ITV Announce Deal to Show Barcelona’s La Liga Opener Against Athletic Club

ITV have announced they will show the opening game of the 2019/20 La Liga season between Barcelona and Athletic Club on free-to-air television. 

After Sky Sports lost the rights to Spanish football at the end of last season, the online-based company Eleven Sports announced an exclusive three-year deal to show the league. However, after struggling to generate subscribers, they put the rights up for auction once again just 12 months later.

Markel Susaeta,Lionel Messi

ITV took up this opportunity at the back end of last season, and after some initial hesitancy to do so once again for the 2019/20 campaign, they have now confirmed a deal to show the season’s opener, as well as two further games from the next two gameweeks, has been agreed, as well as a weekly highlights show.

This was revealed in an official statement, which reads: “La Liga Santander 2019/20 season kicks off with weekly match coverage on ITV4 and highlights on ITV and ITV4 in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

“Friday’s season-opener between Athletic Club and FC Barcelona to be shown free-to-air on ITV4 and ITV Hub LIVE from 8:00 p.m. BST (UK) London, 15th August 2019.

“Ahead of the 2019/20 start of Spain’s top-flight football competition, La Liga and ITV have confirmed the continuation of their broadcast partnership in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

“Starting on Friday 16th August with live coverage of Athletic Club vs. FC Barcelona, a game from each of the first three Matchdays of the new La Liga season will be shown live, featuring all the passion and colour of Spanish professional football.

“Weekly highlights of all the La Liga Santander action will also be shown on both ITV and ITV4 following each Matchday. Today’s announcement follows ITV4’s successful coverage of La Liga during the final months of the 2018/19 season.”

So far, ITV have confirmed the broadcasting of that Barca clash with Athletic, as well as their following game against Real Betis, with Real Madrid’s fixture away at Villarreal the third.

La Liga are still in talks with UK broadcasters over the rights to the subsequent games throughout the season.

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6 of the Longest Contracts Ever Signed in Football History

?Having been linked with a deadline day move to Manchester United this summer, Athletic Club attacker Inaki s is the latest player to have committed his long-term future to his current club. His long, long-term future – the next nine years, to be precise. 

But where does his new deal rank among the longest contracts in footballing history? Take a look at the list of the lengthiest six below to find out.


Alan Pardew: Eight Years

Alan Pardew

Upon replacing Chris Hughton as Newcastle United manager in 2010, Alan Pardew was initially signed to a five-and-a-half-year contract – lengthy in itself.

When you consider where the Magpies are now, ?predicted to be battling to avoid relegation back down to the Championship, a fifth place finish and European qualification sound like lofty goals.

Pardew managed both of those in 2012 though, and was handed a mega eight-year contract as his reward, tying him to the club until 2020.

As we approach what would have been the end of that deal, it’s clear the owners may have been somewhat premature in placing so much faith in their former boss, who opted to replace Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace in 2014.


Lionel Messi: Nine Years

Lionel Messi

?Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest player to ever grace the beautiful game and it’s evident Barcelona would do anything to keep him on their books.

When he relocated to Spain from Argentina, the Catalan giants funded treatment for his growth deficiency when he was just 13 years of age, clearly aware of the unworldly talent he had the potential of becoming.

By 2004, the little magician was nearing his debut for the senior team and signed three different contracts in the space of just over a year.

The longest of those was signed in September 2005, tying him to Camp Nou until 2014. He’s since signed other long deals with ?Barca, where he’s likely to play out his entire professional career.


Saul Niguez: Nine Years

Saul Niguez

The Atletico Madrid midfielder established himself as one of the most promising young talents in world football early, ?becoming an essential part of manager Diego Simeone’s plans.

In 2017, Saul’s impressive performances helped Los Colchoneros to a place in the Champions League semi-final, as well as receiving the Under-21 European Championships Golden Boot for his five goals in as many appearances in Spain’s run to the final.

Unsurprisingly, ?Atleti were keen to deter any interest in their emerging talent by their European competitors, consequently choosing to offer the then 22-year-old a nine-year contract which would keep him at the club until 2026.


Inaki s: Nine Years

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BETIS-ATHLETIC

?The most recent inclusion in this list, Iñaki s committed his future to Athletic Club just a matter days ago.

It looked unclear whether he would be remaining with the Spanish side after he was loosely linked with a move to Premier League giants ?Manchester United on deadline day and, while he stayed put, the Basque side tied him down almost immediately to a long-term deal with an increased release clause. 

Still just 25 years old, s could remain at San Mames until he is approaching the end of his playing career at 34.


Denilson: 10 Years

Former Brazilian international Denilson

?Fresh off starting one game at the 1998 World Cup, a 20-year-old Denilson was signed by Real Betis president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera for a world record fee on the basis – largely – of his fancy footwork and propensity for stepovers. Foolproof planning. 

He didn’t just become a more expensive player than Ronaldo (!!!!) though; the young Brazilian was signed to a ten-year contract in Seville worth…well, a lot. A heck of a lot. 

By the time that decade-long deal ended, he was back in Brazil playing for Palmeiras – having spent spells at FC Dallas, Al Nassr and Bordeaux, plus a loan to Flamengo. He did win silverware in Seville when Betis won the Copa del Rey in 2005…but he stayed on the bench throughout the final. Jaded and unwanted, he left that summer. 


Andres Iniesta, Raul and Iker Casillas: Life

Real Madrid's captain Raul Gonzalez (L)

This seems to be a particularly Spanish thing – although Real did it first of the big boys. Both Raul and Casillas spent 16 years with ?Los Blancos, and both signed life-long contracts in 2008.

It wasn’t literal, of course, but it did mean that both players could remain at the club for as long as they wanted as long as they continued being key members of the squad. Specifically, if the players made a minimum of 30 appearances during the previous season, their contracts would be extended by a further year.

Both did, eventually, leave. Casillas joined Portuguese giants Porto, while Raul had brief spells with the likes of ?Schalke 04, Al Sadd and New York Cosmos prior to his retirement.

Inesta was the first Barcelona player ever offered a lifetime contract in 2017, tying his future to the club as long as he wished. 

He left for Vissel Kobe 12 months later. 


Let’

Neymar: The Lengthy Transfer Saga Is Beyond Dull & He’s Not Even Worth All the Hassle

?Is Neymar going to leave Paris Saint-Germain? Is he going to join either Barcelona or Real Madrid? Do we even care anymore?

I get it, transfers worth almost €222m aren’t easy. However, this just seems to have taken it too far. PSG don’t want him anymore, Neymar himself doesn’t even want to be there, and neither Barcelona nor Real can seemingly make their mind up whether they want him or not.

The thing is, neither side should actually want to sign the Brazilian, especially not for the kind of money that is being suggested.

FBL-EUR-C1-BELGRADE-PSG

?Neymar is a great footballer. He’s undoubtedly one of the finest around, and you only have to look at his track record for the proof of that. However, the problem is, when you sign Neymar, you don’t just sign a talented footballer, but you sign a walking soap opera as well.

Throughout his career, there have been countless incidents which seem to suggest that Neymar is more focused on himself than he is his team.

Go back to his days with Santos, when he publicly clashed with manager Dorival Junior because he was not allowed to take a penalty during a game against Atletico Goianiense. Yes, he was young and immature, but it didn’t stop there.

Brazilian football star Neymar, of Santo

Diving and play-acting plagued his time in ?Barcelona, which only ever creates a negative image of both the player and the club. The winger was more focused on the theatrics, rather than simply getting on with his job to score goals.

First time around, Barcelona gave him everything. Neymar was destined to line up alongside ?Lionel Messi and take the world by storm, but that just wasn’t enough for him. He needed to be the guy – the undisputed star on the team – and eventually jumped at the chance to be just that in Paris.

Even with the title of the world’s most expensive footballer, it still wasn’t enough for Neymar. There have been countless reports of dressing-room spats as PSG officials desperately fought to keep him happy, and yet he still loved to push them just that little bit further.


?Envoye Special even claimed that there is an ‘ethical bonus’ in Neymar’s contract which will see him pocket €375,000 for turning up on time, respecting fans and journalists, and generally acting like a good person. Does he really need such an incentive to consider how his actions can impact others?

It clearly didn’t even work, given he has clashed with fans and skipped training in recent months. Maybe that bonus needed to be a bit bigger for him.

Is this the kind of player that Barcelona and ?Real should be trying to move heaven and earth for? Absolutely not. He would certainly bring plenty of goals and assists, but you don’t know what else he will bring to the table. 

Neymar Jr

He’s like a rich-man’s ?Mario Balotelli. The Italian striker has lost fans all over Europe because clubs fear he will be more trouble than he’s worth. Teams don’t want to pay actual money for someone who might not take them seriously. So, why should Neymar’s talent make any difference? 

If all you’re bothered about is results on the pitch, then sure, go all-out for Neymar. However, parting with anywhere close to €222m is just asking for trouble further down the line.

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Rinus Michels: The Dutch Master’s All-Time Best XI

Rinus Michels is number 3 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.


Rinus Michels is the most influential manager there’s ever been. It’s that simple. In that vein, picking out the greatest eleven players from his 32-year career in management was not simple at all. 

But, it had to be done, and with a heavy emphasis on those who not only conformed but excelled within his exacting Total Football ways, it eventually was. 

Without further ado, here’s the father of Dutch football’s greatest XI in, yes, a 4-3-3 formation:


Goalkeepers & Defenders

FUSSBALL: DFB POKAL 1983, 1. FC KOELN

Toni Schumacher: Pictured above with those unstoppable curls, holding aloft the DFB Pokal he won under Michels, Schumacher was the custodian for Koln during the boss’ three-year stint at the start of the 1980s. Still, he’s most famous for THAT collision with France’s Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semi-final.

Wim Suurbier: Ajax’s full back for 13 years, throughout Michels’ tenure and three-peating European Cup side after it, the pacy and indefatigable Suurbier later joined Johan Cruyff and Michels at the Los Angeles Aztecs.

Velibor Vasovic: A sweeper by trade, Vasovic operated largely as a Libero in Michels’ system, joining in the midfield when his side had the ball, and was probably the most effective man at doing so in Europe during his pomp.

Arie Haan: Another one who thrived in the fluidity of Total Football, Haan was originally a wide midfielder, but felt equally comfortable at the back. He was effectively Vasovic’s replacement, and arguably just as impressive. 

Ruud Krol: Completing the backline is Rudi Krol, another generational talent and another man who could basically play anywhere you wanted him to. 


Midfielders

Barcelona

Johan Neeskens: The best presser Michels ever had, and another man who played under him multiple times, in stints at Ajax, ?Barcelona and the Dutch national side. An underrated titan of the game. Now working with another Michels alum, Frank Rijkaard, at Galatasaray.

Willem van Hanegem: Spending most of his days at Utrecht and Feyenoord, van Hanegem never played for the big guy at club level, just the national side. Naturally, as a Michels player, he was adept at both sides of the game, and integral to the 1974 World Cup side. Went on to win the Eredivisie as a manager with Feyenoord as well.

Wim Jansen: Another Feyenoord player, Jansen was just as useful in the centre of midfield, though less ethereal than van Hanegem. However, he did move to Ajax at the end of his career – not Michels’ Ajax – under the advice of compatriot Cruyff. His first game was a snowy one against Feyenoord, in which a fan threw a snowball at him so hard he had to leave the field for treatment. 


Forwards

Johan Cruijff,Sepp Maier

Johnny Rep: The Netherlands’ all-time record goalscorer at World Cups, with seven, Rep was a rapacious footballer, and scored the winning goal in the 1973 European Cup final against Juventus. 

Johan Cruyff: Michels’ greatest player (and when that player is the fifth greatest player of all-time, probably, you’re doing alright) and greatest protege, no one did more than Cruyff in pushing the methods he dolled out. He was the torchbearer for Rinus’ everlasting legacy.

Rob Rensenbrink: After just missing Michels at DWS, the two only collaborated in their time with the national team, but what a collaboration it was. Rensenbrink was on the fringes of the Oranje squad until Michels came in in 1974, and the rest is history. 


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

Number 41: Sir Bobby Robson: The Legendary Fighter’s All-Time Best XI

Number 40: Luis Aragones: Spain’s Most Important Manager’s All-Time Best XI

Number 39: Herbert Chapman: The Yorkshire Tactician’s All-Time Best XI

Number 38: Carlos Alberto Parreira: The World Cup Hero’s All-Time Best XI

Number 37: Franz Beckenbauer: Der Kaiser’s All-Time Best XI

Number 36: Viktor Maslov: Dedushka’s All-Time Best XI

Number 35: Rafa Benitez: The Likeable Spaniard’s All-Time Best XI

Number 34: Zinedine Zidane: The French Magician’s All-Time Best XI

Number 33: Luiz Felipe Scolari: Picking Big Phil’s All-Time Best XI

Number 32: Jupp Heynckes: The German Master Tactician’s All-Time Best XI

Number 31: Vicente del Bosque: The Moustachioed Mister’s All-Time Best XI

Number 30: Arsene Wenger: The Legendary Arsenal Manager’s All-Time Best XI

Number 29: Udo Lattek: The Inspirational Leader’s All-Time Best XI

Number 28: Jock Stein: Big Jock’s All-Time Best XI

Number 27: Vittorio Pozzo: Il Vecchio Maestro’s All-Time Best XI

Number 26: Jurgen Klopp: Mr Heavy Metal Football’s All-Time Best XI

Number 25: Mario Zagallo: Velho Lobo’s All-Time Best XI

Number 24: Bela Guttmann: The Proto-Mourinho’s All-Time Best XI

Number 23: Valeriy Lobanovskyi: The Soviet Scientist’s All-Time Best XI

Number 22: Louis van Gaal: The Mercurial & Enigmatic Dutch Master’s All-Time Best XI

Number 21: Otto Rehhagel: The ‘King’ Who Conquered Europe’s All-Time Best XI

Number 20: Tele Santana: The Attack-Minded Superstar’s All-Time Best XI

Number 19: Bill Shankly: The Liverpool Godfather’s All-Time Best XI

Number 18: Ottmar Hitzfeld: Der General Who Dominated Germany’s All-Time Best XI

Number 17: Miguel Muñoz: Real Madrid’s Greatest Ever Manager’s All-Time Best XI

Number 16: Fabio Capello: The Serial Serie A Winner’s All-Time Best XI

Number 15: Brian Clough: The Maverick Manager’s All-Time Best XI

Number 14: Nereo Rocco: The Milan Legend’s All-Time Best XI

Number 13: Carlo Ancelotti: The Diva Whisperer’s All-Time Best XI

Number 12: Sir Matt Busby: The Legendary Scot Who Built Modern Man Utd’s All-Time Best XI

Number 11: Marcello Lippi: The Italian World Cup Winner’s All-Time Best XI

Number 10: Bob Paisley: Liverpool’s Humble Genius’ All-Time Best XI

Number 9: Jose Mourinho: The Legendary Portuguese Tactician’s All-Time Best XI

Number 8: Helenio Herrera: The Peerless Pioneer’s All-Time Best XI

Number 7: Ernst Happel: The Austrian Mastermind’s All-Time Best XI

Number 6: Johan Cruyff: The Creator of the Barcelona Dream Team’s All-Time Best XI

Number 5: Giovanni Trapattoni: Il Trap’s All-Time Best XI

Number 4: ?P?ep Guardiola: The Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City Legend’s All-Time Best XI


Let’

Neymar Cast Out From Paris Saint-Germain Training Until La Liga Transfer Rumours Resolved

?Neymar is set to train away from the rest of his Paris Saint-Germain teammates as his future continues to dominate the headlines, with stories of moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly going in circles.

Almost hourly, new reports emerge suggesting one move here or there is either edging closer or dead in the water, with many growing tired of the ongoing narrative and eager for a solution to be met – most notably the player himself.

Nevertheless, as of yet no such outcome has been forthcoming and it appears until a conclusion is met, the Brazilian will not train with the rest of the PSG squad as the saga continues to rumble on. That’s according to ?Esporte Interativo, who say until matters are settled the 26-year-old will be kept apart from the rest of the team .

One would presume the reason for that is due to the growing unrest within the camp, a feeling which was visualised when teammate Kylian Mbappe pushed the forward away from the rest of the group as they lifted the Trophée des Champions, the French equivalent of the Community Shield.

The most recent update (although subject to change within the coming hours) is that Barcelona and PSG are nearing an agreement over the transfer of ?Neymar, possibly to be consented to ‘within 48 hours’.

Reasons for this update centre around ?Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu and PSG counterpart Nasser Al Khelaifi being due to meet face to face for the upcoming European Club Association (ECA) summit in Liverpool on Thursday. It is a meeting mooted as ‘decisive’, although at this point your guess is as good as anyone’s.

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-TRAINING

Whatever transpires between now and the closure of the ?La Liga and Ligue 1 window on September 2, expect further developments to occur by the time you’ve read this piece, with Neymar probably having already resumed PSG training by the end of this sentence.

Let’

Barcelona No Closer to Reaching Neymar Agreement as PSG Dig Heels in Over Asking Price

?Barcelona are still no closer to reaching an agreement for Neymar this summer despite holding face-to-face talks with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Both clubs have been locked in negotiations for a number of weeks as the Ligue 1 champions look to offload Neymar, while Real Madrid have also shown interest in signing the Brazil international this summer.

Barça officials travelled to the French capital to try and accelerate talks with Paris Saint-Germain, but RMC Sport insists that a deal is still no closer to being completed as the club are digging their heels in over the proposed transfer.

FBL-CHN-FRA-CHAMPIONS-TROPHY-PSG-RENNES

Spanish football expert Guillem Balagué claims that as things stand, Barcelona are prepared to offer Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakiti? as part of an initial loan deal which would also include an obligation to buy Neymar next year for €100m.

ESPN have also come out with the same claim, with both adding that Paris Saint-Germain want Coutinho, Portugal international Nélson Semedo – who is deemed to be unsellable by Barcelona – and cash as part of the move this summer.


Neymar’s potential move away from the Parc des Princes is further complicated by the two clubs having a well-documented dislike for each other, something which ?saw Real Madrid enter the fray thanks to their good working relationship with Paris Saint-Germain.

While that’s the current state of affairs from those closest to the deal, rumours have also been doing the rounds which claim Neymar could actually undergo a medical with Barcelona as early as Friday thanks to a breakthrough in negotiations.


That specific rumour comes from PSG insiders Paris United (via Sport) who, despite often being right on the money when it comes to the inner workings of the club, are stating the polar opposite of what the rest of the media in France and Spain are claiming is going on.

It looks most likely that Neymar’s immediate future will be with Paris Saint-Germain unless one side starts to cave in negotiations, or unless Real Madrid suddenly find suitors for their biggest earners and finance a deal that way.

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

?The 2019/20 La Liga season gets underway on Friday night with a clash between Athletic Bilbao and reigning champions Barcelona at the Estadio San Mames. 

La Blaugrana have added firepower to their frontline with the €120m purchase of Antoine Griezmann from last year’s runners-up Atletico Madrid. Silky Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong has also joined the club’s ranks, switching from Ajax for a fee of €75m, and coach Ernesto Valverde will be hoping the new signings can take his men to a third successive title.

Antoine Griezmann

There were no concerning casualties for ?Barça during the summer, with the Catalans clearing out the deadwood in their squad. Brazilian winger Malcom has been shipped off to Zenit St Petersburg after one underwhelming season at the Nou Camp, whilst second-choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and midfield outcast Andre Gomes have likewise been moved on.

Opponents Bilbao were agonisingly close to securing a Europa League spot for the upcoming campaign, but ultimately missed out on goal-difference to Espanyol.


Where to Watch

?When Is Kick Off? ?Friday 16 August
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?20:00 (BST)
?Where Is it Played? Estadio ?San Mames
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?Fubo TV – Free Trial
?Referee? ?TBC

Team News

Lionel Messi is a serious doubt for La Blaugrana as the Argentine magician continues to recover from a calf complaint. The issue has seen him miss much of the team’s pre-season preparations and his absence looks set to continue as competitive action gets underway.

Back-up goalkeeper Neto is the only other squad member unavailable for Valverde through injury, though the manager could face a minor revolt from Philippe Coutinho, who has been pushing for a move away from the Nou Camp all summer.


With the transfer window due to close on 31 August, the Brazilian could well force an exit by refusing to play. However, whether he does so remains to be seen and there have been no signs as yet that he will be quite so problematic for his employers.

Bilbao, meanwhile, have no missing personnel and can field a full-strength side on Friday evening. They have been ghosts with regards to transfer activity, deciding to neither sell nor purchase any players, though they have lost several individuals after their contracts expired.


Predicted Lineups

Athletic Bilbao? ?Herrerin; de Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche; San Jose, D. Garcia; Muniain, R. Garcia, Ibai; s.
B?arcelona ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Rakitic, Vidal; Dembele, Griezmann, Suarez.?

Head to Head Record

The teams couldn’t be separated in either of their ?La Liga meetings last term, drawing 1-1 in Catalonia and 0-0 at the San Mames Stadium. Oscar de Marcos had given Athletic a surprise lead on the stroke of half-time at the home of the champions, but his side were unable to hold out as Barça cranked up the heat.

Philippe Coutinho,Oscar De Marcos

The Bilbao woodwork was rattled twice in the second period, yet it would take a late Munir El Haddadi tap-in to draw La Blaugrana level. Having performed well in that encounter, De Marcos turned villain in the reverse fixture as he was sent off in the closing stages of a stalemate in the Basque country.

Those results took the overall record to nine draws apiece, with Barcelona far ahead with regards to victories. They have triumphed in 29 of their games against Friday’s opponents, losing on just four occasions.


Recent Form

The Catalan giants hammered Italian outfit ?Napoli 6-1 over the course of two games in early August, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Griezmann all getting on the scoresheet in the latter meeting.

Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic got the goals versus the Partenopei at the Nou Camp, Barcelona’s brace of wins leaving them with four wins from their pre-season adventures. ?Chelsea defeated them 2-1 in Japan at the beginning of their preparations, but the Spaniards have since rediscovered some confidence and form.


Bilbao have also only lost once over the summer, whilst recording impressive victories over ?West Ham United and Borussia Monchengladbach. Iker Muniain has been a standout in the side and will be tasked with taking the game to their opponents on Friday.

Here’s a look at how each team got on in their last five matches:

?Athletic Bilbao Barcelona?
?Numancia 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (01/8) ?Barcelona 1-2 Chelsea (23/7)
?West Ham United 2-2 *(2-4 pens) Athletic Bilbao (03/8) ?Vissel Kobe 0-2 Barcelona (27/7)
?Racing Santander 2-1 Athletic Bilbao (04/8) ?Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal (04/8)
?Roma 2-2 Athletic Bilbao (07/8) Barcelona 2-1 ?Napoli (08/8)
?Mirandes 1-2 Athletic Bilbao (08/8) ?Napoli 0-4 Barcelona (10/8)

Prediction

Barcelona are the reigning champions of Spain and they are firm favourites to win the 2020 title. With arguably the world’s greatest footballer at their disposal, the wonderfully-talented Griezmann in their squad and the ever-developing De Jong bolstering the midfield, it would seem that the trophy is their’s to lose.

In order to lift it once more, Valverde’s recruits will need to fend off ?Real and ?Atletico Madrid. The former have strengthened significantly since the close of last season and La Blaugrana will not want to risk being left in their wake, whilst Atleti always look able to challenge for the number one spot.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-GETAFE

It won’t be a walk in the park for Barcelona, so they must get off to a strong start to avoid playing catch up. They will be eager to show their credentials against Bilbao, though the absence of Messi is hardly ideal. Nevertheless, they will expect three points and should collect them, too.

Prediction: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Barcelona


Let’

Pep Guardiola: The Maverick Who Strolled to League Titles in Spain, Germany and England

Pep Guardiola is number 4 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.


In a career overview of one of the greatest managers of all time and the supreme coach working in football today, where does one start when trying to surmise everything into a few thousand words?

Well, we can start with the facts.

In the 11 years since he took over at Barcelona, Guardiola has won eight top flight league titles in three different countries. With Barca, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, the Catalan has fought off teams like Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool to establish his side as the dominant force wherever he goes.

Josep Guardiola,Mikel Arteta

Has that whet the appetite sufficiently enough? Ok, let’s get into it.

At the start of his managerial career, Guardiola worked alongside assistant Tito Vilanova as Barcelona B manager. It was soon to be revealed that Guardiola, who had guided the B side to the Tercera Division title in 2007/08, was to replace the outgoing Frank Rijkaard at the end of that season. Two La Ligas, a Supercopa de Espana and a Champions League in the space of five years was impressive work from Rijkaard, who had to deal with strong Valencia and Real Madrid sides either side of consecutive league titles.

So how would Guardiola cope with the pressure of replacing an evidently capable manager after just a season of experience with the club’s B team?

By immediately winning a treble.

Yes. When you’re Pep Guardiola, it really does fall into place that easily, such is the man’s passion for the sport and tactical ingenuity.


?Career Honours
?Tercera Division (2007/08)
?La Liga (2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11)
?Copa del Rey (2008/09, 2011/12)
?Supercopa de Espana (2009, 2010, 2011)
?Bundesliga (2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16)
?DFB Pokal (2013/14, 2015/16)
?Premier League (2017/18, 2018/19)
?FA Cup (2018/19)
?EFL Cup (2017/18, 2018/19)
?Community Shield (2018, 2019)
?UEFA Champions League (2008/09, 2010/11)
?UEFA Super Cup (2009, 2011, 2013)
?FIFA Club World Cup (2009, 2011, 2013)

Barca finished that season seven nine points ahead of Real with a tally of 87, thumped Athletic Club 4-1 in the Copa del Rey final, and strolled past Manchester United in a Champions League final largely remembered for Lionel Messi’s iconic looping header past Edwin van der Sar.

The following season brings another La Liga title as well as UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Supercopa de Espana triumphs as Messi begins his transition into the club’s talisman with an alarming 47 goals in all competitions, but the Champions League semi final exit to Inter is a first major disappointment in Guardiola’s managerial career. It’s also the start of the much-talked about rivalry with Jose Mourinho, which well and truly kicks off when Mourinho takes the reins at the Bernabeu the following season.

Jose Mourinho,Josep Guardiola

It’s fair to say, as all the hips kids do in the modern age, that Mourinho took a big L in that first season against Guardiola. He may have won the Copa del Rey, but Mourinho saw his side comprehensively played off the Camp Nou turf in the first meeting between the two sides in November, Barca winning 5-0 to show the size of the task facing Mourinho should Los Blancos want to challenge for the La Liga title. That victory took them to the top of the Spanish top flight, where they remained for the rest of the season. 

A tally of 96 points made Barca surefire favourites in the Champions League final, again against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Again, Barcelona provided one of the all-time great performances, triumphing 3-1 at Wembley. Ferguson even concedes after the game that his side have faced the best team he’s encountered in his career and come out second best.

Messi is now at the peak of his powers, but Guardiola meets his match the following season as Mourinho leads Real Madrid to 100 points and the La Liga title, and in April that season Guardiola announces his departure and emotionally says goodbye with another Copa del Rey triumph, ending his Barca career with 13 trophies in four seasons, making him the club’s greatest ever boss.

FC Barcelona's Spanish coach Josep Guard

A sabbatical in New York follows as Guardiola begins life without Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, etc. The combination of Tiki-taka – a phrase Guardiola has distanced himself from – and Total Football can still be found at Camp Nou, though it’s now fronted by players like Messi and Busquets alongside Arthur and Gerard Pique.

In January 2013, it’s revealed Pep will take over at German giants Bayer Munich, replacing the legendary Jupp Heynckes. Again, it’s a tough act to follow, but he spends four to five hours a day practicing the language and speaks with ease at his first press conference.

Guardiola gives it his usual gusto and passion and delivers three consecutive Bundesliga titles, but a struggle with the Champions League begins to emerge, a struggle that Guardiola is yet to suss out during his post-Barcelona career.

If the years at Barcelona were formative, Guardiola’s spell at Bayern showed his philosophy and style of play can translate across leagues. The dynamic pressing remains, instead this time the forwards benefitting are Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski and Franck Ribery.

In his three seasons at Bayern, Der FCB are knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid – teams Guardiola knew from his time at in Spain and Catalonia. Despite the constant domestic success, a twinge of disappointment remains in not bringing the most coveted trophy in Europe to the Allianz Arena.


Teams Managed
Barcelona B (2007-08)
Barcelona (2008-12)
Bayern Munich (2013-16)
Manchester City (2016-)

In December 2015, it’s revealed Guardiola will leave Bayern at the end of the season, and the following February he signs a three-year contract with Premier League side Manchester City, a side at a crossroads after performing well below par during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.

While we understand Guardiola’s City are now one of the best teams in Europe, it didn’t start out so perfectly for him at the Etihad. Sure, he won his first ten games with the club, but a 2-0 loss at Tottenham shows some chinks in City’s armour. Soon after City had gone five games without a win following the home draw with Southampton, and it was clear some surgery was needed, with a creaking squad clearly hampering Guardiola.

Thankfully for Pep, that’s exactly what he got before the 2017/18 season. Ageing full backs Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolorov and Gael Clichy were all shipped out, with Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy brought in as replacements.

By loading each wing with pace, City had more options in attack and were able to break down the strongest defences in the league thanks to the full backs getting forward to support wingers like Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-BOURNEMOUTH

Suddenly, there were threats coming from all over the pitch. Kevin De Bruyne had more options to gauge before making that killer pass, and David and Bernardo Silva were able to occupy defenders in tight spots before finding free teammates, resulting in back post finishes for Sterling and easy one-v-ones for Sergio Aguero.

Their relenting attack saw them reach 100 points by the end of the 2017/18 season, finishing 19 ahead of closest competitors Manchester United. If the feat of becoming the first team to reach 100 points in the Premier League was impressive, defending the title against one of the best Liverpool teams ever the following year was arguably even more so.

They ended up pipping the Reds by a single point, with their head-to-head record of a draw at Anfield – which could have been a win had Riyad Mahrez not skied a penalty into oblivion – and a dramatic 2-1 triumph at the Etihad, helping to tip the balance in the Citizens’ favour.

A victory over West Ham took them to the top of the table in February, and that’s where they stayed until the end of the campaign, with a 5-1 victory at Brighton on the final day completing a run of 14 consecutive wins to hold off Liverpool and retain their title. They also won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup that season, but just don’t mention the Champions League. Or VAR. 

Unfortunately for the rest of England’s so-called big teams, Guardiola has raised the bar to an unbelievable height. If teams want to topple the Catalan’s side, they know a target of 100 points has to be the aim before a ball has been kicked. Long gone are the days where 81 points could win you the title.

Josep Guardiola

Wherever he has gone, Guardiola has raised the bar. His teams now don’t revolve around the best players in the world, but around stars who he improves year on year until they are considered world class, Sterling, Ederson and De Bruyne being just a few examples.

Fans of ?Liverpool, ?United, ?Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham may not be happy right now, but what Pep has done at ?City, as well as Barcelona and Bayern, will go down in football history. We just need to be wise enough to watch and enjoy it while it happens.


Number 50: Marcelo Bielsa – El Loco’s Journey From Argentina to Footballing Immortality in Europe

Number 49: Vic Buckingham – How an Englishman Discovered Johan Cruyff & Pioneered Total Football

Number 48: Claudio Ranieri: A Ridiculed Tinkerman Who Masterminded One of Football’s Greatest Ever Achievements

Number 47: Bill Nicholson: Mr Tottenham Hotspur, the First Double Winning Manager of the 20th Century

Number 46: Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Scudetto Winning Shagger Who Never Solved the Lampard-Gerrard Conundrum

Number 45: Sir Alf Ramsey: The Man Behind the ‘Wingless Wonders’ & England’s Sole World Cup Triumph

Number 44: Antonio Conte: An Astute Tactician Whose Perfectionist Philosophy Reinvented the 3-5-2 Wheel

Number 43: Kenny Dalglish: The Beacon of Light in Liverpool’s Darkest Hour

Number 42: Massimiliano Allegri: The Masterful Tactician Who Won Serie A Five Times in a Row

Number 41: Sir Bobby Robson: A Footballing Colossus Whose Fighting Spirit Ensured an Immortal Legacy

Number 40: Luis Aragones: Spain’s Most Important Manager, the Atleti Rock and the Modern Father of Tiki-Taka

Number 39: Herbert Chapman: One of Football’s Great Innovators & Mastermind Behind the ‘W-M’ Formation

Number 38: Carlos Alberto Parreira: The International Specialist Who Never Shied Away From a Challenge

Number 37: Franz Beckenbauer: The German Giant Whose Playing Career Overshadowed His Managerial Genius

Number 36: Viktor Maslov: Soviet Pioneer of the 4-4-2 & the Innovator of Pressing

Number 35: Rafa Benitez: The Conquerer of La Liga Who Masterminded That Comeback in Istanbul

Number 34: Zinedine Zidane: Cataloguing the Frenchman’s Transition From Midfield Magician to Managerial Maestro

Number 33: Luiz Felipe Scolari: How the Enigmatic ‘Big Phil’ Succeeded as Much as He Failed on the Big Stage

Number 32: Jupp Heynckes: The Legendary Manager Who Masterminded ‘the Greatest Bayern Side Ever’

Number 31: Vicente del Bosque: The Unluckiest Manager in the World Who Led Spain to Immortality

Number 30: Arsene Wenger: A Pioneering Who Became Invincible at Arsenal

Number 29: Udo Lattek: The Bundesliga Icon Who Shattered European Records

Number 28: Jock Stein: The Man Who Guided Celtic to Historic Heights & Mentored Sir Alex Ferguson

Number 27: Vittorio Pozzo: Metodo, Mussolini, Meazza & the Difficult Memory of a Two-Time World Cup Winner

Number 26: Jurgen Klopp: The Early Years at Mainz 05 Where He Sealed His ‘Greatest Achievement’

Number 25:Mario Zagallo: Habitual World Cup Winner & Sculptor of Brazil’s Joga Bonito Era

Number 24: Bela Guttmann: The Dance Instructor Who Changed Football Forever (and Managed…Just Everyone)

Number 23: Valeriy Lobanovskyi: The Scientist Who Dominated Football in the Soviet Union

Number 22: Louis van Gaal: The Stubborn Master Who Won 15 Major Trophies at 4 of the World’s Greatest Clubs

Number 21: Otto Rehhagel: The ‘King’ Who Turned 150/1 Greek Outsiders into Champions of Europe

Number 20: Tele Santana: The ‘Joga Bonito’ Icon Who Helped Brazil Rediscover Their Love of Football

Number 19: Bill Shankly: The Innovative Motivator Who Rebuilt Liverpool From the Ground Up

Number 18: Ottmar Hitzfeld: The Manager Who Won Absolutely Everything at Germany’s 2 Biggest Clubs

Number 17: Miguel Muñoz: The Man Who Told Alfredo Di Stefano to F*ck Off & Led the Ye-Ye’s to European Glory

Number 16: Fabio Capello: Italy’s Cosmopolitan Disciplinarian Who Built on a Generation-Defining AC Milan

Number 15: Brian Clough: He Wasn’t the Best Manager in the Business, But He Was in the Top 1

Number 14: Nereo Rocco: ‘El Paron’, the Pioneer of Catenaccio & Forgotten Great of Italian Football

Number 13: Carlo Ancelotti: Football’s Most Loveable Eyebrow in the Words of His Players

Number 12: Sir Matt Busby: The Man Who Built the Modern Manchester United

Number 11: Marcello Lippi: Montecristo Cigars, Neapolitan Dreams, Scudetti in Turin & Gli Azzurri’s World Cup

Number 10: Bob Paisley: The Understated Tactician Who Conquered All of Europe With Liverpool

Number 9: Jose Mourinho: The ‘Special One’ Who Shattered Records All Over Europe

Number 8: Helenio Herrera: The Innovator Who Single-Handedly Changed the Beautiful Game

Number 7: Ernst Happel: The ‘Weird Man’ Who Conquered European Football and Helped Shape the Modern Game

Number 6: Johan Cruyff: The Visionary Who Became the Most Important Man in the History of Football

Number 5: ?Giovanni Trapattoni: A Career of 2 Halves That Defined the Golden Era of Calcio at Juventus


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Bayern Munich Enter Race to Sign Philippe Coutinho on Loan Ahead of Transfer Deadline

Bayern Munich have entered the race to sign Philippe Coutinho, starting negotiations with Barcelona over a possible loan move with an option to buy.

After leaving Liverpool in January 2018 to join La Blaugrana in a deal worth around £130m, Coutinho has failed to live up to the expectations at the Catalan club, and has even been booed on occasion inside the Nou Camp.

He was duly made available this summer, with a litany of Premier League sides, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea (before their transfer ban was made official) and Tottenham all linked with his signature.

However, a number of pre-deadline day moves failed to materialise, and with the English transfer window now shutting the Brazilian’s options have reduced. Which is where Bayern come in.

According to a report from RAC 1, the Bavarian side have now swooped in, offering both Barca and Coutinho salvation with a loan offer that includes an option to buy at the end of it.

It was understood that Barca were keen to secure a permanent switch for Coutinho, hence why potential moves to Arsenal and Spurs fell through, but their desperation to offload him could trump this desire. 

Philippe Coutinho,Miguel Trauco

And, according to Marta Ramon, they are currently in talks with the German champions over a potential deal. On Twitter, Ramon explained: “Barça sources have just confirmed to RAC1 that at this time they are negotiating with the Bayern Munich a cession with option to buy for Coutinho.”

Despite these negotiations, there still remains the possibility that the playmaker is used as a pawn in the negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain for compatriot Neymar. 

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UEFA Super Cup: The 4 Greatest Finals in the Competition’s History

?2019’s edition of the UEFA Super Cup is fast approaching and for the first time ever, it will be between two English clubs, Champions League winners Liverpool and Europa League winners Chelsea.

The UEFA Super Cup is a more storied competition than you might think, existing in some form since 1973. Initially over two legs, the competition has undergone minor changes since its inception, such as changing the game from taking place at the Stade Louis II in Monaco to various smaller stadiums across Europe. 

Here is a list of the four greatest UEFA Super Cup finals. 


Real Madrid 3-2 Sevilla (aet)

Luka Modric,Steven N'Zonzi

For a while, it seemed that Sevilla and ?Real Madrid were the only teams picking up European trophies. In fact, three out of the last five UEFA Super Cup finals have featured Sevilla or Real Madrid, with the two ?La Liga sides even facing one another on two occasions.  

Their last encounter was back in 2016 when Los Blancos beat the Andalusians 3-2 after extra time. It was a tense match. A youthful ?Marco Asensio opened Real’s account after 21 minutes before Sevilla’s Franco Vazquez equalised four minutes from the end of half-time. 

?Sergio Ramos did what he does worst and gave away a penalty late in the second-half, with Sevilla’s Yevhen Konoplyanka converting. Ramos made up for this mistake with a last-minute equaliser to give Real a fighting chance. 

Late into extra time, it seemed likely that the match would go the penalties, but Dani Carvajal scored the winner in the 119th minute. He bombed down the wing, glided past the Sevilla defence before striking the ball into the far corner to secure the victory for Real. 


Paris Saint-Germain 2-9 Juventus (on aggregate)

FUSSBALL: CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 96/97 A.AMSTERDAM-J.TURIN 1:2 9.4.97

Taking place back when the final was over two legs, ?Juventus thrashed Paris Saint-Germain in both the ‘home’ and away legs in the 1996 edition of the UEFA Super Cup. 

Juventus thumped Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 at the Parc Des Princes, with Sergio Porrini, Michele Padovano, Ciro Ferrara, Attilio Lombardo and Nicola Amoruso all getting on the scoresheet for La Vecchia Signora. 

The ‘home’ leg, played on the other side of the country in Palermo because *attendances were higher there than Turin*, Juventus put three more past Les Parisiens, including an Alessandro Del Piero brace and a last-minute Christian Vieri strike. 

Oh yeah, and Paris Saint-Germain’s two consolation goals? Both penalties scored by Rai. It just goes to see that even with a ton of money, Paris Saint-Germain’s European fortunes haven’t changed all that much.  


Real Madrid 1-2 Galatasaray (aet)

Real v Galatasaray

Raul, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and Iker Casillas were just some of the superstars in the Real Madrid starting line-up for the 2000 final, in what should have been an easy match for Los Blancos. 

It was Raul who had the best chance of the match in the 16th minute; a low cross from Roberto Carlos met the foot of the Spaniard, who one on one with the goalkeeper, blazed the ball way over the bar.

Galatasaray took the lead in the 41st-minute courtesy of a Mario Jardel penalty, conceded by Bolton Wanderers legend Ivan Campo before Real Madrid got their equaliser late in the second half thanks to a Raul penalty.

It was Aslanlar who prevailed, however, with the prolific Mario Jardel getting the golden goal eight minutes into extra time, securing Galatasaray a shock victory. 


Barcelona 5-4 Sevilla (aet)

FBL-EUR-SUPERCUP-BARCELONA-SEVILLA

?Barcelona equalled ?AC Milan’s record of five UEFA Super Cup wins after seeing off Sevilla in a close match that saw nine goals.  

Ever Banega scored a free-kick for Sevilla after just three minutes, before Lionel Messi himself scored a free-kick for the Blaugrana four minutes later, and again 12 minutes after that to put Barcelona into the lead. 

Rafinha and ?Suarez added Barca’s third and fourth to put the game seemingly out of sight, but Jose Antonio Reyes scored for Sevilla in the 57th minute to give Los Rojiblancos a way back into the game. 

Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu conceded a penalty in the 72nd minute, which Kevin Gameiro duly converted before Yevhen Konoplyanka equalised for Sevilla just before full-time.  

Barcelona secured the victory 15 minutes into extra-time after Pedro capitalised on a rebound after a Messi miss.  


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