Barcelona’s Messi: I would be thrilled if Neymar came back

Neymar of Brazil during the international friendly match between Brazil and Peru on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2019

Barcelona’s Messi: I would be thrilled if Neymar came back

BARCELONA, ROME: Barcelona captain Lionel Messi would be “thrilled” if Neymar returned to the Catalan side but insisted they could still win trophies without the Brazilian.

In an interview with the Catalan newspaper Sport this week, Messi said the return of Neymar, who was at Barca from 2013 and 2017 when he left for Paris Saint-Germain, could only strengthen the Spanish champions.

“I would be thrilled if Neymar came back,” said the Argentine.

“I understand that not everyone agrees. That’s normal after everything that happened around Ney, the way in which he left, the way he abandoned us. “But when you look at the sporting angle, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world and obviously would improve our chances of getting the results we want.”

The summer transfer window saw an on-off soap opera surrounding the 27-year-old’s apparent desire to leave PSG, who paid a world record €222 million ($264 million at the time) in 2017, with Barcelona and Real Madrid both linked.

Ultimately he stayed in the French capital, at least for the time being.

“I am not disappointed,” said Messi. “I would have liked it if he had come and been with us but, as I have said, we have an exceptional squad to challenge for every title, even without him.”

Messi denied reports he had used his influence to try and force the Barcelona board to push through the deal.

“Here, it is not me that gives the orders,” he said. “We never said that he had to be brought in. We didn’t make any demands.”

“I don’t know if the club (Barcelona) wanted it to happen. What I do know is that Neymar really wanted it. But I understand it is very difficult to negotiate with PSG.”

Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Friday Neymar “did everything” to force through a return to the Camp Nou in the close season, but his club could “not meet” the French champions’ demands.

 

Man United, Arsenal castoffs find new homes in Serie A

Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling.

The names read like a team sheet from a recent Manchester United-Arsenal matchup.

Only now, those same players will be meeting in Italy’s Serie A.

Lukaku and Sanchez left United for Inter Milan, Ramsey went from Arsenal to Juventus, while Mkhitaryan and Smalling were each loaned to Roma from Arsenal and United, respectively.

And they were not alone in the southern migration: Of the 79 foreigners who joined Serie A in the recently concluded transfer window, 10 came from the Premier League — more than any other league.

“I was not fitting so well in English football, so I think a change was good,” said Mkhitaryan, the deadline-day signing who accepted a reduced salary with Roma.

“I’ve heard from many, many players that the Italian league is great, the football is great,” Mkhitaryan added. “The last month at Arsenal I was not getting pleasure, so that’s why I said it was better to come to Roma and to get happy and to get the pleasure from playing football again.”

While the likes of Lukaku, Mkhitaryan and Sanchez each fell out of favor with their clubs in England, they are each still in their primes.

So this influx is nothing like when David Beckham was loaned twice to AC Milan toward the end of his career, or when Ashley Cole showed up at Roma at the age of 33 with his abilities waning.

Very few English players make the move to Serie A but the ones that do — such as former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who spent 2016-17 on loan with Torino — tend to have harbored an affinity for the more tactical and defense-oriented Italian league.

“In England we don’t have many players that do go abroad. I think I’ve always had a desire deep down to experience this and to have an opportunity,” said Smalling, the center back who was dropped from England’s squad ahead of last year’s World Cup. “It’s something that I really look forward to and I don’t want to live my life with (any) regrets.

“Serie A has always been a goal of mine to play in one day, because as a defender if you get the chance to experience Serie A you want to do it,” Smalling added.


Premier League players’ ‘backs against wall’ over virus, says Rose

Updated 05 April 2020

Premier League players’ ‘backs against wall’ over virus, says Rose

  • Top-flight stars have come under increasing pressure to take pay cuts from govt officials

LONDON: Newcastle defender Danny Rose is willing to contribute a portion of his wages to those fighting the coronavirus outbreak but says Premier League players feel their “backs are against the wall.”

Top-flight stars have come under increasing pressure to take pay cuts from government officials after a number of clubs said they would use public money to subsidize pay for nonplaying staff.

The Premier League said on Friday that clubs would consult players over a combination of pay cuts and deferrals amounting to 30 percent of their annual salary.

They agreed to provide a £125 million ($153 million) fund for the English Football League and National League and pledged £20 million in charitable support for those affected by the coronavirus.

Talks were due to take place on Saturday between the league, clubs and players’ representatives.

Newcastle, where Rose is on loan, and his parent club, Tottenham, are among clubs to have furloughed some nonplaying staff during the crisis, prompting criticism as players continue to receive their full salary.

“We’re all keen to make something happen,” said Rose.

“I can only speak for myself but I would have no problems whatsoever contributing some of my wages to people who are fighting this on the front line and to people who have been affected by what’s happening at the minute.”

On Friday, a hospital in London identified Rose as the individual behind a £19,000 donation to hospital funds.

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson led talks between Premier League club captains over what action they could take, a move that begun before Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday joined those singling out footballers.

“We sort of feel our backs are against the wall,” Rose said. “Conversations were being had before people outside of football were commenting.

“I’ve been on the phone to Jordan Henderson and he’s working so hard to come up with something.

“It was just not needed for people who are not involved in football to tell footballers what they should do with their money. I found that so bizarre.”

Wolves captain Conor Coady said it was time for players to help out.

“It’s fantastic to see people trying to make the effort,” he said. “It’s something everyone wants to be part of. As footballers, it’s important we help as many people as possible.

“What’s come out now is the 30 percent cut. We get judged every single day of our lives. The time now is to go forward and make a donation.”

On Saturday, Burnley said they would face a shortfall of up to £50 million if the Premier League season could not be completed.

“It’s a completely unprecedented situation that we and other Premier League clubs face and which we could not have foreseen in anyway only just a few weeks ago,” said Burnley chairman Mike Garlick.

“It’s now not just about Burnley or any other individual club any more, it’s about the whole football ecosystem from the Premier League downwards and all the other businesses and communities that feed from that ecosystem.”