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Barcelona News: Alexis Sanchez makes move to North London

Arsenal and Barcelona have agreed on a deal that will send Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez to the North London club. The fee is undisclosed, but is rumored to be around €37 million.

Whatever the cost of Sanchez is, he is well worth every cent. The Chilean international is a lethal forward that combines pace, vision and powerful, accurate shots and centers that drive opposing defenses insane.

This signing comes as a bit of a surprise, even though the switch had been rumored for a couple of weeks now. It’s surprising because, aside from Mesut Özil’s arrival at Arsenal, the Gunners haven’t been known to spend big during transfer windows. Clearly that has changed. Arsene Wenger, wherever he is right now, has to have an enormous smile on his face.

Only Diego Costa, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had more goals than Sanchez’s 19 in La Liga last season. He did, however, fail to score in nine Champions League appearances.

If you’re Arsenal, there’s nothing to worry about. Sanchez doesn’t just score on the weakest of Spanish clubs. He tends to show up in very big games — like the winner he scored against Real Madrid — and he actually scored some goals that could have been very important, both with Barcelona and Chile.

During Barcelona’s last game of La Liga, Sanchez netted a powerful shot from a very difficult angle to put the Catalans up 1-0 against Atletico Madrid. Had Barcelona held on, they would have been crowned league champions over Atletico. Unfortunately for the Culés and Sanchez, Atletico tied the game and they did hold on to win the league title.

During Chile’s quarter final loss to Brazil in the World Cup, Sanchez scored the equalizer that eventually sent the game to extra time and then penalties. Should Chile have won, Sanchez would have had a very important goal for his entire country. Unfortunately for La Roja and Sanchez, Brazil made his goal just a regular, old one in a world cup by winning on penalties.

It’s a good bet that Sanchez will score a decent amount of goals at Arsenal, and it’s also a good bet that some of them will be important to the team and it’s long suffering fans.

Arsenal aren’t done adding players to the roster. Everything points to French right back Mathieu Debuchy joining the Gunners from Newcastle. There are also some recent rumors that German midfielder Sami Khedira would be joining Arsenal; if the rumors about Toni Kroos joining Real Madrid are true, this is even more likely. Finally, there’s the possibility of Loic Remy also playing at the Emirates next season.

Suarez Transfer Will Cost More Than Cristiano Ronaldo

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool during the FA Cup Final with Budweiser between Liverpool and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 05: Luis Suarez of Liverpool during the FA Cup Final with Budweiser between Liverpool and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Listen, I don’t pretend to possess any high-level information on professional football transfers, but … Arturo Vidal to Man UnitedJackson Martinez to ArsenalMemphis Depay to Tottenham?

I mean, come on guys … That’s the type of bullshit that gives monkeys with typewriters a good name. The gossip column doesn’t traffic in truth, it traffics in traffic.

Most of the ‘rumours’ that make it all the way down the totem pole to the tabloids are either agents’ smokescreens or beat-writers’ fantasies. And I have no problem with that: After all, Tottenham fans need something to talk about other than the UEFA Cup.

Speaking of tabloids … I’m sure you’re familiar with Katie Price, but in case you’re not, here’s her story. She came to prominence as a glamour model under her pseudonym, Jordan.

Jordan was famous for one thing, well two things actually: Her enormous, beach ball breasts. After years of reigning as the country’s premier “Page 3″ model, she decided to shake things up and re-branded herself as more of a businesswoman. She got breast reductions, traded in the crop tops for trim suits and changed her name back to Katie Price.

Now she’s worth over £40 million (equivalent to roughly $54.5 million).

Transfer gossip is like Jordan: Everything’s bigger, bouncier and much much louder than it is in real life. Actual football transfers are still salacious, newsworthy affairs, but there’s a little more to them: They’re more interesting and they actually show up for their medicals. They’re more like Katie Price.

Welcome to my new transfer feature, “Jordan or Katie Price?”.

Luis Suárez to Barcelona: Jordan or Katie Price?

Tactics

For the last five years, Barcelona has had a few different managers, but under all of them, it has (predominantly) lined up in some variation of the 4-3-3.

Now Luis Enrique is a different man to his predecessors, but both his Roma and Celta Vigo teams played the 4-3-3, and when you add that to the fact that most of these players have played in this formation their entire footballing lives, it starts to look like this isn’t something that’s suddenly going to change.

So where would Luisito fit in this system?

Suárez is sometimes thought of as a striker because of the ridiculous amount of goals he scores.

To some extent this is true: That’s where he plays for Uruguay and where he played in his last season for Ajax. In any case, he’s usually the furthest player forward. But at Liverpool this season, he was used as more of a utility forward.

It’s rare that you find a stone-cold elite player who’s able/willing to move between positions depending on match-ups –– Alejandro Sabella had to build his World Cup squad from scratch in order to ensure that (Lionel) Messi could play through the middle at all times  –– but Suarez switched around all season at Liverpool, and it’s part of what makes him such a valuable player.

He’s had success as a No. 10 behind Daniel Sturridge, as part of a front two ahead of a midfield diamond and even as a winger/forward on the right side of a front three for Brendan Rogers’ team.

The latter is where he’d slide in most easily at Barcelona (see ya, Alexis!).

If he played in this position, he’d have to contribute to the high press Barcelona likes to play when out of possession, but that’s something he’s proven he’s capable of at Liverpool (probably because he realizes it’s such a great way to generate great scoring chances).

Barcelona might struggle a bit defensively with a front three that treats tracking back like Lindsay Lohan treats turning up to court, but many of the great Barcelona sides of the last 10 years have managed to find balance despite having similarly attack-minded players.

How Barcelona could line up with Suarez in a 4-3-3

Suarez’s versatility would also be useful in case of a Messi or Neymar injury, but beyond that, Barca has lacked a “Plan B” for some time, and while achieving that isn’t as simple as just chucking in a more direct striker into the mix, (cut to Vicente Del Bosque nodding lugubriously[1]), a Suarez acquisition could unlock all sorts of chalkboard goodies for Luis Enrique.

Suarez could play as a true striker ahead of Messi or Neymar at the 10 slot, or, if Luis Enrique was feeling really freaky, in a front two alongside Messi … There’s lots of possibilities, and it’s hard to think that at least some of them wouldn’t work: Everywhere he’s gone, Luis Suárez has outlived expectations (in more ways than one).

But transfers aren’t just about fit (see: Madrid, Real), they’re also about politics… The first part of this is whether Suarez wants to

Yes

Well hang on, I haven’t my sentence finished yet… The first question is wheth–

Yeeeeeeeeep

Politics

Ok fine, Suarez would like to play for Barcelona, even the most delusional Liverpool fan wouldn’t deny that. He tried forcing a transfer through last summer but Real Madrid never came in with an offer, and John Henry apparently wasn’t too cool about seeing his ex-girlfriend with one of his best friends … Sorry, I mean selling his best player to a Premier League rival.

Anyway, you know what happened next: Suárez responded with a season for the ages and signed a contract extension that will keep him at Anfield for the rest of his prime (until 2018).

Quite why Pere Guardiola (Suárez’s agent) agreed to this arrangement is hard to say, but I assume it came with some kind of gentleman’s agreement –– I.E. in case Barcelona or Real Madrid registered interest –– since John Henry has proven he doesn’t give a toss about buy-out clauses.

On the buying side, this may be the last window Barcelona has to buy a marquee name before a probable transfer ban kicks in next year.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Blaugrana got in a lot of trouble over tax irregularities (and, bizarrely, orgies) relating to the Neymar transfer.

Barcelona was supposed to be prohibited from operating in this transfer window, but Josep Bartomeu used to the club’s Get Out of Jail Free Card (unlimited supply for big European clubs) to delay the ban, making it more of a minor annoyance than an actual brick wall obstacle. Seriously, what’s the point in handing a team a transfer ban if you’re gonna give them six months to stock up?

Although I guess that is the point.

You’ve got to hand it to John Henry: He refused to sell Suárez for £40 million last year even though he probably broke the law in doing so.

He waited until the middle of the season when Liverpool were EN FUUUUUUEGO and when Suárez was happily breaking all sorts of scoring records, and inked him to a contract extension with two more years of team control. Now he’s negotiating with a (non-Premier League) team that is DESPERATE to make a splash in the transfer window before it can no longer do so.

On top of which, this team has a spoiled fan base that expects to win every year, a chairman trying to solidify his re-election bid and a coach with a skimpy two-year contract. I mean for Christ’s sake, this is like haggling with a drug addict over the world’s last piece of Oxycontin. I mean seriously, he couldn’t have played this any better.

He kept Suarez for the extra year, which helped Liverpool qualify for the Champion’s League, and now he’s selling him for double the price, all before Suárez’s contract jumps from £160,000/week to £200,000/week (approximately $220,000 to $275,000).

Fuck it.

From now on, he’s John “The Hatchet” Henry.

Which leads me to the last part of this piece…

Price

For the last few years, Barcelona has been able to bring top-quality players in for significantly under their market value (with the exception of Neymar, who cost Sandro Rosell his job! – sorry, I couldn’t resist). Anyway, Barcelona managed to bring in Ibrahim Afellay, Cesc Fabregas, Ivan Rakitic–– I could go on –– relatively cheaply because these, and many other, players see Barcelona as the ideal place to work. It’s kind of like the football equivalent of working for Google.

This time things are gonna be different. The Suarez buy will break Barcelona’s transfer record. The real question is by how much by…

When Cristiano went to Real Madrid a few years ago, I truly thought  it would take a decade to see another football club shell out that much money (£80 million) for a player.I mean that a lot of money, but Ronaldo was probably the best footballer in the world that year at 25 years old.

The only other player who could rival him was, and is, pretty much priceless.

But I was wrong.

Gareth Bale, also known as “Gareth Bale who usually starts for Real Madrid”, was sold for the type fee that could un-bankrupt Greece. I thought it was an aberration. But here we are, and it could be happening again. I’m serious, Barcelona need this, Josep Bartomeu needs this, Luis Enrique needs this and ‘The Hatchet’ is sitting behind his desk and rubbing his hands together.

Here’s my prediction: Luis Suárez’s will be sold to Barcelona for more than Real Madrid bought Cristiano Ronaldo.

[1] Is there anything Vicente del Bosque does non-lugubriously?

World Cup Knockout Stage Will See More Surprises

If you would’ve asked me before the tournament to name six teams — weird number — that’ll most likely be eliminated at the group stage, I would’ve replied that Australia, Costa Rica, Greece, United States, Iran and Algeria would surely go home early. Some of these teams would leave early because of the toughness of their group, others would say farewell because they’re just bad.

Four of these teams are still in Brazil and in the knockout stage, and that’s why the world loves this game — unless you’re Italian, English, Russian, South Korean, Ghanaian, Portuguese or Ivorian.

Los Ticos, Les Fennecs, The Yanks and The Ethniki have busted thousands of brackets, but I still think half of them won’t advance any further than the round of 16 — Greece and Algeria. The United States vs Belgium game is a wild card and Costa Rica is just so much more than Greece so I can’t say they’ll go down easy.

One thing’s for sure: Either Costa Rica or Greece will be in the quarter-finals, and if Mexico gets past the Netherlands, either Mexico, Costar Rica or Greece will be in a semi-final. Not since 2002, when South Korea and Turkey made the semi-finals, and maybe 2010, when Uruguay made it, has there been such a surprising team that deep into the tournament. Big “ifs.”

Also, if both the Netherlands and Argentina fall before the final, that means Mexico, Costa Rica, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium or USA will be in the final. This would be the biggest surprise in the entire history of the world cup.

On the other side of the bracket, things get much more testy. Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay will have to fight for a single semi-final spot. The show down for the spot will most likely come down to Brazil vs Colombia. Brazil will finally take up their role of host nation and five-time champion and beat a very impressive Chile side; it’ll be close, probably come down to penalties. Colombia will advance over a toothless — HA! — Uruguay, which will be missing their best player in Luis Suarez.

France and Germany will play for another semi-final spot after they both get past Nigeria and Algeria, respectively. It’s a real shame since there was high hopes for the African teams this World  Cup, but in the end some of them worried more about bonuses than football — though I guess we can’t blame them for putting their financial stability first.

The win or go home part of the tournament is the best part, but I just can’t help it and feel a little bit sad that there’s only 16 games left. It’s time for the big names to step up, or for the underdogs to upset.

The United States need to take advantage of flaws

With the draw result of 2-2 in the Germany-Ghana game, Group G has been reopened for interpretation and this gives the United States the luxury to qualify with a win against the wounded Portuguese.

When Germany scored four goals against Portugal, the team began to fall apart. Indiscipline was displayed in the back, and the Portuguese midfield could not string passes together to get back into the match.

The late header Brooks gave to the United States not only smoothed out the opener for the Yanks, it also rallied a country and has head coach Jurgen Klinsmann positive the game against the Portuguese will be a win for the books.

How can the Americans face the do-or-die Portuguese and secure a win? By flooding the midfield.

By filling the middle of the pitch with as many players as tactically possible the supply to Cristiano Ronaldo will be nullified.

The duo combination of Michael Bradley and Kyle Berkerman in the center-defensive midfield area are a good choice to intercept through balls that with Ronaldo’s touch are a danger at goal.

During the match against Ghana the United States scored and quickly retreated to the back, playing ultra defensive and not attacking the ball. With Pepe and Fabio Coentrao out for the match, attacking fluently might just be an option for the Yanks.

 Portugal is hurt and will come out shooting against the United States. Portugal almost missed the Brazilian samba when in qualifiers they faced Sweden.

Ronaldo saved the day by tipping his hat trick to the Portuguese people and sending his team to the world cup. That match also plays out like the one this Sunday.

The world has been given a real treat in this world cup with the underdogs proving that big names in the world of international futbol are there just for prestige.

Spain, the 2010 World Cup champ, is out and other big name team names like Brazil, Uruguay and Italy have faced inspired opposition from dark horse teams like Costa Rica, Mexico and Chile.

Klinsmann has told reporters that he believes his team can win the match and will not accept a draw, winning is in the German’s agenda.

Video: Argentina vs. Iran Goal Highlights

Argentina 1, Iran 0

90′ + 1′ Lionel Messi


1

Video: Ecuador vs. Honduras Goals Highlights

Honduras 1, Ecuador 0

31′ Carlo Costly

1

 


Ecuador 1, Honduras 1

34′ Enner Valencia

2

 


Ecuador 2, Honduras 1

65′ Enner Valencia

3

Video: France vs. Switzerland Goals Highlights

France 1, Switzerland 0

17′ Olivier Giroud

1

 


France 2, Switzerland 0

18′ Blaise Matuidi

2

 


France 3, Switzerland 0

40′ Mathieu Valbuena

3

 


France 4, Switzerland 0

67′ Karim Benzema

4

 


France 5, Switzerland 0

73′ Moussa Sissoko

5

 


France 5, Switzerland 1

81′ Blerim Dzemaili

6

 


France 5, Switzerland 2

87′ Granit Xhaka

7

Videos: Italy vs. Costa Rica Goal Highlights

Costa Rica 1, Italy 0

44′ Bryan Ruiz


1

Video: Uruguay vs. England Goals Highlights

Uruguay 1, England 0

39′ Luis Suárez

1

 


England 1, Uruguay 1

75′ Wayne Rooney

2

 


Uruguay 2, England 1

85′ Luis Suárez

3

Video: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast Goals Highlights

Colombia 1, Ivory Coast 0

64′ James Rodriguez

1

 


Colombia 2, Ivory Coast 0

70′ Juan Quintero

2

 


Colombia 2, Ivory Coast 1

73′ Gervinho

3