Sir Bobby Robson: The Legendary Fighter’s All-Time Best XI

Sir Bobby Robson is number 41 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next 10 weeks. You can find Will Imbo’s career overview of Sir Bobby ?here.


Sir Bobby Robson’s managerial career saw him coach seven teams in four different countries, as well as the England national team.

Almost universally loved by every player under his stewardship, Robson managed some of the best players – ‘beautiful players’ as Robson himself would aptly put it – this game has ever seen.

So much so that legends such as Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker and Luis Enrique don’t make his all-time XI. 

Read on to discover how his squad shapes up as we continue 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Managers of All Time series.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

FUSSBALL: Spanischer Pokal Real Madrid - FC Barcelona 1:1

Hans van Breukelen – Robson has had his fair share of solid stoppers to rely on, but Van Breukelen pips the rest to the number one shirt. He was the four-time Dutch goalkeeper of the year, six-time Eredivisie winner with PSV (twice under Robson), and also won the European Championship with the Netherlands and the European Cup in 1988.

Eric Gerets – One of the game’s greatest right backs, the Belgian is the first member of Robson’s all-time back three. The two crossed paths at PSV, where Gerets – nicknamed the ‘Lion of Flanders’ – won the Dutch league title on six occasions, and captained the Boeren to their sole European Cup title in 1988. He is also one of six managers to have won domestic league championships in at least four countries.

Laurent Blanc – The classy Frenchman was the defensive rock of Robson’s treble-winning Barcelona side in the late nineties, winning the Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. He also won the World Cup and the Euros with France in 1998 and 2000 respectively, as well as the Premier League with Man Utd in 2003.

Fernando Couto – The Portuguese centre-back worked with Robson at Porto and Barcelona, and over a 21-year career in the game, played almost 600 matches. He won the domestic double in Portugal, Spain and Italy, and is one of Portugal’s most famous players.


Midfielders

Josep Guardiola of Spain

Pep Guardiola – When Robson joined Newcastle in 1999, Guardiola sent his former Barcelona manager a message, asking for a transfer to St James’ Park. Robson didn’t oblige, but it shows just how much respect Guardiola had for the great man, who won six La Liga titles with Barça and was named in Johan Cruyff’s all-time XI.?

Luis Figo – The Ballon d’Or winner was among the world’s best players in the late nineties and early 2000’s, and played under Robson at Sporting CP and Barcelona. He was the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year and still sits fourth in the all-time assists table in La Liga.

Arnold Muhren – The Dutch wizard has many accolades to his name, but none more impressive than this. He is one of the few players to have won all three major UEFA-organised club competitions: the European Cup, the Cup Winner’s Cup, and the UEFA Cup, the latter of which he won with Ipswich whilst Robson was boss at Portman Road.?

Hristo Stoichkov – Another Ballon d’Or winner to have played under Robson, Stoichkov is regarded as the greatest Bulgarian player of all time and one of the greatest attackers to have played the game, with 219 goals to his name. Fortunately he also frequently played as an attacking midfielder or winger, which is ideal for this greatest XI due to the formidable strikers below. 


Forwards

SOCCER-ROBSON/RONALDO

Alan Shearer – The Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer, Shearer spent five seasons under Robson at Newcastle, scoring 117 goals in 219 games, and helping the Magpies to three consecutive top-five finishes. The pair are both bonafide Newcastle legends.

Romario – The Brazilian clashed with Robson whilst at PSV, with the Englishman questioning Romario’s work ethic. However, Robson did admit that ‘in some matches he would be scintillating’. Romario scored an officially recognised 688 goals in 886 games at club level and 55 goals from 70 caps for Brazil. He has more awards to his name than I could possibly list here, but suffice to say he won the 1994 World Cup, won the Golden Ball for that tournament and was the World Player of the Year that same year.

Ronaldo – The best player I ever worked with? Tough competition, but it has to be Brazil’s Ronaldo. I signed him for Barcelona in 1996 after I failed to get Alan Shearer from Blackburn. Ronaldo was lean, mean, as quick as an Olympic sprinter and some of the goals he scored had me shaking my head in disbelief.”

Robson does his best to summarize the player that was Ronaldo, one of the all-time greats to have played the game. In his sole season working with Sir Bobby at Barcelona, he scored an astonishing 47 goals in 49 games. Injuries stopped him from achieving his full potential, but there’s no doubt that Ronaldo belongs in Robson’s all-time greatest XI. 


Number 50: Marcelo Bielsa: The Argentina Manager’s All Time Best XI

Number 49: Vic Buckingham: The English Manager’s All Time Best XI

Number 48: Claudio Ranieri: The Tinkerman’s All Time Best XI

Number 47: Bill Nicholson: The Tottenham Legend’s All Time Best XI

Number 46: Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Former Lazio Manager’s All Time Best XI

Number 45: Sir Alf Ramsey: The World Cup Winer’s All Time Best XI

Number 44: Antonio Conte: The Fiery Italian’s All-Time Best XI

Number 43: Kenny Dalglish: The King of Anfield’s All-Time Best XI

Number 42: ?Massimiliano Allegri: The Six-Time Serie A Winner’s All-Time Best XI

Let’

Neymar: The Many Reasons He Wants to Leave ‘Small’ PSG as World’s Most Expensive Player Nears Exit

?Neymar’s departure from Paris Saint-Germain is seeming like a more realistic prospect by the day, as a report from Spain has listed the multitude of reasons as to why the Brazilian wants out of the club this summer, including everything from tough-tackling opponents to the press. 

The 27-year-old arrived in Paris for a fee near the £200m mark in 2017, seemingly intent on emerging from the shadow of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and cementing his status as a potential Ballon d’Or winner. 

Despite maintaining his prolific form, however – scoring 51 goals in 58 appearances for the Ligue 1 champions – he has only seen his stock fall due to a combination of injuries, disciplinary issues and (most crucially) a lack of success in the Champions League, and reports surfaced this week suggesting that PSG ?would be open to selling.

FBL-FRA-CUP-RENNES-PSG

He is believed to be ?keen on a return to ?Barcelona, and ?SPORT claim to know why, citing sources near the player in explaining why he is so unhappy in the French capital. 

They claim that the divided nature of the dressing room isn’t to Neymar’s tastes, while the harsh treatment he receives from opponents coupled with the lack of protection from referees add to a growing list of concerns. 

He is also believed to be unhappy with the ‘unattractive competition’, feeling that playing to less than 20,000 people in some away games is beneath him, and leading him to the belief that PSG is a ‘small’ club not on the level of Barça. 

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE

It is reported that he knew at the end of last season that he wanted to leave, but the final straw was the club’s poor run of form towards the end of the season, as they lost five of nine matches after Ligue 1 was sewn up. 

His heart is now set on a return to Barca, it seems, with his relationship with Lionel Messi cited as one of the primary reasons there, and with ?Philippe Coutinho being heavily linked with a move in the other direction, it remains to be seen if a sensational deal could yet be done.

?Real Madrid have also been linked while Neymar has apparently been back in Catalonia, house hunting.

Let’

The 50 Most Expensive Football Transfers of All Time

A large transfer fee can be a blessing or a curse. 

It is a sign of great faith to spend such a huge amount of money on one player, but it carries with it the expectation that the player will reward that faith with performances – and if they do not, fans will not be forgiving. 

Many great players have risen to the pressure of their transfer fee, but others have been crushed under the burden of expectations placed upon them. 

Let’s take a look at the 50 most expensive transfers of all time.


50) Bernardo Silva – Monaco to Manchester City (€50m, 2017)

Bernardo Silva

After Bernardo Silva’s wonderful 2016/17 season at Monaco, in which he played a major part in the principality’s Ligue 1 triumph, Manchester City came a-knocking and brought the Portuguese international to the Etihad.

Silva has gone on to become a key member of Pep Guardiola’s squad, scoring 22 goals in 100 appearances over the course of two seasons, and winning back-to-back Premier League titles as well as the FA Cup, Community Shield and the Carabao Cup.


49) Eliaquim Mangala – Porto to Manchester City (€51.7m, 2014)

Eliaquim Mangala

After three successful years with Portuguese giants Porto, Eliaquim Mangala became Manchester City’s then-record signing, joining the club for a reported fee of €51.7m. 

The centre back had a difficult start to his Premier League career, with his transfer delayed and then arriving at the club injured. Despite an impressive debut against Chelsea, his next match against Hull City was one he would be happy to forget, heading in an own-goal and conceding a penalty.

Despite an upturn in form that earned him a spot in France’s Euro 2016 squad, Manuel Pellegrini decided to spend £32m on Nicolas Otamendi and Mangala was sent off on loan to Valencia and then Everton.


48) Gianluigi Buffon – Parma to Juventus (€52m, 2001)

Juventus v Inter Milan X

The legendary goalkeeper made history when he joined Juventus from Parma in what was then a world record fee for a keeper, a record that remained firmly in place for 17 years.

Gianluigi Buffon went on to achieve legendary status at Turin, making over 650 appearances for I Bianconeri over the course of 17 years, winning nine Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia’s, five Supercoppa Italiana’s, and one Serie B title.

Notoriously known for winning every possible title except the Champions League, Buffon decided to leave Juventus and move on to Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.


47) Alexandre Lacazette – Lyon to Arsenal (€53m + €7m in Add-Ons, 2017)

Alexandre Lacazette

After failing to secure a move to Atletico Madrid when their two-window transfer ban was upheld by CAS, Alexandre Lacazette left Lyon to join Arsenal, setting the record for the highest figure ever paid to the French club in a transfer and becoming the Gunners’ most expensive player.

Lacazette scored 17 goals in his debut season at the Emirates, and after the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, formed a deadly striking partnership with the Gabonese international. 

In the 2018/19 season he scored 19 goals as Arsenal reached the final of the Europa League, and was named the Gunners’ player of the season by the fans.


46) Hernan Crespo – Parma to Lazio (€55m, 2000)

Lazio v Leeds

After scoring 80 goals over the course of four seasons at Parma, Hernan Crespo became the most expensive player in the world when he was acquired by Serie A champions Lazio.

In his debut season, Crespo proved he was worth every penny by ending the campaign as the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, though Lazio failed to defend their title. Numerous injuries, as well as Lazio’s financial troubles, saw him suffer from a lack of support in attack and he was sold to Inter in 2002.


45) Kyle Walker – Tottenham to Manchester City (€56.7m, 2017)

Kyle Walker

After spending six years with Tottenham, Kyle Walker became the most expensive defender in the world when he was transferred to ?Manchester City, as Guardiola began a major defensive upheaval at the club.

Walker became a dominant figure in City’s defence, helping the club win the Premier League title in both seasons since joining.


44) John Stones – Everton to Manchester City (€58m, 2016)

John Stones

Beginning his career at Championship side Barnsley before moving on to a successful spell at Everton, John Stones became the second most-expensive defender in the world, at the time, when he was bought by Guardiola’s City.

His arrival at the Etihad was notorious for being accidentally leaked ahead of the official announcement, having been included in the Citizens’ Champions League Play-Offs squad list which was published on UEFA’s website.


43) Benjamin Mendy – Monaco to Manchester City (€58.2m, 2017)

Benjamin Mendy

Part of the historic Monaco side that beat out Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title in 2016/17, Monaco became the next member of Guardiola’s defensive revolution at City, joining the club in a five-year deal and eclipsing the world record for a defender, set only ten days earlier by Walker.

Mendy’s career at City has been injury-ravaged, missing out on most of both seasons since joining the club and undergoing two major surgeries. However, he has managed to become a one of the fans’ favourite players due to his social media presence and attitude.


42) Hulk – Zenit St Petersburg to Shanghai SIPG (€58.6m, 2016)

FBL-CHN-HULK

The Brazilian behemoth set an Asian football record when he left Zenit St Petersburg to join Chinese side Shanghai SIPG in 2016.

However, he managed to make only seven appearances in his debut season due to injury, but went on to become one of the symbols of the Chinese league – winning the league title in 2018 and being named in the team of the season in 2017 and 2018.


41) Jorginho – Napoli to Chelsea (€58.9m, 2018)

Jorginho

Jorginho was the star of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side, and when the manager joined Chelsea in 2018 he made the Italian midfielder his main transfer target. Despite interest from Manchester City, Jorginho joined his former manager at Stamford Bridge and made his debut in the Community Shield against City.

His season at Chelsea started well, in their third Premier League match of the campaign Jorginho completed 158 passes, setting a new record for the most passes completed by a Chelsea player in a single league match, and breaking the record for most attempted passes with 180 three games later.

With Sarri moving on to Juventus this summer, Jorginho just might complete another huge transfer in the near future.


40) Fred – Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United (€58.9m, 2018)

Fred

After spending five years with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, a club well-known for purchasing and developing young Brazilian stars, Fred completed a big money move to Manchester United in 2018.

Despite the monster fee, Fred failed to leave a lasting impression in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 appearances in all competitions as he couldn’t break his way into the starting XI under both Jose Mourinho and his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


39) Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea (€59m, 2011)

Fernando Torres

El Nino’s exploits over the course of his four seasons at Liverpool were constantly accompanied by rumours of a big-money move to Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, and despite constant denials from both the club and the player, Fernando Torres completed his transfer to Stamford Bridge in January 2011.

However, he failed to live up to the enormously high expectations with the Blues, scoring just one goal in his debut campaign and failing to reach double figures in any of his three-and-a-half seasons at the club. He was eventually loaned to Milan, but only managed to find success again when he returned to former club Atletico Madrid.


38) Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid (€60m, 2000)

Luis Figo, Bulent Akin

In July 2000, Luis Figo made one of the most controversial moves in football history when he left Barcelona to join hated rivals Real Madrid, smashing the world record for the highest transfer fee.

In his first season with Real he won the Ballon d’Or award, largely for his time at Barcelona, and upon his return to the Camp Nou, for the first Clasico of the season, he was met by a deafening chorus of boos and banners hung around the stadium reading ‘traitor’, ‘scum’ and ‘Judas’.

Figo’s move marked the beginning of the Galacticos era at Los Blancos, and he was later joined by stars such as Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham. Over the course of his career at Real he won two La Liga titles, two Spanish Supercups, the Champions League, a UEFA Supercup and the Intercontinental Cup, finally moving to Inter in 2005.


37) Naby Keita – RB Leipzig to Liverpool (€60m, 2018)

Naby Keita

?Liverpool identified RB Leipzig’s tough-tackling, dynamic midfielder ?Naby Keita as the player who could transform them into title contenders, and were even prepared to wait a year for his arrival after reaching an agreement in 2017.

The Reds have indeed become title challengers since Keita’s arrival, and he’s really starting to find his feet now – flourishing in the final weeks of the 2018/19 season.


36) Oscar – Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG (€60.3m, 2017)

FBL-ASIA-C1-CHN-SHANGHAI-ULSAN

Chinese transfer fees are notoriously difficult to pin down, with estimates for Carlos Tevez’s move to Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 ranging between £12m and £72m depending on who you believe and how you calculate it.

Only the second Chinese transfer we can confirm in the top 50 is Oscar’s move to Shanghai SIPG in 2017. The Brazilian had slipped down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge and decided to take a big payday in the Far East, linking up with former Brazil teammate Hulk.

Unlike Tevez, Oscar didn’t let his standards drop and has taken advantage of the lower quality league to rack up some impressive statistics, with 25 goals and 41 assists in just two years.?


35) Angel Di Maria – Manchester United to Paris Saint-Germain (€61.6m, 2015)

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MARSEILLE-PSG

After being deemed the worst signing of the season at Manchester United, Angel Di Maria completed a dramatic move to French champions Paris Saint-Germain in 2015.

He failed to board a flight to join the Red Devils in the United States, to which manager Louis van Gaal commented: “I have heard he is not on the plane. I cannot say anything. He was not on the plane.” One week later the transfer was officially announced, and Di Maria has been a PSG player ever since.


34) David Luiz – Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain (€62.5m, 2014)

FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-AJAX

In the summer of 2014, David Luiz became the most expensive defender in history – leaving Chelsea to join Paris Saint-Germain on a five-year contract.

The Brazilian international became a stalwart figure at the Parc des Princes, helping PSG win the domestic treble in both of his seasons at the club, before returning to former club Chelsea in 2016.


33) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal (€63.75m, 2018)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Sven Mislintat had been ?Arsenal’s head of recruitment for just two months when he secured one of their best signings in recent years, raiding his former club ?Borussia Dortmund for ?Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018.

The Gabonese international scored 10 goals in 13 league appearances up to the end of the season and has continued his prolific form into Unai Emery’s reign.

After years of treading water, this is the sort of signing Arsenal need to make more of if they want to become a force to be reckoned with again. Mislintat’s departure from the Emirates Stadium was a real blow in that regard.


32) Christian Pulisic – Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea (€64m, 2019)

Christian Pulisic

The first 2019 transfer on this list saw ?Chelsea pay £58m to sign Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, the highest transfer fee ever paid for a North American player by quite some distance.

At just 20 years of age, Pulisic is already vastly experienced with over 100 Dortmund appearances under his belt. However, he was allowed to leave the German side after slipping behind Jadon Sancho in the pecking order.

After Chelsea lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, they will hope that Pulisic can fill the void left behind. It will certainly be a lucrative transfer in a commercial sense, with Pulisic being the poster boy of football in the USA.


31) Edinson Cavani – Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain (€64.5m, 2013)

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE

Arriving at Paris Saint-Germain after they had just won their first league title in two decades, Edinson Cavani helped to establish Les Parisiens as the dominant force in French football. They have won 17 of the 20 domestic competitions they have entered in Cavani’s five years on board.

Throughout his PSG career, Cavani has never been the club’s poster boy, overshadowed first by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. However, his consistency has never been in doubt as he has always scored at least 20 goals each season. 

In recent years he has been particularly lethal, outscoring both Neymar and Mbappe in the 2017/18 season, and despite injuries and fewer appearances he still managed to net 23 times in 2018/19.


30) Aymeric Laporte – Athletic to Manchester City (€65m, 2018) 

Aymeric Laporte

Athletic’s unique transfer policy allows them to command much higher fees for players than other clubs would be able to, but Manchester City fans will agree that Laporte was worth every penny paid.

Laporte joined City in January 2018 when they were already 12 points clear of their nearest rivals and played on and off until the end of the season. In 2018/19, he became City’s main defender, and there’s no questioning his place in the team nowadays.

Arguably his most important City performance came against Liverpool, when he deputised superbly at left back in a crucial victory for Guardiola’s side.


29) Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid (€65m, 2009)

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Kaka

One of the best midfielders of his generation and a Ballon d’Or winner in 2007, a world record move to Real Madrid seemed like the natural step for Kaka when AC Milan’s status in European football began to slip in the late 2000s.

But like the Rossoneri, Kaka’s best years were behind him. Injuries disrupted his first two seasons at the Bernabeu, with Mesut Ozil taking his place in the side, and he also had a troubled relationship with Jose Mourinho.

The huge loss Real Madrid made when they sold Kaka back to Milan in 2013 means that this is regarded as one of the worst transfers of all time.?


28) Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City to Manchester City (€67.8m, 2018)

Riyad Mahrez

How do you improve a squad which has just scored a record number of goals, won a record number of games and become the first side to surpass 100 points in the Premier League? Guardiola’s answer was to buy ?Riyad Mahrez from ?Leicester in the summer of 2018.

City had been after Mahrez for at least a year, but their approach had been rebuffed the previous summer and Leicester held firm the following January, despite Mahrez temporarily going on strike. The champions eventually got their man for €67.8m.

Despite ending the season with 12 goals and 12 assists in all competitions, Mahrez is yet to hit the heights which saw him named PFA Player of the Year during Leicester’s unlikely title triumph of 2015/16, and his penalty miss at Anfield in October will remain his most memorable moment ot the season.


27) Raheem Sterling – Liverpool to Manchester City (€69.1m, 2015)

Raheem Sterling

The talented youngster’s transfer from Liverpool to Manchester City in 2015 was the end product of a highly publicised contract dispute between Raheem Sterling and the Reds.

After his breakthrough at Anfield, Sterling was offered a contract extension which he refused to sign, to which manager Brendan Rodgers said: “In terms of Raheem I’m just saying what I think the club are offering. It’s an incredible deal for a young player.

“But we’re certainly not a club that is going to give way, way above what a player is worth at a certain time in their career.”

The rift between Sterling and Liverpool grew towards the end of the season, with the player and his agent giving unsanctioned interviews and Sterling missing two days of training due to ‘illness’.

The saga finally drew to a close when Manchester City made Sterling the most expensive English player in history, also breaking the record for the highest fee paid for a teenager.


26) Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Inter to Barcelona (€69.5m, 2009)

Barcelona's Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrah

A world class player, moving from Italy to Spain, for €69.5m, in 2009. Spanish football fans were having déjà vu when Barcelona signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic just three weeks after Real Madrid had bought Kaka, and the symmetry continued as this transfer was equally unsuccessful.

Ibrahimovic’s only season at the Camp Nou wasn’t that bad, as he scored 16 La Liga goals, but fans were scratching their heads as to why Samuel Eto’o – an equally brilliant striker – had been allowed to join Inter in part exchange.

Ibrahimovic resented having to share the limelight with Lionel Messi and accused Guardiola of being a coward after a Champions League defeat. “You bought a Ferrari, but you drive it like a Fiat,” Ibrahimovic said. He was written off at the end of the season, and sold to AC Milan.?


25) Luka Jovic – Eintracht Frankfurt to Real Madrid (€70m, 2019)

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-JOVIC

After a breakthrough season on loan at ?Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, Luka Jovic completed a move to Real Madrid as part of Zinedine Zidane’s 2019 squad rejuvenation.

The Serbian striker will hope to replicate his form from the 2018/19 season which saw him score 27 goals from 48 appearances, helping Eintracht finish seventh in the Bundesliga and reach the semi-final of the Europa League.


24) Thomas Lemar – Monaco to Atletico Madrid (€70m, 2018)

Thomas Lemar

?It’s early days in the La Liga career of ?Thomas Lemar, but it’s already starting to look like ?Atletico Madrid may have paid well over the odds for the Frenchman when they signed him from Monaco last summer.

In 31 league appearances, Lemar has managed just two goals and three assists for Diego Simeone’s team, and Atletico fans are starting to fear that this might be Jackson Martinez all over again.

Simeone has pleaded patience, emphasising Lemar’s talent and insisting he will come good. He will need to do so quickly if Atletico are to stand any chance of competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.


23) Alisson Becker – Roma to Liverpool (€73m, 2018)

Alisson

Loris Karius’ disastrous performance in the 2018 Champions League final forced Jurgen Klopp to swallow his pride and dip into the transfer market for a world class goalkeeper. He put up the cash for Alisson Becker, Roma’s Brazilian shot-stopper, breaking Buffon’s long-standing record for the most expensive goalkeeper.

Alisson’s impact is reflected in Liverpool’s defensive record, which was the best in the Premier League in 2018/19. He has come to the fore with some memorable saves against Brighton, Chelsea, Burnley, and most notably Napoli, helping the Reds win the Champions League title.


22) Angel Di Maria – Real Madrid to Manchester United (€74.6m, 2014)

Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria had been named man of the match in the Champions League final as Real Madrid finally clinched La Decima in 2014, so it looked like a good piece of business when Manchester United broke their transfer record to sign the Argentine a few months later.

He made a promising start at Old Trafford, winning Manchester United’s player of the month award for September after two goals and two assists in four Premier League matches, including a sensational chipped finish against Leicester.

However, Di Maria’s form soon took a nose-dive and a costly red card against Arsenal in the FA Cup proved to be his final start for United as he was sold at the end of the season to Paris Saint-Germain for a loss of around £15m.


21) Kevin De Bruyne – Wolfsburg to Manchester City (€75m, 2015)

Kevin De Bruyne

Two years after Jose Mourinho decided that Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, Manuel Pellegrini brought him back to England, paying a hefty sum to sign the Belgian from Wolfsburg.

De Bruyne has been worth every penny spent, with his performances in the 2017/18 season affirming his status as one of the best players in the ?Premier League. He won the inaugural Playmaker Award for most assists and narrowly missed out on the PFA Player of the Year award to Mohamed Salah.

Injuries have restricted De Bruyne more recently, but if he can maintain his fitness then City have a good chance of winning every trophy available to them…every year.


20) Frenkie de Jong – Ajax to Barcelona (€75, 2019)

Sean Klaiber,Frenkie de Jong

After months of speculation, the Frenkie de Jong transfer saga finally came to an end in January 2019 as the Dutch midfielder agreed to join Barcelona at the end of the season.

De Jong has been compared to both Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer, which is not as ridiculous as it seems, given that he possesses a Cruyff-like ability to float past players despite being closer to Beckenbauer in terms of his position and tactical flexibility.

Producing consistent performances in the Eredivisie is one thing; doing it in La Liga is quite another. If De Jong can learn from Sergio Busquets and become the Spaniard’s successor, Barcelona will have a world class talent on their hands.


19) Zinedine Zidane – Juventus to Real Madrid (€77.5m, 2001)

Real Madrid's French Zinedine Zidane (L)

 In 2001 Zidane joined the Galacticos project at Real Madrid, becoming the most expensive player in the world at the time, playing at the club until his retirement in 2006.

The Frenchman, widely considered to be one of the best players in football history, left his mark in just his first season at the club – scoring the match-winning goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final.

He went on to win the La Liga title with Los Blancos and was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003, as well as achieving international success with the French national team.

After retiring from active play, Zidane started his managerial career at Real, eventually replacing Rafa Benitez as the club’s manager in 2016. With Zidane at the helm, Los Blancos became the only team to win three consecutive ?Champions League titles.


18) Alvaro Morata – Real Madrid to Chelsea (€78.9m, 2017)

Alvaro Morata

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea downfall began when he decided to replace Diego Costa with Alvaro Morata in the summer of 2017. Costa had just scored 20 goals to help Chelsea win the Premier League title in 2016/17; Morata had never scored more than 15 in a league campaign.

Sure enough, Morata failed to have the expected impact. After a bright start, scoring six goals in his first six Premier League matches, he faded badly, hitting the target just five more times all season as Chelsea finished outside the top four and Conte was sacked.

Even the appointment of Maurizio Sarri couldn’t get the best out of Morata, who is now at Atletico Madrid on loan. If Los Rojiblancos want to make the move permanent they will be able to do so for a £15m loss on Chelsea’s original investment.


17) James Rodriguez – Monaco to Real Madrid (€80m, 2014)

James Rodriguez

Coming off the back of his performances at the 2014 World Cup, where he scored six goals and led Colombia to the quarter finals, ?James Rodriguez said it was his ‘life’s dream’ to play for Real Madrid. Los Blancos were happy to oblige, splashing out £63m on the Monaco star.

Rodriguez was certainly living the dream in his first season at the Bernabeu, with 17 goals and 18 assists making him Real’s third most productive player, behind only Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Alas, injuries meant that he couldn’t maintain his promising start.

Seeking to rejuvenate his career, Rodriguez joined Bayern Munich on loan in summer 2017 and excelled in his first year, but injuries have once again slowed his progress. Bayern have declined the opportunity to sign him on a permanent deal, and he is widely believed to be heading for a final exit from the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer.


16) Lucas Hernandez – Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m, 2019)

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ATLETICO-REAL MADRID

French World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez will join ?Bayern Munich from Atletico Madrid on July 1 for a huge €80m fee.

He can play at left back and centre half, and is set to be part of a Bayern overhaul which has also seen the likes of Benjamin Pavard and Jann-Fiete Arp join. There’s going to be more too, you can be sure of that.


15) Kepa Arrizabalaga – Athletic to Chelsea (€80m, 2018)

Kepa Arrizabalaga

Alisson was the world’s most expensive goalkeeper for less than three weeks last summer before he was replaced at the top of the list by Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Chelsea paying Athletic top dollar to replace Thibaut Courtois.

The commanding Basque shot-stopper has settled in well at Stamford Bridge, with his height and agility ensuring that Courtois has not been missed. He cemented his popularity with the Chelsea fans by saving a penalty in the shoot-out which booked their place in the EFL Cup final.

His most famous moment so far, however, has to be that time he refused to be substituted at Wembley against Manchester City.


14) Luis Suarez – Liverpool to Barcelona (€82.3m, 2014)

Luis Suarez

No price tag would have been enough for Liverpool to happily part with ?Luis Suarez, but they couldn’t stand in the way of his dream move to Barcelona, and he became damaged goods (even more so than before) after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.

Liverpool’s title challenge in the 2013/14 season had been so dependant on the brilliance of Suarez that they crumbled without him, finishing sixth the following year and eighth the season after that. Not until signing Mohamed Salah did they fill the void Suarez had left behind.

At Barcelona, Suarez has proved why he is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. He has scored 131 goals in 163 La Liga appearances and is the only player apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Pichichi Trophy in the last nine years.


13) Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool (€84.5m, 2018)

Virgil van Dyke

?Some people were sceptical when Liverpool smashed their transfer record to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender in January 2018, but 18 months later he is the most important piece of the jigsaw in the Reds’ title bid.

With the Dutchman at the back, Liverpool reached the Champions League final two years in a row, winning it the second time around. Their previously fragile defence is now the sturdiest in the Premier League, after years of committing unforced errors.

Rated by many as one of the world’s best centre backs, Van Dijk has shown that a good defender is worth his weight in gold. The likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar and Matthijs de Ligt could soon be changing hands for similar fees.


12) Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United (€84.8m, 2017)

Romelu Lukaku

?Romelu Lukaku can count himself unfortunate to have come in for so much criticism since joining Manchester United in 2017. He averaged nearly a goal every other game in his debut season, but was accused of not being mobile enough and only scoring against lesser sides.

With 27 goals in all competitions, his debut season was actually the most prolific of Lukaku’s career. It’s a little more difficult for him nowadays though, and he could find himself moved on again this summer as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revamp at Old Trafford.


11) Neymar – Santos to Barcelona (€86.2m, 2013)

Neymar

Brazilian superstar Neymar made the step up to European football in 2013 when joined Barcelona in a highly complicated and controversial deal.

The striker was highly sought after when he broke onto the scene at Santos, with Real Madrid and Barcelona racing to get their hands on him. He eventually announced that he chose the Catalan side, and Barcelona confirmed that they had paid €57.1m for the star.

Several months later an investigation was opened into the transfer by the prosecutor’s office in Madrid, which revealed that the transfer had actually cost the club €86.2m, leading Barcelona and then-vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu to be charged with tax fraud. 

However, Neymar would go on to become the most expensive player in the world and Barcelona would make their investment back and then some.


10) Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli to Juventus (€90m, 2016)

Gonzalo Higuain

In their efforts to finally win that elusive Champions League title, ?Juventus raided Serie A rivals ?Napoli for ?Gonzalo Higuain in 2016. It was a fair price for a striker whose 36 goals the previous season was the highest total in Serie A since 1928/29.

Higuain didn’t quite scale those heights in Turin, though he did score 40 goals in 73 league appearances. As for the Champions League, Higuain scored five goals to help Juventus reach the final in 2016/17, but they came up short again, losing to Real Madrid in Cardiff.

After just two seasons at Juventus, Higuain was loaned out to Milan as part of the deal which brought Leonardo Bonucci back. Just six months later he was on the move again, joining Chelsea.


9) Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United to Real Madrid (€94m, 2009)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Nothing which costs €94m can be described as a bargain, but this will go down as one of the greatest transfers ever despite the extortionate price. ?Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Real Madrid as one of the best players in the world and left having established himself as one of the best players of all time.

In nine seasons at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo scored a staggering 450 goals in 438 appearances, won the Ballon d’Or four times, and won every possible trophy at least twice, including four Champions League titles.

The rivalry between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi means that this era of La Liga will always be remembered as one of the greatest periods in football history.


8) Eden Hazard – Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m + €40m in Add-Ons)

FBL-ESP-BEL-REAL MADRID

Known as one of the most exhausting and unsurprising transfer sagas in recent years, Eden Hazard completed his highly anticipated move to the Santiago Bernabeu from Chelsea in the summer of 2019.

Hazard made no secret of his desire to join Real Madrid since the 2018 World Cup, saying on several occasions that his dream was to play for Los Blancos and that he had already made up his mind to leave Chelsea.

The Blues managed to keep Hazard at the club in the summer of 2018 despite Real’s advances, and he went on to record the most prolific season of his career, scoring 21 goals and providing 17 assists in all competitions as Chelsea finished the season in third place and claimed the Europa League title.


7) Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid to Juventus €100m, 2018)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Guess who’s back? It’s inevitably Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus watched Real Madrid win three consecutive Champions League titles and decided they wouldn’t mind a piece of the action, and they were prepared to spend big to get it.

Of all the players on this list, Ronaldo was the oldest at the time of his transfer, but the 33-year-old appears ageless as he has taken to Serie A like a duck to water – with 21 goals and a Scudetto in his debut season.


6) Gareth Bale – Tottenham to Real Madrid (€100.8m, 2013)

Gareth Bale

?Nothing says Real Madrid like breaking your own world transfer record, as Los Blancos did in 2013 when they signed Gareth Bale from Tottenham, slightly surpassing the fee paid for Ronaldo four years prior.

With his price tag naturally drawing comparisons to Ronaldo, Bale was under immediate pressure to succeed, but injuries marred his first six months. However, a sensational winner against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final was the perfect way to ingratiate himself to his new fans.

Though Bale has struggled to maintain consistent popularity during his time in Spain, he has always had the ability to pop up with important goals in big matches, including the 2014 and 2018 Champions League finals.


5) Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United (€105m, 2016)

Paul Pogba

Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t make many mistakes in his illustrious career, but allowing ?Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United for nothing in 2012 may be one of his biggest. Pogba’s attitude was called into question, but that did not seem to be a problem at Juventus as he became one of the best midfielders in Serie A.

Four years after letting him leave, Manchester United brought Pogba back to Old Trafford. He made a bright start before Ferguson’s old reservations about his attitude began to resurface, and his performances deteriorated in correlation with his relationship with Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese was replaced in late 2018, and after an initial period of brilliance from the Frenchman, form moved back to the norm.

Rarely has he done enough. But he still remains one of the world’s best.


4) Ousmane Dembele – Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona (€105m + €45m in Add-Ons, 2017)

Ousmane Dembele

Barcelona took a leap of faith when they spent over 100m to sign ?Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. The Frenchman had only spent one season in the Bundesliga, but Barca scouts were convinced that this was a player who could become one of the world’s best.

He isn’t quite in that category yet, but after an injury-ravaged first season at the Camp Nou, Dembele is slowly proving that the faith in him was justified.

Statistics alone cannot convey how impressive Dembele has been, with some of his goals being truly mesmerising: a sensational strike against Sevilla, a sublime run and finish against PSV Eindhoven, and an exhibition of speed and strength against Tottenham, but the jury is still out.


3) Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool to Barcelona (€120m* + €40m in Add-Ons, 2018)

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 in search of trophies and acclaim, and he got what he desired – winning two league titles in a row. But he could only watch on as former club Liverpool lifted the big one in 2019, smashing Coutinho’s Barcelona en-route to the Champions League final itself.

Coutinho has struggled. So much so, in fact, that if you were to label this one of the worst transfers of all time, you’d actually have a strong case. Never before has so much money been put up and such disappointment followed.

That money*, you ask? Barca are reported to have paid an initial €120m to Liverpool, with a series of add ons paid down the line – coming after sealing Champions League qualification, winning the tournament itself and in blocks of appearances. The total could reach €160m if all add-ons are triggered.

Nevertheless, it’ll be an interesting summer in 2019, with Barcelona ready to cut their losses and Coutinho unsure of his own next steps.


2) Kylian Mbappe – Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain (€145m + €35m in Add-Ons, 2018)

Kylian Mbappe

Most of us weren’t alive the last time a teenager did what ?Kylian Mbappe did at the 2018 World Cup. Not since Pele in 1958 had a teenager scored twice in a World Cup match or scored in a World Cup final. He also became the youngest Frenchman ever to score at a World Cup.

For many people, Mbappe’s performances in Russia confirmed that he is the player who will succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best in the world. No wonder PSG made him the world’s most expensive teenager in 2017, with the transfer made official a year later.

However, Mbappe may struggle to fulfil his full potential at PSG, who dominate domestically but are yet to go beyond the quarter finals of the Champions League. If they can’t get it right in the next few years, Mbappe may have to look elsewhere.

Rumour has it that ?he’s thinking about it already


1) Neymar – Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain (€222m, 2017)

Neymar Jr

?Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 didn’t so much break the world transfer record as smash it into a million pieces. He became the first player to command a nine-figure sum, with the £198m fee being more than double the previous record of Paul Pogba.

Was it worth it? Neymar has been prolific in front of goal and PSG won the domestic treble in his first season. It was a stroll to the Ligue 1 title in 2018/19 too, but there’s still a sense it’s not gone to plan.

PSG need to see some significant progress in the Champions League, and Neymar was supposed to be the man to lead them to European glory. He was supposed to win the Ballon d’Or, too. But he’s further off that now than he’s ever been, and he may be out the door by September.


All transfer fees according to ?Goal.

Let’

Antoine Griezmann ‘Fuming’ After Ludicrous Reports Suggest Barcelona Could Swap Him for Neymar

?Antoine Griezmann is said to have been left frustrated at the talk of a possible transfer swap -between himself and Neymar this summer.

It has been widely reported that the Catalan giants have already agreed a deal with Atletico Madrid to sign Griezmann, although there has been no official confirmation from any of the parties involved in the transaction just yet.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-LEVANTE-ATLETICO

Recent reports have also indicated that Paris Saint-Germain forward and former ?Barcelona star ?Neymar could be set to return to Camp Nou this summer which, according to ?Le Parisien, could pave the way for a rather surprising swap deal.

The farfetched claims suggest the deal would see Barcelona sign Griezmann at the start of July as planned, before immediately offering him to PSG – in an attempt to secure the services of Neymar.

The report then goes on to discuss the role of Griezmann, who is said to be fuming at the prospect of being ‘used as a pawn’ in Barça’s quest to strike a deal for Neymar.

As a result, it’s claimed that Griezmann would be unwilling to join Barcelona at all, if this is what they have planned – well, duh.

Neymar Jr.

This hilarious news follows on from a recent ?El Mundo report which claimed that ?Lionel Messi had weighed in on the discussions surrounding both players, asking club official to pursue a deal for Neymar instead of Griezmann.

Given Neymar’s stature, Barcelona are not alone in their pursuit of the Brazilian, with Real Madrid also being cited as a potential candidate to sign him this summer, which means they’ll have to come to a definitive decision sooner rather than later.

Let’

Ousmane Dembele Handed Barcelona Lifeline as Blaugrana Decide to Ignore Offers for Frenchman

?Ousmane Dembele will remain with Barcelona for the 2019/20 campaign after club officials informed the winger he does, indeed, have a future at the Camp Nou.

There has been speculation that the Frenchman could leave Catalonia this summer following a testing couple of seasons, as the 22-year-old struggled to rediscover the blistering form he showed at Borussia Dortmund. His first year was truncated by injury problems, whilst Dembele looked short of confidence for large periods last term.

Nevertheless, it appears the player will have at least one more campaign in red and blue, with ?Mundo Deportivo reporting that the Blaugrana board have decided not to sell their €105m man.

Luis Suarez,Ousmane Dembele

It had ?previously been reported that Dembele had been offered to ?Liverpool in an attempt to raise funds at ?Barça, a deal which would help finance moves for Antoine Griezmann and Matthijs de Ligt.

However, that seems to be false in light of a meeting between Dembele and representatives from the La Liga champions, in which board members confirmed the ex-?Dortmund star is a part of coach Ernesto Valverde’s plans.

Dembele in turn revealed his desire to stay at the club he joined from BVB in 2017, for whom he has scored 18 goals in 65 appearances in all competitions.

So, does that settle this miniature transfer saga? There were glimpses of his enormous talent last year, though the World Cup winner also frustrated with some underwhelming performances. Still, he is clearly a talented individual, who could develop into a formidable player with the right coaching.

FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-TOTTENHAM

Barça certainly have a reason to keep him, then, and it’s pretty understandable for anyone to want to be at the Camp Nou given the majesty and power of the club.

Moreover, the requisite fee to take him off of Barcelona’s hands is gonna be steep. We’re talking nine-figures, a sum that most rivals wouldn’t consider paying for a man who is yet to prove that his fitness issues are fully behind him.

Let’

Argentina: Not Even Lionel Messi Can Turn Around Football’s Greatest Underachievers

In the year 2019, Argentina are really quite bad at playing football. Anyone who watched them kick off their Copa America campaign with a distinct lack of style can attest to this. 

It’s not just that they lost the game 2-0. Teams can often play well and still lose games, and Colombia are definitely no mugs. ‘The score didn’t reflect the game’ had joined the pantheon of awful football cliches a long time ago, but this was certainly not the case. They lost the game because they were very poor. Very, very poor. 

Roger Martínez,Franco Armani

Pinpointing precisely why they were so dreadful isn’t easy, though the manager clearly has to take some of the blame. The side that Lionel Scaloni picked always seemed to be shy a few midfielders, and that proved to be the case. 

With no ball-winner and no one in the centre of the field able to take the ball on the half turn and feed their talented attackers, Argentina were lethargic, easy to defend against, and downright nap-inducing for large portions of the game.

The people tasked with organising Argentina’s preparation for the tournament also deserve a degree of scrutiny. Since being eliminated from the World Cup by France almost a year ago, the Argentinian national team have played just three fixtures; two of which were almost three months ago, with the third being a rout against a Nicaragua side currently ranked 139th in the world. 

A lack of cohesiveness and competitiveness was not just expected, but almost guaranteed by such dismal preparation. To put it into perspective, prior to their Nations League semi final clash against the Netherlands at the beginning of the month, England had played eight times since the World Cup – including fixtures against Spain and Croatia. 

Whilst it may be unfair to compare Argentina to a side that was competing in the Nations League throughout much of the year, it still shows that there are opportunities to schedule international fixtures. Even fellow South Americans Brazil managed to play two warm-up games, and they are blessed with a far more talented crop of players than this Argentina squad.  

FBL-COPA AMERICA-2019-BRA-VEN

Of course, there is no shame in having a less impressive squad than a Brazil team that boasts a spine of Alisson, Thiago Silva, Fernandinho, Philippe Coutinho (whose Brazil output is far more comparable to his Liverpool form than his Barcelona showings), and Roberto Firmino.

However, Argentina’s squad isn’t just poor compared to Brazil, it’s poor compared to a lot of sides. They are currently ranked 11th in the FIFA World Rankings, and a fair few countries sitting just below them would undoubtedly consider that to be a smidge generous. 

It’s not that the bulk of their players are bad, they are just afflicted with one of professional football’s most crippling diseases: mediocrity. 

Nicolas Otamendi has been a solid, dependable servant for Manchester City for years, but when everyone is fit he doesn’t start. Across the midfield, the likes of Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes are clearly talented footballers, but they are accompanied by a player who still plies his trade in the Mexican league.

The entirety of Argentina’s defence and midfield are made up of good footballers, but not great footballers. 

This is something that certainly cannot be said of their attack, where Paulo Dybala is only good enough for a spot on the bench. Yet even the proven quality of a player like Angel Di Maria has always been most apparent whilst playing within a dominant side – he is a player who excels when surrounded by top class teammates, something that is in short supply when he plays in an Argentina shirt. 

Lionel Messi

Of course, when it comes to discussing Argentinian football there is only one name that really matters. 

Even Lionel Messi – the man considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time – has never been able to consistently replicate his club form for his country, and will always be reminded of the empty shelf – in what must be a trophy cabinet of Narnian proportions – where an international crown should sit.

Of course, many of Messi’s staunchest supporters will inevitably point to his crowning as the player of the tournament for the 2014 World Cup, where Argentina lost the final against Germany thanks to an extra-time winner from Mario Gotze. 

However, even those with the thickest of Messi-tinted glasses on would have to admit that he was a dubious choice for the Golden Ball that year. FIFA clearly followed some flawed logic of; the best player in the world is in the World Cup final, therefore he must be the best player of the tournament. 

All this when in fact, by his own standards, he had been fairly average. 

The Argentine magician’s inability to claim glory for his country was further accentuated at approximately 22:00 on Sunday 9 June, when Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo notched up another trophy by claiming the inaugural Nations League title.

Cristiano Ronaldo,Nelson Semedo,Raphael Guerreiro,Ruben Neves,Danilo Pereira,Jose Fonte

Another international triumph for Messi’s arch rival sent the Twitter warriors into a frenzy; like coiled springs patiently waiting for the war cry that was referee Alberto Mallenco’s final whistle. The result was, of course, indisputable proof that Ronaldo was the better player than Messi. 

The fact that the former had only played in two of the six fixtures, and that his teammate Bernardo Silva had just run himself into the ground to claim the man of the match and player of the tournament titles, were inconsequential details – this was about Ronaldo’s triumph, and almost more importantly, Messi’s failure.

This has long been the narrative of the rivalry between these two titans of the game: fans of each player seem to need to tear one down in order to build the other up. Liking both is heresy.  

Whilst the last thing the world needs is another article comparing Messi and Ronaldo, it does serve in reinforcing just how below par Argentina’s squad is compared to Portugal’s. That is not to rob Ronaldo of his personal performances, or to completely dissolve Messi of blame for his lower standards in an Argentina shirt, but If you can somehow manage to make Lionel Messi look anything less than extraordinary, then there are serious, serious problems. 

It is clearly far too early to write off Argentina for this year’s Copa America; they have only played one game, and it was against one of the strongest sides in the tournament. 

Copa America 2019 Official Draw

As lamentable as they were last Saturday, one would think that they will be much improved in the early hours of Thursday morning when they face a Paraguay side who only managed a draw with Qatar in their opening fixture. 

However, it is bordering on the impossible to envisage this Argentina side improving drastically enough to claim their first Copa America since 1993. While football fans around the globe will be hoping that this will be the year Messi breaks his international voodoo, there is very, very little evidence to suggest that this squad is capable of it.     

All we can say with absolute certainty is that whether Argentina lose all their group games and Messi misses three penalties and five open goals, or whether he scores 20 times and single-handedly gifts Argentina the 2019 Copa America, stances on Twitter will not alter one iota. 

Let’

Transfer Rumours: Koulibaly to Man City, Costa & Donnarumma to PSG, Zaniolo to Spurs & More

Rumours, you gotta love ’em. And we’ve got quite the transfer kitty today.

From Manchester United maybe but probably not signing [insert literally any player] to Manchester City probably not (but maybe?) signing Kalidou Koulibaly (you know, the Napoli centre back who United also really want but won’t get), it’s all here. 

Go on, indulge yourself in the ne’er ending possibilities.


Aston Villa Looking to Land Axel Tuanzebe for £8m

Mason Bennett,Axel Tuanzebe

After a successful spell on loan last season, Aston Villa are desperate to bring in Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe on a permanent basis.

According to the Daily Mail, the Villans want to tie up an £8m deal for the 21-year-old, if possible. However, it’s understood that United are a bit reticent to lose the England Under-21 international at this juncture, and would prefer it if the centre back, who can also play at right back, popped back to Birmingham for another loan. 

This is because, and don’t be surprised, United need full backs. No, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian just won’t cut it anymore, which is why, as per Calciomercato, they’re in for Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj, because, well, for some reason, Carlo Ancelotti still wants Kieran Trippier.


Barcelona & Valencia Agree Swap Deal for Cillessen & Neto

Jasper Cillessen

Barcelona and Valencia are set to complete a straight swap involving goalkeepers Jasper Cillessen and Neto, with both being valued at around €30m.

According to Mundo Deportivo, Cillessen is set to bring in roughly the same wahe as he did at the Nou Camp, while the 29-year-old Brazilian, who left Juventus and the shadow of Gianluigi Buffon in 2017 for increased gametime, will be rewarded for returning to the bench with a salary that should at least double his current earnings. 


Koulibaly to Manchester City Rumours Shut Down

Kalidou Koulibaly

A myriad of publications have recently been reporting a Manchester City bid of £85m for Napoli’s much-coveted Senegalese centre back Kalidou Koulibaly, following on from a purported €80m offer from Real Madrid.

The thing is, at least when it comes to the Citizens, and at least per the Telegraph‘s James Ducker, it’s not actually true. The Manchester correspondent revealed on Twitter, in no uncertain terms, that, as it happens, ‘City are not after Koulibaly’. 

That settles that, then. Or does it? And so begins another needless transfer saga (maybe).


Douglas Costa Confirms He Wants to Stay at Juve Despite PSG Interest

Douglas Costa

Speedster and spitter extraordinaire, Douglas Costa is a wanted man this summer. As such, meetings will be had, business discussed. Which is where business experts Paris Saint-Germain come in.

According to France Football, as relayed by Get French Football News, Costa’s representatives met with PSG’s suits in the last 24 hours, in the hopes of taking the 28-year-old Brazilian to the Parc des Princes. However, in a brief but telling interview with ?Calciomercato, Costa affirmed his desire to stay at Juve:

“Future? I have others three years of contract with Juventus and I am convinced to stay. Now everything is new with the coach and I will stay here.”


De Gea Left in the Cold as PSG Turn to £60m-Rated Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been left in the dirt, bereaving his contractual bargaining chip, after reports (emanating from the Sun) revealed that Paris Saint-Germain have turned their attention to AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma. 

Having been initially willing to test United’s resolve with a £60m bid, PSG have re-signed sporting director Leonardo Araujo from Milan, who is none to keen on bringing in the Spanish custodian, preferring instead the boy-mountain from Italy, who would cost the same amount.

With Real Madrid still persevering with Thibaut Courtois, this leaves De Gea in a sticky spot, in that he’ll probably have to stick around at Old Trafford. Sad times. 


Hornets in Talks to Sign PSV Eindhoven’s Gaston Pereiro

Gaston Pereiro

Watford have entered into discussions with the agent of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Gaston Pereiro, with the 24-year-old possessing just a year left on his contract with the Dutch side. 

According to the Watford Observer, Pereiro was initially offered to AC Milan, but his agent has decided to skip the gothic cathedrals and fountains for sunny Hertfordshire. Reports from the Netherlands have helpfully stated that the fee required will be a ‘double-digit number of millions’, though, thankfully, Gianluca Di Marzio has also had his say, with an estimate of £18m, which would be highly reasonable.


Roma Slap £63m Price Tag on Tottenham Target Nicolo Zaniolo

Nicolo Zaniolo

Roma have slapped a £63m price tag on the shoulders of Italy Under-21 starlet Nicolo Zaniolo, in an attempt to ward off considerable interest from Tottenham. 

According to Sky Italia, La Lupa will not settle for anything less than that figure for Zaniolo this summer, as they are determined to keep the playmaker in their grasp. It will likely to be too steep a climb for Spurs, who prefer the cut of Tanguy Ndombele and Giovanni Lo Celso’s jibs, both of whom would demand similar fees.


Crystal Palace Interested in £7m Santos Defender Lucas Verissimo

Lucas Verissimo

Not satisfied with resting on their Premier League survival laurels, Crystal Palace are looking to kick on this summer, in hopes of a greater season in 2019/20. 

A big part of this revamp could be Santos centre half Lucas Verissimo, who is considered one of the most promising defenders in South America. Handily, as per Futebol Interior, the 23-year-old could be available for as little as £7m. ?Noice. 


Let’

Robert Moreno: 5 Things to Know About Luis Enrique’s Successor as New Spain Manager

Following Luis Enrique’s abrupt departure as Spain boss on Wednesday, Robert Moreno has become the 56th manager in the national side’s history.

Former Barcelona treble-winner Enrique was absent from the sidelines for La Roja’s last three matches against Malta, the Faroe Islands and Sweden for personal reasons, and the Spanish football federation has now officially announced in a press conference that he has permanently left the post.

Enrique is succeeded by his long-time assistant Robert – who also filled in the three recent games, winning all three. While he won’t take charge of his first game as permanent Spain manager until September, Robert’s confirmation makes him the fourth Spain manager in just over one year and the least recognisable name by some distance. 

FBL-EURO-2020-FRO-ESP

However, he remained cool and collected in Wednesday’s press conference and those who know him paint a picture of a master scouter and planner ready for a shot at the big time.

Here are five things to know about the new man in the dugout for La Roja.


Like Enrique, He’s Catalan

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-GETAFE

Like his predecessor and former boss, Robert is Catalan, born in Barcelona in 1977, later studying International Trade at the University of Barcelona before moving full time into football coaching.

He began his management career in Catalonia too with Penya Blaugrana Collblanc in 2003, before spells with other regional sides L’Hospitalet, Castelldefels and Damm.

While his region of birth is expected to have little impact on his management style, old rivalries die hard. Expect the Spanish press to fiercely analyse the number of Barcelona vs. Real Madrid players picked in his squads.


He Wasn’t a Player But He Started Coaching Young


Although never a professional player, Robert started coaching at just 14. 

Now 41, he is also Spain’s youngest manager for 71 years as pointed out on Twitter by the Spanish Football Podcast.


Luis Enrique’s ‘Inseparable’ Friend

Luis Enrique Martinez,Rafael Pol,Robert Moreno,Joaquin Valdes,Juan Carlos Unzue

Robert’s relationship with Luis Enrique began when they worked together at Barcelona B under technical secretary Txiki Begiristain. Since then, the two have been ‘inseparable’ (except for one season at Celta) as ??Mundo Deportivo put it. 

Enrique later took the coach to AS Roma, Celta Vigo and then back to the Barça first team in 2014.

During the previous round of Spain games, Robert described his boss’ absence as like ‘losing your star number 10’.


His Role So Far

FBL-EURO-2020-MLT-ESP-QUALIFIER

While he managed earlier in his career at a number of small clubs, his role for the last decade or so has mainly been in the background focussed on analysis and scouting.

One of the key lieutenants for Enrique during Barça’s treble-winning 2014/15 season, Robert is renowned as a pioneer of using video analysis and other technology in pre-match preparation. He is also a meticulous scout, who knows his opposition inside out and has been consigliere to Enrique for nine years.

Adding to his football nerd credentials, he has even written a book, ?My Recipe of the 4-4-2, which features a foreword from, you guessed it, Luis Enrique.


Nobody Is Safe (Especially De Gea)

FBL-ESP-RFEF

Listening to his recent comments, it seems that Robert is not going to be overawed by the big names and personalities under his command and has insisted that nobody has a fixed place in the squad. 

Speaking back in May ahead of the matches against Sweden and Faroe Islands, ?Robert said: “Nobody has a fixed spot in the team, and it has to be that way. Form decides who is in. The good thing is the competition.”

For the wins against Malta, Faroe Islands and Sweden, Kepa Arrizabalaga started all three ahead of David ge Gea. However, time will tell whether that was Robert’s preference or Enrique’s.


Let’

Neymar: Assessing the Deals That Could Be Agreed to Sign the Wantaway PSG Superstar

?Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly open to selling Neymar this summer, just two years after breaking the world record transfer fee to sign the Brazilian for £200m.

In truth, it has been two turbulent seasons from the forward, who was signed by the French club to help take them to the next level on the European stage. While domestically he has definitely shone (when not injured), PSG are no closer to delivering the ownership’s great aim: the Champions League.

Almost since the day he actually signed in Paris, Neymar has been linked with a move away again and now that move looks more likely than ever following thinly veiled ?comments from club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Neymar Jr

However, even if they do decide to ditch Project Neymar, the problem facing PSG is that there are so few clubs in the world that could afford Neymar, meaning their options to sell the Brazil international are limited.

Let’s take a look at the potential options for ?Neymar, PSG and his suitors and who would benefit most from each option.


Barcelona – £90m plus Rakitic, Umtiti & Dembele

Neymar Jr.

Ousmane Dembele was signed by Barça as a replacement for Neymar, but his fitness record, failure to deliver in the biggest games and his reported attitude problems…well, they make him the perfect replacement in many ways. But he has not lived up to the promise shown at Borussia Dortmund and this deal, which would see the Frenchman link up with former manager Thomas Tuchel, could be best for both parties.

Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti have been brilliant for Barcelona in previous seasons, but both have suffered a drop in form this year, with the latter only making 14 appearances in the 2018/19 campaign following a serious knee injury and has been ousted from the first team by Clement Lenglet.

Who would benefit more from this deal? This potential deal, reported by Globo Esporte, could work very well for both sides, but it could be argued that Barcelona would benefit more. Amid a of summer of change that could yet see Antoine Griezmann and Matthijs de Ligt join Frenkie de Jong in Catalonia, clearing the wage bill of three of the highest earners, who have not performed this season, could be a blessing in disguise. 

Also, the opportunity to reunite the ‘MSN’ striking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar could be too good to turn down.


Real Madrid – £200m

FBL-EUR-C1-REALMADRID-PSG

?Yikes. It’s scary, but according to ?Marca, for any transfer involving a straight fee, PSG would be looking to recoup the full £200m they spent on him in 2017. Only a handful of clubs have spent this much in their entire history, but for this cash-up-front deal to go ahead, it looks as though big spenders ?Real Madrid would be the most likely destination.

The Brazilian has picked up knocks on and off the pitch in two testing years in France, but Paris Saint-Germain are adamant that he is still worth the same amount as in 2017.

Who would benefit more from this deal? Zinedine Zidane has already spent over €300m on ?Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and co. already this summer, and the value in forking out an extra £200m (€220m) for Neymar seems questionable to say the least. 

If this move were to go ahead, it would be PSG who can count themselves the luckier of the two.


Real Madrid – Cash Plus Casemiro

FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-REAL MADRID

?Los Blancos may struggle to fund the cash-only deal for Neymar, given the French club’s reported intention to recuperate the amount they paid for him in 2017. In order to acquire PSG’s Brazilian, they may be willing to let a Brazilian of their own go as a makeweight in the deal.

According to ?Marca, Madrid have identified PSG’s need for a player in Casemiro’s position since Thiago Motta’s retirement in 2018. For this reason, it is thought that they could significantly reduce the transfer fee required for Neymar and make the deal a lot more viable.

Who would benefit more from this deal? Whilst the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric received the plaudits for Real Madrid’s four ?Champions League triumphs in five years, Casemiro’s importance during this period cannot be understated. Given the toxicity surrounding Neymar’s presence in Paris, any deal that sees him depart is likely to be a good one, particularly if PSG get the talented midfield enforcer they need in return.


Manchester United – Cash Plus Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial,Gianluigi Buffon

With ?Paul Pogba’s departure from ?United looking increasingly likely, ?The Mirror report that it could pave the way for Neymar to join the Red Devils. 

Like most others, they will be reluctant to pay for the 27 year-old in cash, so Martial could be used in order to bring the price down. Aged just 23 and still a huge talent despite a couple of mixed years, the Frenchman would surely be welcomed by PSG and could work well with a manager like Tuchel.

Meanwhile, Neymar would become the poster boy for a new era United as they seek to get back to Europe’s top table. For arguably the world’s biggest club, the marriage of Neymar and United is another huge boon from a marketing perspective.

The elephant in the room is whether United’s inability to provide Champions League football next season would stop Neymar from wanting to make the move to the Premier League. Let’s face it, it probably would.

Who would benefit more from this deal? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be making a conscious effort to improve the attitude of his squad while looking for young, home-grown talent. Given Neymar’s cost and well-known temperamental problems, signing the Brazilian could undermine the Norwegian manager’s position at the club. PSG would probably get the better end of the stick in this deal.

Let’

Barcelona’s Stance Over ‘Impossible’ Neymar Rumours Revealed by Catalan Press

?Paris Saint-Germain’s poster boy Neymar has apparently become a target for his former club Barcelona this summer, but most recent reports out of Catalonia have dismissed any suggestion over a possible deal.

Rumours over the deal emerged on Tuesday, with Barcelona even reportedly willing to offer Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakiti? and Ousmane Dembélé as part of any deal to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Despite hopes from Neymar’s camp that a move to rejoin Barcelona could be on the cards, Catalan outlet CCMA report that club president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes any deal for the Brazil international will be ‘impossible’ to complete.

It’s stressed that Neymar is ‘not an option’ for the club’s top decision makers ahead of the new season, despite the original claims from ?GloboEsporte in Brazil that the move was a real possibility this summer.

One major stumbling block over the rumoured move – aside from actually finding over €200m to finance the deal – is that Neymar currently has a case open against Barcelona over an unpaid signing bonus, believed to be €26m.

Barcelona are also understood to be trying to land Antoine Griezmann (again) after the World Cup-winning forward revealed he would be leaving Atlético Madrid, although there hasn’t been too much progress since the announcement video surfaced last month.

CCMA add that in any case, Barcelona are much more likely to tie up a deal for Griezmann this summer rather than try to bring Neymar back to the Camp Nou, especially as financing a move for the Brazilian could be as much as double the price.

Let’