manager Frank Lampard has said that Lionel Messi is the most incredible player
he had faced during his playing career. The 41-year-old suffered an
embarrassing 4-0 league defeat to Manchester United during his managerial debut
with the Blues last weekend but he is hoping to redeem himself in the
forthcoming European Super Cup clash with Liverpool.
ahead of that game, Lampard was asked about the best player he had faced during
his playing career and he happened to mention three players including Messi,
who is reckoned as the best of the rest, he said: “Can I give you two answers?
It’ll actually be three. The first one is Messi because he was the most
incredible player – it was like you were playing against someone who’s not on
the same level as all of us. The two players I always remember having the
hardest time against were Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta at Barcelona. They just
played football around you, and you didn’t get near them. It was football that
wasn’t normal to me; it was different from anything else I came up against.” Continue reading
Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has said
that the Blaugrana would find it very difficult to reacquire the services of
Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain. The Brazil international made the switch to
the French champions from the Camp Nou two years ago but reports have indicated
that he would prefer to make a comeback ahead of next season.
Speaking to Movistar, Xavi said that Neymar
remains one of the best players in the world and it would be an incredible
signing for the Spanish champions. However, he added that the deal won’t come
easy with Les Parisiens likely to demand in upwards of £200m for the former
Santos graduate, he told: “He would be an incredible signing. But I see it as
being difficult, honestly. I think it’s very difficult. We have seen so many
things that I thought I’d never see though, such as PSG paying €222million, so
we’ll have to wait. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the best players in the
world, but let’s see what Barcelona do.”
Barcelona are currently not in a position
to sanction a world-record fee for the attacker, considering they are set to
pursue Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid for around £108m. As such,
reports have suggested that they may discuss an exchange deal whereby there is
no money involved for the transfer agreement.
The Blaugrana have made no mention regarding the same but reports suggest that Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic and Ousmane Dembele could be offered as makeweights to land the services of the Brazilian attacker. Barcelona have been a dominant force through La Liga over the years and last season saw them win the title with a comfortable 11-point gap.
They, however,have not been able to replicate the same at the European scale and have not won the Champions League since the 2014/15 season. That period saw the prime of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the playing field and the supporters could witness a reunion of the attacking trident this summer.
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge has
urged Reds boss Jurgen Klopp to opt against the signing of Philippe Coutinho
his summer. The Brazil international forced through a move to the Blaugrana
from Anfield 18 months ago but he has since struggled to make a huge impression
with the Spanish champions.
As such, he has been linked with a
potential return to the Merseyside outfit this summer but Aldridge feels the
move may not be worthy, considering it could blow most of the club’s transfer
budget. He added that the Reds should instead look into a move for Crystal
Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has openly revealed the ambition of playing in the
Champions League, he said: “Coutinho left on a sour note as he forced his way
out of the club and while he is a great player, I don’t think Liverpool should
blow their transfer budget on bringing him back. Wilfried Zaha is the one I
think he [Klopp] should go for.”
At the moment, the Reds have a fixed set of players to make the starting XI and any new signing may have to adjust with a bench role at the beginning. As such, they may find it difficult to lure some of the best players around and the focus may rather lie on bolstering the squad with younger recruits, who can develop into top prospects for the future.
Meanwhile, Coutinho has recently hinted
that he could consider a move away from the Blaugrana after a difficult league
season where he managed to score just five goals. The Brazilian has been associated
with a move to Paris Saint-Germain of late and reports suggest that could be a
possibility, should the Blaugrana seek to re-sign Neymar in a potential swap
agreement. Coutinho has four more years remaining on his current Barcelona
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has said that he expects more from the team after they could only muster a 2-2 draw against Eibar during the final matchday of the season. The Catalan giants field a strong lineup for the game despite wrapping up the title and they could not seal the three points despite Lionel Messi starring with another brace.
Speaking after the game, Valverde said that every game presents with a different challenge and Eibar had the impetus against them, given they had nothing to lose. He added that his team need to be much better for the Copa del Rey final against Valencia next weekend, considering they struggled against Eibar in the second period and could have paid the price.
Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso believes the Reds have the quality to tackle Barcelona at the semi-final stage of the Champions League. The Merseyside giants reached their second Champions League semi-final on the bounce after beating Porto by a convincing 6-1 aggregate scoreline and they are now set to face their toughest challenge yet.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Alonso said that the Reds have the recent experience of reaching the current stage of the competition and this should give them a boost ahead of their challenge against the Spanish champions, he said: “Yes, they can, because they reached the final last year so now they know how it feels to be there. But we will see. It’s going to be a great, great semi-final to watch and [I’m] really looking forward to it.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery has praised the qualities of Samuel Umtiti amid suggestions that the Gunners are interested in the Barcelona defender. The France international has endured a tough season with the Blaugrana where he has struggled to regularly make the starting lineup due to form and injury concerns, and this has invited speculation regarding his future.
Speaking to RMC Sport, Emery was asked about the progress of Umtiti at the Camp Nou, where he highlighted that the Frenchman is a very good player, he said: “He’s a very good player [Samuel Umtiti]. France has a lot of very good footballers who are playing abroad. The French league is a very attractive market for a lot of teams. I’ve always had French players in my teams. At Valencia, Sevilla, PSG and here at Arsenal. I’ve always been able to count on those players.”
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.