Juan Mata Agrees to Manchester United Contract Extension as Barcelona Drop Interest

?Manchester United star Juan Mata ‘has agreed’ to sign a new contract at Old Trafford, after learning that Barcelona have dropped their interest.

The 31-year-old has just days left on his current deal with Manchester United and had looked set to become a free agent this summer, with him most notably linked with a return to Spain and even being tipped for a reunion with Rafa Benitez at Newcastle.

But the latest update in Mata’s future comes from Catalan outlet Sport, who claim that the midfielder ‘has agreed’ to sign a new three-year contract in the north-west.

They add that Mata will retire at Manchester United as a result of this new contract.

Although Barcelona were interested in bringing Mata to Camp Nou earlier this summer, their decision to drop all interest in the midfielder hasn’t come as a result of the player’s new deal.

Instead, Barcelona are understood to be planning to undergo a rejuvenation project which will bring the average age of their squad down, although a recent £35m bid for Chelsea’s Willian would still suggest otherwise.

Back at Manchester United, tying up Mata for the next three years will offer some much-needed familiarity to the squad, especially as Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba appear to push for moves away from the club this summer.


Belgium international Lukaku has been flirting with a move to Italy for a number of months and it’s believed newly appointed Inter manager Antonio Conte is interested in signing the 26-year-old as a direct replacement for Mauro Icardi.

For Pogba, he appeared to issue a come and get me plea to Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid after admitting that he wanted to have a “new challenge” away from United next season.

He’s also been attracting interest from Serie A champions Juventus, who have been considering re-signing Pogba some time before they appointed Maurizio Sarri as their new head coach.

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Sergej Milinkovi?-Savi?: The Contenders to Sign Him & Where He Might End Up

After all the transfer hype surrounding ?Sergej Milinkovi?-Savi? last summer, he ended up staying at Lazio. Was it worth it? Probably not. 

He did add a Coppa Italia to his trophy cabinet, but that was the only positive in a relatively underwhelming season for both Milinkovi?-Savi? and Lazio. Champions League place hopefuls at the start of the season, the Rome based side could only finish eighth in ?Serie A at the end of the season. 

There’s no doubting Milinkovi?-Savi?’s ability though; he still managed to score seven in 41 appearances in a season where the goals seemed to dry up for Lazio. 

He’s established himself as one of the most exciting midfielders in European football. His through balls and defensive contribution has been highlighted as being his strong points and he has proved himself to be a complete midfielder. As a result, he has been targeted by some of Europe’s top clubs. Here’s a rundown of those clubs…


Barcelona

Arturo Vidal

Milinkovi?-Savi?, who was actually born in Catalonia, has been ?linked with a move to Barcelona in recent m?onths as they reportedly sent a scout to watch him earlier this season. 

If ?Barça were to complete a deal for Milinkovi?-Savi?, it would surely be a big step in their rebuilding process as they look to replace their ageing squad and once again compete for the Champions League trophy.

However, a deal for Milinkovi?-Savi? looks to be unlikely as it is unclear where he would fit in a three-man midfield that could already include Sergio Busquets, Artur Melo, Arturo Vidal and now ?Frenkie De Jong (although Rakitic is probably on his way out). With the acquisition of De Jong in particular, one could argue that Barça do not need the Serbian international.

Likelihood Rating: 2/10


Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjae

If a player in Europe ever shows even a glimmer of ability, you can bet ?Manchester United will be linked to him, and ?Milinkovi?-Savi? is no exception. The difference with this link is, Manchester United might actually need him, especially ?if Paul Pogba leaves.

United have been crying out for more quality in their midfield for years and Milinkovi?-Savi? could be the key to making Manchester United, once again, a dangerous and feared side. His versatility might prove a decisive factor as ?Ander Herrera is set to leave.

The price tag that ?Juventus have been quoted (£100m!) might put off the Red Devils, who may need to trim their transfer budget having only qualified for the Europa League last season. 

Likelihood Rating: 5/10


 Real Madrid

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?Following a disappointing 2018/19 season, ?Real Madrid have decided to splash the cash. Spending no less than £272m on players such as ?Eden Hazard and ?Luka Jovi?. ?Zinedine Zidane’s side has been linked with Milinkovi?-Savi? and it’s thought his large price tag won’t put off Los Blancos. 

Once again there would be question marks over how the Serbian midfielder would fit into this Real Madrid team. They already have plenty of depth in this area and a player might need to be moved on in order to facilitate the arrival of Milinkovi?-Savi?. Given his age however, Real might be tempted to buy him now just so he can develop further around world class players. That has definitely seemed to be their transfer policy so far this season. 

Likelihood Rating: 6/10


Juventus

Maurizio Sarri

Juventus, like Bayern Munich, seems to have a habit of raiding their division’s lower sides of their best players. It’s what they did with Miralem Pjanic, it’s what they did with Federico Bernadeschi, the list goes on. La Vecchia Signora have been heavily linked with Milinkovi?-Savi? over the last two summers and it appears that this time around they might actually pull it off. 

The Lazio midfielder could be Maurizio Sarri’s first signing, ?as it has been reported that Juve are keen to get the deal done and might even offer Leonardo Spinazzola and Cristian Romero as sweeteners. 

Milinkovi?-Savi? would suit ‘Sarriball’ quite well. His passing and dribbling ability would be valued in Sarri’s possession-based, quick attacking football. He is also somewhat similar to Marek Hamšík (mohawk aside), who thrived under Sarri while he was at ?Napoli

Likelihood Rating: 8/10


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Philippe Coutinho Set to Reject Manchester United Move Due to Liverpool ‘Loyalty’

?Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho is reported to have ruled out a move to Manchester United this summer, feeling he owes it to Liverpool not to sign for their rivals. 

The Brazilian completed a £142m move to the Catalan side from the Reds last January, but has so failed to live up to his billing in his 18 months with the La Liga champions – scoring 11 goals in 54 appearances last season – and it is generally expected that he will move on, should an acceptable offer come in.

Despite reports that ?Barcelona will accept a substantial loss on the 27-year-old, the issue remains that there are few clubs with the financial clout to get a deal over the line. ?Manchester United are one who undoubtedly do, and were heavily linked with a move for him in January, but nothing came to fruition. 

Barcelona v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

Speculation has resurfaced sporadically throughout the second half of the season and into the summer, but according to ?Sky Sports, it won’t happen for them this time around either. That’s because Coutinho has ruled out a move to Old Trafford, on the basis that it would betray his ties to fierce rivals ?Liverpool.

Coutinho recently returned to Anfield for the first time, as his side famously lost by four goals to nil in the second leg of the Champions League semi final, becoming the first side in the history of the Champions League to crash out at that stage with a three goal advantage from the first leg.

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It was a tough night for Coutinho and co, but despite the disappointment at the hands of his former employers, it’s refreshing to hear that he heralds no ill-feeling towards them – though some Liverpool fans may suggest it doesn’t go both ways. 

With United seemingly out of the picture, ?Paris Saint-Germain look like the favourites to land Coutinho this summer, with ?a move to Chelsea also unlikely due to their transfer ban. 

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7 Players Who Returned to Their Former Club as Manager & How They Fared

?It started as a pipe dream, a lovely idea and all that, but one that would never actually happen.

However, the notion of Frank Lampard returning to Stamford Bridge – his spiritual home – doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous anymore. It is very much on the cards after Maurizio Sarri left Chelsea to become Juventus’ new boss and there have even been whispers that a deal to bring Lampard back to west London has already been struck behind closed doors.

??You may hear people say it’s too early and that Super Frank is too inexperienced as a coach. You may also hear others say that this is the best news from the ?Blues since it was announced in 2003 that some Russian oligarch would be pumping ungodly amounts of money into the club (of which the benefits are equally debatable).

To be perfectly honest, either group could be right. There’s a long history of players taking charge of their old club, with varying degrees of success and it is impossible to say whether Chelsea will live to regret appointing Lampard. 

Here’s a look at some of those individuals who went on to coach the teams they used to play for.


Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry is a really, really nice man. Unfortunately, he is also a really, really bad football coach. Ok, that’s a bit over the top, but my goodness he had a nightmare start to his managerial career.

He lasted 104 days in the Monaco hotseat having come through the Ligue 1 side’s academy in the 1990s. Now, that might seem harsh, but had they given him much more time it would have been because of blind loyalty rather than Henry actually earning it.

The ex-striker won just 20% of the matches he oversaw, collecting just a single point in the ?Champions League group stages and leaving the club in the relegation zone by the time of his dismissal in January.

Success Rating: 0/10


Gennaro Gattuso

Gennaro Gattuso

Renowned for his bullish attitude and fierce on-field demeanour, Gattuso is decidedly less intimidating following a testing period as ?Milan boss. They finished fifth in the league last term, agonisingly close to securing a return to the Champions League.

That’s hardly an abysmal showing. Still, the feisty Italian squandered £170m on a host of new recruits who, for the most part, looked disinterested and sub-par. Worse still, he lost 5-1 to ?Arsenal (ARSENAL!?) in the Europa League in 2018 – that’s just unforgivable.

Success Rating: 3/10


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Never get in a car if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at the wheel. The ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ flattered to deceive at ?Manchester United, initially looking like the messiah before his Red Devils side started to splutter and choke.

Things were rosy when March rolled around and Ole had been in the job for a few months, with the Norwegian having the second best win ratio in United history by that point. By May he had the worst. 

Nevertheless, this may be less of a Solskjaer problem and more of a Manchester United one – no coach has truly impressed at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and the squad seems to be lawless. However, it’s still early days for Solskjaer and he’s already proven he can get this team back on its feet.

Success Rating: 4/10


Pep Guardiola

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No one can deny that Pep Guardiola’s tenure at ?Barcelona brought unparalleled success to Camp Nou. What people do debate, however, is how much of it was down to Pep and how much was due to the insanely talented squad at his disposal.

Firstly, he is not a fraud. Yes, he has spent gargantuan sums of money on recruitment, but that is because his breathtaking style-of-play requires a certain calibre of players. Of course, the need for significant financial backing and a team with such immense levels of skill does slightly detract from the impressiveness of the Catalan’s record.

Nevertheless, two European titles and the most trophies collected by any Barça manager is rather good. There’s also the intangibles to account for; the impact he had on the growth of ?Lionel Messi and his teammates, the delicious brand of football he created and the influence ‘Tiki-Taka’ had on the future of the sport. Pep’s done alright.

Success Rating: 8/10


Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

Nine pieces of silverware were collected during Zinedine Zidane’s first stint with ?Real Madrid, the Frenchman winning three more trophies at the Bernabeu than he did as a midfielder in roughly half the time.

A hat-trick of Champions League triumphs is a superb achievement, but Zidane has been unable to work his magic since rejoining Los Blancos in the spring. Between 2016 and 2018 he had a win-percentage of 70%, but in 2019 he has struggled to motivate a lethargic Real outfit.

He must stop the rot or risk his magnificent reputation in the Spanish capital turn to dust (Madrid fans have notoriously-short memories).

Success Rating: 8/10


Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe

31 December 2008: Eddie Howe becomes caretaker manager at League Two relegation-fodder ?Bournemouth, who are under a transfer embargo.

27 April 2015: Bournemouth are promoted to the ?Premier League for the first time ever after winning the Championship with 90 points. 

21 May 2017: Bournemouth finish in ninth place in the top-flight, above last season’s champions Leicester City.

The facts do all the talking when it comes to Howe’s performance with the Cherries. He is a delightful man and a splendid coach, ensuring that his team plays football that is both attractive and effective. No, he hasn’t won a trophy, but the story of Bournemouth FC is beautiful and unbelievable.

Success Rating: 9/10


Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish,Craig Johnston,Steve Nicol

King Kenny’s greatest contribution to ?Liverpool is not related to matters on the field. They were vastly superior to every other club in the land under Dalglish, tasting glory on numerous occasions.

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However, it was the Scotsman’s courage and grace in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster that make him so respected and adored. He held the Reds together in their darkest hour, showed what it really means to be brave and carried the weight of a weeping city on his back.

Success Rating: 10/10

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Neymar Edging Closer to PSG Exit as Club Looks to Rid Itself of ‘Celebrity Culture’

Reports from France are indicating that Paris Saint-Germain are willing to sell Neymar this summer, two years on from his record-breaking move from Barcelona.

Neymar arrived in Paris in 2017 for a monumental £200m fee, making him the most expensive player in the world. The Brazilian has largely been a success on the pitch for the Parisians, registering 51 goals and 29 assists during his time in the French capital, but reservations still linger over whether he has lived up to his huge price tag.

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Now, according to French outlet ?L’Equipe, PSG will be happy to part ways with ?Neymar this summer – so long as they receive what they would consider to be a suitable offer.

The imminent arrival of Leonardo as the club’s new sporting director will spell a new era for the French champions, who are looking to shake things up behind the scenes to ensure that they are able to make the next step – particularly on the European front.

The report also suggests that the player himself is also happy to move on this summer, which could open the door for the likes of ?Real Madrid and former club ?Barcelona, who have both previously ?been linked with an approach for the Brazilian. 

The news follows recent comments from president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who recently told France Football (via ?The Sun) that he is looking to clamp down on celebrity culture at the club.

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“Players will have to assume their responsibilities even more than before. It must be completely different,” he declared.

“They will have to do more, work more. They are not there to please themselves.

“And if they do not agree, the doors are open. Ciao! I do not want to have any celebrity behaviour anymore.”?

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Lionel Messi ‘Bitter’ as Argentina Suffer Defeat to Colombia in Copa America

Lionel Messi admits his Argentina side were left feeling ‘bitter’ after their Copa America ?defeat to Colombia, but insists they must put the result behind them as they prepare to face Paraguay in a now crucial encounter. 

La Albiceleste improved in the second half following a lacklustre opening 45, but it wasn’t enough as Colombia scored twice in the last 20 minutes to condemn Argentina to their first competitive defeat under ?Lionel Scaloni. 

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“There’s a good group, we’re going to get up, and we’re ready to take the challenge,” Messi said of the loss, as quoted by ?Mundo Deportivo.

“We have to be strong, think about what’s coming and don’t give up. There’s still a long way to go. Beyond the result, there were good things. We have to lift our heads and go on,”

“I don’t know if the first half was bad. We retreated a bit and let them have the ball. Although they did not reach us. And when we were at our best, in the second half, [Colombia scored],”

“We leave bitter because, at the best time, they scored the goal.” 

Sergio Agüero,Lionel Messi,Cristian Borja

It was the worst possible start for the Argentines, as they rebuild following their poor showing at last year’s World Cup. 

Messi will also be conscious that time is running out for him to win that elusive international trophy and the pressure will surely be on him to deliver sooner rather than later as the ?Barcelona forward is now in his 30s.

Argentina have two remaining group stage fixtures against Paraguay and Qatar respectively.  With arguably the hardest group game out the way now, the Argentines can look to rebuild their confidence and hopefully kickstart a successful campaign.  

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8 Defenders Barcelona, PSG & Man Utd Should Consider Instead of Matthijs de Ligt

There are two kind of people in this world: those who want Matthijs de Ligt, and liars.

The Ajax wonderkid is being chased by the likes of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, and he will almost certainly command an astronomical transfer fee. Only one side can sign him, but those who miss out should not get too down. There are plenty of other exciting defenders to take a look at. 

Here are eight centre-backs who should be on everyone’s wish list this summer.


Ibrahima Konate

Ibrahima Konate

Club: RB Leipzig

Age: 20

It’s testament to France’s youth development that there are plenty of young players who can be described as the future of French football, but Ibrahima Konate is a cut above most.

The RB Leipzig starlet can truly do it all. His huge frame gives him a major advantage in aerial battles, but he also boasts the kind of agility that makes him a nightmare to play against. On the ball, he is a composed dribbler, and his passing has looked incredibly promising at times.

?Arsenal have already been heavily linked with Konate, but there will be plenty of other elite sides who are taking notice of the Frenchman. 


Dayot Upamecano

Dayot Upamecano

Club: RB Leipzig

Age: 20

Whoever has been in charge of RB Leipzig’s recruitment in recent years deserves a medal, their own TV show and a statue in Leipzig city centre.

Shortly before Konate arrived, ?Dayot Upamecano made his way to the club. Like his teammate, Upamecano is the perfect embodiment of a modern centre-back. He uses his speed and power to dominate opponents and loves to burst into midfield with the ball at his feet, often helping his side move forward and break down stubborn opponents.

He previously told ?UEFA that he looks up to ?Real Madrid star ?Raphael Varane, and comparisons between the two are clear to see. Can somebody please sign at least one of Konate or Upamecano, before Leipzig boast the most dominant defensive line of all time?


Malang Sarr


Club: OGC Nice

Age: 20?

Malang Sarr is just 20 years old, but he already has 99 appearances for OGC Nice under his belt. Since his breakthrough in 2017, Sarr’s development has been accelerated and there is a real belief that he could be yet another future French star.

Sarr’s decision-making is incredible, and he can often be seen pushing up into the opponents’ half to put pressure on a midfielder. Further back, he is comfortable drifting out into wider positions to track tricky wingers, and he boasts the passing skills to set his side off on a quick counter attack once he recovers possession.

He is by no means the finished product, but his sky-high potential is clear to see. He would be far cheaper than De Ligt, but could blossom into everything you’d expect the Dutchman to be.


Peru Nolaskoain

Peru Nolaskoain

Club: Athletic Bilbao

Age: 20?

Athletic Bilbao have plenty of exciting youngsters in their ranks, but Peru Nolaskoain is one of the brightest stars. A midfielder by trade, the Spaniard has recently proven his ability in defence, and many teams will certainly have taken notice.

Another of those who can do a bit of everything, Nolaskoain’s experience as a midfielder has helped improve his passing, whilst his defensive ability is also incredibly impressive. There’s not a lot that Nolaskoain can’t do.

Despite impressing for the senior team last season, minutes have been hard to come by for Nolaskoain, and a chance to perfect his craft elsewhere could be an intriguing proposition for the youngster.


Luiz Felipe

Luiz Felipe ramos March

Club: Lazio?

Age: 22

Injuries tried their hardest to derail Luiz Felipe’s development last season, but the 22-year-old stayed strong and enjoyed another impressive campaign.

Italy have fought to win his international allegiance from Brazil, and it’s easy to see why. He is a born leader, rarely shying away from barking orders at his senior teammates. His vision on the pitch is astounding, and he always seems to be able to sniff out danger before most.

?Tottenham Hotspur have chased him in recent years, but they will certainly not be alone in their admiration of Felipe. 


Jonathan Tah

Jonathan Tah

Club: Bayer Leverkusen?

Age: 23

One of the biggest positives about signing De Ligt is the fact that he could waltz straight into the first team and keep his place there for the next ten years. The same can be said for Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah.

The 23-year-old is already one of Germany’s top defenders, using his stunning blend of speed and power to dominate opponents. His tackling and positioning is fantastic, and history has shown us that Tah has plenty more years before he is even supposed to reach his peak, which is a frightening concept.

He’s only going to get better, and his price tag is only going to increase. It’s time for interested sides to act, before they end up ruing their missed opportunity.


Mario Hermoso

Mario Hermoso

Club: Espanyol

Age: 23?

The likes of Arsenal, ?Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have been in pursuit of Espanyol’s Mario Hermoso in recent months, which is evidence of just how impressive the 23-year-old has been.

An excellent tackler, Hermoso’s most intriguing attribute is certainly his long passing. Regardless of where his teammates are on the field, Hermoso knows he can find them, which adds an exciting dynamic to his side’s play.

Being discarded by Los Blancos as a youngster has clearly not impacted his quality, as Hermoso plays as if he truly believes he is one of the finest young defenders around. In his defence, he’s not wrong.


Jason Denayer

Jason Denayer

Club: Lyon

Age: 23?

Jason Denayer was tipped for big things as part of ?Manchester City’s academy, but always seemed to be a step short from making it at the top level. Since his permanent switch to Lyon last summer, he has taken that step.

The Belgian has blossomed into an incredibly disciplined defender who is comfortable leading a top side. Another of those with imposing speed and power, Denayer has been a dominant aerial force for years, whilst his passing ability is one of the things which tempted City to sign him back in 2013.

Everything with Denayer is done at a high tempo, as he plays the ball out of defence with urgency in an attempt to score goals. He still has plenty of time to improve, but he is already good enough to make it a the highest level.

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Barcelona Loan Players: How They Got on Away From Camp Nou During the 2018/19 Season

?Following a dominant showing in La Liga this season, ?Barcelona look like they will be even stronger next campaign with the arrival of Frenkie de Jong – as well as potentially Matthijs de Ligt and Antoine Griezmann.

But before they admire the new, it could be time for Barça to take stock of what they already have – including players they may have forgotten they have.

Four potential first team contributors headed out on loan last season, so have they played their way back into Ernesto Valverde’s plans? Let’s see how they got on.


Denis Suárez

Denis Suárez

??Arsenal fans had hoped that Denis Suarez would add some sparkle to their midfield, though his time in north London was ravaged by injury.

After making only four appearances for the Gunners, he picked up a groin injury against BATE Borisov in the Europa League – and never returned.

The 25-year-old ?has since admitted that it was a “year to forget” after a string of other injury problems, claiming he was operating at less than half capacity for much of his time in England.

“I don’t think I was even at 50%. After 15 days of being at Arsenal I wasn’t right. From the 16th I wasn’t even at 50%,” Suarez said.

His loan move to the Emirates came with an option to buy, but that won’t be taken up – and a return to Camp Nou ahead of a permanent move away seems likely.

Rating: 1/10


Arda Turan

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?Arda Turan moved to Barcelona from Atletico Madrid for €34m in 2015, though his time at Camp Nou has not been particularly memorable. 

After failing to make a single appearance during the 2017/18 campaign, the former Turkey star moved to ?stanbul Ba?ak?ehir on a two-year loan deal. 

Though his side have recently endured unprecedented success, having narrowly missed out on the Super Lig title this season, Turan has endured a difficult time in the Turkish capital with disciplinary issues and injury concerns galore.

Following a physical altercation with a match official in May 2018, he was originally ruled to miss 16 games through suspension – though this was later reduced to 10. Elsewhere, Turan has missed 11 games through injury and racked up a mere five goals and three assists in his 27 appearances.

Still, another year to go.

Rating: 4/10


André Gomes?

?Andre Gomes was a vital cog in Marco Silva’s wheel last season and came into his own during a successful loan spell at ?Everton, making 27 appearances alongside Idrissa Gueye in midfield and largely impressing in both a defensive and attacking capacity.

The 25-year-old moved to Barça in 2016 for a fee of €35m but struggled to make much impact for the Catalan giants, which was reflected by being voted the worst signing of the season by readers of Spanish publication Marca.

With Arthur, ?Arturo V?idal, Sergio Busquets and the arriving Frenkie de Jong ahead of him in the pecking order, it’s unlikely Gomes will be staying put at Barça. The Times claim that the Portuguese international has already rejected advances from West Ham in an attempt to secure a permanent move to Goodison Park. 

Rating: 8/10


Douglas 

Douglas made the switch from Sao Paulo to Barcelona in 2014 but five years on it had, until now, appeared that they wasted every penny of the €4m they paid for the Brazilian. 

After a string of unsuccessful loan moves, most notably Benfica, Douglas was sent out to Super Lig side Sivasspor in July 2018. Since then, he has rediscovered his form and enjoyed a fruitful run in the starting line-up. 

Last season he notched three goals and seven assists from right-back in 32 appearances, but is out of contract in the summer and available on a free transfer.

Despite his good form, he’s unlikely to be offered a new deal – with Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto established in the first team squad.

Rating: 8/10


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Takefusa Kubo: The Bizarre Reason Why Barcelona Missed Out to Real Madrid for ‘Japanese Messi’

?Real Madrid snuck in to seal the signing of highly rated Japanese forward Takefusa Kubo from FC Tokyo for free ahead of rivals Barcelona, thanks to their attention to detail.

Clásico rivals Barcelona were also keeping tabs on the player, who spent four years in their academy between 2011 and 2015, along with Paris Saint-Germain, but it was Los Blancos who ultimately ?announced the deal on Friday.

18-year-old Kubo, who is set to spend next season in Real Madrid’s B team under the tutelage of club legend Raul Gonzalez, returns to Spain after four years, when a Barcelona transfer ban for the illegal signing of youth players ultimately led him to leave La Masia to return to Japan.

Takefusa Kubo

Nicknamed (somewhat predictably) the ‘Japanese Messi’ big things are expected of Kubo, who made his senior Japan debut in 2019. Barcelona had been tipped as favourites to re-sign the wonderkid but, according to ?Marca, they were tripped up by his contract termination date. 

The report claims that Real Madrid were aware his contract ended this summer, while (possibly confused by an error on the website Transfermarkt) Barcelona and PSG were under the impression that the deal ended on 31 January 2020.

Los Blancos made Kubo an attractive offer, a five-year contract worth 1.2m a year, in order to steal the talent from under the noses of their rivals, who were still mulling their propos thinking they had more time.

When asked about joining ?Real Madrid, the 18-year-old, who is currently on international duty, said: “I am very happy to have signed for Real Madrid. 

“I’m calm. It’s a normal day, but I’m very happy.”

On Real’s ?website, Los Blancos described their new player as ‘technically gifted and hugely talented’. 

Takefusa Kubo

Real Madrid will have one of the most promising young players in world football. An attacking midfielder of excellent technique, very skilled, with vision of game, great dribble and goal [scoring],” their statement reads.

Although not one for the first team just yet, Kubo’s signing takes Real Madrid to six so far this window as Zindedine Zidane looks to rebuild his squad and reassert their dominance in both Spanish and European football. 

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Copa America 2019: A Combined XI of the Best Players at This Summer’s Tournament

?The Copa América kicked off on Friday 14 June as host nation Brazil beat Bolivia 3-0 in Sao Paulo, and there was some outstanding talent on display

This will be common throughout the tournament as some of the world’s best players descend on Brazil to compete for CONMEBOL’s flagship competition. 


Chile are defending champions, but face a challenge from tournament hosts Brazil and a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina, who are looking to win a first international trophy with their legendary player, having missed out on this trophy to Chile in the past two competitions. 

Here’s a best possible XI from the players on show this summer.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

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Alisson (GK, Brazil) – Liverpool’s Champions League goalkeeper makes the cut here. There are a few decent keepers at this tournament – not least Alisson’s teammate Ederson – but Brazil’s number one edges the competition out through his combination of incredible shot-stopping ability and eye for the pass. 

Dani Alves (RB, Brazil) – Paris Saint-Germain’s 36-year-old right-back was recently handed the captaincy of his country, and with 110 caps behind him, is one of Brazil’s most experienced players. He is third on the list of all-time appearances for the Seleção and will revel in leading his side out at this tournament.

José Giménez (CB, Uruguay) – 24-year-old Giménez has become a key part of two of the meanest defences in world football for both his national and Atletico Madrid in recent years. He already has 50 senior caps for La Celeste.

Diego Godín (CB, Uruguay) – Alongside Giménez is captain and now former club teammate Diego Godín. The 33-year-old is still regarded as one of the very best defenders in the world and forms a formidable partnership at the centre of the Uruguay defence. He is La Celeste’s most capped player, with 127 appearances for the senior side.

Nicolás Tagliafico (LB, Argentina) – Tagliafico has had an outstanding domestic campaign with Ajax, helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals. He made his international debut in 2017 but is fast securing his place on the left-hand side of the Argentinian defence.


Midfielders

Manuel Rosas,Giovani Lo Celso

?Fernandinho (CDM, Brazil) – Anchoring the XI is Manchester City man Fernandinho. Still one of the best defensive midfielders in the world despite his 34 years, he combines experience and energy? to disrupt opposition play and begin his team’s attacks. Without him, City may not have pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title this season.

Arturo Vidal (CM, Chile) – Chilean dynamo Vidal has had a generally impressive campaign for Barcelona, after his signing raised eyebrows, and has filled the void left by the experienced all-action Paulinho. The 32-year-old midfielder is even more important at international level and is one of manager Reinaldo Rueda’s key lieutenants. 

Giovani Lo Celso (CM, Argentina) – Lo Celso has enjoyed a breakout campaign for Real Betis in La Liga this season. Argentina fans caught glimpses of his potential at last summer’s World Cup and will hope he can become the oft-missing link between midfield and attack as La Albiceleste look to win the tournament for the 15th time.

Lionel Messi (CAM, Argentina) – The ace in the whole. Messi needs no introduction, but what he does need is an international trophy to add to his already impressive haul. He will try all he can to drag Argentina to the final, but sometimes even the magic of Messi isn’t enough to secure victory.


Forwards

Miguel Araujo,Duvan Zapata

Sergio Aguero (ST, Argentina) – Manchester City front man Aguero is one of the deadliest finishes in world football. Argentina will need him firing on all cylinders if they are to triumph in the tournament and with players like Lo Celso and Messi feeding him the ball, expect Aguero to rack up the goals in Brazil.

Duván Zapata (ST, Colombia) – Zapata’s frankly absurd scoring record this season at loan club Atalanta has forced him into contention for this combined XI. In 37 appearances for La Dea this season, Zapata netted 23 times and Colombia. He is a relative newcomer at international level despite already being 28. He made his debut in 2017 and has just nine caps. However, his form means coach Carlos Queiroz may lean on him more than the ageing legend Radamel Falcao.

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