For all their failings on the pitch this season, at least Barcelona are getting things right off it (outside of the boardroom anyways). The club have just confirmed their new away kit for next season, and it’s sure to be a hit.
2019/20 passed by with little reason to cheer about, as a meagre defence of their La Liga title saw them concede the trophy to rivals Real Madrid at the conclusion of the campaign.
There is still a potential Champions League to be won, but before European football returns, supporters of the club will have chance to enjoy a welcome distraction with the club announcing the release of their new 2020/21 away kit.
It’s the club’s first black away strip since the 2011/12 season, featuring an elegant blend of gold logos and trims. Nike once again have produced the Barça kits for the coming campaign, having been with the Spanish football giants since 1998.
“Black and gold go really well together and the kit looks really sharp,” Gerard Piqué said of the new attire on the official Nike website. “It has been a few years since we have had black, so it’s a nice change to have it back.”
Scott Munson, vice-president of Nike Football Apparel added: “The energy on the ground in Barcelona is hard to match, as is its passion for the football club. I think these colors work really well to create a clean look that will have that crossover appeal and make it popular in the streets that inspired it.”
Their previous season donning black kit turned out to be a pretty fruitful one for La Blaugrana, who won four trophies – although they did finish runners-up in La Liga and beaten semi-finalists in the Champions League.
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Inter Miami – the newly formed MLS club owned by David Beckham – are keen on signing Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and have reportedly submitted an offer for the Uruguayan.
A long-term knee injury sustained in January disrupted Suarez’s 2019/20 season as La Blaugrana surrendered the La Liga title to bitter rivals Real Madrid. He did, however, remain prolific as he scored 19 times in 34 appearances in all competitions.
Signs of decline were certainly laid bare, mind, and it remains to be seen whether Suarez will extend his stay at the Camp Nou past the summer of 2021 – when his current deal expires – although it’s understood that he’s set on doing so.
The Uruguay international revealed that if he was to play 60% of next season’s matches, a one-year extension of his contract would be triggered.
Catalunya-based news outlet Mundo Deportivo, though, report that Beckham’s Inter Miami have opted to test Suarez’s resolve by submitting an offer to the striker. The MLS club not only thinks that he’d be a huge coup for his supreme ability on the field, but also because they believe the Uruguay star will be popular with Miami’s prominent Hispanic community.
Suarez’s compatriot Nico Lodeiro, who currently plays in the US for the Seattle Sounders, revealed in November 2019 of the Barcelona legend’s desire to play in MLS one day.
“Luis wants to come to MLS. He likes the league. He always asks me questions about it… I think it’s only a matter of time before he is here,” he said.
Nevertheless, it’s believed that Beckham’s Miami are desperate to add a marquee signing to their ranks this summer. Alongside Suarez, David Silva and Edinson Cavani have been touted as potential targets.
The newly established outfit made their debut in MLS earlier this year, losing their opening three games before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to their campaign back in March.
Barcelona are keen to part ways with Martin Braithwaite in the summer, just six months on from his controversial transfer to the Camp Nou.
The Catalan giants purchased the former Middlesbrough striker on an emergency transfer from Leganes in February, taking advantage of a La Liga loophole that enables clubs to make signings outside of the transfer window if they have a player ruled out with injury for over five months.
With Ousmane Dembele’s lengthy stint on the sidelines, Barcelona activated Braithwaite’s €18m buyout clause, but Leganes were unable to sign a replacement and were ultimately relegated on the final day.
However, his stay in Catalunya is not set to be a long one. According to Spanish news outlet Mundo Deportivo, Braithwaite is not in Barcelona’s plans for next season, and they plan to offload him in the summer.
The forward still has four years remaining on his deal at Camp Nou, but the club are plotting to loan him out or sell him permanently – with Barcelona demanding close to the €18m they paid Leganes for the Dane in February.
The 29-year-old has sensed that he is surplus to requirements at Barça for some time and his agent, Ali Dursun, has already begun seeking out a new club.
Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Sevilla and Osasuna have all been sounded out over a potential deal.
Braithwaite scored once in 11 league appearances for Barcelona, as the club blew their lead at the summit of La Liga and lost out on the title to rivals Real Madrid by five points.
Their campaign was plagued by behind the scenes turmoil, with feuds between Eric Abidal and talisman Lionel Messi, the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, the hiring of Quique Setién and the resignation of six directors.
Although Braithwaite is poised to be on the move, Mundo Deportivo add that Barcelona have no intention of selling teenage sensation Ansu Fati as he is an ‘essential’ part of the team. Manchester United reportedly bid €100m for the 17-year-old in June.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has received interest from both Chelsea and Bayern Munich while he considers extending his contract at Camp Nou.
Tying Ter Stegen down to fresh terms is one of Barcelona’s top priorities this summer. Talks have rumbled on for months, with the coronavirus shutdown making things harder than they already were, and there is yet to be an agreement.
As noted by Cadena SER, both Barcelona and Ter Stegen are interested in thrashing out a renewal, but given the difficulty in doing so, Chelsea and Bayern have lodged offers with the German’s representatives.
Barcelona have asked players to take pay cuts in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and Ter Stegen is believed to be slightly frustrated by that. When recently asked by reporters (via Marca) whether he planned to extend his contract, Ter Stegen bluntly responded “we’ll see”.
Barcelona are still said to be ‘more than optimistic’ about getting a deal done, but the added pressure of interest from elsewhere will be an unwanted obstacle to overcome.
How genuine the interest actually is is another question entirely. For Bayern, they still have club captain Manuel Neuer in their starting lineup, while young Alexander Nübel is seen as the future of the position, so there is nowhere for Ter Stegen to really fit in at the Allianz Arena.
Chelsea’s interest seems a little more plausible. The English media have already confirmed that the Blues are potential suitors of Ter Stegen, although the huge cost of any potential deal has stopped any real progress from being made.
It’s likely that Chelsea have simply thrown out an optimistic offer in the hope of actually getting lucky, but the focus remains on cheaper targets like Ajax’s André Onana, Manchester United’s Dean Henderson and Burnley’s Nick Pope.
One other unlikely target on the radar is Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, who has previously been described as the Blues’ preferred replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga. Like Ter Stegen, the problem with this one is the cost of the deal – with Oblak boasting a €120m release clause – and Christian Falk notes that Atléti are not concerned about losing their star goalkeeper.
Los Rojiblancos do not believe that Chelsea can afford a £80m deal for Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and a huge move for Oblak, and with the Blues still pushing forward with their pursuit of the German, it does seem more than a little unlikely that they will be able to afford the Slovenian as well.
A wise and pensive Michael Owen once said: “Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.”
He couldn’t have been more right. Football is a game of goals, and no matter how good your team is, a classic centre-forward who can stick them away never goes amiss. But as football develops and managers begin to experiment and attempt to outsmart opponents with revolutionary tactics, the importance of a classic number nine is starting to wane.
Much like rock and roll and the routine of a half-time bovril however, the centre-forward will never die.
How good is it to see one of this rare breed pop up and take such genuine pleasure in smashing a ball into a net with such ruthlessness and contempt for his adversaries? Or batter home a towering header?
We are living in an era when their appearance is becoming more and more scarce, but back in the day, these guys were the bees knees.
Over the years, football has produced some wonderful centre-forwards who have crashed through the glass ceiling of scoring goals, while doing it in their own unique and prolific way. Here is 90min’s look back at the nine greatest players to have ever performed this role.
For many, this man is the greatest player to have set foot on God’s green earth. Pelé may receive some criticism on social media, from those who mock his supposedly generous goal record. But the fact that he scored so many goals that it became almost impossible to keep count, speaks volumes of the Brazilian.
Two-footed, strong in the air, majestic with the ball at his feet and a ruthless finisher, Pelé was possibly the most well-rounded footballer in the world. He won the World Cup a record three times during his playing career, scoring 77 goals for his national side over a 14-year spell.
Simply put, he was a genius of the game, and he’ll always be remembered as the man who coined and perfected ‘the beautiful game.’
The original Ronaldo. Pace, power, two feet, and an incomparable gift for sticking goalkeepers on their backsides. Never has the world stood up and taken notice as when this young Brazilian burst onto the scene with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and then Inter.
Sadly, injuries took their toll on the forward, who was forced to adapt from a man who could do everything brilliantly, to a man who could do most things exceptionally. As the raw pace escaped his body, Ronaldo settled for being an out and out goalscorer, enjoying five fruitful years at Real Madrid.
A two-time World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo will always be remembered as one of the most complete centre-forwards to grace our game. And even after all the goals, the trophies and the records, we are left with that burning feeling of what might have been.
A real penalty-box player. Every centre-back’s nightmare. Gerd Muller was possibly the most unconventional striker on this list in terms of appearance, but despite his short, squat physique, he was possibly the most lethal finisher of them all.
The German centre-forward may not have been blessed with the strapping body of a typical goalscorer, nor was he renowned for blistering pace, but boy, could he find the net? Muller came alive in the penalty area, and he could apply any type of finish to every ball that came his way. He just had the knack.
He still holds the record for the most goals in one season with Bayern, bagging 40 times in 34 league matches. Unbelievable.
This guy has an award for the most aesthetically-pleasing goal of the year named after him, so that tells you all you need to know. Ferenc Puskas was in the goals business during his long career, and brother, business was a-boomin’.
The powerful centre-forward was part of the famous Hungary side of the 1940s and 50s, scoring 84 goals in 85 international matches. That’s almost a goal a game, for those who skipped maths at school.
Overall, he walloped home 512 goals in 528 appearances, including eight famous years at Real Madrid, writing his name in the history books as one of the most prolific goalscorers in the 20th century.
Now this man could do it all. Marco van Basten was as complete a striker as they come, and along with his breathtaking consistency and reliability, he could also produce some moments of unrivalled spectacular wonder.
The Swan of Utrecht’s highlight reel would be a match for any other footballer in the world, and his near zero degree volley in the Euro 1988 final is lauded as one of the greatest goals in the sport’s history.
Van Basten could conjure a miracle on any stage, no matter how vital or insignificant, and the only shame is that injury curtailed his marvellous career. A star of the game.
Until very recently, this legend was the greatest player in Portugal’s illustrious history. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen that particular tag, there are many who still reminisce much more fondly on Eusebio’s sterling contribution to football.
Eusebio was one of the first genuine superstars of the sport, and his goal record pays tribute to this. The Portuguese forward rattled home 473 goals in 440 games. No need for calculators to figure out how special that is.
He won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup with an incredible nine goals, and was undoubtedly one of the star performers in the tournament. Grace and elegance personified.
Any player that wins the Golden Ball at a World Cup is pretty special. Romario was an insanely gifted footballer who possessed that natural Brazilian flair and spark that separates the Samba stars from us mere mortals.
Romario was a key component in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona, where he found the net 30 times in his debut campaign. He was also a key figure in the Vasco de Gama side which tore Manchester United apart in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, putting in a memorable display.
Over 1000 career goals (apparently), he is the second-most prolific striker in football history. Wow.
Batigol. When we reminisce on the most clinical strikers in football history, the name of Gabriel Batistuta always rears its head. The Argentine forward made his name in Europe over a nine-year spell with Fiorentina, where he became a club legend, rifling home over 200 goals for la Viola.
Although he showed himself to be Serie A’s deadliest forward during his time in Florence, it was at AS Roma where his heroics were rewarded with silverware. I Giallorossi lifted the 2000/01 league title – only the third in their history – and Gabigol helped himself to 20 valuable strikes over the course of the campaign.
Batistuta was pure power. The power in his legs allowed the forward to strike the ball from anywhere, with either foot, and with a vicious ferocity that made you pity the goalkeeper tasked with stopping his efforts. An icon of the 1990s, and a Serie A legend.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is now the chairman of Bayern – and you don’t get that role by being a shoddy striker! The German forward began his career with the Bavarian giants, scoring over 200 goals in 10 years at the club.
His versatility and adaptability to different styles of play made him the prolific forward he proved to be, while his lightning pace and clinical finishing always put him out of the defender’s reach.
A Bayern and West Germany legend, Rummenigge is part of football’s very fabric. A wonderful forward to complete the list.
After a disappointing season which saw them beaten to the title by arch rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona go into an important summer in dire need of a reshuffle.
The main concern for the Blaugrana is the age of the squad, with a number of first-team players now the wrong side of 30.
Here is a closer look at the Barcelona squad and whether they should be kept at the Camp Nou.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (STAY) – Since Claudio Bravo’s move to Manchester City, ter Stegen has taken the number one shirt at Barcelona and established himself as one of the world’s very best goalkeepers.
Neto (STAY) – The former Juventus man may have made only two league appearances this season, but in Neto, Barcelona have one of the best back-up goalkeepers in the world.
Inaki Pena (GO) – It will take something special for Pena to oust ter Stegen from the goalkeeping spot, and with the 21-year old’s contract expiring next summer, expect Barcelona to cash in on the Spaniard.
Arnau Tenas (STAY) – The 19-year old recently signed a three-year contract at the Camp Nou, with an option to extend for a further two years, so the club clearly see something in him.
Nelson Semedo (STAY) – The Portuguese international may not be setting the world alight at the Camp Nou, but he did feature in 32 La Liga games last season, scoring once and assisting twice. His pace and energy is a useful asset to the team.
Sergi Roberto (STAY) – Roberto may not be a superstar, but his versatility is vital to the Catalan giants. Roberto has played as a right-back, central midfielder and on the wing.
Jordi Alba (STAY) – The pacy Spaniard may be getting older, but he still has plenty to offer. His bombing runs down the left and his connection with Lionel Messi are notable features of Barcelona’s play.
Junior Firpo (STAY) – The 23-year old will have been frustrated with his lack of game time this season. However, should he stick around for a couple more years, Firpo may find himself in the starting XI more regularly, with teammate Jordi Alba turning 31 last March.
Emerson (GO) – The Brazilian right-back was supposed to stay at Real Betis on loan for the 2020/21 season, however Barcelona are expected to cancel the loan a year early and sell Emerson, with several Premier League clubs believed to be interested.
Juan Miranda (GO – On loan) – Miranda failed to impress last year at Schalke, with his two-year loan being ended early. However, at just 20 years old, maybe it is too early for Barcelona to give up on him just yet.
Moussa Wague (GO) – The Senegalese right-back made little impression on loan at Nice, with the French club opting not to take up the option to sign the 21-year old on a permanent basis. Wague’s performances at the 2018 World Cup may give him some market value.
Dani Morer (GO) – At 22 years old, Morer is yet to make an appearance for the first-team. The Barcelona B man should look elsewhere for game time.
Sergio Akieme (GO) – Just like Morer, Akieme is yet to make an appearance for the Barcelona first-team, with reports suggesting that the Blaugrana are ready to offload the 22-year old.
Gerard Pique (STAY) – Despite turning 33 last February, former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique is still one of the world’s best in his position, starting 43 games in all competitions.
Clement Lenglet (STAY) – The Frenchman is a nailed on starter for Barcelona.
Samuel Umtiti (GO) – Constant injury woes and the form of Pique and Lenglet have seen the World Cup winner fall down the pecking order at Barcelona, with reports saying that Umtiti has been told he can leave.
Ronald Araujo (STAY) – If Umtiti was to leave this summer, it would give Uruguayan defender Ronald Araujo more first-team minutes. The 21-year old made six appearances last campaign, and did not concede a single goal while on the pitch.
Jean-Clair Todibo (GO) – The young Frenchman was loaned to Schalke last January with an option to buy. This suggests that Todibo is viewed as expendable by Barcelona.
Jorge Cuenca (GO – On loan) – Aside from one Copa del Rey fixture, Cuenca hasn’t made an appearance in the last two seasons, with a metatarsal fracture keeping him out for large parts of the 19/20 campaign. However, he is still young, so maybe still has something to offer.
Sergio Busquets (STAY) – At 32 years old, the Spaniard remains one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. His class and composure would be missed at the Camp Nou.
Frenkie de Jong (STAY) – The Dutchman has not had an ideal start to life in La Liga, but still has the potential to be one of the very best midfielders in the world.
Ivan Rakitic (GO) – Once an important figure in the Barcelona side, Rakitic has grown increasingly unpopular among the fans. A move for the Croatian would be best for all parties involved.
Arturo Vidal (GO) – Despite his age, Arturo Vidal is still a useful player – often filling in at LW due to injuries in Barcelona’s front line. However, with the Chilean’s contract expiring next summer, Vidal may be sold while he still has value.
Riqui Puig (STAY) – The youngster was hugely impressive after the restart, drawing high praise and even some comparisons to Barca legend Andres Iniesta. The upcoming season could be a huge one for Riqui Puig.
Rafinha (GO) – It’s never a good sign when you’re being loaned out at 26. Rafinha, brother of Spanish midfielder Thiago, has struggled to make an impact at the Blaugrana since his debut in 2011. With a year left on his contract, expect the Brazilian to be on his way.
Carles Alena (STAY) – With Miralem Pjanic arriving from Juventus, it will become even more difficult for Alena to nail down a starting place. However, he is still young, and showed potential in the 18/19 season before his loan to Real Betis.
Monchu (GO – On loan) – As vice-captain of Barcelona B, Spanish midfielder Monchu has scored 13 goals in 66 appearances. There could be a future for the 20-year old, although he may need a loan move to prove his worth.
Oriol Busquets (GO) – Another whose contract is set to expire next summer, Oriol Busquets (not related to Sergio) spent the previous year on loan at FC Twente. He has made one appearance for Barcelona, as a serious knee injury meant he was out of action for large parts of the 18/19 season.
Matheus Fernandes (STAY) – The Brazilian is set to join Barcelona this summer. With a five-year contract and a staggering €300m release clause, expect to see Fernandes get some minutes this season.
Philippe Coutinho (GO) – Coutinho has sadly flopped at Barcelona, spending the last season on loan at Bayern Munich. The Catalan giants will be lucky to receive half of the £142m they spent on the Brazilian back in January 2018.
Alex Collado (STAY) – Academy graduate Alex Collado has been an integral part of Barcelona B, and is expected to have a bright future.
Pedri (GO – On loan) – Just 17 years old, Spanish attacking midfielder Pedri had an impressive season in the second tier of Spanish football, scoring three and assisting seven for Las Palmas. The Spain youth international will likely spend another season out on loan.
Lionel Messi (STAY) – Well….duh.
Luis Suarez (GO) – Despite netting 19 times in 34 appearances, it is fairly obvious that the Uruguayan’s best days are behind him. Aged 33 and with just a year left on his contract, Suarez’s value is depreciating, so Barcelona may look to cash in while they can.
Antoine Griezmann (STAY) – The Frenchman’s first season at the Camp Nou has been a bit of a nightmare. However, the former Atletico Madrid man still has undeniable quality, as proven by his exceptional chip against Villarreal.
Ousmane Dembele (STAY) – Injuries have hampered the young Frenchman’s career at Barcelona. However, should Dembele manage to remain injury-free, he could be a valuable asset.
Ansu Fati (STAY) – The 17-year old has had a brilliant debut season, scoring eight times in 32 appearances.
Martin Braithwaite (STAY) – The Danish forward may not be up to the standard of the other forwards that Barcelona have boasted in recent years, but he offers decent enough cover to justify his place in the squad.
Rey Manaj (GO) – The Albanian has scored just once for Barcelona B in six appearances since signing in January. At 23 years of age, Manaj is at a stage in his career where he needs regular minutes, which he simply won’t get at the Camp Nou.
Francisco Trincao (STAY) – Signed from Braga for €31m in January, the Portuguese youngster is expected to feature in Barcelona’s side next season.
Agent Kia Joorabchian has confirmed it is one of Philippe Coutinho’s ‘priorities’ to return to the Premier League this summer amid rumoured interest from Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester and Newcastle in recent weeks and months.
Coutinho has spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Bayern Munich, but with the Bundesliga champions not going to trigger a €120m option to buy and poor prospects of a long-term future at parent club Barcelona, the Brazilian’s future has been the subject of much speculation.
Arsenal and Spurs have been heavily linked, as have Leicester, who agonisingly missed out on Champions League football on the final day of the season and have now lost that advantage, and Newcastle, whose interest may depend on their proposed takeover that has now stalled.
“Because the Champions League is going to run all the way until August 23, I think it will be difficult for players like Coutinho to make any commitment or move until that date,” Joorabchian told talkSPORT on the subject of the player’s future.
“After the Champions League, it’s not been a secret that he wants to come back to the Premier League if he can; he loves playing in the Premier League and is adored in the Premier League.
“It is one of his priorities…but he is also not against staying at Barcelona, so it is very much open.”
Barcelona publication SPORT has written this week that Arsenal, Spurs and Leicester are the only three options on the table in the Premier League, with others like Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea rebuffing Joorabchian in his attempts to find a club for his client.
Coutinho’s former side Liverpool are not specifically mentioned in that report but a return to Anfield seems unfeasible given the club’s stance on transfers this summer.
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From internal instability to woeful squad-building, financial strains and underwhelming footballing displays, the 2019/20 campaign has been a wretched one for Barcelona – with the unprecedented finale of the Champions League next month ensuring the nightmare isn’t quite over for the Blaugrana faithful.
But amidst all the chaos, disputes and handing over of La Liga titles to your most bitter rivals, an assuming Frenchman has emerged as a beacon of hope.
Clement Lenglet is a name that is often overlooked at first sight in the discussion of Europe’s best centre-backs. His reserved nature and conservative playstyle ensure it’s relatively easy to pass Lenglet by.
Does he possess the dominant aura of say a Virgil van Dijk? No, not close. Does he play every game like it’s his last in a similar vein to Matthijs de Ligt, hunt opponents down at supersonic speed like Kalidou Koulibaly or ensure he’s the protagonist every time he enters the field, Sergio Ramos style?
Once again: no, no and an emphatic no.
Despite his rather unspectacular profile and understandable omission from Twitter centre-back debates, it’d be naive to downplay Lenglet’s rise at Barcelona and, dare I say it, into one of the finest centre-halves the continent has to offer.
It’s an ascent which predates to the French second-tier and AS Nancy in 2013, when Lenglet – born 75km from Paris in Beauvais – made his senior debut at the tender age of 18.
He shone as Nancy were promoted to Ligue 1 following the conclusion of the 2015/16 campaign and after just a half a season of strutting his stuff in the French top flight, he caught the eye of Sevilla – who spent €5m to acquire his services after favoured centre-half Timothée Kolodziejczak had departed for Borussia Monchengladbach.
As it turned out though, Lenglet was more than a mere replacement for his compatriot in Seville.
He swiftly evolved into a key spoke of Jorge Sampaoli’s wheel for the Andalusians, and all it took was 18 months of stellar centre-back play – which included an imperious showing in the 2017/18 Champions League round of 16 tie with Manchester United – for Barcelona to come calling.
The Catalans were more than willing to trigger Lenglet’s €35m release clause in the summer of 2018, with the club initially viewing the Frenchman as an optimal understudy for Gerard Pique, still one of best defenders around, and Samuel Umtiti – whose stock was at an all-time high following a magnificent World Cup campaign with winners France.
The instability of Umtiti’s knees, however, meant Lenglet was thrust into the limelight from the get-go, and the former Lyon man’s woeful injury record has proved to be a blessing in disguise for La Blaugrana – even if that blessing did take some time to shine through.
While Lenglet enjoyed a fine debut campaign under Ernesto Valverde at Camp Nou, many were still left unconvinced by the Frenchman’s capacity to be a long-term option for the club and of the requisite talent to be a shoo-in starter for a bona fide European giant.
Skeptics hinted at Valverde’s pragmatic style – which distanced itself from typical Barcelona ideals – suiting Lenglet’s conservatism to a tee and minimising his vulnerabilities. Under a manager who aligned themselves with the ‘Barça way’, Lenglet was destined to struggle.
Well, following the inevitable but perhaps hasty departure of Valverde at the start of 2020 with the Catalans sitting atop of La Liga, the aforementioned theory regarding Lenglet was set to be put to the test as La Blaugrana hired Johan Cruyff disciple Quique Setien as his successor.
It was a bold move by the seemingly incompetent Barcelona board and one which ultimately failed to pay off in the short-term as Real Madrid’s post-restart surge saw them lift their 34th Spanish title, but for Lenglet, the hiring of the 61-year-old may prove to be a watershed moment in his career.
However, the contrasting styles of Valverde and Setien ensured the start of the latter’s reign was a difficult one for the humble Frenchman.
With the advanced surges of full-backs so crucial to Setien’s attacking play as they challenge the horizontal compactness of opponents and facilitate the movement of Lionel Messi and co. infield, there’s a significant onus on the centre-backs to cover greater space in wide areas.
Due to his lack of mobility, there were a few teething problems to begin with for Lenglet; he was often caught out one-on-one when forced to defend the flanks and became a little too aggressive to overcompensate for his manager’s demands.
But despite his initial struggles and Umtiti, on paper, being a more harmonious systematic fit due to his natural aggression and superior mobility, Setien opted to stick by the former Sevilla man and the Barcelona boss was rewarded after the restart in June.
In his nine starts following La Liga’s resumption, Lenglet was arguably Barça’s standout performer who isn’t tagged as the best to ever do it. His willingness to adapt to the tough demands of his manager has been admirable, with vast improvements in previously vulnerable facets of his game laid bare for all to see. While he’s always been blessed with astute positioning and impressive anticipation, his capacity to sniff out danger down the flanks and outwit faster, stronger forwards has improved exponentially as of late.
Lenglet starred against target-man Luuk de Jong in a 0-0 stalemate with his former employers last month and the sequence in which he first denied Javier Eraso from cutting inside with some superb one-on-one defending before instinctively clearing Miguel Guerrero’s eventual shot off the line against Leganes in a 2-0 victory the game prior epitomised Lenglet’s post-restart form in a microcosm.
It’s almost a one-man band at times in the Barcelona defence.
Statistics may underwhelm due to Barcelona’s typical monopolisation of possession ensuring the defence is often resigned to simply sniffing out counter-attacks, but the eye-test strongly suggests that for all his other issues – including his job security – Setien has certainly helped Lenglet morph into a more complete centre-half, while the Spaniard’s ideals ensure the Frenchman’s ball-playing capabilities are laid bare.
Lenglet is capable of driving raking vertical passes through defensive lines with the utmost elegance and precision, as well as delivering long diagonals to penetrate a deeper defensive block.
While the Frenchman’s time with Setien may be limited, the Spaniard’s alternate way of seeing the game compared to Valverde has ultimately ensured Lenglet’s career remains on an upward trajectory.
Setien’s system ultimately exposed his glaring flaws but the rewards were swiftly reaped with stellar centre-back play to round off the campaign. Lenglet’s no longer a ‘good’ defender who defends the box well and looks tidy on the ball, he’s now a player who can adapt and adjust coherently to riskier demands – and has emerged into one of Europe’s most complete centre-backs because of it.
Overall, recent form would suggest Clement Lenglet is the man to build the Barcelona backline around as the club seeks to enter a new dawn following their Presidential election in 2021.
Winning a domestic league title is great, but lifting the Champions League trophy is what every player dreams of. Only the best can win that competition. Well, usually.
Since the competition’s rebranding in 1992, we’ve seen 27 sides lift the famous trophy. Some of those teams have been all-time greats, but a few left fans scratching their heads and questioning whether it was all just one weird dream.
There’s only one thing to do – let’s rank them.
This is a tricky one. 1992/93 Marseille were a great team. They were really great. But were they actually good enough to win the Champions League?
The squad, which featured Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Rudi Völler, Abedi Pelé and Didier Deschamps, picked up a 1-0 win over AC Milan in the final, only to later be found guilty of match fixing during their domestic campaign.
They were found to have paid Valenciennes to lose a game to ensure their squad were not tired out for the European game, so they probably deserve to be bottom of this list.
It’s probably the best Champions League final story of all time, but let’s not forget that Liverpool’s dramatic comeback against AC Milan in 2005 was only possible because they were bad enough to fall 3-0 down in the first place.
The Reds, who lost 14 Premier League games that year and finished fifth, had the likes of Steve Finnan, Djimi Traoré and Harry Kewell in their starting lineup and would have probably lost about 10-0 if Steven Gerrard didn’t turn into a superhero.
The triumph that made José Mourinho. Porto should never have won the Champions League, and you only have to look at how they had to scrape past Deportivo La Coruña in the semi-final as proof of that.
Their success was largely down to good fortune in terms of their opponents, but the likes of Deco, Maniche and Ricardo Carvalho ensured that Porto still had enough about them to cause an upset.
Chelsea, who found themselves in domestic turmoil in 2011/12, should have lost to Napoli, Barcelona and Bayern Munich that year, but somehow managed to emerge with the Champions League trophy.
There was plenty of firepower in the squad, including Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry (when he wasn’t suspended), but this squad also included a young Ryan Bertrand who made his European debut in the final…. out of position.
This is a tricky one. On paper, Milan should have been amazing this year. The squad featured Dida, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Andriy Shevchenko – the list goes on.
Unfortunately, 2002/03 Milan were one of the most uninspiring teams in competition history.
They were all about dull 1-0 wins and were largely responsible for the first 0-0 draw in final history.
Lars Ricken, Paulo Sousa, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Matthias Sammer all flirted with stardom, with Sammar perhaps coming the closest, but the Borussia Dortmund side of 1996/97 just seemed to lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
Ricken’s goal 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute is still a record for the Champions League final, and that is a major reason why this team is still remembered.
If we’re talking purely about performances in the final, this Milan side would be right at the top. They mauled Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0, but that was pretty much the first time that they had actually played entertaining football.
It’s tough to say what was wrong with this Milan side. They still won games, but it just wasn’t that impressive to watch most of the time. There’s only so much ‘offside trap’ a fan can take.
Real Madrid are almost the victims of their own high standards. Their Champions League triumph in 1998 was their first and has since proven to be their least impressive.
Fernando Hierro was strong at the back, Clarence Seedorf and Christian Karembeu starred in midfield and a young Raúl was just coming into his own in attack, but struggles domestically detract from this side’s greatness.
We’re at that point in the list where every team is ridiculously good, it’s just a question of figuring out which sides were less ridiculously good than the rest.
1999/00 Real find themselves here because they were on the cusp of blossoming into the famous ‘Galacticos’ but were perhaps lacking a little something.
Whatever they were lacking didn’t really show as they still played an impressive brand of football which won the hearts of many.
The 2015/16 tournament wasn’t the most convincing from Real. They conceded three against Shakhtar Donetsk and came close to being eliminated by Wolfsburg, who picked up a 2-0 win in the first leg of the quarter-final.
They had to squeeze past Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Atlético Madrid en route to lifting the trophy, but the fact of the matter is that they did squeeze past them, and that’s not easy.
2009/10 Inter were football’s equivalent of marmite – you either loved them or you hated them.
With Mourinho’s signature defensive style, I Nerazzurri became impenetrable. Samuel Eto’o went from a striker to a winger (which means he became a full-back under Mourinho), and they gave up possession in almost every game they played.
Diego Milito’s fantastic goalscoring stole the show, but you always felt like this Inter side maybe could have done things in a more convincing fashion.
Three words: Alessandro Del Piero.
The Italian was the standout star in a team which featured Gianluca Vialli, Antonio Conte and Didier Deschamps, firing Juventus to glory in devastating fashion.
With Ballon d’Or winner Kaká stealing the show in midfield, 2006/07 AC Milan were something special.
They got revenge against Liverpool in the final that year, with Kaká and Filippo Inzaghi proving too much to handle in attack.
If you haven’t gathered, we’re in the section of the list for teams who were primarily led by one star. For Bayern Munich in 2000/01, that star was goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
The victory over Valencia in the final was all about penalties. Bayern missed one in the game, before Kahn went off on one in the shootout to earn the Germans the trophy.
As a single unit, Barcelona were great in 2005/06, but this was the Ronaldinho show. Frank Rijkaard knew that and built his team around the Brazilian.
Would Barça have won the tournament without Ronaldinho? Possibly not, although Eto’o would have had something to say about that.
Zinedine Zidane rocked up to Real for the 2001/02 season and scored one of the greatest goals in competition history in the final in his debut season. Not bad.
Los Blancos scored goals for fun this season and had to prove their mental fortitude by coming back from the brink of elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.
And then Real got caught up in the moment and tore the squad apart through mass spending – and they didn’t even replace Claude Makélélé!
Carlo Ancelotti’s brand of free-flowing football brought the best out of Real and helped Cristiano Ronaldo fire home a ludicrous 17 goals during the competition.
They dominated plenty of sides en route to glory, but their legacy takes a slight hit as they came within seconds of losing the final to rivals Atlético Madrid.
The treble winners. That alone is good enough for a high finish on this list, and that’s how it should be.
However, because we’ve got to look a little deeper when comparing these teams, we’ve got to look at how United came to be European champions, and it’s not as impressive as you might think.
Defensively, United were more than a little unconvincing at times, evident by the fact they needed dramatic comebacks in both the semi-final and the final, but the fact that they had the quality to fight back speaks volumes.
United’s squad in the 2007/08 final reads like a real who’s who of footballing greats. Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidi? formed one of the best defensive trios of all time and Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez weren’t half bad in attack, either.
Defensively dominant and sublime in attack, this United side overwhelmed their opponents with terrifying ease.
They’ll always be remembered as the side who needed a Loris Karius disasterclass to win the final, but the reality is this Real side were phenomenal.
They fought through PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to the final, with a squad which featured Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and soon-to-be Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modri?.
Just one year earlier, a very similar Real side stormed to victory in Europe, but there’s an argument to suggest that this 2016/17 was Real at their recent peak.
Modri?, Toni Kroos and Casemiro made up perhaps the finest midfield on the planet at the time, and they tore apart a Juventus side who were expected to cause Real major problems.
Alisson and Virgil van Dijk gave Liverpool an elite defence. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino dominated in attack. On an individual level, this Liverpool side were great, but Jürgen Klopp’s tactics brought them to a new level.
Their unbelievable 4-0 win over Barcelona in the semi-final was the greatest comeback in the competition’s history, ensuring this side will never be forgotten. Ever.
Louis van Gaal’s Ajax side were the perfect blend of outstanding talent and pure entertainment. They beat the ‘best in the world’ Milan side no less than three times, and it did by playing some stunning football.
Frank Rijkaard led from midfield, allowing Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars and a young Patrick Kluivert to shine on the biggest stage.
What made this Ajax side most impressive was their ability to win in various different ways. They could use pace and power, intricate passing or defensive resilience – whatever was needed, they could do it.
We’re in the real crème de la crème now, and kicking things off is the Barcelona side from 2014/15.
MSN – Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar – wreaked havoc against opponents all year long, scoring a combined 137 goals across the entirety of 2015.
When you add Marc-André ter Stegen, Gerard Piqué, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta to the mix, you’ve got one of the most terrifying teams in history.
Half of this Bayern Munich side went on to reach the 2014 World Cup final, which speaks volumes of the general level of quality in this squad.
Jupp Heynckes’ side were led by ‘Robbery’ – the wide duo of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben – but that was just the start of it.
Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng and Philipp Lahm helped make up a sublime defence, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller pulled the strings in midfield.
This side should have won the competition in 2012, but they finally got what they deserved this time around.
Pep Guardiola’s debut season with Barcelona was comfortably one of the greatest we have ever seen. Barça went on to win the treble, and they did it by completely dominating their opponents.
Messi was yet to become the focal point of Barça’s sides, so this team was all about an overall quality throughout the squad. Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets pulled the strings in midfield, and Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry ran riot in attack.
Some good fortune was needed to edge past Chelsea in the semi-final, but apart from that, it was utter domination from start to finish.
2008/09 Barcelona rewrote football, but 2010/11 took it to a whole new level.
To a man, this team may well be the greatest club side ever. Messi, Pedro and David Villa in attack, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in midfield, Eric Abidal, Pique, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves in defence, with Victor Valdés in goal. Wow.
Their 3-1 win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the final is often described as one of the most dominant victories ever, and it was the perfect example of what this team was about.
– Liverpool won their first league title in 30 years.
– Leeds United were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years.
– Real Madrid won La Liga for the first time in three years.
– Football stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time, well, ever.
We at the DEPR headquarters rank the 25 (yes, 25) best teams in Europe for the 30th and final time this season. And to do so we thought we’d bring out the big guns; the guns that, after firing, you look at and say ‘madonn’.
Yep, that’s right, it’s The Sopranos week.
“‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”
For years, all Leeds United fans could bring themselves to talk about was ever fading memories of their Don Revie-led glory days. When their team were the best in England, winning league titles and FA Cups by the truckload.
Now, finally, they have something else to talk about.
For the first time in 16 years, their club are back where they belong in England’s top flight. And we at DEPR are bloody glad they are.
“In your worst dreams a duck flies off with your penis.”
In Sevilla fans’ worst dreams, Barcelona or Real Madrid fly off with Lucas Ocampos this summer.
They’ll be hoping that their qualification for the Champions League will be enough to keep hold of the talented Argentine.
“Life is putting the prozac to the test.”
The first half of the Bundesliga season was remarkable for Borussia Monchengladbach. They were locked in a three-horse race for the league title, and were absolutely blowing away every team that dared face them with their ferocious counter-attacking football.
The second half of the season was a different story. It, well…let’s just say it put the prozac to the test for Gladbach fans. BUT, while their title challenge fell apart, they did manage to sneak into the Champions League.
“In my thoughts, I use the technique of positive visualisation.”
Ok Leicester City fans, we know that the last day of the season didn’t exactly go to plan, but let’s look at the positives:
– Your club massively overachieved this season. – Jamie Vardy won the Golden Boot. – James Maddison is signing a new contract. – Big Brendy Baps has your team playing great football. – Your new kit is lovely.
“If I had any ounce of self-respect I would cut your d**k off.”
If RB Leipzig have any ounce of self-respect then they wouldn’t have tweeted about Timo Werner signing for Chelsea like a Twitter fan account called @MaestroMount8.
“Teddy Roosevelt once gave an entire speech with a bullet lodged in his chest. Some things are just a matter of duty.”
Stefano Pioli once resurrected an entire football club with a bullet lodged in his chest – a wound he’s miraculously survived.
So despite Milan all but appointing Ralf Rangnick as their manager for next season, Pioli – due to a certain 10 game unbeaten run and wins over Juventus and Lazio – will be in charge at San Siro for the 2020/21 campaign.
And he bloody deserves to be.
“Like Popeye says, I yam what I yam.”
Love them or hate them, Atletico Madrid are still just who they are:
A boring, yet effective, football team.
“Other people’s definitions of you, sometimes they’re more about making themselves feel better. You gotta define yourself.”
At the start of the 2019/20 season, every single member of the 90min editorial team tried to define Sheffield United as relegation fodder.
During the 2019/20 season, the Blades proved themselves to be a lot more than that. They defined themselves as a top half team who play arguably the most exciting football in the Premier League.
“Well, what are you gonna do?”
Well, Borussia Dortmund…what are you gonna do this summer?
Are you going to keep hold of Jadon Sancho?
Are you going to sign a defender who can actually, you know, DEFEND?
Are you going to sign more central midfield cover?
Or are you going to accept the fact that you’re only the second best team in Germany? Huh?
It’s time to show some ambition BVB. Do the right thing.
“I’m like King Midas in reverse here. Everything I touch turns to sh*t.”
In 2017, Ousmane Dembele was one of the most exciting prospects in the world. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
In 2018, Philippe Coutinho was one of the most talented attacking players in Europe. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
In 2018, Antoine Griezmann was one of the best footballers in the world. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
All of the above is proof that everything Barcelona touches turns to sh*t.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”
Let’s call a spade a spade, Gennaro Gattuso isn’t a particularly great manager and Napoli haven’t been particularly great since he’s taken charge.
However, every once a while, he’s able to inspire Napoli to a huge win.
The Coppa Italia final was one such win. So, you know, credit where it’s due.
“More is lost by indecision than by wrong decision.”
Manchester City underperformed this season for one simple reason: they didn’t buy a centre back last summer.
Instead of buying a centre back they trusted John Stones, who proved once again that he is completely and utterly hopeless.
“When you’re married, you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce.”
Another summer of buying a billion players and selling a trillion players led to yet another Eredivisie title for Ajax.
“You steer the ship the best way you know. Sometimes it’s smooth. Sometimes you hit the rocks. In the meantime, you find your pleasures where you can.”
Inter’s 2019/20 campaign has been a pretty interesting one.
Sometimes it’s been smooth, when Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were firing on all cylinders and I Nerazzurri were challenging for the title.
Sometimes they hit the rocks, with defeats to Bologna.
Overall though, there’s been plenty to enjoy for Inter fans this season, and under Antonio Conte their club are certainly moving in the right direction.
“Some people are so far behind in a race that they actually believe they’re leading.”
Chelsea think that they’re absolutely smashing the transfer window so far with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Neither of those players are defenders, and that’s what the Blues are in dire need of.
“Positive vibes only.”
Had COVID not put a halt to the Serie A season, SS Lazio would probably be celebrating their first Scudetto in 20 years.
And that’s a pretty depressing though to Le Aquile fans so let’s not dwell on it. Instead, let’s dwell on the fact that your club have been absolutely outstanding this season and will probably be even better in the next.
Nine SPFL titles in a row and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
You Bhoys…you Bhoys…I’ll tell ya…it’s beautiful stuff.
“Sometimes we’re all hypocrites.”
About eight months ago football fans took to Twitter and declared Manchester United ‘the worst team in the world’, ‘an embarrassment’ and ‘a team full of sh*tters’.
Now, football fans take to Twitter and declare Manchester United ‘the best team in the world’, ‘an amazing side’ and ‘a team full of heroes’.
Twitter is a fickle place, but at least football fans are now slightly closer to being right than they were eight months ago.
“There’s an old Italian saying: you f**k up once, you lose two teeth.”
There’s an old saying in Porto: you f**k up once, Benfica win the Primeira Liga.
So judging by the fact that Porto won the league, it’s fair to say that they didn’t put a foot wrong all season.
“You know, Tony, it’s a multiple choice thing with you. ‘Cause I can’t tell if you’re old-fashioned, you’re paranoid, or just a f**king asshole.”
It’s a multiple choice thing with Juventus.
‘Cause after they bagged their ninth consecutive Scudetto I can’t tell if they’re a great team, a boringly effective team, or just f**king sh*t.
“This ain’t negotiation time. This is Scarface, final scene, f**kin’ bazookas under each arm, ‘say hello to my little friend!'”
This summer isn’t a summer in which PSG can afford Neymar and Kylian Mbappé to force a move away from the club.
This ain’t negotiation time.
It’s UEFA Champions League mini-tournament time, when Neymar and Mbappé need to step up and deliver on the grandest stage for their current club.
This is Scarface, final scene, f**kin’ bazookas under each arm, ‘say hello to my little friend!‘ time for PSG’s two superstars.
“Someday soon, you’re gonna have families of your own and if you’re lucky, you’ll remember the little moments like this, that were good.”
For…well…ever, Atalanta have been starved of success. Seen as nothing more than a provincial club who could never, ever, hope to compete with the two European heavyweights (AC Milan and Inter) from down the road.
And then Gian Piero Gasperini took over, and things changed.
The little Bergamo club are now better than both their mega-rich neighbours – despite their Championship-sized budget – and pretty much every other team in Europe too.
“You’re only as good as your last envelope.”
There’s a strong argument to be made for Liverpool being top of the end of season Definitive European Power Rankings.
They won their first league title in three decades.
They won the FIFA Club World Cup.
They’re the current holders of the UEFA Champions League.
BUT they did choose to lift the Premier League trophy to Coldplay’s ‘Sky Full of Stars’ so for that reason – and that reason alone – they’re down in third.
“Be a leader, not a follower. Master P said that.”
Is Zinedine Zidane the best manager in the world?
The two La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions Leagues and two Club World Cups in just four years as a head coach suggest that he is.
“Just when they thought I was out, they pulled me back.”
After a fairly disastrous end to 2019, Bayern Munich made a new year’s resolution to be the best damn football team in Europe and they actually stuck to it.
Since the turn of the year, Die Roten have won 23 of 24 games, lifted the Bundesliga Meisterschale and the DFB-Pokal, and scored about a million goals (most of which were scored by Robert Lewandowski).
And it’s this form that has led to Bayern Munich being crowned the number one team in Europe by 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings.