When Frenkie De Jong joined Barcelona last summer, he became the 20th Dutchman to play for the Catalan giants, following in the footsteps of some of the game’s greats from Ronald Koeman and Edgar Davids to Johan Cruyff.However, De Jong’s first six months in Spain have seen the 22-year-old endure a mixed start to La Liga life. Continue reading Barcelona Finally Sees The Best In Frankie De Jong
Barcelona had Lionel Messi to thank once more after his hat-trick of assists helped the La Liga champions battle to a 3-2 win over Real Betis.
Betis were awarded a penalty inside the opening five minutes when Clement Lenglet was adjudged to have blocked a shot with his arm, and Sergio Canales tucked away the resulting spot-kick to give the hosts a shock lead.
The advantage lasted only four minutes, however, as Frenkie de Jong levelled proceedings with a smart finish, latching onto an exquisite Lionel Messi pass.
Frenkie de Jong
La Blaugrana then spurned a whole host of chances to edge ahead, but it was the hosts who struck next, when Nabil Fekir capitalised on an Arturo Vidal mistake to lash home. Sergio Busquets levelled the scores deep in first-half injury time, and the two sides went into the half-time break all square.
Barça were the better side at the start of the second half, and Messi was denied twice by two smart Joel Robles saves. But the visitors weren’t finished there, and Lenglet secured all three points with 20 minutes to play, planting a superb header beyond the Betis goalkeeper from another Messi cross.
Fekir was then sent off a few minutes later for dissent towards the referee, as the hosts began to crumble, before Lenglet also saw red. Despite the late setback, Barça held onto the victory and moved to within three points of rivals Real Madrid.
Here’s 90min’s breakdown of the game.
Starting XI: Joel (6); Emerson (6), Mandi (6), Bartra (7), Alex Moreno (6); William Carvalho (7), Guido Rodríguez (6), Aleñá (8); Canales (7); Fekir (6), Borja Iglesias (7)
Substitutes: Moron (6), Joaquin (6), Tello (6)
Key Talking Point
Given Barcelona are currently in a full-blown crisis, the last thing the Catalan giants needed was one of their own stars putting in a superb performance against them on Sunday evening.
But that’s exactly what happened.
On-loan Carles Aleñá was starting in the Betis midfield against his parent club, and he demonstrated exactly why La Blaugrana should not have allowed him to leave.
Clement Lenglet,Carles Alena
Although Barça were able to get the ball up the pitch to the forwards quickly, they lacked any real balance or control in the midfield and Aleñá and his teammates took full advantage of their woes.
It was the 22-year-old himself who created the second goal, seizing the ball from Vidal in the centre of the park and sliding an inch-perfect pass to Fekir, who gleefully buried his chance. With only a few players available for selection for the coming months, Barça fans must be wishing they could recall a talent like Aleñá back to Camp Nou.
When it rains, it pours.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (6); Semedo (6), Lenglet (6), Umtiti (7), Junior (6); Vidal (5), Busquets (7), De Jong (8), Sergi Roberto (5); Messi (9*), Griezmann (7)
Substitutes: Jordi Alba (6), Arthur (6), Rakitic (N/A)
Sorry for stating the blinkin’ obvious, but this Messi fella is alright at football, isn’t he?
The Argentine superstar wasn’t at his mind-boggling best in possession, but it was his vital contributions from set-pieces that won the game for Barcelona.
The 32-year-old clipped a delicious pass over the top of the Betis defence to allow De Jong the chance to level the scores early on, and the little magician then delivered a superb free-kick which was tucked away by Busquets to restore parity once more.
Messi’s awards for ‘best supporting act’ didn’t stop there, though, as the Barça star whipped a mouthwatering ball onto the head of Lenglet, who dealt the final blow to this courageous Betis side.
Argentina’s captain almost marked the game with one of his trademark chipped finishes – one of which he scored against the very same opposition – but his majestic clip narrowly missed the far post.
The man deserves a better cast.
Manchester City will “end their pursuit” of Lionel Messi after being told by the player’s representatives that he will not be leaving Barcelona – in perhaps the most obvious news of the weekend.
A public spat with technical secretary Eric Abidal had prompted rumours that Messi may seek a Camp Nou exit, which had the Premier League champions on red alert as they were ready to pounce on any uncertainties in Catalonia.
Barcelona have confirmed that they have reached an agreement to sign 21-year-old Palmeiras midfielder Matheus Pereira at the end of the season.
La Blaugrana have been chasing Pereira for the majority of the January transfer window, seeing the Brazilian as a potential star of the future.
The club took to their official website to reveal that their efforts have finally come to fruition as Fernandes will move to Camp Nou on 1 July 2020 for a fee of €7m, which will rise to €10m in add-ons.
He has agreed a five-year contract to commit to Barcelona until the end of the 2024/25 campaign, and he will also have a €300m release clause in his deal.
It was initially rumoured that Fernandes could be signed and shipped out on loan to another Spanish side. He even put ‘Real Valladolid’ in his Twitter bio after the deal was announced, but no such loan move has been confirmed just yet.
Barcelona are clearly preparing themselves for next season. Alongside Fernandes, they have also agreed a deal to sign Braga winger Francisco Trincão after activating his €31m release clause.
The two players are both set to arrive at Camp Nou in the summer, with Quique Setién clearly looking for younger players to rejuvenate his squad.
17-year-old winger Ansu Fati is already flying the flag for young players at the club, while Setién’s promotion of midfielder Riqui Puig suggests that he is keen to build for the future, not just the present.
In Fernandes, Barcelona hope to have found a long-term solution to their defensive midfield dilemma. Sergio Busquets remains a core part of the team, but at 31 years old, there is a recognition that he will soon need to be replaced. Frenkie de Jong has been tipped to take over, but Fernandes will give Barcelona another option.
A Brazil Under-20 international, Fernandes has already made 87 senior appearances for both Palmeiras and former employers Botafogo, and he has been tipped for an incredibly bright future.
…Barcelona Confident of Beating Chelsea & Manchester United to €30m Dani Olmo deal.
Barcelona are optimistic about their chances of winning the race for Dinamo Zagreb starlet Dani Olmo ahead of both Chelsea and Manchester United.
The 21-year-old is seen as one of the most promising midfielders around and he has made no secret of his desire to leave Dinamo as soon as possible to test himself in one of Europe’s top leagues.
Barcelona are eager to bring their former academy product back to Camp Nou, and Goal state that they are ‘confident’ they will be able to fend off competition from both Chelsea and United to get the deal over the line.
They believe that they can strike a deal worth around €30m to bring Olmo back to the club, although Dinamo are holding out for a fee closer to the €40m mark.
The Croatian side hope that interest from both Chelsea and United could spark a bidding war which will force Barcelona to up their offer for Olmo.
Barcelona, who are keen to introduce some more youth to their first team, feel as though Olmo is capable of coming in and making an instant impact in their midfield – especially when there are doubts over the futures of Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitić and Arthur.
Olmo has spoken openly about his desire to return ‘home’ to Barcelona, but he is desperate just to seal a move away from Dinamo as he wants to boost his chances of earning a spot in Spain’s Euro 2020 squad.
Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City: Group C – UEFA Champions League
The 21-year-old currently sits on eight goals and seven assists in 22 appearances for Dinamo this season, and it was that form which earned him his debut call-up to the international side back in November.
Olmo netted on his Spain debut against Malta, but he clearly feels as though he is not guaranteed to earn a spot in the squad for the upcoming European championships.
…Barcelona Deny Making Formal Transfer Offer to Re-Sign Dani Olmo From Dinamo Zagreb.
Barcelona have quickly denied making a formal offer to sign Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Dani Olmo, just hours after they reportedly lodged an official bid.
The 21-year-old, who used to be part of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, has spent the last five and a half years in Croatia where he’s gone on to make 124 appearances across all competitions – breaking into Spain’s senior national team in the process.
Barcelona are among a group of clubs across Europe who are tracking Olmo’s future ahead of the January transfer window, but the club have stressed to Mundo Deportivo that they haven’t made an official offer for the Dinamo Zagreb star.
Barça made their position clear just hours after ESPN reported the club had in fact recently made an official bid to sign Olmo.
The reigning La Liga champions have been in talks with Dinamo Zagreb but so far it appears their contact has been limited to discussing Olmo’s availability, rather than an attempts to hash out a deal before the transfer window re-opens.
Olmo only has a contract at the Stadion Maksimir until 2021 and he recently revealed his desire to leave Croatia sooner rather than later.
“Last summer was an ideal time to take a next step,” Olmo told Jugones. “In the end it did not happen and I said that I was equally happy because I wanted to play Champions League.
“But I think my cycle there is over and I want to take the next step to continue improving.”
As well as attracting interest from his former club Barcelona – Olmo spent seven years at La Masia – the Spain international is also attracting interest from Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City.
Since breaking into the first team at Dinamo Zagreb, Olmo has been directly involved 62 goals across all competitions
…Confident He Will ‘Come to an Agreement’ With Barcelona Over Contract extension.
Barcelona striker Luis Suárez says he “will come to an agreement” with the club over a new contract at the Camp Nou.
The 32-year-old has 18 months left on his current deal but is eager to extend his stay at Barcelona after an impressive start to the season, where’s scored 13 goals across all competitions heading into the new year.
It was believed that Suárez would be getting transitioned out at Barcelona as they look towards the future, but the Uruguay international says he’s confident that he will eventually pen a new deal.
“I am very happy at the club,” Suárez told Sport. “I have always given my all. The statistics and the numbers back that up, I think I am still at the top of my game and when it’s time to talk, we will come to an [agreement].”
Suárez currently sits as Barcelona’s fourth top goalscorer of all time – behind Lionel Messi (618), César Rodríguez (232) and László Kubala (194).
The 32-year-old still has some way to go before climbing into second place on Barcelona’s list, but Suárez could find himself on the club’s goalscoring podium later on this season.
“I always said personal challenges have to be left to one side, but in this case, with so few [goals] to overtake a historic player like Kubala, you feel very proud,” he added.
“Second place is obviously a more difficult challenge, but that doesn’t take it out of sight. You always try to do what you can. The first place is unreachable, but it’s exciting to be able to get close to César’s figures.”
Suárez has reached his tally of 190 goals for Barcelona in just 268 appearances across all competitions, where he’s picked up 105 assists along the way too.
The details of Inter’s verbal agreement with Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal have been revealed, but the Serie A side are still struggling to convince La Blaugrana to actually accept the deal.
Inter have already convinced Vidal to make the move, but Barcelona have not been easy to deal with. Many at the club want to sell him, but manager Ernesto Valverde is desperate to keep him around.
According to Nicolò Schira, Antonio Conte’s side have offered to pay Vidal €4.5m for the remainder of this season if he joins in January, and then €6m per year for the next two seasons on a contract until 2022.
The Chilean is happy with that and has already accepted their proposal, especially given his limited game time at Camp Nou, but it now comes down to whether Inter can agree terms with Barcelona.
At the minute, Inter have offered to take Vidal on a six-month loan with an obligation to sign Vidal permanently in the summer for €12m, but Barcelona are holding out for closer to €20m and want to part ways with him on a permanent basis.
The two sides are not too far apart, but whether Inter will agree to increase their offer remains to be seen.
However, Barcelona fear that Vidal is trying to force them to accept a lower bid. He recently decided to sue Barça for unpaid bonuses from last season, but Barcelona have questioned why he decided to wait until now – days before the January transfer window – to voice his concerns.
They believe that he has only done so to try and pressure the club into letting him go, and it certainly seems unlikely that they will back down.
Vidal has made 19 appearances for Barcelona this season, but his desire to leave stems from the fact that he has started just six games. Valverde has usually preferred other players, whereas Conte would be prepared to offer Vidal a more prominent role in his side
Barcelona midfielder Carles Aleñá has apparently reached an agreement to leave the club on a short-term loan deal during the January transfer window.
The 21-year-old has only made four league appearances this season, while he also started for Barcelona in their last group stage match in the Champions League.
It’s understood that Barcelona’s academy graduate has been pushing for a move away in the build up to the January transfer window, and SPORT (via Forbes) report that Aleñá will join La Liga rivals Real Betis next month.
Los Verdiblancos have helped to nurture a handful of top midfielders throughout their history, including Fabián Ruiz, Joaquín and most recently Giovani Lo Celso.
Although Aleñá’s appears to have been sorted, Ivan Rakitić recently admitted that he still hasn’t held talks with manager Ernesto Valverde over his future at Barcelona.
Speaking to Sportske Novosti, Rakitić said: “No [we haven’t spoken]. There’s nothing to say, I think everything is clear.
“For me, it’s important to enjoy football. I’m happy to go to training in the morning and prepare myself for a match in the best way possible.
“The most important question for me is if I can play at Barcelona. If I can play, I’m sure that Barcelona is the best place for me.
“We’ll see what happens, but I’m preparing to contribute as much as possible this season. I’ve been here for five years and I’ve experienced my most important moments with Barcelona.”
Elsewhere, Marca also link centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo with a short-term loan move away from Barcelona. The 19-year-old has previously been linked with Manchester United, AS Monaco and AC Milan.
Jean Clair Todibo
As far as incomings are concerned, however, it’s claimed that Valverde’s side will not bring any new players to the club next month.
Barça spent almost £230m on new signings before the start of the season, but that hasn’t stopped new rumours popping up throughout the campaign and the club have most recently been tipped to make a move for their former academy star, Dani Olmo.
… Targeted by Bayern Munich, Juventus & Paris saint-germain.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen is apparently a transfer target for Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.
The Germany international is widely regarded as one of the very best goalkeepers in the world and he’s been vital to Barcelona’s success over the last five years, having arrived in a £10m move from Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Ter Stegen still has two and a half years left on his contract with Barcelona, but Mundo Deportivo claim that hasn’t stopped Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain from registering their interest in the goalkeeper.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen
The 27-year-old was linked with Bayern Munich before his move to Barcelona in 2014, but the club ultimately decided against signing ter Stegen as he would have spent a number of years as Manuel Neuer’s understudy.
As far as their apparent interest this time around is concerned, Neuer is still one of the top goalkeepers in European football and is rated very highly by the club’s top brass – although ter Stegen’s €100m asking price would make a deal almost impossible for Bayern Munich.
On top of that, Schalke 04 have already confirmed that goalkeeper Alexander Nübel will leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.
It doesn’t state what club Nübel will join, but it is expected to be Bayern Munich who get their hands on the promising shot-stopper.
For Italian champions Juventus, Mundo Deportivo claims that either Paulo Dybala or Adrien Rabiot – both former targets for Barcelona – could be used to sweeten a deal for ter Stegen.
Current first-team goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny only has 18 months left on his contract in Turing, while veteran Gianluigi Buffon will leave at the end of the season.
Paris Saint-Germain aren’t quite as desperate for a new goalkeeper, but that hasn’t stopped their apparent interest in ter Stegen.
Keylor Navas has only recently joined the club from Real Madrid, while Thomas Tuchel’s side also signed Chelsea youngster Marci Bulka during the summer transfer window.
…His Final Bow for croatia.
Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has said he is not considering leaving Barcelona at present, while admitting that Euro 2020 could be his final tournament with Croatia.
The midfielder started the season in the cold at club level, limited largely to substitute appearances domestically, but he has slowly re-established himself into the side and become an important player in recent weeks.
Isco Alarcon,Ivan Rakitic
Speculation persists surrounding a January exit, with Barcelona thought to be keen to offload the 31-year-old, but in an interview with Croatian outlet Sportske Novosti, Rakitic would not be drawn into that conversation.
“There’s nothing to say. I think everything is clear,” he said, when asked about his Barcelona future and his recent re-instalment into the team. “It is important to me that I enjoy football, that I am happy to go to training in the morning, to prepare myself for the game in the best possible way.
“In the end, it is the coach who decides who will play and how much.”
He was pressed for comment on whether he is being forced out of the club by manager Ernesto Valverde and director of football Eric Abidal, but again would not be drawn in. His contract is up in 2021 but for now, at least, he remains focused on performing in Catalonia.
“I have nothing to say about who said what he did and did; the most important question is whether they can play in Barcelona. If I can, it’s clear to me that Barcelona is the best place for me.
Ivan Rakitic,Mikel Merino
“We will see how it will be, but I am preparing for my contribution as much as possible in the next period. I have been here for five and a half years, having lived my most significant days in Barcelona, and I am convinced that the best, in fact, in front of me.”
More telling were his quotes on his Croatia future. Rakitic has starred in a golden era for the Croatian national side, helping them to a World Cup final in 2018, but he admits that Euro 2020 – where he will take on England, the Czech Republic and one of the playoff winners – could be his final bow.
“Yes, it is possible,” he said, when asked if his final international appearance could come in the summer. “Let’s be real, that’s quite clear. We will see what and how, first of all, what ideas the menu will have. I haven’t talked to [Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic] in a while, he didn’t even call or visit me.
Botond Barath,Ivan Rakitic
“We will consider what is best, not only for me, but for the whole national team. I said I would give everything I needed for young players.
“The most important is the well-being of Croatia, we will solve the rest. Slowly. It doesn’t matter what I want, but what is best for all of us.”