central defenders - Left back defender - Defensive midfielder - Attacking midfielders - Wing attackers - Centre forward

Guardiola backed by board but not by fans

Although Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain said yesterday in an interview with the official club television channel Barça TV that Rijkaard has done "an extraordinary job" in the last five seasons and that he is "a man of the club", it seems almost certain that current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) will leave the club at the end of the season after the Chamions League elimination on Wednesday. This has been confirmed today by Jil van Eyle, a personal assistant of Rijkaard, on his Teaming blog. Which means that the final discussion on his successor is breaking loose.

All media seem to agree that Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) is being backed by the majority of the Barcelona board. Guardiola knows the club inside out and stands for an attacking, dominant way of playing. The former Barcelona captain has the strong support of Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Barcelona president Joan Laporta.

Madrid sports tabloid As even claims that Guardiola is already planning for next season under the supervision of Begiristain and is composing the new squad together with former Barcelona player Luis Enrique (37) and José Ramón Alexanko (51), the head of the Barcelona youth academy, who would act as his assistants.

The board is nevertheless divided on the issue and it is expected that the debate could be reopened in the coming days. Some board members believe that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45) is the best candidate to replace Rijkaard because he would bring organization and a strong hand to the team. They would now try to put the name of the Portuguese back on the table during a board meeting on Thursday, one day after the match against Real Madrid.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that a third candidate is Villareal manager Manuel Pellegrini (54) cause of his experience, his handling of the Riquelme case and his choice for quality play. The paper estimates that the chances of Guardiola to become the next Barcelona manager are 50 per cent, the chances of Mourinho 30 and those of Pellegrini 20.

An opinion poll by Catalan television channel TV3 meanwhile indicates that around 80 per cent of the Barcelona fans would not support the choice of Guardiola. Catalan sports paper Sport says that the club itself is monitoring all kinds of polls to know the opinion of the fans. Mourinho is generally having a wide lead on all other candidates. Former Barcelona player and manager Carles Rexach supports Guardiola but thinks that the board has put his name out there to know the opinion of the fans and the press before they make a final decision.

As claims that the results of several polls have made Guardiola doubt if he should accept the job or not. El Mundo Deportivo says that Guardiola would have preferred another season with little pressure but that he could not say ‘no’ if the formal offer comes. Francesc Aguilar, sub director of El Mundo Deportivo, relaunched today the idea of making Guardiola the assistant of Mourinho.

Read more:
The race to the bench
Board member leaked Guardiola preference
Principal agreement with Mourinho

What are we looking for?

With the speculation about who could leave comes the speculation about which positions should be strengthened and which players could join Barcelona.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo says that Barcelona wants to bring in young players who want to prove themselves on the highest level at Barcelona. The number of transfers will depend on the players who will leave but Barcelona plans to buy at least six new faces, amongst which a right back defender, a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a left winger and a centre forward. Sevilla right back Dani Alves (24) and Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) are on top of the wish list, but given their transfer fee both will be very hard to get.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona has put aside 120 million euro° for the renewal of the squad. Barcelona's technical staff has compiled a list of 40 players from which the incoming transfers will be chosen. The club is now focusing on six positions: goal keeper, right back defender, central defender, midfielder, winger and centre forward.

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain told in an interview with the official club television channel Barça TV that the team has lacked "effectiveness, intensity and unity" along the current season and especially in the daily work at the club. He also especially pointed out the lack of goals: "There are deficiencies that cause that you don't score, not enough speed in the box, no long-range shots..."

Begiristain announced that the club is preparing for next season and that several negotiations are ongoing. Barcelona will look for players who can give an immediate result and who should have a well determined profile: "Ready for the job, a sure value in their current club, mentally strong, who have the capacity to lead the team on the pitch."

Read more:
The four Barcelona summer objectives
The search of Txiki
A look at the coming transfer summer

The exit lists

With the Champions League elimination the planning of Barcelona's next season has now definitely taken a start. In the club but also in the press. Catalan sports papers Sport and El Mundo Deportivo and Madrid sports tabloid As have published lists of players who will or could leave in the summer transfer window. Some of these stories will be further developed on this blog in the coming days.

Have to leave: Ronaldinho, Zambrotta, Thuram, Edmílson, Deco, Ezquerro, Gudjohnsen
Could leave: Henry, Márquez, Sylvinho

El Mundo Deportivo
Have to leave: Thuram, Edmílson, Ezquerro, Pinto, Ronaldinho, Zambrotta, Gudjohnsen
Could leave: Deco, Eto'o, Márquez, Henry, Oleguer, Giovani

Have to leave: Ronaldinho, Henry, Zambrotta, Márquez, Gudjohnsen, Deco, Ezquerro, Edmílson, Thuram
Could leave: Sylvinho

Read more:
A look at the coming transfer summer
Who could go?
Major squad reshuffle coming up

Deco can leave

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona midfielder Deco (30) has been informed by the club that they will listen to offers coming in for the player.

Although the club positively evaluated his participation in the Chamions League semi finals, a renewal in midfield is deemed necessary. And with Iniesta and Xavi being untouchable, Deco would be the one who has to leave. A transfer of Deco could also bring in an important sum of money that could be used to reinvest in the new squad. If the club won't receive a good bid, the Portuguese player could nevertheless stay.

Asked about a possible summer exit, Deco said in an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that he does not plan to leave after this season: "Playing for Barcelona always has been a dream for me and I'm not thinking about leaving the club. I rejected a lot of offers from other clubs because this is the club I dreamt playing for. There are people who already wanted me out three years ago but I'm not even thinking about that."

Read more:
Deco plays it hard
Which Milan for Deco?
Deco could be new Bayern star transfer

Rijkaard co-favourite to coach Manchester City

British newspaper The Times claims that Barcelona manager (45) is, together with Portuguese national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, on top of Manchester City's wish list. Rijkaard and Scolari are being lined up as high-profile candidates to succeed Sven-Göran Eriksson when the latter is sacked by Manchester City at the end of the season. Russian national team coach Guus Hiddink and Croatia national team coach Slaven Bilic are also option that are looked at.

Although Eriksson has achieved the objective of a top-ten finish this season, Manchester City president Thaksin Shinawatra is understood to have told him that he is not the man to take the club forward during talks on Sunday, prompting the Swede to inform his players at a meeting the next day that he would be dismissed after ten months in the job. Eriksson, who has two years left on his contract, has said that he will not resign himself.

Read more:
Rijkaard co-favourite for Chelsea job
Rijkaard candidate for Mexico
Rijkaard wants to finish Barcelona job

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Offer for Boca Juniors striker Palacio

Argentinian news agency Télam claims that Barcelona has made an offer for Boca Juniors forward Rodrigo Palacio (26). Sevilla and Chelsea would also be interested in the forward but Palacios has declared in the past that he prefers to go to Spain. Last season, the Argentinian international was rumoured for several months to be close to joining Barcelona.

Roberto Depietri, the agent of Palacios, returned from Spain this week and discussed the offer with Boca Juniors president Pedro Pompilio. Sources close to the Boca board assure that the club and the player agreed that he will be able to leave this summer. Boca Juniors vice president José Beraldi said the club will make no statements on the issue until the end of the Clausura competition and the Copa Libertadores.

Boca Juniors ownes almost 70 per cent of the player's rights. His former club Banfield is owner of 17,5 per cent and the rest belongs to Horacio Paladino, Palacio's first agent.

Read more:
Guiza agent confirms Barcelona interest
Deal with Coloccini
Barcelona can talk with Amauri

Deal with Coloccini

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Barcelona has recently reached a personal agreement with Deportivo La Coruña central defender and Argentinian international Fabricio Coloccini (26).

Barcelona will now have to find a deal with Deportivo, who has promised Coloccini that he can leave this summer. While Deportivo president Augusto Lendoiro was asking last summer a transfer fee of 9 million euro° for the player who has a contract until 2011, it is now expected that the player will leave for a price between 12 and 15 million euro°.

The tabloid claims that Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) was Barcelona's first choice but that the option was rejected after the player got injured earlier this year. In the end, the Barcelona technical staff chose Coloccini cause of his speed, his strength in one-on-one situations, his scoring ability and the fact that he can play on the right and on the left.

Asked about the new rumours, Coloccini denied at a press conference that there is already a deal: "One always tries to make progress and reach the top in the world of football. And at this moment, Barcelona is amongst the best teams in the world. But I'm playing for Deportivo and I have to have respect for the shirt that I'm wearing. All of this are rumours: there is no break-through and nothing is certain."

The Argentinian defender made clear that all he wants now is to focus on his current club, who can still qualify for the Champions League, and that he will not talk with his agent Marcello Lombilla until the season is over: "And my agent cannot close a deal without contacting me to give the final yes or no."

Read more:
Negotiations with Coloccini to start soon
Coloccini story unfolding
Rivals in the field for Coloccini

Berbatov in exchange for Eto'o

British tabloid Evening Standard claims that Tottenham is preparing to offer Barcelona a swap deal: Tottenham forward Dimitar Berbatov (27) would join Barcelona if Barcelona forward Samuel Eto'o (27) would come the other way. Both players have two years left on their contract.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos has started to plan for next season without taking into account his Bulgarian striker, who has expressed the wish to play in the Champions League next season. Ramos is uderstood to have told close friends last week that he expects Berbatov to join Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Although Tottenham hoped to receive 32 million euro° for Berbatov, the club is now considering to negotiate a deal with Barcelona and take Cameroonian international Samuel Eto'o in exchange. Valencia forward David Villa would be the back-up in case the Eto'o deal fails.

read more:
Eto'o for sale
First talks between Eto'o and Tottenham
Barcelona keeping an eye on Berbatov

Rijkaard feels exit coming

Asked if his dismissal could be the solution to the problems of his team, Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) left all options open at a press conference after the Chamions League against Manchester United: "Conclusions will have to be drawn after the season. By myself and by the club. Barcelona is a big club and they have people who will make decisions. Now it's no the time to talk about this. I don't think about leaving the club at this moment. Another thing would be if the players would say that they want me to go."

Read more:
Decision on Rijkaard in May
Barcelona president wants to retire with Rijkaard
No second year without a trophy, Frank

Alves can leave this summer

Spanish news site El Confidencial claims that Sevilla right back defender Daniel Alves (24) will be able to leave in the summer.

The Brazilian international would have closed a verbal agreement with Sevilla president José María del Nido, who refused to let go Alves last summer despite the fact that Chelsea and real madrid both offered 35 million euro°: Alves can leave, Del Nido will be more flexible in the negotiations with other clubs but the player should let the president do the talking and not interfere in the negotiations by declarations in the press.

Given the fact that Barcelona right back defender and Italian international Gianluca Zambrotta (31) is likely to leave in the coming transfer window, Barcelona seems to be the number one candidate for the transfer of Alves. Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan would be the other candidates. Any agreement is not likely to be reached before August.

Read more:
Deal with Sevilla on Alves
Alves repeats exit wish
Deal with Alves

Marquez will stay

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that the Barcelona board does not want to sell Barcelona central defender and Mexican international Rafael Márquez (29) in the summer.

The main reason for this decision would be commercially inspired: Barcelona will shortly open a youth academy in Mexico and the fact that Márquez, who is very popular in his home country, wears the blaugrana shirt could make the academy attract more and better players.

Read more:
Milan also wants Marquez
Marquez wants to stay
Inter is monitoring Marquez

Tuesday 29 April 2008

How things stand: Goal keeper

(a few weeks before the end of the season, Barça Transfer Zone looks forward to the coming transfer summer making an analysis for each position, in part 1 we look at the goal keeper)

Until today, Víctor Váldes (26) has played every official game except for four. Albert Jorquera (29) played one Spanish cup game and one Champions League game, Barcelona B goal keeper Oier Olazábal (18) played one Spanish Cup game and Celta Vigo loan out José Manuel Pinto (32) made his debut last Saturday in the Liga game against Deportivo.

Having had the habit over the last years to only have two goal keepers in the squad of the first team, Barcelona made a strange move earlier this year when they renewed Jorquera, whose contract expired in June, for two more years (read more here), while at the same time taking an option to buy Pinto, who was brought in on loan after Jorquera got injured last December (read more here).

Barcelona, who paid Celta 500 000 euro° for the loan deal, has to decide before the end of May if they want to make the loan deal permanent, something Barcelona would not have to pay one euro extra for. If the two-goal keepers-for-the-first-squad theory is not changed, it seems nevertheless logical that Barcelona will not use the option they have on Pinto if Jorquera recovers in time, despite claims that Pinto could well stay (read more here).

Although the two (or even three) available places seem to be filled, there are regularly rumours about new goal keepers that could be transferred to rival Valdés as Barcelona's first choice goalkeeper. Names that have passed in the last months are Petr Cech (Chelsea - 25), Manuel Neuer (Schalke - 22), Thomas Sörensen (Aston Villa - 31), Jussi Jääskeläinen (Bolton - 33) and Júlio César (Inter Milan - 28).

A new goalkeeper nevertheless does not seems a priority at this moment, which leads to think that the money in the first place will be used to strengthen other positions in the team and that Barcelona will start the next season with Valdés as regular and Jorquera (and/or Pinto) as his back-up.

Read the other How things stand contributions here in the coming weeks:
Goal keeper - Right back defender - Central defenders - Left back defender - Defensive midfielder - Attacking midfielders - Wing attackers - Centre forward

Blanc would like to coach Barcelona

Asked about the rumours linking him to Barcelona as a possible successor of current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (read more here), Girondins Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc (42) has said in an interview with Catalan radio station Ona FM that he would like to coach Barcelona and suggests that his football philosophy would fit perfectly with the tradition at the club: "I want to play in an attacking way. From the goal keeper to the centre forward, everyone should take part in trying to create chances to score. Even when that means the opponent will more likely score against you. The important thing is to score one goal more yourself."

The former Barcelona central defender admitted that he probably needs to gain some more experience to coach a European top club (read more
here): "Because this is only my first season as a manager, I might still lack some experience to coach a big team. However, if I were given the responsibility, I would confront it with a lot of professionalism."

Read more:
Mourinho or Blanc
Transfer history: Laurent Blanc
Blanc is in the race too

Deco plays it hard

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Barcelona will again try to sell Barcelona midfielder Deco (30) in the summer. Besides his disappointing performances on the pitch, the club doesn't like the way of being and acting of the player, who is also still being linked with former Barcelona sports vice president Sandro Rosell.

Deco has told people of his entourage that he's having a great time in Barcelona and that he only will consider leaving if his new club would offer him a four-year contract and the same salary he's getting at this moment: 5 million euro°. If that's not the case, Deco plans to stay until his contract expires in 2010.

The weekly paper claims that Barcelona already wanted to let go Deco, who has a buyout clause of 75 million euro°, last summer. The club received many offers, but the Portuguese international only wanted to join his former Porto manager José Mourinho at Chelsea. No agreement could be reached with Chelsea because the English club did not want to pay the transfer price Barcelona was asking nor the 6 million euro° year salary that Deco wanted to receive for each of the three years he would be playing in England.

Read more:
Milan also wants Deco
Deco wants to stay
Inter and Juventus rival for Deco

Transfer history: Francescoli

While telling that he was close to joining Barcelona back in 1986 when he was coaching Scottish club Aberdeen (read more here), Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson also explained in the same interview with British tabloid The Sunday Express that Barcelona kept in touch the following years and that they asked his advice when the club was considering the transfer of Uruguayan playmaker Enzo Francescoli. Given the time indications it can be assumed that this happened in the late eighties.

Enzo Francescoli (47), the childhood hero of former FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane, is the most legendary Uruguayan player of the last decades. In 1986 he came to Europe and played for three seasons with French club Racing Club de Paris. After one more year at Marseille, he left in 1990 for the Italian league, where he played with Cagliari and Torino.

Read more:
Transfer history: Alex Ferguson
Transfer history: Zinedine Zidane
Youth: Diego Polenta (Danubio)

Rijkaard co-favourite for Chelsea job

Asked about his plans for next season, Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) did not want to pronounce on his future at Barcelona in an interview with Catalan television channel TV3 and said that the issue will be discussed with the board after the season: "I am very motivated and at this moment I just want to finish what we have been working for. The club has always supported me a lot but we will have to look at what is best for Barcelona."

British tabloid The Daily Star meanwhile claims that Rijkaard is, together with Russian national team coach Guus Hiddink, the favourite to replace current Chelsea manager Avram Grant (read more here). Even if the Israeli coach would win the Premier League title or the Champions League, it is likely that Grant, who is not popular with the players or the fans, will be offered another job at the club when the Chelsea board will decide on his future in the summer.

Read more:
Chelsea wants Rijkaard
Decision on Rijkaard in May
Rijkaard brother denies Chelsea

Monday 28 April 2008

Inter president still likes Messi

Asked about the rumours linking Inter Milan forward and Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic (26) with a move to Barcelona, Inter president Massimo Moratti laughed away the rumours suggesting he would maybe consider an exchange with Barcelona right wing attacker Lionel Messi (20): "Ibrahimovic to Barcelona? That's all fantasy. There is no doubt that Zlatan will stay with us next season. He's a great player, so he's followed by big clubs, but he will not move from here. I also like Messi, but that does not mean anything."

Read more:
Messi wanted by European top clubs
Inter president wants Messi at any price
Messi closes Inter door

Eto'o for sale

Spanish football weekly paper Don Balón claims that Barcelona president Joan Laporta has decided to put Barcelona forward and Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o (27) for sale in the summer. Barcelona is tempted by the idea of starting a new era with a clean sheet. The new team would be built around Iniesta, Messi and Bojan.

Several reasons are mentioned for the decision to sell Eto'o. His declarations of last week about wanting to leave if the club doesn't win a trophy next year (read more
here) were - once again - not appreciated by the Barcelona board nor by his team-mates. Nor by the fans, who never really have connected with Eto'o like they have done or all still doing with players like Ronaldinho or Messi.

Some people also suggest that Eto'o, due to several serious injuries over the last two years, has lost that extra pace and strength that he had before and will therefore never be the same decisive player he once was. His performances in the last Champions League games (no more goals after the group stage) could support this thesis. Selling the Cameroonian forward would also result to be an economicly lucrative operation which would allow Barcelona invest more in the new team.

All this leads Barcelona to be willing to listen to offers coming in for Eto'o during the summer transfer window. Chelsea and Tottenham would be considering to make a bid.

When discussing the transfer of Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric (read more here), Tottenham manager Juande Ramos said in an interview with Croatian sports paper Sportske Novosti that he needs players like Modric and Eto'o to close the gap with the English top-four clubs Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool: "You cannot do anything overnight, I'm setting up a project for the next five seasons. For great achievements you need great players like Eto'o and Modric, who we have just signed."

Don Balón claims that Eto'o is not at all considering to leave Barcelona this summer. The player would nevertheless have asked his agents to sound out the market to know more about the transfer price European top clubs would be willing to pay for him.

Read more:
Eto'o wants to win trophies
First talks between Eto'o and Tottenham
Eto'o could be Fenerbahce star transfer

Expensier Capel stays on the list

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Sevilla left winger and Spanish youth international Diego Capel (20) is still on the Barcelona transfer list for the summer.

Because Capel, who spent one year in the Barcelona youth academy (read more here), played last weekend his fourtieth official game with Sevilla, his buyout clause automatically rised from 12 to 15 million euro° (read more here).

Read more:
Looking for a left winger
Capel buyout clause on the rise
Capel has madridista background

Ronaldinho is Barcelona history for Rijkaard

Asked about the future of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28), Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard talked in an interview with Catalan television channel TV3 as if the decision on an exit of the Brazilian has already been taken: "I hope that when he leaves Barcelona, he will be able to again show the world what a great player he is."

Rijkaard said Ronaldinho should be given the opportunity to play the last home game of the season: "If he's fit, he has to play the last game and have the possibility to say farewell to the fans. We have to focus on the things he has represented for Barcelona and this cannot be forgotten. I for sure will never forget all the things he has done for the club."

Read more:
Ronaldinho is learning Italian
Premier League clubs back in for Ronaldinho
Ronnie's week: Barcelona-Milan

Inter willing to pay Giovani buyout clause

Italian football site Il Reca claims that Inter Milan is interested in Barcelona right wing attacker and Mexican international Giovani Dos Santos (18). The contract of Giovani with Barcelona would expire in 2009 and because the parties cannot find an agreement on a renewal, Barcelona wants to sell the player in the summer.

Inter president Massimo Moratti dreams about linking Dos Santos with Inter youngster Mario Balotelli. The Italian club would therefore be willing to pay the buyout clause of 30 million euro°. Chelsea is also interested in Dos Santos.

Read more:
Giovani not thinking about leaving
Father Giovani confirms Manchester City
Giovani four more years

Sunday 27 April 2008

Sylvinho will accept renewal offer

Catalan sports paper Sport repeats today that Barcelona has offered Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (34), whose current contract expires at the end of this season, a one-year contract renewal (read more here). The Brazilian defender will accept the renewal (read more here).

The paper claims that the Barcelona technical staff had put Sylvinho last season on the list of players who had to leave in the summer of 2007. Because no agreement with another club could be reached, Sylvinho in the end stayed at the club.

Read more:
Sylvinho accepts renewal offer
Renewal offer for Sylvinho
Sylvinho willing to renew

Ronaldinho is learning Italian

Like could have been expected, the transfer of Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho (28) probably won't be resolved soon and seems on its way to become the transfer story of this summer.

The negotiations between Barcelona and AC Milan has apparently reached a dead point after a conference call last Saturday where there appeared to be a serious difference between offer and demand. Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Barcelona was asking 50 million euro° for both Ronaldinho and Barcelona full back Gianluca Zambrotta (31), while Milan would only be ready to pay 20 million euro° for the two players.

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi (on Italian radio station Radio Radio), Milan vice president Adrino Galliani and Milan adviser Ernesto Bronzetti (on Italian television channel RAI Sport) kept repeating all week long that Barcelona is asking far too much. Galliani even threatened to cancel the negotiations and to focus on other players if Barcelona would not accept Milan's conditions. Bronzetti said that Barcelona is initially always asking the double of their real target. Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti, who sent his son to Barcelona last week to hold talks with Barcelona representatives on Ronaldinho, also joined in and agreed with the Milan officials.

Barcelona is keeping a total silence on the negotiations, but on Wednesday Barcelona economic vice president Ferran Soriano hit out at the Milan negotiation tactics in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1: "This habit of always running to the press and negotiating through indirect statements is a style of last century. In the 21st century things can be done with more discretion. We certainly won't play that game."

Catalan sports paper Sport reported that Galliani nevertheless was in Barcelona on Wednesday and negotiated with Barcelona president Joan Laporta after the Champions League game against Manchester United. Italian sports paper Il Corriere dello Sport claims that Milan has changed its attitude and would now be willing to accept a fixed transfer price plus important variables based on matches played and goals scored by Ronaldinho and trophies won by Milan.

Meanwhile, Italian newspaper La Repubblica claims that Ronaldinho is already learning Italian, with the help of Zambrotta and of his friend Mimmo, a Napoli restaurant keeper who acts as private cook to Ronaldinho and his family. There you have the one responsible for that belly...

pep's opinion:
With Ronaldinho at this moment in my opinion worth somewhere between 25 and 30 million euro, and Zambrotta between 7 and 9 million euro, I consider 35 million euro for the two a correct price. With of course, in the case of Ronaldinho, important variables so Barcelona also gains if Ronaldinho would get back on his top level.

Read more:
Ronaldinho agrees terms with Milan
Ronnie's week: Barcelona-Milan
Ronaldinho to Milan: principal agreement

Crosas in exchange for option on Benzema

It is generally believed that Barceloan sports director Txiki Begiristain is trying to put Barcelona in the best postition for the day that Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) will be put on the market (read more here). Catalan sports paper Sport reports that Olympique Lyon midfielder and Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) could play a important role in attaining that goal.

Lyon wants to transfer the Catalan midfielder on a permanent deal (read more here) and the paper claims that Barcelona would be ready to offer crosas for free to Lyon, if the French champion would be willing to confer Barcelona an option to buy Benzema in the future.

When the loan deal on Crosas was negotiated last January, Begiristain aleready tried to include an option on Benzema (and on Olympique Lyon left wing attacker Hatem Ben Arfa (21) - read more here) in the deal, something that was back then rejected by Lyon.

Read more:
First contact with Lyon on Benzema
Lyon wants to buy Crosas
Ben Arfa could be left-wing back-up

Guiza agent confirms Barcelona interest

Nuria Bermúdez, the wife and one of the agents (together with Félix Moneo) of Mallorca forward Dani Güiza (27), has confirmed in an interview with Italian football site Tutto Mercato Web that Barcelona is one of the clubs that is following the Spanish international (read more here): "I think it will be difficult for Daniel to stay in Mallorca, since also a big club like Barcelona has now shown interest."

At this moment Güiza wants to focus on finishing the season with Mallorca before taking a look at the offers that are also coming in from countries like Italy, England or Russia: "There has not yet been an official contact between Mallorca and interested clubs, no formal offer has been made. In a few weeks time, my husband and I will evaluate the different possibilities together with my business partner."

Dani Güiza played before for Barcelona B on loan from Recreativo Huelva. In the first half of 2003, he scored 5 goals in 15 matches in a team with current Barcelona players Víctor Váldés, Albert Jorquera, Oleguer Presas and Andrés Iniesta, who came close to the promotion to the Spanish Second Division. Güiza, a declared madridista, nevertheless has always said that Barcelona didn't treat him well by not giving him a real chance.

Read more:
First talks with Guiza

Board member leaked Guardiola preference

A few weeks ago Catalan television channel TV3 brought the news that the Barcelona board had decided not to go on with Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45) and that he would be replaced at the end of the season by Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) (read more here). Based on reports in Catalan sports paper Sport and Catalan sports weekly paper Gol, this blog can give a reconstruction of the events.

During a board meeting in the last week of March (before the Liga game against Betis Sevilla and the first leg of the Champions League quarter final against Schalke 04) the future of Frank Rijkaard was discussed. The option to dismiss the Dutchman immediately if Barcelona would not qualify for the Champions League semi finals was mentioned and there was a discussion about who could replace Rijkaard in that case until the end of the season (read more

The name of Guardiola was put forward by a majority of the board members but in the end it was agreed to let Rijkaard continue and finish the season to not prematurely burn Guardiola (read more here). The former Barcelona captain could then take over in the summer.

At the end of the meeting it was explicitly asked that the Guardiola option would not yet become publicly known. But not even a week later the whole board discussion was already in the media (read more here and here), which infuriated Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who felt betrayed.

Laporta got to know that it was one of the board members who had been talking to TV3 and at the next board meeting two weeks later, the president locked everyone in the room and said that nobody would leave before he knew who had filtered the Guardiola story to the press.

It was board member Evarist Murtra who stepped up and admitted his mistake, saying that he had been betrayed himself by a friend. Murtra put his function at the disposal of the club. In the end everything was cooled down withoug big decisions.

Read more:
Could Guardiola be the emergency solution?
Guardiola takes Mourinho's pole
Will Rijkaard finish the season?

Crosas goes French / 22

Olympique Lyon played yesterday 2-2 against Caen at home. Three games before the end of the league, Lyon stays on top of the French Ligue 1 with a four point lead on second placed Bordeaux. Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) started on the bench and stayed there for 90 minutes.

Read everything on the performances of Marc Crosas in Lyon here

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