Saturday 31 May 2008

DEBATE: Goal keeper

With the renewal of Pinto it seems that the Barcelona goal will next season be defended by the following three players: Víctor Valdés, José Manuel Pinto and Albert Jorquera.

What do you think about this trio? Valdés is the number one out of these three? The renewal of Pinto is a good thing? You would have prefered that Valdés had to leave? You think they should have brought another goal keeper in? If so, was it really a priority on which the club should have spend serious money? Who would you want to see as Barcelona goal keeper?

Olympiacos holding talks with Ezquerro

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Greek champion Olympiacos is interested in signing Barcelona left winger Santiago Ezquerro (31).

Olympiacos and Ezquerro are holding contract talks and the only remaining problem would be the salary demands of the player. The negotiations are going on.

The contract of Ezquerro at Barcelona expires in June and with Barcelona not planning to offer the wing attacker a renewal (read more here), the player is free to negotiate with other clubs. Former Espanyol manager and Barcelona player Ernesto Valverde was appointed as new Olympiacos manager on Wednesday (read more here).

Read more:

Swap deal including Toure and Hleb looked at

British tabloid The Daily Star claims that Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25) could be joining Arsenal as part of the deal that takes Arsenal midfielder Alexander and Belarus international Alexander Hleb (27) to Barcelona.

Arsenal is asking 20 million euro° for Hleb and with Seydou Keita able to cover for Touré, Barcelona would have offered to include Touré in the deal to seriously reduce the transfer fee (read more here). Future Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola is quoted by the tabloid as saying: "Hleb is a man that I desire by his characteristics in the field. He would be a huge success in Barcelona."

After Barcelona reached an agreement with the player earlier this week (read more here) and since Arsenal seems to have accepted the exit of Hleb, it is believed that the two clubs are now negotiating on the transfer fee. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Arsenal is asking between 15 and 18 million euro° for the Belarussian.

Read more:

Guardiola's staff

While it is believed that a deal has been reached earlier this week with future Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola (37) (read more here), it is also generally excepted that Barcelona B assistant coach Tito Vilanova will continue to be Guardiola's right hand next season (read more here).

The main lines of Vilanova's contract were also agreed upon this week. Josep Maria Orobitg, the agent of Guardiola, informed Vilanova on the talks on Wednesday evening and the assistant will most probably give his agreement shortly.

The composition of the rest of the coaching staff is not yet clear. Bulgarian newspaper Meridian Mach claimed last weekend that former Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov (42) had accepted an offer to become an assistant of Guardiola. This news was not confirmed and Stoichkov would now be negotiating with Red Star Belgrade to become head coach.

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Guardiola has suggested the appointment of Real Sociedad manager Juan Manuel Lillo (42) (picture), who has a very close relationship with Guardiola, as assistant but that this was vetoed by the Barcelona board (read more

The club thinks that Lillo has a poor track record. But most of all, during the election process of 2003, both Guardiola and Lillo were part of the candidacy of Lluís Bassat, then the main rival of Laporta. Letting the duo Guardiola-Lillo take charge of the team would be like admitting that the Bassat project was in fact the right one.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims nevertheless that Lillo could be added to the coaching staff when the competition in Segunda División ends next month. Catalan sports paper Sport claims that there simply won't be a second assistant coach next season.

Sport says that current goalkeeping coach Juan Carlos Unzué (41) would be willing to continue, although he could also accept an offer by another club to become head coach. Barcelona B goalkeeping coach Carles Busquets (40) is a valid alternative for Guardiola.

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Guardiola has rejected the continuation of Unzué, despite attempts of Barcelona officials to convince the new manager. Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Guardiola wants to take Busquets with him and doesn't want to give in to the pressure from the club to keep Unzué on board.

In the physical department it is expected there will be some serious changes, but all of this is yet to be confirmed.

Although no official announcement has yet been made, it is generally believed that former Barcelona player Luis Enrique will replace Guardiola as manager of Barcelona B (read more
here). This week, Luis Enrique has been following some training sessions of the team.

Fernando Hierro, sports director of the Spanish football association, confirmed earlier this week that Luis Enrique will not accept his offer (read more
here) because he has chosen to coach Barcelona B next season: "After a few meetings, Luis Enrique has in the end taken the decision to accept the offer of Barcelona. His motivation and the possibility to stay with his family in Barcelona have been decisive."

Read more:
Who will assist Guardiola?
Deal with Guardiola
Luis Enrique to coach Barcelona B

Atletico Madrid confirms Marquez interest

Asked about the rumours linking the player with his club, Atlético Madrid sports director Jesús García Pitarch has admitted that Barcelona central defender and Mexican international Rafael Márquez (29) is on Atlético's summer transfer list (read more here).

In an (unconfirmed) interview with Madrid sports tabloid Marca, Pitarch explained that Márquez is a player that Atletico could make an approach for with Atlético manager Javier Aguirre having put the name of his compatriot forward:

"Aguirre has put Márquez's name to us, that is true. We have a plan to buy a defensive midfielder and if possible one that can also play in the centre of defence. On the table at the moment we have various names and Márquez is one of them."

Read more:

Barcelona could pay Sergio Garcia buyout fee

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona could pay next week the buyout fee of Zaragoza forward and Spanish international Sergio García (24) (read more here).

Future Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola would have contacted García over the last week to say he's counting on him for next season. The Barcelona youth product, who played last season regularly as right winger, would be delighted by this chance to return and will accept any concrete offer.

Zaragoza nevertheless says they don't need to sell players and point to the buyout clauses of their players. In the case of Sergio García, the buyout fee would be 20 million euro°. Barcelona sold the player three years ago to Zaragoza for 1,5 million euro°.

Catalan sports paper Sport meanwhile claims that Valencia signed a few weeks ago a deal with Zaragoza, giving Valencia the first option on Zaragoza players Sergio García and Alberto Zapater in case Zaragoza was relegated, something that has happened in the meanwhile. Garcia has also been linked to Atlético Madrid.

Read more:

Edmilson's last interview

Former Barcelona midfielder José Edmílson gave an exclusive goodbye interview to the club's official media. Some quotes:

How does it feel now that your time at Barcelona is over?
"The truth is that I am a bit sad about leaving a great club, I am happy to have won two league titles and the Champions League. I have had four very good years here. The last two have not been good in terms of results, but I think that we can look back on many good things during my time here."

What will you remember most about the club?
"I will keep my friends, my team-mates, the people that I have known in Barcelona and at the club. The best part about being in the club is the people you work with every day."

What do you remember about the Champions League final?
"The main thing I remember is when Belletti scored, I was on the bench and I saw the two kit men hugging and they fell on the floor in the rain."

How have you and your family felt in the city?
"Very well. The truth is that my young daughter was born in Barcelona. We are very pleased to have experienced life her. The people took to us very well. We were here for four years and I even bought a house so that when I retire we can come and live in Barcelona. My wife and my daughters all really like it here."

What does Barça mean to you?
"When you see the motto 'mès que un club' it is difficult to describe what it means. It is a feeling of the city and of a nation. I have talked to many fans in the street and they have told me that if the team loses they do not eat or sleep well. At times, it is difficult for a player to understand this and when you come from a smaller club the feeling is very different and you have to adapt to the philosophy. Despite that, my experience with the national team has helped. In Brazil during the World Cup, the people live the football every day."

Read the whole interview
Read the full Edmílson transfer story

Read the first Keita interview
Read the first Piqué interview

Cortes back-up for Alves

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola is interested in Getafe right back defender David Cortés (28) (read more here).

Since Oleguer and Puyol are no natural right back players, Cortés is seen as the ideal back-up for Sevilla defender and Brazilian international Dani Alvés. The Getafe defender can also play at the left back position and is that way also an option in case Barcelona would decide to accept a good offer that could come in for Abidal or Sylvinho.

Read more:

Lazio considering Thuram offer

Italian sports paper Il Corriere dello Sport claims that Lazio Roma president Claudio Lotito is thinking about a transfer of Barcelona central defender and French intenational Lilian Thuram (36).

Lazio is considering to offer Thuram a one-year deal with an option for a second year. Thuram could be willing to think about accepting the the offer since he would like he idea of ending his career in Italy, where he played ten years for Parma and Juventus

The contract of the French defender expires in June and will not be renewed, for which he can leave for free this summer. Thuram has already stated he wants to keep on playing (read more here).

Read more:

Euro 2008: Italy-Belgium (friendly)

In preparation of the Euro 2008, the Italian national team played yesterday an international friendly game against Belgium. Italy won the match by 3-1.

Gianluca Zambrotta played 90 minutes: the first half as left back defender, the second half as right back defender.

Read more about Euro 2008 here

Friday 30 May 2008

Deal with Silva

Spanish local newspaper Las Provincias claims that Barcelona has reached a principal agreement with Valencia left winger and Spanish international David Silva (22).

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain met with Amadeo Rengel, the agent of the player, on Wednesday night and the deal was closed. Barcelona would pay Silva a year salary of 2,2 million euro°, the double of what the player is currently earning.

Barcelona will now have to contact Valecia with a first formal offer. Rengel would possibly act as go-between in the negotiations between the two clubs. Catalan sports papers Sport and El Mundo Deportivo claim that Barcelona wants to close the deal with Valencia as soon as possible because Silva is expected to play a good Euro 2008, which could make other teams join the race and lead to a price increase.

Valencia nevertheless does not seem to be in a hurry. And despite the rumours about the club having financial problems,Valencia does not want to let players go on the cheap. Valencia sports director Juan Sánchez said yesterday to journalists that the club did not yet receive an offer for Silva: "If an offer comes in, we'll look at it. If David would have to leave one day, an important fee will have to be paid."

Valencia chief executive Jesús Wollstein even went a step further today: "David Silva is a key player for our project and is untransferable." This was confirmed by Valencia president Agustín Morera who hopes Silva will end his career at Valencia but added that all offers will be looked at by the sports director and the manager.

Negotiations are nevertheless expected to start in the coming days with a first offer by Barcelona. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the first bid would be 15 million euro°, with that proposal probably being raised to 18 million euro°. Valencia would consider 20 million euro° as being an absolute minimum.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona does not want to pay more than 20 million euro°. Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona has already made an informal offer of 20 million euro°, but that the answer from the entourage of Valencia was negative.

Silva has a buyout clause of 90 million euro°. Las Provincias claims that Valencia would nevertheless be ready to let the player go for a transfer fee between 35 and 40 million euro°, Madrid sports tabloid As talks about 35 million euro°.

Read more:
Intense contacts on Silva
Silva first choice for left wing
Looking for a left winger

Transfer summer 2008: Overview


Seydou Keita
former club: sevilla
age: 28

country: mali

official announcement: monday 26 may
contract duration: 4 years
transfer fee: 14 million euro
note: barcelona pays the buyout fee which means paying an extra 16 per cent vat (2,2 million euro)

Gerard Piqué
former club: manchester united
age: 21
country: catalunya, spain

official announcement: tuesday 27 may
contract duration: 4 years
transfer fee: 5 million euro (+ 2 million euro variables)

José Manuel Pinto
former club: celta vigo
age: 32
country: spain

official announcement: friday 30 may
contract duration: 2 years
transfer fee: 0 euro
note: the contract can be cancelled by both parties after one year, pinto played for barcelona on loan since january, when barcelona paid celta 500 000 euro


José Edmílson
new club: villareal
age: 31

country: brazil

barcelona player since: summer 2004
barcelona contract until: summer 2008

official announcement: friday 23 may
contract duration: 2 years
transfer fee: 0 euro
note: the contract of the player expired

OFFICIAL: José Manuel Pinto

Barcelona has announced today that the loan deal with Barcelona goal keeper and Celta Vigo loan out José Manuel Pinto (32) has been made permanent. Celta Vigo has confirmed the news.

The statement on the official website of Barcelona reads: "FC Barcelona have exercised their right to buy José Manuel Pinto from Celta Vigo and informed the Galician club of their decision to make his move to Camp Nou longer on Friday. The right to buy had to be exercised before May 31 and was agreed upon when the loan deal was signed with Celta on January 17. Barça paid €500,000 for Pinto in the January transfer window. The player will now sign a two-year contract with FC Barcelona, even though on June 30, 2009 either side can break it."

Read more here

Trezeguet is still an option

Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Barcelona has contacted Juventus to ask for Juventus forward David Trezeguet (30) (read more here). The Serie A club would have rejected to even sit around the table to talk about a possible transfer of the French striker.

Antonio Caliendo, the agent of Trezeguet, has said in an interview with French sports paper L'Equipe that Barcelona has been contacting him: "Barcelona is interested in David, they have been for years. And there is some uncertainty in Barcelona about the attack. Eto'o could for example leave. We'll see what happens."

Read more:
Barcelona wants Trezeguet
Zambrotta doesn't exclude Juventus return
Transfer history: Trezeguet

Ex-Barça: Henk ten Cate dismissed by Chelsea

Former Barcelona assistant coach Henk ten Cate (53) has yesterday been dismissed by English Premier League club Chelsea, who he joined in October last year as assistant to manager Avram Grant. The Chelsea manager had to leave the club last weekend.

The dismissal was announced in a statement on the club's offcial website saying: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm we have terminated Henk Ten Cate's contract today. This follows a meeting this morning. As a result of the team management changes at Chelsea FC, and in the light of any forthcoming appointment, it was clear this was the correct decision for all parties."

Henk ten Cate was the first assistant of Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard between 2003 and 2006. He arrived from Dutch club NAC Breda where he was head coach. Three years later, Ten Cate left Barcelona to become the manager of Ajax Amsterdam. With Barcelona, Ten Cate won two consecutive Spanish league titles in 2005 and 2006, ons Spanish super cup in 2005 and one Champions League in 2006.

Read more:

Renewal for Pinto

Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio was yesterday the first to bring the news, but meanwhile all media agree that Barcelona goal keeper and Celta Vigo loan out José Manuel Pinto (32) will continue next season.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona officials reached yesterday a principal agreement with Juan Maraver, the agent of Pinto. Barcelona has offered the player to renew for one year, with an option for a second year. It is expected that the new contrtact will be signed in the coming days.

The uncertainty about the recovery of Jorquera, the attitude and the performances of Pinto since he arrived in Barcelona in January, his experience and the zero cost of the operation are said to have been key elements in the decision. Barcelona does not have to pay Celta anything for the goal keeper (read more here).

The renewal of Pinto means that the search for a new goal keeper is stopped (read more here). Barcelona will next season have three goal keepers in the first team squad: Víctor Valdés (26), José Manuel Pinto (32) and Albert Jorquera (29). Valdés will most probably be the first choice, while the other two will have to compete for the place on the bench.

Read more:
Renewal offer for Pinto

Barcelona is following Dutch League striker

Asked about the rumours linking the player with several Italian clubs, amongst which Inter Milan, Luca Pelizzon, one of the agents of AZ Alkmaar forward and Belgian international Moussa Dembele (20), said in an interview with Italian football site Tutto Mercato Web that also Barcelona is following the player:

"He's a great talent and is being followed by Barcelona and English teams. He plays as second striker, his main qualities are his speed and his technical ability. And he's very strong."

Read more:

Euro 2008: Italy squad

Italy national team coach Roberto Donadoni has named his squad for Euro 2008. Barcelona full back defender Gianluca Zambrotta (31) is included in the list.

Italy, who were drawn into Group C along with France, the Netherlands and Romania, will play their first match of the tournament on the 9th June, against the Netherlands.

Look for the Barcelona link in the squads of Portugal, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Turkey

(Barça Transfer Zone will follow the performances of the Barcelona players at the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland)

Giovani agrees terms with Tottenham

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona right wing attacker and Mexico international Giovani dos Santos (19) has reached a personal agreement with English Premier League club Tottenham (read more here).

Tottenham now hopes to close a deal with Barcelona soon. The first formal offer by the English club of 8 million euro° has been rejected by Barcelona. With Inter Milan also interested in the player (read more here), Barcelona thinks that they can get a higher fee.

British tabloid The Sun meanwhile claims that everything has already been agreed upon and that the Mexican attacker will move to Tottenham for a transfer fee of 15 million euro°. Inter Milan and Manchester City would have tried until last night to persuade Pini Zahavi, the agent of Giovani, to make the player change his mind.

Giovani would have met a first time with Tottenham officials in London back in January and would then already have been convinced by their proposal. Barcelona offered Giovani the chance to move on loan but the player has rejected that option (read more here).

Read more:

Galatasaray prepares bid for Gudjohnsen

Turkish sports paper Fotomaç claims that Turkish champion Galatasaray is interested in Barcelona attacker and Iceland international Eidur Gudjohnsen (29).

Gudjohnsen is quoteed as saying that he knows and likes Istanbul and that he would like to play in Turkey. The player nevertheless points out that he has a acontract with Barcelona until 2010 and that the clubs hould come to an agreement. Galatasaray would be preparing a 2,5 million euro° offer for the player.

Read more:
Portsmouth and Newcastle in race for Gudjohnsen
Gudjohnsen's price tag
Gudjohnsen top target for Bundesliga newcomer

Pique's first interview

New Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué gave an exclusive interview to the club's official media. Some quotes:

How have these four years changed you as a footballer? Is it a different Piqué to the one who left 17 years ago?
“Yes, of course I’m different. I am still the same person, but a lot of things have changed personally and professionally. Living alone, going to a foreign country, being in a squad with a different culture, it makes you grow up and learn new things. And there were a lot of stars in the squad, the team has just won the European Cup and playing with them helps you to learn and grow up a lot.”

You have played with Messi. Are you excited about playing with him again?
“Yes, yes. I remember when we were young and wondering if we could do this professionally. What he does now is what he always did, and it was and will be a pleasure to be with him.”

Will your experience at Zaragoza help?
“Yes, of course. English and Spanish football are different in terms of characteristics and the playing style and you do need to adapt, I know that. I already know a fair bit about what football is like here.”

Have you spoken to Milito?
“Yes. He got injured and we spoke, he’s a great player. We became good friends at Zaragoza, we used to room together and we understood each other, he is a magnificent person. I hope he recovers quickly because he is a basic element of the team.”

Some of the fans don’t know much about you. How would you define yourself?
“1.90, very tall. I play well up front, I can play at centre back or in midfield, I like to play the ball from the back, that’s what they taught me at Barça.”

Where can you still improve?
“You can always improve whatever your age. At 21 I have experience, but need more. Work with both feet, left and right. There are always tactics and skills to learn. The best players are still learning when they are 35.”

Read the whole interview here

Read the first Seydou Keita interview here

Euro 2008: Turkey squad

Turkey national team coach Fatih Terim has named his squad for Euro 2008. Former Barcelona goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber (35 - Besiktas - 2003-2005) is included in the list.

Turkey, who were drawn into Group A along with Switzerland, Czech Republic and Portugal, will play their first match of the tournament on the 7th June, against Portugal.

Look for the Barcelona link in the squads of Portugal, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and France

(Barça Transfer Zone will follow the performances of the Barcelona players at the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland)

Thursday 29 May 2008

Deal with Guardiola

Although the club did not yet confirm the deal, all Spanish and Catalan media agree today that Barcelona and Josep Guardiola (37) have reached an agreement on the contract of the future Barcelona manager (read more here).

After two days of intense negotiations, Josep Maria Orobitg, the agent of Guardiola, closed the deal yesterday afternoon with Barcelona sports vice president Marc Ingla, Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Barcelona general director Anna Xicoy.

Former Barcelona captain Guardiola will sign a two-year contract as Barcelona head coach. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the incentives are an important part of his wage structure. If Barcelona wins the Liga, the Champions League and the Copa, Guardiola would receive half of his fixed year salary as bonus.

The contract is not yet signed, but that's expected to happen in the coming days. Guardiola will nevertheless not be officially presented at a press conference until the end of the promotion play-offs that Barcelona B is currently playing (read more
here). Once Guardiola has been presented, the same will happen with the players who will then already be transferred, starting with Seydou Keita and Gerard Piqué.

Read more:

Next season's eleven

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place and that it looks like this could be the Barcelona XI next season:


Alves - Puyol - Cáceres - Abidal

Hleb (or Xavi) - Touré - Keita

Messi - Adebayor -
Iniesta (or Silva)

Read more:
Next season's squad

Roma wants to swap Mancini for Abidal

Italian sports paper Il Corriere dello Sport claims that AS Roma is preparing a swap offer for Barcelona.

With Roma winger Alessandro Mancini (27) not wanting to renew his contract that expires in 2009, Roma wants to sell the Brazilian this summer. The Italian club is now thinking about offering the player to Barcelona and ask for Barcelona left back defender and French international Eric Abidal (28) in return.

Abidal is seen by the Italians as the ideal candidate to fill up the left back position next year. The French defender should nevertheless be willing to accept a salary cut.

Read more:

Euro 2008: France squad

French national team coach Raymond Domenech has named his squad for Euro 2008. Barcelona central defender Lilian Thuram (36), Barcelona left back defender Eric Abidal (28) and Barcelona forward Thierry Henry (30) are included in the list.

France, who were drawn into Group C along with Italy, the Netherlands and Romania, will play their first match of the tournament on the 9th June, against Romania.

Look for the Barcelona link in the squads of Portugal, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany

(Barça Transfer Zone will follow the performances of the Barcelona players at the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland)

Hleb wants to win trophies

Arsenal midfielder and Belarusian international Alexander Hleb (27) reacted on Tuesday in an interview with German website Spox to the rumours linking him with a summer move (note: this interview was given before the yesterday rumours about a verbal deal with Barcelona).

Hleb didn't deny he could leave but he said he did not made a public statement that he wants to leave: "I also read that, but I didn't say that. I've also read that i want to leave because Arsenal doesn't win trophies, but that's nonsense. I actually don't want to talk anymore about the subject, cause Arsenal is too important to me. But if I'll go, then I'll play in another league. In England, for me there's only Arsenal."

The Arsenal player, who spoke about his admiration for manager Arsène Wenger, said he really wants to win trophies: "Trophies are the most important thing. You can play very well, you can be one of the best players ever, but after your career everyone asks you what you have won. And the clock is ticking but it is simply not happening. It is very difficult. This year I thought that I would win two titles, but in the end everything went wrong."

Hleb, who said that former Barcelona player Cesc Fàbregas is one of his three best friends at Arsenal, pointed out that in his opinion Barcelona player Lionel Messi is at this moment the best player in the world: "I like everything he does. He's such an elegant player. My heart starts to bounce when I see him play. I think I cannot say it in a better way."

Alexander Hleb didn't want to comment on the statements of his agent Nikolai 'Niki' Spilevski, who was quoted last weekend by British tabloid The Sun as saying: "I can officially confirm that a short time ago Alexander decided that he will leave Arsenal and join another club. Alexander wants a change of scene. That had a large part to play in his decision. I can't tell you anything about where he will be playing yet. Talks are under way, and I don't have the right to make them public. I think that the issue of his new club will be clarified in the next few days."

Madrid sports tabloid Marca meanwhile claims that Barcelona and Hleb agreed on a four-year deal (read more here). Arsenal would be asking between 15 and 18 million euro° for the player and is hoping for a bid race between Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Read more:

Keita's first interview

New Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita gave an exclusive interview to the club's official media. Some quotes:

What can Keita bring to Barça?
“Everything. I’m a defensive midfielder and I hope to be able to help win back possession, to add work rate and also in attack, as I’ve done this year with Sevilla”.

It’s said that you’re the complete midfielder. What do you think are your main characteristics?
“Well I’m certainly a defensive midfielder and in that position I like to defend and help out my team-mates. But I’m also lucky enough to score the occasional goal, I’m pretty comfortable on the ball as I’ve played a bit in an attacking midfield role. But the most important thing for me is the desire to win and fight for the team. When there’s desire, everything is possible”.

The Barça style is more attacking and with more possession. Do you think you’ll adapt easily to this?
“I think so because a team like Barça needs to have possession but it also needs to defend well and I think I can help the team a lot in this aspect. I’ve seen Barça play loads of matches. In addition, there’s Touré Yaya, who I know pretty well and who plays in midfield. I hope to give my all and help to defend well. As well as attacking you have to defend well and that’s why there has to be a balance. I hope to adapt rapidly to the system at FC Barcelona.”

Do you know any of your new team-mates?
“Yes. I know Abidal, Eto’o and Touré Yaya well. I also met Xavi briefly, when we both played in the under-20 World Cup. I also know Ronaldinho and some of the other players a bit”.

Read the whole interview here

Renewal offer for Pinto

Spanish local newspaper El Faro de Vigo claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain has offered Barcelona goal keeper and Celta Vigo loan out José Manuel Pinto (32) a one-year renewal offer.

Pinto, who still has two years left on his Celta contract, is considering the offer and will give Barcelona a reply in the coming days. If he accepts the offer, Barcelona will not have to pay an extra fee to Celta since the option to buy Pinto 'for free' was included in the 500 000 euro° loan deal (read more here).

Although Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain told at a press conference last week that Pinto would not be offered a renewal (read more here), Pinto said in an interview with Barcelona sports paper Sport yesterday that no final decision on his future had been taken yet: "I know that the club is talking with my agent and the rumours that I won't stay are not true. Nobody has said to me that I will not continue, the negotiations are still ongoing. I know that the club is satisfied with my work but I think that they have other priorities at this moment. I would sure like to stay longer."

Pinto came on loan to Barcelona in January to replace substitute goal keeper Albert Jorquera who got injured. Despite only having played three games, he says that his time in Barcelona has been "an incredible experience" on a personal level.

Read more:

Barcelona has first option on Guiza

Asked about the rumours linking the player with Barcelona, Félix Moneo, the agent of Mallorca forward and Spanish international Dani Güiza (27), has said in an interview with Spanish local radio station IB3 Ràdio that Barcelona is the priority of the player:

"Dani Güiza has informed me that he would like to return to Barcelona. Of course a lot of things should be talked about, but this kind of means that Barcelona has the first option to reach an agreement. Apart from the financial issue, the most important thing for Dani is the football project and the city where he's going to live. I think Barcelona is one of the clubs with whom we most easily could find a deal."

The agent thinks money won't be the problem for the interested clubs: "Right now, Dani Güiza is the cheapest scoring striker on the market. He has a buyout fee of 15 million euro°, that's right. But who else can say he has scored 27 goals in the Liga, none from a penalty, playing for a team like Mallorca?" Moneo added that he lately has received offers from Turkey and from many European clubs and that he and the player would like to sort things out in the next two or three weeks.

Güiza meanwhile said to Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo that he now wants to focus on the European Championship: "I have told my agents that they should not disturb my preparation for the tournament. If there's something important, they should tell me. If not, they shouldn't be talking the whole time about the subject. The most important thing right now is the national team."

Read more:
Guiza considered to be a good buy
Guiza willing to return to Barcelona
First talks with Guiza

Ex-Barça: Ernesto Valverde to Olympiacos

Former Barcelona forward Ernesto Valverde (44) has yesterday been appointed as new manager of Greek champions Olympiacos. On Monday, Valverde had announced that he would leave Espanyol Barcelona this summer.

Arriving in 1988 from city rivals Espanyol, Ernesto Valverde played two seasons for Barcelona. Although Barcelona manager Johan Cruijff liked the player, Valverde could not play himself into the first team due to injury problems. In 1990 he left Barcelona for Athletic Bilbao. With Barcelona, Ernest Valverde won one European Cup Winners' cup in 1989 and one Spanish cup in 1990.

Read more:

Read all Ex-Barça stories here

Meeting with Inter president on Ibrahimovich

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti met in a restaurant in Barcelona on Tuesday to talk about the transfer market.

While Inter forward and Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovich (26) would be Barcelona's first choice for the centre forward position, Inter seems interested in Barcelona midfielder Deco (30), Barcelona forward Samuel Eto'o (27) and Barcelona right wing attacker Giovani Dos Santos (19). It has been agreed that the parties while meet in the coming weeks and months on a regualr basis to discuss a solution that can be satisfactory for all parties.

Sport claims that the alternatives for Ibrahimovic are, in that order, Arsenal forward and Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor (24) and Tottenham forward and Bulgarian international Dimitar Berbatov (27) (read more here).

Spanish radio station Onda Cero claims that the two presidents met on Wednesday to talk about the transfers of Deco and Eto'o.

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Euro 2008: Germany squad

German national team coach Joachim Löw has named his squad for Euro 2008. Former Barcelona goalkeeper Robert Enke (30 - Hannover - 2002-2004) is included in the list.

Germany, who were drawn into Group B along with Austria, Croatia and Poland, will play their first match of the tournament on the 8th June, against Poland.

Look for the Barcelona link in the squads of Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands

(Barça Transfer Zone will follow the performances of the Barcelona players at the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland)

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Looking for a centre forward

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo gives today a general update on the transfer activity surrounding the centre forward position.

With Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema (20) not going to leave his club this summer (read more here), Barcelona's top target is at this moment Arsenal forward and Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor (24). He's the favourite choice of future Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola. Arsenal would be willing to let the player go for 30 million euro°.

The number two on the list would be Tottenham forward and Bulgarian international Dimitar Berbatov (27). The player wants to leave his club and Tottenham seems to have accepted that and is ready to cooperate. The transfer fee would be around 25 million euro°.

Chelsea forward and Ivory Coast international Didier Drogba (30) would not be seen anymore as a real option cause of his age and some reports about his physical condition. Barcelona does not want to repeat the Henry case.

Besides one of the above mentioned first class strikers, Mallorca forward and Spanish international Dani Güiza (27) could be transferred to bring more competition up front and to act as a kind of super-sub in substitution of Henrik Larsson.

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Pique's goodbye letter to Manchester United

I didn't want to say goodbye without thanking all the club personnel, including the football equipment manager, masseuses, secretaries, coaches, and especially my team mates, who have always treated me well and played a vital role in my development, both as a football player and more importantly, on a personal level.

Obviously I would have liked to play more this season, but I must say that despite some difficult decisions, the manager has always treated me in an exceptional manner, for which I am extremely grateful.

I am leaving with some very special memories: scoring a Champions League goal at Old Trafford, beating Arsenal in April on the way to winning the title and, most of all, the experience of being part of this fantastic group that won the Premier League and Champions League Double.

Finally, a special thanks to the fans for their warmth and support. I would like them to know that I will always carry United in my heart and I hope that they understand my decision to go back to my home club, FC Barcelona.

Thank you all and I hope to see you in the Champions League final next season.

Gerard Pique

Barcelona forgets about Crosas

Olympique Lyon midfielder and Barcelona loan out Marc Crosas (20) said in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that he does not have a clue of his future since Barcelona didn't yet inform him (read more here): "I have a contract for three more years but I don't know what they plan to do with me. I didn't hear anything from Barcelona, Txiki Begiristain didn't yet talked to me about my future. I know nothing. I don't even know if they still remember me."

Crosas says that Lyon wants to buy him (read more here) but that his first option nonetheless is still Barcelona: "My first option will always be Barcelona. When I'm working hard in Lyon, that's also to show that I'm capable of playing in Barcelona. But I realize that not everybody ends up in the Camp Nou. Until the 30th of June, I'm a Lyon player and normally I'll start the new season with Barça. I don't kow if it's an advantage that Guardiola will be the new coach, but he of course knows what kind of player I am. He and the sports director will decide what will happen with me."

pep's opinion:
it's very disappointing to see how a young player like crosas is treated, i suppose begiristain has a lot of work these days but nevertheless he should be able to make five minutes available to call the player, even if it's only to tell him no final decision has been taken yet and to give him a date when he'll probably know more. and even more so since he has been saying the same for weeks now. this is not the way you deal with people.

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Euro 2008: France-Ecuador (friendly)

In preparation of the Euro 2008, the French national team played yesterday an international friendly game against Ecuador. France won the match by 2-0.

Lilian Thuram and Eric Abidal both played 90 minutes. Thierry Henry was rested.

Deal with Hleb

Both main Catalan sports papers, El Mundo Deportivo and Sport, claim today that Barcelona has reached a verbal agreement with Arsenal midfielder and Belarusian international Alexander Hleb (27) .

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain travelled to Germany yesterday to meet with the player. In Kaiserlautern, where Belarus and Germany played a friendly game, he talked with Hleb about the last details and in the end the deal was closed.

With Inter Milan also being very interested in the polyvalent midfielder, Barcelona will now start negotiations with Arsenal. It is expected that Hleb could leave the Premier League club for a transfer fee of between 15 and 20 million euro°.

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Favourite Tottenham might have landed Giovani

British television channel Sky Sports claims that Tottenham has emerged as the favourites to sign Barcelona right wing attacker and Mexican international Giovani dos Santos (19) (read more here). The English Premier League club would be willing to spend 14 million euro° on the player.

British tabloid The Daily Star meanwhile even claims that the deal has already been closed. Giovani would transfer for Tottenham, who will pay Barcelona a 15,5 million euro° transfer fee.

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