Iniesta’s China move stalls or does it?

Conflicting reports are flying about

There’s been some pretty interesting developments on Thursday with regards Andres Iniesta’s future and his expected move to China.

Marca have reported that a deal to take him to the Chinese Super League has stalled for financial reasons, which was swiftly followed by Sport denying the report was true.

So where to start? Well, it had been expected that Iniesta would announce he’s leaving Barcelona at a press conference tomorrow. Not so, say Marca who report he’s failed to reach agreement with Chongqing.

Iniesta was hoping to seal a deal worth an eye-watering €20 million a year, but the club’s president has not signed off the transfer and as it stands there is no agreement.

The 33-year-old now has to decide whether to announce his departure anyway, and hope a deal can be reached in the future, or scrap the announcement altogether.

The report also says there is a bit of pressure because according to his contract he has to make a decision on his future by the 30th of April which is next Monday.

And so over to Sport who say they’ve been in touch with sources close to Iniesta who say the deal has not broken down.

They do concede that everything is not quite “100%” but that he’s still on track to announce his departure on Friday.

I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow.

Rumors: Griezmann latest, Cillessen not for sale plus Digne, Iniesta & Deulofeu

Barcelona players tell Griezmann to move to Camp Nou

Today’s rumors start with an update on the Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona saga.

According to Sport, Barcelona’s “heavyweights” have been messaging Griezmann on WhatsApp to tell him to come to Barca.

French team-mates Lucas Digne, Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele have already told him he’s wanted at the Camp Nou, and he now has to decide between moving on or staying at Atletico.

Barcelona will only sell Cillessen for €60 million

Over at Mundo Deportivo they’re talking about the future of back-up goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

The Dutch international is attracting interest from several top European clubs, Liverpool, Napoli and Atletico Madrid, but Barcelona really don’t want to sell his summer.

They’ve not had an offer yet but the only way Cillessen will depart this summer is if a club is willing to meet his €60 million release clause.

Digne set for Juventus move

Another player who is being linked with an exit is Lucas Digne would could be set for a move to Juventus.

Sport reckon that Barcelona could be willing to sell him for just €16 million, which is the same amount they paid Paris Saint-Germain for him in 2016.

Juventus are likely to be pretty happy with that fee, particularly as he has a €100 million release clause.

Iniesta to announce Barcelona departure on Friday

We all know it’s coming so get your tissues ready because tomorrow is the day Andres Iniesta is to announce he’s leaving Barcelona, sniff.

Marca say he’ll start to tell his team-mates about the decision and will then inform the world afterwards.

He’s expected to sign a three-year deal with Chongqing Dangdai Lifan and has also signed a sales and distribution deal for his family’s vineyard in China.

Watford want to keep Deulofeu

And finally today we end with news that Watford have so enjoyed having Gerard Deulofeu around the place that they want to keep hold of him on a permanent basis.

Mundo Deportivo reckon Watford want to try and negotiate a deal with Barcelona but know that much will depend on where Deulofeu sees his future.

Barcelona, meanwhile, want to up his €25 million release clause and, if a new deal is agreed, Watford will then look for a loan in the first instance.

Can Barca’s UEFA Youth League champions make the step up?

Barcelona are UEFA Youth League champions after beating Chelsea to lift the trophy on Monday in Nyon.

It’s a big boost for La Masia and the club will be hoping some of the players can step up and make the grade.

Barcelona famously named a team without a La Masia graduate for the first time in 16 years against Celta Vigo recently and there’s been a real lack of homegrown players making the breakthrough.

The club have also seen prospects such as Jordi Mboula and Sergio Gomez leave but can any of the current crop make the step up? Let’s have a look.

Abel Ruiz

Manchester City v FC Barcelona - UEFA Youth League Semi Final
Photo by Monika Majer/Getty Images

Striker Abel Ruiz set up Barcelona’s first and scored the third in Monday’s final and is probably the best-known of the club’s young prospects.

The 18-year-old has already starred for Spain at Under-17 level, helping them win the European Championship last year and finish as runners-up at the World Cup.

He’s also tasted first-team action this season as he came on as a substitute in Barcelona’s Supercopa de Catalunya win over Espanyol in March.

Riqui Puig

Riqui Puig played superbly in the final as he bossed the midfield and the hype surrounding the teenager is starting to grow.

He’s managed to break into the Barcelona B team this season and has also been called up to train with the first team.

Mateu Morey

The right-back has already attracted interest from elsewhere with Bayern Munich linked with a move last summer.

Barcelona managed to hang onto him and he’s had another good season and will hope he can break into the B team now Garcia Pimienta is in charge.

He’s a typical Barcelona full-back, loves going forward, has an eye for goal and is four years younger than Sergi Palencia who he may oust from the B team.

Juan Miranda

Chelsea FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Youth League Final
Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images

On the opposite flank Juan Miranda is also a real prospect and has played seven times for Barcelona B this season.

Like Puig he’s also trained with the first team this season and featured in the Supercopa de Catalunya.

At just over six foot it’s difficult to compare him to Jordi Alba, but like the Barca star he is a real attacking threat.

There are plenty other promising options in the team too. Goalkeeper Inaki Pena is reportedly viewed as the long-term replacement for Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Winger Carles Perez was the top scorer in the UEFA Youth League with seven goals in nine matches, while Alejandro Marqués scored twice in the final and also grabbed goals in the quarters and the semi.

Iniesta would have won two Ballon d’Ors if he was called Andresinho, says Ramos

Sergio Ramos reckons Andres Iniesta should have won the Ballon d’Or twice in his career and that the reason he hasn’t is all because of his name.

The closest Iniesta came to being crowned the world’s best player was in 2010 when he finished second to Lionel Messi, despite scoring the winner in the World Cup final.

He also finished third in 2012, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ramos says it’s all down to his name.

“If he was called Andresinho instead of Iniesta, he would have won two Ballon d’Ors,” he said.

Sergio Ramos | Marca

Iniesta is expected to announce he will be leaving Barcelona for China this week and will leave on a high with the club set to seal another league and cup double.

Bakero says 75% of youngsters leave Barcelona for the money

Jose Mari Bakero talked about Barcelona’s youngsters on Wednesday as the club presented Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta as the new coach of the Barcelona B team.

Garcia Pimienta replaces Gerard Lopez and his first job will be to try and save Barcelona B from relegation after a tough season.

Barcelona will also be hoping that Garcia Pimienta can help develop the club’s youngsters with a view to breaking into first team.

The club have seen some talented youngsters depart in recent months and Bakero reckons money is one big reason some of the players have opted to leave.

“Money is 75% of the reason behind the kids’ departure,” he said.

”The other 25% is that they are given guaranteed presence in the first team.

”We had promised some of them to do the preseason with Barcelona B and they didn’t accept it.”

Source | Marca

Barcelona celebrated winning the Youth League final on Monday which shows there is plenty of talent in the youth ranks. However, keeping hold of them and nurturing them until they are ready for first-team action is the real difficulty.

García Pimienta: I don’t understand any other style than Barcelona’s

Javier García Pimienta has been talking for the first time since replacing Gerard Lopez as Barcelona B coach.

He said he only understands how to play the Barcelona way and hopes he can develop players so they can make the step up into the first team.

“Homegrown players will always be important, we have very good footballers at Barça B and Juvenil A,” he said.

“I want to keep on training them so that they can become important players at the first team in the future.

“I really wanted to coach the B team, it’s a major challenge. My role is to form and train players, and this will not change.

“I have been at Barça for many years, and I don’t understand the game in any other way than our style. We have players with the right profile.

“The results haven’t been good, but if we do things right, we will have a chance to avoid relegation.”

Source | FC Barcelona

García Pimienta has his work cut out to keep Barcelona B from relegation and will take charge of the team for the first team on Saturday when they face Almeria.

Rumors: Martial, Alonso, Fabian wanted, Arthur deal in doubt

Barca, Juve and Bayern battle for Martial

Today’s rumours start in Italy with Tuttosport who reckon that Anthony Martial is definitely leaving Manchester United this summer and Barca, Juve and Bayern all want him.

The Frenchman has failed to force his way into the team on a regular basis and Jose Mourinho is open to offers.

Juventus will push hard for his signature but it looks as though Martial will have his pick of top clubs.

Barcelona change their minds on Arthur?

Over at Mundo Deportivo they report that there is some debate at Barcelona over whether to actually sign Arthur or not.

The club have already paid Gremio €4 million for their option on Arthur and must decide by mid-July whether to spend another €26m to bring him in.

Apparently the club are now having doubts about Arthur because they want a tall, physical player in midfield and feel someone like Frenkie de Jong or Donny van de Beek may be a better bet.

Marcos Alonso to replace Pique?

Barcelona are reportedly considering Marcos Alonso as a possible replacement for Gerard Pique, according to Goal.

The Spain international has had a pretty good time at Chelsea under Antonio Conte, although he’s been mainly used as a wing-back rather than a centre-back.

Pique turns 32 next year although he signed a new deal back in January that will keep him at the club until 2022.

Barcelona step up interest in Fabian

And finally today we end with news that Barcelona have stepped up their interest in Real Betis midfielder Fabian Ruiz.

Mundo Deportivo reckon that Barcelona have been interested for a while but any move may need a few departures first. Andres Iniesta is expected to go to China while Denis Suarez and Andres Gomes could also be off.

Barcelona scouted Fabian in Sunday’s draw with Atletico Madrid and quite like his price tag too. He signed a new deal in January which raised his release clause from €15m to €30m.

Garcia Pimienta replaces Gerard Lopez as Barcelona B boss

Barcelona have confirmed that Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta will take over from Gerard Lopez as Barcelona B boss.

The club will present Garcia Pimienta this afternoon in a press conference with Jose Mari Bakero and Guillermo Amor.

It’s no surprise to see Lopez leave with Barcelona B currently in the relegation spots in the Segunda División and having lost their last five games in a row.

Garcia Pimienta arrives fresh from guiding Juvenil A to victory in the UEFA League final against Chelsea on Monday and will now try to help Barcelona B beat the drop.

The 43-year-old is pretty highly-rated and obviously knows the academy well. Let’s hope he can do a good job at Barca B and get the best out of the club’s youngsters.

How did Barcelona lose so badly to Roma?

Just when Barcelona were starting to forget about THAT night in Roma, after a brilliant display to win the Copa del Rey, along came Liverpool with a 5-2 thrashing of the Serie A side at Anfield.

It was a completely crazy Champions League semi-final as Liverpool scored five, could probably have had eight, and then somehow allowed Roma to hit two late on to give the Italians a glimmer of hope.

Liverpool were absolutely rampant at times against a Roma team who looked terrified and fell apart dramatically as the goals started flying in.

Liverpool v A.S. Roma - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Leg One
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Sadio Mane missed a couple of brilliant opportunities before Mohamed Salah finally opened the scoring with an absolutely brilliant goal. What an incredible signing he has been for the Reds.

He added a second just before half-time as the Reds fully exploited Roma’s high line. Goals from Sadio Mane and two from Roberto Firmino followed as the Reds ran riot. It was one of the most one-sided Champions League semi-finals you’ve ever seen at that point.

The Liverpool fans were understandably besides themselves with a trip to Kiev looking nailed on, while Barcelona fans could only sit and watch and wonder how on earth their team had lost so abjectly to a Roma side that were being torn apart.

And the confusion is only increased by Barcelona’s superb display at the weekend when they produced their best display of the season to rip Sevilla to bits and lift the Copa del Rey.

Roma deservedly beat Barcelona, let’s not forget that, but were absolutely awful at Anfield. Yet somehow they are not completely out of it. Late goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti mean that if they win 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, like they did against Barca, they will be through to the final.

Di Francesco’s side have not conceded a goal at home in the Champions League but you get the feeling that record may fall next week when Liverpool and the irrepressible Salah come to town. Roma will remain underdogs for the second leg but will hang onto the hope that no-one expected them to beat Barcelona and no-one expects them to beat Liverpool.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg Two

Ernesto Valverde copped the flak for the defeat to Roma and he clearly should have changed it when the game started drifting away from Barca. He may have regained some goodwill from winning the Copa del Rey but Liverpool may just have blown that all away again.

For Barcelona though the game just piles on the regret that they can cruise to victory in the Copa del Rey, remain unbeaten in La Liga, but somehow manage to throw away a 4-1 first-leg lead in the competition that means the most.

Is Iniesta the best player never to have won the Ballon d’Or?

In case you hadn’t heard Andres Iniesta received an apology from France Football on Tuesday.

Editor Pascal Ferre wrote a column entitled “Perdon Andres” (Forive us Andres) praising the midfielder and trying to explain why he’d never been awarded the Ballon d’Or.

“For us, [Iniesta] wasn’t just a player, he was the player.

“His generosity, team play and altruism has certainly deprived him of an even more majestic recognition [the Ballon d’Or].

“He has proven that the brain is definitely the most important thing when it comes to being a champion.

“Iniesta is one of the great absences when it comes to Ballon D’or winners. This is painful to us.

”We can only hope that a divine performance at the World Cup helps us to repair this democratic anomaly.”

Source | France Football

The closest Iniesta came to the prize was in 2010 when even scoring the winner in the World Cup final was not enough as he finished second behind Lionel Messi.

He’s not alone though, there are plenty of legends who have never scooped the prestigious award, not least former team-mate Xavi, then there’s Thierry Henry, Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Gianluigi Buffon and Diego Maradona too.

Individual awards in a team sport are always pretty contentious things which generate plenty of debate and being the kind of person he is Iniesta probably won’t care. He’s won everything there is to win in a glittering career, but it’s difficult to think of anyone who deserved it more.