Barcelona legend Carles Puyol has said that Gerard Pique remains the best central defender in the world despite the progress of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool this term. Van Dijk has been building a reputation for himself at the Reds by helping them challenge for a maiden Premier League crown, but this has not changed the opinion of Puyol.
Speaking to Mundo Deportivo, Puyol heaped praise on Pique and stated that his compatriot remains the best centre-back in the world, he said: “Gerard Pique, without a doubt. Yes, he’s the best central defender in the world. We’re different. He is key to Barcelona in everything he contributes, in his leadership. He’s a phenomenon and a great friend.”
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed that the Spanish champions are looking at the prospect of signing Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax at the end of the season. The Netherlands international has improved leaps and bounds since graduating through the youth system at the Amsterdam club and he has been tipped for a big-money move during the summer.
Speaking to RKB, Bartomeu acknowledged that De Ligt is one of the players who are being tracked by the club with a view to the summer transfer window after watching him in close quarters in the past few months. He added that the club have yet to register any official approach and there is nothing to say about the transfer proceedings in regards to the teenage centre-back.
Former Barcelona star Hristo Stoitchkov has urged Philippe Coutinho to stay put with Barcelona beyond the ongoing season. The Brazil international is currently in his second year with the Catalan giants after having joined them from Liverpool in a club-record deal during the 2018 winter transfer window.
Despite this, he has not managed to settle with his struggles to claim a regular starting role and this has recently spread speculation that he could favour a Premier League return when the season closes. In a report covered by Mundo Deportivo, Stoitchkov has now written an open letter to Coutinho urging him to make a career with the Catalans rather than pursuing a fresh challenge elsewhere.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has indicated that Philippe Coutinho has been unlucky with the Catalan giants during the current campaign. The Brazil international has barely started a game for the Blaugrana since early December and this has recently raised the speculation regarding his future with the Spanish champions.
Speaking to reporters, Valverde admitted that Coutinho is going through a difficult phase with the Catalan giants and termed the situation as being ‘unlucky’. He added that both Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele remain vital figures to the team while not ruling out the possibility of the duo playing together more often.
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has said that he is comfortable with his position at the Catalan giants and does not seek to leave the club anytime soon. The Argentina international was recently urged by Cristiano Ronaldo to take up a fresh challenge in the Serie A but Messi appears content to prolong his stay with the Spanish champions.
In an interview covered by Marca, Messi said that Real Madrid are a great club but they have been hampered this campaign with Ronaldo’s departure reducing their impact in the forward department, he quipped: “At the beginning of the season I said they are a great club, one of the best in the world and with a lot of great players, but anyone would miss Cristiano. He scores a lot of goals and gives you many other things so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Barcelona’s summer signing Malcom has stressed that he is pleased with his position with the Catalan giants despite taking time to adjust to the manager’s style of play. The Brazilian had managed only 25 minutes of league action until late October but he has appeared to turn the corner of late after scoring an important Champions League goal in the 1-1 draw against Inter Milan.
Speaking to reporters, Malcom highlighted that he has settled well into the new surroundings despite finding first-team football hard to come by under Ernesto Valverde, he said: “I have settled very well, I am learning Spanish. This team is like a family and everyone wants the best for each other, we make many a joke in the changing room. The relationships are getting better. I want to play difficult games to show the coach that I have the quality to be in this team. I spoke to him and he [Valverde] told me what I needed to do to get minutes.”
Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti has heaped praise on the qualities of Lionel Messi ahead of the club’s Champions League encounter against Barcelona in midweek. The Argentina international has been absent for the past three matches with an arm injury but he is expected to make a comeback during the upcoming European meeting at San Siro.
Speaking in a news conference, Spalletti hailed Messi as the world’s best and praised the player’s quick transition of play when in possession of the ball, he said: “Messi’s shirt is the one wanted by every child who dreams of becoming a footballer. He plays that game at another speed. He is the best.”
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was disappointed to see his team only get a 1-1 draw with Valencia during the weekend. The result has extended at the club’s winless run in the league to an incredible four matches. Lionel Messi was able to come up with a crucial equaliser that helped Barcelona pick up at least point. It took only two minutes for Valencia to score in the match but it was Messi who came up with the equaliser in the first half. Even though Barcelona were unable to find a winner in the game, they were able to look at Real Madrid also drop points during the weekend.
Valverde is coming under immense pressure on already and one of the few joys for Barcelona came in the Champions League where they have picked up back-to-back wins. The summer witnessed several changes in the Barcelona setup and they seem to have missed the magic that made them champions last season. The failure to win the recent matches has been characterised by a lack of creativity and Barcelona are now behind Sevilla going into the international break. Valverde lamented Valencia scoring from one of the few mistakes that Barcelona committed in the match and he is confident of the team recovering back to their best in the near future.
Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong has revealed that he would like to play alongside Lionel Messi at Barcelona in the future. The Netherlands international was the subject of two failed bids from the Spanish champions during the summer and reports have suggested that the Blaugrana could make a renewed attempt at the turn of the year.
Speaking to Ajax’s television channel, De Jong hinted that he would like to make the switch to a bigger club in the future whilst highlighting his preference to play alongside Barcelona legend Messi, he said:”If you end up at a superior club, you will play with world class players all over the pitch. But for me, honestly, I would like to play with Messi one day.”
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has branded Lionel Messi as a ‘genius’ after the Argentine starred during the club’s 3-0 win over Alaves in the season opener. Messi had a rather frustrating World Cup with Argentina over the summer but he managed to shed the disappointment with a brace to kick-start the league campaign.
Speaking after the game, Valverde was full of praise for the attacker, who scored Barcelona’s 6000th La Liga goal with a lovely free-kick which was intentionally placed underneath the opposition wall, he said: “Messi is a genius. We’re lucky to be able to see him every day. We’re lucky to be involved in football during the era in which he is playing — we want him to pull a rabbit from the hat every day. There’s still room for Messi to surprise us. He always surprises you — he never ceases to amaze me, honestly. You have to be ready to expect anything from Messi because he sees what no one else sees.”