'I would open Barcelona's door for Neymar right now,' says Ivan Rakitic

David Cooper 11/03/2018
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Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has raised a few eyebrows by claiming that he would immediately allow Neymar back at the Camp Nou if it were up to him.

Ernesto Valverde had recently dismissed talk of a return for the Brazilian as ‘fantasy’, but Rakitic clearly doesn’t see things the same way.

The Croatian midfielder would gladly welcome Neymar back to the fold at Barcelona despite his €222 million sale to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

“He has not told me anything, but if it’s up to me, I would open the door right now,” Rakitic told reporters after the 2-0 win over Malaga in La Liga on Saturday.

“Not only because of the relationship I have with him, but because of the type of player he is.

“I would always put Ney on my team.”

Barcelona were able to secure the victory away to Malaga without star man Lionel Messi who was at the hospital for the birth of his third child.

Rakitic was pleased for his team-mate and looks forward to having him back for the Champions League clash against Chelsea in midweek.

“The last few seasons we have had a bad time here,” he said. “I think we were very superior but now we can prepare for what is coming.”

“I hope the kid and the family are fine and Messi comes back soon, we need him,” Rakitic added.

“Chelsea will be very difficult, and the fans know we have to be together.

“We want to make history together, but they can hurt us at any time.”

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Barcelona reach agreement over transfer for Gremio star Arthur

David Cooper 11/03/2018
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Arthur could arrive at the Nou Camp this summer.

Barcelona have all but confirmed the signing of Gremio midfielder Arthur.

Blaugrana have agreed a purchase option for the 21-year-old midfield talent, giving the Catalan side access to the player’s federative rights during July 2018.

If Ernesto Valverde’s men exercise that option, the fee involved for the Brazilian star is set at an initial €30m, with €9m more in add-ons.

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Everything you need to know about Barcelona new boy Arthur

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Arthur is close to sealing Barcelona move.

Barcelona are finalising a €40m move for Gremio star Arthur, with the Brazilian prodigy set to sign on the dotted line after months of protracted talks.

Last December, the midfield ace was photographed wearing the Catalan club’s famous shirt during a meeting with Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez – a development which was a prerequisite for what was to come.

Now, the last few touches to the transfer are being made as Arthur gets ready to join the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Dani Alves in a long list of Brazilian talents to have moved to the Camp Nou.

Here, we take a look at Arthur and the details of the move in-depth.

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE DEAL?

Blaugrana will pay an initial €30m up front for the 21-year-old and the rest through a series of add-ons, many of them being performance-related.

Arthur, however, will not actually play for Barcelona until January 2019 as part of the agreement between the two sides sees him stay at his boyhood team until this year is out.

The delay in the transfer going through gives the Catalan giants a bit of time to work out how Arthur fits into the current squad, with Philippe Coutinho, Yerry Mina and Paulinho currently taking up the three non-EU squad spots.

However, Brazilian Coutinho is reportedly set to obtain a Portuguese passport through his wife in the near future, paving the way for Arthur.

WHERE DOES HE FIT IN?

Being labelled as the ‘next Andres Iniesta’ might be more of a hindrance than a benefit, but with the Spaniard’s ageing legs looking more heavy with each passing season, it’s obvious that Arthur is being talked up as a long-term replacement.

Coutinho, for now, has at least taken on that mantle and is Barca’s chief attacking option from the midfield – giving Arthur more time to find his feet as an all-round man in the engine room.

He will help to inject some youth and fresh legs to a usual three-man midfield which has got plenty miles of the clock.

Indeed, the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Paulinho all hit 30 in 2018.

His arrival also spells the end for someone like Andre Gomes, with the Portuguese set to be part of a big clear-out of fringe stars in the close season which could also include Paco Alcacer, Gerard Deulofeu and Lucas Digne.

WHAT TYPE OF PLAYER IS ARTHUR?

Looking at him, Arthur is actually pretty slight in stature – standing at 5’8 – but is a tough-tackling presence in the midfield with the ability to link play, operate as a pass master and create opportunities. Goalscoring is not his forte, given he has registered just one senior goal, but goals weren’t the reason why Barca were desperate to sign the man who helped Gremio to Copa Libertadores success last November.

Technically, the young gun is very astute and confident at receiving the ball in deep-lying positions, before orchestrating forward play. It’s too early for Iniesta or indeed Xavi comparisons but he has a bit of both of those about him and the good thing for Barca is that he has plenty of his best years still to come.

Ball-playing midfielder: Arthur.

WILL WE SEE HIM IN ACTION AT THE WORLD CUP?

Potentially, but earning a spot in a star-studded Brazilian squad isn’t easy. The five-time winners are among the favourites to triumph in Russia and have an abundance of midfield talent in the form of Coutinho, Willian, Casemiro and Fernandinho to name just a few.

That said, he was called up for World Cup qualifiers last September, and despite not getting on the pitch, is highly thought of by coach Tite.

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