FC Barcelona Eyeing Mexico’s Santiago Giménez

Santiago Giménez is getting a lot of attention from FC Barcelona

The LaLiga football club is tracking the 22-year-old Mexican soccer player and Mexico international despite being aware that competition for the striker will be high and Feyenoord will demand a big fee, according to ESPN.

Santiago GiménezGiménez has been in explosive form this season, scoring 13 times in 10 Eredivisie appearances and another two in his sole Champions League outing to date, a 3-1 win over Lazio.

Those performances have alerted some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Barça, with the source adding that the Catalan side have been impressed by how quickly he has adapted to the European game.

Barça have sent various scouts to watch Giménez since he joined Feyenoord from Cruz Azul in 2022, intensifying their monitoring of him in recent weeks.

His goal scoring instinct has been compared to that of Luis Suárez within the club.

Barça will continue to watch him closely in the coming months, with a source adding that he is a player the club are “keeping in mind” for the future, but an immediate deal would face a number of hurdles.

Firstly, Barça have already agreed a deal worth an initial €30 million ($31.7m), potentially rising to €61m with add-ons, for the Athletico Paranaense forward Vitor Roque, reducing the need for more attacking reinforcements.

The Brazil forward will either join the club in January or next summer to provide competition for Robert Lewandowski, although with the Poland striker turning 36 next year and linked with a move to Saudi Arabia last summer, further additions to the frontline have not been completely ruled out.

However, as revealed by ESPN recently, Barça’s current priority is to sign a deep-lying midfielder and two full-backs.

Any business will depend on Barça’s financial situation, too, with the club currently subject to spending restrictions as they are in excess of their LaLiga-imposed cap.

Therefore, it remains unclear whether they will be able to register the signing of Roque in January, as coach Xavi Hernández wants, or if they will have to wait until the summer.

Meanwhile, Feyenoord is also expected to command a big fee for Giménez, whose goals helped them win the Dutch league last season.

There is considered to be a lack of top-level No. 9s available, which has increased the interest in Giménez and is likely to drive up the cost of any permanent transfer.

Lionel Messi Scores in MLS Debut to Help Lead Inter Miami to Win Over New York Red Bulls

Lionel Messi is celebrating a goal-tastic MLS debut…

In his long-awaited Major League Soccer debut, the 36-year-old Argentine soccer star netted a late goal to put the seal on a 2-0 win for Inter Miami at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

Lionel Messi After playing nine games in just over a month following his arrival in South Florida, leading his new team to the Leagues Cup title and the final of the U.S. Open Cup, Messi was handed a well-earned rest and began the game on the substitute’s bench as Miami returned to league play in New Jersey. 

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner made his entrance to a thunderous reception in the 60th minute, and still had enough time to provide the fans with a moment to treasure.

He both set up and finished the goal, playing a pass that perhaps no one else on the field or stadium could even see — let alone play — to Benjamin Cremaschi before receiving the ball back for a simple finish in the 89th minute.

It was Messi’s eighth goal already for his new team and matched the goal he scored in his one previous appearance as a substitute — in his debut against Cruz Azul on July 21.

With Messi’s effort adding to a 37th-minute goal by Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gómez, Miami secured what was a much-needed win for the star-studded team in its uphill task to make the playoffs later this year.

Miami entered the game with an 11-game MLS winless streak that included eight defeats and had just one road victory this season. It’s 22 points were the fewest among the league’s 29 teams and there was a 12-point gap to erase to get into a playoff position.

That coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino saw that his team could prosper without Messi for an hour of the game will be a welcome bonus, particularly as the forward will be needed for the start of Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign next month.

However, there was doubtless initial disappointment for many watching on in Red Bull Arena and beyond.

The streets around Red Bull Arena were packed 2 1/2 hours before the match, filled with dozens of scalpers and people selling unlicensed Messi jerseys. A simulcast of the game was scheduled on a videoboard in Times Square.

Inside the stadium, fans began a chant of “we want Messi” within the first 10 minutes of kickoff.

Instead there was a chance for Miami’s three young South American signings, who joined as the less-heralded half of Miami’s summer squad overhaul alongside the three big-name ex-Barcelona stars — Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Fellow Argentine Facundo Farías took Messi’s spot supporting Leonardo Campana in attack, Gomez offered intensity in the midfield and another Argentine Tomás Avilés held thee Red Bulls at bay in defense.

And it was Gomez who put Miami ahead with his first goal in Miami pink. After Alba’s free-kick had been half-cleared, Noah Allen sent the ball back into the box and Gomez was left free to turn and finish into the bottom corner of the net.

Messi, his eyes focused on the field throughout, rose from the bench to applaud the 20-year-old’s goal and a 1-0 lead.

The noise level inside the stadium rose once more at the start of the second half as Messi began to warm up on the sideline. It would not be long before he made his entrance, gracing the field in an MLS game for the first time more than 2 1/2 months since he announced his stunning decision to continue his career in the U.S.

At that point Miami was coming under growing pressure from the Red Bulls. But Messi’s presence, coupled with that of fellow substitute Sergio Busquets, allowed Miami to regain its composure and superiority.

His late brilliance this time was just the icing on the cake.

Lionel Messi to Serve as Captain for Inter Miami CF’s Leagues Cup Match Against Atlanta United FC

Lionel Messi is reporting for captain duty… 

The 36-year-old Argentine soccer star will wear the captain’s armband and could potentially start in Tuesday’s home Leagues Cup group match against Atlanta United FCInter Miami CF head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said Monday.

Lionel Messi“Yes, he was our captain last game as well,” Martino said when asked at Monday’s news conference if Messi would lead the squad against the coach’s former team.

“It is very likely that both Messi and Busi [Sergio Busquets] will play longer, even from the beginning. Everything will depend on how they feel. It’s just their second game.”

The former Barcelona teammates made their debuts in Friday’s 2-1 opening group stage win over Cruz Azul, going nearly 40 minutes each in a game Messi punctuated by scoring one of his trademark free kicks at the end to claim all three points.

When asked if he was shocked or surprised at the way Friday night’s game ended, Martino said: “It is something habitual from him [greatness], and because it is habitual, we try to normalize things that are not common.”

Thanks to that storybook victory, just gaining a point against Atlanta on Tuesday will secure a spot in the Leagues Cup round of 32, while a win would mean Miami would most likely host the winner of the South 2 group featuring Orlando City SCCharlotte FC and Santos Laguna.

DeAndre Yedlin was the previous captain after replacing Gregore, who got injured in mid-March.

However, before Martino can look ahead to a potential knockout game with Inter Miami, he has the task of facing the club he built from an expansion team to MLS Cup champions in just two years before departing to coach the Mexico men’s national team.

“Atlanta is a place that is very important in my heart and a place I enjoyed,” Martino said. “Not just the club, but the two years in the city. It is a game that has a special factor.”

Miami striker Josef Martínez was a key contributor in Atlanta’s 2018 title run, and will be facing his former team for a second time if he gets onto the field Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Venezuelan scored both goals in Miami’s 2-1 win back in early May, and Martino thinks he might see something more special from him soon.

“In these last two weeks, I have found the Josef of Atlanta,” he said of his target man, who scored 111 times in 158 appearances for their former club. It’s clear that Martino has also found — in just a few training sessions and one match — what the arrival of Messi can bring to his struggling squad, not just with his actual play on the ball.

“What was seen of Messi in the game trying to order his teammates, is what he has been doing in the training sessions,” Martino said. “He helps and talks about football with his teammates.”

Speaking of teammates, another of Messi’s former Barcelona buddies, 34-year-old left back Jordi Alba, could feature in Tuesday’s game in some capacity after arriving in town only last week.

And the rumors about veteran Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez continued to fly Sunday when Inter Miami announced it had traded $150,000 in allocation money to San Jose in return for an international roster spot.

But with the hefty buyout current club Grêmio has in Suárez’s contract and the fact that time is running out before the transfer window closes in just over a week on August 2, it seems that spot will instead likely to go to 20-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder Facundo Farias, with whom the team reportedly has a verbal agreement in place.

“What we are doing is we are working on the definitive decisions about the roster,” Martino said when asked about Sunday’s move. “Between this transfer window and December-January, we have to put together a definitive team and will be managing all the variables with our directors.”

Lionel Messi Scores Game-Winning Goal in Inter Miami Debut

Lionel Messi has kicked off his Major League Soccer career with a banger…

The 36-year-old Argentine professional footballer, a World Cup champion and seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, came off the bench to score one of his trademark free kicks in second-half stoppage time as Inter Miami defeated Cruz Azul 2-1 in a Leagues Cup opener for both teams.

Lionel MessiIt was 9:26 p.m. ET when Messi stopped warming up in front of the packed south stands at DRV PNK Stadium, grabbed his pink jersey and jogged to the halfway line before replacing 18-year-old midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi, himself of Argentine descent, in the 54th minute.

Up until that point, fans had only seen Messi on the bench, as the Miami substitutes strangely did their pregame and first-half warm-ups out of sight, presumably back by the locker room.

Messi’s first historic touch came with 55:30 on the clock, but it was his touch past the 90-minute mark that was the only one that mattered.

When the visitors committed a foul 25 yards out with five seconds left in the two minutes extra, everyone knew what could potentially happen next.

And it did.

Messi curled the resulting free kick into the top corner with his legendary left foot, sending the sellout crowd of around 21,000 into a frenzy.

“It was a very good game for us. We were looking for a match like this one and to give a win to these fans,” Messi told Apple TV.

“I want to thanks all these people. They are making me feel very welcomed here so I’m very happy to give this victory back to them.”

For Miami, which has the worst record in MLS, the goal was the perfect start to the team’s new era.

“I knew it was the last chance,” Messi added of his free kick. “I just tried like I always do and fortunately the goalkeeper couldn’t get the ball.

“It is important for this team to get wins because we are not in a good position in the league. I know this is another tournament but it will help our morale.”

Even before the goal, every touch from Messi was met with intense anticipation, and when he turned on a dime in the 67th minute, leaving Cruz Azul defenders in the dust, the roar from the crowd would have drowned out any small jet departing from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport next door.

Of course, the doubters will point out that Messi showed little interest in tracking back during the game and that Cruz Azul scored their tying goal through Mexico International Uriel Antuna when Messi was on the pitch, but none of that mattered.

“It’s such a moment for this country,” Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said. “It’s such a moment for the league. And it’s a very proud moment for us.”

For those who suggested he was coming to South Beach for an end-of-career vacation, Messi provided an ideal response.

“We should be surprised by what Messi did because it is a constant achievement,” said Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Miami’s head coach and Messi’s former one at both Barcelona and Argentina.

“For him [to sign with Miami] is a life and family choice, but he said he came to play and win and he showed that from his first game.”

Lionel Messi On Track to Make Inter Miami Debut This Weekend Following First Training Session

Lionel Messi is still on track to make his Inter Miami debut this weekend. 

The 36-year-old Argentine professional footballer remains on track for his MLS debut after coming through his first official training session with the MLS club on Tuesday.

 

Miami has long targeted Friday’s Leagues Cup opener against Mexican side Cruz Azul for the Argentine superstar to make his first appearance following his blockbuster move to South Florida. 

It has been a whirlwind few days for Messi, with his signing on a 2 1/2 year contract that’ll pay him between $50 million and $60 million a year being confirmed Saturday before being unveiled in front of a sell-out crowd at Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale the following day.

After Messi trained alongside former Barcelona teammate and fellow new signing Sergio Busquets, Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham confirmed that he expects the World Cup winner to play some part in Friday’s game.

“We don’t know if Leo will start the game or whether he’ll come on, because I think at the end of the day, he needs to be ready,” Beckham told ESPN. “We need to protect him and make sure that he’s ready because he’s had a vacation.

“He’s now been in Miami for a week and he’s been training really hard and he looks great. So I think Leo and [head coach] Tata [Martino] will decide when he plays and when he comes on on Friday, but the atmosphere here will be incredible, and hopefully we get a win.”

On Tuesday, a helicopter hovered overhead, drones buzzed around the field and about 200 media members lined up toward the back of the complex to get a look at Messi. He, like Busquets, went through a welcome tunnel as part of the first practice, which meant jogging past teammates as they lined up and clapped.

“It’s like Michael Jordan going to play, you know, overseas,” Miami’s United States international defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “You know it’s like I said, it’s not something that I would have thought would have happened in my time playing. But I’m so glad that it did.”

More international stars could soon be joining Messi, with Inter Miami’s managing owner Jorge Mas saying Tuesday that former Spain left-back Jordi Aba was set to sign later in the day, while also confirming an interest in another of Messi’s former Barcelona teammates, striker Luis Suárez.

For now, though, Mas, who also expects Busquets to make his debut Friday, said he was looking forward to a momentous occasion for a team struggling at the bottom of MLSEastern Conference after 11 games without a win.

“Friday’s match against Cruz Azul will be a very important for us because we expect to have Lionel and Busi [Busquets] debuts,” he told ESPN. “We are looking to improve our level and aiming for better results. But we also need Lionel and Tata to feel good and help them to get acclimated to the city and club.

“I personally like that Messi’s first game is going to be against a team from Liga MX for a global audience, and I hope Mexico and the United States can enjoy and celebrate this historic occasion.”

Some tickets for the game are going for as little as $275 or so on the secondary market; some of the very best seats are exceeding $19,000. Prices have been fluctuating quite a bit and likely will continue doing so until game time.

Perhaps the most emotional member of the crowd will be Beckham himself, 16 years on from making his own historic move from Real Madrid to the LA Galaxy.

“I might actually cry when I see him walk onto the pitch,” Beckham told ABC‘s Good Morning America.

“I’ve realized as I get older I get more emotional. I look at my kids I get emotional, I talk to my kids and my wife I get emotional. So I think the moment i see Leo step out onto the pitch in front of our fans, in front of this nation … I don’t know, I’ll be emotional for sure.”

Inter Miami Completes Signing of Sergio Busquets 

It’s official… Sergio Busquets will be playing Major League Soccer.

Inter Miami has completed the signing of the 35-year-old Spanish professional footballer and former Barcelona midfielder on a deal until 2025, the MLS side has revealed.

Sergio BusquetsThe 2010 World Cup winner will join the squad in the coming days and will occupy a designated player slot, the club added.

“I am excited to welcome Sergio Busquets to Inter Miami,” said managing owner Jorge Mas. “Since day one we have set out to bring the world’s best players. Sergio’s repertoire speaks for itself.”

The former Barcelona captain, who retired from international duty last year, played more than 700 games for the Spanish champions, winning nine LaLiga crowns, seven Copa del Rey titles, three Champions League trophies and three Club World Cups.

Busquets was also linked with a move to Saudi Arabia as Al Hilal and Al Nassr made bids for his services, according to media reports.

 

Miami expect Busquets to be available to play next Saturday when they host Mexican side Cruz Azul for their Leagues Cup opener, when Messi is set to make his debut.

 

The MLS designated player rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensation and acquisition costs exceed the salary cap.

Gerardo “Tata” Martino Named Coach of Inter Miami CF

Gerardo “Tata” Martino is returning to Major League Soccer

The 60-year-old Argentine professional football manager and former player has been hired as the coach of Inter Miami CF, the club has revealed.

Gerardo "Tata" MartinoThe hire comes in the wake of fellow Argentine Lionel Messi‘s announcement earlier this month that he intends to sign with the club. Martino previously coached Messi with Barcelona (2013-14) and the Argentina national team (2014-16).

“We are very happy to be able to welcome Tata to Inter Miami. We feel he is a coach who matches our ambitions as a club and we’re optimistic about what we can accomplish together,” Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas said in a statement.

“Tata has coached at the highest levels and we believe that experience will be hugely beneficial to us as we aim to compete for titles here.”

Most recently, Martino coached the Mexico national team (2019-2022) after a two-year stint with Atlanta United, where he won MLS Cup and the Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year award in 2018.

“Right now, this is a team that shows an adverse picture in the standings,” Martino said of the Eastern Conference‘s last-place team. “It is also decimated by injuries and by the players called up to their national teams.

“But there are great expectations around the new players that are going to come soon. They are really important. I hope that they can help us to make the team better from an emotional and playing point of view so we can have a season-ending more in line with what is expected of this club.”

Martino is the third permanent head coach Inter Miami has had since joining the league in the 2020 season. Former Uruguay national team coach Diego Alonso coached the team during its expansion season before Phil Neville was hired prior to the 2021 season.

Miami qualified as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season but was eliminated in the first round. Neville was fired earlier this month with the team in last place.

Mas told media outlets last week he expects Messi to play his first game for the club on July 21 in the Leagues Cup against Liga MX‘s Cruz Azul. The club also announced Messi’s longtime teammate at Barcelona, Sergio Busquets, will also make the move to South Florida and Inter Miami this summer.

Orbelin Pineda Joins LaLiga Side Celta Vego

Orbelin Pineda is heading to LaLiga

The 25-year-old Mexican professional footballer and Mexico international has joined LaLiga side Celta Vigo from Liga MX club Cruz Azul.

Orbelin Pineda 

The move comes after several months of rumors about a potential deal, with Celta confirming Pineda will have a five-year contract through June 2027.

Pineda’s career has been on the rise in the last couple of years for club and country and is expected to bolster Celta’s attack, playing on the wings or in a more interior midfield role.

With Cruz Azul, he was a key figure who helped them end their title drought through a Liga MX championship in the 2021 Clausura.

With the Mexican national team, he has recently established himself as a reliable option for manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino through six World Cup qualifying appearances in 2021.

At Celta, he’ll now be tasked with helping rejuvenate the Galician side that have made a very gradual and slow climb out of the bottom and into the mid-table of Spain’s top flight this season.

Pineda’s transfer is the first and only move so far of the winter window for a Mexican talent from Liga MX into a major European league.

Liga MX has proven to be an insular transfer market that can hold onto domestic names like Pineda, and in his case, the player had to wait until he was a free agent to make the leap to Spain.

Now at Celta, Pineda will play alongside fellow El Tri teammate, defender Nestor Araujo. Celta’s coach, Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet, also spent time in Liga MX through a short stint as manager of Club Tijuana in 2017.

https://twitter.com/RCCeltaEN/status/1479471663897100292

Felipe Mora Signs New Contract with Portland Timbers 

Felipe Mora is headed to the Pacific Northwest

The Portland Timbers have completed the transfer of the 27-year-old Chilean soccer star from the Liga MX club Pumas UNAM and signed him to a new contract.

Felipe Mora

Originally acquired by the Timbers on a one-year loan on January 31, 2020, Mora tallied seven goals and two assists in 19 matches (13 starts) during the 2020 Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season.

“We are thrilled to bring back Felipe long term as he is an accomplished international striker in the prime of his career,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said in a release. “Felipe acclimated seamlessly into the group last year, and we can’t wait for him to continue being a key contributor for the Timbers.”

Mora’s new contract uses targeted allocation money. Specific terms were not disclosed.

Mora tallied 19 goals in 65 appearances (50 starts) at Pumas UNAM from 2018-20. That followed stints with Liga MX club Cruz Azul (2017-18) and with Universidad de Chile (2016-17) in the Chilean Primera Division.

He has also competed with the Chile national team, most recently in a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela on November 17.

Erick Torres Signs with Atlanta United

Erick Cubo Torres is headed to The Big Peach

The 27-year-old Mexican professional footballer has signed with Atlanta United after placing Josef Martinez on the season-ending injury list.

Erick "Cubo" Torres

Martinez, the 2018 Major League Soccer MVP, tore the ACL in his right knee in Atlanta’s season-opening 2-1 win over Nashville SC on February 29. He underwent surgery on March 18.

By being placed on the season-ending injury list, Martinez won’t be able to play in any MLS competitions for the remainder of the 2020 season. Per MLS roster rules, the Martinez move allowed Atlanta to obtain roster relief in the form of an open roster spot, as well as salary budget relief up to $250,000 to sign a replacement.

Atlanta has struggled in Martinez’s absence, failing to score a single goal while losing all three games at the MLS is Back tournament. That run of results led to the team parting ways with manager Frank de Boer on July 24.

“Josef’s rehab is progressing well and is going to plan; however, it was important for us to make this move as it gives us roster relief and flexibility for the rest of the 2020 season,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “We will miss his ability and leadership on the field this season, but we look forward to having him back at the start of preseason next year.”

In Martinez’s place, the Five Stripes acquired Torres, who was out of contract after spending the last two years with Liga MX side CD Tijuana. Having played previously with two other MLS teams — the now-defunct Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo — Torres is familiar with the league, and has the added benefit of holding a green card, meaning he will count as a domestic player.

“‘Cubo’ is a natural goal-scoring forward who will bolster our frontline and we’re pleased to add a player of his quality to the team,” Bocanegra said. “He has consistently shown his finishing abilities in MLS, Liga MX and on the international stage, and we expect him to immediately contribute to the second half of our season.”

Torres was at one point considered an up-and-coming star in Mexico, breaking in with Guadalajara as a 17-year-old in 2010. He was loaned to Chivas USA in 2013, scoring 23 goals in 51 league and cup appearances over the next two seasons.

Following Chivas USA’s folding after the 2014 season, MLS purchased Torres’ contract, making him a Designated Player. He eventually landed in Houston, though his form was uneven during his tenure there. He went 23 league and cup appearances without scoring and was twice loaned to Guadalajara and Cruz Azul during that time.

Torres bounced back in 2017, scoring 14 goals in 31 league and playoff appearances, five of which came from the penalty spot. Torres returned to Mexico in 2018 with Pumas and later Tijuana, but has struggled to find success since. Over the last two years, he has scored nine goals in 45 league and cup appearances. At the international level, Torres scored one goal in seven appearances for Mexico.