Real Madrid Rejected €80M Offer For Morata

The European champions have decided to keep the 23-year-old striker at the club and have assured him he will be handed a fair crack at a place in their starting XI.

Real Madrid rejected an offer of 80 million euros ($89M) for Alvaro Morata before deciding to keep the striker at the Santiago Bernabeu, Goal Spainreports.

Morata was pursued by Chelsea and Arsenal, among others, after Madrid exercised a buy-back clause to re-sign him from Juventus for €30 million ($33M).

Morata’s agents met with Madrid on Thursday and a €60 million ($66M) bid was turned down. An improved €80 million offer from an unnamed club was dismissed Monday after another meeting.


It was expected that the European champions would immediately sell the 23-year-old for a profit upon his return, but Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane have pushed to persuade him he has a future in Madrid.

Zidane and Perez are both fans of Morata and played a significant role in assuring the Spain international that he will be handed a fair shot at breaking into the starting XI next season.

Morata and his representatives were also said to be encouraged by Zidane’s selection of the likes of Lucas Vasquez on the basis of their good form over big-money signings such as James Rodriguez.

The striker will compete directly with Karim Benzema for the center forward role between star wingers Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.  – Alberto Pinero


Neymar to finalise new Barcelona contract in ‘next few days’

According to the ESPNFC Neymar will sign a new five-year Barcelona contract in the next few days, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said.

neymartweeterNeymar’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 the 24-year-old’s €200 million release clause this summer.

However, Bartomeu told a news conference on Thursday: “Neymar is not leaving Barca. He is not going to leave.

“The socios [club members] know this, and that is why — and I don’t know whether it will happen tomorrow or the day after — Neymar is going to sign for five seasons.”

Neymar’s former agent Wagner Ribeiro had recently said there was interest in the Brazil international from “three big clubs” but that he was happy at the Camp Nou, and the forward’s father subsequently stressed that there was “zero chance” of a move to Madrid.

Neymar joined Barca from Santos in 2013 and has won La Liga and the Copa del Rey on two occasions as well as the 2015 Champions League

However, his arrival has prompted off-field problems due to the complicated nature of the transfer, with the club recently reaching an agreement with the Spanish authorities to pay €15m in back taxes and a €5.5m fine.

Bartomeu added: “It is normal that other clubs are interested in him, but I am saying this clearly: Neymar has never told us that he wants to leave.

“He wants to stay here and we want him to be here, and that is why the club’s lawyers and Neymar’s lawyers are working to finish this renewal and we hope it will be done over the next few days.

“But we are coming from a tax case with the Spanish revenue service and the prosecutor, and so we must write the contract very carefully. He will continue here for five years.”


Ronaldo wants to play for Real Madrid beyond his 40th birthday

Real Madrid fans could be seeing Cristiano Ronaldo on the Bernabeu pitch for another nine years if the Portuguese gets his wish.

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to remain at Real Madrid for the rest of the career and hopes to continue playing for the club beyond his 40th birthday.

Ronaldo signed for Madrid in a record-breaking transfer from Manchester United in 2009 and this season overtook Raul as the leading scorer in the club’s history, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats.

The 31-year-old has regularly been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain in recent years, but he is not planning on leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I am going to retire at Real Madrid when I’m older than 40,” Ronaldo told AS. “I am very happy here and will work hard to achieve that.”
Ronaldo scored the winning penalty as Madrid overcame Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final last weekend.

It was the second time the forward lifted the trophy with the team from the Spanish capital – which has been crowned champion of Europe 11 times – but his focus has already switched to the upcoming Euro 2016 campaign with Portugal.

“I am super happy to have won ‘la Undecima’ and now I’m already thinking about the Euro,” added Ronaldo. “We want to give a great joy to Portugal by winning it, which is something the Portuguese people deserve.”


Zidane Has The Big Challenge of Making Real a Champion Side

Zidane’s next challenge at Real: Make Europe’s champions a champion side.

Exhausted from giving his all, the victorious Gareth Bale could barely describe what he was thinking.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” the Real Madrid forward said in the early hours of Sunday morning, after his side defeated Atletico Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League final.

“I can’t describe how it feels. It’s amazing and the boys gave everything. The club, the fans have been amazing on this journey and they deserve it.”

“Journey.” It’s an interesting word. Players say things like that about Champions League wins because it’s the standard language of the celebration, and because of the history and prestige attached to the competition.

But Real are different from most European champions.

Throughout the competition’s 61 years — and especially when only title winners qualified — the trophy has been the final consecration of a great team who had won everything else. It has been the end of a journey, the final conclusion.

That is emphatically not the case with Real. They are a side who have now won two Champions League trophies in three years — but only one league in the last eight, and none in the last four.

That is an inversion of Champions League history, and the great contradiction of this team. They can again proclaim themselves champions of Europe, but not of their own country. They can win the Champions League, but not the league. It also creates a great challenge for Zinedine Zidane.

He needs to add to Real’s record of 32 Spanish titles. He needs to get this great club winning the most again, rather than just taking what Barcelona don’t win. He needs to properly complete the journey, to ensure every step is taken. If good teams win leagues and lucky teams win cups, great teams win both.

To do that, Zidane is going to have use the job security he has earned with this victory to make some changes. He’s going to have to complete the side.

It is not hard to understand why Real have struggled to win the league, and why they have become an effective cup team, suited to the unpredictability of knockout competitions.

Some close to the club like to put it down to the historic genius of Lionel Messi, and how he elevates Barcelona to a level above everyone else, meaning the Catalans have claimed six of the last eight league titles.

The reality is that is too easy an excuse, even if Real did get close this season. Sensational as Messi is, he is made better by the fact that — for all Barca’s own political issues — there is a core football philosophy guiding the club, and thereby a proper football plan.

That has not been the case at Real. Their team have had vague guiding principles but, as a consequence of president Florentino Perez’s obsession with stars and big-money signings, they have looked like less than the sum of their very expensive parts. They have often been unbalanced or not fully cohesive the way that Barca and — despite their lesser quality — beaten finalists Atletico Madrid have.

That trait was underlined throughout this Champions League, when Real were often unconvincing, but could rise above opponents in single games thanks to their supreme individual players. As Zidane himself said: “When you’ve got players of this calibre, with so much talent, you can achieve something big.”

That kind of talent is one of the classic traits of cup teams, but it’s not as influential when it comes to the long-term rigours of a league campaign, when you are up against equally wealthy but better-organised sides. Then, a team’s deeper issues will tell.

The signing of James Rodriguez symbolises so much of this. Bought partly because of his justifiably celebrated status in South America, the excellent playmaker doesn’t have an obvious place in the Real Madrid team.

It said much that the key juncture in their season was when Zidane replaced him with defensive-midfielder Casemiro, but only because the French legend’s legacy as a player allowed him to drop a star in a way that Perez just wouldn’t accept from the sacked Rafa Benitez.

That transaction does give reason to hope that Zidane can change even more at the cub, that his clout can will allow him to make the moves other managers couldn’t, the moves Real need. Winning the Champions League only increases that clout.

Even if the French manager does start to struggle next season, which will be his first full campaign as a manager, the double arguments of his status and the European medal will make it even more difficult for Perez to sack him. There’s also fact that, as to finally winning the league again, Real’s domestic form under Zidane has been brilliant. They pushed this Barcelona all the way in the title race and only lost by a point.

But even as they won the Champions League and almost won the league, it’s still difficult to tell how good Real are as a team and Zidane is as a manager.

The ease of their run has already been noted: they are the first Champions League winners to win it without eliminating a previous champion. Of their actual opponents, all of Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City suffered more difficult seasons than usual. There is also an argument that, in the final, Atletico were unlucky to face a local rival after doing the real hard work of defeating Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

It’s not Real’s fault they got easy draws, of course, but part of the problem is how misleading some midseason changes can be. Chelsea can testify to that with Roberto Di Matteo.

Sometimes, ailing teams only need subtle changes to get them back on track, at least for the short term, and Zidane provided that with his presence and status. That is a very different job, however, from instilling team principles and properly creating a manager’s own team in the long term.

That is the next challenge for Zidane, and overcoming it will be crucial to meeting his biggest challenge: reclaiming the Spanish title for the country’s most successful club. The players were more than willing to talk about his Carlo Ancelotti-like easy man-management after the final, which is clearly a strength.

During the game, though, he made some big mistakes in what was the biggest test of his brief managerial career so far. Zidane got all of his substitutions wrong, removed Real’s control when he removed Toni Kroos, and arguably should have been brave enough to take off a clearly unfit Cristiano Ronaldo.

He got lucky that Atletico couldn’t seize their momentum when it was 1-1, and that Ronaldo then scored the decisive penalty. Zidane has to build on that and learn from those mistakes. They are the type that even the most successful managers made earlier in their career, and everyone is entitled to an adjustment period.

But that’s just the point: Zidane will likely learn as he goes because for Real, this Champions League is really the start of the journey, which is a remarkable thing to say about winning club football’s ultimate prize. Then again, these are European champions of many contradictions. The next step is to conquer all — including their own country.

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


Best Worse and Weird from La Liga

La Liga season: Bests, worsts, final quirks and other notable accolades

Best team?

Barcelona. The Catalans incurred negative headlines towards the end of the season when they were eliminated from the Uefa Champions League by Atletico Madrid as part of losing four games in five which allowed both Madrid clubs back into the title race. But that wobble only started after the Catalans went 39 games unbeaten. That’s an incredible run for any team, let alone one which started the run without their injured best player and who then flew to the other side of the world to be crowned world champions in the middle of it.

Barca have issues to address. The majority of their best players are in their late 20s and early 30s, they fear the financial might of England’s Premier League and they have to fund a huge Camp Nou makeover and expansion, but they have been football’s pre-eminent side for a decade and they are still exceptionally strong.

Biggest let downs?

Carlos Vela is one of Real Sociedad’s most talented players. He didn’t show it last season. At Valencia, central defender Aymen Abdennour cost €25 million (Dh103.5m), a significant fee for them. He was supposed to replace Nicolas Otamendi; he didn’t. Valencia bought dreadfully last summer and it showed in a 12th-placed finish.  An even bigger fee of €35 million was paid by Atletico to Porto for striker Jackson Martinez, but the Colombian was sold after six months for an Asian transfer record fee of €42 million to Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande.

Indian Summer?

That will be Fernando Torres. While the 32-year-old striker didn’t make Vicente del Bosque’s provisional Spain squad for the European Championship, the former Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan striker finished the season superbly as he helped boyhood club Atletico push for the league title and reach the Champions League final. High on confidence after scoring his 100th goal for the club, Torres came back to regain his status at the club where he became a youthful hero.

Strangest signings?

Barcelona bought wide men Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, who were prepared to spend half the season out of their new team due to the transfer ban. They were expected to feature from January 1 onwards when that ban was up, yet both were underused by a manager reluctant to rotate his side. They were two of half a dozen players whom Luis Enrique didn’t appear to trust. His squad is small.

Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 4 (November 21, 2015). Had Madrid drawn the first clasico of the season, they would have won the league. They weren’t close to drawing a game which the visitors controlled throughout, with Luis Suarez scoring twice. One of the most encouraging factors for Barca was that they were so dominant without Lionel Messi, who started on the bench after a 10- week injury and was introduced with the game already won. After a fine team performance including from lesser light Sergi Roberto, Barca moved six points clear.

Best supporters?

With a home average of 38,000 Real Betis weren’t only the best-supported team in Sevilla, but were the fifth best-supported team in Spain. A final day win over relegated Getafe in front of 50,000 saw them rise to 10th in the league – a successful first season back after promotion last term thanks largely to the 18 goals of 34-year-old striker Ruben Castro. All three promoted sides enjoyed huge rises in crowds as average gates in La Liga rose by 5.4 per cent on last season. There are still too many empty seats at too many grounds, though.

The longevity awards

Juan Carlos Valeron and Manuel Pablo were mainstays of that “Super” Deportivo La Coruna side of the noughties. Both retired at the end of the season. Valeron played 760 competitive games, full-back Pablo, also 40, deserves his break. A nod, too, to Athletic Bilbao’s Carlos Gurpeggi, 35, who retired at the weekend after 18 years with the Basques.

Call yourself a big club?

Along with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the three biggest clubs in the world. At home, both are well supported. Away from home it’s a different matter, with abysmal away followings of mere dozens in venues less than two hours from home.

The Best Eibar Story

Eibar, the minnows who managed to stay in the top flight for a second successive season, this time by a far more comfortable margin that last when they only stayed up because Elche’s financial irregularities. Like last term they started well and flirted with the European places. Unlike last term, they still had enough in the tank to finish five points clear of relegation. On average crowds of 5,200 in a tight stadium which holds only 6,200 in a town of only 27,000, that’s astonishing.

Notable mentions

• Villarreal did really well to finish fourth and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League. They play attractive and usually attacking football and boast a formidable home record, though they faded badly once fourth was secured and provided limited opposition to Sporting Gijon, who stayed up.

• Celta Vigo started the season really well and hammered Barcelona. They also beat Atletico as they finished an impressive sixth to qualify for the Europa League. To do so on a small budget while playing entertaining football is a success story. The Galicians have recruited well since Luis Enrique took charge in 2013, but they lost their man to Barcelona a year later and now they have lost their sporting director Miguel Torrecilla.

• Malaga also deserve praise. They lost some of their best players last summer and again in January. Unlike previous seasons, they didn’t spend much to replace them, but cerebral coach Javi Gracia developed young players, improved experienced ones and oversaw some epic performances, most notably against Barcelona.

• Promoted Las Palmas were bottom of the league in October. They finished 11th after wise manager Quique Setien took them up the table.