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Barca need five to beat Juve – Luis Enrique

April 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona will need to hit at least five goals past Juventus to produce another miracle Champions League comeback, but have nothing to lose according to outgoing coach Luis Enrique.

Barcelona news conference - UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal

The Catalans made Champions League history by overcoming a 4-0 first leg deficit to beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the last round, but have another mountain to climb at the Camp Nou on Wednesday as they trail their quarter-final tie 3-0.

“We need to score fewer goals,” said an upbeat Enrique facing what could be his last European game in charge. “But bearing in mind the opponent could have chances and the goal can come at any moment, our objective is to score five.”

Enrique foresaw Barca’s recovery in the last 16, claiming an attack laced with the potential of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar was capable of scoring six against the French champions.

And he called for an expected near 100,000 crowd to play their part as they did against PSG.

“We don’t have anything to lose. We are free from pressure. Juventus have the semi-finals in their pocket and will have to decide whether to sit back or attack,” he added.

“We only have one option which is to attack, attack and attack again.

“I am sure that if we score the first goal, the Camp Nou will score the second and the third will come of its own accord.”

Barca captain Andres Iniesta was more cautious in his optimism, recognising the first leg in Turin had been “a terrible result.”

However, he believes Barca have the potential to at least create some doubt in Juventus minds.

“Nowadays teams respect us a lot. I am convinced they know we can cause them problems,” said Iniesta.

“We have the potential, the players and reason to believe we can turn this tie around or at least get close to it.

“We need to create doubts so at some point they see the tie is in danger.

“Everything depends on playing a perfect game in every sense.”

Barca scored three times in the final two minutes plus stoppage time as PSG froze in a grandstand finish six weeks ago.

And Enrique insisted Barca can’t lose belief even if the goals don’t come early against a Juventus defence that has conceded just two in nine Champions League games this season.

“Don’t leave in the 80th minute,” he said in a message to the fans.

“We are going to try until the end. Those of us who experienced the game against PSG have another chance to experience a historic night.

“We have seen that Barca can score three goals in three minutes so we will stay together until the 95th minute.”

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini won his latest battle with Luis Suarez in the first leg after the Uruguayan famously bit the Italian at the 2014 World Cup.

Chiellini scored his side’s third goal a week ago after Paulo Dybala’s early double and insists Juventus will need all their experience to stand up to Barca’s “sharks”.

“We will have to play without fear because they are like sharks – they smell blood and they finish you off,” he told Sky Sports Italia.

The visitors were handed a big injury boost as Dybala has been passed fit to play despite picking up an ankle injury in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Pescara.

Barca will welcome back Iniesta and Neymar from the side that beat Real Sociedad 3-2 at the weekend with Messi’s double in that match taking him within two of 500 goals for the club.

Zidane out to enjoy ‘Clasico’ coaching debut

April 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane intends to enjoy his first experience of coaching in El Clasico as his side travel to Barcelona on Saturday faced with the daunting task of ending the European champions 39-game unbeaten run.


Barca lead third-placed Madrid by 10 points in La Liga with just eight games remaining, but Zidane believes his side can emerge victorious at the Camp Nou if they continue they same form they showed in winning five consecutive matches before a two-week international break.

“The fans want to see good football and I want to see my team as it has been recently,” said Zidane on Friday.

“Clasicos are the most beautiful thing in football for a player. Now I am going to live it as a coach. It is the first, but I am very happy and will enjoy it.”

The only previous meeting between the sides this season wasn’t enjoyable at all for those of a Madrid persuasion as Barca took the Santiago Bernabeu by storm with a 4-0 thrashing of Rafael Benitez’s Real side.

However, Zidane insisted he hasn’t spoken to his players about that match.

“The players know what happened. It is a different game to the first one. It is one we have to win and want to win.

“I have seen it and analysed it, but I haven’t spoken to the players about it.”

Madrid’s realistic hopes of landing a trophy this season appear to be in the Champions League, where they face Wolfsburg in the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday.

Zidane insisted he won’t reserve any players with the trip to Germany in mind.

Yet, having won the Champions League in his first season as a player at the Bernabeu in 2002, Zidane is conscious that he needs to deliver results between now and the end of the campaign to secure his position as coach for next season.

“The important thing is to win. I know because I was a player at this club,” he added.

“I am not thinking about the end of the season, the important thing is to do things as we have done recently. If we continue like this something positive will happen.”

French international defender Raphael Varane has not been included in Zidane’s 19-man squad for the trip to Barca after picking up a calf injury whilst on international duty.

German midfielder Toni Kroos will be fit to take part, though, despite suffering a blow to his foot fromJames Rodriguez in training on Friday.

Barcelona back Messi in tax fraud case

October 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona have given their full backing to Lionel Messi in the Argentina forward’s tax fraud case and vowed to fight “external decisions” they say are unfairly targeting the club.


A Spanish court on Thursday ordered Messi and his father Jorge, who are accused of defrauding the Spanish state of 4.2 million euros ($4.76 million) from 2007 to 2009, to stand trial and the state attorney said Barca’s star player should serve a jail sentence of up to 22 months if found guilty.

In a statement published late on Thursday, Barca noted the state attorney’s stance was “the complete opposite” to that of Spain’s public prosecutor, who has said Lionel Messi should not have to answer the charges as his father oversaw his finances.

“FC Barcelona has expressed its affection and solidarity to Leo Messi and his family in such a peculiar situation,” the statement said.

“The club shall continue to offer him and his family its full support and assistance in the legal, fiscal and administrative aspects of these proceedings.”

Messi is one of several Barca players, including compatriot Javier Mascherano and Brazil forward Neymar, who have been targeted by the Spanish authorities in recent months. All deny wrongdoing.

The club itself was charged last year with tax fraud in the signing of Neymar from Brazilian club Santos and paid $18.6 million in what it called a “complementary tax declaration”.

They said they remained “convinced the original tax payment was in line with their fiscal obligations”.

Barca’s legal problems have come on top of a FIFA ban for breaking rules on the signing of minors and president Josep Maria Bartomeu complained last year of what he called a concerted campaign to damage the Spanish and European champions.

He was repeatedly asked who was behind the alleged campaign, including if it might be arch rivals Real Madrid, but he declined to provide any names.

“FC Barcelona condemns the accumulation of totally inadmissible and external decisions that have been going on for some time and that have nothing to with strictly sporting affairs,” Barca said on Thursday.

“They are damaging to the smooth running of the club, its stability and that of the players that form part of it.

“The club shall be working with more determination than ever to defend its legitimate rights and is ready for any new challenges that might arise.”

Barcelona visit tests Atletico’s title credentials

September 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Atletico Madrid have a great opportunity to show their La Liga title challenge is to be taken seriously this season when an under-strength Barcelona visit the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.


Both sides took the maximum six points from their opening two league fixtures last month, but it is Atletico after a summer of heavy investment in the transfer market who have looked the more impressive.

Diego Simeone’s men won 3-0 at Sevilla last time out and are at full strength as left-back Filipe Luis has recovered from the hamstring problem that kept him out the trip to the Sanchez Pizjuan.

“Last year we finished third and had a good season, but this time we are hungry for more,” said Atletico midfielder Koke.

“They are the favourites. They are the current champions of La Liga, but we are playing at home and are desperate to win again.”

By contrast, Barcelona are without three first team regulars as Dani Alves and Claudio Bravo miss out through injury, whilst Gerard Pique is suspended.

Lionel Messi also hasn’t trained with the Catalans all week as he only arrived back from international duty on Thursday and was given time off by the club to attend the birth of his second child on Friday.

However, Messi has been included in Luis Enrique’s 18-man squad for the game and will start.

“The international break isn’t an excuse for us or the opponents,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique on Friday.

“(Javier) Mascherano and others have only been able to do one training session. Here we all know what happens when there is an international break and we are used to it. They have also had players on international duty and that is why the coaches are there, to ensure the team performs at its best no matter the circumstances.

“I expect Messi, just like everyone else, to be at his best.”

Thomas Vermaelen is expected to deputise once more in defence after scoring his first goal for the club in a nervy 1-0 win at home to Malaga two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will make his La Liga debut in goal with Bravo set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a calf problem.

Real Madrid already trail Atletico and Barca by two points, but face a much easier task on paper this weekend when they travel to face Espanyol.

Rafael Benitez will have to do without both James Rodriguez and Danilo, though, after they returned back from international duty with a thigh tear and plantar fasciitis, better known as jogger’s heel, respectively.

Gareth Bale enjoyed a better time during his international commitments as he took Wales to the brink of their first major tournament in 58 years and he is expected to be handed a central role once more by Benitez after scoring twice last time out against Real Betis.

Elsewhere, Valencia and Sevilla are targeting their first wins of the league season ahead of their return to the Champions League in midweek.

Sevilla kick-off the weekend on Friday night away to Levante, whilst Valencia visit Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

David Moyes’s Real Sociedad are also looking for their first win and first goal of the campaign after two consecutive 0-0 draws when they visit Real Betis on Saturday.

Pedro to join Chelsea – reports

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Premier League champions Chelsea have pipped Manchester United to the signing of Spain winger Pedro Rodriguez from Barcelona, according to British press reports on Wednesday.

The BBC reported that Chelsea had agreed a fee of 21 million (29.8m euros, $32.9m) with the reigning European champions and that the 28-year-old was on a flight to London to finalise the terms of the transfer.

If completed, the deal will bring an end to a summer-long transfer saga surrounding Pedro, who had been linked to Manchester City as well as United, although it was the Old Trafford club who appeared most likely to sign him.

Pedro scored the winning goal for Barcelona in last week’s dramatic 5-4 extra-time defeat of Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup in Tbilisi.

However, he has fallen down the pecking order at the Camp Nou under Luis Enrique, who has preferred the all-star front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez and has used the Canary-Islands born player more sparingly.

Barca need improvement for Super Cup showdown

August 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona have leaked eight goals in their opening two official games of the season and will need a drastic improvement in defence if they are to have any chance of denying Athletic Bilbao the Spanish Super Cup.


After edging Sevilla 5-4 to win the European Super Cup last Tuesday, Barca suffered a 4-0 drubbing at Bilbao in Friday’s first leg and host the Basque side for the return on Monday.

The defeat for the Spanish and European champions at the San Mames, when coach Luis Enrique fielded a weakened side, means their hopes of matching 2009’s feat of winning all six competitions they contested are hanging by a thread.

Luis Enrique has refused to throw in the towel and told a news conference on Sunday he and the players are “utterly convinced” they can turn the tie around.

If they manage it, they will prevent Bilbao lifting their first silverware since they won the Spanish Super Cup in 1984-85.

“It’s a challenge that a team of this quality is capable of meeting,” Luis Enrique told reporters.

“If we do things well we will have a chance,” said the former Barca and Spain midfielder, noting that his side regularly put four goals or more past opponents.

“We will be fresher than in the first leg and when Barca is playing anything can happen.”

Barca’s versatile Argentina international Javier Mascherano, who normally plays in central defence but was deployed in midfield for the first leg, said the team had not deserved to lose by such a wide margin.

“In these two key games our opponents have been very effective,” he told an earlier news conference.

“We have to improve and minimise the errors but we are not going to go crazy.

“Tomorrow it is vital that they don’t score. You are always learning in football and the match the other day gave us a lot to think about for the future.”

Barca have little time to set things right before they begin their quest for a sixth La Liga title in eight years at Bilbao on Sunday.

Luis Enrique will have only two of his formidable attacking trio available for Monday’s game at the Nou Camp as Neymar has contracted mumps and will again be unable to join Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez up front.

Pedro future overshadows Barca’s Super Cup success

August 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona can take a big step towards a fifth trophy in 2015 when they face Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup on Friday, just three days after sealing the UEFA Super Cup with a remarkable 5-4 extra time win over Sevilla.

Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez celebrates after he scored a goal against Elche during their Spanish first division soccer match at Martinez Valero stadium in Elche January 24, 2015. REUTERS/HEINO KALIS

Pedro Rodriguez proved to be the unlikely hero for the Catalans as the wantaway winger, who had been controversially left out of the starting line-up, came off the bench to smash home the winner with five minutes left in extra time after Barca had conspired to throw away a 4-1 second-half lead.

“When you know that you could leave, it is a complicated situation. I was very angry to have not played (from the start) because I have always tried to be professional and go out to help the team,” said Pedro.

“It is a complicated situation for many reasons. Not for money as has been said, which is another lack of respect. It is a question of continuity, of minutes on the pitch and I am an ambitious player.”

And he also hit back at Barca technical secretary Robert Fernandez for claiming that he asked to leave the club, citing that statement as “unfortunate”.

Pedro’s opportunities have been limited since the arrival of Luis Suarez last season to join Lionel Messi and Neymar in attack.

However, even without Neymar due to a bout of the mumps, coach Luis Enrique opted for Rafinha ahead of Pedro and was rewarded as he scored after Messi had fired in two brilliant free-kicks to cancel out Ever Banega’s opener for Sevilla.

Suarez then made it 4-1 early in the second-half, but remarkably Sevilla produced a stunning fightback as goals from Jose Antonio Reyes, Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka took the game into extra time.

And Javier Mascherano admitted the European champions have plenty to work on ahead of the upcoming two legs against Athletic if they are to add the Spanish Super Cup to their trophy haul.

“For the fans it was the kind of spectacle you rarely see. We are happy to have won, but we have a lot to improve,” said the Argentine.

“We committed a lot of errors that made life difficult for us. We allowed Sevilla to get back in the game, when you’re 4-1 up and all of a sudden the result is in danger.”

Barca travel to the San Mames on Friday before hosting the Basques at the Camp Nou next Monday.

Neymar misses out once more but Athletic are even more affected by injuries with four first-team regulars almost certain to miss out.

Inaki Williams, who scored Athletic’s goal when the two sides met in the Copa del Rey final in May, Ander Iturraspe, Mikel Rico and Iker Muniain are all sidelined and striker Aritz Aduriz believes that is more of a blow to his side than Barcelona missing Neymar.

“Their absences are very important for them, but so are ours very important for us,” he said.

“It is crucial that we have our best team available. At the moment we don’t and that damages us.”

Pedro strike hands Barca Super Cup in nine-goal thriller

August 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona substitute Pedro scored deep into extra time to secure the European Super Cup with a 5-4 win over Sevilla in a thriller on Tuesday after they surrendered a three-goal lead in Tbilisi.

Barca said before the game that Pedro wanted to leave the club but the 28-year-old came on to win the trophy, just as he did in 2009, pouncing on a rebound from a Lionel Messi shot.

Messi had himself scored a double with two stunning early free kicks while Rafinha and Luis Suarez also netted for the Catalans, who led 4-1 with just over half an hour left.

Barca’s fifth triumph in the competition, which means they have now won four trophies this year, moved them level with AC Milan on the all-time UEFA Super Cup winners list.

“I got the goal but it was down to the work of the team and I am happy with the win,” said Pedro. “When you know you may leave it is difficult. I was angry about not starting the game but as always I tried to be professional and go out and help.”

Ever Banega had given Europa League winners Sevilla the lead with a free-kick after three minutes but Messi stamped his mark on the game with stunning free-kicks after seven and 16 minutes.

The Argentine’s double for the Champions League holders means he is again joint record scorer in European competition with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo on 80 goals.

Rafinha slotted home a Luis Suarez pass just before the break and the Uruguayan scored himself after the restart having been found by Sergio Busquets to put Barca firmly in command.

Sevilla, though, fought back with goals from Jose Antonio Reyes, after 57 minutes, and Kevin Gameiro, with a penalty in the 72nd, before Yevhen Konoplyanka equalised with 10 minutes left to force the game into extra time.

“We went out looking to be creative and to cause danger,” Sevilla coach Unai Emery told a news conference

“To get to European finals you need to earn respect and so attack the opposition which is what we did.

“I don’t think that we got the reward we deserved from the game. We had clear chances at the end and Barca were

looking worried.”

With Neymar out due to mumps, Barca coach Luis Enrique chose Rafinha ahead of Pedro in attack but three minutes into extra time the Canary Islander got his chance and made the most of it.

Pedro fired the winner into the roof of the net from close range with five minutes left as Barca stayed on track to win six trophies this calendar year on the back of last season’s treble.

Pedro also came off the bench in the 2009 Super Cup final against Shakhtar Donetsk to score in the 115th minute and secure a 1-0 victory for Barca after they had won their first treble.

“We knew that this would be a difficult game and this really showed the merit of the team. It is difficult to win trophies and games,” the Barca coach said.

I am very happy with the way that we won and showed the hard work that is necessary.

“We didn’t know what to expect and it shows what you have to do to win a trophy.

“It was great for the fans and after 50 minutes it looked as though the game was over but against a rival like that you never know.”

Spain court probes fraud case against Barca’s Neymar

June 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


A Spanish court Wednesday launched a fraud investigation against Barcelona striker Neymar, a judicial source said, dragging the Brazilian star into a case in which the club’s president faces trial.

Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs Barcelona (FCB) on September 30, 2014 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (AFP)

The National Court admitted a lawsuit alleging “corruption and swindling” by the star player, his father and his former club Santos linked to the signing of Neymar by Barca in 2013, the source told AFP.

The case has been brought by a Brazilian investment fund, DIS, which owned part of the transfer rights for the player, the source said.

The 23-year-old helped Barcelona to a stunning triple of Spanish league, cup and Champions League titles this season.

He was to captain Brazil on Wednesday against Colombia in the Copa America tournament in Chile.

DIS received 6.8 million euros ($7.7 million) out of the total 17.1 million that Barca paid to Santos, but claims it may also be due a share of the overall transfer payments.

Santos has also launched an action in Brazil against Barcelona and the player and his father over alleged irregularities in the deal.

In a separate lawsuit, a judge last month ordered Barcelona’s president Josep Bartomeu, his predecessor Sandro Rosell and the club itself to stand trial over alleged tax fraud linked to the signing.

They have always said they paid a transfer fee of 57 million euros to sign the Brazilian star from Santos in 2013.

The courts suspect the actual price was at least 83.3 million euros and that Rosell and Bartomeu hid the real cost from the taxman.

The case was shifted from Madrid to a court in Barcelona last month after an appeal was upheld. No date for a trial has been set so far.

It is alleged the overall fee was split between a number of different contracts between Barcelona, Santos and Neymar himself.

In doing so, Barcelona stand accused of defrauding the Spanish taxman of 12.7 million euros.

Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of two years and three months for Bartomeu and seven years for Rosell, as well as a 22.2 million euro fine for the club.

Bartomeu’s involvement could seriously damage his campaign to be elected as president in club elections on July 18.

Messi loses appeal, tax fraud trial nears

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona star Lionel Messi lost his appeal over tax fraud charges on Wednesday, meaning he could face a trial over the allegations which involve an estimated 4.6 million euros.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina, a nominee for the 2014 FIFA World Player of the Year, attends a news conference prior to the Ballon d'Or awards ceremony in Zurich January 12, 2015. CREDIT: REUTERS/RUBEN SPRICH

The Argentine international and his father Jorge were accused last year of not paying tax on earnings from the player’s image rights from 2007-2009.

Both Messi and his father denied wrongdoing and instead pointed the finger instead at a former agent.

But prosecutors in Barcelona on Wednesday decided to press ahead with the case.

“While it is understandable that a player of this magnitude is not aware of all the details of managing a millionaire,” they said “there are elements of a fiscal debt”.

Messi and his father have been accused of using companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell the player’s rights — an allegation the player denies.

Jorge has since admitted that his son knew nothing of the alleged fraud, but the appeals court rejected the defence.

“Messi could have had knowledge of the irregularities of contracts which he was signing,” said a statement.

Four-time World Player of the Year Messi is one of the world’s richest sportsmen.

Forbes magazine estimated that in 2014 his income was 64.7 million dollars (47.30 million euros).

Alves extends Barca contract by two seasons to 2017

June 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Dani Alves put an end to speculation about his future when he signed a two-year extension to his deal with recently-crowned European champions Barcelona on Tuesday.

Dani Alves

The 32-year-old Brazilian defender’s contract was due to expire on June 30, but he came to an agreement with Barca officials for the extension through to 2017, with the option of a third additional season.

Alves, who joined the Catalan club from Sevilla in 2008, has gone on to appear in 343 matches for Barca, more than any other foreigner in the history of the club.

During that time he has won 19 titles, including five La Ligas, three Champions Leagues, three Spanish Cups, two European Super Cups, four Spanish Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

He forms part of the group of seven players that were in both of Barca’s treble winning squads: the latest completed in Berlin with victory over Juventus on the weekend; and that of his first season, 2008-09, when he was forced to sit out the European Cup final in Rome against Manchester United through suspension.

Chiellini out of Berlin final: Juventus

June 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Juventus on Thursday ruled key defender Giorgio Chiellini out of the Champions League final against Barcelona after he suffered a muscle tear in training.

Chiellini had to leave training on Wednesday and scans on Thursday confirmed the bad news for the Italian champions.

“The scan revealed a first grade tear of the soleus muscle in his left leg, meaning the defender will miss Saturday’s final with Barcelona,” said a Juventus statement.

It was to be Chiellini’s first Champions League final and his place will now be taken by Andrea Barzagli, who returned to training on Wednesday following his own, recent injury knock.

If Barzagli proves to be unfit for the game, Juventus will turn to Angelo Ogbonna, who has played only sporadically for the Turin giants this season on their way to a league and Cup double.

Chiellini’s absence has robbed fans of watching him come up against Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, who was sent off and banned for four months after biting the Italian on the shoulder during an Italy v Uruguay group fixture at last summer’s World Cup.

Asked on Monday if he would shake Suarez’s hand before the game, Chiellini replied: “Of course I will!”

However Chiellini’s absence will not be a disappointment to Barcelona, who look set to recover key midfielder Andres Iniesta for Saturday’s final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

Iniesta suffered a right calf injury at the weekend but took part in a full training session on Thursday.

Chiellini, whose natural position is at left-back, is regularly ranked among the top defenders in Europe and has often given Juventus extra potency in attack when he moves up the park for corners and free kick situations.

Chiellini scored the opener for Juve in their recent 2-1 Cup final win over Lazio as the Bianconeri clinched their first Cup and first league and Cup double since 1995.

Juventus had their final training session at their Vinovo training complex on Thursday and are set to travel to Berlin on Friday morning.

No United regrets for Pogba as Barca final looms

June 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Frenchman Paul Pogba said he has no regrets about leaving Manchester United and waved away suggestions the Champions League final against Barcelona on Saturday will be his last game in a Juventus shirt.

Juventus' Pogba shoots to score a third goal against Napoli during Italian Serie A match in Turin

Pogba joined Juventus on a free transfer in time for the 2012-2013 season having quit United after becoming frustrated at the lack of opportunities with Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team.

Since his move to Turin, the 22-year-old French international has blossomed into arguably the world’s most highly-rated attacking midfielder, winning three league titles with the Bianconeri and securing the league and Cup double this season in the process.

While United struggled to a fourth place league finish under Louis van Gaal this season, Pogba is preparing for his first Champions League final as Juventus target their first club treble.

Despite doubts over his future, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and, remarkably, United among his reported suitors, Pogba said he has no regrets about quitting Old Trafford.

“Yes for sure, I don’t regret (leaving),” he said at a Juventus media Open Day on Monday in Turin. “I’m very happy here and enjoying it. I’m in the final with Juventus, and not with Manchester (United).”

Asked if this could be his final game with the Italian champions, Pogba replied: “I let people think what they think. It’s a final, a huge final for me so I just want to focus on it.”

Pogba invited criticism from Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri for showboating during a 2-2 draw away to Verona in their last league game of the season last weekend.

The Frenchman admitted “nature” had taken over, but said he won’t be making the same mistake on against Barcelona.

“Sometimes I let myself go a little bit, but I do it without realising it. I’m not showing off, it’s just part of my nature,” said Pogba.

“I’m just playing my football, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If I play against Barcelona in the final, then there’s no doubt I will be totally focused.”

Despite their own league and Cup double achievements, Juventus are rated as underdogs against a Barcelona side that has seen Messi (58), Neymar (38) and Luis Suarez (24) score a combined 120 goals this season.

Pogba rates Messi as the “strongest player in the world” and believes simply studying the Spanish league giants’ tactical game won’t be enough for the challenge that lies ahead.

“Messi is the strongest in the world. Barcelona are the strongest in the world, but we’re in the final and we have nothing to lose,” said Pogba.

“We all know how Barcelona play. They have one of the best attacking games in world football. You can have as many tactical training sessions you want, but … you also need aggressiveness, and a bit of luck.”

He added: “We’re not the favorites but we’ll give it everything. It’s a final and you never know.

“It’s a pleasure to watch Barcelona play, but it will be an even bigger pleasure to see them lose.”

Xavi heading to Qatar after lifetime at Barcelona

May 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez will leave the Catalan club he has served since boyhood for Qatari side Al Sadd at the end of this season, his father said on Tuesday.

Xavi's signing is one of the biggest coups for Qatari domestic football in a country set to host the 2022 World Cup (AFP Photo/Josep Lago)

“The moment has come for Xavi to say goodbye,” the 35-year-old midfielder’s father Joaquin Hernandez told radio Cope.

He said the contract with Al Sadd would allow Xavi, presently the team captain, to train as a coach as well as playing.

“He is lucky to have received a really impressive offer that allows him to continue playing football, train as a future coach and also rest a little.”

Xavi is Barcelona’s most decorated player of all time and one of the heroes of Spain’s Euro and World Cup-winning squads.

In March he met with managers of Al Sadd, which announced on social media that he had signed with the club but the Qatari side then said the deal had not yet been sealed.

Xavi will personally announce the move during a press conference on Thursday, Spanish media reported.

His contract with the Spanish league champions runs until next year but the club had already made it clear that it would not stand in the way of his departure.

“Xavi has earned the right to decide his future,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said in March when asked about the reports that the iconic playmaker had agreed to a move to Qatar.

The player will be following in the footsteps of Real Madrid legend Raul who played 39 games for Al Sadd, one of Qatar’s top clubs, between 2012 and 2014, before joining the New York Cosmos in October 2014.

Barcelona sealed the league title on Sunday with a 1-0 win away over 2014 champions Atletico Madrid.

Xavi was filmed weeping with joy after that win. It is his eighth title in the league and his 23rd overall with Barcelona, making him the player with most medals in the club’s history.

He still has the chance to end his last season at Barcelona with a treble, as his side will play in the finals of the Spanish cup and Champions League.

Xavi joined Barcelona in 1991 at the age of 11. He has played more than 760 matches for the side — more than any other player.

The transfer will bring the curtain down on a 17-year first-team playing career with Barcelona, during which time Xavi has so far won three Champions League titles and two FIFA Club World Cups in addition to the eight La Liga championships.

He was also an integral part of Spain’s World Cup-winning side in 2010 and their two European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012.

Beyond mere figures, he will also be remembered as being a central figure of Barcelona’s revolutionary ‘tiki-taka’ style of football, which relies on possession and passing, and helped the Catalan side to become arguably the dominant team in Europe in the first decade of the century.

His departure follows that of other club heavyweights in recent years such as defender Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Xavi almost left Barcelona at the end of last season after the Catalan side failed to win any silverware but was reportedly convinced by coach Luis Enrique to stay on.

He has spent much of this season relegated to the bench although Enrique has relied on him during decisive matches.

“Xavi at this moment is exhausted, he has been playing for many years, it has been many matches, he also needs peace of mind,” the player´s father told radio Cope.

Xavi’s signing is one of the biggest coups for Qatari domestic football in a country set to host the 2022 World Cup.

Al Sadd competed in the Club World Cup in 2011, finishing third after being knocked out by Barcelona in the semi-finals.

Reports suggest that Xavi will sign a three-year contract, with his role to combine coaching as well.

Barca need to finish marathon season in style – Luis Enrique

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has urged his side not to let up in the quest for a potential treble despite facing the doomed Cordoba on Saturday just days before entertaining Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique

Cordoba’s relegation back to the second tier after just one season in La Liga will be confirmed at the weekend unless they pull off a monumental upset to register their first league win since January.

By contrast, Barca have swept aside their opponents of late, including a stunning 6-0 thrashing of Getafe on Tuesday, to consolidate their two-point lead over Real Madrid with four La Liga games to play.

“We need to concentrate on winning our own points. If we win all the games it doesn’t matter what the opponents do,” Luis Enrique said on Friday.

“Evidently, I want the rival to drop points but what matters most to me is my team.

“Until you get to the finish line you don’t know if you have achieved the objectives. It is like if a marathon runner has a great time after 40 kilometres and then stops and starts to walk.”

While Barca could be forced to fight until the final match to win their fifth title in seven years, Bayern will be able to rest up when they face Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday having already sealed a 25th German title.

However, Luis Enrique played down suggestions that could give Pep Guardiola’s men an advantage ahead of their semi-final, first-leg meeting at the Camp Nou next Wednesday.

“I would have preferred to have won the league 15 weeks ago, but that is not possible.

“I don’t think it is an advantage fighting until the end, but nor is it a disadvantage. It ensures we are on our guard.”

Real offered 150 mln for Neymar, father tells court

October 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


Neymar’s father and agent told a Spanish court investigating alleged tax fraud in his son’s signing by Barcelona that the player rejected a much higher offer from Real Madrid of 150 million euros ($190 million).

Barcelona initially said the signing of the 22-year-old player from Brazilian side Santos in May 2012 cost them 57.1 million euros.

But after questions were raised about the deal by a Barcelona club member, the club in January revealed the deal was worth 86.2 million euros when including the player’s signing bonus, commission, marketing deals and other agreements.

The club member, Jordi Cases, accused former Barcelona president Sandro Rossell of misappropriation for not declaring publicly that 40 million euros of the initial figure quoted by Barcelona was paid to N&N, a company controlled by Neymar’s parents.

As a result Barcelona were indicted in February for tax fraud.

During questioning at Madrid’s National Court on Wednesday, the player’s father, Neymar Da Silva Santos Sr, said Real offered 150 million euros for his son but the player preferred Barcelona’s offer because the Catalan side had a greater “international projection”, a court source said.

He also told the court that his son’s contracts with Barcelona were all legal, the source added.

Whilst giving testimony in July, Rosell told the court that all contracts related to Neymar’s signing “were done perfectly” and respected the law.
Rossell stepped down in January over the affair.

In April, the Spanish league said it believed there was nothing irregular about the Neymar signing.

Earlier this year Barcelona made a voluntary tax payment of 13.5 million euros to normalise the situation and avoid the club’s name being further tarnished.

Neymar is back to full fitness after missing the World Cup semi-final and third-place playoff in his home country with a serious back injury picked up in the quarter-final victory over Colombia.

He made an excellent start to the 2014-15 season with the Catalan side, scoring six goals in five La Liga appearances this season.

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