Sanchez swap vital to Barcelona’s hopes of signing Suarez

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Transfer saga: The Suarez to Barcelona narrative is set to run for some time yet.

The Liverpool chief executive, Ian Ayre, will meet a Barcelona delegation in London today for the first talks over the sale of Luis Sua­rez, with the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez a key part of the Premier League club’s demands.

The biggest transfer saga of this summer’s World Cup finals is by no means over yet, but there appears to be a consensus on both sides that Suarez will be a Barcelona player by the end of the transfer window.

It is understood that today’s meeting is the first official talks between the clubs on the Suarez- Sanchez deal.

Liverpool have set an £80mil­lion (Dh504m) valuation on their banned striker, who is not eligible to play club football until Novem­ber, and is still at his home in Uru­guay.

They have had one bid for Sanchez rejected by Barcelona already this summer, and see the Chilean forward, valued by his current club at around £30m (Dh189m), as a crucial part of their new-look side for the Champions League next season.

Liverpool have completed the acquisition of Adam Lallana from Southampton and retain an inter­est in Emre Can, the midfielder from Bayer Leverkusen.

The Sanchez-Suarez deal is the key, however, and much will depend on how talks progress today. Suarez is still likely to go ahead with an appeal against his four-month “football activity” ban from FIFA. He is hopeful that the governing body will at least allow him to train during that period of time.

Barcelona made little secret of their intentions when their sport­ing director Andoni Zubizarreta described Suarez as “humble” for having apologised to Giorgio Chiellini on Monday for biting the Italian.

Zubizarreta was speaking at a press conference to introduce the club’s new Croatian midfield signing Ivan Rakitic. Asked about the club’s potential interest in Suarez, Zubizarreta said: “Suarez has shown he is humble enough to admit an error, which is very important.

“He has been humble enough to apologise to those he has affected, because it happened in the middle of a festival of football. In this case it’s the best thing a person can do.

“Everyone knows that Luis is an excellent player, everyone knows last season he played in various positions in attack, but everyone also knows that he is a Liverpool player.” Rakitic, signed for £14m (Dh88.2m) from Seville said: “The fact he [Suarez] has had the char­acter and the strength to go in front of everyone and say sorry says a lot about him as a person.

“Not every person has that strength to admit they have done something stupid.

“I rarely say that I am wrong so this says a lot about him, he has shown the character and strength he has so he should be commended for that.

“Regardless of whether the club signs him or not, his quality is un­questionable.

“He has shown a lot of qual­ity with Uruguay and scored more than 30 goals [last season] with Liverpool, so he has the necessary quality to play for Barca.”

Zubizarreta also addressed the future of Barca stalwart Xavi who has been heavily linked with a big money swansong in Qatar.

He said: “Nobody is indispensa­ble, but Xavi is an icon. He’s not just any player, he’s our number six and we need to have an open conversa­tion with him. If he goes we’ll try to do it in the best way possible.”

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Lawyers fight to prolong Messi tax fraud rap

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Messi could be punished: The magician has denied tax fraud allegations.

Spanish authorities are fighting to keep up charges against four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi in a four-billion euro ($5.5 billion) tax fraud case, sources said on Tuesday.

Messi, who currently has four goals in the World Cup for Argentina, has denied any wrongdoing.

He and his father Jorge Messi have denied charges of evading tax on the striker's image rights, pointing the finger instead at a former agent of the player.

They testified in September in court near Barcelona, where a judge has yet to make a ruling. Based on the Messis' testimony, public prosecutors have called for the case to be shelved.

But state lawyers acting on behalf of the Treasury have written to the judge calling for the case to be kept open, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

"They consider it premature to shelve the case because there are documents with signatures that still have to be analysed," the source said.

"The attorney general has therefore asked for the proceedings to continue."

Lionel Messi is the fourth richest sportsperson in the world, according to the ranking published in June by Forbes business magazine.

He moved up to fourth from 10th place in just a year with an annual income of just under $65 million, it said.

The case began in June when a prosecutor accused the Messis of evading tax between 2006 and 2009 by ceding the player's image rights to companies in Belize and Uruguay.

The court said Jorge Messi paid the tax authorities five million euros in August — the 4.16 million euros claimed by the taxman plus interest.

That was thought likely to significantly reduce any sentence should they be found guilty.

The news caused astonishment in Spain where Messi is seen as a more humble figure than other football stars, particularly his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Chelsea confirm agreement with Atletico for Diego Costa

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Atletico agree fee: Chelsea are close to buying their prime target, Diego Costa.

After prolonged negotiations, Chelsea have reached an agreement with Atletico Madrid for their top-scorer Diego Costa. 

Chelsea confirmed the news on their official website.

"Chelsea Football Club can confirm an agreement has been reached with Atletico Madrid for the transfer of Diego Costa, with Chelsea meeting the buy-out clause for the Spanish international," said the brief statement.

Costa had an uncovincing World Cup tournament for Spain as he failed to score a single goal and they were eliminated in the group stage.

For Atletico Madrid, however, 2014 was a different story.

The prolific frontman scored 36 goals in 52 games last season as Atletico won La Liga for the first time in 18 years.

Atletico also made it to the Champions League final but were defeated by city rivals Real.

Chelsea will be praying Costa's rich vein of form continues next season as they search for their first Premier League title since 2009-10. 

 

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