Sunday, 30 June 2013

Lionel Messi scored a lovely opening goal as his ‘Messi & Friends’ team beat a Rest of the World XI 9-6 in Colombia.

The Barcelona star staged the match to raise money for charity and brought a host of stars with him to the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellin, including the likes of Javier Mascherano, Pablo Aimar and Florent Malouda.

Brazil star Robinho was leading out the Rest of the World XI but they could do nothing to stop Messi and his friends running away with the victory.

Messi curled home the opener from just inside the area and was substituted with 20 minutes remaining to a standing ovasion.

Watch all the goals from the Lionel Messi & Friends v Rest of the World XI below...

love u leo-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The treble winners ran out comfortable winners during the Spaniard coach's first game in charge, with several youngster's handed their chances to impress

Bayern Munich earned a comprehensive 15-1 victory in a friendly match against a team of local fans on Saturday, during what was Pep Guardiola's first game in the dugout.

The Bavarian's hosted their Wildenau-based supporters and were already 3-0 up in the first period, thanks to goals from Thomas Muller as well as youth prospects Oliver Markoutz and Vladimir Rankovic.

Die Roten opened the floodgates in the second-half as Patrick Weihrauch, Julian Green, Franck Ribery, Mitchell Weiser and Toni Kroos struck.

Germany Under-19 international Weihrauch will have done his first-team prospects no harm after his four-goal haul, while fellow starlet Green, who was born in Florida, impressed with his display and subsequent hat-trick.

Guardiola will also be pleased to welcome back Kroos, after the playmaker missed the tail-end of last season through injury.

The 23-year-old turned out beside Ribery and Jerome Boateng in the second-half.

The highly-rated youngster is set to complete his move to Real Madrid, but is seemingly a keen admirer of Barcelona and their players

New Real Madrid signing Isco might have some explaining to do at his new club as the Spain Under-21 international seems to be a keen admirer of the club's arch-rival Barcelona and Lionel Messi.

The attacking midfielder not only feels the Argentina international is in a league of his own, but he has even gone as far as to name his dog after the four-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I named my dog 'Messi' because Messi is the best in the world, and so is my dog," explained Isco when questioned about his labrador's unique name earlier this summer.

The 21-year-old previously made headlines when an old interview surfaced from his time at Valencia where he described himself as an anti-Madridista due to the club's arrogant attitude.

Additionally, Isco took a swipe at then Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho on Twitter during the 2011 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United, voicing his support for the Catalans in the process.

The youngster has also previously voiced his admiration for Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta, while admitting that Blaugrana legend Ronaldinho is one of his inspirations.

Isco will sign a five-year deal with Real Madrid upon completion of his medical on July 3, before he's presented to the press at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

We will misss you El Guage(David villa) after I heard that u are leaving Barcelona....
Spurs are closing in on the Barcelona striker after he reached a broad agreement on personal terms, with both clubs now negotiating a transfer fee to secure the deal.

Tottenham are closing in on a deal to sign David Villa after the Barcelona star confirmed he would like to move to White Hart Lane during talks with the player and his representatives, Goal has learned.

The Spain striker has reached a broad agreement on personal terms to move to Spurs this summer and is eager to play in the Premier League.

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has spoken informally to Villa on the phone while the club's new technical director, Franco Baldini, has held productive discussions with the 31-year-old's agent.

Spurs officials are understood to have been in Brazil last week, where they held talks over a deal for Villa - who is in the country for the Confederations Cup - while also reaching an agreement on a £17 million deal to sign Paulinho from Corinthians.

The Londoners believe that they are in a strong position to land Villa despite reported interest from Fiorentina but they hope to convince Barca to lower their £12m asking price.

Tottenham are ready to pay around £8m for Spain's all-time leading scorer, who has just one year left on his contract at Camp Nou and, due to his age, has little sell-on value.

Villa himself has said that he will decide on his future after the Confederations Cup, where Spain have booked a place in Sunday's final against hosts Brazil at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

Spurs are willing to pay the attacker more than £100,000-a-week but the former Valencia man is understood to have accepted that he must take a reduction on his £140,000 weekly salary at Barcelona.

Villa-Boas has made Villa his top final-third target for the summer transfer window as he looks to boost the club's forward line and improve Spurs' chances of a top-four finish next season.

Spurs tried to rival Arsenal for the Spaniard's signature in the January transfer window but Barcelona refused to sell the forward midway through the season.

The Gunners have dropped their interest in Villa while Barcelona are now prepared to sell the striker, who would find his opportunities further limited next season following the arrival of Neymar at the Liga giants.

Tottenham are looking to conduct their major transfer business early this year and have agreed a deal of £15m plus £2m in add-ons to sign Paulinho.

The 24-year-old is expected to sign an initial four-year contract and undergo a medical after the Confederations Cup final on Sunday, having scored the late winner in Brazil's semi-final win over Uruguay on Wednesday.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Spain booked a date with Brazil in the Confederations Cup final with an 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory over Italy at the Castelao .Although the World Cup holders stormed to a 4-0 win over the Azzurri in the Euro 2012 final, this encounter proved far more evenly-contested. Vicente Del Bosque's men monopolised possession but lacked a cutting edge in attack, while Italy were missed numerous missed chances throughout as the match ended goalless.

With nothing to separate the two nations the game went to penalties, where Jesus Navas proved to be the hero as he scored the crucial spot kick as the shoot-out finished 7-6 to Spain.

SPAIN's Line-Up : Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Piqué(106' yellow card), Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Pedro Rodríguez Ledesma(79' Juan Mata), Fernando Torres(94' Javier Martinez), David Silva(53' Jesus Navas)
 Shootout Goal: Xavi 120+2' Shootout Goal: A. Aquilani 120+3'
 Shootout Goal: Iniesta 120+4' Shootout Goal: D. De Rossi 120+5'
 Shootout Goal: Piqué 120+6' Shootout Goal: S. Giovinco 120+7'
 Shootout Goal: Sergio Ramos 120+8' Shootout Goal: A. Pirlo 120+9'
 Shootout Goal: Mata 120+10' Shootout Goal: R. Montolivo 120+11'
Shootout Goal: Busquets 120+12' Shootout Miss: L. Bonucci 120+13'
 Shootout Goal: Jesús Navas 120+14'
7-6(spain win on penalties)
Highlights ---

Although the World Cup holders stormed to a 4-0 win over the Azzurri in the Euro 2012 final, this encounter proved far more evenly-contested. Vicente Del Bosque's men monopolised possession but lacked a cutting edge in attack, while Italy were missed numerous missed chances throughout as the match ended goalless.

With nothing to separate the two nations the game went to penalties, where Jesus Navas proved to be the hero as he scored the crucial spot kick as the shoot-out finished 7-6 to Spain.

Cesare Prandelli switched to a three-man defence and his side began impressively, despite letting the Spaniards control possession of the ball.

The Azzurri, though, with the Fortaleza crowd backing them, looked superb on the counterattack. After Alberto Gilardino had failed to pick out the bottom corner from Antonio Candreva's cross, they became increasingly confident and forged yet more chances to find the net.

Christian Maggio was unable to guide a header from Andrea Pirlo's exquisite pass past Iker Casillas in the 17th minute and Daniele De Rossi's glancing header missed the target 60 seconds later.

In the 19th minute Claudio Marchisio missed the best of the bunch, though, as he nodded the ball well wide of the target from Candreva's cushion despite finding plenty of space between the two centre-backs.

That flurry of activity encouraged Spain to reduce the tempo and steady themselves, but the Azzurri were again next to test the opposing goalkeeper.

Jordi Alba was being nullified by the adventurous combination of Candreva and Maggio, and the latter was only denied a goal when a brilliant Casillas save kept his 36th-minute header out of the net.

Spain almost immediately punished Prandelli's side for their profligacy in front of goal one minute later, but after turning Andrea Barzagli in wonderful fashion Fernando Torres could not find a finish to match as he pulled his shot wide of the target.

With La Roja failing to show an increased threat immediately after the restart Del Bosque introduced Jesus Navas in the 50th minute. The new Manchester City signing had a positive impact, calling Gianluigi Buffon into action with a driven shot from 20 yards shortly before the hour mark.

The conditions began to sap the life from the game as Italy lost the intent on the break and Spain continued to lack creativity. Andres Iniesta attempted to take matters into his own hands, yet after a mazy run from the half-way line he sliced an attempt wide of the goal.

There were chances for both sides to win the game in normal time, though neither team could break the deadlock. Marchisio's attempt from a Candreva cutback was blocked by Gerard Pique before Pedro and the Barcelona centre-back wasted two great opportunities to work Buffon, and extra time ensued.

After three minutes of the additional period Italy had their best chance of the night. Maggio's cross rolled through to Emanuele Giaccherini at the back post, whose thumped attempted crashed back off of Casillas' post.

The tempo to the game quickly picked up again and Iniesta's beautiful lifted pass over Leonardo Bonucci was volleyed over by Alba in the 99th minute as La Roja got nearer to breaking the deadlock.

With five minutes left to play Xavi was denied an absolutely magnificent winner when his long-range shot was turned onto the post by Buffon. The Juventus keeper was forced to make another save from Navas one minute later to ensure the game went to penalties.

Candreva got Italy off to the perfect start by dinking the first penalty straight down the middle and all subsequent spot kicks were scored until Bonucci skied from 12 yards with the score level at 6-6. Responsibilty fell to Navas who slotted the ball home to send Spain into the final.

Spain will now take place in Sunday's final against Brazil at the Maracana, while Italy will contest the third-place play-off against Uruguay in Salvador on the same day.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and his father have reached a €15 million settlement with Spanish tax authorities, according to ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan.

The settlement means that Messi can finally begin to put the ongoing distraction behind him and get back to preparation for next season. According to Spanish website El Periodico (via Corrigan), the reported settlement agreement means there will be no further action taken by the authorities.

Does this settlement impact how you view Lionel Messi?
Yes, it's a black eye on his legacy
No, he's still a great player
Not sure
Total votes: 1,423

The two men were scheduled to appear in court in Spain on Sept. 17 to address the charges of tax fraud. According to Corrigan, the charges against Messi and his father, Jorge, claimed that the duo and the star's financial advisers "had illegally re-routed image rights revenues through offshore tax havens to avoid paying the €4.1 million tax due."

Earlier this week, it was reported that Messi had made an additional €10 million payment to tax authorities in order to cover his image rights for 2010 and 2011.

With the payment date for those same 2012 taxes set for the end of June, Corrigan suggests that the total amount Messi is paying out for image rights taxes is roughly €30 million.

According to the report, Messi and his father could have potentially faced up to five years in prison if found guilty of tax fraud in a Spanish court.

Messi, who turned 26 earlier this week, is widely regarded as the best football player on the planet. He scored a record 91 combined goals between club and international play in 2012.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Well looky here at what was waiting on Pies’ doormat this morning: Lionel Messi’s new signature line of Adidas F50 boots in what we’re told is a “Turbo, Blast Purple and White” colourway that “represents the way Messi lights up every pitch he plays on.”

Turbo and Blast Purple we can get on board with, but “white” is a bit boring and perfunctory. How about “Extreme Milk” or “All The Wavelengths Of The Visible Spectrum” or “Albino Polar Bear’s Chuff”?

Anyway, Messi’s new F50s will first be worn during the ‘Messi and Friends’ tour this coming Saturday and  you can stay in the loop by joining ‘Team Messi’ at and/or @TeamMessi on Twitter should you wish.

Thiago Alcántara is now enjoying his holidays following success in the U-21 European Championships where he not only played a starring role in the final, scoring a hat-trick, but was named as player of the tournament. Barcelona, meanwhile, is waiting on official confirmation of something it has been expecting for some time now: that Thiago is to leave.

The 'Azulgrana' club does not hold out much hope that the academy player will stay. Everything points to his departure despite some of his teammates, such as Xavi, Piqué and Cesc, asking him to be patient. The player's mind seems to be made up and it is now just a matter of time before the official announcement.

Thiago has a firm offer from Manchester United which, according to 'The Daily Mail' is prepared to pay him €6 million a season in a five-year contract. The player will therefore be given star status and the minutes he wants. The fact that he still has not signed for the English club is not because he is considering staying at Barcelona, but down to possible interest from Bayern Munich.

The €18 million the club would collect for Thiago would be a welcome boost to the club's coffers with a view to tackling the new signings considered as priorities, such as that of the other Thiago: Thiago Silva.
The 39-year-old feels the Argentina international is in a league of his own and has questioned his compatriot's ability to outshine him

Former Barcelona defender Sylvinho believes Neymar faces a tough task to outperform Lionel Messi following his move from Santos to the Spanish champions.

Much is expected of the Brazil international following his fine performances at the Confederations Cup, but Sylvinho thinks his 21-year-old compatriot could end up playing second fiddle to Messi.

"Neymar is Brazil's best player at the moment and one of the best in the world. But to outperform Messi, who has won the Ballon d'Or four times, will be very complicated," Sylvinho told Fox Sports Brasil.

"Ronaldo, Romario and Ronaldinho, three very impressive players, all didnt achieve such a feat.

"And there's much more to Barcelona than just Messi. They also have [Andres] Iniesta and Xavi. It will not be easy for Neymar."

Sylvinho won three Liga titles and two Champions League trophies during his time at Barcelona from 2004 until 2009.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Netherlands legend believes the Catalans have created a potential conflict of interest within the squad by signing the Brazil starlet to play alongside the Argentine

Barcelona icon Johan Cruyff feels the Catalans should consider cashing in on Lionel Messi now they have brought Neymar on board.

The Liga champions signed Neymar in a deal worth €57 million earlier this summer and Cruyff envisages problems following the former Santos star's arrival.

"With Neymar on board, I would have planned for the possibility of selling Messi. Some would agree with me and others would not," Cruyff told Marca.

"Neymar's arrival could cause problems. Just look at free kicks for example. Neymar is very good at taking them. And Messi has already shown he is great, too. Who's going to take them...

"Or the fact that Neymar and Barcelona are with Nike while Leo is with Adidas. These are situations that could cause problems.

"You are talking about a team, its players, the things around it. There are too may things at stake. That's why it's so difficult to manage such a top class squad.

"Neymar is talented, but we will have to wait and see how he gets along with the rest of the squad. I would not have taken the risk of bringing in Neymar."

Messi has a contract with Barcelona until June 2018, while Neymar recently inked a five-year deal, too.
Barcelona striker David Villa has predicted that Brazil sensation Neymar will “make us happy” when he links up with the Spanish super club later this year.
Neymar, 21, signed for Barca in a reported USD 75.3 million (57 million euros) deal earlier this month and he has thrilled at the Confederations Cup, scoring three stunning goals to fire the hosts into the semi-finals.

Brazil’s forward Neymar celebrates after scoring against Italy on Saturday (inset) David Villa. PIC/AFP

Although Neymar’s arrival is likely to further curtail Villa’s playing time at Camp Nou, the 31-year-old says he is excited about the prospect of joining forces with Brazil’s boy wonder.

“He is one of the best players in the world right now,” Villa said, during a press conference ahead of Spain’s final Confederations Cup group game against Nigeria in Fortaleza on Sunday.  “We’ve waited a long time to get him and it’s a great pleasure to welcome a player like that to play in your country. He will make us happy.”

Brazil 4-2 Italy
Earlier on Saturday night, Brazil finished top of Confederations Cup Group ‘A’ by beating Italy in their final pool game in Salvador. Neymar maintained his record of scoring in each match at the tournament so far by grabbing his team’s second goal as the hosts forged ahead for a second time after Dante’s opener had been cancelled out by Emanuele Giaccherini.

Fred then netted twice, with Giorgio Chiellini on target in between, as the hosts extended their perfect start to the competition to head into the knockout stage — alongside the Azzurri — full of momentum.

Both teams headed into the game having already assured their places in the semi-finals, having beaten Mexico and Japan in their previous outings, and were effectively playing for the right to avoid in-form world and European champions Spain in the next round.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Thiago the Prime of U21 Silverware

The 22-year-old's father Mazinho met with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell on Friday to discuss the prospect of an improved contract at Camp Nou.

Manchester United's hopes of signing Thiago Alcantara are in doubt after the midfielder was given assurances of an improved deal by Barcelona.

The 22-year-old's father Mazinho met with the Spanish club's president Sandro Rosell on Friday, when the prospect of a revised contract was discussed, so Thiago now has a concrete offer which would allow him to remain at Barcelona.

But the Spaniard could still opt to join United in a move worth just €18 million after the value of his release clause plummeted having failed to participate for a stipulated amount of minutes in 2012-13.

Reports in Spain have suggested that the youngster is unhappy with a lack of playing time at Camp Nou and is concerned that a lack of improvement regarding his squad status will jeopardise his chances of featuring at next summer's World Cup with Vicente del Bosque's Spain side.

The midfielder has not publicly expressed his desire to move clubs this summer but he insisted through Spain's Under-21s European Championship campaign that his future will be addressed after the tournament.

Thiago was one of Spain's standout players in Israel and his hat-trick helped Julen Lopetegui's side secure a 4-2 victory over Italy.

David Moyes, who will officially begin his reign as United manager on July 1, has identified Thiago as one of his priority transfer targets this summer.

United's veteran midfielder, Ryan Giggs, labelled Thiago as a "big talent" earlier in June. "I've seen him in several games," the former Wales international told Marca.

"He's a good player but there's always a lot of speculation with United and good players. We'll see if it happens in the end but he's a big talent."

Lionel Messi's father has reaffirmed that he and his son have done nothing wrong following their court summons as part of an inquiry into alleged tax fraud.

Jorge Horacio Messi claims the Barcelona forward has been part of a media-led witch-hunt.

It was announced yesterday that the pair had been summoned to a Gava court on September 17 to face questioning over an alleged scheme to avoid tax on the player's image rights, therefore defrauding the Spanish tax authority of 4million euros (£3.4million) between 2007 and 2009. Messi and his father have both denied the allegations.

Messi senior pointed out that his son pays substantial amounts in tax each year and also hinted that he may seek legal action against media organizations he claims have defamed him and his son once the legal dispute with the Spanish public prosecutor is over.

He told radio station Cope: "I can assure you that what (Lionel) pays every year is an eight-figure sum. We are relaxed because we have never missed a payment to the tax authority.

"It's normal that there's a difference in opinion between the authorities and our advisers, because there always is with people who pay a lot of tax.

"We know that there will be an agreement, but we are angry because certain sections of the media have conducted a slur campaign and tried to whip up hate. It's very cruel, but we will know what to do when this is all cleared up."

The four-time Ballon d'Or winner's lawyers also lamented the role played by the media in the situation and reiterated his innocence in an official statement published in Spanish newspaper Sport, which read: "We respect and will obey the judicial decision and put ourselves at the disposition of the judiciary to help resolve this case and establish the truth.

"We declare our confidence in being able to clear up the disparity of criteria and regret that the honor of our client has been put in doubt, because he has always scrupulously complied with Spanish law.

"We declare that our client will pay the final amount that is agreed upon, but we are convinced he has already paid everything he has legally been required to.

"We firmly believe in the innocence of our client and trust that the judicial investigation can be resolved in the shortest time possible. This case has left our client in a helpless situation with regards to the media, which we profoundly lament."
JUAN mata
Doing the rounds over the last few weeks has been the transfer rumour that Juan Mata, Chelsea's player of the year in each of the last two seasons, is set to depart Stamford Bridge this summer.

According to the Daily Mirror's Martin Lipton on June 18, Barcelona are set to make their move for the Spain international playmaker over a contract dispute between Mata and Blues manager Jose Mourinho.

Two days later, and once again in the Daily Mirror, Lipton would go on to say that Mata would be staying with the Blues.

Nonetheless, in the time between those articles, Simon Jones of the Daily Mail stated that "Jose Mourinho is struggling to fit the Spanish playmaker into his plans for next season" and the 25-year-old is indeed Barcelona's No.1 target ahead of the 2013-14 season.

All in all, whilst the potential for a move to the Spanish champions would certainly appear to be there—Los Cules may well hold a serious interest in the attacking midfielder—and the rumours are plentiful, there currently appears to be nothing definitive.

But why would Chelsea even contemplate allowing Mata to leave?

Since arriving at Stamford Bridge from Valencia in 2011, the diminutive Spaniard has become arguably the Blues' most important and decisive figure. His 19 goals and 35 assists in 2012-13 will attest to that.

Since Didier Drogba's departure, Mata has become the Blues' go-to guy and is the darling of the home support. They would be loathe to see a player who has become so integral depart.

Following Jose Mourinho's return to West London, supporters have largely been buoyant about the new campaign, with the sense that the constant upheaval of the six years since his departure in 2007 may have finally abated for good.

To do away with Mata, though—the idea supposedly mooted is that Mourinho prefers Eden Hazard in the central attacking role—would deflate some of that buoyancy.

Mourinho is an extremely bright and intelligent figure: You don't win all that he's won and manage the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid without being so.

He'll be fully aware that Mata has been one of the Blues' major strengths in recent seasons and that, if he can harness his abilities to their fullest, then he has at his disposal a genuinely world-class schemer who can lead Chelsea to further success.

Whether Mata doesn't fit into Mourinho's initial plans is very much open to debate and, in all honesty, really only known by the man himself.

But as he has shown throughout his managerial career, Mourinho is willing to adapt.

Where will Juan Mata be playing his football next season?
Any Other
Total votes: 2,516

Whether it be formation-wise—preferring a 4-3-3 formation for the most part of his first stint as Chelsea boss, but utilising either a 4-3-1-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation whilst at Inter and a 4-2-3-1 at Real Madrid—or to suit personnel—most noticeably Wesley Sneijder whilst in charge of the Italians—he has shown that he can adapt to suit the situation at hand.

There is no reason to believe that he won't do so again.

And there is certainly no way that he will decide to let such a quality player depart.

As such, don't expect Mata to have headed for new pastures. He will still be at Chelsea come the start of the 2013-14 campaign..
The past few days have been a perfect indicator of the type of player Brendan Rodgers prefers to work with.

On Friday, the Liverpool manager sanctioned towering striker Andy Carroll’s £15 million move to West Ham—less than 24 hours after acquiring uber-talented playmaker Luis Alberto from Sevilla.

Rodgers spent just under £7 million to sign the 20-year-old, and while the transaction has its risks, the player who was unveiled at the club’s Melwood training facility on Thursday has enough raw talent to suggest he may be viewed as a bargain buy in a few years’ time.

Although he signed professional papers in 2009, Luis Alberto played only seven La Liga matches during his three seasons in Spain. A graduate of Sevilla’s youth system, which he joined as an 11-year-old, he played most of his football for Sevilla Atletico in Segunda B and this past campaign was loaned to Barcelona’s second team, where he played alongside the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Rafinha.

In 38 matches for the Barcelona B squad, Luis Alberto bagged 11 goals and added 17 assists, and the shambolic state of Sevilla’s finances required that they cash in on him while his stock was high.

A hybrid forward who can play in a withdrawn attacking role or on the left wing, Luis Alberto would fit perfectly up front in a 4-3-3 formation should Rodgers choose to emulate the setup that brought him so many plaudits at Swansea City.

Packing pace, skill and that unteachable element of football sense, he could also operate either in the middle or on the left of the playmaking trio in a 4-2-3-1 system, and already the prospect of him linking up with Philippe Coutinho is a mouth-watering one.

Rodgers is still likely to address his central striking situation, and with Luis Suarez expected to leave Anfield following the Confederations Cup, there will be even more depth required at the position.

Arsene Wenger's philosophy has long been to develop within Arsenal, while keeping the spending on big stars to a minimum.

But that philosophy appears to be changing this summer. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has assured that Wenger will have money available, as long as the Gunners receive top talent in return, per

Who better to pay big money for than Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain?

According to Sam Limbert of, Higuain has been linked to a move to Arsenal this summer. The Gunners are reportedly facing competition from Serie A powerhouse Juventus for the 25-year-old.

This is the time for Wenger and Co. to make their mark. If Arsenal really wants to prove it's going after a Premier League championship—and nothing less—landing Higuain would be a commanding statement to the rest of England and the world.

Higuain has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. Last season at Madrid, he posted 16 goals and five assists in just 28 games (19 starts). He's in his prime, ready to do more damage on the pitch moving forward.

The reality is, when Arsenal lost Robin van Persie to Manchester United last summer, a hole opened up front that never was completely filled. The Gunners did well to finish strong, grabbing a top-four spot n the EPL, but if they expect to contend for the title, they have to replace the star power vacated by van Persie.

Arsenal hasn't won the EPL since 2003-04, but has been close, posting one second-place finish and three third-place finishes. A player of Higuain's caliber has the potential to boost Wenger's club back to the top of one of the most competitive leagues in football.

At this point, it's a no-brainer: Arsenal must pursue Higuain at all costs or risk falling just short once again

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Argentine craves international success with his country more than another Ballon d'Or award and revealed that he is not quite the footballing superstar back at home

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has expressed his anguish at being without a World Cup winners' medal in his trophy cabinet.

The Argentina forward, who turns 26 on Monday, has won four Ballons d'Or in a row but he stressed that what he really craves is the greatest prize in international football to add to his silverware collection.

"Between a fifth Ballon d'Or and a World Cup with Argentina, I'd want the latter, without a doubt," he told Corriere della Sera. "I'm missing a World Cup; it makes me sad."

Despite widely being considered as the best footballer on the planet right now, Messi's record-breaking antics fall on deaf ears at home with his wife Antonella, and the Blaugrana star admitted that he does not watch much of the sport he excels at.

He added: "I never watch football on television. Antonella gets bored with it. I come home and tell her I scored two or three goals, and she doesn't even hear me!"

Messi is currently recovering from a hamstring injury that saw him only appear intermittently in the final two months of Barcelona's Liga-winning 2012-13 campaign.

Friday, 21 June 2013

According to the local press Barça could be on the point of losing one of our most promising youngsters, Thiago Alcántara. It is well known that Thiago has a release clause of only €18 million due to him not playing in 60% of last season’s games. Now, having shone in Spain’s Euro under-21s victory including a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Italy in Tuesday’s final, Thiago has Europe’s top clubs chasing him, with Manchester United and Bayern Munich leading the race.

I don’t think anybody could have been very happy with Thiago’s 2012/13 season for Barça. He started the season injured and then after just three appearances in September, totalling 127 minutes, he injured a knee ligament which put him out for another two months. By the time he returned at the start of December Tito Vilanova had more or less settled on his best XI, his once de gala, and the team was setting records in La Liga. When Thiago did get an opportunity to start he was guilty of a poor mistake which gifted Malaga a goal in the Copa del Rey. This may have affected his confidence, or indeed Vilanova’s confidence in the player, but I think it’s fair to say that when he played he wasn’t at the level we saw from him in the second half of 2011.

It may well be that he was inspired in the summer of 2011 both before and then after the signing of Cesc Fabregas. Many people were against the signing of Fabregas because they believed Thiago would see his progress blocked. However, Guardiola showed faith in Thiago and found many ways to give him opportunities, very often playing him alongside Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi as in the brilliant 4-0 destruction of Santos in the Fifa Club World Cup Final in December 2011.

It has been reported that Vilanova spoke to the player before the Euro under-21s tournament, presumably to try to persaude him that he was an important part of the squad and that he had a great career ahead of him at Barça. It is quite possible that Thiago didn’t want to hear the old stuff about needing to be patient. He may well have his eyes set on the 2014 World Cup and he may feel he needs to play more to convince Vicente Del Bosque of his qualities. Whether he would get the playing time with United or Bayern is another question, but if he wants to take the risk then he deserves a shot at it and I can understand his desire to make Spain’s squad.

For Barça there is the chance to act now and do something more to persaude the player to stay. It’s not possible to guarantee players playing time as everybody should be aware that they need to fight for their place every day. An improved contract is a possibility but the problem with late reactions of this type is it encourages other players’ agents to flirt with other clubs with the intention of pushing for more money from Barça. If Vilanova wasn’t able to convince him before, then there seems little we can do except curse whoever agreed to the release clause in the summer of 2011.

Thiago may not have had the best season for Barça but he has shown his potential in the past, and now once again for Spain’s under-21s. We are going to look pretty stupid letting such a talented young player leave for such a low price, and there will be questions again asking why Tito Vilanova wasn’t even aware of the conditions of Thiago’s contract. It also goes to show there are more reasons to rotate all the players besides just keeping the best players fresh. The youngsters need to be given more encouragement and more first team opportunities or we will lose plenty more promising youngsters before they reach their full potential.

  Tahiti 10-0 at the Confederations Cup in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
RIO DE JANEIRO: Spain broke the record for the biggest margin of victory at the final phase of a FIFA tournament by crushing minnows

Fernando Torres scored four times and David Villa claimed a hat-trick for the world and European champions at Rio de Janeiro's hallowed Maracana, with David Silva adding a brace and Juan Mata also finding the net.

No team had previously won by 10 goals at an international FIFA event, with Hungary (9-0 against South Korea at the 1954 World Cup, 10-1 against El Salvador at the 1982 World Cup) and Yugoslavia (9-0 against Zaire at the 1974 World Cup) the co-holders of the previous record.

Tahiti, who sit 138th in the FIFA rankings, equalled their heaviest defeat -- a 10-0 demolition by New Zealand in 2004 -- but Spain fell short of matching their 13-0 annihilation of Bulgaria in a 1933 friendly.

Spain will be assured of a place in the semi-finals if Nigeria avoid defeat against Uruguay in Salvador later in Group B. The same outcome would also end Tahiti's mathematical chance of reaching the last four.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque made no less than 10 changes to his starting line-up, with only centre-back Sergio Ramos keeping his place in the team from the 2-1 win over Uruguay.

Tahiti's players presented their opponents with necklaces and pendants prior to kick-off, but the pleasantries did not last long, as Torres beat goalkeeper Mickael Roche at his near post to give Spain a fifth-minute lead.

Roche was drafted into the Tahiti team in place of Xavier Samin, who shipped six goals against Nigeria, and the newcomer momentarily looked set to play the hero, saving at Torres' feet and repelling Santi Cazorla's half-volley.

His resistance did not last long, however, as Spain ran in three goals in the 14 minutes before half-time to banish any hopes of a shock result.

Silva found the bottom-left corner from Villa's pass in the 31st minute, with Torres dinking the ball over the advancing Roche and rolling home before Villa got on the score-sheet from Silva's low cross.

Tahiti surprisingly enjoyed 37 percent of possession in the first half, but Del Bosque added another attacking player at half-time in Jesus Navas and Villa soon made it 5-0 from a low Nacho Monreal cross.

Torres completed his hat-trick in the 57th minute, side-footing home from Navas' cut-back, before Villa matched his strike partner by tapping in after Roche allowed a long pass to squirm through his grasp.

Mata drove in Spain's eighth shortly afterwards, and although Torres then put a penalty against the crossbar, he quickly atoned by rounding Roche to roll in his fourth goal.

Navas teed up his new Manchester City team-mate Silva for the record-breaking 10th goal in the 89th minute, by which time Spain's celebrations had become rather sheepish.

Match highlights ----

Monday, 17 June 2013

Brazilian icon Pele has waded into the Ballon d’Or debate once more and claims Cristiano Ronaldo deserved to scoop the prestigious prize ahead of Lionel Messi.

Messi won his 4th straight Ballon d’Or earlier this year for his goalscoring exploits with Barcelona.
Messi scooped the prestigious prize back in January

The Argentinian ace broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals scored in a calendar year while this season he broke another record by scoring in 17 straight Spanish league games, going on to score in 21 consecutive matches before failing to find the net on the last day out of the season.

While Messi garnered all the praise for his goal-scoring exploits it was Ronaldo who had the last laugh as he helped Real Madrid beat off Barca to win the 2011/12 La Liga title.

Since then Barcelona have wrestled back the league crown from their rivals, and with neither side being crowned champions of Europe, Pele believes Ronaldo should have won his 2nd Ballon d’Or for helping to break Barcelona’s dominance.

"In terms of football, I say Messi, but in terms of successes I think Ronaldo deserved to win the Ballon d'Or. He won La Liga with Real Madrid," Pele said in an interview with AS.

"I was at Fifa presenting the award on two occasions. Cristiano was close on both occasions, but Messi always had more."

Pele has been vocal in the past about his belief that countryman Neymar has what it takes to surpass Messi as the greatest player in the world.

Now it has been confirmed Neymar will line up alongside Messi at Barcelona next season, Pele concedes it will take some time for the former Santos player to reach that level.

"It’s clear that the marking in European football is different to Brazilian or South American clubs," he said. "They’re stronger, the marking is tighter and the referees are used to this type of play. I think that this will be Neymar’s main difficulty.

"He has some obstacles to get over: he needs to play in a World Cup, he needs to improve his heading. By way of comparison, we had [Zinedine] Zidane a short time ago, one of the last great names in world football. He was an extremely complete player. Neymar still needs to get to that level."

Chelsea transfer news: Fernando Torres flattered by Barcelona interest - but wants to stay..
Torres is happy where he is.

Fernando Torres admits he is flattered to hear of reported interest in his signature from Barcelona, but insists he intends to remain with Chelsea beyond the summer transfer window.

Barcelona have been credited with interest in Torres with his future with Chelsea in doubt following the appointment of Jose Mourinho and the likelihood the club will purchase another striker before the transfer deadline.

The situation in the mind of Torres is clear, however, with the 29-year-old intent on staying with Chelsea, while maintaining the belief that Mourinho will be able to kickstart his faltering Stamford Bridge career.

"I want to continue, I want to complete the contract I signed and continue winning trophies and I would like to be the best in the world in my position again," Torres told Spanish newspaper AS.

"It’s always nice to hear about interest from clubs like Barcelona, but my plan is to stay at Chelsea."

Chelsea are already reported to have made an attempt to shift Torres, with the club making an offer of £34 million plus the Spain international in the hope of capturing Edinson Cavani from Napoli.

Cavani, however, appears more likely to join Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window in September, with the Uruguay international reported to have outlined the Santiago Bernabeu as his favoured destination.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

CRISTIANO RONALDO is demanding a staggerin £32million a-year deal to stop him from returning to Manchester United.

Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo is considering his options at the Bernabeu and knows United will welcome him back with open arms.
The Spanish giants are adamant that Ronaldo will not be leaving them this summer and are now trying to agree a deal to keep their Portuguese idol for the rest of his career.
But Ronaldo, 28, is determined to cash in on his iconic status and is looking for a mega deal to make him the highest-paid footballer in history.
First up he wants an annual wage of £17m from Madrid, which works out at about £345,000 per week.
But he is also demanding 100 per cent of his image rights contract from the club, which could be worth as much as £15m per year.
Even a club as rich as Real Madrid have been shocked by the figures being bandied around by Ronaldo’s representatives.
And they are hoping they are just the player’s opening gambit in what could be long, complicated contract negotiations. Ronaldo, who cost Real a world record £80m when they signed him from United in 2009, still has two years of his current £200,000-a-week contract to run at the Bernabeu.
So president Florentino Perez believes there is plenty of time to haggle over a new deal before they seriously have to think about selling their brightest star.
But sources close to Ronaldo have indicated the player’s demands are not motivated by greed but his determination to prove himself to be the biggest star in the world.
Ronaldo is aware Barcelona rival Lionel Messi currently gets £14m a year and already has a 100 per cent image rights agreement with his club.
And he is determined to top that. But even Real, the richest club in the world, are unlikely to agree to those terms and will look to strike a compromise deal with a player who has scored 201 goals in four seasons at the Bernabeu.
United still refuse to rule out the prospect of tempting Ronaldo back to the Premier League but would have to smash their wage structure to even come close to matching his terms.

Read more:

copyright TheSun

I’ve just read this fascinating story on Guardiola’s move to Bayern in today’s El Pais. It’s so interesting I decided to translate it to English so you can all read it in full. The original story was printed in Germany’s Der Spiegel.

On the 26th of July 2011, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness are sitting in a VIP restaurant at the Allianz Arena when a man with a shaved head walks in and sits at a table across the room. He’s alone. When they realize who it is, Rummenigge gets up and goes over to greet Pep Guardiola. ‘Can I speak to you a moment?’ asks Guardiola. Rummenigge makes a sign to Hoeness. They order three espressos. At that moment Rummenigge and Hoeness don’t have a clue of Guardiola’s intentions, but of course they want to speak with him.
Guardiola, who has travelled to Munich with Barça to participate in the Audi Cup, comments that he likes Bayern. In the morning he has seen the club’s installations in Sabener Strasse and now the Allianz Arena. ‘Your philosophy is very interesting’, he says. He then goes on to say something that neither Rummenigge or Hoeness expect: ‘I can see myself coaching here one day’.
‘It was an unmistakeable statement that came directly from him’ says Rummenigge. From him, from Guardiola. He was the one who made the first move towards Bayern, not the other way round. Still, today, on recalling that day in one of the club’s offices, Rummenigge seems perplexed. He shakes his head. ‘I don’t know if in that moment I would have dared to ask him: can you imagine yourself training Bayern Munich?’ On leaving, Guardiola gave Rummenigge a note with his mobile number. Rummenigge keeps it. He knows he has a little treasure in his hands.
Pep Guardiola’s younger brother and his main advisor Pere Guardiola takes up the story. ‘The truth is I was surprised when Pep called me and told me “I have given my number to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in Munich, I think he will call me”’. Pere is sitting in a board room on the 14th floor of a Barcelona skyscraper. He is the manager of Media Base Sports, an agency founded in 2009 which works mainly with Barça players. He has negotiated a contract with Bayern in his brother’s name. A ‘nice contract’ in his words. Eight or nine precise pages, ‘in a way, very German’
When he gets back from Munich Pep tells his brother that it’s not just the training facilities and the new stadium. Guardiola is also impressed with the squad, which is very intelligently structured and with ‘two or three small adjustments’ will reach an incredible potential.
Pere knows his brother likes traditional teams. Ajax, Juventus, Manchester United Bayern. In Germany it’s possible that Bayern are synonymous with huge sums of money but outside Germany they are known more for the glorious era of the 1970s. Pere explains that his brother is a ‘romantic’ and that ‘tradition, history, past heroes, that type of thing’ means a lot to him. Before becoming a football agent Pere worked for Nike. ‘This type of thing’ doesn’t seem so important for him. He’s not a romantic. He’s someone who since last summer has had to relate to the big money of world football. He has been inundated with envoys from Inter, Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, Milan…they all wanted Guardiola.
 ‘I called Giovanni and I put him on Bayern’s case’, explains Pere. Giovanni Branchini is one of the best known agents in Italy, an old acquaintance of Hoeness and Rummenigge. He is considered to be discreet and professional. He brought the Brazilian Ronaldo to Barça and later to Inter Milan. ‘It couldn’t seem as though we were offering ourselves to Bayern. My brother only wanted to be sure that they understood that he thought Bayern was an interesting team’ explains Pere. Branchini had to organize a meeting.
In the autumn of 2011, after a Champions League game at BATE Borisov, Guardiola mentions in front of president Sandro Rosell that maybe he would not renew his contract. The news caused a great commotion in the offices of the blaugrana board.
On January 13 2012 Uli Hoeness belatedly celebrated his 60th birthday in Munich’s Postpalast. Among the 475 guests was Giovanni Branchini, the agent. The middle man. He sat with Rummenigge and gave him the message from Guardiola’s brother. What Guardiola had said at the Audi Cup still stood. After the meeting Rummenigge periodically telephoned Guardiola. At the end of April 2012, the coach announced he was leaving Barça. Immediately after Pere began to receive calls on a daily basis from other top clubs, but in front of his brother Pep only spoke of Bayern.  
Pere has his eyes on the English Premier, he wants his brother to appreciate the advantages of the ‘very serious English’. The offer from Man City is especially interesting. They send Txiki Begiristain, Barça’s ex-sporting director. Begiristain knows Guardiola won’t be seduced only by money. They speak of a ‘project’ and of 150 million that can be invested in new players. Maybe even more.
But Pep continues with his fixation for Munich. He gets Branchini to call Rummenigge from Italy and tell him that after a year’s break in New York he wants to return to work as a coach without hesitation. And could they speak at some point. Rummenigge asks if it’s a good idea to meet with Guardiola before he flies to the US. ‘Do it’ replies Branchini.
In July 2012 Rummenigge flies to Barcelona. Pere Guardiola meets him at the airport. They go to a friend’s house, outside the city. There they spend nearly six hours together. Pep Guardiola attempts to explain to Rummenigge his opinions about football and Rumminigge tries to explain how Bayern function. Rummenigge explains that half of the team’s training sessions are open to the public, which is not usual on the international scene. Guardiola would have to get used to this. Pep points out that he does not give individual interviews, only press conferences. Rummenigge wants to know if Guardiola is thinking to bring an entire team of his own people, trainers and specialists, as Van Gaal did. No, responds Guardiola, saying that he only needs three of his own people and the rest he doesn’t care: ‘if you have good people at Bayern, I will work with them’.
At the beginning of November Rummenigge receives a call from New York. ‘I want to coach Bayern’.
Guardiola immediately gets himself a German teacher in New York who must promise not to speak to the press. ‘Like everything, he went at it in an obsessive manner. Four hours a day, like a madman’, confirms Pere. A few months later, towards Easter, Guardiola spends six days in Barcelona. He hires a German teacher who goes everywhere with him. ‘It’s absurd. You meet your brother for breakfast and he doesn’t stop speaking German with his teacher’. Pere Guardiola confirms that  Pep didn’t take long to be able to speak German, you need to be very obstinate to achieve that’.
In the weeks before Christmas 2012 Hoeness flies to New York to get to know Guardiola and to take advantage of the occasion to present him with the contract. Their meeting had to be a secret. Pep Guardiola sent a car with darkened windows to pick up Hoeness from New York’s Four Seasons hotel. Together with Guardiola’s brother and two bodyguards, Hoeness crosses Manhattan until they enter a subterranean car park. Guardiola’s apartment, at 320 Central Park West, has a private lift and four bedrooms and it belongs to a German executive banker. The rent is $31,000 a month.
Hoeness is there for four hours. Guardiola’s wife, Cristina, cooks. After eating the coach shows the president his ideas of possible formations and lineups for the following season. In New York he has watched all sorts of Bayern’s matches on television. And he is convinced that Bayern is the next team capable of taking on Barça.
Can Guardiola again make an era with Bayern like he did with Barça?
The true nature of a person becomes clear in defeat. Seen in this manner practically nobody can say who Guardiola really is…since he still hasn’t failed. It could happen in Munich; Guardiola could lose….against himself.
© 2013 Der Spiegel

Lionel Messi overtakes Diego Maradona with hat-trick to become third-highest goal scorer for Argentina

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in Argentina’s 4-0 victory over Guatemala to take his goal record to 35 and surpass Diego Maradona’s international tally.

The Barcelona forward appeared as a substitute in the recent World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Ecuador, but he was given a starting berth alongside many fringe players in what was a second-string side for the Argentinians.
Messi opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area, and he got an assist when Augusto Fernandez got onto the end of his cross to head in and double their lead in the 35th minute.
Just four minutes later it was 3-0 after Messi converted a penalty to level his record with Maradona’s, and he completed his third hat-trick for his country just four minutes after halftime when Ezequiel Lavezzi crossed the ball low into the box from the right for the Balon d’Or winner to side-foot in.
His previous hat-tricks came last year against Switzerland and Brazil, and he departed in the 67th minute in third on the all-time Argentinian goal scorers list behind Hernan Crespo and record-holder Gabriel Batitusta, who has 56 international goals.
“That was the least important thing,” Messi said when speaking to TyC Sports when asked about overtaking Maradona. “We wanted to play well in this friendly. The team’s attitude was right.”

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Monaco are ready to make a world record €100m (£85m) bid for Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has just two years left on his contract at Madrid and is known to be disillusioned with life at the Santiago Bernabeu, at the end of his fourth season there.

The Ligue 1 club, funded by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, have already spent over £110m this summer on Radamel Falcao ofAtletico Madrid and James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho of Porto. The Independent in London reports this morning that they are now prepared to make their boldest move yet, taking advantage of the Portuguese forward's frustration at Madrid, and failure to sign a new deal, to tempt him to join with a world record salary offer of €20m (£17m) per year.

Monaco are closely monitoring Ronaldo's negotiations with Real Madrid over a contract extension, and if no deal is done by late July or August they will make their move. There have been talks between Monaco and Ronaldo's camp over the last 18 months and the two parties met earlier this year.

Ronaldo feels underappreciated at Madrid and believes he is due a pay rise. He is especially keen to earn more than his great rival Lionel Messi at Barcelona. In February of this year, Messi signed a new contract with Barcelona that will last until 2018, heavily incentivised but with a basic salary starting at €12m per year, but increased through bonuses and image rights.

Monaco will offer Ronaldo an annual salary of €20m, which would equate to nearly £330,000 per week. The principality of Monaco does not charge its residents income tax and so Ronaldo would become the highest-paid footballer in the world.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who would be his Ligue 1 rival at Paris Saint-Germain, has a net salary of between €13m and €14m but because of France's near 75 per cent tax rate on top earners, Paris have to pay out far more than that. Monaco would face no such issue.

This summer, since their promotion back to Ligue 1, Monaco have spent more than £100m on players, all of whom are clients of Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes. Their summer spending started with a combined £60m on the Porto pair Rodriguez and Moutinho – both of whom are Mendes players, as is Ricardo Carvalho, formerly of Chelsea and Real Madrid, who arrived on a free transfer.

Their next purchase was Falcao, the Colombian forward who joined from Atletico Madrid for a fee of roughly £50m, and will be paid £12m annually.Victor Valdes, the Barcelona goalkeeper, is likely to be the next arrival. They have also been linked with John Terry.

Monaco would have to bid another world record fee for Ronaldo, as Real Madrid would be keen to make back the €95m (£80m) which they paid Manchester United for him in 2009. United are also keen on Ronaldo's signature this summer, with the player himself open to the possibility of returning to Old Trafford, where he enjoyed six brilliant seasons between 2003 and 2009. There has also been ongoing dialogue between Ronaldo's camp and United over the past six months.

Ronaldo has scored an implausible 199 goals in 201 games at Real Madrid since his arrival from Manchester United in 2009. Only the feats of Messi at Barcelona have stopped Ronaldo from being recognised as the undisputed player of his generation.

But, with one Spanish title and one Copa Del Rey in four years of individual brilliance at Madrid, he has not done as well as he could have. In those four years, Messi has won three Spanish titles, the Champions League, a Copa Del Rey, the Club World Cup and, importantly, three Fifa Ballon D'Or awards. Ronaldo has not been crowned the world's best since his 2008 Ballon D'Or and would love to win it again. Last September, Ronaldo declined to celebrate two goals that he scored for Madrid, explaining that it was because he was "unhappy" with the club.

Top billing: World record transfers

Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United-Real Madrid) £80m

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Internazionale-Barcelona) £56m

Kaka (Milan-Real Madrid) £55m

Hulk (Porto-Zenit St P'burg) £52m

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid-Monaco) £50m

Fernando Torres (Liverpool-Chelsea) £50m

Neymar (Santos-Barcelona) £48.6m

Zinedine Zidane (Juventus-Real Madrid) £48m

Falcao (Porto-Atletico Madrid) £41m James Rodriguez (Porto-Monaco) £38.5m

Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid-Manchester City) £38m

Luis Figo (Barcelona-R Madrid)£38m

Hernan Crespo (Parma-Lazio) £35.5m

Sunday, 9 June 2013

EA prepares us for E3 with a new trailer of the latest Fifa title, showing off many of the game's new features..

Fifa 14: featuring new ball physics, precision movement and a transformed shooting system
EA has released a new gameplay trailer from Fifa 14, a few days ahead of E3. The 90 second clip whizzes through a series of scorching goals, crushing tackles and flying takedowns. Have a look here:
The developer is promising a range of refreshed features including an entirely new ball physics engine, allowing more powerful controlled shots from distance. A precision movement system allows players to quickly turn, pivot and accelerate, while 'protect the ball' lets strikers fend off defenders from the ball. You can see our in-depth preview right here.

Complete Review here.....
Fifa 14 PSG
In modern football, it is the playmakers we idolise; the magicians who can orchestrate attacks as well as score. Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Andrea Pirlo, Lionel Messi … mostly, they are deep-lying forwards or creative midfielders; they don't get in on the end of long, lofted passes, they sculpt goals. This is where Fifa 14 wants to go.
Every year, when the latest Fifa is shipped, the team gets together, sifts through feedback, from within the studio and from customers, and works out where to go next. This time there was a rather weighty conclusion: Fifa is too fast. There is something about the system, the physics, the controls, whatever that leads toward end-to-end gameplay. All the action is happening around the 18-yard area. Everything is compressed.
"That's not as realistic as we'd like," says series producer Nick Channon as he introduces a roomful of journalists to the latest instalment. "When you look at the modern game, it's much more about building up through the midfield. The best teams move the ball around, switch sides, attack on the wings, they attack from everywhere – that's something we want to bring into Fifa. The exhilaration of scoring great goals isn't just about the shot, it's about how you get there."
So for Fifa 14, the big emphasis is on build-up play, on anticipation and on off-the-ball movement; it's about driving through the midfield, rather than lofting balls over it. For a start, the team has completely re-worked how dribbling at speed works. It turns out that in most football simulations, when the gamer hits the sprint button, the onscreen player is limited to a turning circle of just 22.5 degrees – which means you get these long, wide turning arcs. Fifa 14 has done away with that; you'll now be able to turn at any angle while sprinting, leading defenders up the pitch before darting back, or winding through opponents.
Fifa 14 dribble
To ensure this isn't over-powered, however, the movement physics is getting a new addition: momentum. Now, if your player quickly changes direction, or turns completely, you'll get a brief pause as they transfer weight from one foot to the other. Channon runs through early footage of a sharp about turn on screen, and the effect looks immediately more authentic. Beyond that, we didn't get any hands-on time so I've no idea how losing this historic 22.5-degree turning circle is going to affect things, but it should make for much less predictability in the midfield. Which is the whole point, of course.
On that note, Fifa 14 is also set to build on last year's first-touch control system, which varies how effectively a player receives the ball depending on his skill, position and the speed and angle of delivery. This time, EA Sports is introducing variable dribble touches, so sprinting players will push the ball forward at differing distances, again based on their skills; a stylish midfielder will keep the ball close to them, but a hulking defender may well push it out further, giving opposing players the chance to steal possession. Whatever, the days of having the ball stick to the runner's feet are over. "It will transform how you think about sprinting," says Channon.
What we're getting so far is a shift in balance toward defenders, and that continues into the demo. The next big change is in marking, which Channon feels tended to be loose enough in Fifa 13 for players to turn defenders reasonably easily. Now it's being tightened up, thanks to a change to the AI. Apparently, in previous iterations of the game, computer-controlled players would make their defensive decisions in a single frame of animation, often breaking away from attackers if another forward player was spotted in a threatening position. Now they assess situations over multiple frames which means they're less likely to act on split-second decisions, instead staying focused to track the player on the ball.
Fifa shooting
As a consequence, one cheap route to goal has been closed up. Channon talks about how, in the past, if a ball was cleared from the box, it would almost always fall to an attacking player, allowing the ball to be recycled. Now, however, those players are likely to have tight defensive markers. "It's not about making the game more difficult," insists Channon. "It's about making it more fun." By taking away some of game's repetitive tics, the idea is that the action will feel more authentic, and more representative of the real sport.
And to balance things up, there are additions to the attacking intelligence of AI players. They can now make three different types of forward move: spinning out and running in behind defenders; running along the back line to stay onside, and backing in to defenders to create space. Each one is a visual cue to gamers, and as with the variable ball control while sprinting, it adds more personality to individual players – powerful centre forwards will have much more success backing into and tussling with defenders than lighter strikers.
"The new runs make a huge difference," says Channon later. "The big one is the backing in to defenders, being able to play the ball in to the feet of a striker is important, you see it a lot in the real game. And being able to turn the defender gives you other opportunities. It's all about balance – with the tightening up of marking, it means the game will be less backwards and forwards. We're not changing the actual game speed at all, but it will slow down naturally, you'll be able to look at different options and vary your game. It won't be about getting cheap goals."
Fifa 14 city
Adding to the sense of physicality is a new "protect the ball" move, accessible by pressing the left trigger. Hitting this slows the player down, but allows them to shield the ball while dribbling, sticking out an arm or angling their body to see off opposing players. Gameplay producer Aaron McHardy likens the new control system to a racing sim, with sprint on the right trigger acting as accelerate, and "protect the ball" on the left as brake. The idea is that players can now battle through midfield, dictating and varying pace, while probing for decent passes. Players can also use left trigger to jostle for a loose ball, or to counteract a defender using the B button to pull at his opponent.
The most intriguing update, though, is to scoring. In the past, player animations didn't tell the full story about a shooting chance. If you hit the shoot button during an animation sequence, the player would be snapped into the correct position – a slightly awkward process. Now, strikers will adjust their stride and angle realistically and this will signal how truly prepared they are. Channon talks about how EA would get feedback from gamers mystified why a certain shot flew well wide or dribbled pathetically into the keeper's arms – now, a new set of animations will provide visual tells: you'll know if the ball is too close to the attacker's feet, if they're going to have to attempt a rushed shot; and by watching closely, there will be a chance to pull out of a strike and instead pass the ball or feint and set up for a better chance.
Defenders will get their own version of this. When going in for a tackle in Fifa 13, the defender is essentially committed for the duration of the fixed animation cycle – time it slightly wrong and your man is left floundering. In Fifa 14, however, the more phased approach to animation will allow defenders to break out of the cycle and will get a second chance to tackle. There's only a small window of opportunity, but it's a key addition that's likely to make the outcome of tackles much less predictable. It's all about widening the challenge in those midfield areas.
And at last, EA Sports has finally addressed the ball physics – considered by many to be flat and predictable in previous iterations. Channon says the studio has been studying elements such as drag, curve and spin and has totally rethought the physics. Central to this is a much more realistic drag coefficient. The ball will speed up in the air, it will slow, it can almost flatten out or even slightly speed up – simulating the effect of wind, turbulence and the weight of the ball – instead of simply providing a dull curve to the flight. "It just felt like the right time to work on it," he says. "We realised that the linear deceleration of the ball wasn't right – we were getting these really flat, repetitive trajectories. Now you can kick the ball harder, there's more spin, more movement in the air, it just all came together."
The hope is that this loosened flight mechanic leads to a far great variety of shots, including the sort of 30-yard low-rising screamers Steven Gerrard tends to fire off, or those shots that dip at the last minute into the top corner. In fact, Channon demonstrated the new effect by showing a video of this famous goal against Olympiakos:

Apparently, crosses and long passes will also be affected, allowing a greater range of defence-splitting through-balls.
So, that's Fifa 14 right now. Tighter marking, more finesse to attacking play, more control over the tempo – and completely rethought game physics. It's a promising array of improvements – some may read it as overly defensive, but hopefully the added range of forward runs from computer-controlled players, the more expressive movement and the less predictable ball flight will open things up for varied attacking play. And certainly, closer more intelligent marking should rid us of some of those cheap scoring scenarios, like coming in at an angle from the edge of the box and striking across goal, which some Fifa regulars have turned into an unfailing exploit.
But these was all shown through demo videos – there is no hands-on code right now. The team is still tweaking the parameters and the animation. Channon did show us a video that one of the QA testers sent him on his mobile phone – it shows the replay of a beautiful goal scored from way outside the box, caught perfectly on the volley, the ball barely rising above ground level, wavering in the air and tucking in beyond a flailing keeper and the near post. Channon can barely disguise his delight.
Tomorrow: a look at the new skill games and career mode updates, plus, why we haven't mentioned what consoles the game is coming out on....