Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola named best manager in the world by study as Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp finishes runner-up (again)

13 Jun

Pep Guardiola has been named the world’s best manager by a recent study.

The Manchester City boss claimed an unprecedented domestic treble last season to cement his side’s status as one of the top European teams.

Pep Guardiola won the domestic treble with Manchester City this season
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City won the Premier League with 98 points following their 100-point success the previous campaign.

Their consistency at the top level has seen him recognised as the most highly reputed coach in football by Coach Reputation Ranking.

Pep Guardiola was named as the best manager in the world
Coach Reputation Ranking

Like the title race, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp finished runner up to Guardiola, but his Champions League success would no doubt have boosted his credentials.

Zinedine Zidane, last year’s number one, is in at three despite not managing for half of last season.

Jurgen Klopp finally delivered silverware for Liverpool
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Premier League managers Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri were fifth, eighth and 10th respectively.

The top 10 is completed by Massimiliano Allegri (4th), Diego Simeone (6th),  Ernesto Valverde (7th) and Carlo Ancelotti (9th).

Mario Gurrionero, who was involved in compiling statistics for the study, said: “Despite the disappointment of being knocked out of the Champions League and the increasing competitiveness in the English game, Guardiola has managed to hold onto his place in the top five.

“Manchester City’s consistency and his great influence in the world of football are two of the factors which have enabled him to end the season as the most highly reputed coach right now.”

Barcelona eye former Everton boss Roberto Martinez as new manager with Ernesto Valverde set to be sacked

28 May

Barcelona want Roberto Martinez to replace Ernesto Valverde as manager, according to reports in Spain.

Despite winning back-to-back LaLiga titles, Valverde’s days as Barca boss appear to be numbered.

Roberto Martinez has just one year left on his Belgium contract
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The Spanish giants crashed out of the Champions League after surrendering a 3-0 first leg lead to Liverpool in the semi-finals earlier this month, before losing to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

Spanish newspaper Sport claim Martinez, who is managing the Belgium national team, has been contacted by Nou Camp chiefs regarding the Barca job.

The former Everton and Swansea boss took charge of Belgium in 2016 and guided them to a third-placed finish at last summer’s World Cup.

He has one year left on his contract and could be tempted to take one of Europe’s biggest jobs.

The front page of Monday’s Sport claims Roberto Martinez is being eyed for the Barcelona job

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu refused to blame Valverde for the club’s 2-1 defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, insisting the season had not been a failure.

He said: “We’ve been thinking about next season for some time, but this isn’t the moment to explain what will happen.

“We won the league, so it has been an important season. Valverde has a contract and is the coach.

Ernesto Valverde’s reign as Barca boss is set to end after two years
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“This defeat was not the fault of our coach. We had many chances and the ball didn’t go in.

“I wouldn’t consider this season a failure. It was very good without being excellent. We lost a couple of matches here and at Anfield that cost us two titles.”

Further reports in Spain, from Mundo Deportivo, say Martinez is on a four-man shortlist to take over from Valverde, along with Arsenal’s Unai Emery, departing Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri and Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman.

West Ham transfer news: Barcelona reject West Ham’s £18million bid for Andre Gomes – reports

27 May

Barcelona have rejected West Ham’s £18million bid for Andre Gomes, according to reports.

The Spaniard is also wanted by Everton and Tottenham after impressing in a loan spell at Goodison Park during the 2018/19 season.

Andre Gomes is popular with Everton fans
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Gomes made 27 Premier League appearances for Marco Silva’s side as they finished eighth.

Sky Sports reports that Barcelona are keen to offload the 25-year-old this summer, but are holding out for a fee between £25million and £35million.

Earlier this month, Silva revealed his desire to sign loan stars Gomes and Kurt Zouma on permanent deals.

“I have a relationship with both,” he said.

“With both it is really good and really honest, until now I didn’t have one sign coming from them they don’t want be here.

Marco Silva is keen to sign Andre Gomes on a permanent deal
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“I am not saying they won’t change their mind tomorrow, three days or a week, but since we started to plan something their opinion has been really important.

“I have to have in mind what is their opinion when I plan. Let’s see what will be the decision, not just for them, but with their clubs.

“We are happy with them because they did well. We as a club and we as a technical staff really helped them both, it is clear.

“We believe in them, we give them something and we really help them. They help us, also.

“They have been fantastic professionals since they joined our club so let’s see what we can do. I hope and our fans also hope we can sign with them.”

Gomes joined Barcelona in a £41.7million deal from Valencia in 2016, but is out of favour with manager Ernesto Valverde.

Lionel Messi: Every record the Barcelona superstar has broken in 2019

25 May

Lionel Messi just keeps on breaking records.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner guided Barcelona to LaLiga glory in 2018/19 – their seventh title in 11 years,

Lionel Messi will go down as one of the best players of all time
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His season ended in disappointment on Sunday night as Valencia beat Barca 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final but Messi was once again on the scoresheet.

Messi turns 32 in June, but there is no sign of him slowing down.

The Argentina international netted 51 goals what has been another incredibly prolific campaign.

Here, talkSPORT look at the milestones Messi has reached since the turn of the year.

Broke the 40-goal mark for a 10th consecutive season

Messi scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season in a 2-0 win over Espanyol in March. He has always passed the 40-goal mark since netting 47 times in the 2008/09 campaign. He netted 51 goals in total, with 36 coming in LaLiga, 12 in the Champions League and three in the Copa del Rey.

Moved past Andres Iniesta for all-time Barcelona appearances

Messi‘s 675th game for Barcelona against Espanyol in March saw him leapfrog legendary midfielder Iniesta into second for all-time appearances for the club. Now, Messi is on 687 and is chasing down Xavi’s 767 record.

Lionel Messi scored a stunning free-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this month
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Reached 600-goal milestone

Messi scored his 600th goal for Barcelona by netting a stunning 25-yard free-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this month.

Converted his 50th LaLiga penalty for Barcelona

Messi scored his 50th penalty in Spain’s top-flight when he converted from the spot against Valencia in February. Only former Real Madrid stars Hugo Sanchez (56) and Cristiano Ronaldo (61) have scored more.

Fastest player in Europe to reach 20 league goals

Messi’s penalty against Valencia also saw him hit 20 league goals faster than any player in Europe’s top five divisions. It was the 11th season in a row where he’d scored 20 goals.

First player to score 400 LaLiga goals

Messi scored his 400th LaLiga goal in just 435 appearances during Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Eibar in January. Barca boss Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on his star man on yet another historic night.

Lionel Messi is Barcelona’s all-time top scorer on 602 goals
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He said: “But 400 is ridiculous. It’s easy to say it, but if you stack [the goals] one after the other. The numbers are stratospheric, incredible. Messi is an extraordinary player from another galaxy.”

Most LaLiga wins

Messi surpassed Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas’ 334 LaLiga wins after scoring in a 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid in April. The winger is on 339 victories and counting.

Transfer news: High-profile stars who could leave Real Madrid and Barcelona this summer, including Gareth Bale and Philippe Coutinho

21 May

This summer could see plenty of big-name departures from Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Gareth Bale does not seem to fit into Zinedine Zidane’s plans at the Bernabeu, while Barca fans have turned on Philippe Coutinho.

Gareth Bale still has three years left on a lucrative contract
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The pair will not be short of suitors and have both been linked with a Premier League return.

Real are reportedly targeting Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard as they look to compete with LaLiga champions Barcelona next season.

And the Catalonians are looking at a big summer too as they try and tempt superstars Antoine Griezmann and Matthijs de Ligt to the Camp Nou, with Frenkie de Jong already signed.

So, to make room for new players, who could be on their way out of Real and Barca? talkSPORT take a look…

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid future looks bleak
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It seems even more likely that Bale will leave Real Madrid after manager Zidane left him on the bench during a 2-0 final-day home defeat to Real Betis on Sunday.

Zidane hinted that Bale’s future lies away from the club. He said: “I’m sorry that he didn’t get minutes today, but next year who knows what will happen?

“I have to take decisions and when I don’t like things or something doesn’t seem right, I have to change them.”

Bale’s former club Tottenham, who sold him to Real in a then-world record £85million deal, and Manchester United are believed to be interested in his services.

Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)

Philippe Coutinho has endured a tough first full season at the Nou Camp
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Coutinho has been unable to replicate his Liverpool form at Barcelona since joining in a £142million deal in January 2018.

After poor performances in both LaLiga and the Champions League, Barca fans have been whistling him during home games.

And Griezmann’s potential move to the Nou Camp could spell the end for Coutinho in Spain.

A return of just 11 goals and five assists has not been enough to justify his huge price tag.

Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid)

Mateo Kovacic looks set to stay at Stamford Bridge
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The Telegraph claim Chelsea are set to sign Kovacic on a permanent deal from Real Madrid following Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s ruptured Achilles tendon injury, which could rule him out for up to a year.

Kovacic started 21 of Chelsea’s 38 Premier League games, but lost his place at times to Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley.

If the Blues’ transfer ban starts this summer, they would be able to sign their loan players on a permanent deals, and in this case, Kovacic, whose passing game suits Maurizio Sarri’s style of play.

Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)

Ivan Rakitic has a regular in Barcelona’s midfield
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Rakitic was given the runaround by Liverpool’s midfield in Barcelona’s humiliating 4-0 semi-final second leg defeat in the Champions League earlier this month.

And he was criticised by fans after being spotted at a festival in Seville just a day later.

The £65million impending arrival of Ajax star Frenkie de Jong could severely threaten Rakitic’s starting place next season.

Inter Milan are believed to be showing an interest in the Croatia midfielder.

Keylor Navas (Real Madrid)

Keylor Navas appeared to wave goodbye to Real Madrid fans on Sunday
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Navas played a crucial role in Real Madrid’s three successive Champions League triumphs from 2015 to 2018. However, the arrival of Thibaut Courtois restricted his playing time this season.

Spanish outlet AS report the club have told Courtois that he will be their No.1 goalkeeper next term, despite his underwhelming debut season in Madrid.

It could open the door for Navas to end his five-year spell with the club this summer.

Malcom (Barcelona)

Malcom could move to improve his playing time
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There was excitement surrounding Malcom’s £36.5million arrival from Bordeaux last summer, but he has failed to live up to expectations.

The tricky winger has been continually linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham after falling behind Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho in the pecking order.

It has been claimed that Barcelona want to move Malcom on to help finance a move for Atletico Madrid’s wantaway forward Griezmann, who has a £100million release clause.

Isco (Real Madrid)

Isco could make way for Eden Hazard this summer
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Isco lost his starting place after Santiago Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui in October – and his playing time did not improve much more following Zidane’s reappointment in March. With Mbappe, Hazard and Christian Eriksen on the club’s radar, the Spain midfielder could find it even harder to work his way back into favour.

Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)

Samuel Umtiti has been unlucky with a knee injury
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Umtiti’s 2018/19 season was plagued by a knee injury. During his time on the sidelines, Clement Lenglet stepped up to form a formidable defensive partnership with Gerard Pique.

Following his return to action in February, Umtiti was used sparingly by Nou Camp boss Esterno Valverde for the remainder of the season.

And with De Ligt reportedly close to joining Barcelona, the Frenchman could be forced out.

How Barcelona could line up with Antoine Griezmann, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, but without Philippe Coutinho

15 May

Antoine Griezmann has announced he will leave Atletico Madrid this summer.

The France star, who only signed a five-year deal with the club last year, has a release clause which will drop to £104million on July 1.

Antoine Griezmann is set to join Barcelona this summer
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And long-term admirers Barcelona are set to move for Griezmann this summer.

The 28-year-old could be playing alongside Frenkie de Jong, whose £65million transfer from Ajax will go through on July 1.

De Jong’s Ajax team-mate, Matthijs de Ligt, has also been heavily linked with a £75million move to the Nou Camp.

Those three additions could make Barcelona a force again in Europe after suffering humiliating eliminations to Liverpool and Roma in two successive seasons.

But one player who is unlikely to be a Barca player next season is Philippe Coutinho. The 26-year-old has failed to live up to expectations since completing a £142million move from Liverpool in January 2018.

Philippe Coutinho has struggled for form at Barcelona
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Sections of the Camp Nou crowd have turned on the Brazilian by whistling him during games this season.

It has led to reports linking Coutinho with a return to the Premier League.

So, how could Barcelona line up next season?

Marc-Andre ter Stegen could have a solid defensive partnership of De Ligt and Gerard Pique in front of him, with ever-present stars Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba operating as right and left full-backs, respectively.

Matthijs de Ligt has starred for Ajax in the Champions League this season
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With De Jong anchoring the midfield for the Netherlands, he could be positioned a little higher up the pitch with Sergio Busquets operating in his usual deep-lying role.

Ivan Rakitic, 31, is reportedly being targeted by Manchester United and Inter and his potential exit could open the door for Arthur Melo to claim a more regular starting place in midfield.

Barcelona legend Lionel Messi, who has scored 48 goals so far this season, will be on the right wing and Ousmane Dembele could get a chance to shine if Coutinho’s likely departure happens.

It will leave Griezmann competing for a starting place with Luis Suarez, who had a disappointing Champions League campaign, scoring just once in ten games.

This is how Barcelona could line up in the 2019/20 season with Antoine Griezmann leading the line

However, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has often deployed a 4-4-2 formation, which has worked well in LaLiga.

De Jong and Busquets would be the two central midfielders with Dembele on the left and Messi on the right.

It could see Griezmann partner Suarez up front.

And if Valverde wants more pace from his full-backs, then Nelson Semedo could come in for Roberto.

Esterno Valverde could also switch to a 4-4-2 formation

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde ‘facing the SACK’ after Liverpool humiliation

9 May

Ernesto Valverde’s future as Barcelona boss is under threat following their Champions League capitulation against Liverpool.

The Catalans threw away a three-goal advantage as the Reds mounted a stunning comeback to win 4-0 and send Valverde’s men crashing out of the competition.

Valverde was ‘devastated’ by the defeat at Anfield

It’s the second year in a row this has happened to Barca, after they were the victims of a miraculous turnaround at Roma last season.

And despite wrapping up the La Liga title already and reaching the Copa del Rey final, reports claim Valverde is facing the sack.

According to Spanish outlet Marca, Valverde faces serious questions from the club following back-to-back humiliations in Europe.

The 39-year-old admitted he has a lot to answer for following the Liverpool defeat on Tuesday.

He said: “I don’t know how this affects my future.

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“We haven’t had time to think about those things. But here we are and the coach has to take responsibility.

“With a collapse of this nature, we will have a few horrible days ahead.

“Then we have to come out of it with time. Ahead of us we have league games to play, the Copa (del Rey) final to play. Right now we are devastated.”

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona: Luis Suarez apologises for Champions League exit with players ready to face ‘bullets’

8 May

Luis Suarez has apologised for Barcelona’s shock Champions League exit to Liverpool and insists the players are ready to face the ‘bullets’.

The LaLiga giants squandered a three-goal aggregate lead as two strikes each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum stunned Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Luis Suarez and Co were in disbelief at Anfield
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It was the second successive season the Catalan club have thrown away a three-goal first leg advantage after being humiliated against Roma in last year’s quarter-finals.

The Spanish media labelled the defeat at Liverpool ‘The biggest farce in football’ and ‘The blackest page in Barcelona’s history’.

Former Reds striker Suarez, who was booed by the Anfield faithful and injured Andy Robertson after kicking out at him, said: ”We are very sad, hurt.

Ernesto Valverde’s job could be on the line after another Champions League exit
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“We are human beings, we feel the pain, the frustration. We have to do self-criticism, put our chest out for the bullets of what is coming now.

“It’s the second time the same [thing] happens to us. We cannot make these mistakes two years in a row, we have to reproach ourselves for what we are doing wrong, thinking that everything was finalised.

“We are the ones who play. The coach made the tactics that he made in the first leg. We, the players, have to be self-aware, we are the ones who play.

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“We have to apologise for the attitude, we were not a team. To our families, our children, our fans, we have to ask for their forgiveness.

“It cannot be that in a minute we concede two goals. The fourth goal we looked like youngsters. We have to understand all the criticisms that are going to rain on us.”

Despite Valverde guiding Barcelona to back-to-back LaLiga triumphs, the manner of their semi-final second leg defeat will put pressure on his job.

He said: ”The scoreline was 4-0 and when that’s the case there are no excuses.

“Their second goal hurt us massively and the third one came in straight after that.

“They played well, and we have to congratulate them for reaching the final.”

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde claims Lionel Messi ignores the ball at the start of matches for incredible reason

2 Mar

Ernesto Valverde has revealed just what makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world.

Although he inexplicably finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or rankings, the Barcelona captain is enjoying a spectacular season at the Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi does not focus on the ball at all at the start of the game

In 33 games this season, the 31-year-old has 33 goals as well as 15 assists.

Ahead of the El Clasico clash at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening, coach Valverde has revealed the Argentina international completely ignores the ball at the start of the game and instead targets the opposition.

“Messi reserves the first minutes of each match for interpretation,” Valverde told the Financial Times.

“During that time, he ignores the ball and takes a walk around the opposition defence, fixing each man’s position in his head.”

Valvrede sounded in awe of the Argentine

“Then, as the game advances, he gets in little by little. But by now he knows perfectly where the rivals’ weaknesses are.”

In the same fixture last season, walked for 83% of the Clasico and ran only 4.95%.

However, he managed to create nine chances, score a goal and provide an assist.

Ernesto Valverde: Double-winner and on course for a Treble, but the Barcelona coach is still not good enough for the critics

17 Feb

There are many legitimate criticisms to be made over how relevant Barcelona’s ‘more than a club’ motto is these days, but what undoubtedly remains true is that the question of style – of how Barça should go about winning – is still more important than for any other team.

It’s for that reason Barça’s announcement earlier this week that Ernesto Valverde would be extending his contract as head coach was met with mixed reviews.

Virtually anywhere else, the decision to continue working with a coach who won a league and cup double in his first season, and is still on course for a treble in his second, would be seen as a no-brainer.

But not at Camp Nou; or at least, not for a vocal section of the Barcelona support.

Valverde has had to deal with the lofty weight of expectation

The Blaugrana’s 1-0 win over Valladolid on Saturday will have done little to change the minds of Valverde’s critics.

Barça got the job done, taking a victory that ensured their lead at the top of La Liga remains comfortable, but it wasn’t exactly a performance to tell the grandkids about in years to come. Peppered with moments of quality but at other times disjointed and lacking the zip on the ball Barça are known for at their best, the win was, in part, built upon individual excellence from key players like Gerard Pique, and also upon Valladolid’s chronic lack of quality up front; their ability to squander excellent counter-attack situations was often perplexing.

For much of the match Barcelona played with a number of second-string players, and it is hardly a revelation that Kevin-Prince Boateng does not deliver the same qualities as Luis Suarez, nor Arturo Vidal the same as Arthur.

Boateng completed a shock move to Barcelona last month

But the fans who long for the Barça football of old would argue that these days even a full strength XI is still too far away from the club’s positional-football identity.

One extreme take on Saturday was that the reigning LaLiga champions are now ‘tactically lost’.

With Valverde’s record in his 97 official games now extending to 66 wins, 22 draws and only nine defeats, that seems harsh to say the least. A near 70 percent win percentage is not achieved without a thorough grasp of tactics and a clear plan, even if they aren’t the tactics some would prefer.

And, crucially, the players are happy enough with the approach of their current boss for dressing room heavyweights to back the club’s decision to extend Valverde’s contract.

Valverde has the support of his senior players, such as Lionel Messi

The same squad veterans who have the benefit of first-hand experience of what it was like to play for the best Barcelona sides are perhaps more realistic about how difficult it is to repeat the levels of performance from those days than some fans are.

Even if disgruntled observers complain that Valverde’s team isn’t excelling enough, straw polls suggest his detractors are far less certain, however, about who could do any better.

Of the few names that tend to be put forward, there is always at least one significant caveat to be added.

Real Betis boss Quique Setién, for example, favours an exciting style of football but has struggled to produce consistent results from his top flight teams; Betis have not won back-to-back games in LaLiga since December.

Home-grown options such as former Barça Juvenil A coach Óscar García or current B team boss García Pimienta tend to be founded in a romantic view that they can repeat the exceptional step up made by Pep Guardiola, but that likely wouldn’t stop the knives from coming out should results not quickly be delivered to match the more palatable brand of football.

Results are what Valverde produces better than most, and even if the displays may not be as consistently dazzling as Guardiola’s team, or as electric as the best of Luis Enrique’s, the ridiculously high standards in the Catalan capital make the current side out to be far more simplistic than it truly is.

Valverde has been forced to follow era-defining Barcelona teams – and the expectations that come with that

It is tempting to think that many of the purists are in reality simply swayed by one solitary result in particular – Barcelona’s dramatic collapse to Roma in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.

If Valverde can right that wrong and bring home the club’s fifth European Cup later this year, will the same critics of his Barcelona’s style still be as vocal?