Barca secures futures of Messi, Xavi and Puyol

Updated 18 December 2012
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Barca secures futures of Messi, Xavi and Puyol

MADRID: Barcelona secured the futures of leading players Lionel Messi, Xavi and Carles Puyol with renewed contracts yesterday.
World Player of the Year Messi’s deal has been extended by two years to June 30, 2018, which ties him until he is 31, the La Liga leaders said in a statement.
The 34-year-old Puyol, the club’s captain, has agreed a three-year extension to June 30, 2016, which would effectively see the Spanish international through to the end of his playing career at 38.
Xavi’s existing deal ran until June 2016 depending on appearances but the 32-year-old midfielder’s new contract would now end then regardless of the number of times he played, Barca added.
The new contracts will be signed in the coming weeks.
“It is with great satisfaction that the board are able to bring continuity to this successful project with the renewed deals for Xavi, Puyol and Messi,” Barcelona director Toni Freixa told a news conference.
“Puyol, Messi and Xavi are three basic pillars. It was essential to have our principal figures tied to the club.
“The buy-out clauses remain the same until there is a financial improvement.”
Offering Messi a further two years indicates how important the Argentine is to the club and ensures they secure his services over the peak of his playing career, injury permitting.
At 25, Messi has already set a number of club scoring records and is favorite to win a fourth World Player of the Year award next month.
He has been the top scorer in the world’s highest-profile club competition, the Champions League, for four years in a row, and hit the headlines recently as he racked up his 90th goal in 2012 for club and country.
Barca built their team around the fleet-footed forward over four trophy-filled seasons under coach Pep Guardiola until he stepped aside last May, and the transition to former number two Tito Vilanova has failed to upset the ‘the flea’s’ rhythm.
Messi has already scored 25 goals in 16 La Liga games this season, the latest being a double against second-placed Atletico Madrid in a 4-1 victory on Sunday which left Barca clear at the top, and 13 points ahead of their great title rivals Real Madrid.
Puyol has been a central figure at the heart of the Barca defense for more than a decade, famous for his commitment and aggression. His return after a string of injuries has settled a backline that looked distinctly shaky earlier in the campaign.



Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Puyol said: “I want to play until I am 40. I want to continue playing...but when it doesn’t feel right I will stop whether I have a contract in place or not.”
Like Puyol and Messi, playmaker Xavi is a product of the club’s acclaimed youth academy, and has pulled the strings in midfield for more than a decade.
With Cesc Fabregas settling into the side more, and the talented Thiago Alcantara emerging, Spanish international Xavi has increased competition for his place but remains a vital part of Vilanova’s plans.


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.