8 of Neymar’s Best Moments at Barcelona

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FC Barcelona v Granada CF – La Liga | David Ramos/Getty Images

Upon his arrival at Barcelona, Neymar declared that there was plenty of interest in him, but in the end, he decided to follow his heart and join the Catalan giants.

Despite his hefty transfer fee, it was clear to see that Neymar had the character and talent to not let this impact his displays. Neymar went on to become a crucial member in arguably the world’s most feared attacking front three at the time. Sure, the link up and understanding between Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar was special, but the Brazilian was equally capable of producing unthinkable brilliance that would leave defences simply unsure of what had happened.

Neymar left Barça for PSG back in 2017 in a world record £200m deal, with the hope of getting out of Messi’s shadow and going on to win the Ballon d’Or. Now persistently being linked with a return, Neymar is still yet to have put himself in contention to win the coveted award.

The forward’s figures at PSG speak for themselves, but it was at Barcelona where Neymar was regularly showing the footballing world why people were considering him to be the man to take over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Seven years after being presented as a new Barcelona player, we take a look back at some of his very finest moments…

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Neymar lifting the trophy | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

The first goal is crucial for any new attacker, to settle nerves and give them the confidence they need. Neymar’s first saw him announce himself on a very large stage. Facing off against Copa del Rey champions Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa, Barça found themselves 1-0 down after David Villa’s opener.

It appeared as though Atletico were going to see out the game and would have a 1-0 lead to protect in the second leg. This was especially the case after Lionel Messi was forced off at half time in the first leg through injury.

However, Neymar stepped up and delivered by scoring a vital goal to make it 1-1. A moment of brilliance? A free kick? Dazzling skill?

Nope. Instead, the Brazilian climbed highest at the back post to head the ball home powerfully. With the second leg finishing 0-0, Neymar’s sublime header proved to be the winner. Scoring the vital goal to help your new club win a piece of silverware isn’t a bad way to make a positive impression.

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Neymar | David Ramos/Getty Images

In the first Clasico of the 2013/14 season, it was Neymar who grabbed all the headlines as he ran the show in his first derby game against Real Madrid.

The Brazilian netted the opener, cutting in from the left hand side before cooly passing the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal. He continued to look a real threat each time he received the ball, but it wasn’t until the 78th minute before Barça were able to double their lead.

But what a goal it was.

As the ball came into Neymar on the halfway line, he used his chest to bring the ball down before taking one touch and spotting a slight gap in the Real Madrid backline. Without hesitating, Neymar played an inch perfect pass through to Alexis Sanchez, who executed a stunning chip perfectly from 20 yards out.

Los Blancos pulled one goal back in injury time, but Neymar’s goal and assist proved decisive. In a game where two big money signings (Gareth Bale and Neymar) were looking to steal the headlines, it was Neymar who was unplayable on the night.

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Neymar | David Ramos/Getty Images

After a promising start to life at Barcelona, fans began to place added pressure on Neymar to raise his game further for the 2014/15 season – and he delivered.

He recorded his first hat-trick for the club against Granada in September 2014. His first had an element of luck about it, his shot taking a big deflection on its way in. But it was the awareness and desire to nip in and win the ball initially that was so impressive.

Neymar’s second saw him finish off the rebound after the ball came towards him in the middle of the box. Simple as you like for a player of his standards.

He showed his composure and arrogance to complete the hat-trick, taking one touch as the ball came into him inside the area before looking up and giving the goalkeeper ‘the eyes’ and sliding the ball in at the near post.

Calm as you like, and Neymar went on to prove that season that he could be counted on as a goalscorer as well, grabbing 39 in all competitions.

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Neymar | Boris Streubel/Getty Images

The first leg of Barcelona’s semi-final clash with Bayern Munich will be remembered – and rightly so – for one man’s performance. No, not Neymar, but Lionel Messi.

The Argentine scored two breathtaking goals to give his side a commanding lead, but it was the MSN trio that were a constant threat all evening. Neymar was sharp, direct and he was rewarded for his fine performance as he was sent through on goal in the final seconds of the game. He calmly slotted the ball home to make it 3-0 and place Barça in a very strong position.

Bayern fought back in the second leg, going 1-0 up before Neymar combined with his fellow forwards to great effect, scoring twice in under 15 minutes to put Barça back in control.

They went on to lose the game 3-2 to Bayern, but Neymar’s three goals over the two legs were enough to see Barça through to the final. La Blaugrana won the final, with Neymar scoring the third goal against Juventus.

It was clear that Neymar was a player that could be relied upon on the biggest of stages.

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Neymar | David Ramos/Getty Images

This performance was all about the skill and brilliance of Neymar.

The Rayo Vallecano defence hadn’t a clue how to deal with him. If they came in close to mark him tightly, he would spin away and race in behind the defence, but if they dropped off and allowed him space, he would simply play a piercing pass.

Neymar’s first two goals came direct from the penalty spot, after he was brought down twice. Using his skill, speed and awareness, he darted into the box and as he cruised past an opponent, the defender had no choice but to bring him down. It was a similar scenario for the second.

To complete the hat-trick, Neymar rifled into the roof of the net after the goalkeeper parried a shot. And he grabbed a fourth with a tap in to round off his display.

This goal was something special.

Neymar and Suarez gave Barça a comfortable lead over Villarreal, and the pair then combined to score the Brazilian’s best goal in his Barcelona career up to that point.

Starting off the move, Neymar gave the ball to Suarez before making a darting run through the centre of the pitch. Suarez continued to drive with the ball down the line before looking up and playing a delightful pass into the path of Neymar, who was now on the edge of the box.

With still so much work to do and facing away from goal, Neymar flicked the ball over his head, leaving the defender unaware of where it had gone, before turning and firing low into the corner of the goal.

They don’t come much better than that.

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Neymar | Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Messi, Suarez and Neymar were arguably the most lethal forward line in world football of the past decade, and Roma learned this the hard way as the Catalan giants put six past the Italian outfit.

While goals and assists figures are important, the footballing world often fails to properly appreciate the beauty of the build-up play leading to a goal as time progresses. In the game against Roma, the headlines were dominated by Messi and Suarez, who both grabbed two goals each.

But Neymar was outstanding on the evening, having a hand in all six goals that went in. Dictating play, he was at the heart of every single attack. It was a truly rampant display and perhaps his performance on the evening would have received greater praise had he managed to score the penalty he missed.

On this night, the footballing world learned that Neymar can produce the extraordinary – the unthinkable.

Down 4-0 from the first leg, barely anyone gave Barça a chance of progressing. But a flying start saw them race into a 3-0 lead after 50 minutes, with Suarez and Messi grabbing the goals as well as an own goal from Layvin Kurzawa.

But as Edinson Cavani’s strike rippled the net just after the hour mark, Camp Nou fell silent.

All hope had seemingly been lost, until Neymar stepped up with two minutes remaining and scored a stunning free-kick from way out on the left, bending it perfectly into the top corner.

The hosts refused to give in and were awarded a penalty in stoppage time when Suarez was brought down. Up stepped Neymar and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and found the net.

They couldn’t, could they?

When a team has a player of Neymar’s calibre, they will always have a chance. With the last attack of the game and every Barça player forward, Neymar took his time and found himself an angle before chipping the ball in behind the PSG defence, allowing Sergi Roberto to nip in and slide the ball home.

One of the greatest comebacks, led by Neymar.

For more from Adam Aladay, follow him on Twitter!

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Alessandro Costacurta Reveals Nightmare Defending 16-Year-Old Lionel Messi

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A young Lionel Messi celebrates scoring for FC Barcelona | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta has spoken about the time he came up against a 16-year-old forward by the name of Lionel Messi – and asked to be subbed after a quarter of an hour.

Costacurta spent a total of 28 years connected to Milan as a player, both as a youngster and senior pro.

The former centre-back accumulated an incredible total of almost 700 career appearances for the Rossoneri, and retired in 2007 as a five-time European Cup/Champions League winner.

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Alessandro Costacurta in action for Milan | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Also capped 59 times by Italy, only two players history have played more games for Milan – Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.

Speaking to Marca, Costacurta admitted he took a certain Argentine winger’s young age for granted when he first faced him.

“I faced Messi when he was only 16 years old,” he said. “At first, I saw him as a child and did what he wanted.

“After a quarter of an hour, I had to ask [Carlo] Ancelotti to replace me.”

AC Milan's captain defender Alessandro C...AC Milan's captain defender Alessandro C...
Costacurta with former manager Carlo Ancelotti | ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

It’s clear this nightmarish meeting with Messi as a young apprentice has made Costacurta a big fan of the Barcelona star man’s playing style. Between Messi and Diego Maradona, for Costacurta there is only one winner.

He added: “They are similar because of their genius and the way they express themselves on the field, but Messi is more [of a] genius than Maradona. The difference is that we could do 66 fouls to Maradona before being warned [booked by the referee]. With Leo it is different, football is now something else.”

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Lionel Messi playing under Diego Maradona at the 2010 World Cup | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Since the domineering Italian central defender retired from the game, Messi has hit double figures in the league alone in every single season, 14 in total so far.

On the international stage, the best either Costacurta of Messi has managed at the FIFA World Cup is a second-place finish. The Italian achieved that feat in 1994 losing to Brazil in the final, while Messi’s Argentina fell to defeat at the hands of the Germans in 2014.

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Tottenham Put Off Philippe Coutinho Pursuit by Costly Barcelona Demands

Philippe Coutinho
FC Schalke 04 v FC Bayern Muenchen – DFB Cup | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

If you were hoping that the endless Philippe Coutinho saga was about to be brought to a swift and (very) welcome end, I’m afraid you’re mistaken – because it appears that Tottenham have been put off the scent by Barcelona’s hefty demands.

It would appear the rest of Europe, not just La Blaugrana and Coutinho, are desperate for a conclusion to what’s become one of the biggest sagas of 2020, as the Catalan giants persist in their efforts to push through some kind of departure.

However, if they are to be rid of him they’ll need to lower their asking price, at least in the case of Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo report that Spurs have cooled their interest because of the monumental €100m price tag Barça have placed on Coutinho’s head. Jose Mourinho is a known admirer of his abilities – to the point of envisaging his place in the side – but he and the club cannot commit to such a fee.

And if you thought a loan may be on the cards, that too appears to be, well, off the cards as far as Spurs are concerned. A €10m loan fee would be demanded by Barça, as well as a requirement to purchase Coutinho at the end of any given loan.

His salary would need dealing with as well, something Bayern Munich are familiar with having paid €8.5m for his season-long loan as well as covering the entirety of his wages.

Philippe Coutinho is interested in joining Tottenham.Philippe Coutinho is interested in joining Tottenham.
Philippe Coutinho is interested in joining Tottenham. | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Coutinho favours a Premier League return, but concerns in the Tottenham camp are that the high wages he would command would cause unrest within the rest of the squad and spark other wage packets to increase as a result.

It’s been claimed that Coutinho would favour a move to north London, although at this stage it’s a fair assumption to make that he’ll take almost anything he can get. There were discussions over moving to Spurs last summer but they broke down, once again, over financial disagreements.

For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!

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Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu Asks Players to Take Second Pay Cut Amid Financial Turmoil of Coronavirus

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Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has reportedly asked the players to take a further pay cut, as the club attempts to mitigate the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

The playing staff agreed to take a hefty 70% reduction to their current salaries at the end of March, with the Blaugrana paying out more in wages than any other team in the world.

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Lionel Messi revealed the Barca players were more than happy to take a 70% pay cut back in March | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Lionel Messi alone typically earns around €35m annually, while Antoine Griezmann collects a healthy €17m per annum.

Messi previously admitted he wasn’t impressed at the manner in which the board went about securing the initial cuts, believing they pressured players into taking a pay cut when they were already planning to.

And now, Catalan radio station CCMA believe Bartomeu asked the Barça squad to take further pay cuts on 23 May, on top of the one already agreed, in what he described as a ‘new effort’ from the players.

The president is said to have taken advantage of his visit to the first team’s training facility two Saturday’s ago, and it’s understood he was there with the CEO Òscar Grau and another executive who has been working on the cuts, Albert Soler.

The players are yet to respond to the hierarchy’s latest demands.

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The Catalans are also looking to balance the club’s books via player sales before the end of June | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

It’s likely the second wave of cuts will also stretch to the staff, despite no mention of it in the latest report. The initial cuts also applied to the women’s football teams, the B team, the Under-19s as well as the basketball, handball, futsal and roller hockey teams.

The Blaugrana have been actively trying to offload several high-profile stars during the current hiatus as they attempt to balance their accounts by the end of June.

Ousmane Dembélé, Arthur Melo, Samuel Umtiti, Nelson Semedo and Philippe Coutinho are just a few of the names who could imminently depart Camp Nou, recuperating hefty fees in the process.

However, the Catalans should start to generate revenue through sponsors once La Liga makes its long-awaited return on 11 June.

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Nelson Semedo Gives Green Light to Man City Move – Talks With Barcelona to Resume in Coming Days

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Nelson Semedo | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo is said to have ‘made up his mind’ and is keen to play under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – and talks will now resume between the two clubs in the coming days with the hope of concluding a deal.

Semedo made 29 appearances in all competitions prior to the enforced break caused by the coronavirus, although he has failed to hold down a regular starting spot this season in the league.

The Portuguese’s lack of consistent first-team chances saw him linked with a move away from the club last summer, but no deal ever materialised. However, talk of an exit has once again reared its head, with Barça looking to raise funds due to the financial impact of the pandemic.

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Nelson Semedo | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Semedo is said to be open to leaving Camp Nou and a swap deal involving Semedo and ?Manchester City’s João Cancelo has been discussed. However, Sport now report that Barça aren’t interested in Cancelo as his value is too high and the Catalan giants would like the replacement for Semedo to have a lower value so that they are able to maximise profits.

Semedo himself, however, has decided that his next destination will not be in Italy. Instead, he has given the green light to a move to Man City to play under Guardiola. As a result, talks will resume in the coming days to ‘close’ the deal – but with Barça not keen on involving Cancelo in the deal, a fee of around €40m will now be demanded.

One player at the Etihad that Barça are seemingly keen on, however, is youngster Eric Garcia – who left them in 2017 to join City. ESPN report that La Blaugrana have enquired about the availability of the 19-year-old as they eye a move.

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Eric Garcia | Robin Jones/Getty Images

The Sky Blues ‘knocked back’ the approach and have no intention of letting him leave as he is one of the most exciting young talents in the squad. However, there is an ‘acceptance’ at City that the current uncertainty regarding Guardiola’s long-term future could become a problem.

It remains to be seen whether Barça will continue to try and include Garcia in the deal involving Semedo, but ESPN note that a move for the Spaniard this summer is ‘unlikely’. As for the long-term, however, they are keen to bring him back and will continue to monitor his situation.

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Philippe Coutinho: Which Premier League Club Would Suit the Brazilian Best?

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Philippe Coutinho | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

It’s safe to say things haven’t quite gone to plan for Philippe Coutinho since swapping Liverpool for Barcelona back in January 2018.

With La Blaugrana forking out an eye-watering £142m for his services, there was a lot of pressure on Coutinho to deliver straight away. But after starting just 22 games in Spain’s top division in his first full season and failing to impress, he was sent out on loan to Bayern Munich the following summer.

Bayern were given the option to make the move permanent for around €120m, but, even before the financial implications of the pandemic took hold, told Barcelona ‘nein, danke’.

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Philippe Coutinho | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Now in a situation where neither his parent club nor his loan club want him, it is unclear where the Brazilian – not long ago regarded as one of the world’s best attacking midfielders – will be playing his football next season.

However, his agent has recently confirmed the player’s ‘desire’ to return to the Premier League, while several English sides linked.

Here’s a look at the English options for Coutinho, and whether any of the moves make much sense….

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | UEFA – Handout/Getty Images

Manchester United forked out a hefty sum to bring in Bruno Fernandes in January, but he has already gone a long way to repaying the fee with his stellar performances.

However, despite his arrival, the addition of more global stars like Coutinho – a player not only creative and tactically versatile but also highly marketable – certainly ticks a lot of boxes for a club looking to get back to challenging for titles.

It’s quite simple, really. This move seems highly unlikely on many counts.

Manchester United have their sights set on other targets (read more about those here) and they don’t need to be taking any unnecessary risks by spending silly money on Coutinho – especially during these financially challenging times for clubs.

Recent reports put the Brazilian’s price tag at anywhere up to €100m (£89m), while his current salary sits at around €11m a year (about £200k-a-week).

There’s also the small matter of him being an ex-Liverpool player. A lot has been made of whether Coutinho would be open to making the switch to Old Trafford because of his Liverpool days. Some reports say he very much wouldn’t.

But what about United? Would they or the fans be keen to see the Brazilian slipping on the red jersey? A fair few wouldn’t.

Likelihood: 2/10

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Jurgen Klopp and Philippe Coutinho | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Coutinho was simply unplayable at points during his time at Anfield, popping up all over the pitch to link up play, cause havoc and score screamers.

A return to a more familiar setting could be just what he needs to kickstart his career once more and if the Reds could get the 27-year-old back playing at his best, then that would be a very scary thought for the rest of Europe.

Make no mistake about it, Jurgen Klopp’s squad needs very little improvement, but it is often said that they have on occasion lacked a creative midfielder.

Of course, Liverpool have coped just fine without Coutinho since his departure, but he has a unique skillset which could prove valuable to the Reds as they look to assert their dominance domestically and in Europe over the forthcoming years.

Liverpool have a squad that gels and works together.

Yes, Coutinho was excellent during his time with Liverpool, but they haven’t missed him since he departed. Instead, they’ve gone on to become champions of Europe and are the soon-to-be Premier League champions.

A source also confirmed to 90min in April that the Reds still have first refusal on the player – but they have little desire to take up their option.

With Barcelona set to demand a big fee, a return to Liverpool seems highly unlikely with the club now more focused on promoting youth from within.

In terms of significant outlays in recruitment in the near future, only Timo Werner looks remotely likely.

Likelihood: 2.5/10

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Pep Guardiola | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Coutinho would bring creativity and could also even the voids left by Leroy Sane (assuming he leaves) and David Silva. The player would also fit into Pep Guardiola’s system and style of play, with his ability to drift and and pick up pockets of space making him constantly available for his teammates and a real threat.

With the help of a coach like Guardiola, Coutinho could well rediscover his best form and, with no ties to Man City, it could be just the fresh start he needs.

Yes, City have the money to pull this deal off, but why should they?

They have other targets in mind, who could potentially arrive for a smaller transfer fee, while they also actually appear to hold very little interest in signing him. Not to mention, the Sky Blues’ squad is already overflowing with talent, including the club’s young prince Phil Foden.

To rub salt into the wounds, City were offered the chance to sign Coutinho last summer – but Guardiola wasn’t interested.

Likelihood: 3/10

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Coutinho vs Everton | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With Carlo Ancelotti leading the way, Everton are looking to splash the cash in the market as they look to climb the Premier League table. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have looked bright up front together this season, but the Toffees still need a creator from midfield to spot the openings and create chances.

As a result, they have shown an interest in Coutinho and are even said to be willing to accept Barcelona’s demands of a loan deal with a mandatory option-to-buy at the end of it.

Putting the obvious aside, this move does make a lot of sense.

Everton are looking to build a team that can challenge in Europe, while Coutinho is looking for a project that will allow him to shine and prove his worth once again. There are also the ties between his agent Kia Joorabchian and Toffees majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and Barcelona’s history of offloading players to Everton (see: Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Yerry Mina).

Unfortunately, however, the rivalry between Liverpool and Everton cannot be ignored.

Few have crossed the divide, with Nick Barmby one of the most recent high profile examples back at the turn of the century.

It is unclear whether Coutinho would even be willing to commit to such a move, but even if he was, the hostility and criticism he would receive might not help him in his attempts to get back to his best form.

Likelihood: 5/10

Philippe Coutinho, Brendan RodgersPhilippe Coutinho, Brendan Rodgers
Coutinho and Brendan Rodgers | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Similar to the project at Everton, a move to Leicester could actually prove to be very appealing for Coutinho – without all the side drama, as well. Currently sat in the Champions League spaces, the Brazil international wouldn’t really be making many sacrifices.

As for the Foxes, they would benefit from a player of Coutinho’s calibre, while the player himself would also fit into the team’s style. Perhaps most notably, however, is the appeal of working under Brendan Rodgers once again. Coutinho thrived under his management and the pair understand each other very well.

Who is dropped if Coutinho arrives? Harvey Barnes was in excellent form prior to the enforced break, while James Maddison occupies the attacking midfield role. Of course, Barnes can play on either wing, but Rodgers won’t be keen to alter the starting lineup and their positions too much. Then, there’s also the issue of cost.

Strength in depth is key but equally, a move for Coutinho could do more harm than good for the Foxes.

Competition for places aside, there is (once again) the question of cost. Jamie Vardy – the club’s star man and Premier League top scorer is reportedly on around £140,000k a week – some way short of Coutinho’s current packet. The Brazilian might have to be willing to take a pay cut to make this a realistic possibility.

Likelihood: 6/10

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FC Bayern Muenchen v FC Augsburg – Bundesliga | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

There are two main reasons why Newcastle are in with a chance of landing Coutinho.

First, should the proposed takeover be completed, the Magpies will have the financial strength to negotiate with Barça and either agree a loan or permanent transfer for Coutinho. Second, if the new owners manage to bring in his former boss at Espanyol, Mauricio Pochettino, this will be a major indicator of the direction of the club and will be hugely enticing for the player.

Both financially and on the field, if the takeover is completed and Pochettino is brought in, this could be a very realistic move. Of course, Coutinho would be a marquee signing for Newcastle and would go a long way to helping the prospective new owners achieve their goals.

The main problem is the constant use of the word ‘if’. At this moment in time, it is simply hypothetical.

Even if the takeover were to go through, Coutinho would have to commit to a longer-term project that may see him out of the Champions League for several seasons.

Likelihood: 6/10

UEFA Champions League"Red Bull Leipzig v Tottenham Hotspur FC"UEFA Champions League"Red Bull Leipzig v Tottenham Hotspur FC"
Jose Mourinho | ANP Sport/Getty Images

One of Tottenham’s better performers this season has been Giovani Lo Celso, with the Argentine receiving much praise for his vision and awareness. But while Lo Celso has been impressive, he has managed just the two goals and one assist this season.

Spurs are in need of a player such as Coutinho, who can provide the right balance and take some of the pressure off the likes of Lo Celso and Dele as well as the forwards, with his passing and eye for goal. Most excitingly, Coutinho could strike up a menacing partnership with Harry Kane.

This is a move that could suit everyone.

Money, money, money.

A loan move has been reported in recent weeks, and this could suit a number of clubs on this list. But Football Insider recently reported that Barça will ask for a loan fee of around £8m, while any interested club will also have to pay his wages in full.

This is already problematic….and as you’d expect, Marca later reported that while Spurs have been offered the chance to sign Coutinho, they aren’t considering a move right now with his wages (you remember, all €11m of them) a major issue.

Also, can you see Coutinho forced into wing back under Mourinho?

Likelihood: 6/10

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Mikel Arteta | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Arsenal are in a position not too dissimilar to their north London rivals, with the Gunners in need of midfield and attacking reinforcements.

Far too often, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is left frustrated as his run hasn’t been spotted and a golden chance has been missed. Coutinho could be the man to provide the link between the midfield and the attack.

Fluidity, attacking and with a hungry manager in the dugout with a point to prove, a move to Arsenal could be an exciting proposition for Coutinho, while the London appeal may also be another bonus. As for the Gunners and Arteta, it could be a statement of intent.

Like at Everton, Joorabchian also has connections at Arsenal, which could help facilitate a deal.

See Tottenham.

A source confirmed to 90min in March that with the Gunners’ transfer funds limited, they are considering the signings of three potential free agents.

That says it all really, doesn’t it?

Likelihood: 6.5/10

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Philippe Coutinho | TF-Images/Getty Images

A young and talented Chelsea squad would benefit from the addition of Coutinho. With Willian and Pedro potentially heading out the exit door this summer, the Blues will need a new arrival – someone who has experience of playing in the Premier League and has a winning mentality.

That is what Coutinho can bring. Frank Lampard doesn’t have a player like Coutinho in his squad. Mason Mount and Willian lead the way in terms of assists in the Premier League this season, with their tally of just five each.

Lampard’s squad is filled with talent but not much inventiveness and imagination in the most crucial areas of the pitch. Chelsea also have the funds to make this move happen, making it the most reasonable and suitable option.

Yes, they have the funds, but do they really want to pay Coutinho’s wages for a loan move with an option to buy?

It’s the same old story once again for Coutinho with regards to concerns over his wages and his performances.

It is a move that most definitely wouldn’t please every Chelsea fan….

Likelihood: 7/10

For more from Adam Aladay, follow him on Twitter!

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Clause Allowing Lionel Messi to Leave Barcelona for Free This Summer Expires

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Lionel Messi – Barcelona v Real Sociedad | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is thought to no longer be able to leave Camp Nou for free this summer after the clause in his contract allowing him to do so expired at the end of last month.

Messi is currently under contract with Barça until the summer of 2021, but it had been well publicised that the six-time Ballon d’Or held the option to leave the club – where he has spent well over half his life – without a transfer fee this year if he wished to.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Lionel Messi – Barcelona v Real Sociedad | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The chance of Messi actually exercising his contracted right to leave without Barça seeing any money from a sale was always highly unlikely, but there had still been speculation about his future, especially given the recent tensions between the 32-year-old and the club.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis on the football landscape made it even more unlikely over the last couple of months, with Messi’s enormous contract already prohibitive to most as it was.

He didn’t opt to make use of the clause and ESPN has now reported that it actually expired on 30 May, citing ‘multiple sources’ at Barcelona to relay the news. If Messi wanted to leave, which he clearly doesn’t, he would have had to confirm his intentions to the club before the start of June.

Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last September that Messi could leave in 2020 if he wanted to, but explained it was not a type of clause that is new for the club.

Josep Maria BartomeuJosep Maria Bartomeu
Josep Maria Bartomeu – Barcelona president | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“He can leave Barcelona before the start of the 2020/21 season. It’s something that other players like Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Carles] Puyol have had in their contracts,” Bartomeu explained.

Messi’s longer term future is still not entirely certain. He will turn 33 later this month and as already mentioned his current contract at Camp Nou will expire at the end of next season, giving him just one more year before he is due to become a free agent.

Bartomeu expressed confidence last autumn that Messi won’t be leaving Camp Nou to play for another club and will be with the Blaugrana beyond 2021 as well.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Lionel Messi during Real Madrid v Barcelona | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

That was, however, before Messi engaged in a public dispute with club official and former teammate Eric Abidal, while he later made his displeasure clear over the way Barça handled the situation relating to a 70% pay cut when the squad was already willing to accept it.

Barça have also been accused of hiring a company to attack and criticise players on social media in order to protect the reputation of Bartomeu, something the president and club firmly deny.

Even so, it is difficult to imagine Messi playing for any other club in Europe – even though Cristiano Ronaldo did eventually move on from Real Madrid – and it has been widely known for some time that he holds an ambition to play for boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys before he retires.

Yet that may also be increasingly unlikely, pointing to a higher possibility that Messi ultimately retires as a Barcelona player. He suggested in October last year that returning home to Argentina might not be compatible with the life that he has built for his family in Spain.

Newell's Old Boys v River Plate - Superliga 2019/20Newell's Old Boys v River Plate - Superliga 2019/20
Messi banner at Newell’s Old Boys v River Plate | Marcos Brindicci/Getty Images

“I always say that I don’t want to leave here, I have no thoughts of ??moving,” Messi told TyC Sports at the time. “I have the dream of being able to play for Newell’s in Argentina, but I don’t know if it’s really going to happen because I have a family that is ahead of my desire.

“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children. I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future. We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina.”

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Barcelona Playmaker Philippe Coutinho Keen on Premier League Return

Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho’s agent claims the Brazil international is keen on a return to the Premier League, while refusing to rule out the possibility of his client remaining with current loan club Bayern Munich.

Coutinho was shipped out to Bavaria after just one full season at Barcelona, and with the Catalan giants lining up a summer of heavy spending, the 27-year-old may need to be sold to fund their transfer activity.

However, his future has been left in limbo after failing to set the world alight at Bayern, who have Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and Manchester City’s Leroy Sané higher up on their shopping list.

Coutinho's loan at Bayern hasn't been particularly successfulCoutinho's loan at Bayern hasn't been particularly successful
Coutinho’s loan at Bayern hasn’t been particularly successful | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Coutinho’s agent Kia Joorabchian told Sky Sports: “He has a desire to come back to the Premier League at some point.

“It may not happen this year, it may happen this year, we don’t know. We really have not discussed anything for now.”

90min revealed in April that Liverpool still have first refusal on a Coutinho, having sold him to Barcelona in 2018 in a deal worth up to €140m.

However, the Reds have little intention to bring their former player back to Anfield, with big-money signings not in the pipeline this coming transfer window.

Coutinho at BarcelonaCoutinho at Barcelona
Coutinho at Barcelona | Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

Bayern Munich did have the option to make Coutinho’s move to the Allianz Arena permanent for €120m at the end of the season, but this option has since expired.

However, Joorabchian insists a return to Bayern is not off the table.

“It’s up to Bayern Munich whether or not they want to extend the loan,” he added.

“It’s purely Bayern’s decision, we have a will to stay, and we will see about next season when we get back to this ‘new normal’. We’ve had some conversations with Bayern about next season [already].”

Joorabchian’s stance is in keeping with that of Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Despite the club opting not to activate their purchase clause for Coutinho, he said: “We’re going to plan our squad for next season and we’ll see if he still has a role to play with us or not.”

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Lionel Messi Admits Football Will ‘Never Be the Same’ After Coronavirus Outbreak

Lionel Messi
FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad – La Liga | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has confessed that he does not believe football – or life in general – will ever be the same when the coronavirus crisis is over.

The Bundesliga is already back underway and the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga are set to follow suit in the coming weeks, but all games will be played behind closed doors in an attempt to keep fans and players as safe as possible.

Speaking to El País (via ESPN), Messi admitted that the impact on football will be huge, but he did not ignore that some people have had their lives irreparably altered as a result of the virus, which has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people worldwide.

“I don’t think football will ever be the same,” Messi said. “But beyond football, I don’t think life, in general, will ever be the same, either.

“All of us that have experienced this situation will remember what happened in one way or another. In my case, it’s with a feeling of sorrow and frustration for those that have suffered the most due to the loss of loved ones.

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FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad – La Liga | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

“I am sure that football and sport, in general, will be affected. Financially, because there are companies linked with the world of sport that will maybe experience some difficulties because of the coronavirus.

“But also professionally, because with the return to training and competing, what was normal before now is going to be different. It will be a strange situation for us as athletes but also for anyone that has to change their usual work dynamic.”

The Barcelona man, who has donated over €1m to help fight the pandemic, then chose to reemphasise his respect for the health workers in Spain, Argentina and across the world who have put their lives at risk to try and keep the public safe.

“I am grateful to all of the people that are fighting to beat this virus in hospitals, health centres and care homes,” he added. “Nearly all of us have doubts about how the world will be after everything that’s happened.

“Beyond the lockdown measures and the whole situation, which caught us by surprise, many people have had a really tough time because they’ve been directly affected.

“People have lost family and friends and were not even able to say goodbye. There have been a lot of negatives to come from this crisis, but I don’t think there’s anything worse than losing your loved ones. That, for me, is hugely frustrating and unfair.”

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David Alaba Offers Update on Bayern Munich Future Amid Summer Exit Talk

German DFB Pokal"FC Schalke 04 v Bayern Munchen"
ANP Sport/Getty Images

David Alaba has hinted that there could be progress on a potential Bayern Munich contract extension in the ‘coming weeks’.

Despite having been with the club since 2008, Alaba has frequently been linked with a move away from Bavaria over the past few seasons, with top sides across Europe keen admirers of his versatility and consistency.

An example of that has been his recent usage in central defence this season, a position he’s in played before but not most regularly. Yet, as ever, he’s taken to it like a duck to water. Thus, being one of the most complete footballers on the continent naturally draws attention, but it appears as if an extended Bayern stay could be on the cards.

Links to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea have emerged over recent weeks, and a source told 90min that Die Roten were even considering using Alaba as part of a swap deal to secure long-term target Leroy Sane.

Alaba has since brushed off speculation surrounding his future, although on the topic of remaining in Bavaria he revealed that there could be movement on an extension over the next few weeks.

“Look, I try to focus on the essentials, on the games,” Alaba told Sky Austria. “It is very good for me. That is where my focus is entirely.

“We have no deadline. We will see in the coming weeks what will happen next. At the moment, everything is calm.”

David AlabaDavid Alaba
DeFodi Images/Getty Images

With just one year left on his current deal causing ears to prick up, the calmness of Alaba over the situation would indicate he’s comfortable with his future, despite some of the biggest sides in Europe hovering over his position.

There were some concerns that Alphonso Davies’ remarkable rise to the first team would scupper Alaba’s chances of regular football, but given he’s moved into central defence recently, those fears have been quelled.

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