Tagged in: Soccer

Lionel Messi agrees Barcelona contract, accepts significant wage cut

Lionel Messi and Barcelona have reached an agreement for the forward to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, sources have confirmed to ESPN. Sources added that Messi has accepted a significant wage cut to prolong his stay.

Messi was a free agent after his contract at Barca expired, and he had courted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since first revealing a desire to end his 20-year relationship with Barca last summer. The 34-year-old’s previous contract, which was worth over €500 million ($594m) over four years, expired at the stroke of midnight on June 30.

However, with the return of Joan Laporta as president in March, Messi grew more open to staying at Camp Nou. An official announcement is expected in the coming days. Laporta had hoped to finalize an agreement before Messi’s previous terms expired. Barca’s financial problems made that impossible, though, with their gross debt over €1 billion. Cutbacks have been essential, in terms of transferring players out, reducing the wage bill and getting Messi to accept a lower salary.

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La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned Barca they will not be permitted to register Messi’s new deal if they are unable to reduce spending to comply with the league’s Financial Fair Play rules. Barca’s spending limit has been reduced from over €600m to €347m since the coronavirus pandemic, with further reductions expected to be imposed for the upcoming season.

Therefore, to register Messi’s new deal, in addition to new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal, Barca need to continue reducing the wage bill and moving players on. With that in mind, sources at the club refuse to rule out the departure of Antoine Griezmann, a €120m signing in 2019.

Messi is on holiday with his family after his Copa America triumph with Argentina last weekend, which was his first senior trophy with his national team.

He will link up with Ronald Koeman’s squad later in the summer, with Barca’s league campaign kicking off on Aug. 15 versus Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Messi had first expressed a desire to leave Barca last August after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu had reached a breaking point.

In a September 2020 interview with Goal, after Barca had blocked his departure, Messi called Bartomeu a “liar” and said the board had been “making things up as they go along” and “plugging holes” for years.

Bartomeu, facing a vote of no confidence, resigned last October and was ultimately replaced by Laporta in March. Laporta has a good relationship with Messi and his family. He was Barca’s president when Messi made his first-team debut and when he signed his first professional contract with the club.

Sources told ESPN in April that Laporta was working on a contract renewal for Messi that included the option of playing in Major League Soccer before returning to Barcelona.

In public and in private, Laporta had always maintained that he was “convinced” he could persuade Messi to stay. The club have already made a series of signings this summer, bringing in Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, as well as recalling Emerson Royal.

Messi first joined Barca’s academy in 2000 and has gone on to play 778 games for the club, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record last season. He has scored 672 goals, another club record, and has helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

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Argentina qualify for Copa America quarterfinals with win over Paraguay

Argentina ensured their place in the quarterfinals of the Copa America on Monday when they defeated Paraguay 1-0 in a game notable for Lionel Messi’s record-equaling 147th appearance for the national side.

The victory in Brasilia was Argentina’s second 1-0 victory in a row in this tournament and their 16th match without defeat since losing in the Copa America semifinal in 2019.

It gives them seven points from three games and leaves them top of Group A, two points ahead of Chile, four ahead of Paraguay and six ahead of Uruguay.

Bolivia are bottom with no points from two matches so with four of the five teams qualifying for the last eight, Argentina are sure of progressing.

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“We’re through but we have to keep improving,” said defender German Pezzella. “We had a great first half, our intensity wasn’t the same in the second but they didn’t have very many chances at goal.”

Paraguay had never beaten Argentina over 90 minutes in the Copa America, a run that covers 25 matches, and they were up against it as early as the 10th minute when Argentina went ahead.

Alejandro Gomez took a delightful pass from Angel Di Maria and dinked the ball over the diving keeper.

“Angel’s pass was great,” said Gomez. “I just had to get my foot under it and put it away.”

Argentina thought they had a second when Junior Alonso deflected a cross into his own net on the stroke of half-time, but the goal was chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Paraguay came out more positive in a changed second half, with Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron always dangerous on the left wing.

However, although they enjoyed the bulk of the possession they could not turn it into opportunities and now face two tricky games versus Chile and Uruguay.

For Argentina, Sergio Aguero made his first international start since November 2019 but was anonymous up front and it was Di Maria and Messi who stood out.

On the night he equaled Javier Mascherano’s record of 147 games in the blue and white shirt, Messi was a busy presence in the Paraguayan half.

Both he and Di Maria drew fouls from their opponents who ended up committing 23 fouls to Argentina’s 11.

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Barcelona, Bayern Munich to Georginio Wijnaldum signing

Paris Saint-Germain have beaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich to the signing of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool on a free transfer.

Wijnaldum, 30, has agreed a three-year deal with PSG after deciding to run down his contract at Anfield, which concludes at the end of June.

“Signing for Paris Saint-Germain is a new challenge for me,” Wijnaldum said. “I’m joining one of the best squads in Europe and I want to bring all my desire and commitment to this ambitious project. Paris Saint-Germain have proved how good they are in recent years and I am convinced that together, with our supporters, we can go even further and higher.”

The Netherlands international had previously reached an agreement to join Barca. His agents met with the Catalan club’s president Joan Laporta at the end of May and a medical had been penciled in.

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Barca’s interest in Wijnaldum dates back to last summer, when Ronald Koeman made him a target after being appointed as the club’s coach.

However, as first reported by ESPN on Friday, PSG made a late play to hijack Barca’s move for Wijnaldum.

Sources close to the negotiations told ESPN that the Ligue 1 side were willing to double the terms agreed with Barca, while a phone call from coach Mauricio Pochettino also helped persuade Wijnaldum to change his mind.

Bayern Munich also held talks with Wijnaldum, who informed the German club and Barca last weekend that he had decided to sign for PSG.

The midfielder becomes PSG’s first signing of the summer as they look to strengthen after missing out on the league title to Lille and a semifinal Champions League exit to Manchester City.

Wijnaldum, who is preparing for the European Championship with Netherlands, played for Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven before making the move to England with Newcastle United in 2016 for around €15 million.

After Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League a year later, he joined Liverpool on a five-year deal for a fee of €25m.

He helped Liverpool collect the Champions League in 2019, famously scoring twice in the semifinal victory over Barca, and was part of the side which won the Premier League a year later.

During his five-year stay at Anfield, he also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. In total, he made 237 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 22 goals.

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Man City’s Guardiola: I won’t sleep ahead of Neymar, Mbappe meeting

Pep Guardiola stated he won’t sleep ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal with Paris Saint-Germain if he thinks too much about the threat posed by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

City will come up versus PSG’s formidable forwards in the first leg in Paris on Wednesday and Guardiola said the pair are so good, they can give opposing managers restless nights.

“Always I believe the quality of these players, they have too much,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday. “I tried to sleep well last night and that was when I was not thinking of them. Incredible top players, their quality. We are ready to try to stop them, defend as a team, play good football and try to score goals.”

Guardiola first faced Neymar when the Brazil forward was playing for Santos versus Barcelona in the Club World Cup in 2011.

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After joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar moved on to PSG in 2017 but Guardiola said there would be more Champions League trophies in the Camp Nou trophy cabinet had he stayed.

“I remember against Santos, I said this was the king of Santos and all the players were open mouthed: ‘Oh my god, what a player,'” Guardiola added.

“A joy to watch as a spectator, he has Brazil on his shoulders, the No. 10, it’s not easy to wear.

“I’m pretty sure if he’d stayed in Barca they’d have won two or three more Champions Leagues. With Neymar, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, the best three I’ve seen.”

While the tie is only City’s second Champions League semifinal, PSG are trying to reach for the final for the second year in a row after narrowly losing out to Bayern Munich last campaign.

Since then, Thomas Tuchel has been replaced as manager with Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Tottenham boss has been able to get the best out of Neymar since he arrived in January, leading to speculation the 29-year-old is a candidate for the Ballon d’Or and is set to extend his contract.

“I have already talked about it [his contract],” Neymar told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It is not a topic now. I feel great. I am happy this season. It has been by far my happiest this season. “My main objective is the Champions League, not the Ballon d’Or. That is not a priority. I want to be a leader for my team. I want to win. In the future, I will want to remember I have managed to win the Champions League a few times.”

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Man City’s Aguero has Barcelona, PSG, Juventus as transfer options – sources

Sergio Aguero is considering interest from Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after ruling out a return to club football in Argentina following confirmation of his exit from Manchester City this summer, sources have told ESPN.

The 32-year-old, who is the highest-scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history with 181 goals, will leave the Etihad at the end of the campaign after City confirmed on Monday that he would not be offered a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

Aguero had previously stated that his ambition, at the end of his stay at City, was to return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Independiente. But sources have told ESPN that Aguero considers he can still perform at the top level in Europe for at least two more seasons and the forward is now ready to take advantage of his free agent status this summer to secure a move to one of the game’s top clubs.

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ESPN reported recently that Barca were monitoring Aguero’s situation at City amid concerns that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season.

PSG are also interested in the Argentina international, while Juve are another option with the Italian champions keen to plan for life without Cristiano Ronaldo in the event of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward leaving the Turin club at the end of the season.

Sources have told ESPN that Aguero is aware of interest from within the Premier League, but after 10 years in England, the player would prefer to move to Europe.

Having signed for City in a £35 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero has won four Premier League titles, five EFL Cup trophies and one FA Cup in his time at the club, with his winning goal, four minutes into stoppage time versus QPR in May 2012, sealing City’s first title in 44 years and becoming one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

But injuries, and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19, have restricted Aguero to just four Premier League starts and one goal this season.

In total, he has made just 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Aguero is now fit, however, and ready to contribute to City’s push for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League this season.

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Everton knock Tottenham out of FA Cup on Bernard winner in extra-time goal-fest

Everton sent Tottenham Hotspur packing from the FA Cup with an extra-time goal from Bernard on Wednesday night at Goodison Park to send his team through to the quarterfinals with a 5-4 victory.

Tottenham opened the scoring and took a deserved lead inside of five minutes when Davinson Sanchez headed Son Heung Min’s corner past Robin Olsen in the Everton goal.

Everton hit back to go ahead in the span of several first-half minutes with a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal and a Richarlison strike from outside of the penalty area that a diving Hugo Lloris could not reach.

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was then whistled for a penalty after tripping Calvert-Lewin in the area and Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up and calmly sent Lloris the wrong way from the spot to put Everton up 3-1. However, Spurs scored just before the break as Erik Lamela pounced on a Yerry Mina error and slotted a neat, left-footed shot past Olsen to trim the deficit for Jose Mourinho’s team to a single goal at half-time.

The back-and-forth match continued in the second half

With Spurs drawing level at 3-3 before the hour mark through Sanchez’s second of the night when he redirected a saved header off Olsen’s mitt and tapped into the back of the net.

Richarlison fired Everton back in front with his second goal, defeating Lloris at his far post with a screamer after Sigurdsson played him into the area with a clever little through ball.

Harry Kane, who had looked menacing all game, finally scored to put Tottenham back on level terms with a smashing header at the back post from a beautiful, whipped in cross from Son that set the teams on course for extra time.

Sigurdsson added to his assist tally in the first period of extra time with a lovely chip over Spurs’ defense and into the box that left Bernard time to settle, have a look at goal and fire an unstoppable volley past Lloris to give Everton the lead yet again.

Ancelotti and Everton will now await results from the final two games of the FA Cup on Thursday to see who they will face in the quarterfinals.

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Cadiz shock Barcelona despite Lionel Messi’s return for the Catalans

Cadiz pulled off a shock 2-1 victory over Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday night, piling on to the mounting troubles for the Blaugrana in their domestic campaign this season.

Lionel Messi returned to Ronald Koeman’s starting XI after sitting out the midweek Champions League victory over Ferencvaros.

The hosts took a shock lead from a corner kick when Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed the ball into the path of Alvaro Gimenez, who simply had to tap it into the net to make it 1-0.

The goal seemed to enliven Barca, who were firmly in control for the remainder of the half, but save for a near miss by Martin Braithwaite the visitors could not score and went into the half-time break trailing.

Koeman rang the changes at half-time in an attempt to spark his team, with Pedri replacing Oscar Mingueza and Ousmane Dembele coming on for Philippe Coutinho.

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Barca continued to dominate possession and drew level just before the hour mark when Messi played in Jordi Alba and his shot from a tight angle took a fortuitous deflection to beat Cadiz keeper Jeremias Ledesma.

However, Cadiz took the lead again minutes later when a miscommunication between Clement Lenglet and Ter Stegen following a throw in left Alvaro Negredo alone for a simple tap in to Barcelona’s open net.

Barca poured on the pressure down the stretch and Messi saw two good possibilities go right to Ledesma, but Cadiz were up to the task and saw out the match to take all three points and stay ahead of the Catalans in La Liga.

The victory was Cadiz’s first over Barcelona since 1991 and put them just outside the Champions League places in the table.

The Andalusians also beat champions Real Madrid 1-0 away from home earlier in the campaign.

Barca’s fourth defeat of the season left them seventh in the standings on 14 points after 10 matches and Koeman’s side have failed to win their last four away matches.

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Wales’ Giggs steps back from international side following arrest for alleged assault

The Wales Football Association has confirmed that Ryan Giggs will not be involved in the squad’s upcoming international camp after he was arrested by police on Sunday following a disturbance at his home relating a woman.

While Giggs has denied all allegations of assault, the Wales FA said in a statement that it was “mutually agreed” he wouldn’t be involved as the squad prepares for its international matches, which includes a clash versus the USMNT on Nov. 12.

“The Football Association of Wales and Ryan Giggs have mutually agreed that he will not be involved in the upcoming international camp,” the statement said.

“Our agreed immediate priority is preparing the team for the upcoming international matches. Robert Page, with Ryan’s support, will take charge for the next three matches against the USA, Republic of Ireland and Finland supported by Albert Stuivenberg.”

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Former Manchester United winger Giggs, 46, was due to announce his Wales squad on Tuesday ahead of the international break but the appearance was cancelled following allegations of a disturbance at his home.

“Mr Giggs denies all allegations of assault made against him,” Giggs’ representatives told ESPN. “He is cooperating with the police and will continue to assist them with their ongoing investigations.”

Giggs has been released on bail while enquiries are ongoing.

“Police were called at 10.05 p.m. GMT (6.45 p.m. ET) on Nov. 1, 2020 to reports of a disturbance at an address in Worsley,” a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police stated.

“A woman in her 30s sustained minor injuries but did not require any treatment. “A 46-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of section 47 assault and section 39 common assault. He has since been bailed pending further enquiries. Enquiries are ongoing.”

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Rakitic leaves Barca to rejoin Sevilla

Ivan Rakitic is set to become the first big name player to leave Barcelona this summer and will re-sign for old club Sevilla.

The Croatian was one of numerous Barca stars who were told they were not part of new manager Ronald Koeman’s plans moving forward at the Nou Camp.

The midfielder has agreed a two-year deal with Sevilla, with an option for a third, and will take a significant pay cut as a result, according to Goal.

Rakitic will earn £2.7million-per-year at Sevilla which is a huge decrease from the £7million he earned during his last term with Barcelona.

The 32-year-old spent three seasons with Sevilla and won the Europa League in the 2013/14 season right before he made his big switch to the Catalan club in 2014.

His return has been agreed in principle by the two clubs, who have agreed a nominal fee for now.

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Rakitic has been one of the few Barcelona stars who have been linked with moves away for quite some time.

The midfielder was attracting interest from Serie A clubs back in January, as well as being linked with Manchester United, but no move was finalized.

Whilst he has always spoken on his love for Sevilla, he had said earlier in the transfer window that he would remain at Barca for one more season to see out his contract.

However, new boss Koeman has had other plans as the LaLiga giants have descended into chaos over recent weeks with Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and others all told they are no longer wanted.

Lionel Messi has also not been reporting to training and testing as his feud with Koeman rumbles on amid rumours of a staggering transfer to Manchester City. Sevilla have also managed to get business done elsewhere, as they confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Yassine Bono on a permanent basis from Girona for £3.6million.

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Bayern Munich to German Cup final

Robert Lewandowski scored the winning goal, with some help from Canadian left back Alphonso Davies, as Bayern Munich defeat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 Wednesday to reach the German Cup final, with both teams paying tribute to the global protests against the killing of George Floyd.

Lewandowski netted his 45th goal of the season in the 74th minute as Bayern stayed on track for fifth a German league and cup double in eight years. It will face Bayer Leverkusen in the final on July 4 in Berlin.

The final goal came from a skillful sequence. Davies found space in the penalty area and tapped the ball to Joshua Kimmich, who set up Lewandowski for a tap-in. The goal was official after the video assistant referee system overturned a mistaken offside call against Davies.

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Eintracht wore shirts with a #blacklivesmatter hashtag across the chest, alongside the sponsor logo. Bayern had the same message on its corner flags, warm-up shirts and some boards at the side of the field.

Numerous players and clubs in Germany have signaled support for the U.S. protests against police treatment of black people and racial discrimination in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died after a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck, ignoring his “I can’t breathe” cries even after Floyd eventually grew still.

Bayern dominated the game, a rematch of the 2018 cup final, from the very start, but allowed Frankfurt brief hopes of a comeback late on.

Lewandowski pulled Eintracht’s entire three-man back line out of position for the first goal, allowing Ivan Perisic space for a diving header off a lobbed pass from Thomas Muller in the 14th minute.

Frankfurt substitute Daichi Kamada changed the game almost immediately after coming on, delivering a smart pass on the turn for Danny Da Costa to hammer in an equalizer in the 69th.

But Bayern was back in the lead six minutes later through Lewandowski.

Earlier, Dominik Kohr’s headed clearance off the line from Muller’s header in the seventh minute set the tone for a first half in which Eintracht narrowly escaped conceding on several occasions. Lewandowski tripped over his own feet as a cross came in, and later had a shot pushed just wide by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.

“We should have scored one or two more goals in the first half,” Bayern coach Hansi Flick said in televised comments. “In the second half we made it harder for ourselves.”

Muller said Bayern had been feeling “sluggish and tired” amid a packed fixture schedule since the Bundesliga restart and that it was tough to press Frankfurt when out of possession. Wednesday’s match is part of a run of five in 15 days for Bayern. Bayern leads the Bundesliga table by seven points with four games left and could secure the title as Saturday, depending on results elsewhere.

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