Griezmann snub & PSG tussles – why Barca had to go all-in to sign De Jong

Barcelona neither wanted, nor could afford, a repeat of ‘The Antoine Griezmann case’.

For anyone who missed it last year, the Atletico Madrid striker had heavily hyped up a television show on which he would make an announcement regarding his future.

What followed was humiliation for the current La Liga champions, who were convinced a deal was done, only for it to be revealed that he would be staying in Madrid .

The club felt cheated by the Frenchman, just as they had felt cheated a year prior following Neymar’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain – a move that happened just months after the Brazilian signed a renewal at Camp Nou.

In addition to that perceived affront by the French champions, PSG had already denied Barcelona even the possibility of opening talks with long-time targets Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, and followed up the Blaugrana’s interest in Marco Verratti by poaching their €222 million Brazilian striking superstar.

As previously published by Goal and contrary to what the clubs tell the public, Neymar has been in touch with Barca regarding a return and those in Catalunya are equally keen to bring back the man who was earmarked as Lionel Messi’s successor at the club.

As one could imagine, things are far from rosy between the two sides at the moment. Indeed, both teams once again chased the same player in Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong.

Between the Griezmann incident and the so-called financial bullying of the French side, president Josep Maria Bartomeu went all-in to ensure Barca got their man this time, taking personal charge of making sure a deal for De Jong happened.

Neymar Thiago Silva Barcelona PSG 08032017

On Thursday, the transfer was confirmed. De Jong will arrive at Camp Nou this summer with the initial transfer fee being €75m, plus a further €11m in variables. De Jong’s contract will last until 2024 and he will earn in the region of €16m a season.

The biggest winners in the whole scenario are, of course, the player himself and Ajax, who will recoup far more than they expected after a successful bidding war that also included Manchester City and Juventus.

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The numbers might seem outlandish (or not, given the way the market has gone in the past few years) but Bartomeu needed a win away from the pitch.

Landing the 21-year-old De Jong represents not only a sound investment for the future, but also sends a spiteful message to a team whom Barca feel have done them wrong.


Barcelona beat PSG & Man City to complete €75m De Jong deal

Barcelona have announced the signing of midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Ajax for €75 million (£65m/$85).

The highly-rated 21-year-old had been linked with moves to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as well, but the Catalan giants have clinched their man. 

De Jong will link up with his new club in July this year and the deal could include a further €11 million (£10m/$12m) in add-ons. 

In the wake of Barcelona’s third signing of the Januray window, following the arrivals of Kevin Prince Boateng and Jeison Murillo, the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu tweeted: “With the arrival of Frenkie De Jong we add talent, youth and Barça style to our sporting project. We are convinced that he will be a key part of our team for years to come. Welcome, Frenkie!”

De Jong follows a number of  former Ajax players to join the La Liga club, with Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert, Frank de Boer and Luis Suarez among the most successful to have played for both sides. 

The playmaker has scored three goals and bagged one assist in the Eredivisie this term, after picking up seven assists last season. 

Although his preferred role is in midfield, he has featured at centre-back for Ajax in the past and is known for his versatility.

He also picked up a cameo performance in the Europa League final against Manchester United, coming on as a second-half substitute. 

De Jong could feature against Barca’s rivals Real Madrid when Ajax take them on in the last 16 of the Champions League in February. 

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His team-mate at the Dutch club Matthijs de Ligt, who won the Golden Boy award back in December, has also been linked with a move to Barca as well as Man City and PSG.

The centre-back’s future is yet to be decided, but City are said to be the most likely destination for the 19-year-old at present with Pep Guardiola a keen admirer of De Ligt’s ability to play out from the back as well as his defensive strength. 


Monchi receives ringing endorsement from Emery amid Arsenal technical director links

Unai Emery revealed his admiration for his former Sevilla colleague Monchi as Arsenal look for a new technical director.  

Earlier this week it was confirmed the Gunners’ head of recruitment Sven Mislintat will vacate his post next month after a little over a year in the role.

According to reports, Arsenal have identified Roma’s sporting director Monchi as someone they would like to add to their technical staff.

Monchi enjoyed great success working alongside Emery at Sevilla, who won the Europa League three times in succession from 2013-14, while Roma made it all the way through to last season’s Champions League semi-finals a year after the former was brought on board.

Speaking about Monchi at his news conference, Emery said: “I can only say to you that he’s working in Roma.

“I worked very well with him in Sevilla for three and a half years, and very well too.

“My relationship with him is good but this work is for the club and the issue is the club’s responsibility.

“I can say to you only that he is a good person and a good professional.”

Emery encouraged the club to take their time over any appointment but added he would back the hiring of a sporting director.

“Maybe if you do this recruitment very quickly, maybe you can make a mistake,” he added.

“I think it’s better to do without that, being calm and also finding the best possible person to do this job like we want. I think the club is working on that.

“It’s not my issue. I can say the same: if the club decided to sign one sporting director, then I will agree with them.”

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Mislintat’s impending departure comes at a time when Emery is keen to strengthen while the transfer window is open, with Hector Bellerin having joined Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck in suffering long-term injuries.

The Gunners, who are fifth in the table, three points behind Chelsea,  lost Bellerin for the remainder of the season when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament at the weekend.

“The club is working [to recruit players],” Emery added. “They know our intentions, our possibilities for signing players that can help us, but they work and also with communication to us.”


Lingard reveals special meeting with Sir Alex that inspired him to make it at Man Utd

Jesse Lingard has revealed the significant impact Sir Alex Ferguson had on him breaking through at Manchester United, revealing that he told him in a meeting that he believed in him and that he’d eventually make it at the club.

The England midfielder has developed into one of United’s most important first-team players over the last couple of seasons, although had previously spent time out on loan at the likes of Leicester City, Birmingham City and Derby County before establishing himself at Old Trafford in 2015-16.

And Lingard, who has made 23 appearances thus far in 2018-19, has revealed how he met with Sir Alex as a young player at the club and that he advised him to be patient, and that he would get his chance in his early 20’s.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for Sir Alex. If it weren’t for the main man,” Lingard wrote in a column for The Players’ Tribune

“One day, he had a meeting with me and my family. He sat us down in his office and he said, ‘It’s going to take a while for you, Jesse. We believe in you. But you’re going to have to be patient. You’re not going to be ready for the first team until you’re 22 or 23’.

“I can’t even tell you how massive that was for me and my family. You’d think I’d be disappointed, but when an absolute legend like Sir Alex says they believe in you, that means everything. He didn’t have to meet with us, and he didn’t have to say that to me. But that’s why he’s Sir Alex, and that’s why Man United is Man United.”

Lingard also discussed the moment he was called up to the first-team squad alongside Paul Pogba for a meeting with Newcastle back in January 2012, a game that the Red Devils would lose 3-0, with both players unused substitutes.

“I’ll never forget the day Sir Alex called me and Pogba up to the bench, away at Newcastle,” he added. “We were 18, 19. I just remember looking around the dressing room and seeing all the legends preparing, pulling their socks on. Scholes. Rooney. Rio. Giggsy.

Jesse Lingard Ravel Morrison Man Utd 2011

“Me and Pogs take our spot on the bench, and you know, we were used to playing in reserve games in front of 200 people. This is 50,000. I remember looking up at that massive glass stand at the one end, and it was shaking. And I looked over at Pogs like, ‘Oh my gosh, if the gaffer actually puts me in, I might wet myself’.

“Lucky for me, we stayed on the bench that day. But that was such a big moment for me. Just to be thrown into the fire like that, and to get to wear the shirt for Sir Alex, it was massive for my belief.

“The truth is, I probably wasn’t ready. I can see that now. Sir Alex was bang-on about what he told me in that meeting years ago. I don’t know how he could see it, but he was right.

“I had to spend the next three years grafting, taking my lumps. I went on loan at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton. I think those experiences were necessary. When you make it to the top, people see the glitz and the glamour, but they don’t see everything that went into it.”

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“They don’t see you living out of a Marriott in Leicester, eating room service for dinner every night, missing your family, doubting yourself, wondering if it’s ever going to happen for you.

“It’s funny, certain people will criticize me now because I’m always smiling out there on the pitch. But I’ll never stop being myself. I’ll never stop enjoying my football. I’ll never take the smile off my face when I step over the line, because I know what it means to wear this shirt.

“I know how lucky I am to do what I do for a living, and to represent this badge, and I’m never going to stop enjoying it for a minute.”


‘It’s his business’ – Pochettino refuses to judge Sarri for criticising Chelsea players

Mauricio Pochettino has refused to judge Maurizio Sarri for his decision to criticise his Chelsea players in public.

Sarri accused his squad of being “extremely difficult to motivate” after their 2-0 Premier League defeat to Arsenal last Saturday.

The comments have somewhat overshadowed Chelsea’s preparations for their EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, when they will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

Pochettino, though, says it is not for him to evaluate the methods of another manager.

“I cannot judge the words of a different manager. It’s his business and Chelsea’s business,” the Spurs boss told a news conference.

“We are talking about one subject. Every manager can have their opinion and it’s not my job to judge. What they are doing at a different club is their business and you need to respect that. It’s like here. For many people that don’t have the real situation that happens inside, [they] can talk.”

Chelsea are likely to face Spurs without Gonzalo Higuain, with Sarri confirming on Wednesday that is was “impossible” to have completed a loan deal for the striker before the 12:00 GMT deadline that would allow him to play in Thursday’s game.

But Pochettino expects a tough test regardless of who features in attack for the Blues.

“I don’t know what is going on but if he arrived in time to play, it’s going to be nice to see him,” he said.

“Gonzalo is a top player like [Alvaro] Morata, or [Olivier] Giroud. For me, one or another that is going to play against us, it’s going to be tough because we are playing a very good team in Chelsea.”

Spurs will be without the injured Harry Kane and Dele Alli, as well as Son Heung-min, who is on Asian Cup duty with South Korea.

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However, Pochettino confirmed Moussa Sissoko and Lucas Moura could be fit for the match, while Victor Wanyama is in contention to face Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Sunday.

“We need to be positive, like with Harry Kane,” he said of Alli, who has a hamstring problem. “We’re going to miss him for a long period, I think in one of the worst moments because we have a busy fixture [schedule], but you know that for us the squad is so important and it’s a good opportunity for a different player to step up.

“For tomorrow [Thursday], Sissoko and Lucas are in contention. For Wanyama, we’ll see if it’s possible for the weekend. It’s very good news in the last few days to recover Mousa and Lucas and Wanyama is so close.”