Athletic Club 1-0 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Late Williams Strike Stuns Barça

?Iñaki s scored a 93rd-minute winner to seal a superb 1-0 victory for Athletic Club over Barcelona in the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night.

The striker’s perfectly-timed header stole it at the death as La Blaugrana flattered to deceive at San Mamés Stadium, showing plenty of skill and endeavour but failing to reap the rewards.

Ander Capa,Lionel Messi

Unai Núñez’s intelligent positioning kept Athletic’s clean sheet intact as he cleared a goal-bound effort off the line, Ansu Fati the man denied by the centre back, who’d anticipated the disguise on the shot.

?Barça had the lion’s share of possession, yet rarely got a clear sight of goal due to Athletic’s solidity and organisation. Anytime Athletic did look under serious threat, their brilliant trio of central defenders came to the rescue.

Despite their frustrations, La Bluagrana’s build-up play was exquisite as Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakiti? bossed the midfield. Their backline was far less steady, however, with Marc-André ter Stegen thrice gifting presentable opportunities to Gaizka Garitano’s recruits.

Inaki s

Sergi Roberto broke free down the right midway through the second half, but Antoine Griezmann couldn’t convert after latching onto the cross, Unai Simón denying the Frenchman before stopping Lionel Messi in the final minutes of normal time.

Messi would live to rue that miss, with s sending San Mamés into raptures with seconds remaining on the clock.

Here’s our breakdown of the encounter.


ATHLETIC CLUB

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Simón (8); Álvarez (8), Núñez (9*), Martinez (8); Capa (7), D. García (7), Vesga (6), Berchiche (6); R. García (7), Muniain (6); s (8).

Substitutes: Aduriz (7), Jose (6), Gomez (7).

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BARCELONA

Key Talking Point

Quique Setién watched an intriguing performance from his side. They produced some delightful interplay on Thursday night, but there was no end product. 

Athletic’s back three were outstanding throughout, there’s no doubting that. However, Barcelona’s lack of composure was another significant factor in their shock Copa exit.

Quique Setien

Messi’s wizardry couldn’t break the Athletic resolve, and at times there was a sense the visitors were a little too reliant on their Argentine maestro. His dribbling and passing was impeccable, yet La Blaugrana still need an alternative game plan that doesn’t revolve around him.

He had to do most of the leg work in the final third as Barça continued to use him as their main attacking outlet. But with Athletic defenders surrounding him, the 32-year-old rarely got a chance to pull the trigger. 

Messi was entertaining and threatening, though he can’t take on a whole team. Barça limiting themselves to one avenue of attack played perfectly into Athletic’s hands.

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ter Stegen (4); Semedo (6), Piqué (6), Lenglet (5), Alba (7); Busquets (6), De Jong (7), Rakiti? (6); Roberto (7), Fati (8), Messi (8*). 

Substitutes: Griezmann (7), Arthur (6), Umtiti (6).


Lionel Messi

There is no debate over Barcelona’s man of the match.

Messi was the architect-in-chief for the La Liga champions. Everything flowed through him, though that was sometimes to the detriment of Setién and his team.

Lionel Messi

The 32-year-old frequently drove at the heart of the Athletic defence, leaving defenders for dead as he went in search of a breakthrough.

Messi’s powers began to fade in the closing stages of the game, and his crucial miss set the stage for s’ last-gasp stunner.


Looking Ahead

Barcelona resume their ?La Liga campaign on Sunday with a trip to Estadio Benito Villamarín where they’ll lock horns with 12th-place Real Betis. Setién’s men follow that up with a home clash against Getafe.

Real Sociedad are Athletic’s next opponents, with the two meeting on Sunday evening, the same day Barça face Betis. Athletic then entertain Osasuna at San Mamés as the two clubs continue their search for Europa League football.


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Man Utd Put Off by Lautaro Martinez Release Clause as Striker Favours Barcelona Move

?Manchester United have been put off a move for Inter’s Lautaro Martinez due to the striker’s £94m release clause.

The Red Devils remain eager to recruit a new forward on a permanent basis, though they did recently bring in former Watford star Odion Ighalo on a loan deal until the end of the season to provide added depth to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.

Lautaro Martinez

According to ?the Times, United enquired over the price I Nerazzurri would want for their Argentina international and were told they would have to trigger the €111m release clause in his contract for such a move to happen.

Martinez is contracted to the San Siro side until 2023 and Inter have told all other suitors it will take the aforementioned sum to lure him away from Milan.

The report adds that while Manchester City and Real Madrid have scouted the former Racing Club star, Barcelona remains his most likely destination – a claim backed up by ?ESPN.

Their story reveals Martinez favours a move to the current La Liga champions, who have been in the market recently looking for a striker to cover for and eventually replace Luis Suarez, who is currently recovering from a knee injury.

?United, who missed out on Erling Haaland as the Norwegian joined Borussia Dortmund in January, are thought to believe Martinez could realise his potential at Old Trafford, but his preference of playing alongside compatriot ?Lionel Messi has tipped the scale in Barça’s favour.

Lautaro Martinez

Solskjaer’s side were linked with plenty of strikers during the winter window but ?will have Alexis Sanchez back at the club at the conclusion of his loan spell with ?Inter, while they could opt to pursue a permanent deal for Ighalo. However, the Nigerian would likely have to perform incredibly well for that to become an option for the ?Premier League giants. 


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Barcelona President Intervenes to Cool Talks of Eric Abidal Sacking After Messi Criticism

The feud between Barcelona star ?Lionel Messi and sporting director Eric Abidal appears to be over after president Josep Bartomeu held talks with the each of them.

In a recent interview, the Frenchman criticised an unnamed group of Barça players who he believes played a role in the sacking of former manager Ernesto Valverde. Messi responded angrily – and publicly – to Abidal’s comments, saying board members ‘should also face up to their responsibilities’.

Eric Abidal

There had been speculation Abidal could be sacked as ?La Bluagrana look to keep their prized possession happy, but those rumours were ?swiftly dismissed by Bartomeu, who has since spoken to the pair about the conflict.

?ESPN report that Messi had three phone calls with the president following the war of words, with the Argentine informing Bartomeu he will not hold a grudge against his former teammate.

The 32-year-old assured his senior that his focus for the rest of the 2019/20 campaign will be on footballing matters as the Catalans continue to fight in three separate competitions.

Bartomeu also spoke to Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau as he searched for a resolution, with the latter pair echoing Messi’s sentiments. They agree the best course of action is forgiving and forgetting.

Lionel Messi

Some outlets area trying hard to push the idea that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will choose not to remain at Camp Nou once the season reaches its conclusion, with ?Manchester City monitoring his situation on the Spanish coast.

He isn’t going though, ?as 90min broke down earlier. 

The Catalan side go away to Athletic this Thursday in the Copa del Rey, before heading to Andalusia on the weekend to visit Real Betis – the former club of new Barça manager Quique Setien. Spicy. 


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Barcelona President Informs Lionel Messi That Technical Secretary Eric Abidal Will Not Be Sacked

?Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has informed Lionel Messi and technical secretary Eric Abidal that the latter will not be relieved of his duties despite his recent controversial comments.

Abidal risked the wrath of the Blaugrana squad after criticising an unnamed group for playing their part in the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde as the club’s manager in mid-January.

Valverde was removed from his post after a number of uninspiring performances, with Abidal later revealing that the club had even began considering the coach’s position after the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid before the turn of the year. However, he insisted the manager was not solely to blame.

His comments sparked a response from ?Messi, who hit back with a surprising ?post on his Instagram story.

“Sincerely, I don’t like to do these things but I think that people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions,” he responded. “The players [are responsible] for what happens on the pitch and we are the first to admit when we haven’t been good. The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and above all own the decisions they make.

“I think that when you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it makes everyone dirty and gives air to things that are said which are not true.”


This public outburst prompted talk that Abidal’s position had been ?‘weakened’, with rumours emerging that he would be sacked. Bartomeu then called a meeting with Abidal on Wednesday.

However, Mundo Deportivo’s ?Marçal Lorente has quelled suggestions that this is the case, revealing that Bartomeu called both Abidal and Messi to inform the pair that the former France international would remain in his post, as the president had no intention of dismissing him.

It is added that the president will likely travel to Bilbao on Thursday for ?Barça‘s Copa del Rey quarter-final clash with Athletic Club in order to publicly show that the club and its players remain united.

Since the comments from Abidal emerged, a variety of Spanish outlets have weighed in on the response. El Larguero suggests that Abidal did not intentionally place blame onto Messi, with his comments in the interview supposedly being misinterpreted. Elsewhere, El Patizado de COPE reports that the Argentine and Luis Suarez didn’t want to see Valverde sacked, with both players ?previously backing their manager following some uninspiring displays.


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5 Emergency Strikers Barcelona Could Sign to Cover Latest Crisis

The mierda is hitting the ventilador at Barcelona.

While about as popular as the Coronavirus on social media, Ernesto Valverde’s dismissal somehow hasn’t magically righted the ship at Camp Nou, and now things actually seem to be getting worse. Huh.

Sporting director ?Eric Abidal looks to be the next with his neck on the block after his candid interview – in which questioned the players’ effort levels – was not well received by Lionel Messi, who in turn hit back on Instagram. Can’t have an unhappy Messi now, can we? 

?AS has also reported dressing room bust-ups between senior players, while on the pitch, the injury crisis just gets worse, with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele out for the rest of the season.

Ousmane Dembele

Desperate for a January arrival to cover, Abidal and Barça sold Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz to raise some capital…but no-one arrived. Ah.

All the while, a ?newly pragmatic Real Madrid – unbeaten in ?La Liga since October – are pulling away at the top of the table.

One silver lining in the mushroom cloud of doom and gloom for ?Barcelona is that someone dusted off some Spanish fine print that says they might be allowed to make an ’emergency signing’ outside of the normal transfer window (someone call Jim White, this is unprecedented!!) due to their situation.

The catch? The signing must come from within Spain. Who could it be? I thought you’d never ask…


Cristhian Stuani (Girona)

Cristhian Stuani

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: ’33-year-old ex-Middlesbrough forward? Isn’t that a little obvious?’

Since wowing Teeside with 16 goals in 68 appearances, Stuani has actually reinvented himself as one of Spain’s most prolific strikers.

The Uruguayan hit 20+ in consecutive seasons in La Liga with Girona, before getting relegated at the end of 2018/19. However, he’s still scoring for fun in Segunda as he leads the charts with 20 in 22 this term.

With a release clause of €20m, Disco Stu is the obvious choice. He probably doesn’t even need to move house, based as he is in Catalunya.

By the by, the other in-form Segunda striker this season is 22-year-old Luis Suarez at Zaragoza. Sadly, the possibility of Barça replacing one Suarez with another is negated by the fact that this one is on loan from Watford and therefore not eligible for transfer. Shame.


Angel Rodríguez (Getafe)

Angel Rodriguez of Getafe FC

If cheap and cheerful is the brief (it is), Barça could do worse than turning to Getafe’s Angel Rodríguez, who has a release clause of just €10m. 

At 32, Angel is no spring chicken either but his scoring numbers have been impressive for Geta since arriving in 2017. He has 13 in 27 so far this season (nine in La Liga), while his versatility makes him an attractive option for the short to very short term.

Interestingly, the Canary Islander (born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife like Barça favourite Pedro – if that makes him any more appealing) has only started six games in La Liga this season for Pepe Bordalas’ high flying Getafe and is often a rotation option with Jaime Mata and evergreen captain Jorge Molina.


Loren Morón (Real Betis)

Loren Moron

Aren’t there enough ‘Moróns’ at Barcelona already these days? Weyyy. 

The amusingly named Real Betis striker is well acquainted with Barça incumbent (for now) Quique Setien, having worked together in Seville. He’s a natural finisher who has made his way up through the lower tiers, playing in the Tercera Division (Spain’s regionalised fourth tier) as recently as 2017.

Nowadays, Morón is an established La Liga fixture and is already enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight (eight goals in 21 games). 

An intelligent, technical player who is not averse to defensive contribution and only 26 years old, Morón might seem like a smart buy. However, the Marbella-born forward is perhaps not long-term ‘Barça quality’. His release clause, supposedly around the €40m mark, may make him prohibitively expensive.


Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL SOCIEDAD-VILLARREAL

Remember him, Spurs fans?

A January move to north London failed to materialise in the end, but Willian Jose could yet get his big move thanks to Barça’s studious attention to detail of La Liga’s transfer by-laws.

The 28-year-old Brazilian has been in Spanish football since 2013, when he was brought over by (get this) Real Madrid. However, after spells at Zaragoza and Las Palmas, it’s at Real Sociedad where he has made his name, firing 53 in 130 appearances.

With La Real still very much in the race for Europe this season, they are unlikely to have much desire to sell for less than the player’s €70m release clause – which, again, is a lot for a player who would likely return to Barça’s bench next season.


Rodrigo (Valencia)

Rodrigo Moreno

Ah Rodrigo Moreno. Scourge of Barcelona in the Copa del Rey and transfer market.

La Blaugrana seemed to have put the Brazilian-born Spain international (and one time Bolton forward) in their crosshairs in January…until it turned out they didn’t really have any money.

Valencia president Anil Murthy told fan site Batzine (via ?AS) about Barcelona’s failed proposal for their striker: “If you can offer with real cash, then great. If you can’t guarantee an exact kind of payment, then we can’t go through with it. We’ll not entertain offers which are not backed by money, because it also destabilises the player.”

Now that they may be afforded another crack at actually completing a transfer, it’s possible Barça could stick their collective hands down the side of the sofa in search of the €60m Valencia are supposedly after…but at 29 this year and having only ever scored double figures once in the league in five full seasons in Spain, is Rodrigo really the player they want? Really?

What’s Kevin-Prince Boateng up to these days anyway?


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Bayern Munich ‘Concerned’ Thiago Alcantara Could Rejoin Barcelona

?Bayern Munich are ‘concerned’ about the possibility that star midfielder Thiago Alcantara could rejoin Barcelona, with the player himself ‘welcoming’ a potential return. 

Thiago made his debut for La Blaugrana in 2009 at the age of just 18 and went on to make 100 appearances for the club at senior level. However, he left to join Bayern in 2013 as he searched for greater first-team opportunities. 

The midfielder has gone on to make 220 appearances in all competitions for the Bundesliga side so far, racking up 31 goals and 37 assists in this time. 

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-BAYERN MUNICH-SCHALKE

?SPORT are now reporting that ?Bayern ‘fear’ their star midfielder could return to Barcelona. Thiago’s contract is set to expire in the summer of 2021 and the report claims that the player is in a ‘key period’ to either extend his stay at the Allianz Arena or seek a move elsewhere, potentially back to Camp Nou.

Moreover, SPORT reveal that Die Roten are ‘concerned’ about the possibility that he could return to Barça as they ‘could hardly compete’ with a return to his former club. They note that while there has been talk about Thiago being handed a new contract worth around €15m-per-year, the Spaniard would ‘welcome’ the option of returning to ?Barcelona having now spent seven seasons in the Bundesliga.

The 28-year-old is ‘happy’ at Bayern, but SPORT note that Barcelona is considered ‘home’ for the player and, as a result, the prospect of lining up for the La Liga side would be very attractive. 

Thiago Alcantara

Thiago has been in sensational form recently, having found the net in each of his last three league appearances. Last time out, he scored a sublime goal ?during his side’s 3-1 win over Mainz, dancing through a number of players before cooly slotting home. 

While there may be interest from both Barcelona and the player regarding a potential move, it is far from clear where his future lies, with Bayern also keen to tie him down to a new contract.

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Atlético Madrid Planning Summer Move for Barcelona Midfielder Ivan Rakitic

?Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic could make a summer switch to Atlético Madrid, with his stay at Camp Nou seemingly coming to an end.

The Croatian moved to Barcelona in 2014 and has been a constant for the first team, but an abundance of young talent has seen the 31-year-old fall down the pecking order. With just eight starts this season, he may seek pastures new at the end of the season.

Ruben Rochina,Ivan Rakitic

The Catalan club are looking to balance the books by offloading some fringe players, and Rakitic is one of them. As reported by ?Cadena Ser, the midfielder is aware for the move by Atlético, and is open to contract talks. 

With his contract expiring in June 2021, Rakitic could be available at a reasonable price for the Rojiblancos, who have already decided to open talks with the midfielder. It is a priority for Barcelona’s rivals to secure the signing of the veteran Croatian.

Manchester United and Juventus were also interested in Rakitic, but a move failed to materialise for both sides, leaving the player frustrated.

Ivan Rakitic,Rochina

Speaking to ?El Larguero, Rakitic said: “There have been several things that I did not like. I say it very clearly.

“We know there are people who make decisions but we are here not to laugh or enjoy.

“In the end the best thing for the club has to be what is good. We must accept not to understand some things.”

His frustrations might be over though, with talks over a move to Atlético reportedly running smoothly, and the contract talks not hitting any obstacles so far. Although he had been a main-stay under previous managers and an influential part of the dressing room, his time has come to move on, especially with Atlético looking for a new central-midfielder.

He has made 292 appearances for Barcelona, more than any other club. Despite not recording a goal, and just three assists this season, he has 34 goals and 45 assists altogether for the club. one of his most notable coming against Tottenham in the Champions League.

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Lionel Messi Hits Back at Barcelona’s Director of Football Eric Abidal After Media Criticism

Lionel Messi has bitten back at comments made by Barcelona’s director of football Eric Abidal, who criticised some of the club’s players for their work ethic under former manager Ernesto Valverde.

Abidal risked turning Barcelona into a pantomime when he hit out at certain players this week, suggesting he was left with little alternative when replacing Valverde earlier this season and appointing former Real Betis boss Quique Setién.

A lot of players were not happy and did not work much and there was also a problem with internal communication,” Abidal said, quoted by Goal.

Eric Abidal

“The relationship between the coach and dressing room was always good, but there are things that as an ex-player I can sense. I told the club what I thought and we had to make a decision.” 

The director of football’s comments haven’t sat well with Barcelona captain Messi, who angrily responded to Abidal – a former teammate during his playing career – in a surprising post on his Instagram story.

I honestly do not like to do this kind of thing but I think that everyone has to be responsible for their job and take responsibility for their decisions,” Messi responded“Players for what happens on the field, we are also the first to acknowledge when we don’t play well.

“Those in charge of sporting direction should also face up to their responsibilities and above all take charge of their own decisions.

“Lastly, I think that when you talk about players, you should give names because otherwise, you are tainting everyone’s name and feeding rumours that spread and are not true.”

On top of disagreements with Barcelona’s hierarchy, it’s also emerged that Messi has actually been playing through an injury over the last few weeks.

ESPN reports Messi’s been ‘playing through the pain’ for several weeks to help lift some pressure amid an injury crisis for Barcelona, which has seen Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele ruled out.


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Barcelona Set to Launch Barça TV+ Streaming Service

?Catalan giants Barcelona are preparing to launch their subscription-based streaming service this spring. 

The 24/7 platform Barça TV+ is part of a wider overhaul of the club’s digital strategy and will allow fans to enjoy highlights from first-team matches, exclusive player interviews and archive footage.

FBL-ESP-BARCELONA-PRESSER

Not only that, but the platform will also include live streams from press conferences, Barcelona B games, and all the women’s team league home games. There will also be non-live content from the club’s other sports assets, including their basketball and roller hockey teams.

Speaking about the launch, Spanish entrepreneur and Barça board member Dídac Lee said, as quoted by Sports Pro Media: “Our competitors are no longer only the clubs playing football – there are new players we may not have expected ten years ago, such as Netflix, YouTube, Fortnite, Minecraft. Traditionally, we have been working with the biggest platforms in the world.

“We want to empower this vision by adding our own platforms. Our idea is very simple. We want to have a direct relationship with our fans, we want to learn about them, including what they like, and on what devices, so we can improve the fan experience,” he added.

FC Barcelona v Granada - La Liga Santander

The service forms part of an ambitious overhaul of the club’s digital strategy, which aims to triple the annual €100m the club currently generate from digital ticketing and merchandise revenue streams over the next five years.

Barça are yet to confirm prices for the membership platform, but it’s understood that the cost for will vary by country. It’s believed, however, that those who are part of the club’s new ‘Culers’ membership will enjoy unlimited access to Barça TV+ via the club’s official website and mobile app.

The Catalan’s chief marketing officer Gullem Grael has confirmed he doesn’t expect the platform to show live first-team matches that take place overseas – the Champions League, for example – although he did say it ‘could be an option’ in the future, as could streaming live pre-season coverage.

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The Reason Why Barcelona Moved Quickly to Seal €30m Francisco Trincao Deal

Barcelona’s €30m purchase of Braga striker Francisco Trincao would have cost the Catalans double had they had waited a few more weeks to complete the deal.

The 20-year-old – who has been with Braga since 2015 – completed his switch to Camp Nou last week and will ?join up with his new club next summer.

Having only recently earned a place in Os Arcebispos’ senior squad, the young striker impressed in 15 appearances in 2018/19, though none were starts, before collecting four goals and six assists in his 23 games this term.

Trincao

ESPN’s Barcelona correspondent Moises Llorens has revealed on Twitter that the Catalans moved fast to put the finishing touches on a deal this January before his contractual release clause rose to €60m ‘in a weeks’, with La Blaugrana also fighting off several other European powerhouses to land the striker.

German giants ?Bayern Munich were in pursuit of Trincao, as were Italian champions ?Juventus, but Barça won the race for his signature, and it’s understood he will join up with the first team at Camp Nou when he arrives in the summer. His new Barcelona contract also contains a massive €500m release clause, signalling just how highly he is rated by his new club.

Braga aren’t the only ones who profited from Trincao’s sale. Super-agent Jorge Mendes helped broker the deal between Barcelona and Braga, which earned him a €7m paycheck for his services, according to journalist Tariq Panja on Twitter.

Francisco Trincao

Catching the eye in Europe this season, Trincao scored and assisted during Braga’s Europa League meeting with Slovan Bratislava back in December, while he made cameos in three other fixtures, including the 3-2 away win at Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

The imminent arrival of Trincao has cast doubt over the long-term future of Luis Suarez in Catalonia. The Uruguayan underwent knee surgery in January, potentially ruling him out for to the end of the campaign. It is expected that ?Barça will also consider a move for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez this summer.


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