FC Barcelona News: 25 March 2017; Internationals Star in Qualifiers, Barcelona to Name Stadium After Johan Cruyff

Triple victory in Friday’s international matches | FC Barcelona
The Barça players in action today all started for their national teams and won all three of their qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta, with the Lopetegui’s Spanish national team, Rakitic with Croatia and Arda Turan with Turkey were all in action. All six of them started and a lot of them played the full 90 minutes.

Lionel Messi court date three days prior to Barcelona-Real Madrid Clasico | ESPN
Spain’s supreme court scheduled a hearing for the appeal of Barcelona star Lionel Messi and his father against a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud on April 20, three days before the Catalan club are to play Real Madrid in the Clasico, Spain media reports.

The stadium at the Ciutat Esportiva will be named after Johan Cruyff | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona and the family of Johan Cruyff, represented by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, first vice-president Jordi Cardoner, and Johan’s son Jordi Cruyff, appeared at a ceremony this morning in the Auditori 1899 to publicly announce the mutually agreed actions to forever honour the memory of a man who was both a Barça player and manager, and is now and eternally will be a club legend.

A year without Johan Cruyff | FC Barcelona
On 24 March 2016, the world was stunned by the news of Johan Cruyff’s death. From the moment that his family announced the loss, expressions of grief started coming in from every corner of the planet. Barça was bidding a final farewell to one of the most important figures in its history, and the football world was losing one of the greatest players and managers of all time. The Flying Dutchman, as he was known in his playing days in Catalonia, changed the way we see football.

Horacio and Johan: The Documentary | FC Barcelona
The documentary, directed by Johan Kramer, provides a series of unseen images of Cruyff’s time in Barcelona as a player and it even has some photos from a mostly unknown trip to the Catalan capital before his time here as a player and coach.

FC Barcelona statement concerning TV3’s incorrect information | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona roundly dismiss having requested permission to speak to Athletic Club’s coach Ernesto Valverde over the future vacancy at FC Barcelona as was stated by Televisió de Catalunya. The Club also deny that their Technical Secretary Robert Fernández had any contact with Ernesto Valverde in the last few days to negotiate his arrival at FC Barcelona.

The Neverending Rondo, starring Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto | FC Barcelona
While the lion’s share of Barça’s international stars have been jetting off to foreign lands for a 10-day hiatus and a mélange of friendlies and World Cup qualifiers with their respective national squads, the homebodies who stuck around have continued training — and enjoying themselves, too, like during the run-up to February’s La Liga match against Atlético Madrid.

What is Neymar’s net worth and how much does the Barcelona star earn? | FC Barcelona
Neymar might not have even touched the halfway point in his footballing career but is already among the best-paid and most marketable athletes on the planet. The Barcelona star only turned 25 last month and has scored over 200 goals at club level and another 51 for his country, recently signing a lucrative new contract at the club he joined as the most in-demand player in world football back in 2013.

Barcelona deny Rafinha will leave amid reported Arsenal, Liverpool interest | ESPN
Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez has played down speculation that Rafinha will leave for a new club this summer. El Mundo Deportivo claims on Friday that Arsenal, Liverpool and Juventus are all interested in the Brazil international midfielder, while pointing out that no offers have been made yet.

What’s the Deal With Barcelona President Meeting With Tottenham Hotspur Coach Mauricio Pochettino?

Was it just a friendly meeting?

Josep Maria Bartomeu met with Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino at a restaurant in Barcelona, amid conflicting rumors about whether he is being considered as a potential replacement for Luis Enrique.

Pochettino has been mentioned by some as having an outside shot of getting the Barcelona job, and this meeting has probably made his betting odds get even stronger.

But Mundo Deportivo says the meeting was a coincidence. Both men just happened to be there and, since they know each other, spoke cordially.

Pochettino does not meet the only requirement Barcelona have revealed publicly for getting the job: having “Barça DNA.”

In fact, he has almost the opposite DNA. Pochettino played for and managed crosstown rivals Espanyol.

So, will Poch manage Barça? It’s possible, maybe, but it doesn’t look especially likely even after the meeting.

Barcelona Tactics: Should Jordi Alba Get More Time in Midfield?

Alba seems to be itching to play, but where does he fit in the 3-4-3?

Jordi Alba has dropped hints he’s not exactly happy with being left out of the starting XI as Barcelona have switched to a 3-4-3 formation. But regardless of form, there is a good reason for his exclusion: he doesn’t quite fit the new system, which eliminated his natural position from the teamsheet.

Luis Enrique has used Alba primarily as a left-sided centerback in this formation, though more than that, Alba has just been on the bench.

As a center-back, Alba covers a lot of territory but he’s clearly not as good in the air or as solid defensively in general as the man he replaces, Samuel Umtiti.

Alba is used to starting, and in a 4-3-3 he probably does still, but in a 3-4-3, he’s a poor fit. Lucho prefers Umtiti, and on occasion has even preferred Jeremy Mathieu AND Lucas Digne to the flying squirrel in that left-sided CB spot.

So does Alba have a role in the team beyond occasional ill-fitting LCB?

Maybe he needs to play as a midfielder more often – essentially, as an Andres Iniesta substitute. It’s a new role, but one that perhaps suits him better in the 3-4-3 formation.

Sergi Roberto has moved from right-back to midfield, which has made him a bit more comfortable. OK, midfield was always his preferred spot, but it shows you that the switch isn’t that radical.

Alba is a good passer and his stamina and speed can help Barcelona in transitions. Of course he’s no Iniesta, but he does bring something different to the role in that he is blazing fast. Considering Barcelona have sometimes been overrun on counters, a player with good recovery speed could be a help.

The sub for Iniesta lately has been André Gomes quite often, and he’s not exactly lighting the world on fire (though he did bag his first goal in the last game.)

Alba is not a particularly great defender, he’s more of an offensive-minded fullback. And his aerial ability compared to Mathieu or Umtiti is like comparing a crop duster to a bomber. That’s especially a concern considering how many goals Barcelona have been shipping on corners lately. No, having taller players is not as important as organizing better, but hey, taller players do make a big difference.

The left side of defense in a three-man line doesn’t seem to suit Jordi at all, and it suits Mathieu, Digne, and most especially Umtiti much better.

Granted, the midfield is already packed with great quantity if not great quality, but some competition wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

WATCH: Neymar scores audacious chip for Brazil in World Cup qualifying

Oh baby!

via r/Soccer

Neymar has started off his international break in style with the cheekiest of chips to extend Brazil’s lead to 3-1 over Uruguay in a very important away match. With his side up a goal already, the Barcelona winger shrugged off a defender, walked in on goal and scored a fantastic chip over the head of the goalkeeper. What a great goal.

Brazil are currently on top of the CONMEBOL standings with a four point cushion over second-place Uruguay. This result would cement them as the probably group winners and a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Barcelona in For Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez – Report

What are the chances of this happening?

Strap in, folks, because we’re about to get a lot of rumors as it seems Barcelona’s management is starting to rev up plans for the upcoming transfer window.

This one comes from Diario Sport: Barcelona are keen on Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez for next summer.

Last year, FC Barcelona apparently were interested in the Algerian-born winger, but Leicester asked for a fortune and the Catalans backed off.

Mahrez could be back on the market, though he won’t be cheap. Sport says that despite Mahrez having a bit of an off year, Barcelona expect he will command a price in the range of 35 to 40 million euros.

Barcelona may be in for a winger who has good one v. one skills, and Mahrez could fit the bill.

Leicester will not let him go cheaply, but the player himself may want the move. He’s been pictured wearing Barcelona shirts and has praised the team in the past. That could make a difference as well.

Barcelona B 2013/14: Where Are They Now? (Part 2 – Centre-backs)

Barcelona B have faltered since finishing 3rd in La Segunda in 2013/14. Here, we take a look at how the centre-backs of that squad has fared since then.

There has been much consternation over the state of La Masia and the perilous path youth players dream of walking from Mini Estadi to Camp Nou. The last great Barça B side – which finished 3rd in the 2013/14 Segunda División – contained a plethora of highly-rated youngsters. In five parts, I’ll take a look at how players of that year’s Barça B squad have fared since then. In part two, we’ll review the centrebacks of that squad.

Edgar Ié

A €1.75m signing from Sporting CP’s Alcochete academy in 2012, much was expected from Edgar Ié. The former Portuguese youth international made 13 appearances, providing 1 assist, in 2013/14. He had spent the first half of that season struggling with muscle injuries. Little was seen from Ié since debuting in the Copa del Rey in December 2014 for then-first team coach Tata Martino.

After his release from Barça B, Edgar Ié joined Villarreal B. Released eighteen months after signing a three-year deal, Ié joined Portuguese Primeira Liga outfit Belenenses in December 2016.

Sergi Gómez

Sergi Gómez was regarded as one of the more promising centrebacks during his time in La Masia. Joining La Masia at the age of fourteen, Gómez steadily rose through the age groups. With just a handful of games in his first professional season (2009/10), the Catalan defender gradually became important to the team. He made his first team debut under Pep Guardiola, playing the full ninety minutes in a 3-1 away defeat to Sevilla in the 2010 Spanish Super Cup. In 2013/14, Gómez made 36 appearances, providing 1 assist. Most impressively, he only had 2 yellow cards to his name that season.

With Spain, Gómez was part of the bronze-winning side at the U17 World Cup in 2009, and the U19 side which won the 2011 U19 European Championships. After a lack of first team opportunities, the former Spain youth international left Mini Estadi for Galician side Celta de Vigo in 2014. Sergi Gómez has since established himself as a regular for Celta.

Macky Bagnack

Another product of the partnership with the Samuel Eto’o Foundation, Macky Bagnack joined La Masia in 2008, at the age of thirteen. His promotion to Barça B came ahead of the 2012/13 season. The Cameroonian made 24 appearances in 2013/14, scoring once and incurring 7 yellows, playing a rather major role in the team’s defence.
In January 2016, Macky Bagnack rescinded his Barça contract to join French side FC Nantes. After six months in the Nantes reserve side, he returned to Spain, signing for Real Zaragoza in the Segunda División. He is currently a first team squad player in Zaragoza.

Sergio Juste

Sergio Juste spent seven years with Gimnàstic de Tarragona after leaving La Masia, at the age of ten. His path in football came full circle upon signing for Barça B as a 20-year-old in 2012. His three-year deal included a 12m release clause. Juste missed the whole 2012/13 season through injury. In August 2013, he suffered an ACL tear which mean he ended the campaign with just a handful of minutes and what was his belated debut for Barça B. In August 2014, Juste was named as captain of Barça B despite making one appearance in two years.
Sergio Juste, also known by the moniker Chechi, left Barça B in 2016. He is currently a regular in the Segunda División B with another Catalan side, Hospitalet.

Sergio Ayala

Sergio Ayala was converted by former Masia coach Sergi Barjuan from an attacker to a defender whilst under his tutelage at Juvenil B level. After joining La Masia aged 11 in 2001, Ayala was promoted to Barça B after signing a new contract in 2012. He spent 2012/13 and 2013/14 on loan at Alavés and Valencia Mestalla respectively, playing no part in the achievements of the 2013/14 season with Barça B. He joined Valencia Mestalla on a free transfer after his loan deal ended in 2014. He currently plies his trade for Valencia’s B side.

Robert Costa

Aged 12, Robert Costa joined La Masia in 2006. After seven years with the various age groups, Costa was promoted to Barça B ahead of the 2013/14 season. He was immediately loaned down a division to Segunda División B side Badalona, hence not featuring a single minute in what was a fantastic season for Barça B. After a lack of progression opportunities at Barça, Robert Costa signed for Celta de Vigo in 2016. He currently plays for Celta B.

FC Barcelona News: 23 March 2017; Marc-Andre ter Stegen Holds Clean Sheet, Former Barca President Dies

Germany 1 England 0: Lukas Podolski bows out with signature thunderbolt to light up his final match | Telegraph
New England; old Germany. Gareth Southgate’s first game in charge after being appointed England’s permanent manager ended in defeat, a loss inflicted by Lukas Podolski who scored his 49th and final goal as he retired from international football.

Messi, Mascherano and Neymar in action in South American qualifying | FC Barcelona
The marathon that is the South American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia judders back into action on Thursday evening with three Barça players potentially involved. In the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, venue for the first ever World Cup final back in 1930, a Uruguay side without the suspended Luis Suárez take on a Brazil side led by Barça striker Neymar.

Barça and the I-95 corridor are already well-acquainted | FC Barcelona
The orderly calendar of events for this summer moves along, quite fittingly, from north to south, with sojourns in America’s financial capital (New York), its political capital (Washington, D.C.), and its beach/nightlife capital (Miami), where a date with history awaits as Barça and Real Madrid will go toe-to-toe in the first ever El Clásico held on U.S. soil.

Former FC Barcelona president Agustí Montal dies | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona expresses its sorrow for the death of Agustí Montal Costa (1934-2017), president of the club between 1969 and 1977, who left us on Wednesday at 82 years of age. FC Barcelona wishes to convey its deepest condolences to the family, with whom they are sharing these moments of pain, along with members, supporters of the Club and the world of football.

FC Barcelona will open a memorial on Friday in memory of Agustí Montal | FC Barcelona
Following the death of former FC Barcelona President Augustí Montal, the Club has announced that a viewing will be held at the Les Corts Funeral Home on Wednesday at 6.00pm CET. The funeral will be on Thursday at 1.00pm CET at Saint Vincent’s Church in Sarrià.

Barcelona Star Wants to Play in Major League Soccer

Busquets also said he could coach Barcelona one day.

Sergio Busquets has revealed that he would like to play in Major League Soccer one day, in an interview with Spanish radio station COPE.

The Barcelona midfielder was asked if he thought about one day playing in Qatar, the United States, or China. Busquets said: “As things stand today, I would like to go to the United States later on in my career.”

He also said he spoke with David Villa, an ex teammate who now plays for New York City FC. “He loves it there, it’s going very well for him.”

Speaking of future plans, Busquets said his former teammate Xavi would one day coach Barcelona, though perhaps after Busquets’s own retirement.

He also said to have Xavi as general manager, Gerard Pique as president, and Busquets himself as coach “wouldn’t be bad, right?”

Bayern Munich Star Rejects Barcelona Transfer, Reports Catalan Radio

The door may have just been shut.

Barcelona were keen on getting Thiago Alcantara back from Bayern Munich, but they may have just been shut down, at least according to SER Catalunya.

According to their show La Graderia, Barcelona has gotten in touch with Thiago, but the player has informed them he doesn’t want to return and in fact, is poised to renew with Bayern.

Thiago’s contract runs out in 2019, but if it were extended, the chances of a return would drop considerably.

Thiago’s situation was fumbled by Barcelona in 2013, as they did not play him often enough to prevent a clause in his contract from being activated which temporarily lowered his buyout fee.

Bayern pounced, and the rest is history.

Some still wonder if there is a chance at a return given his brother, Rafinha Alcantara, still plays at the Camp Nou. Until there is formal news about a renewal, fans will hope…

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin Drops FC Barcelona Transfer Hint

Bellerin seems open to a move.

Arsenal fullback Hector Bellerin, a Barcelona native and former La Masia graduate, has dropped the biggest hint yet that he’s ready to move back home.

“It’s nice there are a lot of big clubs that are interested in me, but if one of those is Barcelona that’s special,” he told Sport. “I don’t forget I grew up there and I will never forget my stay at Barcelona.”

Bellerin played eight years in the Barcelona youth system, before joining Arsenal in 2011. He has emerged as an important part of the Gunners’ starting XI.

“Any player would have interest in Barcelona. They are the best club in the world and that is something really special,” he said, in a later interview to Mundo Deportivo. “The fact that I grew up in Barcelona’s academy also gives the idea even more a bit of being special.”

Drama surrounds the Emirates Stadium as longtime manager Arsene Wenger could be on his way out.

Bellerin seems very much #WengerIn, saying: “The loyalty one has to Wenger is worth more than money, it is something that is very important for me. And him being there carries a lot of weight for me.”

If Wenger leaves, does that open up a door for Barcelona, even if Bellerin is on a long-term contract?