Barcelona star Lionel Messi shied away from making major promises for the coming season, pledging only to do his “best” under new coach Ernesto Valverde.
Messi said he was not familiar with Valverde’s style, but voiced cautious hope.
“Well, I say the exact same thing I say all the time,” he said at the team’s celebration of a new sponsorship deal with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten at its Tokyo headquarters.
“Whenever I start a new season, there is a very clear-cut goal, which is FC Barcelona would do its best,” said the Argentina international who recently extended his contract with the Catalan giants.
“Personally, I am very happy and looking forward to starting a new season.
“Everything will become new (under Valverde). We are hearing a lot about his very good reputation,” he said, adding that he held “hopes on the new beginning.”
“We would like to do our best.”
Teammate Arda Turan was more enthusiastic about the coming season.
“It’s important that we are going to win all the titles this year. We can do it,” the Turkey international said.
They were joined by Neymar and Gerard Pique for the media event with Rakuten founder and chief executive officer Hiroshi Mikitani.
Rakuten’s four-year sponsorship deal, worth €55million a year, will last through June 2021, with the option of a one-year extension.
The e-commerce firm replaced Qatar Airways, Barcelona’s shirt sponsor since 2013.
Rakuten signed the deal as it seeks to expand overseas.
The company already owns J-League side Vissel Kobe and professional baseball team Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Provided by AFP Sport
Luke Shaw can nail down the role as Manchester United’s first-choice left-back if he wants it enough, according to Denis Irwin, one of the club’s great full-backs.
Just three months ago the England international’s Old Trafford future looked bleak after Jose Mourinho publicly eviscerated him, calling into question his commitment and focus.
Shaw had a meeting with the United manager in the wake of those scathing comments and quickly set about winning him over, only for progress to be halted by ligament damage in his foot.
Recovery continues in the sunny climes of Los Angeles, where the left-back celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.
Irwin, a part of the treble-winning side of 1999, is pleased to see Shaw recuperating on United’s pre-season tour of the United States and believes he can kick on this term.
Asked if Shaw can become first choice left-back at Old Trafford, he said: “Absolutely. It’s up to him.
“He’s had one really bad injury. No injury is a good injury but (the double leg break in September 2015 ) kept him out for quite a while.
“Obviously missing pre-season (is not ideal) – as a player, I know how important pre-season is – but we’ve seen what potential he had when he played for Manchester United and coming from Southampton as well.
“I am sure, hopefully, he will come back stronger and be able to compete for that left-back spot.
“I mean, listen, he is only a young lad. He was 22 on Wednesday.
“He is still learning the game – he’ll always learn the game, but particularly when you’re young. Hopefully he’ll get better and better.”
Irwin expects Matteo Darmian to start the campaign at left-back after ending last season so well, but if Mourinho is looking for balance then, when back fit, Shaw’s attributes look most similar to Antonio Valencia on the opposite flank.
The Ecuador international flourished last term and was the standout member of a defence that had a spate of injuries to contend with during a chaotic campaign.
While they finished well off the pace in sixth, United had the second best defensive record in the Premier League – a statistic that bodes well ahead of what should be a less frantic season.
Marcos Rojo, Shaw and Ashley Young are working hard to return to fitness, while Victor Lindelof, the composed Swedish defender, has arrived from Benfica to bolster the backline.
“Listen, you play for Manchester United,” Irwin said. “There’s got to be competition in every position.
“Defensively we were fantastic last year considering all the injuries we had.
“I suppose when you say Valencia is the only regular and we probably need to nail down a couple of centre-halves that will play regular as well, because I think that’ll do the team the world of good.”
A strong spine will certainly be important as the side begin a new chapter without experienced heads.
Wayne Rooney may not have been a regular last term but United’s all-time top scorer’s presence will be missed around the dressing room following his move to Everton, as will that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“Wayne has been unbelievable for this club,” Irwin said. “His record speaks for itself: 13 years here, over 550 games, 253 goals.
“He has been unbelievable for us and Gary Neville has gone on record saying he is the best striker he has played with. They’re good words to hear.
“I wish him well in his new challenge at Everton.
Michael Carrick on Wayne Rooney: "Wayne leaving the club is a big deal, he's been such a massive part of this club. I'm sad to see him go." pic.twitter.com/vSv7kWhpej— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 12, 2017
“We’ve lost him, who’s obviously a powerful character in the dressing room. We lost Ibra, who is very similar.
“But it’s a new era. The manager did fantastically well last season and we hope we challenge for the league this year and I think United fans are very optimistic.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
With the transfer window now officially open from July 1, the frenetic nature of speculation is only going to increase.
Rumours are starting to gather pace and we take a look at the latest stories doing the rounds in the media.
Will any of the following deals happen?
RMC says Chelsea have agreed a deal to sign Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko with the 22-year-old set to complete a medical on Friday before linking up with the Premier League champions.
A £40million deal has been struck and Antonio Conte will no doubt be delighted to have secured one of his top transfer targets after seeing Romelu Lukaku slip through his grasp and join Manchester United.
It’s been a long protracted transfer but it looks like Bakayoko’s move to the Blues has finally reached a conclusion.
The powerful Frenchman is seen as N’Golo Kante’s long-term partner at the base of their midfield with Nemanja Matic keen to leave Stamford Bridge.
He has been linked with Chelsea all summer and despite rumoured interest from Manchester United the deal appears done with just the formalities to be completed.
Liverpool have made a move for Atletico Madrid striker Angel Correa and have offered him a five-year deal, according to Foot Mercato.
The 22-year-old is seeking an exit from Atleti in search for more first-team football having started just 15 games last season.
He will reportedly be offered €2.7million a season should he make the switch to Anfield.
A new name linked with Liverpool, Correa has a €28million release clause in his contract which could prove a sticking point but more to the point does Jurgen Klopp really need him?
The Reds are well stocked with talent in attack, especially having signed Mohamed Salah this summer, but it’s in midfield and defence reinforcements are needed.
This seems like agent talk to us!
Borussia Dortmund have joined the race to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, according to the Mirror.
The arrival of £52million record signing Alexandre Lacazette could see Giroud’s first-team opportunities limited and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to leave, Dortmund are on the lookout for a new frontman.
Everton, Marseille and AC Milan are all clubs who have been linked and on paper appear more suited to signing Giroud.
Replacing the pace of Aubameyang with the power of Giroud would mark a complete alteration in style for Dortmund and it’s one that we just don’t see come to fruition.