Neymar to stay at Barca 'for life' claims Roberto Fernandez

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Manchester United have expressed their interest in signing Neymar.

Brazilian forward Neymar will remain at Barcelona “for life,” according to the club’s technical director Roberto Fernandez.

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The 23-year-old underlined his status as one of the best players in his team last season when he scored 43 goals in all competitions as Barcelona won a Primera Division, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.

Neymar is tied to the European champions until June 2018 and Barca recently expressed their intention to reward the Brazil international with a new and improved deal that would reportedly make the player the second highest paid at the club after Lionel Messi.

“We are currently working on Neymar’s contract extension and I don’t think there will be any type of problem,” Fernandez said, as reported in Marca.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Neymar will spend the rest of his life at Barcelona.”

Neymar was linked with Manchester United this summer, with reports in England claiming the Red Devils were prepared to spend £240 million – £130m on the player’s buyout clause and the remainder on tying him to a long-term contract at Old Trafford.

The Brazil captain had been a target of United’s city rivals Manchester City and Chelsea two years earlier but the player opted to join Barca instead in the summer of 2013 when he moved from Santos.

Neymar has been even more important this season with Messi having hit the sidelines for a couple of months because of a knee injury.

Neymar has four goals in six La Liga appearances in the current campaign.

Barcelona know they must be patient and not bring Messi back before he has fully recovered.

“We cannot rush with Messi,” Fernandez said. “I’m certain that the predicted eight weeks of recovery will be met.

“I don’t believe one should ever force the recovery of a player.”

Barca have been marred by injuries, with Brazilian midfielder Rafinha ruled out for six months with knee ligament damage and captain Andres Iniesta sidelined with a hamstring problem.

“Injuries appear and we need to face them,” Fernandez said. “It’s part of the game.

“We could have had a better pre-season and unlike this summer, I don’t think next year we will go on a tour.”

To complicate matters for Barca, they cannot field their two summer signings – former Sevilla right back Aleix Vidal and ex-Atletico Madrid midfielder Arda Turan – until January, when a transfer ban imposed on the club by FIFA expires.

The punishment was handed down after the club breached rules regarding the signings of underage players.

Fernandez has not ruled out making further reinforcements in the winter transfer market.

“We have time to think what we want and if we need someone, which his the most important thing,” he said. “We are looking because it’s our duty to do so.

“The winter transfer market is never easy.”

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#360view: Villarreal rebuke notion of 'two team' competition

Andy West 6/10/2015
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Villarreal boss Marcelinho gives his players the thumbs up.

An unusual feature of last weekend’s action in La Liga is that none of the top six teams managed to win.

In addition to Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat at Sevilla and the all-square Madrid derby, leaders Villarreal lost at Levante, Celta Vigo were held at home by Getafe, and Deportivo La Coruna shared the spoils with Granada.

That set of results serves as a rebuke to anybody who believes La Liga is a ‘two-team’ competition and it is not the first time this season that the major powers of Barca and Madrid have dropped points.

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Barca, indeed, have now lost two consecutive away games after suffering a 4-1 thrashing against Celta, while Madrid have been held to frustrating goalless draws by Malaga and newly-promoted Sporting Gijon.

Taking advantage of the big boys’ slow starts, Villarreal find themselves in the unexpected position of first place – they could, indeed, have been four points clear heading into the international break if they had won at lowly Levante on Sunday afternoon.

That 1-0 defeat is a frustrating case of what-might-have-been for the Yellow Submarine, but they can still enjoy their place at the top of the pile for at least another fortnight.

Villarreal certainly weren’t expected to start the season so well, because they endured a disruptive summer which saw all four of their strikers depart: Giovanni Dos Santos (now at LA Galaxy), Ikechukwu Uche (Tigres), Luciano Vietto (Atletico Madrid) and Gerard Moreno (Espanyol).

However, manager Marcelino recruited a new batch of frontmen to fill the gap, and their rapid success has paved the way for a strong start.

Former Rayo Vallecano striker Leo Baptistao is showing signs of revitalising a career which appeared to have headed into an early decline, Roberto Soldado is back in the goals after an unhappy spell with Tottenham, and Cedric Bakumbu has made an instant impression after joining from Bursaspor.

Marcelino has also added youthful energy to his midfield, capturing Samu Castillejo from Malaga and Denis Suarez from Sevilla, and it all adds up to create a vibrant and entertaining attack-minded team.

Of course, they probably won’t stay in first place for long, but challenging for the top four looks within their grasp – especially if this new and more competitive version of La Liga continues.

 

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Benzema questions Benitez tactics after Real's Madrid derby draw

Andy West 6/10/2015
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Benzema and Benitez talk.

Rafael Benitez is coming under fire amid criticisms Real Madrid were too defensive in Sunday’s derby draw with Atletico Madrid.

Los Blancos took an early lead through Karim Benzema but then lost the initiative as Atletico fought back to claim a point through Luciano Vietto’s leveller.

Fans and media have expressed frustration at Benitez’s reluctance to push for a second goal, and goalscorer Benzema, without directly saying so, hinted that he shared that dissatisfaction.

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The French striker netted an early header for his sixth goal of the season, becoming La Liga’s leading scorer in the process, but he then endured a quiet evening as the team’s safety-first approach starved the forward line of service.

Benzema was clearly unhappy to be substituted for Mateo Kovacic in the final stages – the fifth time in six league outings he has been hauled off – and he shrugged: “It’s up to the manager. I am there to help my team-mates.

“I will continue to work hard so that he doesn’t replace me. He took me off because of the scoreline, to make us more defensive.

“It’s difficult when the opposition stays back. In the second half we were all behind the ball too.”

However, one of Benitez’s decisions that has gained widespread acceptance was the selection of Casemiro in the centre of midfield.

The 23-year-old Brazilian first moved to Europe two years ago when he joined Los Blancos from Sao Paulo, but he initially struggled to break into the team and was allowed to join Porto.

 

After an excellent season in Portugal, however, he returned to the Bernabeu this summer and the trust he has rapidly gained from his manager was evident when he was named in the starting eleven as Benitez switched to a 4-3-3 formation.

Casemiro’s powerful performance helped his team establish control over possession, and Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos were the only Real players to have more touches of the ball.

Afterwards Benitez reaffirmed his faith in his summer signing and dismissed suggestions that Casemiro’s selection was a surprise, pointing out: “He has already played in other games. When there are aerial battles he helps us, and he knows what to do with the ball. He is a very valuable player and capable of performing in any game.”

The hosts nearly had all three as they finished strongly and Jackson Martinez demanded a superb save from Keylor Navas.

And manager Diego Simeone feels his team’s finish deserved victory, even though Navas’s penalty save from Antoine Griezmann was their only shot on target before Vietto pounced.

“The feeling is that we lost two points,” said Simeone. “We had more chances than Real, especially with the penalty.”

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