Manchester City’s football development executive Patrick Vieira rates Raheem Sterling highly and believes the club’s interest in signing the Liverpool forward is understandable.
City have already had two offers – the latest worth £40 million (Dh231m) – rejected but reports suggest they are preparing a third for the England international.
Liverpool value the 20-year-old, who still has two years remaining on his current deal but has refused to sign a new £100,000-a-week (Dh578,000) contract, at £50m-plus (Dh289m).
And while some have criticised that valuation Vieira is a fan of the youngster. “I think if you go down and ask 10 people what they think about him, I think nine would give you a positive answer,” Vieira said. “I would be part of the nine people because he’s shown how good he is, how well he’s been doing at Liverpool.
“If he is in the market, not just City would be interested in him. “But that’s the first team and I’m not part of the first team, I work with the academy so I’m just giving you my opinion.”
It has been suggested to me that £35.5m represents City’s last bid. Would already make Sterling world’s most expensive teenager
— Ben Smith (@BenSmithBBC) June 17, 2015
Vieira also believes the loss of their Premier League title honour to Chelsea last season should be viewed in context.
“The target of the football club is to always try to win the Premier League title. You only have one team who can win it,” he added.
“Chelsea won it last year, so that means United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool were not going to be happy, but I think what is important is to analyse the situation and analyse what the club has achieved in the past four years. If you analyse the last four years, it’s been more successful than anything else.
“Don’t forget that four or five years ago, the club wasn’t at that level. I think the journey of the club so far has been fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool are keeping a close eye on the Copa America as they pursue their interest in South Americans Roberto Firmino, Carlos Bacca and Salomon Rondon.
Liverpool’s new signing Roberto Firmino. http://t.co/oaPb1ReyfF
— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 24, 2015
The club have a delegation at the tournament in Chile as they look to bolster their summer recruitment. Manager Brendan Rodgers is keen to bring in another forward and the £32.5m (Dh187m) release clause of Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke is considered too high.
Therefore he has turned his attention to Bacca, who scored 28 goals in La Liga last season, and Rondon, a Venezuela international who has 20 goals in 39 matches for Zenit. The club believe both represent better value for money, with reported fees of £20m (Dh115m) and £15m (Dh86.6m) respectively.
Firmino’s agent Roger Wittmann has already confirmed he is destined for the Premier League, while the 23-year-old, when asked about his future yesterday, said: “It is in the hands of God.”
Parma will drop into Serie D, the top tier of Italy’s amateur leagues, after administrators received no takeover offers prior to yesterday’s deadline.
Parma ended a nightmarish 2014/15 campaign bottom of the Serie A table having been deducted points on several occasions for the club’s failure to pay players and staff as they sunk into the financial doldrums.
They were declared bankrupt in March and went into administration pending the search for investors to take over the club and pay off a €22.6m (Dh94.2m) debt. Despite automatically dropping into Serie B, the club’s failure to find a buyer mean they are set to fall into Serie D.
American-Italian Mike Piazza (r) and Italian Giuseppe Corrado were reported to be heading separate takeover bids in recent days. But Corrado walked away from talks on Sunday night, and Monday morning La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Piazza had also ended his interest.
“It is with great sadness and regret that I have to announce the end of talks to purchase Parma FC,” said Piazza.
It is a spectacular fall from grace for the club, whose former players include Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Lillian Thuram and Hernan Crespo, and punched above its weight to challenge for the Scudetto in 1996/1997, finishing two points behind champions Juventus.
During their 1992-2002 heyday, Parma claimed seven trophies including two UEFA Cups, three Coppa Italias, a European Super Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Joan Laporta will end Barcelona’s sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways and restore children’s charity Unicef to the team’s playing shirts if he wins this summer’s presidential election at the Nou Camp.
Along with the announcement that hugely popular former defender Eric Abidal will be his technical director, the proclamation that Unicef will be given pride of place was the centrepiece of Laporta’s first press conference to kick off his campaign on Monday.
Laporta served as Barca’s president between 2003 and 2010, enjoying a huge amount of success on the pitch before being forced to leave the post after completing the maximum possible term and being succeeded by Sandro Rosell.
But Rosell was forced to resign last year after finding himself accused of helping the club to evade tax during the signing of Neymar from Santos in the summer of 2013.
Although Rosell was replaced by his deputy Josep Maria Bartomeu, who will be Laporta’s main opponent in next month’s election, the Neymar scandal is just one of many controversies to have dogged the current regime’s time in power.
Barca have also been hit by a transfer ban from FIFA after breaking regulations on the signing of youngsters from overseas, and many fans have been dismayed by the Qatar Airways sponsorship deal, which was signed in 2010 for around €30m (Dh125m) a year.
Laporta has repeatedly criticised that commercial partnership – the first time the club has adopted a paid-for sponsor – and with the contract expiring next year, appears in no mood to extend it, should he win the election on July 18.
All the statements from Joan Laporta’s speech [via Sport] pic.twitter.com/khSBnfWjPZ
— Selección (@toocule4you) June 22, 2015
Laporta said: “We want Unicef back on the front of the Barca shirt. It has lost its meaning on the back of the shirt. The club has many other ways of generating revenue. It is a matter or values. I want to rescue the values of our club.”
Making it clear that he is perfectly prepared to use the criminal allegations levelled against his opponent Bartomeu, Laporta added: “The choice is between a Barca in the courts with Rosell and Bartomeu, or Unicef and those that are clean.”
And Laporta’s populist campaign struck another significant blow with the news that Abidal will be a central part of his plans.
The French defender became an iconic figure for the club’s fans after successfully battling through cancer during his playing days at the Nou Camp, and many supporters were appalled by Rosell’s failure to give him a new contract when he left the club in 2013.
His inclusion in Laporta’s team could prove a decisive factor in the campaign, with the Frenchman given specific responsibility for reviving the fortunes of the club’s La Masia youth academy, which has seen its previous regular supply of first-teamers dry up in recent years.
Midfielder Rafinha is the only regular member of the current senior squad to have progressed through the youth system in the last three years, and Abidal said: “We want to return to producing players like Iniesta, Messi and Xavi.”