Rumour Has It: Barca, Madrid targeting Klopp & Van Dijk

By Sports Desk September 16, 2019

If losing your manager was bad enough, imagine losing your star defender?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and centre-back Virgil van Dijk are attracting some serious interest from across Europe.

Now, LaLiga's powerhouse duo are reportedly eyeing the Reds pair.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID WANT KLOPP AND VAN DIJK

According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona and rivals Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head to try to prise Klopp and Van Dijk from Liverpool.

Klopp and Van Dijk helped lead Liverpool to Champions League glory last season, while the Reds are challenging for Premier League honours this term having narrowly missed out to Manchester City in 2018-19.

With Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde and Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane under some early pressure in Spain, Klopp and Van Dijk are reportedly "two priorities" for both clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have the budget to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season, reports AS. Madrid's financial accounts have been revealed, with €156million in liquid assets at their disposal, as well as €285m in credit. Los Blancos are reportedly planning to persuade the France forward, who is contracted until 2022, not to re-sign in the French capital in an effort to force the club's hand.

Lionel Messi to MLS? There has been talk about Messi and David Beckham's incoming franchise Inter Miami following a report claiming a delegation had been sent out to open negotiations for the Barcelona captain. However, Goal says Messi has had no contact with Beckham's Miami.

Manchester United are trying everything to re-sign star goalkeeper David de Gea. According to the Times, United have offered De Gea a new contract with no wage drop if the Red Devils do not qualify for the Champions League. The Spain international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, reportedly has a four-year deal on the table worth £13.5m a season.

- Staying at Old Trafford, and Record and O Jogo both report United are back in for Benfica star Ruben Dias. The 22-year-old defender was linked to the Manchester club before the transfer window closed. Now reports claim a United official was in attendance for Benfica's 2-0 win over Gil Vicente.

Inter are hoping to sign Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund, according to Calciomercato.com. Gotze's contract expires at the end of the season and Antonio Conte's Inter are eyeing the Germany attacker on a free transfer.

- Velez Sarsfield's Thiago Almada is still on the radar of Manchester City, says Record. City had a bid rejected during the transfer window but Pep Guardiola's side remain keen on the 18-year-old.

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Sancho may stay at Borussia Dortmund beyond this season Rumour Has It: Sancho may stay at Borussia Dortmund beyond this season

    Perhaps Jadon Sancho will remain at Borussia Dortmund beyond this season.

    Sancho, 19, has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League after impressing with the Bundesliga side.

    But the England winger could yet stay at Dortmund a little longer.

     

    TOP STORY – SANCHO MAY STAY AT DORTMUND BEYOND THIS SEASON

    Sancho is happy at Dortmund and an exit in the close season is not certain, according to Ruhr Nachrichten.

    The teenager is contracted at the club until 2022 so may at least begin the 2020-21 campaign at Dortmund.

    Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all reportedly interested in Sancho.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Staying at Liverpool and the Premier League leaders may have received more good news. Sport1 reports RB Leipzig star Timo Werner's release clause is £25.2m (€30m) plus a guarantee of performance-related bonuses. Previous reports said the forward's release clause was £50.4m (€60m).

    - Marcelo Brozovic has done enough to impress Antonio Conte. CalcioMercato reports Inter are ready to begin contract talks with the Croatia international, who is set for a salary increase but could also have his release clause of €60m removed. Brozovic's current deal runs until 2022.

    - Could George Clooney be set for a foray into … Malaga? AS reports a group with business links to the American actor are in talks to buy a stake in the Spanish club.

    - With his Manchester United contract expiring at season's end, Nemanja Matic appears set for a move from Old Trafford. CalcioMercato reports the midfielder's agents have offered the 31-year-old to Milan, Juventus and Inter.

    - Leicester City are considering offering defender Christian Fuchs a new deal, according to the Daily Mail. Fuchs is out of contract at the end of the season.

  • Napoli v Barcelona: Fabian Ruiz set for Blaugrana audition as he reunites with Setien Napoli v Barcelona: Fabian Ruiz set for Blaugrana audition as he reunites with Setien

    Quique Setien has long been regarded as a strong judge of potential in young players – they said it was one of the reasons Barcelona hired him in January despite leaving Real Betis last year having arguably fallen short of expectations.

    Ironically enough, Setien's keen eye and faith in academy products could end up costing Barca upwards of €60million, as the reimagining of their midfield looks set to continue.

    Why? Because in 2017, just after becoming Betis coach, Setien stepped in and insisted the club not sell Fabian Ruiz to Barca's B team for €1m. A paltry sum in current terms, but at the time the midfielder had only featured a few times for the Verdiblanco's senior side and just spent time on loan at Elche.

    "I refused as we wanted him at Betis. I saw Fabian's potential and we decided to keep him," Setien told Marca last year. His faith was well-placed – Fabian made 34 LaLiga appearances in 2017-18 and was one of the league's standout midfielders, earning a move to Napoli that reportedly cost €30m.

    An impressive first season in Serie A vindicated the fee and marked him out as one of Europe's most promising midfielders, leading once again to rumours of interest from Barcelona, and Real Madrid too, with both apparently seeing him as a candidate to replace ageing midfield options.

    Struggling to adapt to change, or lack of motivation?

    It's not all been plain sailing, however. This season has proven a challenging one for Fabian, who had a quiet start to the campaign before seeing his form drop off dramatically.

    When Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti, he retained faith in Fabian despite his issues, though his form didn't improve particularly with the alteration from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3.

    Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport blasted Fabian just last month, suggesting there was a link between his form and the apparent interest of Barca, before saying his "slowness is embarrassing, almost penalising for Napoli's actions".

    But there's a feeling in Italy that Napoli's signing of midfield competition in Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka have coaxed a positive reaction from the Spaniard.

    With two goals in his past three matches, including excellent performances against Inter and Brescia, Fabian seems to have settled again – and just in time.

    The audition

    Given Fabian's wide-ranging skillset, he has been mentioned as a potential long-term replacement for more than one Barca midfielder.

    Chiefly, it has been suggested he might be the ideal man to push out the increasingly unpopular – among Barca fans, anyway – Ivan Rakitic, as Fabian boasts ability on the ball, incisive passing skills and is a capable striker of the ball. 

    While he may lack some of the industriousness of the Croatian, there's little doubt he would present a more refined technician in the final third.

    However, with Frenkie de Jong already at the club, others feel Fabian could be moulded into a long-term successor to Sergio Busquets, owing to their similar physical attributes and the Betis product's excellent distribution.

    According to Fabian, much of his game has been modelled on former Barca pass-master Xavi, having previously idolised Betis icon Capi – a more attack-minded midfielder – as a youngster, and such influences are clear to see.

    Regardless of Setien's presence – as it's by no means inconceivable to think he won't be at the club next season – it's obvious this tie represents a real opportunity for Fabian to shine against the players he could potentially be brought in to replace.

    How does he compare to Barca's current options?

    Currently, there is no one in the Barca midfield creating goal-scoring chances at the same rate as Fabian, who has laid on 121 opportunities since the start of last season across all competitions - Rakitic (41), Busquets (50), Arthur (41) and Arturo Vidal (47) are all way behind.

    Despite questions about his form, the Spaniard has played 38 key passes in 30 matches in 2019-20. De Jong is proving the most effective in that regard for Barca, but his 24 chances created in 33 outings on all fronts is also still some way behind Fabian.

    Fabian's record of 527 passes into the final third over the past 18 months compares pretty favourably against Rakitic (598), Arthur (374), Vidal (273) and Busquets (717).

    Fabian's average overall pass completion percentage at Napoli stands at 89 per cent, and while that is less than those posted by Busquets (91) and Arthur (93), it's by no means a dramatic drop-off and is the same as Rakitic's record. It suggests Fabian would have no issue acclimatising to Barca's style of play, regardless of whether or not Setien is still at Camp Nou.

    But proving those previous struggles merely came down to a blip in a generally tumultuous season at Napoli and building on his recent revival with eye-catching performances against Barca, in a Champions League tie no less, would suggest he has the mentality as well as the ability to play for the Spanish champions.

  • Messi and Lewandowski must improve – Champions League in Opta numbers Messi and Lewandowski must improve – Champions League in Opta numbers

    Lionel Messi will hope to better a barren record on Italian soil when Barcelona visit Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

    Quique Setien's first match in charge in the competition will see him tasked with improving Barca's fortunes on their travels in Europe, although Napoli have an enviable goalscoring record in front of their own fans.

    Bayern Munich head to Chelsea in a repeat of the 2012 final that they lost on home soil, and goals certainly appear likely given the previous meetings between the pair.

    However, the Bundesliga champions will need Robert Lewandowski to find his shooting boots given the striker has struggled in recent seasons when going beyond the group stages.

    Here is the pick of the Opta facts ahead of two tantalising first legs...

    Chelsea v Bayern Munich

    17 - The four previous matches in all competitions between Chelsea and Bayern Munich have produced 17 goals, an average of 4.25 per game.

    18 - Bayern won maximum points (18/18) and had a goal difference of +19 in the Champions League group stages this season, the best performance by a team in the group phase of the competition. However, none of the previous six teams to have won all their group games have subsequently lifted the trophy that same season.

    1 - Chelsea have won only one of their past six Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (D4 L1), a 2-1 victory against Lille last December.

    5 - Chelsea and Bayern scored the joint-most goals from set-pieces in this season's Champions League group stages (5), including three each from corners.

    597 - Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 10 goals in this season's Champions League, only the second time he has reached double figures in the tournament after 2012-13 with Borussia Dortmund. However, he has failed to find the net in his past 597 minutes in the knockout stages of the tournament, his longest drought.

    Napoli v Barcelona

    2 - Napoli were eliminated in their two previous European Cup/Champions League two-legged ties with Spanish opposition, both times against Real Madrid: 3-1 on aggregate in 1987-88 (first round) and 6-2 in 2016-17 (round of 16).

    0 - Barcelona's last away win against Italian opposition in the Champions League knockout stages came in April 2006, when they beat Milan 1-0, courtesy of a Ludovic Giuly goal; current Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso played in that game for Milan. Since then, Barcelona have failed to win any of their five such away trips to Italy (D1 L4) and have failed to score in the past four.

    20 - Napoli have only failed to score once in 20 Champions League games at the San Paolo, a goalless draw against Dynamo Kiev in November 2016. They are also unbeaten in their past seven home games in the competition (W5 D2).

    1 - Barca have won only one of their past eight away games in the Champions League knockout phase (D2 L5), a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in April 2019. In those eight games, they have scored only two goals and conceded 17.

    10 - Lionel Messi's total of two goals in five games in this season's Champions League group phase was his lowest for 10 years (since two goals in 2009-10). His only goal on Italian soil in the Champions League knockout stages was in the 2009 final against Manchester United at Rome's Stadio Olimpico – he has failed to find the net (or deliver an assist) in each of his subsequent five appearances.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.