Laporta reiterates Barcelona's De Jong stance, labels Ronaldo situation 'interesting'

By Sports Desk July 06, 2022

Barcelona have no intention of selling Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, according to club president Joan Laporta, although he admitted the club's perilous financial situation could create the "need" for a sale.

Meanwhile, Laporta labelled Cristiano Ronaldo's apparent desire to leave United "interesting" but would not be drawn on whether the Blaugrana would target the Portuguese legend.

De Jong, who starred in Erik ten Hag's Ajax side before moving to Barcelona in 2019, has been touted as United's top transfer target since the Dutchman was announced as the club's new boss in April.

While the midfielder expressed his desire to stay at Barcelona in May, the club's need to reduce their wage bill has led to suggestions a sale could still be possible.

Laporta said last week he would do "what is in my power" to keep De Jong but acknowledged the Netherlands international would need to agree to a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana president repeated that stance at Wednesday's unveiling of new signing Franck Kessie, saying of De Jong: "He's a Barca player and if we don't have the need, we won't sell him. We don't want to sell him. 

"We know he has offers, but right now we're not selling this player."

 

While Ten Hag appears to see De Jong as the ideal candidate to be the fulcrum of his new United side, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford after widespread reports of his desire to leave for a Champions League club emerged last week. 

Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions for United last season, but the club ended the season in sixth place with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58).

But Laporta refused to be drawn on whether Barcelona could make a remarkable move for the 37-year-old, who starred in four Champions League triumphs with their historic rivals Real Madrid.

"I had dinner on Monday with [Ronaldo's agent] Jorge Mendes and we talked about the market in general," he added.

"Cristiano? I'm not going to talk about the players who came out of the meeting, but it's always interesting to know how some names are on the market.

"I'm not going to talk about players in one way or another, it could be misunderstood. It doesn't contribute anything to the interests of Barca. We have to respect the players who have contracts with other teams."

 

Meanwhile, Barcelona's need to adjust their finances in order to strengthen Xavi's squad has led to uncertainty over the future of winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract with the club expired last month.

Dembele made more assists (13) in all competitions than any other Barca player last season, and while Laporta is keen to keep the 2018 World Cup winner, says the 25-year-old is yet to respond to the club's offer.

"We are in a situation of uncertainty. Right now, we still can't sign [him]," he said.

"We are talking to players we are interested in so they can wait for us. Ousmane is not a Barca player, but we have made him an offer.

"He has not accepted our proposal, but he wants to continue talking. We will continue talking, at least for now. 

"Salary balance is necessary for the team to be competitive. All discussions are framed in this context. We're not in a hurry, although we're aware that we can't delay. Let no one expect us not to act with the utmost prudence".

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  • Ronaldo may 'regret' moving back to Manchester United, says Gullit Ronaldo may 'regret' moving back to Manchester United, says Gullit

    Cristiano Ronaldo may regret deciding to move back to Manchester United, according to former Netherlands and Milan legend Ruud Gullit, who also accused the club of "living in the past".

    Ronaldo returned to United in 2021 from Juventus, scoring 24 goals in 38 games in all competitions for the Red Devils.

    However, despite the presence of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, United did not win a trophy, being eliminated from the Champions League last 16 by Atletico Madrid and finishing sixth in the Premier League.

    Ronaldo has reportedly expressed his desire to leave Old Trafford due to a lack of Champions League football, but United have not shown any sign of allowing the Portugal international to move.

    Speaking to Laureus, Gullit stated his belief that the 37-year-old will be eager to show his best at the World Cup in Qatar later this year, but that he might be regretting his decision to go back to United.

    "Ronaldo with Portugal, can he still do it?... I think he is eager to show the world how good he is," Gullit said. "That's my feeling. This guy has unbelievable mental strength.

    "He doesn't say it, but I think he regrets the fact that he came back to Man United because of the team that was there. I think he hoped that it was better, so he wants to show everybody who criticised him what he's worth. I think he's on a mission.

    Gullit also had words of advice for Erik ten Hag. His fellow Dutchman took over as manager of United at the end of last season, and did not get off to the best start as his new team lost 2-1 at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in their opening game of the Premier League campaign last week.

    "Ten Hag, I think he is a good coach, but if you come with a Dutch mentality only to come to England, it's difficult," he said. "You have to adapt yourself, you have to understand that you don't win games only with football, you need power as well. You need power, you need technique. You need stamina and the right mentality.

    "That's why we love the Premier League. There is no easy games, and that is what you need to understand."

    Gullit - who himself managed Chelsea and Newcastle United during his days in the Premier League - also accused United of "living in the past", adding: "I think that there's a lot of problems at Man United.

    "I think they live too much in the past," he said. "They talk about the 90s team too much. That's the past.

    "If you see teams that played football that [United] now want to play, but are too late. [Manchester City manager] Pep Guardiola did it, [Liverpool manager Jurgen] Klopp did it, [Chelsea manager Thomas] Tuchel did it. And [United] were hanging in the past, [Louis] Van Gaal and [Jose] Mourinho as well. Great coaches, but there's a new era. There is a new way of playing, and that's the reason why they stood behind.

    "I think they also they sacked Mourinho too early [in 2018]. I think because he still had a trophy when he was there with players that were not that good.

    "The thing is also, nowadays, players want to go to different teams. They want to go to Liverpool, they want to go to City, they want to go to Chelsea. [United] are not the main team any more in England, as they were with [Sir Alex] Ferguson. That's the past.

    "So you need to change your mentality a little bit and it will take some time.

    "Plus, they have five ex-players who every day talk about Manchester United. It's difficult, and the only way you can overcome that is to win. And if you don't, every day, you're going to see the newspapers, the first five, six articles all about Man United, every day. It's difficult."

    Gullit also took time to praise the work of former Milan striker, Ukraine international and Laureus Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko, who has been working with Laureus to help refugee programmes in Eastern Europe following the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    "It's incredibly difficult for me to imagine what Andriy Shevchenko and his family have gone through over the past six months. I was delighted to see Andriy visiting a refugee project in Warsaw, which is helping Ukrainians to rebuild their lives away from the horrors of war," he said.

    "Nelson Mandela, a man I have a huge amount of respect for and a man I dedicated my Ballon d'Or to in 1987, spoke at the first Laureus Awards and said 'Sport can create hope where once there was only despair'.

    "Watching footage from Andriy's visit with Laureus Sport for Good in Warsaw reminded me of Mandela's words, but also of the incredible power sport can have to change lives. What Andriy and Laureus are doing to make a difference shows the power of sport around the world."

  • When Ronaldinho was king: The last time Lionel Messi was out of the Ballon d'Or running When Ronaldinho was king: The last time Lionel Messi was out of the Ballon d'Or running

    Few things will have made football fans feel stranger than seeing Lionel Messi wearing any other club shirt than that of Barcelona.

    That is what happened in 2021 though, when the legendary Argentine made the move to Paris Saint-Germain due to the financial mess at the Camp Nou.

    What could be stranger than that? Perhaps a Ballon d'Or shortlist of 30 names being released and not seeing Messi's among them?

    On Friday, that once ludicrous suggestion became reality as the nominees for the 2022 award were announced in batches of five, only the familiar mention of the seven-time winner never came.

    Of course, it was not especially a surprise. Messi struggled to make an impact at PSG after his free transfer to the Parc des Princes, scoring just six goals in 26 Ligue 1 games as his new team eased to the title, and a further five in seven Champions League outings.

    By comparison, Messi won last year's Ballon d'Or after scoring 30 goals in 35 LaLiga games in 2020-21, as well as three in the Copa del Rey and five in the Champions League for Barca.

    It still feels odd to see his name omitted, and Stats Perform has taken a trip down memory lane and looked at the last time Messi was not shortlisted for the prestigious award, all the way back in 2005.

    The master before the apprentice

    Before Messi, there was Ronaldinho, a player so captivating in 2005 he even earned a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu from the Real Madrid fans for his performance in El Clasico.

    The Brazilian consistently wowed the crowds with his skill paired with dribbling prowess and the ability to change a game all on his own. 

    Unlike Messi, Ronaldinho did not earn plaudits for scoring incredible numbers of goals, more that he was generally a scorer of beautiful goals in important moments. Across league and Champions League, he scored 13 goals and recorded eight assists in 42 games for Barca in 2004-05.

    That season saw him star for Barca as he won his first LaLiga title, which included providing an assist as a very young Messi scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete.

    Although Champions League glory would elude him until 2006, Ronaldinho still managed to make a mark even in Barca's first knockout round exit to Chelsea in 2005 as he scored both goals in the 4-2 second leg defeat at Stamford Bridge, including a delightful toe poke that flew past Petr Cech.

    For a player of his undoubted ability, it was a surprise that this was Ronaldinho's only Ballon d'Or, with Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro winning in 2006, Milan maestro Kaka doing so in 2007 and Cristiano Ronaldo lifting the first of many in 2008, starting the era of dominance between him and Messi.

    Two lions unable to roar to success

    Not all that far behind Ronaldinho in the voting back in 2005 were England midfield pair Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

    The Barca man had received 50 votes in all, with Lampard second on 45 and Gerrard third on 39, though the Brazilian was significantly ahead of his two rivals in terms of those who voted him first (with voters marking down their top five in order).

    It had been an excellent year for both Lampard and Gerrard though, with the former a key part of Jose Mourinho's dominant Chelsea who not only won the Premier League at a canter, securing 95 points and finishing 12 ahead of second-place Arsenal, but also dumped Barcelona out of the Champions League.

    However, they in turn were eliminated from the competition in the semi-finals by Gerrard and Liverpool, who went on to lift the cup in Istanbul after a dramatic win on penalties against Milan in the final.

    Had it been the modern day, in all likelihood, Gerrard would have received the most votes given the emphasis placed on winning the Champions League in recent years.

    The Reds captain was a force of nature in 2004-05, dragging Liverpool through several games on his own though, like Ronaldinho, had not been a very regular scorer, only netting seven goals and four assists in 30 Premier League games, and Rafael Benitez's side finished a disappointing fifth.

    Lampard was more of a net botherer though, scoring 13 goals and recording an impressive 18 assists in 38 league games for the Blues on their march to the title.

    Funnily enough, Gerrard and Lampard will face each other as managers on Saturday as Aston Villa host Everton in the Premier League.

    The little engine that would

    Little did the game know what was about to hit it.

    When Messi scored that goal against Albacete on May 1, 2005, it was the birth of a figure who would go on to become arguably the greatest footballer of all time.

    It must be said that the last time Messi was not on what was then a 50-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, he was just 18 years old, and had been just 17 when he netted his first goal for Barca.

    For the remainder of the year, Messi set about establishing himself as a key part of Barca's attack alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o under the coaching of Frank Rijkaard.

    Messi scored six goals in 17 LaLiga appearances for the Blaugrana in 2005-06, as well as notching his first Champions League goal in a 5-0 win over Panathinaikos at the Camp Nou.

    In 2006, he was tied 20th in the voting for the Ballon d'Or and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Don't bet against seeing his name back on the shortlist in 2023, having already scored three goals in his first two games for PSG this season.

    There is also a World Cup on the horizon, after all.

  • Kounde the only new Barca signing not registered Kounde the only new Barca signing not registered

    Jules Kounde is the only one of Barcelona's new signings who was not registered on the eve of the LaLiga season.

    Barca head coach Xavi on Friday revealed the club were "very optimistic" that their new recruits would be registered, but all five may not be given the green light for their first match of the LaLiga campaign against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

    It later emerged that Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have been registered along with Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, who signed new contracts

    Centre-back Kounde's registration has not been sanctioned by LaLiga despite Barca having activated a fourth economic lever on Friday.

    It had been reported that Kounde may be the last of the five new recruits the Catalan giants have brought in to be registered, given the big-money signing from Sevilla underwent surgery to repair a minor pelvis injury in June.

    Barca have been busy raising funds to try and meet LaLiga's salary limits and sold a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million, having also agreed a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify and sold a percentage of broadcast rights.

    The Blaugrana have lowered their wage bill by offloading players and could also sell Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who have both been linked with Chelsea.

    Blaugrana head coach Xavi said in a press conference on Friday he was prepared for the possibility that some of his new men may not be eligible to play this weekend.

    He told reporters: "We are working hard and everyone at the club is very positive. Maybe not 100 per cent [of the players will be registered], but we are optimistic. We'll see. The club has signed very well, I am very excited about the players we have signed. We have time until tomorrow and now we are very optimistic."

    Barca are expected to make Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso their next signing and they continue to be linked with Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

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