Bartomeu: We know we’ve made some unpopular decisions

The president is hoping for a better 2018

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has delivered a Christmas message, apparently, where he’s admitted the club have made some unpopular decisions.

Bartomeu confessed it had been a difficult year, what with Luis Enrique leaving and the search for a new manager as well as the shock departure of Neymar.

The club also made a bit of a mess of Lionel Messi’s contract renewal, although fortunately Barto did manage to get his photo with the Barca legend in the end.

“It has been an intense year both from a sporting and a social point of view,” he said.

“We know that we have made some decisions that have not been liked, but despite all of these difficulties, the board has always tried to do things with sense and calmness.

“There have been problems, such as the exit of Luis Enrique, the arrival of Valverde, the sale of Neymar, the contract renewals of some key players, and the issue [that is still ongoing] regarding Catalan independence.

“[Nevertheless,] Barcelona continue to grow as a brand, as a family and as a club.

“We are aware that we are currently living in a state of crisis. Hopefully we will have a better 2018 than we did in 2017.”

Source | Marca

The spotlight will be on Bartomeu and Co. when the transfer window opens with the club having been heavily linked with a number of players.

Javier Mascherano is also widely expected to depart, therefore a replacement will be needed, and whoever comes in will play a part in determining how successful this season will be.

Ousmane Dembele gives Barcelona boost ahead of El Clasico

Ousmane Dembele has moved another step closer to a return to Barcelona after completing a full first-team training session.

According to Marca, the Frenchman took part in the whole session for the first time since he was forced to have surgery on the hamstring injury picked up in September.

Rafinha, Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano were also involved although the Brazilian is still not expected to be back for some time.

It still seems unlikely that Dembele will feature in El Clasico on December 23rd, but there’s certainly hope he might be fit enough to play a small part.

FC Barcelona News: 14 December 2017; Ousmane Dembele Wins Award, Players Return to Training

Back at training with a focus on Deportivo | FC Barcelona
After two days of rest, the FC Barcelona first team were back at work on Thursday as they continued preparations for Sunday’s 8.45pm CET kick-off against Deportivo at the Camp Nou.

Copa del Rey Round of 16 return leg date, time set | FC Barcelona
The second leg of the Copa del Rey Round of 16 tie between FC Barcelona and Celta Vigo will be played on Thursday, January 11, 2018, at 9.30pm at Camp Nou, the Spanish Football Federation announced on Thursday. The first leg—to be played in Vigo—is set for January 4 at 7.30pm. In between the two midweek Copa del Rey clashes, Barça hosts Levante in Week 18 of La Liga. That game is set for Sunday, January 7 at 4.15pm.

Chelsea vs Barça a global affair | FC Barcelona
The UEFA Champions League may be a European tournament, but it is almost as international an affair as the World Cup. And when Chelsea and FC Barcelona meet in the Round of 16, it will be a paragon of diversity, with up to 34 players representing seven different national teams taking part.

Iniesta: “Chelsea will be very tough, strong opponents” | FC Barcelona
Andrés Iniesta spoke this Wednesday at the Ciutat Esportiva training ground, commenting on all the latest events at FC Barcelona. The captain was present for a campaign promoted by FC Barcelona and Estrella Damm (an official club sponsor) in which 14 winners got to meet Iniesta and experience a typical day in his life. At the event, he explained that “these contests have been held for many years, and they are really nice and special for everyone.”

Ousmane Dembélé wins 2016/17 Bundesliga Rookie Award | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona striker Ousmane Dembélé was named the Bundesliga Rookie of the Year for his performance last season while at Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old Frenchman, who signed with Barça over the summer, was also named to the German First Division’s Team of the Year.

Leo Messi and Luis Suárez pose with combined six Golden Shoes! | FC Barcelona
In a photo that represents a second coming of the Gilded Age in Barça-ville, the team’s star strikers, Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, posed for a photo on Wednesday at the team’s training facility surrounded by their half dozen combined Golden Shoe awards.

Barça vs Levante date, time announced | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona’s first La Liga game of 2017 will be against Levante on Sunday, January 7, the Spanish First Division announced Wednesday.

Thomas Vermaelen showing he can be more than an emergency option | ESPN
Thomas Vermaelen’s Barcelona career to date has not been much of a career at all. A somewhat surprise signing in the summer of 2014, the club’s sporting director at the time, Andoni Zubizarreta, memorably described him as a player capable of offering “immediate performances.” In the months that followed, though, Vermaelen was seen more in memes than on the pitch, with Zubizarreta’s words never far behind.

Mascherano receives Chinese offer | Football Espana
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has received an offer from Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune, say reports in Spain. The 33-year-old is reportedly adamant he wishes to leave the Camp Nou in January, but will not want to jeopardise his position in Argentina’s World Cup squad for next summer.

Barcelona rumors: Ozil prefers Man Utd, Serie A quartet scouted plus Mascherano, Coutinho & Deulofeu

A quick look at all the latest gossip

Ozil prefers Manchester United to Barca

Today’s rumors start with Mesut Ozil and news that apparently the Arsenal star would prefer a move to Manchester United over Barcelona.

According to the Daily Mail, Ozil fancies playing for Jose Mourinho again and is chasing wages of £300,000-per-week, having turned down Arsenal’s offer of £235,000-a-week.

Arsenal are still in negotiations but Ozil has his eye on a move to Old Trafford, which could happen in the summer when his current deal expires.

Barca scout De Vrij, Milinkovic-Savic, Belotti and Luis Alberto

Back in Spain and Mundo Deportivo (via Football Italia) bring us news that Barcelona went to watch Monday’s Serie A clash between Torino and Lazio.

Why? Well Roberto Fernandez wanted to check out Stefan de Vrij, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Andrea Belotti and Luis Alberto in action.

De Vrij is a possible replacement for Mascherano, Milinkovic-Savic an option in midfield and obviously Belotti a candidate to come into the Barca attack.

Arthur and Ozil are Barcelona’s Plan B

Meanwhile, over at Sport, the news is that Barca will only move for Ozil and Arthur if their bid to land Philippe Coutinho fails.

The club are determined to sign an attacker in January and while Barca are optimistic on Coutinho, Liverpool still want €150 million for the Brazilian.

If it doesn’t happen, they will try to land Arthur for €30 million and Ozil for €20 million, although his wage demands may prove problematic.

Mascherano will sign for Hebei Fortune

Staying with Sport, and they also report that Javier Mascherano will leave for China in January, with the Argentine set to join Hebei Fortune.

Barcelona have decided to allow Mascherano to leave in a €6 million deal and there may be an announcement in the coming days.

However, there is still some doubt as to who will replace Mascherano. Yerry Mina is one option, but there are doubts over his lack of inexperience and his possible price.

Deulofeu to Napoli or Inter

And finally today AS bring us news from Italy that Gerard Deulofeu really could be heading out on loan in January.

The speculation has been building in the last few weeks but apparently Napoli are interested in signing him until the end of the season.

Maurizio Sarri wants to strengthen his attack and sees the winger as the perfect solution, apparently.

However, Inter are also keen (via Football Italia) and could make a move if they miss out on Simone Verdi.

Lionel Messi Speaks on FIFA World Cup 2018

“I hope football pays its debt to me”

Lionel Messi has spoken out about his dreams for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. In an interview with FIFA.com, the Argentina superstar talked about the “debt” his coach, Jorge Sampaoli, said he was still owed. “I hope football does end up paying me!” he said, laughing.

Messi spoke on how his national team is faring:

We’ll be in good shape when we get there because we’re still growing. We had to go through something that we didn’t expect or deserve, because we had earlier matches against Venezuela and Peru that we could have won easily. If we had, then we wouldn’t have had to go through what we did at the end. We’ve had four competitive matches with a new coach, but the national team’s going to change now that the Ecuador game’s behind us. It’s going to grow and it’s going to get rid of all the tension and fear it felt because of that match and because of the risk of not achieving our objective. The national team’s going to change a lot.

The FC Barcelona star also talked about his iconic performance against Ecuador, in which he scored a hat trick to ensure qualification for Argentina:

It was very important because missing out on the World Cup would have been a huge blow, firstly for the squad as a whole and then for me on a personal level. I don’t know how I would have taken it. The same goes for the people of Argentina. Failing to make Russia would have been an all-time low for the country.

Coutinho & Mina would be ‘important reinforcements’ for Barcelona, says Iniesta

The midfielder approves of the duo

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta discussed Barcelona’s potential January signings this week. When asked about Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina, Iniesta made it clear that they would be great reinforcements for Barcelona.

“I think they would be two important reinforcements to the squad,” he told reporters.

“If the club wants to strengthen those positions, it should be with players that can be prepared to withstand the pressure of a club like this, and they would be two big signings.

“But nothing has happened, so it’s difficult.”

Andres Iniesta | Source

The quotes are interesting and not that interesting at the same time. They provide interesting context to life at Barcelona, when he discusses withstanding the “pressure of a club like this”.

There’s been much discussion about Coutinho and whether he’s the right man for Barcelona, particularly due to the fact that if he does arrive, he will not come cheap.

However, Iniesta, at least seems to think the Brazilian would be a good fit for the club.

FC Barcelona to Beat Manchester United for Antoine Griezmann in the Summer – Catalunya Ràdio

The Atlético Madrid forward will sign for sure, says Quique Guasch

FC Barcelona will sign Antoine Griezmann from Atlético Madrid this summer, beating Manchester United for the Frenchman’s signature, according to journalist Quique Guasch. He said this in dramatic fashion on Club de la Mitjanit, a show that airs on Esport3 and Catalunya Ràdio.

Guasch said he was so sure the transfer would go through that if it didn’t, he would never return to the program.

According to him, Barcelona will not pay the release clause, but the fee they do pay will be around the same amount – 100 million euro. This is because of tax issues, apparently.

These rumors continue to build, but we’ll see come this summer whether they come true.

FC Barcelona News: 13 December 2017; Transfer rumors heat up as Barça prepare for next La Liga match

A round-up of the latest Barcelona news and transfer rumors

Mina’s future unclear – agent | Football Espana
The agent of Barcelona-target Yerry Mina has confirmed other clubs still want to sign the Colombian defender, whose future is unclear.

Barca want United-target Embalo? | Football Espana
Barcelona are said to be keeping tabs on highly-rated Benfica forward Umaro Embalo despite reports he has already agreed a deal with Manchester United.

Barca ‘ahead of’ United on Griezi | Football Espana
Barcelona are ‘very far ahead’ of Manchester United in the race to sign Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann, according to a report.

Mesut Ozil Transfer Meeting with Barcelona Reportedly Set Up by Raul Sanllehi | Bleacher Report
Raul Sanllehi, who recently joined Arsenal from Barcelona as head of football relations, reportedly brokered a meeting between the La Liga side and the agent of Mesut Ozil to discuss a potential transfer in the future.

Arsenal receive transfer boost as £24m Barcelona star keen on Premier League move
Barcelona star midfielder Arda Turan looks set for a January exit after failing to play a single minutes of La Liga football this season.

Still no contact from Barcelona for Yerry Mina, says agent

But the defender would be happy to join in January

Yerry Mina’s potential transfer to Barcelona continues to be the subject of much debate, with his agent insisting there’s been no contact with the Blaugrana over a January move.

Yesterday the Spanish press was full of reports that Mina would arrive this winter, as a replacement for Javier Mascherano who is expected to leave for China.

However, his agent and uncle, Yair Mina, has denied that is the case, although he does say the player would be happy to move to Camp Nou this winter.

“There has still been no contact from Barcelona to Palmeiras to sign the player in January. He’s a Palmeiras player and there’s no indicator to say otherwise. I’ve spoken with Robert but Barcelona have not defined anything, everything continues as before.

“Barcelona have told Palmeiras officially that the option to buy is for July 2018. To sign him in January Barcelona will have to sit down with Palmeiras and tell them that they want to make use of the option.

“The player is always willing, he’s active and a club employee. If they tell him he will have to arrive in January, he will have no problem.”

Source | COPE (via Sport)

It looks almost certain that Barca will have to bring in a centre-back this winter, although whether it will be Mina or someone else, still remains to be seen.

Should Valverde rest Busquets against Deportivo?

The midfielder is at risk of missing El Clasico

Ernesto Valverde has decisons to make this weekend as Barcelona take on Deportivo La Coruna in their final home game of 2017.

The most important, perhaps, is whether to start Sergio Busquets or whether to give the midfielder the afternoon off.

Busquets picked up his fourth booking of the season against Villarreal last time out, meaning another on Sunday will rule him out of the next match, El Clasico.

It goes without saying that Buquets has been his usual brilliant self this season, and he would be a huge miss, but it’s not like Valverde does not have other options.

Ivan Rakitic, Paulinho, Sergi Roberto or Andre Gomes could all take over from Busquets for the afternoon, Javier Mascherano too, if he is fit as is expected.

He could even look to the B team, Oriol Busquets and Carles Alena trained with the first team again on Monday, although it would be a surprise if Valverde went for the youthful option.

The Barca boss has also shown this season he’s not afraid to go with his strongest line-up, as seen when Gerard Pique played against Leganes and then picked up his fifth booking of the season which ruled him out of the following game against Valencia.

But is he really willing to risk losing Busquets for El Clasico?

Should Busquets be rested this weekend? And if so, who should come in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!