Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid or Barcelona: Assessing Each of the La Liga Title Favourites

?With the transfer window slowly drawing to a close, the squads of each of La Liga’s big three, Atletico, Real and Barcelona, are beginning to take shape.

Both of the clubs located in capital are in transitional phases, and this has been reflected in an extremely active transfer window for both Atletico and Real. 

Current champions Barcelona on the other hand have been more reserved, saving themselves for a number of marquee signings to compliment their already strong squad.   

Which of these approaches will prove to be the most effective, and most importantly which of these sides is placed to win ?La Liga this season?


Atletico Madrid

?

?Strengths

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Though perhaps not possessing the strongest squad of the three teams on paper, ?Atletico probably possess the best manager and the clearest tactical plan. 

A master-tactician, adept at getting the most out of his players by deploying a stringent counter-attacking system, Diego Simeone continues to be Atletico’s biggest asset. ?

In the transfer market, the Los Rojiblancos manager has operated diligently, ensuring that each of his new signings will be able to fit seamlessly into his footballing philosophy. 

Former FC Porto centre-back Felipe, will benefit from the Argentine’s elite defensive coaching, whilst already possessing the ability to instigate counter-attacks with his long-range passing will benefit his team greatly.

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His likely defensive partner Mario Hermaso will also help in this regard. Hermaso, which means beautiful in Spanish, was signed from Espanyol, and  he’s fully expected to live up to his surname this season. Blessed, much like Felipe, with incredible long passing, Hermaso will also aid Atletico attempts to start their attacks when in transition. 

The singing of ?Kieran Trippier for a very reasonable fee of around £20m, is also an inspired one. The England international’s delivery from set pieces will provide Atletico with a potent offensive weapon that may be able to mask some of their offensive vulnerabilities

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And then we come to the main event: the signing of Benfica starlet ?João Félix for a club record €126m. 

The 19-year-old Portuguese international has been receiving significant plaudits for Atletico in pre-season and Simeone will need the diminutive attacking-midfielder to be in excellent form if his side has any hope of prying the La Liga trophy away from Catalonia. 

Felix’s job will be to act as the team’s unpredictable creative force in the final third. He will also be expected to relieve some of his side’s goal-scoring burden from strikers ?Alvaro Morata and ?Diego Costa.

Weaknesses

?

In ?Antoine Griezmann, Atletico have not just lost their top scorer, and the only player to even get ?into double figures last season, but also the source of their attacking impetus. 

Though the Frenchman’s goals were of course vital, the 28-year-old has also performed a key creative role over the past five season, accruing 68 assists in the process. 

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Simeone will be desperately hoping that 19-year-old Felix lives up to his hype, but replacing a player as accomplished as the World Cup winning Griezmann may be too much of an ask for the teenager. 

The Frenchman has not been the only high-profile departure from the Wanda Metropolitano this summer. Club stalwarts Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Juanfran, have all followed their talisman out of the door. 

This has the potential to create a leadership void in the dressing room and Simeone will need other long-serving players such as Koke and Saúl Ñíguez to help his new signings settle in quickly. 

Rodri

Perhaps, the biggest area for concern at Atletico though, is their misfiring front line. 

Striker Diego Costa has been plagued with discipline issues over the past few years, whilst new signing Alvaro Morata joins the squad after having a torrid time at Chelsea in the first half of last season.

The pair managed just 20 goals between them in all competitions last campaign. That number will need to seriously increase if Atletico are to have any chance of lifting the La Liga trophy in May.


Real Madrid

?

?Strengths

Mariano Diaz

Whilst Atletico have had a number of their more seasoned players depart this transfer window, ?Real continue to posses one of the most ?experienced squads in football. 

Los Blancos have a pair of World Cup winners in their squad in ?Sergio Ramos and ?Toni Kroos, whilst many of the members of Real’s Champions League triumphs over the past few years, remain at the club. 

This experience is always invaluable in a title race, and could prove to be a decisive factor should the side find themselves in a close battle for the La Liga trophy. 

Marcelo,Rodrygo Silvadegoes,Daniel Carvajal,Luka Modric,Sergio Ramos,Toni Kroos,Raphael Varane,Karim Benzema,Eden Hazard,Lucas Vazquez,Keylor Navas

In Luka Modric, ?Casemiro and Kroos, Real can also boast one of the best midfield triumvirates in world football. 

Casemiro as the dogged enforcer,  Kroos as the metronome and Modric as the creative genius, all three of these players will need to be on top form this season. Especially considering that Mateo Kovacic will not be there to assist them this season, after he made his loan move to Chelsea a permanent one. 

Sergi Guardiola,Luka Modric,Casemiro

Of course, we cannot discuss Real’s chances without mentioning the signing of a certain Belgian attacker. 

The arrival of ?Eden Hazard for a sizeable fee of over £100m, was an important statement to other clubs: “last season’s failures were not acceptable, and we are back with a vengeance.” Hazard could finally be the man to fill the void left by ?Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018.

Weaknesses

?

?One of the major areas of weakness for Real Madrid is the inexperience of their front line. 

Though Vinicius Junior is an extremely exciting prospect, as is new signing Luka Jovic, both of them are still in the preliminary stages of their careers. 

Their tender ages are bound to breed inconsistent performances, something that Real can ill afford if they want to sustain a serious title challenge.  

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Another of Los Blancos long-term issues that has reared its ugly head again this off-season, is the propensity of key figures at the club to engage in damaging public arguments. 

The two most recent perpetrators of this bickering have been returning manager Zinedine Zidane, and winger ?Gareth Bale. Zidane and Bale’s agent have been exchanging insults in the press all summer long, though in the past Sergio Ramos and club president Florentino Peréz, have also been guilty of this behaviour. Maybe there’s something in the water at the Bernabéu?

Whatever it is that makes everyone at Real argue with each other – it’s got to stop. A happy club is a successful club and more harmonious relations are essential if Los Blancos want to win La Liga. 


Barcelona

?

??Strengths

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Barcelona’s main strength lies in one man, and one man alone: ?Lionel Messi. He’s probably still the best player in the world, and as their first leg against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final showed, whilst ?Barca have Messi, they have a good chance of winning ANY game. 

Though he has just celebrated his 32nd birthday, Messi shows no signs of letting up any time soon. The Argentine scored 51, yes you read that right, 51 goals last campaign, also chipping in with 21 assists. 

Keeping La Pulga fit during the upcoming season may even be enough on its own to reclaim the La Liga title. 

Lionel Messi

It is not just the Messi show at the Camp Nou this season though. The arrival of Antoine Griezmann for €120m was a smart signing. Not only has Ernesto Valverde received one of the world’s best attackers, he has also considerably weakened Barca’s main rivals for the La Liga trophy in the process. 

Let’s also not forgot the Dutch wonder kid Frenkie de Jong. His arrival from Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, will give the Catalan giants a much needed injection of youthful exuberance into their ageing midfield, as well as providing another source of creativity. 

Weaknesses

?

It may seem a crazy thing to say about a man who has won back-to-back league titles, but in Ernesto Valverde Barcelona probably have the weakest manager out of La Liga’s top sides. 

Barca’s repeated failures in the Champions League, under his premiership are indicative of Valverde’s occasional tactical naivety in big game situations. 

Should the title race go down to the wire, you must question whether he is the man able to orchestrate Barcelona’s success under pressure. 

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It could also be argued that Barcelona’s ageing squad has the potential to cause them some problems this campaign. 

First-teamers such as Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal are all coming towards the end of their respective careers and may require significant rotation in order to keep all of them fit. 

If Valverde chooses to prioritise Europe in the latter stages of the season, it could leave Barca short of some of their older star names for some La Liga games. 


Conclusion

Lionel Messi

?It’s obvious isn’t it? Barcelona are without doubt in the best shape to win La Liga this season. The continued brilliance of Lionel Messi, combined with a number of very impressive signings during the summer gives Ernesto Valverde a brilliant chance to secure his third La Liga title.

Atletico Madrid will need record signing? João Félix to have a good first La Liga season if they have any hope of filling the void left by a number of high profile departures.

Their city rivals also have little chance of unseating the Catalan giants. Whilst they do have a lot of exciting young players, Real will probably struggle for consistency this season owing to a lack of experience and off-field squabbling. 


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Barcelona Confirm €45m Agreement With Zenit St Petersburg for Malcom Transfer

Barcelona have announced that an agreement has been reached with Zenit St Petersburg over the transfer of Malcom.

The Russian side will pay €40m for the Brazilian forward, who joined La Blaugrana just last year from Bordeaux for €41m following the hijacking of a deal Roma had put in place, with the potential for €5m more in variables. 


Barca confirmed the news with a statement on their official website, declaring: “FC Barcelona and Zenit Saint Petersburg have reached an agreement for the transfer of the player Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira.

“The Russian team will pay FC Barcelona 40 million euros plus 5 million euros in variables. FC Barcelona retains an interest in case of a future sale of the Brazilian.FC Barcelona expressly thanks Malcom for his commitment and dedication, and wishes him success in the future.”

Under the somewhat cruel sub-heading of ’24 games and 4 goals’, Barca then recounted the player’s achievements during his solitary season at the Nou Camp.

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This read: “The Brazilian played 24 times during the 2018-19 season, after signing for the Blaugrana last summer. Of these 24 matches, 15 were in the league, six came in the Copa del Rey and three were in the Champions League. He scored four goals: one in the league, two in the cup and one in the Champions League.

“Malcom scored his first in the Inter-Barça Champions League group stage game, and won two titles as a Barça player: the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla and the 2018-19 La Liga title.”

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Transfer Window: 6 of the Most Nonsensical Rumours of the Week

The penultimate week of the Premier League transfer window has been a bit of a doozy as far as outlandish transfer rumours are concerned. 

We’ve heard tales of swap deals that make about as much sense as Steve Bruce getting the Newcastle job and transfer fees that would even bring a shudder to Jeff Bezos’ accountant, and with just seven days now remaining for the top English clubs to throw their financial weight around, things are only going to heat up from here. 

With all this in mind, we’ve bravely undertaken the arduous task of rounding up the most insane rumours that have come to light over the last seven days, and assessed them so you don’t have to. 


Ivan Rakitic to Everton

Ivan Rakitic,Francis Coquelin

Ignoring the fact he’s a former Champions League winner and one of the most influential players on the planet on his day, and the fact that he probably earns enough to be ?Everton’s highest earner twice over, ?speculation that has arisen linking Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic with a move to the Premier League side still makes no sense.

He is quoted as saying he has ?no plans to leave Barca this summer, and is quite content to fight for his place and run down the remaining two years of his contract. Would the lure of, with all due respect, a presently-middling Premier League side be enough to inspire a U-turn on that one? It does not seem likely. 

He may leave, but as one of Europe’s elite midfielders still with a year or two left at the peak of his powers, it seems almost certain to be to a club playing European football this season. 


Tottenham to Hijack Manchester United’s Bid for Paulo Dybala

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Just in case your summer residence is under a rock, the big story relating to Paulo Dybala is that ?Juventus, for some reason not one single person can reasonably explain, want to swap him for Romelu Lukaku. This would in itself normally be enough to qualify for this list, but given the weight carried by reports on it, it seems for all the world as if it’s actually in the works. 

According to some headlines, however, including but not exclusive to ?this one by ?Football365, the deal is now in jeopardy due to Spurs considering an offer to rock the boat and hijack the deal for their benefit. 

This one has been contorted out of recognition, to be fair, and really just stems from suggestions that Tottenham are keeping tabs on the situation, and that Dybala isn’t keen on joining a club with no guarantee of Champions League football in the long-term. But let’s not pretend there’s a realistic chance of it happening, especially when the slightly less good English version of Dybala is already on Spurs’ books. 


Samuel Umtiti to Manchester United

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Sticking with ?Manchester United, their pursuit of a new central defender hasn’t been so much of a poorly kept secret as it has been public record, with Harry Maguire subject to multiple bids – each of which have so far been knocked back. 

It seems highly likely that they will nonetheless persevere, but will have other irons in the fire just in case. One such contingency plan, according to the ?Guardian and a few other places, is Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti.

From United’s perspective, however, it looks unlikely, since they need a dependable centre-back who will be able to play more or less every game and have a Virgil van Dijk-esque impact on their defence. Umtiti has the ability for the task, but his injury record means ‘gamble’ would be putting it mildly. 

Then there’s Barca’s end of the bargain to consider. Umtiti is one of three established centre-backs, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet the others, in the squad at present. Umtiti’s sale looked likely when Matthijs de Ligt was inbound, but now that deal is dead, it’s difficult to see them signing off on his departure for anything other than a huge fee. 


Roma to Swap Edin Dzeko for Mauro Icardi

Edin Dzeko,Milan Skriniar

This one actually seems to have some genuine basis, believe it or not, but the chances of it  going through seem ambitious at best.

In summary, Inter can’t even pay anyone to take Mauro Icardi off their hands at this stage, so ?reports in Italy say they have switched tactics, and will now consider a swap deal for long-term target Edin Dzeko – so long as Roma throw a sweetener or two into the bargain.

It would have to be a hell of a sweetener, however, seeing as Icardi, despite all of the melodrama that comes with him, is one of the best strikers in the world. Dzeko, meanwhile, is an ageing target-man with maybe a year left at the peak of his powers. This, in addition to all the moving parts that would have to fall into place for the deal to come off, mean it’s all a bit pie in the sky. 


Sami Khedira to Arsenal

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Yes, because more midfielders is exactly what ?Arsenal need now that they have Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil.

On top of this, Unai Emery has said he plans to add one more signing, and that it’s a defender; which squares with what Arsenal’s squad needs; especially if Laurent Koscielny takes off as expected.   

Would it make sense, then, for them to spend the rest of their budget on a 32-year-old midfielder who would likely be one of their top earners without improving the side long-term? Not in the slightest.

Oh, but he was at the Emirates Cup. I take it all back.


Joe Hart to Porto

Joe Hart

Right, rumours. That’s enough out of you.

Yeah you’ve read this correctly.Joe Hart, the Burnley keeper of England and Manchester City fame, is being lined up as a replacement for Iker Casillas at Porto. 

Other than the fact that the 32-year-old is no longer anything close to a Champions League standard keeper, there is no shortage of reasons this seems like a questionable one. His likely wage demands far outweigh his ability, and there is a chance he may now be needed at Burnley after Tom Heaton’s departure.

For your consideration, this is a story created by the Daily Star and relayed by the ?Sun. Will let you make your own assumptions from that. 


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

?Barcelona and Arsenal will meet on Sunday in a pre-season friendly, as both teams prepare themselves for the 2019/20 season. 

The game represents Arsenal’s final match before they travel to Newcastle on August 11 for their opening Premier League campaign. Barcelona have an extra five days until they begin the defence of their La Liga title against Athletic Bilbao.

Ahead of the high-profile friendly, here is 90min’s preview for this weekend’s clash.


Where to Watch

?When is Kick Off? ?Sunday 4 August
?What Time is Kick Off? ?19:00 (BST)
?Where is it Played? ?Camp Nou, Barcelona
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?Premier Sports 1


Team News

Lionel Messi will miss out again for Barcelona after featuring in the Copa America for Argentina. However, Luis Suarez has returned to training following his exploits with Uruguay, and is back in contention to play some part in the game.

Frenkie de Jong could get his first start for the club, having been left on the bench for the side’s first two pre-season matches.

Arsenal fans will be waiting to see if club-record signing Nicolas Pepe will appear following confirmation of his arrival on Thursday, but the winger is more likely to start from the bench on Sunday. Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac have missed Arsenal’s last two games due to narrowly escaping a car-jacking incident last week, but they could return to the side here.

Sead Kolasinac,Mesut Ozil

Lucas Torreira has yet to play in pre-season having been away on international duty earlier this summer. He is in line for a place in the squad this weekend.


Predicted Line-Ups

?Barcelona ?ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, de Jong, Alena; Rafinha, Dembele, Griezmann.
?Arsenal ?Leno; Jenkinson, Sokratis, Chambers, Monreal; Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock; Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang.

Head to Head Record

Barcelona hold the upper hand in contests between the two teams, having won six of the nine competitive matches played.? Arsenal have just one victory, with two games ending in stalemates. 

That solitary win came in 2011 when Arsenal came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory, with Andrey Arshavin netting a late winner. However, Barcelona went on to win the second leg 3-1 to progress in to the next round of the Champions League.

Arsenal's Russian midfielder Andrey Arsh

The most famous meeting between these two sides was in 2006 in Paris, when Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the Champions League. The Gunners had Jens Lehmann sent off early on, but took a shock lead when Sol Campbell headed them in front, only for second half strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti to turn the game in Barcelona’s favour.


Recent Form

Barcelona ended last season poorly, only drawing their final league game before losing the Copa Del Rey final against Valencia. They have endured a mixed pre-season so far, with one win and one defeat to their name.

Ivan Rakitic,Rafinha

Arsenal have had a far busier pre-season, as they toured America before returning to London last weekend. They have picked up impressive wins against Bayern Munich and Fiorentina, but suffered a frustrating defeat to Lyon in the Emirates Cup. 

Here are the results of the last five games for each side.

?Barcelona ?Arsenal
?Vissel Kobe 0-2 Barcelona (27/7) ?Angers 1-1 Arsenal (31/7)
?Barcelona 1-2 Chelsea (23/7) ?Arsenal 1-2 Lyon (28/7)
?Barcelona 1-2 Valencia (25/5) ?Real Madrid 2-2 Arsenal (24/7)
?Eibar 2-2 Barcelona (19/5) ?Arsenal 3-0 Fiorentina (20/7)
?Barcelona 2-0 Getafe (12/5) ?Arsenal 2-1 Bayern Munich (18/7)


Prediction

Arsenal are further along in their pre-season preparations, and have looked bright going forwards in pre-season. Goals should be expected in this one. However, Unai Emery has not yet addressed the defensive issues that the side have, meaning that Barcelona should still have the edge on home turf.

Prediction: Barcelona 3-2 Arsenal?

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Barcelona Offer Club Legend General Manager Position After Pep Segura Exit

?Barcelona have offered the general manager role at Camp Nou to club legend Carles Puyol after the job was recently vacated with the departure of Pep Segura.

Puyol, who won 18 trophies during his 15 years as a Barça player – many of them as captain – was previously assistant to former sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta upon his retirement in 2014, but resigned after just a few months when the ex-goalkeeper was sacked.

Carles Puyol

It has been reported that Eric Abidal was the favourite to replace Segura, with the Frenchman stepping up from his current role as technical secretary.

However, Mundo Deportivo (MD) claim the job has been offered to Puyol, marking his potential return to Camp Nou more than four years after his departure. In the intervening years, the 41-year-old has been an agent and a FIFA ambassador, with those experiences seemingly perfect in preparing him for a leadership role at the club he once served so well as a player.

MD notes that the presence of former teammates like Abidal, Patrick Kluivert, who is the newly appointed director of youth football, and Victor Valdes, coach of Juvenil A, would make returning to Camp Nou as general manager an appealing proposition for Puyol.

Lionel Messi,Carles Puyol,Eric Abidal

Yet it is also stated that he wishes to now carefully deliberate as well. Puyol has apparently not forgotten the difficulties of his first spell as a club official and is well aware that general manager is a role that would come with a lot of pressure focus on him.

On the pitch, Barça are deep into preparations for the new season and will face Arsenal in the annual Joan Gamper Trophy at Camp Nou on Sunday, followed by a double header in the United States against Napoli in the new La Liga Serie A Cup.

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Barcelona Give Malcom Time to Resolve Future Ahead of Expected Zenit Move

?Malcom is set to bring his Barcelona nightmare to an end with a move to Zenit Saint Petersburg, with only an official announcement left to confirm the move after a fee was agreed.

The Brazilian joined the La Liga giants for £36m last summer after pulling out of a deal at the 11th hour to join Roma, but has failed to make any real impact at Camp Nou, scoring just once in the league last season for the Catalan side.

Throughout the summer a whole host of clubs have been linked with the forward, yet neither of Premier League duo ?Everton or ?Arsenal were willing to match ?La Blaugrana’s valuation of the 22-year-old.

Due to interest waning, Russian outfit Zenit St Petersburg have stolen a march on their English counterparts, with ?Marca? stating a deal is essentially already finalised that would see Zenit part with €40m (£36m) plus another €5m in add-ons.

Barca have confirmed Malcom has been given time to resolve his future, allowing him to skip training.

The move is set to come as welcome relief to Barca and Ernesto Valverde, who have been desperate to sell players having spent roughly £210m already this summer on the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong among others.

Malcom

With the added cash injection, it is thought the club could step up their interest in left back Junior Firpo, while the saga surrounding ?Neymar’s potential return from Paris Saint-Germain continues to rumble on – and is expected to for the remainder of the window.

In regards to Malcom, the forward will be desperate to rekindle the kind of form he showed at Bordeaux, which prompted the ?La Liga champions to move for him.

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Philippe Coutinho: Barcelona ‘Concerned’ by Lack of Offers for Former Liverpool Star

Barcelona are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of offers they’ve received for Philippe Coutinho. 

At the start of this summer’s transfer window, the Catalan giants labelled the sale of the £142m (with add-ons) flop a priority, but have since struggled to find a buyer.

Philippe Coutinho

According to a report from ESPN, La Blaugrana are yet to receive one offer for the Brazilian, despite their willingness to listen to bids of around €105m.

Since joining Barça in January last year, Coutinho has made 76 appearances in the famous red and blue shirt, picking up 21 goals and 11 assists.

However, his form has been indifferent throughout his short tenure, with home fans at Camp Nou even booing him on occasion. This dissonance was a huge factor in the club’s desire to get rid of the player, but unfortunately they have found no real suitors. 

It is understood that Chelsea were initially considering him as a replacement for Real Madrid-bound Eden Hazard, but their transfer ban ruled out any approach. There were similar stories about ?Liverpool’s interest in their former star, but boss Jurgen Klopp emphatically ruled out such a move earlier this month.

The German explained: “In general, Coutinho helps each team in the world, still — 100%. It’s not about that. I like Phil, I think he’s a fantastic footballer and all that stuff, but it would be a big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big-money signing and it’s not our year for that.

“It’s just not possible. As I said, having him would make each team better – us included – but I really hope that he finds his luck at ?Barcelona.”

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Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah & Sadio Mane Named on 2019 Best FIFA Men’s Player Shortlist

?Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane have being named on the 2019 Best FIFA Men’s Coach 10-man shortlist alongside fellow Premier League stars Harry Kane and (formerly) Eden Hazard.

The English-based trio face stiff competition from other major European names, however, with the usual suspects Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo also earning a place among the ten selected players.


For the case of Van Dijk, Mane and Salah, the Reds stars played a major role in sealing Champions League glory for the s time, seeing off fellow Premier League rivals Tottenham 2-0 in the final, for whom Kane is awarded with a mention for his efforts. Furthermore, Mane was instrumental in Senegal’s trip to the Africa Cup of Nations final, where they narrowly lost to Algeria.

The England forward notched 17 league goals with a further five in Europe’s biggest cup competition to be rewarded with a nod alongside now departed Hazard, whose 31 goal contributions last season earned him a big-money move to Real Madrid this summer.

Naturally, sealing the La Liga once again as top scorer and winning the European Golden Shoe, Messi is included, while Ronaldo enjoyed a fruitful first season for Juventus as he secured the Serie A crown with his new side and guided Portugal to UEFA Nations League success over the Netherlands.

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Two of the players who featured heavily for the Dutch in that tournament were Matthijs de Ligt – who partnered Van Dijk in defence – and Frenkie de Jong. The pair also played starring roles for their former club Ajax, winning a domestic league and cup double, and reached the Champions League semi finals, subsequently taking the next step in their careers with moves to Juventus and Barcelona respectively.

Finally, but most certainly not least, is Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe. It was another season of pure brilliance for the Frenchman, who secured the Ligue 1 crown as the division’s top scorer, off the back of lifting the World Cup with France in Russia last summer.

Matthijs de Ligt,Frenkie de Jong

The fan vote will be equally weighted alongside the votes of other key members of the footballing community – namely journalists, national team coaches and captains. The three finalists for each award will be revealed at a later date

The winner will be announced at the annual FIFA Gala, this year held in Milan on 23 September.

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Malcom Edges Closer to Shock Zenit St. Petersburg Move After Clubs Agree Fee

?Barcelona’s Malcolm looks set to join Zenit St. Petersburg after the two clubs agreed a €40m fee for the winger. 

The Brazilian joined the Catalan giants for roughly £36m last summer, but has failed to make any real impact at the Camp Nou, making a measly 15 league appearances, scoring one goal in the process. 

Malcom

As reported by ?Gianluca Di Marizio, after Zenit’s sporting director, Javier Ribalta, flew to Spain and has now agreed a deal to sign the formerly highly coveted forward. 

Everything looks set for the winger to make the switch to the Russian Premier League just one year on from when his deal to Roma was hijacked by his current club.

Formerly of Bordeaux, Malcolm endured a difficult time in La Liga as he struggled to break into Ernesto Valverde’s first team plans. 

The 22-year-old still has much of his career ahead of him and his talent has been evident in the past, most notably during his final season at Bordeaux.

Malcolm will become one of eight South Americans at the club that is captained by ex-Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

?Barcelona managed to snatch Malcom away from the clutches of ?Serie A side AS Roma last summer in the 11th hour, and it would take a similar effort from another club to take this transfer away from the five time Russian champions – although it is highly unlikely. 

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PSG Set New Transfer Price for Neymar as Ligue 1 Giants Insist on Cash-Only Deal

Paris Saint-Germain have reluctantly lowered their asking price for Neymar in a bid to offload the Brazilian in this summer’s transfer window.

The French champions had initially been looking to recoup a mouth-watering €300m for the Brazilian forward, but have reduced this by a considerable amount to help facilitate a move.

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As reported by ?Sport, PSG have now lowered their asking price to just €180m, nearly half of what they originally set out to redeem.

?Barcelona were one of a few clubs interested in purchasing ?Neymar, but were struggling to find a way to finance the move.

One method they pursued in order to meet the French club’s estimation was to include players as part of the deal, but PSG say they will not consider anything other than cash-only deals.

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

This does not help Barca, who will struggle to finance a transfer of that size without breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.

?Ivan Rakitic, ?Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho had all been mooted as players who could potentially make up part of Barcelona’s player-plus-cash offer, but a deal of this kind looks to be off the table for the time being.

Whilst PSG would only reinvest the money in player recruitment, they would prefer to have their pick of players from around the world rather than be limited to those which the Blaugrana deem surplus to requirements.

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However, the Ligue 1 club find themselves in something of a lose-lose situation. They may not want a player-plus-cash deal, but the only alternative could be keeping Neymar – a player who has outrightly expressed his desire to leave the Parisian club, which brings problems of its own.

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