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