Lionel Messi ended months of speculation when finally putting pen to paper on Saturday to extend his contract with Barcelona until 2021, the club announced, making official an agreement reached in July.
The Spanish giants had announced in the summer that Messi, 30, had committed his future to the club but the Argentine had not signed the new deal.
With his previous contract set to expire in 2018, Messi could have left Barca for free next summer had he not extended his deal.
“FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi signed on Saturday morning a new contract that will keep the Argentinian superstar at the club through the 2020/21 season,” read a club statement. “The buyout clause was set at €700million.”
The steep rise in the five-time World Player of the Year’s buyout clause from €300million in his previous contract is designed to avoid any repeat of Paris Saint-Germain’s capture of Neymar from Barcelona by paying the Brazilian’s €222million buyout clause in August.
Pressure has been mounting on beleaguered Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to get Messi to put pen to paper.
Bartomeu was heavily criticised for his role in Neymar’s departure and a haphazard search for replacements in the final weeks of the transfer window.
However, Bartomeu saw off a vote of no confidence measure launched by disgruntled fans thanks to Barca’s fantastic start to the season, in large part inspired by Messi’s form.
And Bartomeu now has the image he craved of a smiling Messi tying the remainder of his peak years to the club.
Messi’s 30 trophies are along with teammate Andres Iniesta the most in Barca’s history, including eight La Liga and four Champions League titles.
The diminutive Argentine, who joined Barca at the age of 13, has also smashed 523 goals in 602 games to become the Catalans’ all-time top goalscorer.
News of Messi’s renewal also comes as a huge boost to the La Liga leaders ahead of Sunday’s top of the table clash at Valencia.
Barca lead a revitalised Valencia by four points, with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid a further six points adrift, thanks to a club record start of 11 wins and one draw from 12 games.
Provided by AFP Sport
November has been quite the month for Mohamed Salah.
The Liverpool star has struck five times in four games across all competitions to help inspire a Reds revival and in the process secure his own redemption in English football.
Goals against Maribor, West Ham and Southampton have catapulted the Egyptian into the player of the season debate and the skepticism surrounding his summer acquisition from Roma has made way for joy.
There’s no getting away from the fact that his £36.9million signing was met with widespread pessimism after his ruinous spell at Chelsea tarnished his reputation as one of the most promising young players on the planet.
“As a fan, I watched him at Chelsea and it didn’t really take off for him,” Gerrard said on BT Sport.
“Of course he hit top form at Roma but you’re thinking: ‘Is he a player suited to the Premier League?’
“And when he first came I, along with a lot of Liverpool fans, wasn’t totally sure how it was going to work out.”
But after breaking Robbie Fowler’s Liverpool record of eight goals in his first 12 Premier League games with a well-taken double against Southampton, the Pharaoh’s smile is as wide as the Nile.
With Chelsea’s visit to Anfield on Saturday comes a timely reminder of Salah’s maturity into one of the most electric wingers in Europe and a warning of just how much work there is left for Liverpool to contend for a Premier League title once more.
Indeed, this is a game which will showcase where both club and player are at and there is something quite poetic about this fixture for Salah and the Reds.
On one of his rare starts in Chelsea blue came a personal nadir for the 25-year-old when Jose Mourinho’s side blew open the 2013/14 title race with a 2-0 win at Anfield in April to snap Liverpool’s 11-game winning run.
That day the Egyptian was arguably the visitor’s worst player and he was unceremoniously hauled off on the hour mark for Willian.
His Chelsea career and Liverpool’s title hopes were extinguished shortly thereafter but if one stat is indicative of the club’s regression and Salah’s progression since then it’s this – no Liverpool player has scored more than 14 goals in a season since Luis Suarez left for Barcelona in 2014.
It’s November and Salah has already scored 14 times – both reason for hope and depression in equal measure.
But just how has one of the fastest players in Europe slowly morphed into the player Chelsea hoped he would be when they signed him from Basel?
After joining Fiorentina on loan, Salah announced himself immediately with nine goals and four assists in 26 games. His performances saw Roma jump to secure him on loan with an option to buy for £12.75m and after scoring 33 goals and laying on a further 17 assists in two years in the Italian capital they made the move permanent.
That he has been chronically undervalued owes to the lingering doubt which hung over him because even at £36.9m – though FFP regulations played a role in the lowball fee – Salah appears a bargain and most certainly the signing of the summer.
“He’s a man now, he was a kid at Chelsea, now he’s a man. That’s good.” Klopp said recently.
The German is right because physically, Salah has certainly developed his man-strength and mentally he seems much more impervious, too.
If there is one drawback ironically it’s his finishing.
The fluid nature of Liverpool’s fab four opens the gates for Salah’s intelligent movement to be frequently let in at the back post but too many times glorious chances have been missed.
Granted, with a shot conversation rate of 21 percent (nine goals from 42 shots) – put into context that’s better than Harry Kane 12.5 percent (eight from 64 shots) and
Romelu Lukaku’s 19 percent (eight from 42 shots) – it’s hardly substandard but the quality of his opportunities are golden.
No doubt one will arrive on Saturday but score again this month against his former employers and perhaps they’ll call this month Mo’vember.
The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.
Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines on Friday.
Will any of the following deals happen?
Let us know your thoughts.
The big Belgian will enter the final six months of his United deal in January and Unai Emery is said to be in the market for a back up to aging midfielder Thiago Motta.
There’s talk of a four-year deal being offered to Fellaini next summer but it’s an odd move for PSG considering he’d be 34 by the completion of such a contract.
There is an extension on the table at Old Trafford but for the same terms as his current deal and Fellaini is said to be unhappy with his fringe status so could well be leaving the club next summer, whether that be PSG or elsewhere.
The Catalan giants were said to be very interested in securing a deal in January but there is now concerns over his busy lifestyle and how that could effect his impact on the pitch.
As is well documented, Ozil’s current contract is up next summer and as a result he’s been perpetually linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium ever since the summer.
Barca need an injection of creativity from their midfield and Ozil certainly provides that. Whether their concerns about his private life are legitimate or not, there will be stiff competition for his signature so the Spanish club won’t be alone in possibly making a move in January.
GIOVANNI VAN BRONCKHORST
Arsene Wenger has apparently picked Giovanni van Bronckhorst as his eventual successor at Arsenal, reports the Daily Star.
Wenger’s contract is up in 2019 and he has reportedly stated the Feyenoord boss will be the right man for the job should he decide to make an exit in two years time.
Van Bronckhorst is a former Arsenal player and after a successful playing career has transitioned nicely into management with the Eredivisie club.
He has taken on Wenger’s attacking philosophy since assuming the managerial reins in 2015 and it’s led to trophy triumphs with the KNVB Cup and league title all in the cabinet. It’s a surprising rumour in terms of timing but perhaps not a surprising choice should Wenger call it quits in 2019.