Andres Iniesta says Philippe Coutinho signing won't "kick him out" of Barcelona

David Cooper 12/01/2018
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Still part of the team: Andres Iniesta

Philippe Coutinho’s €160million arrival from Liverpool will not spell the end of Andres Iniesta’s Barcelona career, the Spaniard defiantly says.

The Catalan giants have invested heavily following the summer exit of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain with Ousmane Dembele and now Coutinho brought in to share the creative burden.

Brazil international Coutinho is widely viewed as the heir to Iniesta at Camp Nou with the 33-year-old skipper showing signs of aging this season.

But Iniesta is of the opinion the two will be complementary creators rather than antagonistic forces.

“I’m a player for this club and I’ve always said that only the best can play for this club,” he told Onda Cero.

“That makes Coutinho one of the best. He’s young and he has an innate talent, while Barcelona are a club where he can keep growing.

“There will never be a player that can make me retire or kick me out of here. At 33 years of age, that isn’t the issue. Coutinho has come here to improve us.

“I’m happy that he’s one of the best players in his position. He has the things that we like.

“He’s a quick and skilful player, who links up very well, uses both feet very well, creates goals and scores them.

“He’ll find a very good environment to grow here. The money we paid for him is another thing.

“The price of the market decides what a player is worth. Beyond the madness, we must be happy that he’s ours.”

Coutinho is currently sidelined with a thigh injury and is expected to make his Barca debut until the local derby with Espanyol on February 4.

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Real Madrid target Mohamed Salah discusses rumours of move away from Liverpool

Alex Rea 12/01/2018
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Staying put: Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah insists he “belongs to Liverpool” after brushing off rumours linking him to La Liga giants Real Madrid.

The former Chelsea star has been in fine form for Jurgen Klopp’s side following his £37million summer move from Roma, scoring 23 goals in all competitions.

The 25-year-old has emerged as one of the Premier League’s most outstanding talents and naturally his performances have attracted speculation of interest from the likes of Madrid.

Los Blancos are reportedly set for a summer splurge in reaction to their dire domestic form and rivals Barcelona’s heavy investment following the signing of Philippe Coutinho from the Reds this month.

However, Salah is ignoring the noise and has further maintained his commitment to the Anfield outfit.

“Well, I have heard so many rumours it does not bother me any more,” he told Soccer Laduma.

“But I have been treated very well at Liverpool and right now, I belong to Liverpool and I am happy at Anfield.

“Let us leave it at that.”

Salah’s exploits for Roma, Liverpool and the Egyptian national team saw him seal the African Player of the Year award for 2017.

Having guided his national side to a first World Cup since 1990, Salah is comfortably the country’s greatest ever talent and the forward is hoping his recent award will be the first of many.

He added: “I want to win this award again next year and the year after and perhaps 20 times.

“I want to be one of the greatest players ever to come out of Egypt.

“I am aware of previous players from my country that have achieved a lot, but, meaning no disrespect to any of them, I want to be remembered as the greatest player ever to come from Egypt.”

The prolific frontman has missed Liverpool’s last two games with a groin complaint but was back in full training this week as Klopp’s men prepare to host the Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday.

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Harry Kane is the best English option for either Real Madrid or Barcelona

Alex Rea 12/01/2018
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Tottenham striker Harry Kane is the transfer flavour of the week with reports from Spain claming he’s already chosen his shirt number at Real Madrid.

It’s doubtful talks have progressed to that extent but no doubt rumours will continue with Kane excelling again this season while talks over an improved deal with Spurs have yet to begin.

His links to Spain had us thinking about the wider spectrum of English talent in the Premier League and whether or not the five best the country has to offer could right now make a success of a move to La Liga’s big two.

Here, we take a look at the five best England stars and analyse whether they would be suitable for a move to either Barcelona and Real Madrid.

RAHEEM STERLING

As a 19-year-old at Liverpool, Sterling was already being talked up as a future prospect to play for either Real or Barca.

Indeed, in 2014 Sterling was linked with Los Blancos and the Blaugrana’s iconic midfielder Xavi was doing his best to woo the winger.

Talking up the qualities of both Sterling and England teammate Ross Bakley, he said:  “They have incredible physical capabilities and they are good technically.

“In Spain, we prioritise players who are technically gifted but both things are very important in football.”

In the intervening years Sterling hasn’t just improved from a technical standpoint but tactically, too.

As has been shown this season, Pep Guardiola has unlocked a positional flexibility from Sterling, deploying him as a false nine – see the Manchester Derby – and on either side of a front three.

His intelligence, arguably his most underrated attribute, lends well to a Barca but a major drawback is just how many time he is dispossessed. Sterling is still prone to losing the ball and the recyclical nature of Barca’s style would mean Real is a better fit given his athleticism.

Their counter-attacking football would embrace his pace and the fact he’s added goals (19) and assists (4) to his repertoire is a huge plus point in a side which is desperate for extra artillery to aid Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

SUITABILITY 

Real Madrid: 4/5

Barcelona: 3/5

Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling

JOHN STONES

Another Man City man with a previous link to La Liga. Before signing for City from Everton in a £47.5m deal, Stones’ agent reportedly met with representatives from Barca.

Targeted as a long-term replacement for Javier Mascherano, Stones’s grace and cultured style on the ball caught the attention of the Catalan giants.

Defying the notion an English centre-half can’t be hallmarked by class, the technical yet tough Stones is the centre-piece of Pep Guardiola’s possession-heavy brand of football.

Playing out from the back and moving into midfield, his ability to recycle the ball with either feet is the base of City’s success this season and during a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, the 23-year-old was sorely missed.

There is still no other player with a higher pass success rate for City in the Premier League than Stones this season (96.5 percent) and naturally that talent would gravitate towards Barca rather than Real.

Madrid defenders are required to be more physically dominant with the focus on defending to soak up pressure while technique on the ball to build from the back is a cornerstone of Ernesto Valverde’s Barca.

The issue for Stones is the fact he remains error prone. There is still that nagging doubt of a mistake or two in him and in the cauldron of Camp Nou, that’s something which would ultimately be ostracised.

SUITABILITY 

Real Madrid: 3/5

Barcelona: 4/5

John Stones

John Stones

DELE ALLI

Real Madrid will reportedly go shopping in the summer as a reaction to Barca’s recent heavy squad investment and Alli, who despite dropping off from the form he showed last season, is apparently on their list.

Barca, too, were said to be sniffing around around with the 21-year-old a natural alternative to Philippe Coutinho but considering his performance against Real at Wembley in the Champions League – not just his best of the season but perhaps best full stop – you feel the Spanish capital is a preferable destination.

A mainstay in Mauricio Pochettino’s dynamic midfield, the 3-1 win over Madrid was built on his energy, flair and clinical edge in front of goal.

True, his form since has been erratic but as a Spurs centurion it’s easy to forget just two years ago he was playing for MK Dons and is still only 21.

Tottenham haven’t seen a talent like his since Luka Modric and inevitably the comparison goes for both ability and career path.

The regression hasn’t put Madrid off and the north-London club have reportedly offered Alli new terms to check any interest.

His intoxicating talent would freshen up a Real midfield which has felt stale with the diminishing form of Toni Kroos and Modric.

True, Barca also need new talent in the middle with Ivan Rakitic not at his best this season and Andres Iniesta aging but it’s obvious Alli is more suited to their La Liga rivals.

SUITABILITY 

Real Madrid: 4/5

Barcelona: 4/5

Dele Alli

Dele Alli

HARRY KANE

Loyalty to his boyhood club is arguably the only reason Kane wouldn’t leave for one of La Liga’s big two right now.

Either side would have him and there is no other English player more equipped to be a success at either Real or Barca than Kane.

The 24-year-old has broken the shackles of his ‘one-season wonder’ tag and has entered the world class bracket.

He is the only Three Lions star with that distinction and as such would command a fee closer to Neymar’s €222million than Philippe Coutinho’s €160million.

His goalscoring pedigree is stretching far beyond the Premier League now and his steely consistency in England is now being replicated on the international stage and in Europe.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Roberto Firmino have scored more than his five goals in the Champions League this season.

At 24, his best years are ahead of him and Kane is adding more than just guaranteed goals as he continues to expand his exponential talent.

His ability to drop in the hole between the opposition midfield and defence to pick out a defence splitting pass is unlike any other forward in Europe.

Kane’s movement and technical capacity would be a seamless fit for Barca but again with their need for a long-term replacement for Ronaldo, Madrid would be a frontrunner.

He ticks all the boxes for both, though. He’s young, ambitious, scores goals and crucially has the mental fortitude to be a success in Spain.

The Premier League’s best always end up in La Liga and Kane could be the next to outgrow it.

SUITABILITY 

Real Madrid: 5/5

Barcelona: 5/5

Harry Kane

Harry Kane

MARCUS RASHFORD

The youngest of the five and understandably the most raw as well but with Zinedine Zidane keen to continue their long-term investment in youth, Rashford is viewed as a logical target.

Scoring on every debut for United in the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup and Manchester derby, the 20-year-old has embraced the responsibility bestowed by Jose Mourinho.

Rashford’s flair and athleticism is married to an work ethic to apply his precocious talent and primarily used on the left of a United three behind Romelu Lukaku, his defensive intensity and acceleration going forward are rare qualities from English attackers.

We’ve truly yet to see the best from Rashford because he’s a victim of his versatility, though. He’s swapped in and out the team with Anthony Martial and opportunities to spearhead United’s attack have been infrequent.

Granted, they’re aren’t many elite sides in world football’s so trusting of a 20-year-old but in 33 games this season he’s returned just nine goals and it’s indication he’s still some way from the likes of Real and Barca.

Tentative in front of goal and often on the fringes of play out on the touchline, it’s fair to say Rashford is still a work in progress rather than ready made for a move abroad.

SUITABILITY 

Real Madrid: 3/5

Barcelona: 3/5

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

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