Juan Roman Riquelme: An Ode to the Lethargic Argentine Legend on His 41st Birthday

“If we have to travel from A to B, most of us take the six-lane highway & get there as quickly as possible. Everyone, except Riquelme.

He’d choose the winding mountain road, which takes him six hours, but that fills your eyes with scenes of beautiful landscapes.” Jorge Valdano


June 24th is a hallowed day in Argentina. It is hallowed because it’s the birthday of two of its greatest, and most contrasting, prodigal sons: Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme. As you can imagine, one needs more love than the other. 

But perhaps not by as much as you might think.

Lionel Messi (L) of Argentina watches hi

For, what Messi has in mainstream maniacal social media hype, Riquelme has in a subdued but cult-like worship across bars in Buenos Aires. Of course, the cult has now extended to the rest of the world, and by proxy social media, but it’s nice to think that all the pro-Riquelme ’24 de Junio’ tweets are actually being written by the ageing moustachioed men in those same bars who, swirling their Malbec, have hijacked their grandson’s account for one day to send their message of support for Juan Roman.

In reality, they’re probably just the same second-screening, highlights reel-dependant scumbags as all of us, who never saw the man play live on TV, let alone at La Bombonera. But still, let a man dream. Because that’s certainly what Riquelme did. 

It is ironic that Messi’s still-very-much-breathing-spectre should linger over Riquelme these days, because, just like Leo, Riquelme’s first spectral presence came in the form of the king himself, Diego Maradona. 

Branded, as I suppose all precocious number tens in the Argentine capital have been since 1986, as the ‘New Maradona’, it quickly became apparent that, with his languid, occasionally ungainly style, Riquelme was not so. He did not have the dynamism, the explosion, the mazy running style or the hair. He was something wholly different. But it didn’t make them love him any less. 

That word ungainly is perhaps unfortunate, because there is an inherent elegance to JRR’s play, it’s just inherently clunky too. This is the paradox that comes with a player who plays the game at such a devastatingly patient pace; when he is forced to run it seems unnatural.

From an early age, he had problems with his fitness and recovery, an ailment that irrevocably shaped his career, for better and worse. The downside meant that, when it came to his high-profile move to Barcelona in 2002, he was ill-prepared for the gruelling European schedule and under-appreciated and thus under-utilised by manager Louis van Gaal. 

The upside was that it allowed him to fixate solely on the part of the game that he did best. The part when the ball was at his feet in the middle of the park, with seemingly no options for a pass. The part where he was gearing up for a speculative free kick. The part where he was lining up an unpredictable strike from an improbable angle. 

That ill-fated spell at Barcelona, where his status as the saviour from South America was quickly taken by Ronaldinho, was followed by a legendary one at ‘lowly’ Villarreal, where he became, for a time, the greatest playmaker in Europe. 


At Barca, he was remonstrated for being a slow, purely offensive player, who couldn’t/wouldn’t pressure the ball in defence and was ineffective on the break. At Villarreal, Manuel Pellegrini allowed him to be what he was, and he delivered.

Just like they said he couldn’t. Just like he knew he would. 

That first season with the Yellow Submarine was followed by the 2006 World Cup, and it was here where those who had written him off in Catalonia and ignored his resurrection in Castellon ate their words. 

Charged with pulling the strings for a team that desperately required some orchestration, Riquelme was a revelation. Two assists in three group stage games were quickly followed by standout performances against Mexico and Germany in the knockout rounds, the latter of which, despite eventual defeat on penalties (thanks to a miss from Esteban Cambiasso, his 72nd-minute replacement) is rivalled only by Zinedine Zidane’s showing against Brazil as that tournament’s greatest individual showing.

Juan Riquelme,Miroslav Klose,Torsten Frings

A return to his homeland came just a year later, where he saw out his remaining seven years with the two clubs that had made him who he was – Boca Juniors (where he won the Copa Libertadores at the first time of asking) and Argentinos Juniors. 

His legacy is one that is hard to define, seeing as he was ‘overshadowed’ – but mainly just overlooked – at almost every turn, but his ability to find time and space where there was none was seen in the proceeding qualities of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets at Barca and, more recently, the effervescence of Mesut Ozil and the poise of Eden Hazard. Those comparisons can both flatter and deceive. 

Indeed, it is in accordance with the overall misunderstanding of Riquelme that today, the date of his 41st birthday, there is a flurry of confusion surrounding his actual age – some have claimed he is 40 though his birth date, at least the one that we currently have access to, says 1978.

Clearly, there was, and is, a general ignorance around Riquelme’s gifts. But that’s so often the case with talents that go against the grain, that blur the parameters, that push the boundaries of the field they are in. 


And, though it’s undeniable to say that the man he shares his birthday with has since outperformed him, there is solace to be found for JRR in the fact that, when Messi first met the great man, he was starstruck to the point of speechlessness. Indeed, as Josep Maria Minguella, the famous agent who discovered Leo, detailed of that meeting: “Messi looked at Riquelme as if he were Jesus Christ.”

As I sit here, swirling my Malbec, rewatching Riquelme’s greatest hits, I can officially say, probably for the first and last time, I share something in common with Lionel.


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Lionel Messi: His 32 Greatest Moments on His 32nd Birthday

?We are truly privileged to be alive today, for we are witnesses to the phenomenal career of Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini, born 24 June 1987.

The maestro has created unforgettable memories for a generation of football lovers, set records that may never be broken and left us all wondering whether we have seen the greatest player in the history of the sport. Have we? My friends, we have indeed.

Messi is mesmerising. He is majestic, a modern miracle who has graced the Camp Nou turf for over a decade, and we are likely to never find another player like him. 

In homage to the Argentine and his glorious career, here’s a look at 32 magical Messi moments. 


Barcelona Debut (2004)

Lionel Messi,Jose Maria Lacruz

The forward’s journey started on 16 October 2004 as then-coach Frank Rijkaard brought the teenager on for Portuguese midfielder Deco in a derby against Espanyol, making him the youngest player ever to represent the club.

It was only a brief ten-minute minute cameo, nothing to suggest that this kid would become a global icon, but it kick-started an incredible story.


First Goal for La Blaugrana? (2005)

La Liga - Barcelona v Albacete

Seven months on from his first appearance, Messi netted his maiden goal for ?Barcelona and it set the trend for what was to come. Leading and firmly in control against lowly Albacete, famed trickster Ronaldinho scooped a delicious through-ball over the top for his young teammate, who duly lobbed past the goalkeeper with an audacious half-volley.


Scoring on World Cup Debut ?(2006)

Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebra

Messi had featured in friendlies for his national side, but nothing quite like a World Cup group stage fixture.

Brought on midway through the destruction of Serbia-Montenegro at the 2006 edition of the tournament, the playmaker finished off the scoring by latching onto a neat pass through the heart of the opposition defence and driving a low effort underneath Dragoslav Jevric.


Maiden Clasico Hat-Trick (2007)?

Lionel Messi

It became evident that this fresh-faced Argentine had a big future when he shocked the world with a marvellous hat-trick during a 3-3 classic with ?Real Madrid.

Los Blancos thrice took the lead, only to be pegged back on each occasion by an unstoppable Messi. First, it was a clinical effort into the bottom corner when through one-on-one, before he leathered home a rebound to take his tally to two.

However, the crowning moment was without doubt his third of the night, Messi parting Real like the red sea and arrowing a fierce shot beyond Iker Casillas.


Single-Handedly Shredding Getafe (2007)?

When people discuss the GOAT’s best goal, his Maradona-esque score against Getafe is invariably mentioned.

After dribbling past the half of the Azulones’ team with a blistering turn of pace, Leo rounded the keeper and slotted his effort in from a narrow angle, wheeling away in celebration in front of a speechless Camp Nou.


Olympic Gold with Argentina? (2008)

Sergio Aguero,Lionel Messi

Messi has had a bittersweet career at international level, collecting personal accolades and being handed the captaincy, whilst also suffering several cruel defeats.

Nevertheless, he will always have an Olympic gold medal to cherish, having won the 2008 men’s tournament with Argentina in Beijing. 

Angel Di Maria hit the decisive goal in the final as the South Americans defeated Nigeria 1-0 after knocking out Brazil and the Netherlands in the semis and quarters, respectively.


Being Ronaldinho’s Heir? (2008)

Ronaldinho,Lionel Messi

In his prime, Ronaldinho was simply unplayable. Children idolised the Brazilian wizard, whose splendid skill-set brought him to the top of the game.

At the time of his departure for ?Milan in 2008, Barça fans knew they had a player in the side who could fill such enormous boots. What they didn’t know is that Messi’s legacy would completely overshadow that of Ronaldinho.


That Header in the Champions League Final (2009)

Mr Barcelona was the butt of many jokes for his short stature. He shut his doubters up in the only way he knows how, nodding in the game-clinching goal in the 2009 ?Champions League final.

La Blaugrana held a single-goal lead over ?Manchester United when Xavi spotted Messi lurking towards the far post. It was doubled moments later, the latter arching his back to redirect the ball past a statuesque Edwin van der Sar.


Six Trophies in a Calendar Year (2009)?

Barcelona´s French forward Thierry Henry

Most clubs have never collected a major trophy. Some win the odd one every few seasons and there are also sides that fight for the quadruple year in, year out.

But, only one team has ever claimed six pieces of silverware in a single calendar year. That team is Barcelona, who – fuelled by their talismanic forward – delivered the Copa de Rey, La Liga, the European Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercopa de Espana to the Camp Nou in 2009. 

This was a side that enjoyed unparalleled success and much of it would have been impossible without the little man.


Winning His First Ballon d’Or (2009)

Lionel Messi

The winger had a splendid calendar year in 2009 under Pe Guardiola, adding to that sextuple at Barça with his first Ballon d’Or scoop. Everybody was thinking it and it finally became official – Messi is the best footballer on the planet.


Scoring a Quadruple Against Arsenal (2010)

How does a Champions League hat-trick versus ?Arsenal sound? Not good enough for Leo, who decided another goal was needed to go home satisfied.

Trailing on aggregate having fallen behind early on at the Camp Nou, the Catalans got back into the contest when Messi unleashed a venomous volley from the edge of the box, taking the lead soon after courtesy of a clipped finish from their magic man.

It was a treble before half-time when he dinked the ball over a bamboozled Manuel Almunia, who must’ve been seeing stars when another mazy run from Messi ended with a rifle between the Spaniard’s legs.


Barça Demolish Real (2010) 

Lionel Messi,Marcelo Vieira

Though he failed to get on the scoresheet during the 5-0 humbling of Real, Messi was instrumental in a monumental performance from Barcelona.

It was his artful passing that killed the match, twice finding David Villa with incisive through-balls early in the second period, with the hitman duly rounding off each move.


Late Semi Final Brace at the Bernabeu? (2011)

Pep Guardiola’s recruits lifted their second Champions League title in three campaigns in 2011, though they may not have made it to the showpiece event at Wembley if it hadn’t been for Messi’s intervention in the semi final.

With the first leg at the Bernabeu locked in stalemate, the academy graduate turned home an Ibrahim Afellay cross to hand his side a crucial advantage.

It got better minutes later, Messi gathering possession in the middle of the park, exploding beyond the would-be tacklers and driving straight at a terrified Real backline. No one stood a chance as Messi made his way into the area untouched, completing a 2-0 victory with a trickled-in effort.


Leading Argentina as Captain (2011)?

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It is an enormous honour to captain one’s country, regardless of their size or footballing ability. However, when your nation has won two World Cups and lives for the sport, it is a truly immense achievement.

That is the case with Messi. He hasn’t always sparkled on the world stage, even stumbling on occasion, but he has shouldered the weight of a nation that expects nothing short of victory in each fixture.


Hitting Five Versus Bayer Leverkusen (2012)?


?This performance speaks for itself. Five glorious goals, each beautiful in its own way – how can anyone doubt this man’s position as the finest player to ever lace a pair of football boots?


Becoming ?Barça’s All-Time Leading Goalscorer (2012)

Xavi Hernandez

Granada were the unfortunate side against whom Messi set a new record for goals in a Barcelona jersey. The match ended 5-2 in the Catalans’ favour, with the Argentine unsurprisingly grabbing three goals.

It was his second of the night that broke the previous record held by Cesar Rodriguez, which stood at 232 in all competitions. Here’s a little context – Messi is now on 603…


Fourth Consecutive Ballon d’Or (2012)?

Lionel Messi

So, his first Ballon d’Or victory was a seminal moment in the young career of Lionel Messi. What does that make his fourth consecutive selection as the world’s greatest footballer?


91 Goals in a Calendar Year (2012)??

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?Messi didn’t merely win the Ballon d’Or in 2012, he romped to victory after amassing a mind-boggling 91 goals that calendar year. That comfortably beat the previous highest total of 85, set by Gerd Muller during his time with ?Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.

There’s no point talking up the Blaugrana legend’s achievement, those numbers are the work of a footballing genius and we all know it.


Setting a New El Clasico Scoring Record (2014)

Messi really knows how to celebrate in style. It was once again a treble that brought up this milestone, the Argentina skipper overtaking Alfredo Di Stefano as the top-scorer in El Clasico encounters.

Although two of his efforts were from the spot, this was another incredible display from the magician as he proved the difference in the 4-3 triumph.


Courage After the Death of Tito Vilanova (2014)?

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Former Blaugrana coach Tito Vilanova lost his battle with cancer in the spring of 2014 and, in the game immediately following his untimely passing, it was Messi who paid a fitting tribute.

Barça trailed Villarreal 2-0 with a quarter of the contest left to play, eventually levelling thanks to a couple of own goals. Then Messi popped up with the winner as time slipped away, sparking emotional celebrations just two days after their former manager’s death.


Receiving the World Cup Golden Ball ?(2014)

Lionel Messi

Shrouded by Argentina’a extra-time defeat at the hands of Germany in the World Cup final, Messi collecting the tournament Golden Ball accolade for the best player has often been forgotten.

Yet, it remains a magnificent achievement. It is hotly-contested whether he deserved the award – mainly due to his underwhelming performance against Die Mannschaft – but that is inconsequential. The honour is his, even if the World Cup trophy is not.


Making Jerome Boateng a Laughing Stock (2015)?

A world-class player stands head and shoulders above those around him. That can certainly be said of Messi, who left Bayern’s Jerome Boateng flailing in a Champions League semi final clash.

The German was simply unable to keep up with his opponent’s masterful dribbling, collapsing on his backside as Messi drifted by and chipped over Manuel Neuer to seal victory.


Four Champions League Triumphs in a Decade (2015)?

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Another record that speaks for itself, Barcelona’s decade-long domination of European football came concluded in Berlin, where they dismissed ?Juventus 3-1 to lift their fourth Champions League trophy since 2006.

Could they have done that without Messi? 


A Stunner in the Copa del Rey Final (2015)

Spellbinding. Words don’t do justice to this extraordinary goal in the Copa del Rey final, which La Blaugrana won 3-1 against Athletic Bilbao. You can probably guess who was named man of the match.


Wrecking Eibar (2017)

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In similar fashion to his goal against Bilbao, Messi navigated a route through a crowd of defenders to set up a one-on-one with Eibar’s Yoel.

The keeper had no chance, acting as a mere bystander whilst the GOAT slotted in a deadly shot at the near-post.


A Memorable Night at the Bernabeu (2017)

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The 90-minutes were up at the Bernabeu and it was still 2-2 in El Clasico. The hosts were reduced to ten men following Sergio Ramos’ dismissal, but they’re holding firm.

Then, Messi happened. The world-beater emerged out of nowhere to fizz an effort into the back of the net. Madrid can’t believe it and neither can Barcelona, but Messi doesn’t care. He’s off to tell the Real crowd who’s boss.


Taking Over the Barcelona Captaincy (2018)?

Leading out Barcelona is arguably a greater honour than captaining one’s country. Fortunately, for him Messi has done both, completing his destiny at the Camp Nou by replacing fellow stalwart Andres Iniesta as the Blaugrana skipper.


Sublime Solo Performance at Wembley (2018)?

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People used to say that Messi can’t produce against Premier League clubs. People have stopped saying that now.

If there was any lingering doubt, it was swept away by his immense performance against ?Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley last autumn, the Argentine somehow managing to orchestrate from deep and lead from the front as his team won 4-2.


That Free-Kick Versus Liverpool (2019)


?Liverpool may have ultimately toppled the La Liga champions with a stirring fightback at Anfield, but they were left in Messi’s wake as he brought up his tally to 600 goals in red and blue in the first leg.

Of course, that total couldn’t be reached with an ordinary goal, it had to be spectacular. 30-yards out and standing over a free-kick, no one was quite sure what he would do.

In one fell swoop, he sent a wondrous, curling attempt hurtling towards Alisson’s top right-hand corner, the Brazilian getting nowhere near as the world watched on in amazement.


Inflicting the Worst Week in Real’s History (2019)

FBL-LIGA-ESP-REAL MADRID-BARCELONA

27 February 2019: La Blaugrana dump Los Blancos out of the Copa del Rey, comfortably going through 4-1 on aggregate.

2 March 2019: Barcelona all but end their bitter rivals’ hopes of winning La Liga with a 1-0 victory in Madrid.

5 March 2019: Real are humiliated in their own back garden by a thrilling Ajax outfit, who tear them to shreds in a 4-1 triumph.

This seven-day nightmare was described by many as the worst week in Real Madrid’s history, a narrative that will bring plenty of joy to Catalonia after the hand Barça played in their downfall.


Overtaking Madrid’s Trophy Haul (Ongoing)?

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When Messi made his debut for Barcelona, they trailed Madrid by a total of 61 major trophies to 72. That now stands at 96 and 92 in favour of the men from the north-east. I guess that’s just the Messi factor.


Loyalty to Barcelona (Ongoing)


For all the goals and tricks that Messi has provided over the years, nothing is quite as impressive as his loyalty to the club that raised him.

It has been a lovely 18-year association for both player and club. Barcelona are privileged to have him, but he has also been privileged to have them.

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Barcelona Consider Re-Signing Dani Alves After Brazilian Offers Services Up to Former Side

Barcelona are contemplating bringing Dani Alves back to the Nou Camp following the Brazilian’s departure from Paris Saint-Germain. 

Alves, who is currently in action with the Selecao at this summer’s Copa America in Brazil, and was one of five goalscorers in their most recent group stage clash against Peru, won 23 trophies with La Blaugrana during his eight-year stint at the club.

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He left the Nou Camp on a free in 2016 for ?Juventus, where he spent a year before moving to PSG, whom he has now subsequently left after two seasons.

And, according to reports emanating from journalist Gerard Romero on Spanish radio station RAC 1, as subsequently relayed by Sport, the 36-year-old has since got in contact with the Catalan club, in the hopes of securing a return to the Nou Camp.

Ernesto Valverde and co. are now understood to be considering the move, with nothing ruled out as of yet, though separate reports from Marca have sought to dismiss the notion that Barca will sign the full back. 

In any case, the player’s interest in such a return is clear, as his persisting love for the club showed during an interview with Globo TV last year. As quoted by Marca, responding to questions about the great club, Alves declared: “Barcelona is my home. It’s impossible to say that I wouldn’t return. I would come back tomorrow if Barcelona were to call me.


“They wanted me to have a farewell and I told them no, because I consider that place my eternal home and when a place is considered your home you don’t have to say goodbye.

“What’s the point in a farewell if you’re going to come back?”

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UEFA European Under-21 Championship Roundup: Spain Qualify as Italy Are Left to Await Their Fate

Italy’s excellent win over Belgium may not have been enough to help them qualify for the knockout round, as the Azzurrini now must await the results of Romania, France, Austria and Denmark to find out their chances of making it through to the next round. 

Meanwhile, Spain qualified for the knockout round in emphatic fashion after they defeated Poland 5-0. It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Poland, who had won both of their group stage games prior to facing Spain. 

Spain will now face one of Germany, Denmark, Austria, France or Romania on 27 June, While Italy will have to rely on the fixtures going their way if they are to keep their tournament hopes alive. 


Belgium 1-3 Italy

The Azzurrini should have been ahead after just seven minutes but a poor ??Nicolò Barella header, who missed just yards from goal, meant the game stayed 0-0 for much of the first half. 

Italy dominated throughout and easily had the most shots on goal. They took a much-deserved lead just before half-time courtesy of a Barella strike, making up for his mistake earlier in the half. 


Italy started the second half strongly and went 2-0 up after 53 minutes, when Giuseppe Pezzella’s cross met the head of ?Milan striker Patrick Cutrone, who squared the ball into the far corner. 

The Azzurrini continued to dominate with Manuel Locatelli and Rolando Mandragora coming close before Belgium’s Yari Verschaeren scored a spectacular goal from outside the box just 12 minutes from time, giving the Red Devils a fighting chance.

Italy capped off their impressive performance with a strike from Federico Chiesa in the 89th minute, but not before a VAR check which judged the goal to be onside. 

It was a night to forget for the Belgians and this was compounded with an Isaac Mbenza red card in the 90th minute. The ?Huddersfield forward was given his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card just 19 minutes after coming on as a substitute.


Spain 5-0 Poland

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Luis de la Fuente’s side had a flurry of chances during the first 15 minutes. Dinamo Zagreb winger Dani Olmo came close after 11 minutes, his rocket prompting a great save from Poland goalkeeper Kamil Grabara. 

It was up to midfielder Pablo Fornals to break the deadlock. A pass from Aarón Martín prompted the new ?West Ham midfielder to stretch his right leg to put the ball in the back of the net after 17 minutes. 


Spain continued to control the game. ?Napoli midfielder ?Fabián Ruiz came close after 34 minutes, hitting the woodwork before Mikel Oyarzabal put La Rojita up 2-0 just seconds later. 

Ruiz got a well-earned goal just four minutes later, thumping the ball home to give Spain a 3-0 lead going into the break. 

Not complacent with the three-goal lead, Spain kept Poland goalkeeper Grabara busy throughout the second half, prompting more impressive saves. Oyarzabal suffered an injury after 54 minutes and had to be stretchered off. 

Dani Ceballos extended Spain’s lead after 70 minutes after his free-kick found the top corner, putting the game well and truly to bed. Borja Mayoral added to Poland’s misery just one minute from time, his strike easily beating a visibly defeated Grabara. 


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Real Madrid Director Reveals Why ‘Unaffordable’ Lionel Messi Has Never Been a Transfer Target

?Real Madrid board member Jeronimo Farre has bizarrely been asked about potential interest in Lionel Messi over the years, explaining that an approach for Barcelona’s talisman has never been ‘feasible or affordable.’ 

The Argentine’s fierce loyalty to the only club he has ever played for, coupled with his status as the best player in the world, mean that he has scarcely ever been realistically linked with a move anywhere – much less to their bitter rivals Real. 

Lionel Messi

There have been instances of players crossing the picket line before, with Luis Figo, Bernd Schuster and Michael Laudrup among others who have historically swapped Camp Nou for the Bernabeu. The modern footballing climate and the duopoly the two clubs have created over Spanish football, however, means that ?Messi following suit is unthinkable to anyone with a brain. 

Regardless, reporters in Spain saw fit to ask the question anyway for some reason, as El Mundo (via The Mirror) quote the following response from Farre. 

“If Messi hasn’t played in Madrid it’s because we’ve not been able to make it happen, because he hasn’t been feasible or affordable.

“The other mega star was ?Cristiano Ronaldo, and Madrid enjoy his talent for nine seasons.”

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?Real are famed for their ‘price is no question’ approach to the transfer market, but it is far from surprising to hear that Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner who has netted 603 goals (and counting) for their famous rivals – has been a couple of steps too far even for Los Galacticos. 

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Barcelona ‘Believe’ They Can Complete Neymar Deal Despite Exorbitant Asking Price & Salary Demands

?Barcelona ‘believe’ they can secure Neymar’s return to the club this summer, despite the various financial challenges that mean the move is bordering on becoming nonviable.

The Brazilian left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198m fee two years ago, in a bid to break out of the shadow of Lionel Messi, but a combination of injury and disciplinary issues mean that, even with 51 goals in 58 games for the Ligue 1 champions, he has flattered to deceive. 

He is believed to be unhappy in France for a ?multitude of reasons, and has done everything in his power to force through a move back ‘home’ to ?Barcelona. It’s a move the Blaugrana are keen on, but according to ?Marca, there are several factors to consider that complicate the potential deal. 


The first issue is, of course, the transfer fee, with PSG asking for €250m to complete the deal. Barcelona feel as if his market value has only fallen since his move to Paris, due to his performances, off-field issues and injury record, and note that PSG made the player available for sale without their hand being forced. 

All that means Barcelona would not pay more than €200m to sign him for a second time. They would also require that he takes a pay cut from the €36m per season he earns at present, with financial issues and a current exorbitant wage bill meaning Barcelona can’t afford that sort of salary. 


Furthermore, it is believed that the only viable option for Barca to get the move done is to either first offload players to raise funds, or to include players in the deal in order to bring the price down – with ?Philippe Coutinho the obvious option for the latter.

Despite all of this, however, the report notes that Barcelona ‘believe’ they can move some pieces around to force a deal. They think his desire to return to the club and once again work with ?Lionel Messi and ?Luis Suarez could aid their prospects, regardless of how difficult negotiations may prove to be. 

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Summer Signings: Predicting Where 30 of the Most Talked About Players Will End Up for 2019/20

?You hear a rumour from one source that he’s on his way to Spain, whilst a voice from over there mentions that his next destination is China. How do you keep up with all this transfer gossip?!

The summer is filled with stories. Some of them are true and some are pure fantasy, but it’s never easy to tell the difference. Well, that’s what we are here for! 

Here we take a look at 30 players who are each wrapped up in their own transfer saga and give our take on where they may end up.


Bruno Fernandes

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First, it was ?Manchester City who were hot on the trail of Fernandes. However, their interest soon cooled and neighbours ?United appeared to be best placed to land the Portuguese playmaker, who hit a combined 50 goals and assists last term.

Nope, that avenue seems closed, too, though ?Tottenham Hotspur have recently held talks with the 24-year-old. Spurs would no doubt have the funds and motivation to bring Fernandes in should Christian Eriksen depart over the off-season, a prospect which grows ever more likely with each passing day.

Probable Destination: Tottenham Hotspur


Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

No, Paul Pogba will not become a galactico anytime soon. ?Real Madrid have done most of their spending already and would be foolish to splash out even more on the volatile midfielder.

?Juventus have become favourites for the Frenchman’s signature and may use winger Douglas Costa to sweeten the deal with the Red Devils. What’s more, Pogba obviously wants out of Old Trafford and would be welcomed back to his old stomping ground in Turin. It would be a shock if this didn’t happen.

Probable Destination: Juventus


Kalidou Koulibaly

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Every man and his dog has been linked with a move for the colossal ?Napoli centre-back, making it anybody’s guess where he could move to. 

One thing that all this speculation suggests is that this story has been blown out of proportion and is primarily media-driven. Would it really be a surprise if no one coughs up the £100m+ for Koulibaly?

Probable Destination: Napoli


Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire

Manchester City were reportedly in for Koulibaly because they need a new central defender after Vincent Kompany’s departure. For the same reason, they are believed to be tracking Maguire.

Well, it’s apparently less like they’re tracking him and more like they’ve caught their prey; the Citizens have allegedly organised a medical for ‘Slabhead’ and will put the finishing touches on his £65m switch in the coming days.

Probable Destination: Manchester City


Paulo Dybala

Cristiano Ronaldo is in at Juve and Dybala is (on his way) out. That’s been the narrative since CR7 landed in northern Italy 12 months ago, with Bianconeri fans swiftly forgetting about their darling Argentine.

Feeling marginalised and unloved, Dybala will likely leave the Allianz Stadium this summer. But, where will he go? As a whole host of clubs are lining up to take him off of Juventus’ hands, it’s not obvious where he may end up. 

United are long-term admirers, but seem to be focusing their recruitment on young, hungry players. ?Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, are set to lose their star striker in Antoine Griezmann and would therefore be looking for a new world-class forward to spearhead their attack.

Probable Destination: Atletico Madrid


Leroy Sane

Leroy Sane,Andros Townsend

This is going to be incredibly blunt: Sane is staying at Manchester City. They don’t need to sell, they don’t want to sell and would only do so for an idiotic price that no one would stump up.

Probable Destination: Manchester City


Kylian Mbappe

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It’s difficult to see the starlet departing the Parc des Princes for at least another season, for most of the same reasons Sane won’t be going anywhere.

Additionally, Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar could be on his bike soon, leaving Mbappe as the main man in the French capital, an outcome that will no doubt tempt him to stick around.

Probable Destination: PSG


Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho

Here is another transfer that you won’t be seeing unfold for a while. Sancho is tearing it up in the ?Bundesliga, is adored by (arguably) the best set of fans in the world and continues to develop his game with ?Borussia Dortmund. 

On top of that, it’s also doubtful whether money could turn this young man’s head; I mean, he left Manchester City of all teams. There is no need for Sancho to go anywhere.

Probable Destination: Dortmund


Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann

This summer’s most talked about transfers? More like this century’s. Still, the Homeric tale of Griezmann’s Atletico exit is nearing its conclusion and I can safely say, no matter what else you hear, the World Cup winner will be turning out for ?Barcelona in 2019/20. 

This is a move that has been in the works for longer than we realise and nothing will derail it now. Surely.

Probable Destination: Barcelona


Adrien Rabiot

?Arsenal have been sniffing around Rabiot, along with ?Liverpool, United and several elite clubs on the continent. Amongst the latter are Juventus, who seem to have won the race for the out-of-contract midfielder.

The Italians’ sporting director ?recently confirmed their interest in Rabiot and their record of landing free agents suggests they have the upper hand in this one, too.

Probable Destination: Juventus


Joao Felix

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If City keep Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, they will surely not feel the need to pay the requisite triple-figure sum for Felix.

That would see Atleti as the only serious contender for the Benfica wonderkid left in the running and the lucrative sales of Griezmann and Rodri (to the Citizens) will mean money is no obstacle.

Probable Destination: Atletico Madrid


James Maddison

James Maddison

Maddison will be in the ?Premier League next term, that I can safely say. Whether he will be with ?Leicester City is a completely different matter.

Apparently all the big boys are in for him – apart from the embargoed ?Chelsea – but, they may all be left empty-handed. Just take a moment to recall how stubborn the Foxes are when it comes to negotiating, assuming they want him, they will keep him at least one more season.

Probable Destination: Leicester


Andre Gomes

Andre Gomes,Virgil van Dijk

Tottenham, ?West Ham United and ?Everton have all taken their turns being linked with Gomes, though one clearly has the advantage. The Toffees’ recent history demonstrates that they have deep pockets and the familiarity they have with Gomes – who spent lat year on loan at Goodison Park – should see them ?wrap up this signing for £22m.

Probable Destination: Everton


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

So, Aubameyang liked an? Instagram post describing Unai Emery as a ‘puppet’ earlier in the week and has allegedly been offered an ungodly £300,000-a-week wage by an unnamed Chinese Super League team, which apparently means he’s good as gone. 

It all sounds like bulls**t to me, two wholly separate events that have been erroneously joined together by the media. Anyway, why would Arsenal sanction the sale of their top performer when they really need to get back into the ?Champions League this time around?

Probable Destination: Arsenal


Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale,Gergo Lovrencsics

If you’ve listened to anything that Bale himself, or his agent, has had to say regarding his future at the Bernabeu, you should really have worked out that this transfer is not happening. The Welsh wizard is quite content raking in £300,000-a-week as a bench warmer and there’s nothing Real can do about it.

Probable Destination: Real Madrid


James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez

A couple of weeks back, it looked like Rodriguez would be joining Bale on some Spanish golf course, but he has since been thrown a lifeline by Napoli.

Carlo Ancelotti wants to ?take the Colombian on loan and an announcement is imminent. Get ready to see Rodriguez lining up under the man who brought him to Madrid in the first place.

Probable Destination: Napoli


Matthijs de Ligt

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Hmmm… this is like predicting which Paul Pogba is going to turn up each week. Now, I’m gonna stick my neck out and say de Ligt won’t be at Ajax next term.

The presence of compatriot Frenkie de Jong in Catalonia and the majesty of the club means Barça seemed to have given Ernesto Valverde’s side an edge over their rivals until reports arrived on Saturday saying ?a £62m Juventus move was as good as done.

Probable Destination: Juventus


Christian Eriksen

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Los Blancos want Eriksen, but Daniel Levy is a notoriously difficult man to negotiate with. The chief-executive will no doubt ask for an astronomical sum, the likes of which Real would be well-advised to ignore having spent north of £300m already this summer.

Would Tottenham really risk losing their talisman for free in 12 months time, or are they that confident of tying him down to a new deal? It’s doubtful, meaning they may have to offer the Dane to PSG, who have been keeping an eye on the playmaker for a considerable length of time.

Probable Destination: Tottenham


Declan Rice

Declan Rice

Another simple one here. Rice is far from the finished article and knows that he has an astute coach at West Ham who will handle his young career delicately, aiding his growth. Moreover, the Irons will want to kick on from 2018/19 and push for European qualification, something that realistically requires their midfield general in the squad.

Probable Destination: West Ham


Philippe Coutinho

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As discussed earlier, Manchester United are avoiding splashing out on household names, making Old Trafford an unlikely stop for Coutinho. ?Liverpool have no need to lure him back to Anfield and Chelsea have no means of doing so.

PSG, however, is a good fit for the Brazilian and they will definitely be able to match whatever wage demands he has, as well as guaranteeing Champions League football for as long as their Qatari owners keep pumping in money.

Probable Destination: Paris Saint-Germain


Tanguy Ndombele

Tanguy Ndombele,Memphis Depay

Following his immaculate displays versus Manchester City last autumn, Ndombele has become one of the most sought-after youngsters in Europe.

But, it’s not City who stand to land the midfield enforcer, with ?Tottenham benefiting from his desire to move to London. Expect his arrival for €60m to be announced shortly, especially if Eriksen moves on.

Probable Destination: Tottenham Hotspur


Hakim Ziyech

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Though Ziyech has interested many a Premier League side, as well as German giants ?Bayern Munich, he may well elect to stay in Amsterdam. He has already stated that he would be open to remaining with Ajax and could remain to help mitigate the impact of de Ligt and de Jong’s departures, along with anyone else who may join the exodus. 

If that is the case, it goes some way to explaining why he has not sealed a transfer away when one has been on the cards for months.

Probable Destination: Ajax


Neymar

Neymar

If Coutinho is to switch to Paris, it may entail Neymar going in the other direction. Barcelona are reportedly set to offer the former in exchange for his Brazilian counterpart, who wants out of PSG. 

Do we see this one coming to fruition? Well, (did I mention this?) Real Madrid can’t really afford him after their exploits and it certainly seems more likely than Neymar’s stunning £200m switch to the Ligue 1 side two years ago, so why not?

Probable Destination: Barcelona


Danny Welbeck

Danny Welbeck,Gediminas Mazeika

It didn’t work out at United and it didn’t work out at the Emirates; where does Welbeck turn to next? He’s an England international, meaning pride may get in the way of a deal with a ‘lesser’ English team.

Online news outlet ?football.london write that Turkish side Galatasaray, which wouldn’t be as outlandish a choice as it may initially appear. He’s out of the spotlight (which many footballers detest), he will surely add medals to his collection and the Istanbul team tend to offer fine pay-packets to their star names.

Probable Destination: Galatasaray


Sergio Ramos

Pilar Rubio,Sergio Ramos

Ramos playing in China is a lovely idea and all, but let’s face it: Madrid aren’t gonna let it happen.

Probable Destination: Real Madrid


David De Gea

David De Gea


It would be silly if a suitor offered what United want for De Gea, as the Spaniard will be available on a Bosman this time next year. On top of that, the ‘keeper is believed to be keen on seeing out his current contract because, well… um… he gets paid a f**kload of moolah!

Probable Destination: Manchester United


Ander Herrera

Ander Herrera

PSG. He’s going to PSG on a free. Remember kids, you heard it here last.

Definite Destination: Paris Saint-Germain


Giovani Lo Celso

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Ok, a few papers are suggesting that Lo Celso to Tottenham is a sure thing. That means bugger all in modern football, especially with the Red Devils lurking.

The midfield maestro is hardly an unknown, but he is youthful and lacks the prima donna attitude that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is attempting to rid the club of. So, Lo Celso to United? 

I wouldn’t bet on it, nor would I bet on him linking up with Spurs. His career would be better off if he stayed with a developing Betis outfit, where he is the star of the show.

Probable Destination: Real Betis


Nicolas Otamendi

Nicolas Otamendi

The Argentine centre-back could really be plying histrade anywhere come August, even at the Etihad should a deal for de Ligt or any other targets fall through.

I tell you where he would be most welcome, though: Atletico Madrid. Los Rojiblancos have recently lost the services of club stalwart Diego Godin, making a new central defender a priority.

With ?La Liga experience and a good few years left in his legs, Otamendi would make a superb signing for Diego Simeone.

Probable Destination: Atletico Madrid


Douglas Costa

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Dybala may be one potential makeweight for Juventus to bring in Pogba, but the more likely scenario is that they use as bait and sell his South American comrade to Atletico.

That ensures they don’t lose out on profit for Dybala (as they may when trying to meet the Red Devils’ valuation of Pogba), whilst also securing the Frenchman’s signature. It’s a win-win-win.

Probable Destination: Manchester United

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Matthijs de Ligt Set to Join Juventus From Ajax With Official Decision Expected Within Days

?Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has chosen to join Juventus this summer, snubbing interest from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 19-year-old has been at the centre of attention throughout the weeks and months leading up to the transfer window, with de Ligt most recently confirming that he wouldn’t make a decision until after the UEFA Nations League tournament in Portugal.

Ross Barkley,Matthijs de Ligt

And while fans are still waiting for an official word about his next move, Sky in Italy are reporting that de Ligt will join Serie A champions Juventus ahead of the new season.

It’s added that the only thing holding up an announcement at this stage is an agreement over personal terms in Turin, but Juventus and Ajax have settled on a £62m transfer fee.

De Ligt is believed to have rejected the chance to follow teammate Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona this summer, while a move to join Paris Saint-Germain never materialised.

Catalan journalist Oriol Domènech has added even more fuel to the fire on social media by claiming that an announcement about de Ligt’s decision could be made by Tuesday 25 June.

With de Ligt set to become new manager Maurizio Sarri’s first signing at Juventus, the Netherlands international will join Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey as the club’s only signings so far this summer.


He’ll also become Ajax’s fourth sale of the summer, following de Jong, Maximilian Wöber and Daley Sinkgraven out of the exit door in Amsterdam.

Other first-team players for Ajax like Hakim Ziyech and David Neres are also expected to be moved on at some point during the summer transfer window.

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Why Philippe Coutinho Really, Really Isn’t Returning to Liverpool This Summer

?If ever a reason was needed as to why any elongated length of time without mainstream football is a really bad thing, don’t look any further than being told that Philippe Coutinho is seriously being considered for a return to Liverpool.

It’s a whisper that’s stayed ever since the Brazilian joined Barcelona in all honesty, that’s how the rumour mill works after all, but over the last few days, there’s been a renaissance which has peddled the story (if we can even call it that) in record numbers.

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So just in case you’re brave enough to come along for the ride with us on this one, here’s a rundown of what we know about where the rumour came from, why it picked up so much traction, and most importantly of all, why it’s utter, utter rubbish.


THE BACKGROUND

Coutinho isn’t very happy in Barcelona. That much is true. He even said himself that he might not be at the Camp Nou by the start of next season.

Now, the logical next step is to look at who’s been linked with him over the last few months, and at the very least we can rule out some teams.

Linked with Manchester United? Well, he used to play for Liverpool and has already pretty much ended any chance of that happening. Next.

Linked with Chelsea? This is less about it not happening, and more about it being physically impossible for the Blues to register new players until the summer of 2020.

Linked with Paris Saint-Germain? The whole reason he joined Barça was to fill Neymar’s boots, so, maybe. It’s also pretty difficult to turn down the chance to play for one European football’s biggest and most prestigious clu…oh who are we kidding, it’s the wages.

So, that’s why the narrative throughout the summer so far has gone hand in hand with Barcelona’s apparent attempts to re-sign Neymar.

Neymar da Silva

Or at least it was until Le 10 Sport’s little nugget was published on the World Wide Web on Thursday, claiming that they had learnt Coutinho’s former club Liverpool were actually wanting to re-sign him this summer.

No explanation. No more information. Just a seven-word sentence: “Tout comme son ancien club de Liverpool!

Roughly translated into English, that says: “Anything we say about Liverpool will catch on like wildfire so here’s the most illogical rumour we can think of!”

Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt with their tip, this is a rumour that is screaming for the writer or editor to use just a tiny fraction of their common sense to not put something like this out there in the social media ecosystem.


THE REAL STORY

It’s been made very clear this summer what Liverpool want to do in the transfer market and how much they want to spend – or rather how much they want not to spend – on targets ahead of the new season.

An upgrade on Simon Mignolet? Sure, that’d be grand.

Maybe an understudy for Andy Robertson? Sounds good.

Doubling your record transfer to fill a position which already has ample cover and to bring back a player who was chomping at the bit leave just one year ago? Hmmm, maybe not.

The short story, Liverpool don’t need Coutinho. They don’t. They don’t want him either. Not at that price at least.

Throughout the latter stages of the season, we were told over and over again by the club, by Jürgen Klopp, and by every Liverpool insider worth their salt that there weren’t going to be any major changes this summer.

And not a single iota has changed since.

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What’s most likely to happen with Coutinho next? Well, he’s only really got two options on the table as things stand.

1) Stick it out at Barcelona.

2) Switch places with Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.

And that’s what Coutinho’s summer transfer window will almost certainly look like, nothing much more than a glorified game of stick or twist, where he’ll probably be seen as a loser in either outcome.


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Transfer Rumours: Alonso to Stay at Chelsea, Romagnoli to Barcelona, Wilson to West Ham & More

Club football is gone for the summer, and the focus is now solely on the transfer window.

The basic recipe for a transfer story is to take literally any player in the world and link them to either Real Madrid or Manchester United, but (believe it or not) other teams occasionally involve themselves in the transfer market too.

Here are nine stories for you to keep an eye on.


Forgotten Newcastle Winger Rolando Aarons Tipped to Make Greece Move

Rolando Aarons

Cast your mind back to 2014. A young Rolando Aarons looked destined for the top after shining for ?Newcastle United in pre-season and the early weeks of the 2014/15 ?Premier League season. Then he went down with a hamstring injury, and it was game over. Yikes.

Now 23, Aarons has not been seen at St James’ Park since 2017, and his days at the club look to be numbered. ?SDNA claim that Greek sides Panathinaikos and AEK are both ready to offer him a lifeline (if you can even call it that), but the move could collapse as a result of Newcastle’s ludicrous demands.

The Magpies want 50% of his wages to be paid if he heads out on loan, with a mandatory purchase clause of around £6m. Yes, £6m for a player who hasn’t turned out for the club in around 18 months, and barely managed to impress on loan in the Czech Republic last season. This may be a business, but that’s a step too far.


Spurs Identify Alternative to Ryan Sessegnon as Inter Join Race for Fulham Star

Aboubakar Kamara

?Tottenham Hotspur look to have finally remembered that you are actually allowed to sign players, but reports suggest they could be in for a frustrating summer.

The first player on their radar is ?Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon but, according to ?Tuttosport, ?Inter are desperate to lure the 19-year-old away from England, so Spurs have been forced to look elsewhere.

?Fotomac add that Spurs are pushing to sign Fenerbahce wonderkid Eljif Elmas, and have already lodged a bid of €19m plus forgotten forward ?Vincent Janssen. Surely Spurs can’t go another window without a transfer?


Martin Odegaard Spotted Heading to Germany Ahead of Move Away From Real Madrid

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Poor Martin Odegaard. He really was a victim of the hysteria when he joined ?Real Madrid as a 15-year-old, and things have not worked out at all. Many fans have labelled him as a flop, and his tumultuous time in Madrid looks to be coming to an end, with a move to Bayer Leverkusen thought to be on the cards.

Norwegian outlet ?TV2 fuelled talk of such a move as they claimed to see Odegaard and his representatives board a flight to Dusseldorf, suggesting he could make the short drive to Bayer’s headquarters to negotiate a move.

Whether it will be a permanent switch or just a loan remains to be seen, but it seems like all signs point to the ?Bundesliga for Odegaard.


Juventus to Land Sassuolo Star Merih Demiral in €15m Deal 

Six months ago, Merih Demiral was an unknown centre-back playing in Turkey. Now, he is set to become a vital part of ?Juventus’ squad, after impressing in a brief spell with Sassuolo. Talk about an astronomical rise.

?Football Italia state that Demiral underwent a medical with the ?Serie A giants on Wednesday, after they agreed a €15m fee to sign the highly rated 21-year-old.

The report adds that Demiral turned down offers from plenty of European giants, and he is set to be rewarded with a regular place in Juventus’ team.


West Ham Look to Callum Wilson After Maxi Gomez Deal Collapses

Callum Wilson

You’ve got to respect ?West Ham United’s determination. They have been chasing strikers for what feels like an eternity but, despite setback after setback, they show no signs of giving up.

Celta Vigo star Maxi Gomez, who has been pursued by the Hammers for months, has been tipped to move to Valencia instead, ?which has forced West Ham to look elsewhere. The next man in their sights is ?Bournemouth hitman Callum Wilson who, according to ?The Sun, is now Manuel Pellegrini’s top priority this summer.

West Ham are ready to offer up to £35m for Wilson, who was one of the Premier League’s top scorers last season. Bournemouth won’t want to lose him, but money talks.


PSG Ready €30m Bid for Sandro Tonali as They Look to Replicate Marco Verratti Success

Sandro Tonali

Ah, Sandro Tonali. Otherwise known as ‘The Best Player You’ve Never Seen Play’, the 19-year-old is surely nearing his first taste of top-flight action, and it may be Paris Saint-Germain who can offer him that this summer.

?L’Equipe state that sporting director Leonardo is infatuated by Tonali,? having spent plenty of time monitoring the midfielder whilst working for ?AC Milan. PSG are thought to be lining up a €30m bid, and history shows that they would not be scared to use him.

Back in 2012, they fought off competition from across Europe for a young Pescara midfielder by the name of Marco Verratti, who has since gone on to win 21 trophies in Paris. If Tonali can manage half of that, PSG will have struck gold.


Atletico Unwilling to Meet Chelsea’s Demands Over Marcos Alonso

Chelsea Training Session

?First ?Chelsea reject ?Atletico Madrid’s bid for ?Willian, and now it looks like they have scared off Los Rojiblancos once more. Look away, Chelsea fans.

According to ?COPE, Chelsea demanded €40m for ?Marcos Alonso, prompting Atletico to instantly end negotiations. The left-back is thought to be keen on the move, but not enough to actually force an exit from Stamford Bridge.

With this deal seemingly dead in the water, Blues fans have plenty of time to prepare themselves for the Alonso-Willian partnership on the left wing next season. Don’t let rival fans see you crying.


AC Milan Reject €40m Barcelona Bid for Alessio Romagnoli

Alessio Romagnoli

Some transfer sagas go on for far too long (just look at Matthijs de Ligt – make up your mind already). However, ?Barcelona’s pursuit of AC Milan star Alessio Romagnoli doesn’t look to be heading in that direction.

According to Tuttosport (via ?Calciomercato), the Blaugrana came in with a €40m bid, but Milan simply told them to stop wasting their time. The message was simple: Romagnoli is not for sale.

Romagnoli doesn’t want to leave either, so there doesn’t look to be much chance of this one going through. Case closed.

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