Aston Villa Completes Permanent Signing of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho is making things permanent…

Aston Villa has completed the permanent signing of the 29-year-old Brazilian professional footballer from Barcelona, the two clubs announced Thursday.

Philippe CoutinhoBarcelona said they had accepted a €20 million transfer fee with Barca also inserting a sell-on clause of 50% for any future transfer.

Coutinho, who joined Aston Villa on loan in January, became Barcelona’s record signing when he joined from Liverpool for €160m in January 2018.

In a statement, Barcelona said they “would like to publicly state their thanks to Philippe Coutinho for his commitment and dedication, and wish him success and all the best for the future.”

Sources told ESPN earlier this week that Aston Villa had an option to sign Coutinho for €40m at the end of the season but were not willing to invest so much money.

Coutinho accepted a wage cut to join Villa in January due to his desire to play regular football again having fallen down the pecking order under Barca coach Xavi Hernandez.

At Villa Park under his former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard, he has scored four goals and supplied three assists in 16 Premier League appearances.

“This is a brilliant signing for Aston Villa. Phil is a model professional and his impact on the group has been very clear since he joined in January,” Gerrard said in Villa’s announcement.

“With the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch, he’s also a valuable role model for our younger players who can only benefit from his experience.

“As we look to build towards next season, it is incredible to work at a club that executes its business so decisively and smoothly.”

Jordi Alba’s Stoppage-Time Goal Helps Barcelona Secure Qualification for Champions League Football Next Season

Jordi Alba will be getting a hero’s welcome…

A stunning goal from the 33-year-old Spanish professional footballer deep into injury time gave FC Barcelona a 2-1 victory at Real Betis to secure qualification for the Champions League next season.

Jordi Alba, BarcelonaAlba’s unstoppable volley at the back post means Barca now has an unassailable 11-point lead over fifth-placed Betis with three games of the LaLiga season remaining.

Earlier, Barcelona had taken the lead with a first goal since January for Ansu Fati in the 76th minute. But Barca were pegged back almost immediately when former Camp Nou defender Marc Bartra headed home a corner just three minutes later.

Alba’s late goal means Xavi Hernandez has achieved his main aim after taking over midseason. It also gives Barcelona a healthy five-point cushion in second place, although third-placed Sevilla have played a game fewer.

“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” Xavi said afterward. “It could have been an even tougher season but the team has competed well since we arrived in November.

“We have not always played excellently, but we have a winning spirit and we are competitive. We’ve been all the other top half teams in the second half of the season. It’s clear we have to pay better. We have to analyze things. But the effort has been huge since November. We’re in the Champions League, a competition we deserve to be in, now we want to finish second.”

Betis forward Juanmi had the first sight of goal in an entertaining match, but his effort could only find the side-netting in the seventh minute.

Ten minutes later Manuel Pellegrini‘s side lost goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to injury as he hurt himself stretching to reach for the ball and was replaced by Rui Silva.

The Portuguese substitute, however, produced an excellent display, starting with a superb save from Ronald Araujo‘s bullet header minutes after entering the pitch.

Betis created more opportunities in a lively first half, but substitute Fati put the visitors ahead after the break with a low shot towards the left corner in the 76th minute.

“Ansu has a gift, others find it more difficult,” Xavi said. “It’s a great feeling to have him back. The goal was something we had talked about this week regarding the Betis defensive line.

“He’s a difference-maker. He just needs half a chance to score, even with a bad shot. He told me best to play him wide. I told him he could change with Auba, but he wanted to be on the left. He’s always a danger coming inside. He gets two chances, scores one and the other is dangerous. He has a gift. He’s comfortable around the box.”

Despite Bartra leveling for the Copa del Rey champions with a header, Alba sealed the game in the dying minutes.

Barcelona, who have won 10 of their last 12 league matches, are close to wrapping up second place and snatching the 3.4 million euros that the club would make by going to the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Both Copa del Rey finalists — winners Betis and runners-up Valencia — will be joined in the 2023 Spanish Super Cup finals by top two teams in the LaLiga standings.

Betis, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to move level on points with fourth-placed Atletico in their bid to secure a spot in Champions League next season, as they remain fifth with 58 points.

Before the match, Barcelona gave a guard of honor to the Betis players for their cup victory last month.

Ronald Araujo Agrees to New Contract with FC Barcelona Until 2026

Ronald Araujo is a new Billion Dollar Man

The 23-year-old Uruguayan professional footballer and FC Barcelona defender has agreed a new contract until 2026 with his release clause rising to €1 billion ($1.16bn), the club have announced.

Ronald Araujo Araujo’s previous deal was due to expire in 2023 and ESPN revealed last month that Manchester United and Liverpool were both keen on signing the Uruguay international.

The money on the table from the Premier League sides was higher than Barca‘s offer, but sources have told ESPN that the player’s priority was always to remain at Camp Nou.

Araujo has been on the same terms at Barca since 2018, when he first joined the club’s B team from Boston River in his homeland in a deal worth an initial €2 million.

That made him one of the lowest-paid players in the first team going into the current campaign, with his agents keen for his salary to rise according to his new status at the club.

Under coach Xavi Hernandez he has emerged as a key player this season, making 39 appearances in all competitions and scoring four goals, including one in the 4-0 Clasico win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Stadium.

With Barca having to adhere to LaLiga‘s strict financial rules due to their financial problems, they have played hardball during negotiations with Araujo’s camp.

However, sources told ESPN earlier this month there had finally been a breakthrough in talks, with Barca upping their initial offer and Araujo willing to meet the club in the middle despite the offers from English clubs.

Alexia Putellas & Barcelona Teammates Break Attendance Record in Women’s Football

Alexia Putellas and her Barca teammates are celebrating an impressive record.

Barcelona broke the attendance record in women’s football for the second time in a month as 91,648 supporters watched them beat Wolfsburg 5-1 at Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

Alexia Putellas & BarcelonaThe previous record crowd for a women’s game had only been set by Barca in March, when 91,553 people attended their quarterfinal against Real Madrid — 95 fewer than attended Friday’s game.

Prior to that, the women’s record had stood since 1999, when 90,185 fans watched the World Cup final between the United States and China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

“It was spectacular, both today and a month ago against Madrid,” midfielder Patri Guijarro said in a news conference after the game. “We’re speechless, really. I’m sure as the days and years pass, we will become a bit more of what we have achieved. We’re still not completely aware of the magnitude of [the attendances].”

However, some estimates suggest 110,000 people attended Denmark’s win over Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in the 1971 World Cup final, a tournament that was not officially sanctioned.

Barca usually play their home games at the 6,000-seater Estadi Johan Cruyff at the club’s training ground, but their Champions League knockout games have been moved to Camp Nou to accommodate the bigger demand for tickets.

This was just their third competitive game at the 99,000-seater stadium. They played against Espanyol behind closed doors last season due to the pandemic, and then for the first time with fans against Madrid last month.

On the pitch, they were too good for Wolfsburg, blowing them away with four first-half goals from Aitana Bonmati, Caroline Graham Hansen, Jenni Hermoso and Alexia Putellas.

Jill Roord pulled one back for the German side after the break, but Ballon d’Or winner Putellas added her second from the penalty spot to seal Barca’s 45th successive win in all competitions, a run dating back to last June.

The teams will meet again in the second leg at the Volkswagen Arena next Saturday, with the winners facing Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain in the final in Turin on May 21.

Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot was pessimistic about his team’s chances of turning things around in the second leg.

“Barca fans can book their tickets for the final,” he said. “They were favourites before the tie and now they’re even bigger favourites.

“Our challenge is to try and win next week without losing touch with reality. Wanting to win 5-1 is difficult, but winning is possible, although we have to change certain things.”

Ronald Araujo Nearing Long-Term Deal with FC Barcelona

Ronald Araujo is thisclose to a new deal…

The 23-year-old Uruguayan professional soccer player and Barcelona defender is close to agreement on a new long-term contract with the Spanish club, according to his agent.

Ronald AraujoAraujo’s current deal is set to expire in 2023; and Manchester United and Liverpool were reportedly keen on signing the Uruguay international.

Barca’s previous offer to Araujo was worth around €5 million annually, with sources saying the money on offer from the Premier League sides was worth almost double.

But, Barca has now upped its proposal, with the player’s agent, Flavio Perchman, revealing an agreement is close after a meeting with sporting director Mateu Alemany.

“It’s close,” Perchman told reporters. “There is a desire on both sides [to finalize the renewal] and Ronald wants to stay at the club.”

Araujo has been on the same deal at Barca since 2018, when he first joined the “B team” from Boston River in his homeland in a deal worth an initial €2m.

That made him one of the lowest-paid players in the first team going into the current campaign, with his agents keen for his salary to rise along with his status at the club.

Under coach Xavi Hernandez he has emerged as a key player this season, making 34 appearances in all competitions and scoring four goals, including in the recent 4-0 Clasico win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

With Barca having to adhere to LaLiga‘s strict financial rules due to their financial problems, though, they’ve played hardball during negotiations with Araujo’s camp.

At the same time the team has been holding talks with Araujo, Barcelona has also been negotiating the signing of Andreas Christensen and even met with Antonio Rudiger‘s agent last week.

Christensen will join the club from Chelsea on a free transfer in the summer, but a move for Rudiger is less likely.

The public nature of those negotiations forced the club to up their offer to Araujo, who was willing to accept a lower deal to remain with the LaLiga side.

Araujo, Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia have been Barca’s first choice centerbacks under Xavi, with Christensen set to compete with them from the summer onwards.

FC Barcelona Signs Rising Soccer Star Pablo Torre

Pablo Torre is headed to Camp Nou

FC Barcelona has signed 18-year-old Spanish soccer player from Racing Santander, the LaLiga club announced on Friday, beating Real Madrid to land the talented youngster.

Pablo TorreTorre is viewed as a potential future star but will initially feature for the club’s reserve team Barcelona B beginning this summer, before challenging for a first-team place in the medium term.

Barcelona stated the transfer fee was €5m with the amount potentially reaching €20m based on variables.

Torre, an attacking midfielder, is now signed with the Blaugrana through June 2026, with a release clause of €100 million.

A number of top teams including Madrid had been tracking Torre, who has been starring for Racing this season, but Barca moved to wrap up negotiations on Friday.

The Spain Under-19 international has scored six goals in 21 appearances — 18 of them starts — for Racing to help them top their group in the Primera RFEF, the third tier of Spanish football.

Barca have made a habit of prioritizing emerging Spanish talent, signing Pedri from Las Palmas in 2019 and promoting academy youngsters like Gavi and Nico to the first team.

Barcelona Complete On-Loan Signing of Adama Traore with Wolverhampton Wanderers

Adama Traore is headed home to Spain…

Barcelona has completed the signing of the 26-year-old Spanish professional footballer, a winger for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Adama TraoreTraore will be on loan to Barca  until the end of the season, the club has announced.

Tottenham Hotspur had been in talks with Wolves for some time, sources previously told ESPN, with boss Antonio Conte eyeing Traore as a possible wing-back option in his preferred 3-4-3 formation.

While it is understood the winger harbored some reservations about that role, sources have told ESPN the bigger issue was a failure of both clubs to agree a fee with Spurs reluctant to pay much beyond £20 million.

Traore returns to Camp Nou after nearly seven years away, having come through the club’s youth academy.

He becomes Barca‘s third signing in the January transfer window following the arrivals of Dani Alves and Ferran Torres.

If Barca decide to sign Traore in the summer, the fee could be negotiated if Wolves also exercise a clause to make Francisco Trincao‘s move permanent.

The Premier League side has an option to sign the Portuguese attacker, who is on a season-long loan from Barca, for €30m at the end of the season.

Both players are represented by Jorge Mendes, who also oversaw Nelson Semedo‘s €30m move from Barcelona to Wolves in 2020.

Traore has won eight international caps for Spain since making his debut in 2020. He was part of Luis Enrique‘s squad for Euro 2020 last summer as La Roja reached the semifinal, where they were eliminated by eventual winners Italy on penalties.

Manchester City Reportedly Closing Deal for Julian Alvarez

Julian Alvarez is thisclose to heading to Manchester City

ManCity is close to sealing a deal for the 21-year-old Argentine professional footballer and River Plate forward, according to ESPN sources.

Julian AlvarezCity believe they have seen off competition from AC Milan for Alvarez with the final details to be ironed out before an agreement is reached. Sources have told ESPN the overall cost of the transfer could be less than £20 million.

It;s likely that Alvarez, who has already been capped five times by Argentina, won’t move to the Etihad Stadium until next summer at the earliest but sources have told ESPN he would be considered a first-team signing.

Until he is ready to move to England, City will consider loaning him back to River Plate or arranging another loan elsewhere.

Asked about Alvarez following the 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday, Pep Guardiola remained tight-lipped.

“I don’t have any information from the club, anything,” he said.

“Not one word. I don’t know anything. I don’t have any information about the club.”

Alvarez is considered to be one of the best young players in South America and should City get a deal over the line, it would be a coup of the Premier League champions following interest from Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

City remain open to the idea that he could be part of Guardiola’s senior squad next season but sources have told ESPN his arrival would not change their plans to sign an established striker in the summer.

Neymar Hopes New Docuseries “The Perfect Chaos” Will Change Public Perceptions of Him

Neymar is hoping to change minds…

The 29-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and Paris Saint-Germain star believes an upcoming Netflix documentary about his life will help people get to know him and like him better.

NeymarThe Perfect Chaos, a three-part documentary series, offers a look into Neymar’s life off the pitch as well as the marketing operations run by his father.

Directed by David Charles Rodriguez, the documentary will be released later this month.

“Those who know me, know who I am and that’s what matters to me,” Neymar told ESPN. “As for those who don’t know me and just speak bad things about me, I just put them aside, but I hope they can still watch this documentary and hopefully it can change their idea or the image they have of me, and I hope they can learn to like me … even a little!

“Few people really know the real me. Just my closest friends, my family, some teammates and now I feel I can show a bit more of my life, of how I am on my day to day, at work, at home, how I am as a father, a son, a brother, and I hope this documentary shows that side to people. It’s what we’ve worked on, we’re showing the truth, 100% and that’s what matters most.”

The Brazil international stated earlier this season after becoming his country’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying games that he doesn’t receive the respect he deserves from the media and fans in his homeland.

The former Santos and Barcelona star has come under heavy criticism in the past for his behavior on the pitch, with memes of the player diving dominating social media sites.

Neymar is known for hosting lavish celebrations with big personalities in attendance, inevitably drawing media attention. However, he said he will never stop partying despite claims he is immature.

Neymar attended a New Year’s Eve party in crutches, leading to criticism in Brazil that he wasn’t taking care of himself. He reacted to suggestions that he is not taking care of himself during his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in November by posting a photograph on Instagram in which he is seen wearing a mask in a high-tech oxygen chamber.

Neymar has said in the past that criticism made him question his game but added the title of the documentary The Perfect Chaos is a reflection of his life.

“The perfect chaos because my life has always been like that,” Neymar said. “Ever since I was 6 months old, I was in an accident with my parents and well, that’s when the chaos began. We recovered after and nothing happened to me … then after I became a footballer and of course, I’ve had very happy moments, but I’ve still had a lot of chaos in my life.

“But in all this chaos, things have worked out perfectly because I have a very good life, and I’m very grateful for everything, for my family, for all my friends, for all God has done in my life and well, that’s why I think this title is perfect because I’ve had a lot of problems, but things have worked out well.”

Neymar also said his mental strength has helped him succeed.

“You must have your head on straight, so you don’t fall or crumble,” he said. “Family and friends are important, but my teammates, too. They’re always behind me so that when I have a sad day they can help with a word or a hug to make me feel better.

“But I think now I am strong. I’m a strong man, not just physically but in my head too because I have to deal with so much pressure, because of who I am, because of where I play, because I’m Brazilian and a lot of other things. But I have a strong head now and I’ve had to work very hard to get it that way and I think that that is the other really good thing about me, that not only can I play football, but I’ve focused on my mental health.”

Alexia Putellas Claims This Year’s ‘The Best FIFA Women’s Player’ Award

It’s a special third for Alexia Putellas

The 27-year-old Spanish footballer, a midfielder for Barcelona and Spain, has won The Best FIFA Women’s Player award for 2022, marking her third individual award in the last six months.

Alexia PutellasPutellas previously won the Ballon d’Or Feminin in November and was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in August.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was awarded The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award after a year in which she won the domestic Treble and made it to the Champions League final.

Canada and Portland ThornsChristine Sinclair was awarded The Best FIFA Special award while Chile and Lyon‘s Christiane Endler was awarded The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award.

“This belongs to everyone,” Putellas said after receiving the award. “I hope we can continue with the same or even more motivations this year and we can be very successful again.

“This is the work of many years. 2021 was perfect. We only hope to finish this year the same way.”

Putellas fought off strong competition from teammate Jennifer Hermoso and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr for Monday’s award — the same two finalists for the Ballon d’Or Feminin.

Putellas helped Barca to a Treble-winning 2020-21 season in which they won the Primera Divsion, the Copa de la Reina and took home the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history.

Meanwhile, several Latina players were named to the FIFA Women’s World XI team, including Endler, Argentina’s Estefania Banini and Brazil’s Marta.

FIFA Women’s World XI
Christiane Endler – Lyon, Chile
Lucy Bronze – Manchester City, England
Wendie Renard – Lyon, France
Millie Bright – Chelsea, England
Magdalena Eriksson – Chelsea, Sweden
Estefania Banini – Atletico Madrid, Argentina
Carli Lloyd – NJ/NY Gotham, United States
Barbara Bonansea – Juventus, Italy
Vivianne Miedema – Arsenal, Netherlands
Marta – Orlando Pride, Brazil
Alex Morgan – San Diego Wave, United States