Three Big Clubs have their eyes on Neymar

Neymar is attracting interest from “three big clubs” but is happy to stay at Barcelona, according to his former agent Wagner Ribeiro.

Neymar’s current deal with Barca ends in June 2018 and talks over an extension have been ongoing for some time amid regular rumours that potential suitors such as Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester United could pay his €200 million release clause this summer.

There had been reports that he was due to sign contract extension after May’s Copa del Rey final against Sevilla and, although no agreement was formalised, the 24-year-old said he was happy at the Camp Nou at the club’s postseason celebrations.

Legal problems relating to his 2013 transfer from Santos to Barcelona had been seen as one reason the negotiations were dragging on, but Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said this week that a deal done with the Spanish tax authorities over that issue should help advance the matter.

Neymar’s former agent Ribeiro, who remains a close associate and advisor to the forward’s father, has now told Radio Jovem Pan: “There are three big clubs who want to sign Neymar and to pay Barcelona his €200m clause

“I cannot say any more in this conversation because it is confidential. I can only assure you that Neymar is happy in Barcelona.”

Bartomeu said last month that it was “impossible” that Neymar, Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez would leave the club.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Twitter @dermotmcorrigan.


Dortmund reject Manchester United bid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Borussia Dortmund reject Manchester United’s £19m bid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan

News reaching Transfer Talk is that:

Borussia Dortmund have been fending off bids from a host of European giants attempting to prize away some of their best players like vultures, and Manchester United are the latest club to make an enquiry.

The Red Devils have tabled a £19 million bid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, according to the Mirror. The Germans have reportedly rejected the bid and will continue to turn down offers for their star players after already sanctioning the sales of Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan this summer.

The 27-year-old has just one year left on his current deal, and Dortmund risk losing the player for free next year. That does not appear to be a concern for the Bundesliga runners-up, and Jose Mourinho will have to look elsewhere for a playmaker.


Russia beaten by Slovakia

Marek Hamsik was the star of the show as Slovakia beat Russia 2-1 in Lille inGroup B. A raking cross-field pass from Hamsik picked out Vladimir Weiss after 32 minutes, who cut inside before picking out the far corner to open the scoring.


And it was Hamsik who repeated the trick shortly before half-time, cutting back on to his right foot and bending a beautiful shot in off the far post.

A header from substitute Denis Glushakov pulled one back for Russia with 10 minutes remaining, but it was too little too late from Leonid Slutsky’s lacklustre side.

The result leaves Russia likely to need a win from their final group game against Wales to avoid elimination, while Slovakia, who face England in their final match, now have a good chance of progressing to the knockout stage.

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Ronaldo’s criticism of Iceland arrogant

Ronaldo’s criticism of Iceland arrogant and did him a disservice.

If only Cristiano Ronaldo had been so cutting on the actual pitch. After the Real Madrid star failed to score in Portugal’s frustrating 1-1 draw with Iceland, a match in which he put forward a very quiet and underwhelming individual performance, he at least succeeded in taking some attention away from the Nordic heroes with the following comments in the mixed zone.

“Iceland didn’t try anything,” Ronaldo said after Iceland had actually pulled off the greatest result in their history in their first ever tournament match. “It was a lucky night for them. We should have three points but we are OK. I thought they’d won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end. It was just unbelievable. When they don’t try to play and just defend, defend, defend this is in my opinion shows a small mentality and are not going to do anything in the competition.”

You could say it was surprising that Ronaldo would come out with disrespectful comments like this, as the Iceland story is so well-known by now, but they’re all too believable given what we have already heard on numerous occasions throughout his career. The sad reality is that, aside from being bitter and laughable, these words were also self-absorbed and a typically arrogant attempt to absolve himself of any criticism.

Put simply, these are the type of comments that fuel his critics, reiterate why he is greatly respected rather than adored and why he doesn’t have the widespread affection that his ability should afford him. Iceland’s Kari Arnason offered a bit more edge after the game, saying that Ronaldo is “not a gracious human being” and adding: “His comments are the reason why [Lionel] Messi is always going to be one step ahead of him… it shows we got under his skin. It was lovely to hear that.”
Given how deeply competitive Ronaldo is with Messi, Arnason’s words may have irked the Portuguese even further. Asked whether you would expect Messi to say things like that, the Iceland defender said “no.”

Arnason plays his club football with Malmo, and appeared in Real Madrid’s 8-0 humiliation of the Swedish side in the Champions League this season — when Ronaldo hit four — so that adds another level of hypocrisy to the star’s comments. It’s extremely rich for Ronaldo to complain about how Iceland celebrated such a meaningful result for them, given the ostentatious and often ludicrous in-your-face way he celebrates genuinely meaningless goals when Real are just adding another to a pummelling of vastly inferior-resourced sides like Malmo, Getafe or Levante. With the way he reacts to those — to use the player’s own phrase against him — you would think he had won the Spanish title. That is still something he has barely done, managing it just once in seven years.

Ronaldo surely can’t even claim ignorance of the Iceland story. His comments came after he was asked about whether he could see the romance of their result. He didn’t seem to care about that.

The comments are even worse when you consider the pattern of the game, let alone the context. Iceland kept him so quiet on the pitch, with crunching tackles and pressing, which may explain why Ronaldo was so unfairly vociferous on it. When Ronaldo did finally get a chance, a free header minutes from the end, he wasted it with a poor effort straight at the goalkeeper.

Indeed, as Arnason also said, Iceland “almost nicked the win so him saying we aren’t going for the win contradicts that.” It’s all the more impressive that they actually came from behind. Sides that are set up in the truly defensive way Ronaldo described tend to have no way back once they concede the opening goal.
There was just so much hypocrisy, and also self-indulgent wastefulness. Around the time that Iceland did get those chances to nick it, Portugal got a series of free kicks. Ronaldo, of course, insisted on taking them, only to add to his continuously poor set-piece record in recent times. His goal against Portsmouth for Manchester United in 2008 may be one of his most famous, but he has failed on what feel like endless attempts to repeat it.

The thing with Ronaldo is that, for all his preening and self-indulgence, many teammates do like him a lot. At one media dinner, one figure began criticising the Portuguese’s selfishness as a player, only for a former Manchester United teammate of Ronaldo’s to immediately interject that, in 2007-08, the player told Owen Hargreaves to take United’s free kicks as he was hitting them better.

But Ronaldo’s comments on Iceland are why he possibly doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a player. He should have known that, given the nature of the Iceland story, there is just no way to say those things and not look bad.

Despite all that, the fitting final word went to Iceland. “I mean, he can say whatever he wants,” Arnason said. “He didn’t really get a chance today, he got one and he couldn’t put it away. What can I say? Sore loser. Tough s—.”

Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN FC and also writes for the Irish Examiner and others. Follow him on Twitter @MiguelDelaney.


Arsenal target Jamie Vardy should stick with Leicester – Danny Simpson

Danny Simpson is of the view that Jamie Vardy should stick with Leicester despite Arsenal’s wooing.

Leicester City defender Danny Simpson has said everyone at the club is desperate for Arsenal target Jamie Vardy to stay at the King Power Stadium this summer.

Vardy, 29, is currently weighing up whether to make the switch to the Gunners, with sources telling ESPN FC that he has already undergone the first stage of his medical at the club.

The former Fleetwood Town player is currently on international duty with England and reports claim he will not make a final decision on his future until after Euro 2016.

“I have spoken to Jamie. Everyone wants him to stay. We would like everyone to stay, even if it’s just for one more year,” Simpson told BBC’s Sportsweek.

“It’s his decision, and he says he wants to concentrate on the European Championships. Jamie knows what I think of him as a lad and a player.

“No money can buy the bond that we have got at the club. It’s a special group. Why not carry on and kick on as a group and squad?”

Vardy was left on the bench by Roy Hodgson for England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia on Sunday, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Simpson, 29, was frustrated not to see his teammate given a chance in Marseille, but is hopeful he will feature for the Three Lions in Thursday’s game against Wales.

“I was disappointed he didn’t start, never mind that he didn’t come on. I am sure he will get an opportunity soon,” Simpson said. ~ Via ESPN


Napoli president could sue Chelsea over Kalidou Koulibaly uncertainty

Napoli president could sue Chelsea over Kalidou Koulibaly uncertainty:

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has claimed Kalidou Koulibaly has cost the club millions of euros in merchandising revenue — and warned that he could take legal action against Chelsea.

Last week, Senegal international Koulibaly said he was likely to leave the Serie A club in the summer and expected rumoured interest from the Blues to become more concrete.

The defender told L’Equipe: “If nothing happens with Napoli, I’m going to start making contact with other clubs.

“I’m going to make the most favourable choice, not only financially but also on a sporting level — clubs of a high standing want me, and I’ve had no sign from Napoli.”

But De Laurentiis responded angrily, with Corriere dello Sport quoting him as saying: “I had thought Koulibaly was a good man.

“The moment I realise you and your agent haven’t read the contracts properly before signing them… I cannot tolerate that.

“Napoli were about to sign new commercial deals to use Koulibaly’s image, but his statements cancelled those opportunities. His jersey cannot be sold now.

“He created damages worth millions of euros, and I have specialists studying the issue now.”

De Laurenttis said that “if we discovered that Chelsea were behind this, we could sue them for damages too. Koulibaly is 24 years old, he is not a kid.”

And he stressed that the player “will continue working for us for the three years on his contract — maybe many more, until he’s paid off the damages to Napoli.”

The president added that he did not believe star striker Gonzalo Higuain, who has been linked with clubs including Liverpool, would leave.

“Gonzalo is a good man and Napoli will become for him what it was for Maradona. Diego entered world football history thanks to Napoli,” he said.

“If Higuain were to listen to the siren song of the European giants, he’d have to take into account that in certain contexts you only play if you do well.

“I have already put the money on the table to improve his contract, which is what he deserves. I have the feeling he will not betray us.” ~ Via ESPN


Late Pique header delivers win for holders

The centre-back nodded past an impressive Petr Cech in the 87th minute as the holders’ dominance finally reaped rewards during a frustrating Group D encounter

Gerard Pique scored with three minutes remaining as holders Spain opened their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Czech Republic in Toulouse.

Spain, winners of the Euros in both 2008 and 2012, dominated possession but had to wait until late on to make the breakthrough against Petr Cech and a resolute Czech backline, who came into the tournament with the worst defensive record of the teams who qualified.

Alvaro Morata had Spain’s best first-half chance, forcing Cech into action from close-range in the first half, while Roman Hubnik turned the ball against his own post after the break.

It looked like Del Bosque’s men would be held to a frustrating draw, but Pique nodded in his first goal at a major international tournament to ensure they began with a victory two years to the day since their humbling 5-1 defeat to Netherlands at the World Cup.

Spain now play Turkey on Friday as they continue their bid for an unprecedented third consecutive continental title.

A trio of saves from Cech ensured there were no goals in a relatively quiet first period.

Spain came closest to scoring when Juanfran released David Silva on his 100th cap and his cross allowed Morata to stab towards goal from close-range, with the Arsenal goalkeeper making a key stop.

Cech was also on hand to get an important touch to Morata’s left-footed effort after the striker had been set up by Iniesta and then pushed away a Jordi Alba strike.

Czech Republic offered little threat going forward, with David de Gea called into action for the first time just before the break, comfortably saving from Tomas Necid.

The post prevented Hubnik from scoring turning Morata’s cut-back into his own goal early in the second half, before Nolito had a goal-bound effort blocked.

Hubnik then threatened at the other end, with De Gea getting down sharply to keep out his effort from Ladislav Krejci’s delivery, while Cesc Fabregas made a crucial clearance from Theodor Gebre Selassie’s goal-bound header.

Del Bosque changed his striker just after the hour mark, with 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz on to replace Morata, becoming the oldest Spain player to appear in the Euros.

Silva lashed a shot wide, while Aduriz was off-target with an overhead kick and a header in the closing stages, and it looked like the Czechs would hold on for a valuable point until Pique struck.

Iniesta floated in a cross from the left and Pique rose to direct a low header beyond Cech from six yards.

That was not the end of the drama, with De Gea making a pivotal stop from Vladimir Darida in stoppage-time as Spain breathed a huge sigh of relief.  ~ via


They Beat Jamaica but Mexico Has Some Weaknesses Showing

El Tri earned their win over Jamaica, but manager Juan Carlos Osorio knows that his back line must improve if they’re going to meet their goal of finishing in the top three.

PASADENA, Calif. — Mexico is through to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario, but its 2-0 victory against Jamaica showed that the team still has weaknesses it must correct.  Joh Arnold writes, reporting for

The Mexican federation’s goal for this tournament – and the one the team says it has adopted – is to finish in the top three. That’s something El Tri won’t be able to do if they defend like they did Thursday night. Juan Carlos Osorio’s decision to use three center backs against Uruguay’s two-man forward line paid dividends in the opener, which Mexico won 3-1. It was less organized against the Reggae Boyz and was fortunate to escape with the eighth clean sheet of Osorio’s nine-match tenure.

“We leave satisfied, but obviously with the task of reviewing everything that happened in the game, all the options that they had like ours, but we’re still satisfied with how the team worked,” the head coach said in the news conference after the match.

Maybe the issues at the back can be put down to midfielder Andres Guardado, one of the Americas’ best two-way players, missing the Group C match because of a suspension. Or perhaps it’s just the difference in quality between having Rafa Marquez and Yasser Corona playing center back. While Mexico came away with the victory without too much sweat, there were clear weaknesses exposed in the triumph. Jamaica forward Clayton Donaldson should have finished at least one of the handful of clear-cut chances he had. But the Birmingham City forward was unable to beat Guillermo Ochoa, as the Mexico goalkeeper kept a clean sheet.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s early headed goal made things easier on Mexico, and maybe the team let down its guard a bit too much with an early lead. Jamaica used its speed and athleticism to stretch Mexico, ending the match with multiple shots on goal that called Ochoa into action. There were too many defensive breakdowns

“For me, the three most clear chances (for Jamaica) were because of individual errors we made,” Osorio said. “It also seems to us that Yasser Corona’s block and Guillermo Ochoa’s save are as important as the goals Oribe or Javier scored.”

Ultimately, Mexico’s attack did what it needed to do. The stronger unit pulled Mexico up and made sure the match wasn’t going to slip away. Hernandez had the opener and Oribe Peralta added an insurance goal in the 81st minute. Those goals are reminders that this is a very powerful team. Hirving Lozano continues to add flavor to the attack when he enters as a substitute, and did so again in kick-starting the play that led to Peralta’s finish.

But even after Mexico got its second goal of the night, Ochoa had to make a save in the 84th minute, his fourth of the night, and Dever Orgill’s late effort nearly dipped below the goalkeeper’s crossbar. The Jamaica attack let Mexico’s back line off the hook as Yasser Corona was beaten several times in the error and the Reggae Boyz had a handful of penalty shouts.

“We’ve got to do a lot of things better,” said Miguel Layun, a defender by trade who has played in midfield during this tournament. “Without doubt, the most important thing will be to analyze film, calmly watch the match and try to correct these errors. We have to take more advantage of the possession we have, I think we have to move the ball better against teams of this quality that have such quick players who can counterattack.”

Mexico is a team with depth, even at the back, but it won’t encounter Donaldson’s wastefulness against teams like potential quarterfinal opponent Chile. More than 83,000 fans at the Rose Bowl can celebrate a well-earned victory, but Osorio is the first to realize that there’s still more work to do before his side lands among the elite in this tournament


Man U Goalie denies sex charge allegations

The Manchester United goalkeeper appears in a police report alongside Iker Muniain, but has rejected the accusations and pledged to keep fighting in the tournament

 David de Gea has strongly denied any involvement in an alleged sex case, while insisting that he will stay with the Spain team at Euro 2016.


The accusations were published by El Diario on Friday, just three days before the Roja kick off their campaign against Czech Republic.

A copy of the purported police report shows the testimony of a protected witness, who alleges she was forced to perform sexual acts against her will in a Madrid hotel suite rented by jailed pornography baron ‘Torbe’.

According to the testimony, Iker Muniain and another, unidentified player from Spain’s Under-21 team were involved in the alleged events, which took place in 2012.

While De Gea is not accused of being present at the scene, the witness stated that the current Manchester United keeper organised the evening with Torbe – whose real name is Ignacio Allende Fernandez.

“I am the first to be surprised by this story, it is complete lies and falsehoods,” he responded in a press conference.

“This gives me more strength to be with this team, it is now in my lawyers’ hands.”

De Gea rejected any notion that he would be dropping out of Spain’s Euro 2016 challenge.

“I am going to stay with the national team, I have the strength and my team-mates’ support and I want to fight for the Euros,” he affirmed.

De Gea later trained as normal with the Spain team at their La Rochelle base with their Group D opener coming on Monday afternoon when they tackle Czech Republic in Toulouse.



France Lines Up For Euro 2016 Win

They have the home soil advantage and they intend to work it!! Stats have pros and cons in football but this one is pretty striking: In the last 18 World Cups and Euros, the hosts have won the tournament only twice. It was France both times, in 1984 and 1998.

When it comes to winning the competitions you organise, the French are really good at it. See it as a good omen or not, it’s another argument in Les Bleus’favour. They are one of the favourites to win this European Championship, even after all the withdrawals and players missing [Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Lassana Diarra, Mathieu Valbuena, Mathieu Debuchy, Mamadou Sakho], even after all the controversies, and even with the current atmosphere in the country, which has seen strikes and protests, as well as flooding.


It would be better, of course, if all those players were in the squad, if the preparation had been smooth and without issues and if the country was a bit more excited and ready for the tournament.

However, France are always better in adversity. In 1998, before the start of the World Cup, there were also strikes, the media was critical of head coach Aime Jacquet and the team, and the atmosphere was morose.

They stayed strong, believed in themselves and they did it. Like in 1998, this is an extremely gifted squad with players at the top of their game at the biggest European clubs, and we are not just talking about Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba or Anthony Martial.

There is a lot of experience in the side, both at the domestic and international level. There is character, too. A lot of Didier Deschamps’ players had to work hard to make the squad: Olivier Giroud, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Koscielny, N’Golo Kante, Morgan Schneiderlin, Patrice Evra, Adil Rami and Christophe Jallet all started their careers in the French lower leagues.

Even Griezmann could not find any academies in France that wanted to take him, so he had to go to Real Sociedad in Spain to start his career in the second division. Many of Deschamps’ men began at the bottom and now they are here, ready to win the Euros. They never gave up at the start of their career, even when the odds were against them to make it. In terms of experience, this is priceless. It means that when goings get tough, they work even harder.

Giroud was recently booed by some of his own fans before a friendly against Cameroon. He responded with three goals in two games. He now has seven in his last eight appearances for Les Bleus. No one is booing him anymore.

The last time a French squad seemed so happy together was back in 2006 when they reached the World Cup final. There is camaraderie. They are all friends, brothers even and, thought you don’t need to all love each other to win football matches, it’s better when the mood is as such. In 2008, 2010 or 2012, all the problems France had came down to egos, individualism and selfishness. This time, it is different. They are a proper team.

Evra, who has been part of problem-ridden squads in the past, said recentlythat he was ready to be pelted with stones to protect his teammates. There is competition too, more in certain positions than others but still. “I get on great with Olivier [Giroud] and I want him to win us matches but I am there behind him, pushing him to take his place too,” said Gignac on Tuesday.

They have a lucky charm as well in Deschamps. Everywhere he has been, as a player or as a manager, he has won trophies and plaudits. He is associated with winning and he has brought a winning mentality to this team. France have won 13 of their last 14 games now, with the lone defeat coming last November against England, days after the Paris terror attacks.

The French players can’t wait. We all know now, unless someone picks up an injury, what the starting XI will look like on Friday against Romania. Dimitri Payet will start up front with Giroud and Griezmann, ahead of Martial. Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Kante will compose the midfield and the back five will be goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, along with Bacary Sagna, Rami, Laurent Koscielny and Evra.

With Varane, Kurt Zouma, Sakho, Mathieu, Aymeric Laporte and Debuchy out, Deschamps had to build a new defence and chose Rami to partner with Koscielny. It could be considered a surprise considering his last cap was three years ago, but the 30-year-old had a good season with Sevilla and starting him ahead of Eliquim Mangala means that Koscielny can stay on the left side of central defence. Rami was dreadful against Cameroon, but better in a 3-0 win against Scotland.

“Against Cameroon, it was his first cap in a very long time, he was a bit stressed,” Koscienly said about his teammate on Tuesday. “I told [Rami] to stay calm. He is capable of great things, he just needs to stay calm. I have faith in him, we all do. We are all united.”

France look strong everywhere — everything is united for success — and they are going to win Euro 2016 on July 10. You can bet on it. It is the sense of history. As we say in France, things always come in threes.

Julian Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter @LaurensJulien.