Barcelona midfielder Deulofeu given second chance to shine at the Camp Nou

Andy West 13/08/2017
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Gerard Deulofeu.

Gerard Deulofeu’s career to date has been a strange one.

As a eager teenager at Barcelona, he was extremely highly regarded by the Catalan club and their followers, who gushed in admiring tones about a youngster who was destined to be “The Next Big Thing”.

That optimistic viewpoint was further strengthened by a magnificent 2012/13 season with the club’s B team, when Deulofeu tallied 18 league goals to cement his status as Spain’s brightest young talent.

Back then he was still only 18-years-old but still managing to consistently shine against seasoned professionals in Spain’s second division, often standing out as by far the best player on the pitch and sometimes making the game look effortlessly easy.

In the summer of 2013 he was loaned to Everton, a move which was met with approval by Barca fans who expected their rising star to benefit from a brief toughening-up process in England before returning to become a first team regular at Camp Nou.

But it never happened. Despite flashes of promise – notably a late Premier League equaliser to earn a point at Arsenal – Deulofeu struggled to consistently impress for the Toffees, and when he came back to Spain at the end of the season it was not to Barcelona, but another loan spell, this time at Sevilla.

There, his development slowed even further. Deulofeu managed just ten league starts and one goal, suffering the ignominy of being named in Marca’s worst XI of the season, with his lazy and arrogant displays telling the tale of a young man who had badly lost his way.

Back to Everton, this time on a cut-price permanent deal, the winger continued to flounder, and after finishing last season with yet another bland loan spell, this time at AC Milan, Spanish football’s Chosen One was rapidly becoming the Forgotten One.

Unexpectedly, however, now he has been handed another chance – and he could not have asked for a better one.

Partly in response to fan frustration at their inability to develop homegrown talent, Barcelona decided in the summer to bring local boy Deulofeu back to Camp Nou where, four years after it was supposed to happen, he has been installed as a fully-fledged member of the first team squad.

And now, following the shock departure of Neymar, he has every chance of being a member of the starting eleven for Sunday’s Super Cup clash with Real Madrid.

With no other natural wingers in the Barca squad, Deulofeu has temporarily inherited Neymar’s position almost by accident, and there were very positive signs as he excelled in last week’s friendly against Chapecoense, registering one goal and two assists in the opening 30 minutes.

His talent has never been in doubt, so it was no surprise to see Deulofeu tormenting the visiting defence with his twisting runs, sharp changes in direction and dangerous deliveries into the box.

What was surprising, however, and extremely encouraging, was how hard he worked without the ball, maintaining positional discipline and always immediately tracking back to support full-back Jordi Alba whenever possession was lost.

This, a few years too late, was the Deulofeu Barca had always hoped to see.

Maybe he was spoiled by the boy wonder tag, fooled by the headlines into believing that a glorious career would unfold naturally.

Now, fingers crossed, the penny has dropped that his talent will never be fulfilled without hard work.

And although Ousmane Dembele or Philippe Coutinho may yet arrive to challenge his new status, for now Deulofeu is in the driving seat. A starring role against Real Madrid tonight could keep him there.

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Javier Pastore tipped to make way for Neymar in PSG's starting XI

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As the hysteria mounts ahead of Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain debut on Sunday focus switched from his record transfer fee to the question of which star would make way for the Brazilian.

Le Parisien daily newspaper suggested it would be Javier Pastore, the silky but fragile Argentine who was the first major signing after PSG were bought by their ambitious Qatari owners, who splashed out a world record 222 million-euro ($261 million) for Neymar.

“After first giving up his No10 shirt, will he (Pastore) now give him (Neymar) his place in the team,” one Le Parisien headline asked of the player who took up the No10 shirt after Zlatan Ibrahimovic left last season, only to hand it to the Brazilian this season.

“Neymar will start on the left at the cost of Pastore,” the article claimed.

“So it’ll be Neymar, (Edinson) Cavani and without doubt (Angel) di Maria in a three pronged attack,” said Le Parisien, which then gave a long list of top signings who will be warming the PSG bench.

Javier Pastore could be the odd man out at PSG after Neymar's arrival.

Javier Pastore could be the odd man out at PSG after Neymar’s arrival.

Alongside Pastore will be the Brazilian Lucas Moura, who is rumoured to be staying as he has been friends with Neymar since the age of nine, and Germany captain at the Confederations Cup Julian Draxler, who arrived just last year in a big money transfer of his own.

Sports daily L’Equipe saw things differently, though.

“Neymar – the football version,” ran their headline in a joke about how the most expensive transfer in football history has dominated news without the 25-year-old forward even kicking a ball yet.

“A trio of Neymar, Pastore and di Maria will support Cavani,” they predicted, but were unsure where the extra man would be cut.

In the tiny Brittany town of Guingamp, with a population of around 7,000, tickets for the match have been changing hands for a king’s ransom as the Stade du Roduourou has a capacity of just over 15,000.

“We could have filled a stadium of 40,000 seats with no problem at all,” Guingamp president Bertrand Desplat told local newspaper Le Telegramme.

“Remember the star of the show is going to be Neymar and for us we want to welcome this very special player and his team in the best conditions possible,” he said.

Journalists however may find themselves a bit squeezed for space as the rustic press tribune allowing for 80 press seats has been extended to a blockbuster 350.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Philippe Coutinho could join these ten brilliant Brazilians to have played for Barcelona

Niall McCague 11/08/2017

Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho submitted a transfer request on Friday amid interest from Barcelona.

The Catalan giants had a bid of around £90million for the Brazil international rejected by the Reds on Wednesday.

It is understood Coutinho has now declared to Liverpool his desire to leave.

Should he sign for Barcelona, he'll join a host of Brazilian legends to have sported the Blaugrana jersey over the years. Here's a look at ten of the best.

RONALDINHO (2003-2008)

Ronaldinho joined Barcelona in 2003 after the club finished sixth in La Liga – and just nine points from the bottom half of the table. But, the Brazilian ace transformed the side with his sparkling skills, guiding Barcelona to two La Liga titles and one Champions League triumph. He was also crowned Ballon d’Or winner in 2005. He moved to Milan in 2008 after scoring 70 games in 145 games for the Catalan giants. Ronaldinho Ronaldinho

RONALDO (1996-1997)

At his peak he was close to unstoppable. The ace marksman moved to Barcelona in 1996 from PSV – for a then world-record transfer fee of £19.5 million. During his sole season in Catalonia, he netted 47 goals in 49 appearances in all competitions to win both the La Liga top scorer and European Golden Shoe awards. At the end of 1996, he became the youngest player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Ronaldo Ronaldo

ROMARIO (1993-1995)

Romario was a mainstay in Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’, which featured legends such as Pep Guardiola, Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman. During their La Liga triumph in 1993-1994, Romario finished as top scorer with 30 goals in 33 games. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994. Romario Romario

NEYMAR (2013-2017)

Another player that needs no introduction. The Brazilian was a vital cog in the lethal MSN front three alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as the trio dominated Spanish football. He recently signed a long-term contract at PSG - after the French giants met his mega release clause of €222 million. Neymar Neymar

DANI ALVES (2008-2016)

The full-back was a talismanic presence during his eight seasons at Barcelona, winning six La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns. Such was his dominance as a defender, he was included in the FIFPRO World XI on six occasions. At the time of his departure to PSG, he was second on Barca’s all-time appearance list behind Lionel Messi with 414 outings. Dani Alves Dani Alves

RIVALDO (1997-2002)

Finished his first two seasons at the club as second-highest goal scorer as Barcelona clinched back-to-back La Liga titles. Rivaldo scored a sensational 136 goals in 253 appearances during his five seasons at the Blaugrana. He was rewarded for his clinical finishing with the Ballon d’Or in 1999. Rivaldo Rivaldo

SYLVINHO (2004-2009)

Signed from Celta Vigo in 2004 and went on to win three La Liga titles, as well as two Champions Leagues in 2006 and 2009. He played the full match in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final, ahead of the suspended Eric Abidal. Sylvinho Sylvinho

EDMILSON (2004-2008)

Played a key role during the 2005-2006 season under Frank Rijkaard, winning La Liga and Champions League trophies. After a poor final season at the club, Edmilson’s contract was not renewed and he signed for Villarreal. Edmilson Edmilson

MAXWELL (2009-2012)

The Brazilian moved from Inter on a five-year deal in 2009 – and played an integral role in the club’s league triumph when Abidal was injured. He struggled to establish himself as a first-team player and left for PSG after three seasons, winning nine pieces of silverware. Maxwell Maxwell

THIAGO MOTTA (2001-2007)

Signed for Barcelona as a 17-year-old and played six seasons at the club. Despite winning two La Liga titles and a Champions League, Motta was curtailed by injuries during a large part of his time at the club. He left for PSG in 2007  - where he continues to line out as a solid midfielder - at the tender age of 34. Thiago Motta Thiago Motta

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