UEFA Postpone Champions League & Europa League Finals Over Coronavirus Crisis

UEFA has announced its decision to postpone both the men and women’s Champions League finals, as well as the Europa League showpiece, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in football being halted around the world, with nations entering lockdown states.

Major leagues are still plotting their return dates, though it remains to be seen how long the crisis will last. UEFA has now officially confirmed May’s finals will take place at later dates.

?The governing body revealed in a statement on their ?website: “UEFA has formally taken the decision to postpone the club finals originally scheduled for May 2020.

“No decision has yet been made on rearranged dates. The working group, established last week as a result of the conference call among the stakeholders of European football, which was chaired by UEFA President, Aleksander ?eferin, will analyse the options available. 

“The group has already begun its examination of the calendar. Announcements will be made in due course.”

While Atalanta, RB Leipzig, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid all progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals as their games were played before football entered its hiatus, the winners of the ties between Manchester City and Real Madrid, Juventus and Lyon, Barcelona and Napoli, and Bayern Munich and Chelsea are still to be determined.

The first legs of the Women’s Champions League were due to be played this week, with Lyon among the favourites to win the competition.

FBL-EUR-C1-DRAW

The round of 16 in the Europa League is also yet to be concluded, with teams like Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen in strong positions, though the first legs between Inter and Getafe, and Sevilla and Roma were not played.

Premier League games could be played ?behind closed doors to ensure the season can end, while the Spanish Football Federation and La Liga both ?confirmed on Monday that all football in the country will be postponed indefinitely until it is safe to return.

An IOC member has also revealed tha the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed due to the pandemic.

Let’

The 10 Greatest Players to Wear Barcelona’s Number 10 Shirt

The number ten shirt is unquestionably the most revered jersey in world football. Steeped in history and mystique, those two emphatic digits on the back of a shirt somehow inflate the player deemed worthy to wear it.

At Barcelona, a club to have had some of the best players in the history of the game wear their colours, those who have claimed the number ten shirt are among the greatest. 

So, here we take a look at the ten best to have made that famous shirt their own…


Gheorghe Hagi

ROMANIA V SWEDEN

Hagi was an incredibly talented footballer who operated in that classic advanced playmaker role for Barcelona between 1994 and 1996.

He was perhaps overly reliant on his left foot, but when you can regularly knock in 30-yard screamers, dribble past three players and split open defences with it, that one-footedness gets largely forgotten.


Evaristo


The first of several Brazilians in this list, Evaristo played for ?Barcelona between 1957 and 1962. In three of his five seasons with the club he was their top scorer in the league, including two campaigns in which he netted 20 goals.

Yet his most famous strike came in the European Cup when Barcelona met their greatest rivals and the reigning five-time champions Real Madrid in the first round in 1960.

Evaristo’s diving header in the 81st-minute was enough to ensure the Blaugrana became the first side to ever knock Los Blancos out of the competition, cementing his place in Barcelona folklore.


Diego Maradona

MARADONA-BARCELONE

Maradona may be one of the greatest players of all time (he is technically ?number one) but he spent the brightest moments of his career in the number ten shirt (always number ten) of Argentina or Napoli.

He arrived in Spain aged 21 in 1982 for a fee of £5m – the first of his two world-record transfers. In his debut campaign he scored against ?Real Madrid by rounding the keeper, hesitating just enough to send the on-rushing defender Juan José crashing painfully into the post before he rolled it past his writhing opponent.

The goal was so good it earned him a standing ovation from all corners of the Santiago Bernabéu and caused teammate Lobo Carrasco to burst out laughing.

This is a perfect example of what Argentinians call ‘la pausa‘ (literally, the pause): that moment of clarity a number ten should have when he can slow everything down and pick the perfect option. 


Romário

Romario

To be described by Johan Cruyff as the most talented player he has ever coached is high praise indeed, but Romário was more than deserving of this recognition.

The Brazilian had unrivalled natural talent with the ability all greats have of making the game look so effortless. His impact at Barcelona was immediate. A hat-trick on his ?La Liga debut against Real Sociedad set Cruyff’s side on their way to the 1994 title and Romário on his way to a 30-goal haul.

Another one of the five hat-tricks he netted that season came in January against Real Madrid. Barça claimed a historic 5-0 win that night but 12 months later ?Romário was gone. His time at Camp Nou had been brief but he had burned so bright that he will always be remembered in that famous number ten shirt.


Rivaldo

Rivaldo

The tall, elegant left-footed Rivaldo was snapped up by Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona in 1997 after scoring 21 goals for Deportivo de La Coruña the season before. Initially, he wore the number 11 as they won back-to-back titles in his first two seasons. He also scooped the Ballon d’Or in 1999.

In 2000 he got his coveted number ten top, but having gained world recognition for his performances on the left wing, it seems by the turn of the century Rivaldo believed his best role to be more central. Van Gaal emphatically disagreed (as the Dutchman had a tendency to do) and their relationship effectively ended.

Nevertheless, in Van Gaal’s absence, Rivaldo scored arguably the greatest hat-trick ever on the final day of the 2000/01 season, with the match-winning goal a sensational overhead kick to see Barça defeat Valencia 3-2 and secure ?Champions League football the following campaign. 


Hristo Stoichkov

Hristo Stoichkov

The temperamental Bulgarian wore the number ten shirt for only one season at Barcelona but would often fill the role that number epitomised.

?Stoichkov was an instrumental part of Cruyff’s dream team which won four consecutive league titles and the club’s first ever European Cup in 1992.

Former Barcelona player Lobo Carrasco described him as the best forward in the world, claiming the striker could “run like Carl Lewis, pass like Ronald Koeman, and finish every bit as well as, if not better than, Gary Lineker”.

That’s high praise.


Luis Suárez


This Spanish midfielder was lighting up Camp Nou almost 60 years before his Uruguayan namesake became the second-best Barcelona player called ‘Luis Suárez’. 

He joined Barça in 1955 and would go on to win two La Liga titles and as many Spanish Cups at a time in their history when claiming what was then known as the ‘Copa del Generalísimo’, presented by General Franco, brought an extra layer of satisfaction to their Catalan fans who opposed the regime.

?Suárez would discover his best form under manager Helenio Herrera who arrived at Barcelona in 1958 and oversaw back-to-back league titles. The Spaniard later followed the coach to Inter in 1961 and would cement his legend in European football by starring in the all-conquering side known as ‘Il Grande Inter’.

Some have likened his game to another Barcelona great in Xavi Hernández, both of whom would orchestrate play from deep. But Suárez, with a glint in his eye, is unconvinced. “I hit 40-yard passes, and could switch the player from one side to the other,” he protests, laughing. “My game was much more varied than Xavi’s.”


Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho

Following in the footsteps of his fellow Barcelona number ten Maradona, Ronaldinho also scored a goal worthy of a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans by slaloming past a young Sergio Ramos at right-back.

Ten days later he claimed the Ballon d’Or. 

From the tricks and flicks to the surfer’s thumb and that iconic and seemingly ever-present smile, ?Ronaldinho brought a different atmosphere and released the tension around the club – a club that hadn’t won a trophy in four years prior to his arrival in 2003. 

As Xavi neatly summed it up: “Ronaldinho changed our history”.  


László Kubala


Today a statue of Kubala stands outside Camp Nou, the house that László built. As the apocryphal story goes, it was his otherworldly performances which packed their previous ground Les Corts that obliged Barcelona to build the 100,000-seater. 

He arrived at Barcelona in 1950 – after the club had snatched him away from the clutches of ?Real Madrid – but due to the ban he received for fleeing his home nation of Hungary, he didn’t make his first appearance until 1951. It was worth the wait.

Kubala simply had everything; speed, power, technique, control and charisma. He was a revelation that changed football and society, becoming the first star of grey, post-war Spain.

In the words of his teammate Giovani Biosca: “Technically, he revolutionised everything – our ideas and those in the whole of Spain.”


Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

There isn’t much about Lionel Messi which hasn’t already been said. And even that line has already been trotted out countless times. As Pep Guardiola said: “Don’t write about him, don’t try to describe him: watch him”. 

Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, it just adds to his mythos that he wears Barcelona’s famous number ten shirt. 

When asked by La Masia coaches what position he played, ?Messi replied with ‘enganche’, the Argentine word for the number ten. It literally translates as ‘hook’ because they link the midfield and attack together, but Messi’s efficiency in front of goal often sees him find the net himself. 

Barcelona’s all-time top scorer since the age of 25, Messi is still going strong, even if his output has marginally diminished from extraordinary to brilliant. Nevertheless, he is, and possibly will forever be, Barcelona’s greatest number ten.


Let’

7 Challenges to Set Yourself for a New Football Manager Save With Barcelona

?It’s been roughly 18,480 minutes since anyone saw Premier League football. It’s not surprising if, like many, you’re wondering what to do. 

YouTube might not be cutting it anymore, and there’s only so many times you can watch Nick Hancock’s Football Nightmares.

That’s where Football Manager comes in – it’s the perfect black hole where you can lose track of how much you’ve played it before the real football mercifully returns.

Barcelona is one of the most storied clubs in the world and people have been saying you don’t have the stones to run it…so let’s put that right!


Win Messi’s Fourth Champions League

Champions League final - "Barcelona v Juventus"

One of the most repetitive arguments in the Ronaldo vs Messi debate is the pesky five ?Champions Leagues the Portuguese forward has won.

?Lionel Messi last tasted glory in the competition back in 2015, with Barcelona continually finding cruel and unusual ways of stopping the Argentine progressing. 

This is where you come in. Put the argument to bed – Messi is the better footballer and Ronaldo was built in a laboratory. Simple.


Luis Figo-Style? Revenge, But With a Twist

Luis Figo of Real Madrid

“Missiles were raining down from the stands: coins, a knife, a glass whiskey bottle. Johnnie Walker, I think. Or J&B. Best to keep away. Short corners? No thanks.” 

That’s Michel Salgado speaking on Luis Figo’s reception from ?Barça fans on his annual return. Michel is also forgetting the pig head, but we’ll forgive him. 

Only one thing you can do – get ?Sergio Ramos in the famous red and blue. It’s not revenge, that sounds almost too cruel. You’re just returning the favour. 


Break José Mourinho’s 100 Point Total

Jose Mourinho

?It might seem a very bizarre concept but José Mourinho was once the pinnacle of football management. 

In 2011/12, ?Real Madrid reached the mythical three-figure mark for the first time in ?La Liga. While Tito Vilanova’s ?Barcelona did equal the points total a year later, Mou is still the first manager to do so. 

This is where you come in. Don’t let José be the only one to ruin his legacy, make sure you get in on the act too.


Only Use Players From Catalonia 

Lionel Messi

?Athletic Club’s policy of only signing players who were born in the Basque Country or who learned their trade at a Basque club is incredibly unusual in the global game. 

The fact they continue to have repeated success in a region that only has 2.17 million people is frankly ridiculous.

Now if Rojiblancos can do it, so can you. Showcase your Catalan pride by triumphing with the brightest and best from La Masia.


Win Without Messi

Barcelona celebrate

Barcelona’s last success without Lionel Messi was back in 1999. Louis van Gaal was the manager. It was a long time ago. 

That Barcelona team included Boudewijn Zenden, Patrick Kluivert and a young upstart Pep Guardiola. Some pretty decent players, eh?

Some might suggest that Messi, more than club itself, has been responsible for the outrageous number of trophies won in recent years. Shut the critics up by selling the Argentinian prophet for an ungodly amount and win a stack of trophies without him. 


Bring Neymar Back

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior,Neymar Jr

PSG footballer and carnival attendee ?Neymar Jr ?is a person who should always get what he wants. 

The Brazilian striker currently earns around €700,000-a-week and you’ve got to feel for him. He lives in Paris, plays in a side packed with brilliantly talented teammates and does it all in outrageously stylish kits. The man has it tough.

So do the right thing. Fork out the equivalent of Kiribati’s GDP and get the boy home.


Topple Real Madrid’s 33 La Liga Titles

Lionel Messi

In great debates between fans about which side is better, we inevitably get all our league titles out and see who has more.

Real Madrid currently sit on 33, with Barça lagging behind on 26.

Yep, you guessed it. You’ve got to win eight leagues on the bounce, renouncing food and water and only accepting the smallest morsel until Frankie de Jong holds the trophy aloft, chanting ‘treinta y cuatro’ from the Sagrada Familia.


Let’

Neymar ‘Says Yes’ to Barcelona Return & ‘Will Pressure PSG’s Hierarchy’ Into Summer Sale

?Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has apparently told Barcelona’s decision-makers he wants to return to the Camp Nou at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old has spent the last three years at the Parc des Princes following a world record €222m move from Barcelona, with Neymar going on to score 69 goals and pick up 39 assists in just 80 appearances.

The Brazil international was heavily linked with a move back to Barcelona last summer, and although a transfer failed to materialise, Sport reports Neymar will be at the centre of yet another transfer saga this year.

Neymar Junior

Neymar has apparently already told Barcelona’s hierarchy that he wants to return to the club, but he’ll be forced to put pressure on PSG to allow the sale.

The 28-year-old has already turned down the chance to extend his contract in the French capital beyond 2022.

It’s not reported whether Barcelona will once again consider a player-plus-cash deal to bring Neymar back to the club, having offered the likes of Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakiti? last summer.

Neymar would likely be forced to take a major pay cut if he does return to Barcelona due to the club’s current financial situation, which has been made worse by the suspension which was imposed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Sport outlines the club could be forced to drop their interest in Bayern Munich left-back David Alaba for the same reasons, while ?Jérémie Boga is being considered as a possible alternative to Neymar.

Jeremie Boga

The Ivory Coast international only joined Sassuolo from Chelsea in 2018, but Boga has been one of the breakout stars in Serie A this season, either scoring or assisting in every other league appearances for the club.

Boga, like Neymar, only has a contract until 2022 and he already has experience playing in La Liga thanks to a year-long loan spell with Granada during the 2016/17 season.


For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Spain 1-5 Netherlands: Remembering the Day That Spain’s Tiki-Taka Revolution Died

?18th June 2014. The day that Vicente del Bosque’s tiki-taka revolution died.

The all-conquering Spaniards went into the World Cup as reigning champions, having also been victorious in the previous two European Championships. 

Their opening game of the tournament had the potential to be an absolute classic. In a repeat of the 2010 final – which had been more of a Royal Rumble than a football match – Del Bosque’s side faced off against the Netherlands in the curtain raiser of Group B. 

Things started out as expected with Spain taking an early lead through a Xabi Alonso penalty. Then…things started to go wrong. Very wrong. 

FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil - "Spain v Netherlands"

First, a wonder goal from Robin van Persie (that header!!!!!!) drew the Dutch level, before Arjen Robben gave them a shock lead. The Dutch doubled their advantage soon after when Stefan de Vrij capitalised on some calamitous defending and it was a similar story for their goal.

This time, a fatal error from Iker Casillas allowed Van Persie to grab his second and to add insult to injury, Robben capped off a momentous night of football by steaming past Sergio Ramos and adding a fifth goal with ten minutes left to play.

How could this have happened?! We took a trip down memory lane to find out…


SPAIN

Key Talking Point

Look, we know it was 5-1 but it all could have been so different. 

With Spain 1-0 up and in the ascendency, David Silva was presented with a gilt-edged chance to double his side’s lead.

For some reason the Netherlands defence parted like the Red Sea, which allowed Andres Iniesta to slide one of his trademark through balls into Silva’s path. 

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH03-ESP-NED

The ?Manchester City man had all the time in the world and only Jasper Cillessen to beat. And yet – for whatever reason – instead of slotting the ball home, Silva decided to go for an audacious chip. Needless to say, he did not pull it off. 

Minutes later, the Netherlands would grab an equaliser via an outrageous diving header from Robin van Persie. 

Who knows how the game might have gone if Silva had been able to finish his dinner…


Player Ratings 

Starting XI: Casillas (4); Azpilicueta (6), Pique (5), Ramos (5), Alba (5); Busquets (6), Alonso (5), Xavi (5); Iniesta (7), Costa (6), Silva (5).

Substitutes: Torres (4), Pedro (4), Fabregas (5).


Andrés Iniesta 

Andres Iniesta,Stefan De Vrij

?The best of a properly bad lot for Spain was Andrés Iniesta. 

Even in the midst of all the chaos, Iniesta was never flustered and was his side’s only reliable creative impetus.


NETHERLANDS 

Key Talking Points

Arjen Robben,Wesley Sneijder,Jeremain Lens,Nigel de Jong

?Five goals. FIVE! That’s insane. 

It was a remarkable night for the Dutch and although they were certainly helped along the way by some shambolic Spanish defending – and goalkeeping, now we come to think of it – they deserve credit for a ruthless attacking performance. 

All five goals were superbly taken and Van Gaal got his defensive gameplan spot on. 

Setting up in a rigid 3-5-2 made it difficult for Spain to dominate the midfield and this proved to be a masterstroke with Spain’s usual control over the game conspicuously absent. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Cillessen (7); Janmaat (7), Vlaar (8), De Vrij (8), Martins Indi (7), Blind (8); De Guzman (6), De Jong (8), Sneijder (8); Van Persie (9), Robben (9).

Substitutes: Wijnaldum (6), Veltman (6), Lens (6).


Robin van Persie

Jasper Cillessen,Robin Van Persie

?Both van Persie’s goals were strokes of genius but for very different reasons. 

His first goal – when his side were under the cosh – set the tone for one of the greatest nights in Dutch footballing history.


Things That Aged Worst

Arrival Rotterdam - Netherlands

Let’s be real. Would Louis van Gaal’s managerial legacy be any different if he hadn’t taken the ?Manchester Uni?ted job after the tournament? No. If anything, his stint at Old Trafford damaged his reputation. 

The Dutchman return home from the World Cup as a national hero, after somehow guiding one of the weakest Dutch sides in recent memory to a 3rd place finish.

He should have quit while he was ahead…although we wouldn’t have got to enjoy this gem if he had.


??


Things That Aged the Best

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH03-ESP-NED

?Two things really. 

First, and most importantly, this image of Bruno Martins Indi looking like he’s trying to melt Diego Costa’s brain using telepathy has aged well. Very well indeed. 


??Second, we are also not tired of watching Van Persie’s opening goal. Our jaws still hit the floor every time we see him fly through the air like a peregrine falcon, somehow managing to loop the ball over Iker Casillas using his flippin’ head.  

Yeah, we reckon we’re going to go watch it right now actually. Back in a moment. 


Players You Completely Forgot Existed

Roll up, roll up. It’s time for a roll call of all the mediocre ?Premier League players who somehow managed to beat the best generation of footballing Spaniards in history.

First up, Ron Vlaar. Remember him? Played for Aston Villa for a while.

Next, the aforementioned Martins Indi. You know him by now. That injury stricken Stoke City centre-back. He’s still there by the way – yeah, genuinely.

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH63-BRA-NED

Jonathan de Guzman anyone? A Swansea City legend whose now plying his trade for Eintracht Frankfurt.

Don’t worry, we saved the best until last. Jeremain Lens, scorer of four goals across two seasons for Sunderland. Now that is £10m very well spent. He plays in Turkey now because…of course he does, who else is going to pay his extortionate wages?


What Happened Next?

World Cup Brazil 2014 - "Netherlands v Argentina"

??The hammering set the tone for a disastrous World Cup for Spain. In their next fixture they would fall to a 2-0 defeat against Chile, in front of almost 80,000 spectators at the Maracana.

This meant that after just two games the holders were out…and a 3-0 victory over a Tim Cahill-less Australia did little to raise the mood. 

And what about the Netherlands?  

After squeezing past Mexico 2-1 in the round of 16 and then just about beating Costa Rica on penalties in the quarter finals, Argentina proved to be a bridge too far. 

The Dutch crashed out on penalties to Lionel Messi’s side but returned home with their heads held high, beating Brazil in the third place game to earn a cute little losers medal. 


Let’

On This Day in Football History – March 21: Man Utd European Wins, Man City’s Record Breakers & More

“Alexa, what happened on this day in football history?… Alexa? Hello?” 

Ok, so it appears that even my Alexa has died of boredom on another Saturday without football – either that or I accidentally unplugged her whilst rediscovering my love for Wii Tennis. 

Anyway, whilst we’re all scratching around for ways to entertain ourselves without leaving the house, why not reminisce over the fun times of years gone by – specifically on 21st March. 

But you don’t have to disturb your own Alexas (Alexi?) – 90min has got you covered. 


1935 – Brian Clough Was Born 


One of the greatest managers in football history, Brian Clough was born on this very day in 1935. Clough’s playing career was cruelly cut short through injury, but he more than made up for it as a coach, taking Derby County and Nottingham Forest to some terrific heights. 

One of the most entertaining, outspoken and brilliant men in football, Clough will forever be considered a sporting legend. 


1980 – Ronaldinho Was Born

Ronaldinho

That’s right – 40 years ago to the day, a mother celebrated the birth of her child. Little did she know, she’d just given birth to a future superstar. For years, Ronaldinho kept us glued to our screens, producing moments of genius and inspiration for ?Barcelona, Brazil and many other teams. 

Unfortunately, the insanely talented footballer will be celebrating his birthday in a Paraguayan prison this year, as he continues his fall from the highest peak to the lowest trough. Please sort yourself out, Ronaldinho. For all of us. 


1984 – Manchester United 3-0 Barcelona 


A special day in ?Manchester United’s history. On this day in 1984, the Red Devils defeated Barcelona in the second leg of the European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals by three goals to nil, thanks to a brilliant display from captain Bryan Robson. 

Having lost the first leg 2-0, Man Utd turned the tie on its head, putting three past Maradona’s Barcelona and knocking them out of the competition. An incredible feat. 


2000 – Clayton Scores Stunner for Porto 


On this day in 2000, Porto clinched a 1-0 victory over Hertha Berlin in the Champions League, thanks to a superb strike by Brazilian forward Clayton. 

Dancing beyond tackle after tackle, Clayton eventually found himself through on goal, and tapped home to round off a very special goal. 


2004 – Henrik Larsson Bags Goals (Shock) 


This headline is probably applicable to any ‘On this Day’ article, because Henrik Larsson scores all year round. And it was Hibernian who were on the receiving end of the Swedish star’s goalscoring prowess in 2004, when he bagged a brace in a 4-0 win for the Bhoys. 

Didier Agathe also got two goals for himself in the same match, but Larsson will always be the star of the show. Sorry Didier. 


2006 – Birmingham City 0-7 Liverpool 

Peter Crouch

Quarter-finals of the FA Cup can often be cagey, nervy affairs – but not in this case. On this day in 2006, ?Liverpool crushed Birmingham City 7-0 at St Andrews, emphatically booking their place in the final four. 

The Blues’ hopes of an upset lasted 55 seconds, when Sami Hyypia gave the Reds an early lead. And the game continued in a similar vein, following a Peter Crouch brace, and further strikes from Fernando Morientes, John Arne Riise, Djibril Cissé and an own goal. A proper hammering. 


2009 – Fulham 2-0 Manchester United 


On this day in 2009, Fulham dealt a huge blow to Man Utd’s title hopes, beating the Red Devils 2-0 at Craven Cottage. ?Danny Murphy broke the deadlock, before Zoltan Gera pulled off a brilliant acrobatic strike, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side capitulated. 

Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes were both sent off for Man Utd, to compound a truly wretched away-day display. Fear not though, Red Devils, you would go on to win the league later that year, I promise you. 


2012 – Manchester City Set Home Wins Record 


This was a very special year for ?Manchester City, who were destined to lift their first Premier League title in the most dramatic of fashions. But before that magical afternoon against QPR, the Citizens broke another record, winning their 20th successive home fixture on this day in 2012. 

Roberto Mancini’s men beat ?Chelsea 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, thanks to goals from ?Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. A pulsating campaign.

Let’

Gustavo Maia: 5 Things to Know About the Young Brazilian Star & Barcelona’s New Recruit

Sao Paulo youngster Gustavo Maia has quickly emerged as one of Brazil’s brightest young talents, but you would be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of him.

The 19-year-old is actually yet to make a first-team appearance for the Brazilian side, but this has not stopped numerous sides across the world from showing an interest in him.

Barcelona, however, have seemingly ?won the race for his signature as it was recently revealed that they had already paid an initial fee of just under £1m to secure majority ownership of the youngster, but a further £3m will be paid in add ons to confirm the deal.

So with this, we’ve decided to run through five key things to know about the rising star…


Style of Play?

Maia may be young, but he plays with a maturity well beyond his years.

The 19-year-old can operate as a left-winger or he can also play up front, either with another partner or as the sole striker. It is this versatility that enables him to play with such confidence in all areas of the pitch.

Even when Maia is operating as the striker, he typically tends to drift out into wider spaces, while he also has the awareness to drop deep in order to connect with his teammates and link-up play. He has the technical ability to either play intricate one-twos with another player, or to ping a cross-field pass right into the feet of a teammate. 

Equally, Maia can taunt defenders with the ball at his feet (a Brazilian who can dribble…?!). His quick feet and change of pace makes him unplayable at points. 


Physique

As alluded to above, he’s fast, he’s got a fantastic range of passing and he loves to have a go at goal – but this isn’t to say he doesn’t have flaws in his game. 

Maia is just 167cm tall (that is 5’4 or if he wishes to round up then 5’5), while he is also weighs just 59kg. Of course, there are countless professional footballers who aren’t exactly tall, and it does mean they have a low centre of gravity – allowing them to twist and turn in the blink of an eye. 

But over time, Barcelona will be looking to build Maia’s strength up. At youth level, Maia has been shrugged off the ball, but fortunately for him, his side haven’t been punished the majority of the time. 

Make no mistake about it, Maia is a gifted footballer and his height allows him to create some of the magical moments he has done in his short career to date, but he must now look to improve his physicality in order to make himself a more complete footballer. 


What Are His Stats Like?

Quique Setien

When a club signs – or is closing in on – a new player, fans are always keen to know their new recruit’s stats. 

Well, due to Maia’s recent displays, he was in line to make his first appearance for the senior side, but the coronavirus pandemic caused football to be halted.

At youth level, the teenager has excelled. He has played 102 matches in the colours of Sao Paulo, progressing through the age groups. In 2016, Maia bagged eight goals in 20 appearances for the Under-15s, but it was around 2018 when teams really began to sit up and take notice of the young starlet.

Why? Well, in his 36 games that year, he bagged 30 goals and a handful of assists to go with that for the Under-17 side. 

In 2019, for the Under-20s, Maia bagged eight goals in 28 appearances in the Brasileiro U20 and the Paulista U20 competitions. Sure, he may not have been exactly prolific, but because of his talent, he was called up to this squad despite being able to play in the age category below. Moreover, 23 of these 28 appearances came as a substitute, underlining his ability to impact games. 


Youth Tournament 

Maia’s performances at the Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores recently have seen him garner even more praise. Yes, he went on to score three goals during the tournament and was a key player in helping Sao Paulo’s youngsters reach the quarter-finals, but he actually started out on the bench. 

In fact, he came on as a substitute in each of their first three games. In the opening game of the competition, he was brought on after just 20 minutes and while he wasn’t able to help his side find a winner, he was constantly picking up clever positions and was looking to create opportunities. 

He started on the bench once again for the next game, but came on at half time to score. Finally he was rewarded with a starting berth in the fourth game of the tournament and, of course, he delivered, grabbing a goal. 

But it was the clash with Santa Cruz in the round of 16 stage that saw Maia play one of the passes of the tournament. Dropping deep, he picked up the ball and played a piercing pass through the heart of the defence, allowing a teammate to run onto the ball and cut it back for a player to score. A moment of quality to put his side in control. 

And to cap off a supreme set of displays at the tournament, Maia scored a stunning half-volley from the edge of the area in the quarter-finals. These performances didn’t go unnoticed as he was quickly called up to the senior squad, where he occupied a space on the bench for the clash with Botafogo.


Plenty of Interest

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-HEALTH-VIRUS

?Barcelona have already signed youngster Francisco Trincao, who will join up with his new club in the summer. La Blaugrana have now seemingly won the race for Maia, but he is expected to join up with Barcelona B in order to ease him into life at the club.  

But Barça needed to move quickly in order to put themselves at the front of the queue for this talented youngster as other top sides were also keen. 

He has ?been on the radar of scouts in Spain for around two years now, while a number of Premier League clubs were also said to be keeping tabs on him. Maia has the potential to become a world class talent, it’s no wonder why he is so highly regarded in Brazil. 


For more from Adam Aladay, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Ronaldinho Facing 6 Months in Prison Over Fake Passport Use

?It’s been a rough few weeks for Ronaldinho. After getting caught using a fake Paraguayan passport which he didn’t even need anyway, he got himself locked in prison, and it appears he might not be getting out any time soon.

Both Ronaldinho and his brother were caught by Paraguayan border officials trying to use fake passports to enter the country, and he has spent over two weeks in custody as a result.

According to ?The Sun, Ronaldinho launched an appeal against his jail time, pleading to be put under house arrest instead, but the judge wasn’t having any of it.

Not only did he reject the appeal, but the judge also warned Ronaldinho that he could spend up to six months in jail while the prosecution finds all their evidence.

Now, you might think that’s a bad thing, but Ronaldinho is having a whale of a time in prison. He has taken up carpentry and recently starred in a prison football tournament, in which he won a 16kg piglet for leading his team to victory. Honestly.

He had hoped to get out as soon as possible, given it’s his birthday on Saturday, but the fact that the woman accused of supplying the former ?Barcelona and ?AC Milan star with the passports failed to turn up to court really didn’t help things.

Dalia López is alleged to have helped get Ronaldinho the fake passport, and she spent weeks on the run which saw her miss the hearing. However, she has since been arrested by Paraguayan police, so things might be able to get going again.

It’s not looking good for López, whose house was recently found to ?contain up to 6,000 footballs with Ronaldinho’s face printed on. Unfortunately, the picture of his face just so happened to be the same one which was used on the fake passport. Talk about a coincidence!

Unfortunately, Ronaldinho isn’t going to have the kind of lavish birthday party which he is used to – unless you call picking at the scraps of a trophy piglet alongside a group of other prisoners ‘lavish’.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Real Madrid & Barcelona Keen on David Alaba as Austrian Admits Interest in New Challenge

?Bayern Munich defender David Alaba is thought to be considering his future at the club, with both Real Madrid and Barcelona keeping a close eye on his situation.

Alaba’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2021, and while Bayern are keen to tie him down to a new deal, the Austrian is currently said to be on the fence about extending his stay at the club.


That’s according to ?Sport Bild, who note that the 27-year-old believes this summer could be his final chance to earn a big move to another European giant like ?Real or ?Barcelona.

Since first joining the academy in 2008, Alaba has made 372 appearances for ?Bayern and remains a key part of the team to this day. Primarily a left-back, he has switched over to a central role this season and has been at the top of his game.

It’s no surprise that both Real and Barcelona have taken notice of him, and it appears as though the feeling may be mutual. Speaking to ?GQ, Alaba confessed that the idea of testing himself away from Bayern is one that intrigues him.


“Yes [I would be open to moving to Madrid of Barcelona],” he confessed. “I don’t know whether that would be during or after my career. But I can definitely imagine it.

“I feel very comfortable in Munich. But I can also basically imagine taking a different path. That will show up sometime. I’m not worried about that at the moment.”

Alaba may have to make a decision fairly soon, as former Bayern president Uli Hoeneß told ?Sport1 that Alaba is one of several players who are currently being spoken to in regards to their contracts, alongside Thomas Müller and ?Manuel Neuer.

“I know that all players are currently being spoken to and I hope that everything will go well,” he revealed.


It could be an interesting summer at Bayern. While the club are working to tie some players down to new contracts, they are also open to selling others to raise transfer funds and free up space on the wage books.

?Jérôme Boateng, Javi Martínez and Corentin Tolisso are all thought to be nearing the door, and it seems possible that Alaba could join them as well.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

VII of the Most Epic Battles in Football Ever

Football is a game filled with epic battles.

From individual players and managers in the dugout to two giants meeting face to face in the biggest games around, football is never short of a storyline.

But even then, some games go well beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and these VII are rightly held up as some of the most unbelievable, dramatic or historically significant in history.


VII – Hamburg 4-4 Juventus (13/09/2000)

Tempers flare

Football loves a David and Goliath story.

Hamburger SV were no pushovers, but when Carlo Ancelotti’s Juventus travelled to the Volksparkstadion in September 2000, on paper there was only one clear winner.

The game started as many had expected, although right-back Igor Tudor was still an unlikely goalscorer for the Bianconeri as they took an early lead in their Champions League group stage match.

Anthony Yeboah briefly levelled the scoreline, but goals either side of half-time from Filippo Inzaghi put Juventus into a seemingly unreachable two-goal lead.

But then the unthinkable happened. Hamburg scored three goals within 17 second-half minutes – goalkeeper Hans Jörg Butt netted the equaliser too, going on to score 32 goals in his career – to snatch the advantage away from Juve.

It was already one of European football’s magical nights. But the action didn’t stop there. Even after Niko Kova? scored a seemingly late winner, ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi won his side a late penalty which the Italian dispatched perfectly.


VI – Man City 3-2 QPR (13/05/2012)

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Se

Even in this era, it’s difficult to remember when a Premier League title has been so closely decided.

For Manchester City, it was simple – win at home to Queens Park Rangers and the Premier League title would be theirs. Dropping points meant rivals United would have lifted the trophy instead.

It was nervy, but Pablo Zabaleta’s late first-half goal helped put fans at ease. That was, however, until Djibril Cissé scored an equaliser for the relegation-threatened visitors.

Even though Joey Barton was sent off, City didn’t have time to celebrate as Jamie Mackie completed the comeback for QPR with a header just moments later.

The clock had only just ticked into extra time when Edin Džeko pulled one back from a corner, but Manchester City still needed another goal

Time really was against them. But after Mario Balotelli was able to squeeze the ball into the penalty area, as the clock ticked onto 93:20, Sergio Agüero provided one of the greatest moments in Premier League history to clinch City’s first league title since the 1960s.


V – Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (05/02/2011)

Newcastle United's Ivorian midfielder Ch

Sometimes, even when an epic battle ends in a stalemate, there are still winners and losers.

It was a tale of two halves at St James’ Park as Arsenal raced into a four-goal lead inside the opening 26 minutes against Newcastle United.

Even when Abou Diaby was sent off just after the break, there was little concern in the away end, and even less optimism among home supporters who had been storming out of St James’ Park in their droves.

Joey Barton’s goal on 68 minutes got little more than an ironic cheer from Newcastle fans, but Leon Best’s not long after really helped to galvanise everyone in the north-east. 

The stage was very much set for Arsenal to implode. And that’s exactly what they did.

Barton scored his second penalty of the game with seven minutes left, then in the dying seconds of the match, the late Cheick Tioté fired in an equalising goal from nowhere, sending a left-footed volley past Wojciech Szcz?sny to send Newcastle into pandemonium.


IV – Barcelona 6-1 PSG (08/03/2017)

Sergi Roberto

In 2017, a four-goal deficit appeared to be unassailable. Even for Barcelona.

Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 match ensured they already had one foot in the next round, while just one goal in the reverse fixture would surely be enough to wipe out any doubt.

Luis Suárez’s early header wasn’t anything too major for Paris Saint-Germain to worry about. Even after Laywin Kurzawa turned the ball into his own net before half time, history would need to be made for the French side to throw their lead away.

Barcelona took another step closer through a Lionel Messi penalty, but it appeared to be all she wrote when Edinson Cavani fired the ball past Marc-André ter Stegen – a goal which meant Barça needed to score three more.

The hosts didn’t find the back of the net again until the 88th minute thanks to a brilliant free-kick from Neymar, while the Brazilian scored again in added time.

It really was the last chance saloon for Barcelona when Neymar picked the ball up some 45 yards away from goal, but his inch-perfect chip poetically found its way to the outstretched boot of Sergi Roberto, who turned the ball past Kevin Trapp to complete the greatest comeback in European football history.


III – Man Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich (26/05/1999)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Every epic battle needs a hero. Someone who stands out above everyone else to swing things in his side’s favour.

For Manchester United, that hero was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Sometimes the immortality of a comeback is determined by how big the margin overturned was, but for United, it was the prize on offer which cemented their place in European football’s history books.

Things don’t get much better than scoring an early goal in a Champions League final. That fortune was bestowed on Bayern Munich in 1999, when Mario Basler’s free-kick found its way past Peter Schmeichel.

The Bundesliga champions had only conceded 28 goals that season, so it was no surprise when Bayern Munich help onto the one-goal lead by the time the assistant’s board was raised to signal the second half added time.

With Schmeichel up in Bayern Munich’s penalty box with a last-minute corner, Teddy Sheringham reacted the quickest from a wayward shot to score the goal that looked destined to send the Champions League into extra time.

But it wasn’t to be. There was still time for one more chance. David Beckham’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Sheringham, and despite being off-target, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was positioned perfectly to turn the ball past Oliver Kahn.

The perfect end to a perfect season, for Manchester United’s treble winners.


II – Brazil 1-7 Germany (08/07/2014)

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH61-BRA-GER

Not every epic battle is a close affair.

At the 2014 World Cup on home soil, Brazil were on the wrong end of one of the biggest scorelines in World Cup history.

Thomas Müller opened the scoring in the semi final after 11 minutes, and even though Joachim Löw’s didn’t score again until midway through the first half, Germany went on to score four goals in just six minutes to silence the Mineirão.

Toni Kroos had scored two of those goals, while Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira’s strikes put Die Mannschaft into a 5-0 lead heading into half time.

The war-torn Brazil side were battered and had it been possible, the Seleção would have thrown in the white flag, but Germany were ruthless and relentless, scoring two more goals through substitute André Schürrle.

Oscar did help to save face somewhat with a late goal, but nothing could stop Brazil’s fairytale World Cup coming to an end in brutal heartache.


I – AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (25/05/2005)

Xabi Alonso

When Liverpool went into the half-time break in Istanbul, they weren’t just doing battle with AC Milan.

Yes, the Reds needed a miracle after Paolo Maldini and a Hernán Crespo brace gave Milan one hand on the Champions League trophy. But, in hindsight at least, there were also battling Manchester United for who could stake a claim for the best comeback in European history.

And these days, that title belongs to Liverpool.

Steven Gerrard got the ball rolling with a brilliant header which left Dida with no chance and Milan’s goalkeeper was just as helpless to stop from Vladimir Smicer firing in another just two minutes later.

The Brazilian goalkeeper couldn’t stop the first two, but Dida had a big hand in Liverpool’s equaliser. Gerrard was brought down inside the penalty area by Genaro Gattuso, and after seeing the spot-kick saved, Xabi Alonso pounced to put the rebound into the back of the net.

The 2005 Champions League final went to penalties and Jerzy Dudek was Liverpool’s unlikely hero, with Serginho and Andrea Pirlo missing from 12 yards before Andriy Shevchenko’s effort was saved.

Truly, the ultimate battle.


This article is brought to you by Final Fantasy® VII: Remake. Check out the trailer below:

[embedded content]

??

Let’