Barcelona and Atletico Madrid chiefs will meet in the next few days to complete a deal for Antoine Griezmann, according to reports in Spain.
The French striker recently said that he wanted his future to be decided before the start of this summer’s World Cup with the Nou Camp likely to be his next destination.
The Catalonia club are understandably agitated to get the Griezmann deal done but are also keen to maintain a good relationship with Atletico.
They do not want Griezmann’s arrival to break their wage structure — and that means they are likely to offer him a salary cut, but with performance-based bonuses, hence why club directors will meet face-to-face in the coming days, with Barcelona prepared to pay above the buy-out clause but stagger the payments in two instalments.
However, Barca do not want to make anything official before July 1 as the club wants the Griezmann transfer fee to be included in their losses for 2018-19, rather than in the current campaign.
Griezmann was linked to Manchester United last summer but stayed at Atletico after FIFA upheld a transfer ban on the Rojiblancos.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois says he will still be at Chelsea next year, even if he does not agree a new contract this summer.
Courtois has received criticism for some of his performances of late – notably when Barcelona’s Lionel Messi twice scored between his legs – and believes he is subject to greater scrutiny because of the uncertainty over his future.
The 25-year-old’s current contract with Chelsea expires in June 2019, when he could leave for free, so the Blues may seek to sell him this summer if they cannot agree a new deal. Real Madrid and Paris St Germain have been linked with Courtois.
The Belgium goalkeeper told Sporza: “I have one year contract (remaining) and feel good at Chelsea.
“At the end of the season we will sit down together. I live there quietly and know that I will be at Chelsea next year as well.
“If I go to the World Cup with a clear idea, sign or wait another year, my mind will be clear at the World Cup.”
Courtois has returned to Chelsea from international duty with Belgium due to a hamstring injury.
Chelsea next play Tottenham on Sunday in a match crucial to their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
FC Barcelona are in talks with Thomas Vermaelen about renewing for one more year, claims Diario SPORT. Barcelona are thought to be keen on extending Vermaelen’s deal, and the player himself is said to be interested as well. If the defender is not renewed, he could leave for free next summer. Teams in Italy and England are said to be interested.
Vermaelen had asked to leave during the winter over concerns about playing time, as he was trying to arrive into this summer’s World Cup in good form for Belgium, but he has been getting more opportunities and done quite well. He started (and won) his first match against Real Madrid, and with the departure of Javier Mascherano, he’s the team’s third-choice defender.
Next season, will Vermaelen remain third-choice? Will Yerry Mina still be on the team, or go out on loan?
Bordeaux’s coveted winger Malcom has told Sky “it would be a dream to play for Bayern Munich.”
Malcom, 21, has scored eight goals and added six assists in 27 Ligue 1 appearances this season. He had been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham, but Sport Bild reported last month that the Brazilian winger had provisionally agreed a five-year deal with the Bundesliga champions.
Responding to the speculation after his agent visited the Bavarian capital, Malcom said: “Bayern Munich is one of the biggest clubs in the world and it would be a dream to play there one day.
“Everybody knows Bayern Munich, I’m very happy that they are considering me. I’ll continue to keep working hard on my game so that, one day, perhaps a move to Munich turns into reality.”
Last Friday, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes denied the German champions were eyeing a move for the former Corinthians player.
“I have never seen him play. Such players are often touted around like this, but I don’t think he’s a topic [of interest]. Our scouts will probably see it similarly,” Heynckes said.
Borussia Dortmund Peter Stoger said he and his staff “were not all happy” with Mario Gotze after their elimination from the Europa League at Salzburg on Thursday.
Dortmund’s involvement in European football this season came to an end as they were held to a goalless draw, going out 2-1 on aggregate.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Stoger singled out Germany international midfielder Gotze, who was substituted at half-time, for criticism.
“We were not at all happy with Mario,” he said. “And if nothing we set out to do is transported onto the pitch, we must try and give other lads a chance.”
Speaking to Sky Austria later, he said: “Those things we wanted to see — good passing, movement into dangerous positions and depth — we didn’t see anything.
“It’s not about setting an example at half-time. It was just that we did not agree with what we saw, and that nothing could be seen of what was expected from the lads.”
On Friday, Stoger doubled down on his comments regarding the 2014 World Cup winner.
Speaking at his news conference to preview Dortmund’s Bundesliga match against Hannover this weekend, he added: “If something hasn’t fit at all, I think it must be okay to say that, that’s not a problem.
“There have been some other players with whom we didn’t agree on their performance.
“It was clear that we had to do something in attack. We had two attacking players on the bench and so we reacted at half-time and changed those two players.
“So, okay, if the interest is so high that these two players had to leave the pitch then you have to give a clear answer and that’s what I did.
“It was not that I had any tongue in cheek or something, it was just like I saw it.”
After returning to Dortmund from Bayern Munich in 2016, Gotze missed the first half of 2017 through illness but has made 26 appearances this season, scoring two goals.
Although he returned to the national team late last year, Gotze is not guaranteed a place at the World Cup.
A total of three shots on goal were all either Inter Milan or Napoli could muster as the teams battled to a 0-0 draw at the San Siro.
It was a repeat of their reverse fixture in Naples earlier this season.
The draw keeps Napoli in second behind Juventus after the Old Lady’s 2-0 against Udinese. Inter holds in fifth position, a point behind Lazio — who drew 2-2 with Cagliari — and four back of Roma.
After a defensive first half, Inter opened the second half nearly scoring after Milan Skriniar came close to heading home a free kick delivery from Joao Cancelo in the 49th minute.
Over the first five minutes of the second half, Inter dominated possession by pressing forward.
In the 52nd minute, a cross from Danilio D’Ambrosio nearly found the foot of Mauro Icardi, but instead was put out — very close to goal — by Kalidou Koulibaly.
Inter continued to press, but only an Éder shot on goal proved to be the lone official shot on target for the Nerazzurri.
Inter’s defense continued to shut down Napoli’s attack. Joao Miranda, Skriniar and even Joao Cancelo kept goalkeeper Samir Handanovic out of trouble and seemed to frustrate Napoli for the entire game.
Inter took their first real shot toward goal in the 37th minute when Antonio Candreva cut from the right to the inside and blasted a shot from just outside the area. His attempt went wide left of the net.
That proved to be the best chance of the half for Inter, who struggled to find offensive pace the entire first 45 minutes of the game.
While offense was a big struggle in the first 45 minutes, finding open passing lanes proved to be an even bigger problem for the Nerazzurri. According to WhoScored.com, Inter had just an 83 percent pass success percentage in the first half on 34.4 percent possession.
The Nerazzurri had more than 20 errant passes in the first half.
Defensively, Milan Skriniar and the Inter defense held against a shot from Marek Hamsik and a drive from Lorenzo Insigne — of which Skriniar thwarted with a brilliant slide tackle.
Inter will now hit the road and take on Sampdoria on March 18.
What constitutes a “bottler”? How do you define “choking”? These are both pejorative terms that are easy to throw at Tottenham after their elimination from the Champions League. Really, they’re both too simplistic: losing to Juventus, this relentless winning juggernaut, should not be compared to a golfer who misses a two-foot putt or a team who throws away a double-figure-point lead.
You’d be well advised to generally stay clear of sweeping generalisations like this after Tottenham’s 4-3 aggregate defeat. There is no disgrace in losing to Juve. But that doesn’t mean Wednesday at Wembley shouldn’t raise concerns about this Tottenham team.
Giorgio Chiellini was one of those who raised them.
“We knew Spurs were weak in defence and fragile mentally,” he said after the game. “Tottenham had their chances and are a fine team, but they’re on the verge of being able to win this type of game. Sometimes you just need that spark, maybe a trophy win, but we had our experience and made the most of it in these circumstances.”
Fragility would certainly be one way to explain why a team essentially dominated a tie for about 165 minutes but still managed to lose it. Juventus battered Tottenham for the first 10 minutes of the first leg and cut through them in five minutes just after the hour mark of the second. Beyond that, it was basically all Spurs.
A team that only has to attack for less than 10 percent of a two-legged tie and still wins must be admired, applauded, held in awe. That you can score four goals in that time is impressive, but being able to rely on your defence for the other 90 percent is arguably even more special.
“It’s the sort of players they are,” Massimiliano Allegri said after the game, when it was put to him that Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli looked as if they were having fun in the closing stages, when Spurs threw everything at them. “Our problem is one is 33 and the other 36.”
Perhaps rather than experience, nous or any similar term, this was a lesson in ruthlessness from the wily old hand to the upstart challenger.
“It wasn’t a lack of experience or concentration,” Mauricio Pochettino said afterward. “I think we conceded three chances and they scored twice. We can talk about different situations, but that’s the reality. They needed some luck to win. I feel very proud; we dominated overall.”
But there is a problem here. Pochettino said this as a defence of his team’s efforts, but you can equally take it as a criticism. The chances that Juventus put away were largely results of their own clinical play, but they were also presented to them by a Spurs defence that lost the run of things for a few minutes. A few minutes is all a team like Juventus need.
This was a team that sensed the moment and took it. The switch in formation by Allegri was not only an inspired tactical move, but a masterpiece in timing too. “It was the right time because I felt there was a dip in the physicality of the Spurs players,” the Juventus manager said.
This was like a boxer sensing an opponent was about to drop their guard, preparing the big punch and delivering it at the perfect time. It’s not a surprise that Juventus know exactly how to win this sort of game; they’ve been doing it for long enough.
That’s something that Tottenham need to learn. Their problem is that they need to learn pretty quickly; as much as Tottenham fans are probably bored of, and don’t want to hear it, this is a team with a window. Who knows how long they will be able to keep hold of their best players, but the time they have them is their best chance of winning something.
And if they want to win something, they need to be a little more like Juventus. Dominating for so long is all well and good, but it’s not much use unless you can actually turn the domination into victory.
“I’m still a dreamer,” Pochettino said. “When you compete against Juventus, you can win or lose — but in the way we lost, I am happy.”
In a sense, he’s right. This was a game in which Spurs at the very least competed with, if not almost overran one of the best teams in Europe. The performance should make them very proud. And yet they still lost.
Tottenham are not bottlers, they’re not chokers. But sooner or later, they need to not be quite so satisfied with performances.
“If you watch the game again, we were much better,” Pochettino said. True, but if they watch the game again, they might learn a little more about winning from Juventus.
Riyad Mahrez dedicated his stunning added-time equaliser against Bournemouth to the Leicester City fans who had supported him despite his transfer window attempts to leave the club.
Mahrez’s well-documented attempts to force through a move to Manchester City on transfer deadline day have disrupted City’s season and the draw against Bournemouth means City have still to win in the league since he went missing.
However, since his return Mahrez has been welcomed back by his team-mates and the supporters.
After he curled his free-kick around the Bournemouth wall and past Asmir Begovic in the seventh minute of added-time he raced to celebrate with his team-mates on the touchline.
Afterwards, he said he owed that moment to the fans for their understanding of his situation.
“They have been fantastic – I thank them all,” said Mahrez.
“It was a difficult situation. Like I said, while I am here, I will give everything for the club – that’s how I am.
“I was very pleased with the way the fans have been with me throughout this. It was important for me. That’s why I will keep giving everything for the club.
“I think we deserved more but we will take the draw.”
Mahrez admits he was torn over whether to shoot from distance or whip the ball in for his colleagues lining-up on the edge of the box, knowing it would be the last chance to cancel out Josh King’s first-half penalty.
City were staring defeat in the face despite peppering the Cherries goal in the second half, but Mahrez said he knew he had to throw the dice and take a shot.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s for moments like that that you play football.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the win but at least we didn’t lose so that’s the most important thing.“I know. Phewww! I was like ‘should I cross it’ but I thought I’d have a go. It was brave but sometimes you have to be.
“I saw Harry Maguire at the far post and thought ‘Nah, I’ll shoot!’”