Coutinho to Barca? Three reasons why Liverpool need to stand firm

Philippe Coutinho’s future at Liverpool has been cast into doubt as Barcelona are ready to splash the cash on the Brazilian. The La Liga giants have already had a £72 million bid rejected, but they’ll do whatever they can to bring Coutinho to Barca this summer.

An improved £80 million bid is being lined up, according to the Daily Mirror, so this could well be a transfer saga that lasts for the remainder of the window.

Barcelona have long been admirers of Coutinho. Many feel he is the perfect man to replace Andres Iniesta at the Nou Camp. But it’s Neymar’s potential world-record move to PSG that has accelerated the chase for the Liverpool playmaker.

Paris Saint-Germain are seemingly set to trigger Neymar’s £196m release clause, shattering the transfer record by £107m. That would leave Barcelona with a big void to fill in their squad, but a lot of money to fill it with.

But no matter what, Liverpool won’t want to lose their star attacker. Here are three reasons Liverpool need to hold on to Coutinho this summer:

1. ‘Not a selling club’

The club have insisted they are “not a selling club” and won’t be forced to sell. Jurgen Klopp made that very clear after news of the initial bid surfaced. He spoke directly to Coutinho about the issue during the team’s preseason tour at the Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong, and he believes the Reds have no reason to part ways with the Brazilian.

It’s now crucial for Liverpool to stand by that statement. Their fans will be concerned with interest from a club as big as Barca. But if Liverpool want to continue improving, as they have made clear, they must stand by their word.

2. A worrying trend following big sales

Liverpool’s three biggest sales in club history are Fernando Torres, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. All three were sold over the past seven seasons, but the Reds have tended to struggle after losing key men.

In Torres’s final season at Anfield, Liverpool finished 6th. The following season, they finish 8th. In Luis Suarez’s final season at the club, Liverpool hand one hand on the 2013/14 Premier League title before a late collapse saw them finish runners-up. After he left for Barcelona in the summer of 2014, Liverpool went on to finish 6th. That was in Raheem Sterling’s final season. Then, after he departed for Man City Liverpool ended up finishing 8th in the first season without him.

The trend is that Liverpool have worse seasons after losing star players. Yes, that will be the case for most clubs. Yes, it’s difficult to build once a star man has left. But some clubs cope, Liverpool have so far proven they cannot. Losing Coutinho to Barca would be potentially disastrous for what Klopp is building.

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3. Irreplaceable

The reason the Coutinho to Barca rumours have picked up so much pace is because there are arguably very few, if any suitable replacements for Neymar at the Nou Camp. Coutinho is excellent on the ball. He is highly versatile. He has the ability to beat a man with ease. And he is as good at finding the back of the net as he is a teammate. Barcelona know that he would be well suited to replacing the goals and assists Neymar provides.

So if Liverpool were to sell, there is no obvious answer as to who they’d bring in as his replacement. Yes, they’d have a big stack of cash to spend. But given the inflated prices during the current transfer window, Liverpool would likely have to settle for someone a lot less talented that Coutinho if they needed to replace him.

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Barcelona plotting move for promising Chelsea star – report

FC Barcelona look set to reignite their interest in Chelsea attacker Kenedy and are reportedly planning to make a move for the Brazilian this summer.

The 20-year-old winger has started just two Premier League games for the Blues this season and Barca will look to bolster their attack by securing his services in the coming months, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Kenedy was targeted by Barcelona before eventually securing a move to Stamford Bridge last summer, but the Catalan giants have continued to scout him and sporting director Ariedo Braida now wants to see the former Fluminense man swap England for Spain, according to Mundo Deportivo’s report.

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Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal, with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi forming what is largely considered the best attacking trio in world football.

However, fringe players Sandro and Munir have failed to impress when called upon and so Kenedy is viewed as an ideal addition.

The young Chelsea man has made 16 appearances for the Blues this term, scoring twice and has been deployed at left-back in recent weeks by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Would Kenedy be a good signing for Barcelona? How important is he to Chelsea?

Wenger labels side ‘naive’ as Arsenal rue missed chances in Barcelona defeat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left frustrated after watching his side suffer a 2-0 first leg defeat at the hands of current Champions League holders FC Barcelona on Tuesday night.

Barcelona came into the game unbeaten in 32 matches but were frustrated by a resilient display from the Gunners for the first 70 minutes. However, eventually their quality shone through as Lionel Messi grabbed himself a brace to give the Spanish giants a huge advantage heading into the second leg.

Wenger believes his side were once again naive and the Frenchman was frustrated that they couldn’t open the scoring in what was an open contest.

“Technically we were very average,” Wenger said after the game. “The regret I have is, despite looking like we dominated the game, we gave a goal away in the last 15 minutes, similar to Monaco; naive and that’s what is frustrating. When we looked like we could win this game we just gave it away.”

Wenger added that his players looked tired, which will worry Arsenal fans as they have a hectic upcoming schedule in the Premier League title race.

“It’s too easy to blame, you have to respect the effort the players have put in but it’s very frustrating at the moment, we looked like we were tired. I knew before the game in the last 20 minutes we’d have a chance to win the game if we didn’t make any mistakes and that’s the frustration of the night.”

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Arsenal’s vice captain, Per Mertesacker, made a mistake leading up to the Barcelona penalty which made the score 2-0. He rued his sides missed chances and highlighted the main focus for now must be the Premier League.

“It’s a tough go for us now, we had to score at one point here,” the German said.

“You would never keep them quiet for 90 minutes that was for sure. We tried our best but we didn’t deserve it because we had enough chances to score at least one.

“We have to concentrate on the Premier League now and then in one month we are facing Barcelona again with the same bravery and same courage. We still have a little chance, we don’t give up.”

Could Arsenal’s ‘naivety’ cost them in the Premier League title race?

Gerard Pique labels young English star as one of world’s best

FC Barcelona and Spain centre-back Gerard Pique has named England and Everton star John Stones in his world XI and told The Daily Telegraph he is ‘one of the new generation.’

Pique is regarded as one of the best central defenders in the world and he admits you can’t just be a ‘defender’ anymore in the modern game.

“Now the position of the centre-back is not just about defending or being nasty or tough. It’s about knowing how to play football, control the ball, pass and be more comfortable in possession,” he said.

Stones has received credit for his composure and confidence from players past and present and pundits alike in his rise to the top level over a short period of time.

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The praise didn’t stop there from Pique, as he added: “He’s one of the new generation who understand football not just as a defender.”

The 21-year-old Toffees star could well be in England’s starting lineup against Spain on Friday, which should see him face Pique.

Pique’s comments will only further fuel speculation that Stones will be subject to more bids from Europe’s elite clubs in the upcoming transfer windows.

Stones was one of only two players who Pique has not played alongside in his chosen XI.

Pique World XI

created using lineupbuilder.com

Will Stones get a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs?

Feature: Chelsea dominating transfer headlines but are they panic buying?

Chelsea‘s below-par start to the new Premier League season has resulted in transfer news and rumours flying around about a number of players.

The Blues have today signed FC Barcelona’s Pedro Rodriguez after Jose Mourinho swooped in and stole an almost done-deal from rivals Manchester United.

The 28-year-old winger made it clear he wanted to leave the Catalan giants this summer after a lack of playing time and although terms had initially been agreed between United and Barca, it is Chelsea who have landed the experienced Spanish winger.

With Eden Hazard, Willian and Juan Cuadrado all having featured already this campaign, you have to ask whether there is room for Pedro and whether one of these three will be on their way out of the club in the next two weeks.

Foot Mercato have reported that Willian has been offered to either Paris Saint Germain or Bayern Munich, which would be a surprise given he appears to be one of the first names on the team-sheet for Mourinho.

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The John Stones saga also continues. Chelsea have reportedly had a third bid of £30 million rejected for the 21-year-old Everton defender, with a fee of nearer £40 million rumoured to be required.

It remains to be seen whether Chelsea will make a final offer to tempt the Englishman away from the Toffees but Mourinho wants the player and he will do what he can to get his own way with a short time left to go in the transfer window.

With John Terry’s position in the side uncertain ahead of the weekend clash with West Brom this will be a story with more to come. Whether or not Chelsea need the youngster is another question, with Terry, Gary Cahill, Kurt Zouma and Branislav Ivanovic all options for Mourinho at centre-back.

Ivanovic could find himself out of the squad for this weekend’s upcoming game, with new signing Baba Rahman tipped to start at left-back, pushing Cesar Azpilicueta back to his more natural right-back slot.

The odds have been slashed for Paul Pogba to join Chelsea before the window closes. This could be a clever manoeuvre from the bookies, given Chelsea’s late movements in the window leading people to believe they are willing to pay big money for players that will help them defend their Premier League title.

Juventus are reportedly holding out for at least £70 million for their highly sought after talent and having already lost many star players this summer, a move away for Pogba looks unlikely.

With a whole host of attacking midfield options at Chelsea already, Pogba would no doubt have to dislodge another player from a starting position. With Oscar occupying the number ten role he could more than likely be the player axed if Pogba was to join, with Juve linked with the Brazilian throughout the window.

Talk of Cuadrado going to Juventus is also ongoing but the rumours are that he would be going on loan to the Old Lady and would not be included as part of a potential Pogba deal.

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It is going to be a very interesting and busy end to the transfer window for Chelsea if we are to believe the rumours and Mourinho’s side could be the ones to watch very closely as they look to make up for their worst start to a season since 1998 with some late transfer excitement.

PHOTOS: Exclusive images from Manchester United’s win against Barcelona in California

Manchester United kept their 100% record on their US tour going by beating FC Barcelona 3-1 in front of 68,414 fans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Saturday night.

Louis Van Gaal will have been delighted with the performance and result as his team put on their best display yet, following a 1-0 win over Club America and a 3-1 victory against San Jose Earthquakes prior to Saturday’s match.

Wayne Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Adnan Januzaj were all on target for the Red Devils, while Rafinha netted for Barcelona.

United play their last preseason game of their US tour against Paris Saint-Germain in Chicago on Wednesday night before returning home in time for the Premier League season opener against Tottenham on August 8.

Check out our exclusive photos from the game in California below, courtesy of our North American photographer Denise McCooey.

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Former Spurs and FC Barcelona star wanted by LA Galaxy

Former Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona forward Giovani Dos Santos confirms LA Galaxy are interested in signing him and has praised Major League Soccer ahead of a potential switch stateside.

The Mexican international, currently at Spanish side Villarreal, is interested in a move to Major League Soccer, reported by mlssoccer.com.

“[The Galaxy are] a team that has always been after me and of course all the talks are just rumors and it’s something that’s been talked about for the past two years.

“In soccer you never know where you will end up. Up to this day I have a contract with Villarreal and I am currently 100 percent focused with the national team.”

Dos Santos has played alongside and against some of the best players in world football and is a very skilful individual.

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The 26-year-old Mexican further fuelled speculation of a move to Galaxy as he did little to quash the talk of the MLS Cup holders interest.

“Yes of course, it’s one of the teams that wants me, just like there’s other teams in Europe that also want me.

“And of course I can’t shut the doors to any team and as a soccer player you never know where you will end up tomorrow.”

Dos Santos is impressed with the growth of the league it isn’t surprised it is attracting the superstars who continue to make the move to MLS.

“Like I said, it’s a league that’s growing. The names speak for themselves. It’s players that are stars worldwide and it’s a league that wants to continue to grow. The few MLS games that I’ve been able to watch I think it’s a league that has grown a lot and it’s a league that we need to respect and a league that’s generating attention.”

Dos Santos would more than likely be signing as a Designated Player, assuming Omar Gonzalez would lose his DP role.

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New changes to roster rules have seen Targeted Allocation Money introduced to help sides accommodate top players who won’t necessarily qualify as designated players.

That could see Dos Santos sign on a non-DP deal for now, or Gonzalez’s contract ‘bought down’ immediately.

Would Dos Santos be a good signing for Galaxy?

Manchester United great reveals good news ahead of preseason tour

Manchester United great, Denis Irwin, believes Louis Van Gaal‘s organisation of the club’s preseason tour in the US will benefit the side.

Van Gaal was unable to have much of a say on his side’s America tour last summer due to his involvement with Holland in the World Cup.

But the United manager has made certain there will not be a repeat of the travelling ahead of the new season and Irwin told manutd.com the squad will be under less strain as a result.

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“Last year he came in late because of how well the Dutch team did at the World Cup, so it wasn’t his tour in terms of preparation.

“This time he’s been able to organise it himself, organise the distances we travel, where we stay, where we train and also organise having the matches four days apart.”

United face Club America on July 17, followed by Major League Soccer outfit, San Jose Earthquakes on July 21 before two showdown clashes against Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain on July 25 and 29.

Irwin feels Van Gaal’s preparation is spot on and that the players will ready to come up against some tough opposition.

“His preparation is unique because of the amount of detail there is to it. He’ll be looking forward to it and the way the games are with Barcelona and PSG as the final two means it’ll get tougher as the tour goes on, but the players’ fitness will also improve so the set-up will be exactly how the manager wants it.”

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United faced five opponents in their last preseason, with games spaced closer together. A hectic 11 day period saw them play five games against LA Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool between July 24 and August 5, whereas this summer they play four sides across 12 days.

Will a less hectic preseason help Manchester United ahead of their 2015/16 campaign?

Barcelona star could turn down Manchester United move for MLS switch

FC Barcelona right-back and Manchester United transfer target Dani Alves could turn down a move to the Premier League in favour of making the switch to MLS, according to The Guardian.

The Brazilian defender has made a staggering 393 La Liga appearances during his time with Sevilla and Barcelona but has yet to agree a new deal with the Spanish giants which has left the Red Devils keeping a close eye on developments.

However, because Dani Alves is now 32 years of age, The Guardian’s Tor-Kristian Karlsen believes that the attacking full-back may be “somewhat past his prime” and is a “possible recruitment for an MLS side”.

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During his time in Spain, Alves has won five La Liga titles, two Champions League’s and three Copa Del Rey’s among other honours and would therefore demand a high weekly wage if he were to make the move to MLS.

Because of that factor, he would certainly have to join on a Designated Player contract. There are currently eight teams in Major League Soccer with Designated Player slots available, including expansion franchise New York City FC, where Alves’ former teammate David Villa is plying his trade.

The other expansion franchise, Orlando City, are owned by Brazilian man, Flávio Augusto da Silva. Ex-international compatriot Kaka and midfielder Pedro Ribeiro are also both at Orlando, so Alves could be persuaded by his fellow countrymen to join them in the USA.

Could Dani Alves make the switch to MLS?

Seattle Sounders striker Chad Barrett likens team goal to Barcelona

Seattle Sounders striker Chad Barrett has hailed the build-up play by his fellow teammates for his second goal in their 2-0 MLS away win at Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

“People are like ‘there was 21 passes down there in the defensive half and all those passes don’t mean anything’. Barcelona does it and when they do it, it means something,” Barrett told the Seattle Sounders official YouTube channel.

“It was a beautiful play up to the goal to create that space. All those passes gave (Marco) Pappa that space and gave him the time to look up and find me.”

Barrett was brought into the side in the absence of Obafemi Martins and finished off a lovely move with a wonderful left-footed strike into the bottom corner for his second goal of the game.

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The 30-year-old feels that the style of play that led to that goal is one of the hardest things for other teams to defend against.

“I’ve been on the other side of that, everyone’s been on the other side of that. When they have the ball all the time, it’s like playing Real Madrid or Barcelona because they just don’t give up the ball.

“And when they do, you feel like you have to really protect the ball that much more because you don’t want to give it right back to them.”

Barrett believes Seattle’s possession play was one of the things that they did “really well” and that it’s a good way of grinding down the opponents.

“Our video today was pretty much all our possession and we had spells there when a couple of them were a minute long, a minute and thirty seconds long and that’s really deflating for another team.”

How good was Chad Barrett and his Seattle Sounders teammates against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday?