Barcelona have completed the signing of Sao Paulo's Gustavo Maia and included a €300million release clause in the teenager's deal.

The winger, who will join the club's B team, has signed a five-year deal after impressing in Brazil.

Barca had already paid €1m to cement a purchase option on the 19-year-old and have parted with another €3.5m to secure his services.

Maia, who was nearly sent on loan to Flamengo last year, became a father in December and overcame personal issues to force his way into the starting line-up at the Copinha, where he scored three goals in seven games.

Barcelona will activate a purchase option on Sao Paulo teenager Gustavo Maia this June, according to the player's agent.

Maia's performances in the Copa Sao Paulo – Brazil's most prestigious youth tournament – at the start of the year drew the eye of LaLiga's champions and led to them agreeing to part with €1million for the option to sign him before the end of this month.

The 19-year-old winger, who was nearly sent on loan to Flamengo last year, became a father in December and overcame personal issues to force his way into the starting line-up at the Copinha, where he scored three goals in seven games.

Barca are required to pay an additional €3.5m to sign Maia permanently and his representative Danilo Silva is confident it will happen.

"We are sure Barcelona will complete the purchase," he told Radio Transamerica in quotes reported by Globo Esporte.

"There was already a signal from the club and [on Monday] Maia started private Spanish lessons to get more prepared.

"Other clubs came to us in the last few months but he never had any doubt, he always wanted Barcelona."

Sao Paulo director Alexandre Passaro said they have not yet been notified that Barca wish to purchase Maia, however.

"Whether he will go to Barcelona or not, we can't be sure, because they have until June 30 to notify us and they still haven't," said Passaro.

"The last time I spoke to them they said everything is very uncertain.

"LaLiga set the restart of games for June 11. Who knows, they may give us a signal in the next 30 days to find out whether Maia is going or not."

There are some days in English football history that stand out as turning points.

On May 31, 1995 – a full 25 years ago – Chelsea agreed a deal to sign Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria. And the face of the game changed.

The fledgling Premier League had experienced a sprinkling of overseas talent already, with Eric Cantona making a staggering impact at Leeds United and Manchester United, and Jurgen Klinsmann coming off a season-long cameo at Tottenham.

Superstar Gullit's arrival at Stamford Bridge was the cue for a transfer-market melee, a spectacular flurry of deals that still take the breath away.

To this day, a host of players recruited in the wake of Gullit's arrival, many imported from overseas, are revered in the top bracket of talent that graced their clubs and the Premier League.

Dennis Bergkamp came to Arsenal with a lofty reputation. But David Ginola, Juninho and Georgi Kinkladze joined Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Manchester City as near-unknowns in England, destined to join the pantheon of club greats.

Euro 96 was on the horizon, lads and ladettes were supping Hooch and bathing in a summer of Britpop battles, and there was feverish optimism about the state of the nation.

Here is a look at the biggest deals of that heady few months.

RUUD GULLIT ​– SAMPDORIA TO CHELSEA

A world star, who was arguably the finest player on the planet at his peak, Gullit may not have been at the height of his career by the time he arrived in London on a free transfer, but there was no disguising the 32-year-old's star quality.

He rivalled Klinsmann as the most famous arrival since the Premier League launched in 1992, and was arguably in a higher bracket.

British television audiences had watched Gullit every week on Channel Four's popular Football Italia shows, firstly with Milan and then Sampdoria, and Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle was smitten.

Hoddle reportedly made two trips to Italy to meet Gullit before the stunning deal went through, and the Netherlands maverick was recruited to feature as a sweeper in the new high-culture Chelsea side.

"I am very fit and by playing sweeper I can control the speed of the game," said Gullit, quoted in the Independent the following day. "If you have possession of the ball you don't have to run around chasing after it."

The sweeper experiment was soon abandoned, however, Gullit moving into a better-suited midfield role where he proved predictably majestic, going on to succeed Hoddle as Chelsea manager in 1996.

DENNIS BERGKAMP ​– INTER TO ARSENAL (and David Platt – Sampdoria to Arsenal)

Bergkamp was a real eye-catcher, joining for a then British record fee of £7.5million, albeit with question marks over his suitability for the Gunners, particularly after a rocky season at Inter.

Platt had been captain of England, and was a guaranteed solid midfield presence, but new Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch appreciated he was perhaps getting something special when Bergkamp became the first signing of his reign.

That overwhelmingly proved to be the case, and although Rioch only lasted one full season at Highbury, he could always point to his nurturing of Bergkamp as being instrumental in shaping Arsenal's future.

The non-flying Dutchman played 423 games for the Gunners, scoring 120 goals and winning a hatful of medals. Today, a bronze statue of Bergkamp stands outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium home.

DAVID GINOLA ​– PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO NEWCASTLE (and Les Ferdinand – QPR to Newcastle)

Newcastle had surprisingly allowed Andy Cole to join Manchester United for £7m in January 1995, but Kevin Keegan's team went from strength to strength nonetheless.

The £2.5m arrival of Ginola proved a masterstroke, the French winger magnificent on the left wing while Keith Gillespie, a makeweight in the Cole deal, dazzled on the right.

Ferdinand was the ideal targetman and proved to be another exceptional buy, but Ginola was the fans' favourite, his trickery, pace and personality lighting up the league.

Newcastle were almost champions, Ginola at the heart of some of the most cavalier football of the decade.

GEORGI KINKLADZE ​– DINAMO TBILISI TO MANCHESTER CITY

City fans are accustomed to success nowadays, brought to them by a foreign legion featuring the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sheikh Mansour, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.

But there will always be a special place for Kinkladze in the hearts of City fans who saw him play in the Maine Road era, when Franny Lee was chairman and Uwe Rosler the star imported striker.

City were relegated from the Premier League in Kinkladze's first season, and he left in 1998 after a second relegation into the third tier, but the Georgian was a bright spark in dark times, his dribbling skills and free-kick ability never to be forgotten. A particularly memorable solo strike came against Southampton, a lasting gift.

STAN COLLYMORE ​– NOTTINGHAM FOREST TO LIVERPOOL

The British transfer record was broken twice in June 1995, firstly with Arsenal's swoop for Bergkamp and then when Liverpool paid £8.5m for Nottingham Forest striker Collymore.

He and Robbie Fowler formed an often menacing partnership, particularly in Collymore's first season at Anfield, but the big-money recruit lasted just two seasons with Liverpool in the 'Spice Boys' era before moving to Aston Villa for £7m.

PAUL INCE ​– MANCHESTER UNITED TO INTER

Pipped to the 1994-95 Premier League title by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United cleared the decks and allowed star men Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis to leave Old Trafford.

It was a stunning gamble by Alex Ferguson, with Hughes and Kanchelskis joining Premier League rivals Chelsea and Everton respectively, while midfield general Ince floated off to Italy with Inter for £7.5m.

But Ferguson knew his Class of 92 youngsters were pushing for a chance at first-team level, and with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt emerging, the old guard were barely missed, United going on to win a league and cup double.

JUNINHO ​– SAO PAULO TO MIDDLESBROUGH

This £4.75m move went through slightly later in the year, in October 1995, back when clubs could strike autumn deals.

Bryan Robson would bring in Fabrizio Ravanelli in the following close-season, but none of the Middlesbrough manager's signings are remembered quite so fondly as Juninho.

The little Brazilian was a marvel of an attacker, a low centre of gravity helping him to ride the wildest of tackles from defenders who could not handle his dribbling ability.

On Teesside, they adored the Brazilian, who began brightly enough but truly dazzled in his second season, helping Boro to reach both the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

They lost both and suffered the pain of relegation. Juninho left too, but returned for two later spells with the club that loved him best of all, winning the 2004 League Cup.

...MEANWHILE, NORTH OF THE BORDER

PAUL GASCOIGNE ​– LAZIO TO RANGERS

Chelsea had reportedly wanted Gascoigne to join Gullit in west London, but it was Scottish champions Rangers who prised the England international from Lazio, a massive coup for the Ibrox club.

'Gazza' was adored on the blue side of Glasgow and scored a raft of dazzling goals as Rangers won their eighth and ninth successive league titles.

Forgiveness even came quickly after his stunning strike past club-mate Andy Goram for England against Scotland at Euro 96.

Former Arsenal midfielder Denilson is hoping to put significant injury problems behind him and continue his career for another five years.

Denilson joined Arsenal from Sao Paulo in 2006 and was on their books for seven years, though he spent the last two back on loan at the Tricolor Paulista.

However, the 32-year-old has made just six appearances in professional football since August 2016, undergoing three knee operations in that time.

Five of his outings came in 2016 while on loan from Al Wahda at Cruzeiro, who, after being relegated from Brazil's top flight for the first time in their history last year, will start the 2020 Serie B season with a six-point deduction after failing to clear a debt relating to the deal to sign Denilson.

After two years off the pitch he joined Botafogo-SP for their 2019 campaign but was released in April of that year due to fitness issues, his sole appearance consisting of 15 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Red Bull Brasil in the Campeonato Paulista.

Denilson has been without a club since and is desperate to return to the professional arena.

He told EPTV: "I went through sad moments, I kept it to myself and that is bad, but I never gave up. I want to have another five years [in my career] and that's what I intend to do.

"I want to continue playing professionally and really only after that look for something else to do.

"I want to work, to do what I love, because that's what I know how to do. For me, playing at Emirates Stadium is the same as playing at Botafogo-SP's stadium.

"I want to be playing regardless of whether it's on a good or bad pitch. The important thing is to be on the field, doing my job."

Kaka and Luis Fabiano have paid tribute to one of their former coaches, Oswaldo 'Vadao' Alvarez, who has died at the age of 63.

Vadao most recently coached Brazil's women's team, taking charge at last year's Women's World Cup during a second spell in charge of the national side.

He left the role following the tournament, with his side having gone out to hosts France in the last 16.

A former midfielder, Vadao spent much of his coaching career in Brazil's domestic leagues, most notably enjoying spells at Corinthians and Sao Paulo.

Kaka and Luis Fabiano both featured under Vadao at Sao Paulo in 2001-02, and the pair led the tributes to their former mentor on social media.

"My eternal gratitude for you opening the doors to a boy that nobody knew and few believed [in]," wrote Kaka in an Instagram post.

"But you believed, taught me, gave me opportunities for me to fly. Today the day is very sad, but the memories I keep in my heart are of great joy! Rest in peace my friend."

On his official Instagram account, Luis Fabiano added: "Rest in peace Vadao.

"You were very important in my career. My feelings to the whole family."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

It's fair to say being labelled the "new Kaka" doesn't always work out well for youth products cultivated at Sao Paulo. Just ask Mirray, Sergio Mota and Lucas Piazon.

Oscar, Lucas Paqueta and Reinier have also had to cope with comparisons to the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner, though it would be unfair to judge whether the latter duo have lived up to that billing yet.

Now it's the turn of Brazil Under-20 international Igor Gomes.

Spotted as an eight-year-old playing football in Rio Preto, he was registered by Sao Paulo two years later and moved into their Cotia academy in 2012.

With his lithe frame, exquisite close control and a determined, powerful running style from central midfield, it's easy to see where the Kaka comparisons come from, even if he doesn't have quite the same burst of pace.

Gomes won six titles during his time in Sao Paulo's youth ranks but found the move up to the U17 level difficult to negotiate at first.

"I blamed myself, I blamed myself too much, when I made an error, I was very sad, I couldn't just move on. It hurt me a lot in games because I couldn't develop my football. I had to work on this issue," he told Globo Esporte.

He showed his character to swiftly overcame that hurdle in 2016, though, winning the U17 state championship before moving up to the U20s and tasting Copa do Brasil success.

By the following year Rogerio Ceni, the former Sao Paulo goalkeeper who scored over 100 goals for the club and had an unsuccessful stint as head coach in 2017, had him training with the first team.

First-team ascension

Gomes was a key part of Sao Paulo's run to the final of the Copa Sao Paulo – Brazil's most prestigious youth tournament – at the start of 2018. There was cause for excitement among Tricolor fans given it was the club's first appearance in the showpiece since a side featuring Lucas Moura and Casemiro lifted the trophy in 2010.

Although the Copinha ended with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Flamengo, U20 coach Andre Jardine was appointed interim boss of the first team following the sacking of Diego Aguirre in November of that year.

Gomes was one of a number of youth players he showed faith in, handing him his senior debut in a 0-0 draw against Sport Recife in November 2018.

Jardine was replaced in February 2019 by Vagner Mancini and a double in a 2-1 Campeonato Paulista quarter-final first leg victory over Ituano, the first of which was a delightful scissor kick, showed he could play an important role in the senior set-up.

However, Mancini was only keeping the seat warm before Cuca took over in April, and game time was much harder to come by under the man who had played an important role in Gabriel Jesus' development at Palmeiras.

Gomes opted against a loan move to Spain that agent Wagner Ribeiro presented to Sao Paulo in July and it wasn't until the arrival of Fernando Diniz last September that his fortunes turned around – he made just two starts and 12 substitute appearances in five months under Cuca.

From the Tricolor to Los Blancos?

An increase in minutes under Diniz led to an increase in his production and reports of interest from Real Madrid soon emerged.

It is hoped the 21-year-old will command a record fee of £45million for Sao Paulo, whose previous biggest sale was the £33.5m deal that sent Lucas to Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, and he certainly fits with a recent trend at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After missing out on Neymar to arch-rivals Barcelona, Madrid president Florentino Perez has splashed the cash to ensure his team do not miss out on the next big thing to come out of Brazil.

Since 2017, Los Blancos have shelled out in excess of £100m to bring teenage prodigies Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Reinier to the club.

Could Gomes be the next name in the chain? Diniz believes he has the talent for it and acknowledged Sao Paulo's precarious financial position makes a transfer highly likely.

"It's difficult to stay [at Sao Paulo] because of his age and quality. Clubs, and Sao Paulo cannot escape this, almost none do, they need to sell players to honour their financial commitments," Diniz told Radio Transamerica.

"If it arrives at a certain moment, with the size of the proposal, the club is almost obliged to sell. As long as we have the model that is there … we will continue to be a supplier of raw materials. And he is a great raw material.

"Due to the evolution he is experiencing, he is a player on an exponential growth curve. He plays better and better, he identifies with the club and the way the team plays. His improvement was almost instant after I arrived. There is a very clear tendency for Igor to play better and better."

Diniz unlocks potential

It is clear why Diniz thinks that. Of Gomes' 27 appearances in the 2019 Campeonato Brasileiro, 15 came in the space of two months after he took over as head coach, and his two goals and assists came during that run.

He had the fifth most passes completed in the league among players aged under 22, with his accuracy rate a respectable 83.7 per cent.

Gomes is particularly capable of doing damage high up the pitch. He has an eye for an incisive pass and the technical ability to be able to pull off an intricate throughball.

Sao Paulo team-mates Luan Santos (404) and Antony (749) – who respectively played 257 and 1,037 minutes more than him – were the only players under 22  to complete more passes in the opposition half than his 400 in last year's Brasileirao.

It's no wonder he was handed a pay rise in March, though his contract is set to expire in 2023, and Diniz has no doubt Gomes is destined for big things.

"With his age it is always going to be difficult for the team to keep him. If I say what I want, it is that he could stay as long as possible," said the coach.

"He is a player of very rare quality in Brazilian football, perhaps worldwide, and the way he plays is very important."

Real Madrid are interested in Igor Gomes but Sao Paulo have received no official approach for the midfielder.

Barcelona, Sevilla and Ajax have also been linked with a move for Gomes and Sao Paulo's executive director of football Rai acknowledged multiple European clubs have taken note of the 21-year-old's ability.

Madrid have spent heavily on Brazilian talent in recent seasons, snapping up Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes and Reinier Jesus, with Gomes' agent Wagner Ribeiro saying last month he was keen on taking the youngster to Los Blancos.

Asked if there was anything in the links to Madrid, Rai told Globo Esporte: "It's true.

"What we can say is that [Igor Gomes] is a player that is attracting the interest of European clubs.

"But there has been no official contact. It is a reality that he is igniting interest.

"I have already spoken to European friends who have made comments, but that's it."

General manager Alexandre Passaro added: "There was no official approach from Real Madrid or any other club. What we do know is that Real Madrid knows and follows Igor, just as they certainly follow many other young talents around the world, including in our own squad.

"Also due to the possibility that Igor could get a Portuguese passport in the next six months, which would mean he would not take up a foreign player spot in a European club. But there is nothing going on."

A potential arrival at Morumbi could be Edinson Cavani, whose contract at Paris Saint-Germain is set to expire in June and has been touted for a move to Boca Juniors.

Sao Paulo director Diego Lugano, a former Uruguay team-mate of Cavani, said he would try to encourage the veteran striker to join the Brazilian side if he opts to return to South America.

Rai would not be surprised if such discussions took place, but he clarified there is no offer in the pipeline.

"Lugano is close to him because they are the same nationality, they are friends," said Rai.

"The position is as follows: if there is any possibility, which is very difficult, for Cavani to come to South America, the possibility for Cavani to talk to Lugano, as he will have done many times, is huge.

"But at the moment Sao Paulo are not thinking about it and cannot afford it."

Passaro added: "Since the signing of Ronaldo [by Corinthians in 2008], there have been many signings in Brazilian football that many people did not believe in in the beginning, and then they become viable.

"But I think the big difference, what we have to make very clear, is that at the moment there is nothing."

The duo also stated the door is open for Miranda to re-join Sao Paulo when his contract at Jiangsu Suning expires next year, while they hope to hang on to Antony, who agreed to join Ajax in a deal worth €21.75m in February, beyond June.

Igor Gomes' agent Wagner Ribeiro said he is dreaming of taking the Sao Paulo attacker to LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

Sao Paulo's Igor has attracted interest from across Europe, with the 21-year-old linked to Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Ajax.

Madrid have spent heavily in the Brazilian market, signing young trio Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes and Reinier Jesus in recent seasons.

And Ribeiro talked up the possibility of Igor – who has been compared to Kaka – swapping Sao Paulo for Madrid.

"I've been working with Igor since he was 12 years old," Ribeiro told Fox Sports. "He is on the radar of all the big clubs in Europe.

"He is a starter at Sao Paulo and he is a different sort of player. He has the kind of style they appreciate in Europe: he scores goals, starts moves, makes assists... he is a complete player. 

"There has been talk that Madrid want him but I said it wasn't the right time to talk about that. But I do have the dream of one day taking him to the Bernabeu.

"I like Real Madrid as a club. If the opportunity arises, I would do it with pleasure."

Real Madrid are reportedly preparing for a rebuild and Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane are their top transfer targets.

The LaLiga club appear set for a busy close season amid links to numerous players.

While Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is said to be a target, it seems Madrid have other priorities.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND, MANE TOP TARGETS FOR REAL MADRID

Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland and Liverpool star Mane are Real Madrid's top targets, according to the Daily Express.

The report says Aubameyang is also wanted at the Santiago Bernabeu, but is behind Haaland and Mane.

Real Madrid were two points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Real Madrid and the LaLiga giants are tracking Sao Paulo midfielder Igor Gomes, according to AS. A Brazil youth international, Gomes, 21, has been compared to former AC Milan star Kaka.

- Ousmane Dembele is seemingly unwanted at Barcelona and could be set for a move. Sport reports Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp want Dembele, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga club.

- Barcelona are continuing their bid to land Lautaro Martinez. Sport claims left-back Junior Firpo could be part of a deal to bring the Inter star to Camp Nou. It says Inter, and Roma, are interested in the left-back and Barca would want the €18million they paid Real Betis for Junior last year.

- Manchester United could be set to make a big move this close season. The Daily Star reports the Premier League club are confident of landing Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez for a club-record £135m (€150.8m).

- Perhaps Manchester United had another target. However, Sport says Real Madrid have told United that midfielder Federico Valverde is worth his incredible release clause – £448m (€500m).

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is loving life in Rome. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder, who is on loan at Roma from Arsenal, wants to stay at the club and hopes they can agree to a €11.2m (£10m) deal.

Ajax have confirmed the signing of Antony from Sao Paulo in a €21.75million deal.

The 19-year-old, who has agreed a five-year contract with the Eredivisie champions, will move on July 1.

"We will have to be patient for a few more months before Antony can start here, but with him, we are getting a creative player who can play in every position up front," director of football Marc Overmars said via Ajax's website.

"It's already been established that some of our players will be leaving this summer. We need to plan for that, so it's great that we've been able to finalise this transfer."

The signing of Antony – a Brazil Under-23 international - comes after Hakim Ziyech agreed to join Chelsea at the end of the season in a deal that could be worth €44m.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has time on his side at Manchester United.

Mauricio Pochettino's name looms large at Old Trafford but it seems the incumbent is going nowhere.

According to reports, Solskjaer will not be sacked regardless of whether United qualify for Europe this season.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER FREE FROM EUROPEAN ANXIETY

Failure to secure a top-six finish in the Premier League will not cost Solskjaer his job, reports the Daily Star.

United are struggling for consistency and appear destined to miss out on the Champions League places.

But while executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is "long-time admirer" of Pochettino, he will reportedly keep faith with Solskjaer even if middling results end in the Red Devils missing out on Europe.

ROUND-UP

- Quique Sanchez Flores' ill-fated second spell in charge of Watford will result in his dismissal on Sunday, according to The Athletic.

- It could be one Spaniard out and another in at Arsenal. The Mirror claims Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta is now top of the club's shortlist of potential replacements for Unai Emery.

- Everton want Bournemouth boss and boyhood Toffees fan Eddie Howe to succeed the under-pressure Marco Silva, reports the Mirror.

- Borussia Dortmund have dispatched scouts to watch teenage Sao Paulo winger Antony, says Goal, as the Bundesliga side line up a replacement for Jadon Sancho.

- Fiorentina have lost patience with Vincenzo Montella and are set to replace him with Gennaro Gattuso in a mirror image of the move Milan made two years ago. Calciomercato claims the change is imminent, with the Viola stinging from a 1-0 loss to Lecce.

Randy Brown pulled off a dramatic win during his most recent MMA fight at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo in Brazil on Saturday and believes the impressive manner of the victory positions him to challenge for a title soon.

In fact, in his post-fight comments, he called out highly touted veteran Michael Chiesa.

Chiesa is the winner of the Ultimate Fighter Reality Show and boasts a record of 16 wins and four losses.

Brown improved his record to 12-3 when he defeating Warlley Alves by submission in the second round of their fight in Brazil on Saturday night. The Brazilian tapped out 1:22s into the round after taking some heavy shots from the Jamaican, who said his ability to adapt was key to his impressive win.

“A major key to this victory was my overall adaptability, the ability to be dangerous in all aspects of the fight,” Brown told Sportsmax.TV on Sunday while on his way back to the United States from Brazil.

Brown fell a couple of times into the fight but each time recovered well enough to gain an advantage on his fearsome opponent who fell to his fourth defeat in 17 fights.

“I didn’t expect to slip and fall so early in the match but my adaptability and being well trained in all aspects of fighting I was to work my way from a bad position and reverse the position by the end of the round,” he said.

“In Round 2, I came out strong with a few strong combinations that hurt him. When I went in for the kill, I slipped and fell again but was able to rely on my grappling skill to submit him with a triangle choke.

“It’s a big win in my opponent’s home country. This moves me closer to the ranking and potential title challenges.”

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