FIFA 19 Ultimate Team: Kylian Mbappe, Marco Reus & Alex Sandro Steal the Show in TOTW 32

?Wednesday means one thing to FIFA 19 Ultimate Team players – it’s Team of the Week time.

At this stage of the game, most stars have already racked up plenty of high rated in-forms, so any new cards can be absolutely nuts. That’s exactly what we have here in TOTW 32.


Some of these cards look to be potential game-changers, which is always fantastic news for us fans.

Here’s our rundown of the stars of TOTW 32.


Kylian Mbappe (91)

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?Kylian Mbappe’s inclusion in the TOTW seemed almost inevitable after he netted a hat-trick against Monaco to hand Paris Saint-Germain the Ligue 1 title. He now has 30 goals in just 27 league matches, proving why many see him as a future Ballon d’Or winner.?

His new 91-rated card is utterly stunning. With 99 pace, there are few defenders who will be able to even come close to catching him, and his 93 dribbling leaves him agile enough to weave his way past anyone. Add 90 shooting to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a bonkers card.


Marco Reus (91)

Marco Reus

?Borussia Dortmund kept up their pursuit of ?Bayern Munich at the top of the ?Bundesliga standings on Sunday, largely thanks to ?Marco Reus. The forward racked up a goal and two assists in the 4-0 drubbing of Freiburg, keeping his side just one point from the top.

As a result, he’s picked up what feels like his 1,000th special card of the year. This 91-rated in-form boasts passing, dribbling and shooting stats above 90, and his 89 pace makes him a real danger. Anyone with his Headliner card will see four 90+ stats as he rises to a 92 overall.


Alex Sandro (89)

Alex Sandro

With ?Juventus looking to secure their eighth consecutive ?Serie A title, it was ?Alex Sandro who stepped up and saved the day. He netted an impressive diving header to bring his side level with Fiorentina, before an own goal handed the Bianconeri all three points.

Now with an 89-rated in-form, Sandro’s card has incredible pace, defending and physical. With 71 shooting, his card now showcases six 70+ stats, making him one of the most well-rounded cards on the game.? Like Reus, Sandro’s Headliner card will also see an extra boost as he becomes a 90 overall.


Honourable Mentions

Karim Benzema,Marco Asensio

If none of those take your fancy, there are plenty of other interesting cards in TOTW 32. ?Real Madrid’s ?Karim Benzema has picked up an 88-rated card, whilst two ?Premier League representatives have moved up to 87, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ederson both featuring.

One card which may fly under the radar is that of Al Nassr’s Abderrazak Hamdallah, who picked up an 87-rated Record Breaker card – his fourth special card of the year – after netting his 29th league goal during the week. No striker has ever hit that tally in the Saudi Arabian league since it became professional in 2007, and he becomes the first Record Breaker of the year.

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The 20 Greatest Free Kick Takers of All Time

The world can feel like a divisive place, now more than ever, but there is one thing that can bind us all together in these testing times. For at heart, we are all free kick fanatics. We all have our favourite? executors of these dead ball delights, because there are few things in football like it. A penalty? That’s just a sh#t free kick, mate. A corner? That’s just an unnecessarily hard one. 

No, out of all the set pieces we possess, the free kick is by far the most coveted, the most cherished, and by proxy, the most arduous. It takes thousands and thousands and thousands of hours to perfect this mesmeric craft. And, even then, probably thousands hours more to maintain it. 

And, as with most other art forms – and this is an art form – there are many different ways to execute a free kick, and thus many proponents worthy of celebration.

You can thwack it with untethered power, like, say, a verité filmmaker seeking to out some hard-hitting truths, you can caress it with curl, using the patience and panache of an impressionist painter, or you can sneak it along the floor and under the wall, like an internet writer finding a way to organically reference ‘Game of Thrones’ that doesn’t come across as coat-tailing for clicks.

And you can do a whole lot more, too. The point is: free kicks, they’re great! And, while it seems like every James Ward-Prowse under the sun can hit one top bins these days, there are still only a select few who truly warrant the label of Maester… I mean master (did it work?). 

Here are 20 of the best.


20. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

It’s always worth reiterating, because all football fans are preternaturally riddled with short-term memory loss, Zinedine Zidane was an absolute CHEVRE. And, his CHEVREness extended to many facets of the game, including this here speciality. 

Unfortunately, in his capacity as a CHEVRE at one of the CHEVRE teams, he played with many a player who will come to occupy a place on this list, but when he could muscle himself over a set piece, sacre bleu, it was almost always magnifique.


19. Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola scores second goal

The first of a *spoiler alert* three-man Tricolore, Gianfranco Zola made free kicks fun. Never one to truly thwack it from a set piece situation, and even when he did, the exertion always seemed minimal. 

That was Zola. The definitive cult hero is the sixth greatest executor of free kicks in Serie A history, and translated that success to ?Chelsea to great effect. The best way to sum up his free kick style would be to say that every single goal has a look of whipped ease that can only otherwise be found on apps such as Flick Kick Football.


18. Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero

It’s like splitting hairs when comparing Del Piero and Zola, but the nod goes to Del Piero for his superior ?Serie A record (by two) as well his unerring confidence in his own dead ball ability, having recently told ?Gazzetta dello Sport that he would still beat Cristiano Ronaldo in a mano-a-mano free kick battle. 

I rate that.


17. Roberto Baggio

Fiorentina v Brescia X

The Divine Ponytail was a jack of all trades, and master of most – especially those that required the most honed of techniques and unbridled ingenuity.

Sure, he may be best remembered for blazing a penalty over the bar – though, as revealed ?here, that wasn’t completely his fault – but, if the world was a fairer place, and positivity was preyed upon with the same eagerness as negativity, his prowess from the spot – be it inside the box or otherwise – would be the principal takeaway.

His creativity knew no bounds, and that certainly didn’t stop when he lined up a shot with a wall of players assembled in front of him.


16. Gheorghe Hagi

FUSSBALL: EURO 1996 ROM - FRA 0:1

Yeh, what was said about Zidane, but even more acutely, because Gheorghe Hagi was Romanian, and hasn’t yet won the three requisite Champions League trophies it takes to sufficiently maintain your CAPRA (GOAT in Romanian – see you didn’t even know!!) status as a former star turned manager.

The Maradona of the Carpathians (CAPRAthians) may have been more famed for his wandering runs, but he couldn’t half hit a free kick either, possessing both might and precision in his armoury.


15. Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo

An extension of that initial Il Tricolore, we have Andrea Pirlo, which seems fitting, considering the Italian’s storied obsessions with bettering himself from set pieces, which ultimately meant elevating himself above those aforementioned compatriots.

Speaking in his autobiography ‘I Think Therefore I Play‘ (the greatest footballing autobiography title of all time?), the midfielder admitted: “The best ideas come about in moments of total concentration … My own Eureka moment arrived when I was sat on the toilet. Hardly romantic, but there you go.

That Eureka moment had been that Juninho Pernambucano‘s inimitable technique was actually somewhat imitable, as long as you used three toes instead of five at the moment of impact. Using this as a platform, he moulded it to his own unique feet, crafting the ‘Maldetta’ – his signature free kick – which translates to ‘The Cursed One’.

With 43 goals coming from it, I think it worked.


14. Pele

FRANCE-PELE

What??!?!?!? Pele?!?!??! Only 14th?!?!?!?

Well, yeh. Some aggregators may have him at second in the all-time free kick scorers list (with 70 goals), but how many of those came as part of the 526 he scored in unofficial games and coordinated friendlies? We don’t know.

Even more pressing than that, though, is the fact I have received many a Pele lecture in my life, most of them justified, but not one has leaned on the player’s set piece prowess. #sorrynotsorry.


13. Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos

Here’s where that Pele placing gets tricky, because at least the guy actually scored a few.

Roberto Carlos’ only scored 26 free kicks at club level throughout his career, and his ?La Liga conversion rate was 4.5%.The thing is, though, that fails to take into account all of the international thunderbolts (as a lot of these stats do), the most important of which being THAT mind-bending effort against France. 

He may not have been consistent, but he was always unbelievable. 


12. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

Make no bones about it, this man will rise.

But, for now, it’s a testament to ?Lionel Messi’s unbending desire to improve on what many would describe as perfection, year in, year out. Because it feels like the Argentine has only become a free kick master in the last few years and yet he already has 42 goals for club and country.

Oh, and his La Liga conversion rate (8.5%) is better than Carlos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Esteemed company, as you’ll find out. 


11. Jose Luis Chilavert

Jose Luis Chilavert of Paraguay

Nothing to see here, just a Paraguayan goalkeeper perfecting his craft at the 2002 World Cup. 

The second highest scoring keeper in the history of the world is probably most famous for scoring the only ever custodian hat-trick ever recorded, but they all came from the penalty spot, so we’ll skip over those and head to his free kick exploits, because they were just as impressive.

His most impressive, you ask? Well, in 1996 he scored from inside his own half against River Plate. Yeh, seriously.


10. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo,Lucas Vazquez,Sergio Ramos,Gerard Pique,Sergio Busquets

There’s no doubt that ?Cristiano Ronaldo’s powers from the set piece spot have waned since his Manchester United years – we all remember the drought at Real Madrid – but he’s still a legacy dead ball specialist. 

And that was proved once more in last summer’s World Cup, when the Portuguese forward produced that last-gasp winner in that most pulsating of opening clashes against Spain. 

Still got it.


9. Michel Platini

WORLD-CUP-1986-FRANCE-HUNGARY

?Ok, I think I played the ‘don’t-forget-this-guy card too early’. Because, let’s be real, Zinedine Zidane has not been ousted from the GOAT conservation in the same coarse way as Michel Platini. But that’s for principally political reasons (you know, UEFA). So, here, let’s just enjoy the player. 

The thing is about those few generationally gifted players, is that they can do pretty much whatever they like on the pitch, and Platini showed this more than ever when a ball was stationary before his feet and the referee blew his whistle to allow him to strike it. 

Sure, he could bend it into the top corner if he wanted, but he seemed to prefer to tease it along the ground, under the wall or otherwise, to maximise the opponent’s hurt. Just like, I don’t know, Cersei Lannister? That’s a call back joke, which, if you didn’t read the intro, makes zero sense. Shame on you… Shame. Shame.


8. Ronald Koeman

BRAZIL V HOLLAND

?Corrr, could this guy do the business from a free kick.

Ronald Koeman, first of his name, shall be known from here on in on as: ‘Ronald Koeman, Eighth Greatest Scorer From Free Kicks Ever’.

Sure, it’s a clunky nickname, but it’s completely factual. If you want the perfect distillation of Koeman’s set piece dexterity, and it’s wild variation, then watch that stonker ?against Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final followed by that deftest of dinks ?against England in 1993.


?7. Zico

WORLD CUP-1986-FRA-BRA

You may not have heard of Arthur Antunes Coimbra, but you’ve definitely heard of Zico, his one-word moniker. One of the first true free kick specialists, he outmanoeuvred most goalkeepers armed with just his all-encompassing footballing intelligence and a two-step run-up.

Indeed, such was his ability from that range, his Brazil teammate Leonardo Nascimento de Araújo has been quoted as saying: “For us, a free kick from the edge of the penalty area was almost like a penalty. For Zico, it was almost a goal already.”

Some put his record at 62, others stretch it to 101, but one thing’s for sure, he was a master. 


6. Diego Maradona


???A definitive CHIVO if ever I’ve seen one, you might think you don’t need another lecture on the greatness of Diego Maradona, but then, have you seen the latest teaser clip from the upcoming documentary about him? Watch it, it’s right there. 

See, you’re now susceptible to all things DIEGO and CHIVO. 62 golazos from free kick range. Yes, that’s the sixth-best total.


5. Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho

?We may have used all the creative ingenuity nods too early, because this man was more creative and more ingenious than just about anybody ever. Bloody hell.

With 65 registered free kick netbusters, the Brazilian Barcelona man is the fourth-highest scorer of free kicks ever…. so why is he fifth? Well, you’ll find out.


4. David Beckham

FUSSBALL: WM QUALIFIKATION 2001, ENGLAND

??See, the thing is, Ronaldinho was a better player than David Beckham in almost every way… except for this very specific way. Despite notching one more set piece score than the Englishman, Becks’ whole legacy was built upon his delivery from free kicks/corners. 

He is also probably the owner of the most famous free kick in history (at least on these shores). I don’t even have to say which, because everybody knows. EVERYBODY KNOWS. 


3. Sinisa Mihajlovic

Sinisa Mihajlovic

A controversial character off the pitch (by that I mean almost every kind of terrible), Sinisa Mihajlovic could sure wow us with a dead ball.

No, he wasn’t as good technically as those that have come before him on this list, far from it – he was a no-nonsense centre back, FFS – but that’s what makes him so special, and what gives him the Bronze medal here. 

It’s like this: you wouldn’t call Alfonso Cuaron the greatest Cinematographer of all time (the GCOAT) just because he won an Oscar this year, because he’s overqualified in other areas, just as Maradona, Messi, Pele, Ronaldinho, Platini, Zidane and more in this list are. That’s why Sinisa gets the nod.

Not because I’m a big racist. 


2. Rogerio Ceni

Rogerio Ceni

Now that we’ve got that chat out of the way, the anointing of Rogerio Ceni as the second greatest free kick taker of all time can go ahead without distraction.

Rogerio Ceni, the greatest goalscoring goalkeeper of all time. Rogerio Ceni, scorer of 59 free kicks, the ninth best total of anyone, ever. Rogerio Ceni, the Sao Paulo hero who scored 132 goals in his career, putting himself in the ten greatest all-time scorers at the club.

Rogerio Ceni. Quite literally, a man like no other.


1. Juninho Pernambucano

Juninho of Lyon shots a free kick during...

?Who else? Seriously, who?

From everywhere you look, it’s indisputable. Juninho Pernambucano is simply the greatest free kick taker of all time. It’s not even a discussion. Is he the top scoring set piece taker in history? Yes, with 77, he is indeed. 

Did he do it with the greatest flair? You bet.

Could he do it from anywhere? Are you ?kidding?

?

That link will send you to his ‘Best Free Kicks Ever’, but, to be honest, that feels discriminatory. Just watch them all. ?Now. 


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Transfer Rumours: Varane to PSG, Coutinho to Chelsea, City Join Bruno Fernandes Hunt & More

Have we ever seen a transfer window like the one this summer is shaping up to be?

Money looks set to be thrown around all over the shop, and the landscape of the footballing world as we know it could soon change. 

Here are six rumours for you to look out for.


Real Madrid Offer Ajax Discount on Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard seemed to fall out of the spotlight almost? as quick as he entered. The ?Real Madrid starlet has spent the last season rebuilding his reputation on loan with Vitesse, and it looks like it’s worked.

?De Telegraaf claim Ajax are keen to sign him permanently, but the ?Champions League semi-finalists have refused to meet their €20m asking price. Fortunately, Los Blancos have offered them a chance to negotiate that price, and Ajax officials are keen to take them up on that.

Odegaard impressed in Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat to Ajax, and all the signs suggest he could end up at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in the very near future.


AC Milan Eye €50m Deal for Malcom as Sporting Director Meets With Agent

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?AC Milan are on the lookout for some new attacking stars to help restore the Rossoneri to their former glory. The likes of ?Richarlison and Gerard Deulofeu have been linked, but Milan want just one man – Malcom.

?Calciomercato state that the ?Serie A side are desperate to lure him away from ?Barcelona, but may have a problem meeting their €50m asking price. This is backed up by ?Gazzetta dello Sport, who add that director of football Leonardo met with Malcom’s representatives to find out whether a deal could be reached.

A loan with a right to purchase looks to be a likely solution, and they must now work to convince Malcom that a move to Milan would be right for him. 


Man City Join Man Utd in Race for £87m-Rated Bruno Fernandes

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Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes is a wanted man. The midfielder has been linked with ?Manchester United as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s massive squad overhaul, however, their path to sign him just got a whole lot tougher.

According to ?The Sun, cross-town rivals ?Manchester City have entered the fray, and they have stepped up their pursuit of the 24-year-old. Sporting director Hugo Viana has flown to Manchester to meet City’s Txiki Begiristain to discuss the possibility of negotiating a discount on his £87m release clause.

Fernandes wants the move to the ?Premier League, but United may have to act soon if they want to win him over.


Napoli Ready to Sell Lorenzo Insigne as Premier League Giants Prepare for Bidding War

Lorenzo Insigne

The transfer saga surrounding Lorenzo Insigne has been going on for as long as most of us can remember. However, it looks like we could finally be nearing the end, as the ?Napoli man is said to have grown frustrated with life at San Paolo.

??Corriere dello Sport state that Insigne’s relationships with both Carlo Ancelotti and the fans have completely broken down following Napoli’s Europa League elimination at the hands of ?Arsenal. The Partenopei are ready to part ways with him, and there is no shortage of suitors.

?Liverpool?Chelsea and United are all said to be considering launching bids of over €70m, but they could face competition from both Paris Saint-Germain and ?Bayern Munich. It won’t be easy, but it looks like somebody could finally lure Insigne away from Napoli.


Philippe Coutinho’s Chelsea Move Hinging on Decision Over Blues’ Transfer Ban

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho’s time at Barcelona looks to be nearing its end, and a return to the Premier League seems almost inevitable. Chelsea have been heavily linked with the Brazilian as a replacement for ?Eden Hazard if he joins Real Madrid, but their transfer ban could scupper their plans.

The Blues are so determined to sign Coutinho that, according to Sport, the only thing that will stop Coutinho turning out for Chelsea next season is their impending transfer ban. If they cannot get their ban frozen, they will almost certainly sign the Brazilian, given Hazard seems close to joining Los Blancos.

If FIFA refuse to delay the punishment, Coutinho may be forced to stay at Camp Nou, even though his relationship with the fans seems to be crumbling with each passing day.


PSG Monitor Raphael Varane Situation & Consider Summer Bid

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-BILBAO

Raphael Varane’s future could be one of the major talking points of the summer. Rumours have emerged suggesting he is ready to leave Real Madrid in search of a new challenge, and he would certainly have plenty of options to choose from.

One of which is PSG who, according to reliable fan page ?Paris United, ?are now closely monitoring his situation, in case Los Blancos accept defeat in their attempts to retain him.

The 25-year-old has already tasted glory in ?La Liga and the Champions League, and even added the World Cup to his trophy cabinet last summer. Could it be time to test himself elsewhere?

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Alaves 0-2 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Blaugrana Edge Closer to Securing La Liga Title

?Barcelona edged ever closer to a 26th La Liga title, as Carles Aleña and Luis Suarez were on target in a 2-0 win away to Alaves on Tuesday night. 

After spurning several chances in the first-half, the visitors managed to break the deadlock nine minutes after the restart through Aleña. After a typically flowing team move, Sergi Roberto’s pass was exquisitely dummied by Luis Suarez, giving the academy graduate a simple finish beyond Fernando Pacheco. 

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ALAVES-BARCELONA

It become 2-0 in somewhat bizarre circumstance six minutes later. Gerard Pique thought he’d scored from close range but was given offside, yet a handball in the build-up, spotted by VAR, meant a penalty was award to Barça, which was just about converted by Suarez.

Lionel Messi came on as a substitute and almost added a third, but his effort was diverted onto the post by Pacheco, but it didn’t matter as Barca settled for a routine 2-0 win.

Here’s 90min’s breakdown of this one: 


ALAVES 

Player Ratings

Starting XI: ?Pacheco (7), Vigaray (6), Laguardia (6), Ely (7), Navarro (5), Durate (6); Rolan (6), Wakaso (6), Pina (5), Jony (6); Baston (5). 

Substitutes: Brasanac (5), Twumasi (5), Guidetti (N/A). 


BARCELONA 

Key Talking Point 

Luis Suarez

The maths was simple for Barcelona – win their next two La Liga games and the title would be theirs regardless of what Atletico Madrid do. The job is now half done by Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Despite making five changes from the side that narrowly beat Real Sociedad last time out, which has hindered Barça at times this season, the result was never in doubt. Aleña’s second La Liga goal of the season settled any remaining nerves, before Suarez’s penalty confirmed a result that edges them ever closer to a 26th league title.



It was a measured displayed by Barça who were only interested in gaining the three points, as threats from Alaves were few and far between – with Jony’s curling effort in the second-half the closest they came.

With a Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool on the horizon, Valverde would ideally want to wrap up domestic business prior to that game. With the result away to Alaves, they’re halfway to achieving just that. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: ?ter Stegen (6); Semedo (6), Pique (6), Umtiti (6), Roberto (7); Vidal (7), Busquets (6), Alena (8*); Dembele (6), Suarez (7), Coutinho (7). 

Substitutes: Messi (7), Alba (6), Arthur (N/A). 


STAR MAN

Carles Alena

One of the five players to come into the starting lineup following the Real Sociedad game, Carles Aleña took his chance against Alaves with a confident display in Barcelona’s midfield.

The academy graduate was tidy in possession throughout, while a serge into the box was a key factor to the games opening goal, which he calmly converted and what his play warranted. 

??







??Looking Ahead 

Next for Alaves is an away game against Athletic Bilbao, as their season appears to have run out of steam.

Barcelona meanwhile could be La Liga champions by the time they host Levante at the weekend, should Atletico Madrid fail to beat Valencia in their midweek game.

Should Diego Simeone’s side avoid defeat, then Barça will officially retain their crown with a win at the weekend, before the small matter of the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool at Camp Nou.

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Barcelona Keen to Activate One-Year Contract Extension for Arturo Vidal Amid Links to Inter

?Barcelona intend to activate the option in midfielder Arturo Vidal’s contract to extend his deal by a further year, having been impressed with the Chilean this season.

Vidal has been a vital part of Ernesto Valverde’s squad since his arrival from Bayern Munich last summer, rotating with Arthur in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-VALENCIA

His current deal runs until the summer of 2021 but, according to ?Sport, ?Barcelona will not hesitate to extend that by a further year, as they intend to keep ?Vidal around for the foreseeable future.

Valverde is said to be a huge fan of the 31-year-old’s determination to succeed, and sees him as a great influence on the rest of his teammates in the dressing room. Whilst he may not be the first name on the team sheet, Vidal has established himself as one of Valverde’s most reliable players, and Barcelona do not want to lose that.

This season, Vidal has made 45 appearances for the Blaugrana, 23 of which were as a starter. He has often rotated with Arthur, but has occasionally filled in for Sergio Busquets in a deeper defensive role.


With Frenkie de Jong set to join the club in summer after agreeing a €75m switch from Ajax in January, many have speculated whether Vidal will be forced out of the club. ?Inter have been heavily linked with the Chilean, whilst sides from China have also registered their interest, but Barcelona have no intention of selling.

That being said, Sport note that the ?La Liga giants would consider a big offer for Vidal, but their primary intention is to keep him around at Camp Nou.

After initially struggling to accept his role as a squad player, Vidal is now said to be delighted with his current situation in Barcelona. 

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-RAYO

Whilst his impact on the field has been impressive, Vidal has also proven to be a valuable member of the team. He has bonded well with the South American group at the club, and he has also proven to be a useful mentor for some of the younger players in the squad.

Barcelona are delighted with his impact this season, and the plan is for that to continue for the foreseeable future.

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Transfer Rumours: AC Milan Chase Richarlison, Juventus Join Battle for Ryan Sessegnon & More

Yes, the Premier League title race is enthralling. Yes, the battle for the top four is so bad you can’t take your eyes off it. And yes, the Champions League semi-finals are shaping up to be some of the most memorable in recent history. 

But does any of that matter when it’s transfer rumour season?

Whether you think so or not, it doesn’t really matter. Like Game of Thrones’ army of the dead, the summer window is right around the corner and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest stories around Europe.


Barcelona Interested in Snapping Up Dutch Youngster Ludovit Reis

Ludovit Reis,Jann-Fiete Arp

?Barcelona have already secured a deal for Dutch starlet Frenkie de Jong, but it appears that they haven’t finished their business in the Netherlands just yet. 

Groningen president Hans Nijland seems to be resigned to the fact that Barcelona will be able to prize 18-year-old Ludovit Reis away from the Eredivisie outfit’s grasp, as he told Fox Sports (via ?Marca): “We’re seriously considering the possibility that he leaves for Barcelona next season.”

Nijland also confirmed that delegates from Barcelona have recently held talks regarding the availability of the youngster. Despite his tender years, Reis has been making a name for himself this season, making 27 league appearances. It’s looking increasingly likely that there’s going to be a Dutch revolution at Barça.


AC Milan in for Everton’s Richarlison Despite Huge Price Tag

Richarlison

Many scoffed at the huge fee ?Everton forked out for ?Richarlison, but the Brazilian has been able to prove his worth for the Toffees this season, bagging 13 Premier League goals.

While a summer move is incredibly unlikely, ?Calciomercato are reporting that ?AC Milan are willing to try their luck. The report claims that if Milan are willing to delve deep into their pockets then there’s a small chance they may be able to twist Everton’s arm by offering no less than €75m.

If he does end up leaving Everton, Richarlison is said to be demanding to join a club which is competing in the Champions League but, even if Milan do qualify for Europe’s top competition, this one looks as though it could be far too complicated to pull off. Don’t panic just yet Everton fans.


Juventus Look to Rival Tottenham for Ryan Sessegnon

Ryan Sessegnon

?Fulham’s season was undeniably miserable, but there were a few (very few) players to come away with their reputations relatively unscathed – one of which being Ryan Sessegnon.

The youngster is almost certain to be on the move after the Cottager’s inevitable relegation to the Championship was recently confirmed and ?Tottenham are one of the front runners to land his signature. However, according to ?The Express, Spurs will face stiff competition in the shape of European heavyweights ?Juventus.

Fulham would be looking to raise around £40m for Sessegnon and, given how tentative Spurs have been in the transfer market of late, I Bianconeri may have the edge in this one.


Watford Lead the Hunt for Gent Midfielder Birger Verstraete

SOCCER CUP 1/2 FINALS GENT VS OOSTENDE

?Watford have done a remarkable job under Javi Gracia this season, but there is no use in standing still and resting on your laurels when it comes to the transfer market.

The Hornets clearly recognise this and, according to ?HLN. they’re paying close attention to Gent midfielder Birger Verstraete. He’s by no means a household name, but earned himself an international cap with Belgium last year and, based on the plethora of talent they’ve been able to produce over the past few years, that’s no mean feat.

It’s not going to be a straightforward deal as the 25-year-old is also being pursued by a host of unnamed Bundesliga and Ligue 1 sides, but Watford are currently in the driving seat.


Manchester United Keeping Tabs on Chelsea Loanee Reece James

Reece James

Reece James is one of about 27,500 ?Chelsea players currently out on loan but, judging by his performances with Wigan this season, there’s actually a (small) chance he’ll have a sustained future with the Blues.

Not if ?Manchester United can help it. ?The Daily Mail claim that the Red Devils have been keeping an eye on the 19-year-old all season and could be prepared to make a move for him during the summer transfer window.

Interestingly, James’ sister Lauren currently plays for United and recently helped them to win the Women’s Championship title. Maybe she’ll be able to put in a good word for her brother.


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Nelson Semedo Says He ‘Does Not Understand’ Criticisms of Philippe Coutinho’s Performances

?Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo has come out in defence of Philippe Coutinho, saying he ‘does not understand’ those who doubt the quality of the Brazilian. 

Criticism of Coutinho has been rife since his arrival from Liverpool last January, with the general feeling among fans being that he has so far failed to live up to his £120m price tag. 

Philippe Coutinho

He scored a fantastic strike as ?Barca saw off ?Manchester United to advance to the Champions League semi-finals, but was booed by some sections of the home support when he came on as  a substitute in the victory over Real Sociedad at the weekend, and having scored just once in La Liga in 2019, he has been ?linked heavily with a move away from the club this summer.

Semedo, who joined in the summer, however, told ?Marca that he is behind Coutinho, and the fans should be too. 

Chris Smalling,Nelson Semedo

“I am 100 percent with Coutinho,” the Portuguese said. “I know what has been working to improve and to help the team.

“He has already demonstrated his abilities and I do not understand why people doubt his quality.”

Despite the criticisms of Coutinho, it has been a highly successful season for Barca. They are two wins away from clinching a fourth La Liga title in five years, and are the favourites to win the Champions League ahead of their semi-final with Coutinho’s former employers. 

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Should they conquer ?Liverpool, they would face either Tottenham or Ajax in the final, and would be heavily expected to win that one regardless of who advances. 

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Alaves vs Barcelona: Ernesto Valverde’s Best Available Blaugrana Lineup

?Barcelona take on Alaves at Mendizorrotza Stadium this Tuesday night, with Ernesto Valverde’s men needing just six more points to wrap up a second La Liga title in a row.

They were lethargic during a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad on Saturday, goals from Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba ensuring the Catalans kept a nine point lead over Atletico Madrid in second. That result keeps their hopes of a treble alive, with the midweek Champions League victory over Manchester United seeing Barça into the semi-finals of the competition, whilst Valencia lie waiting in the Copa del Rey final next month.

Hosts Alaves are winless in their last five fixtures and drew 2-2 against Valladolid last time out. They are now in eighth position, three points off of a Europa League qualification place.

Here’s the side Valverde could select for the clash.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

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Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – The German goalkeeper was on song against Sociedad, making several crucial saves during the contest. His double stop in the closing stages of the first half in particular showcased his excellent reflexes and positioning.

Nelson Semedo (RB) – After joining from Benfica in 2017 Semedo has struggled to nail down a starting berth. He has shown occasional flashes of the talent that coaxed €31.5m out of the ?Barcelona coffers, but consistency has been his downfall.

Gerard Pique (CB) – Despite an underwhelming display on Saturday, this is widely considered to be ?Pique’s best season in blue and red, with Valverde regularly calling upon the Barça stalwart to lead his defensive unit.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – The Frenchman’s deft header against Sociedad on the stroke of half time was pivotal, breaking the deadlock for his misfiring side. It capped a fine all-round display from Lenglet, justifying his continued selection in Valverde’s lineups.

Jordi Alba (LB) – Like his defensive compatriot, Alba grabbed an important goal to give his team the lead. It was a lovely goal, too, the full-back stepping inside before sweeping an effort into the far corner with his weak foot.


Midfielders

Arturo Vidal

Sergio Busquets (CDM) – Without Busquets keeping things ticking over on the weekend, Barcelona appeared lost, aimlessly spraying the ball around. His arrival towards the end of the match brought impetus and purpose to the heart of their midfield.

Arturo Vidal (RCM) – It was a high-energy showing from Vidal against La Real, though it lacked any end product. He was dogged and bullish, but ultimately failed to offer much in an attacking capacity; he will be keen to prove his worth against Alaves.

Arthur (LCM) – The young Brazilian playmaker is a superb distributor of the ball, linking up well with teammates and creating space with his intelligent movement. He is looking like a very savvy purchase after arriving in the summer.


Forwards

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Lionel Messi (RW) – It may have been an indifferent night for ?Messi on Saturday, but no one in world football doubts his extraordinary ability. His 45 goals in all competitions are fuelling Barcelona’s charge for glory in ?La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the ?Champions League.

Philippe Coutinho (LW) – ?Valverde has downplayed the apparent rift between the Camp Nou faithful and Coutinho that has surfaced in recent weeks. However, his ill-advised celebration against ?United will have vexed fans, leaving the onus on him to make amends if he is to have a future in Catalonia.

Luis Suarez (ST) – The Uruguayan has been fruitful in front of goal this year, yet no longer seems capable of producing the tireless, genius performances that characterised his early career. He is now more of a predatory poacher than the eminent threat that terrorised ?Premier League defences.

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Sergio Busquets Eyeing Future MLS Switch Once Barcelona Days Draw to a Close

?Barcelona star Sergio Busquets has hinted that he would like to experience life in Major League Soccer before his career comes to an end.

The 30-year-old remains a vital part of the Blaugrana setup, but with 21-year-old Frenkie de Jong set to move to Camp Nou at the end of the season, he is aware that he only has a few more years at most before he may need to move on.

Frenkie De Jong

Speaking to ?Sports Illustrated, Busquets admitted he has begun to think about what the future may hold for him.

He said: “I’ve always said that I won’t be a ?Barcelona player for 20 years with a secondary role. The moment that I feel my ambition is fading or that I am not able to deliver physically, I will step aside and leave feeling privileged and content of what I gave to the club.

“You can’t obviously predict the future, but I am a fan of the United States and soccer over there continues to grow. [?MLS]’s competitive style and playoff format is different to what we’re used to over here, and that really appeals to me.”

He also jokingly confessed that a move to David Beckham’s new Miami United franchise could be an option, adding that his family would likely approve of a life on the sunny beach.

Since making his debut in 2008, Busquets has gone on to make 529 appearances for Barcelona, bringing his unique blend of creativity and defensive awareness to the base of the team’s midfield.

He has enjoyed an incredibly successful career, winning seven ?La Liga titles and three ?Champions League trophies with his boyhood club. He has also translated his success to the Spanish national team, winning both the World Cup and European Championship in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

Sergio Busquets

However, with De Jong agreeing a €75m move to the club, Busquets’ days as a starter may be numbered. The Dutchman is viewed by many as a long-term successor for Busquets, and it remains to be seen how he will be incorporated into the lineup.

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Alaves vs Barcelona Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?Barcelona travel to Alaves for their La Liga clash this Tuesday night as they continue to surge towards a second successive title.

The Catalans were bland during their 2-1 victory against Real Sociedad over the weekend, collecting a fortuitous three points courtesy of Clement Lenglet’s towering header and a sharp drive from left-back Jordi Alba. The result maintains their nine point advantage at the top of the table, with closest challengers Atletico Madrid having also won on Saturday.

Clement Lenglet

The hosts drew 2-2 against Valladolid and currently lie in eighth place, with the side still vying for qualification for next year’s Europa League. They were genuine contenders for a top four finish less than a month ago, before a poor run of form ended any such aspirations.

Check out 90min’s preview of the encounter below.


Where to Watch

?When is Kick Off? ?Tuesday 23 April
?What Time is Kick Off? ?20:30 (BST)
?Where is it Played? ?Mendizorrotza Stadium
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?Premier Sports 1
?Referee? ?Javier Alberola Rojas

Team News

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Wingers Takashi Inui and Burgui are unavailable for Alaves, with the latter not expected back until next season after rupturing his cruciate knee ligament in March. The Japanese international, meanwhile, has a sprained ankle.

The Basque side are also without centre-back Guillermo Maripán who has a similar issue to Inui, both men set to return within the fortnight.

Rafael Alcantara alias Rafinha

Ernesto Valverde is without just one of his first-team squad members, midfielder Rafinha having been missing since November. He is nearing full fitness after the serious knee injury he sustained over the winter, but Tuesday’s clash comes too soon for the Brazilian.

Neither Alaves nor ?Barça have any players suspended for the ?La Liga match-up after ?Gerard Pique and ?Luis Suarez returned for the champions against Sociedad.


Predicted Lineups

?Alaves ?Pacheco; Aguirregabiria, Ely, Laguardia, Marin; Twumasi, Garcia, Pina, Jony; Calleri, Guidetti.
?Barcelona Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Vidal, Arthur; Messi, Coutinho, Suarez.?

Head to Head Record

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?Lionel Messi put on a masterclass in the reverse fixture back in August, hitting a double as Barcelona ran out 3-0 winners. The Argentine sent out an early warning when he crashed a first-half free-kick off of the crossbar before scoring with his next dead-ball attempt, a low effort sneaking past Fernando Pacheco to break the deadlock just after the hour.

Alaves were fortunate once more when Messi whipped a sumptuous curling shot off of the outside of the post minutes later, but they soon crumbled. Philippe Coutinho hammered a rasping drive home in the closing stages before the five-time Ballon d’Or winner brought the Camp Nou to its feet with a tidy near-post finish.

That success took Barça to double figures in total wins over Tuesday’s opponents, with the league leaders having lost just once to Alaves in their history. The latter have never won a home fixture against La Blaugrana, their sole victory coming at the Camp Nou in late 2016. A single draw – a goalless affair back in 2005 – completes the all-time record.


Recent Form

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Abelardo Fernández’s recruits are winless in the past month, their last triumph coming in a 3-1 victory away to Huesca. Since then they have lost three and drawn two of their La Liga fixtures, scoring four goals and conceding 11.

By contrast, Barcelona have not lost since late January, Sevilla securing a 2-0 lead in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie. Valverde’s men hit them for six in the return fixture to ease into the next round, no side having overcome them since. They are firmly on course for the treble after dismissing ?Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate in their ?Champions League quarter-final tie and easing past ?Real Madrid in the cup semis.

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The 2-1 win over Sociedad followed up a drab 0-0 away to Huesca the previous weekend, though crucially the Catalans beat rivals ?Atletico Madrid 2-0 in their top of the table clash two weeks ago.

Here’s how the two teams got on in their last five fixtures:

?Alaves Barcelona?
?Alaves 2-2 Valladolid (19/4) ?Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad (20/4)
?Espanyol 2-1 Alaves (13/4) ?Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United (16/4)
?Alaves 1-1 Leganes (07/4) ?Huesca 0-0 Barcelona (13/4)
?Sevilla 2-0 Alaves (04/4) ?Manchester United 0-1 Barcelona (10/4)
?Alaves 0-4 Atletico Madrid (30/3) ?Barcelona 2-0 Atletico Madrid (06/4)

Prediction

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The midweek meeting with the Red Devils appeared to have taken its toll on Barça as they stumbled to a win over Sociedad in the following game. The usually reliable Suarez was noticeably off of the pace, whilst Messi lacked his usual killer edge.

If they repeat that sub-par performance against Alaves they may well drop points in the title race, though they have a healthy cushion that would allow them to do so without any major repercussions. 


Nevertheless, Valverde will be eager to get the top spot in La Liga secured as early as possible so the side’s focus can switch to matters in Europe and the Copa del Rey. With that being the case, he will demand significant improvement from Saturday’s outing, with Alaves likely to suffer as a consequence.

Prediction: Alaves 0-2 Barcelona

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