Brazilian legend Ronaldinho retires from football, says his agent

Ronaldinho retires from professional football, as relayed by his brother Roberto Assis
Image Source: AFP

Ronaldinho, Brazilian football icon and World Cup winner, has retired from his long-standing football career, as confirmed by his brother and agent, Roberto Assis, on Tuesday. The 37-year-old veteran, best known for his performances in Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, was an indispensable member of the Brazil team that snagged the victory against Germany in the 2002 World Cup.

The legend has also won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006 and is a recipient of the Ballon d’Or (2005). His last professional stint was with Fluminense in 2015 since when he has not played for a professional team ever since.

According to The Guardian, Roberto Assis relayed his brother’s decision in a column of a Brazilian media outlet, O Globo, and divulged plans for the anticipated farewell tribute after the 2018 World Cup. Assis stated that they have scheduled multiple events post-August 2018 in Brazil, Europe, Asia and a dedicated event for the Brazilian team as well.

Ronaldinho was notoriously versatile in his football career and shone as a midfielder, forward and winger. His illustrious career began with Gremio in his hometown Porto Alegre, before his move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2001.

He spent five glorious years with Barcelona from 2003 to 2008 and logged three seasons with AC Milan between 2008 and 2011. Thereafter, he returned to Brazilian teams like Flamengo and Atletico Mineiro.

A season with Queretaro in Mexico was followed by his ultimate return to Brazil’s Fluminense with whom he played seven times before ending his contract before the fruition of his term. The football icon recorded the last of his 98 Brazil Cups in April 2013 against Chile.

Sources: Guardian, NDTV

Catalan mayors disobey Spanish courts ahead of Independence vote

On September 16, 2017 more than 700 mayors from Catalonia assembled in Barcelona on Saturday to state their support for a planned independence referendum which Madrid has declared to be illegal.

The Catalan government has plans to hold a referendum for self-rule for the affluent north-eastern region on October 1, 2017. These plans have a strong opposition from the government which has challenged the vote in the Constitutional Court.

Despite warnings by Spanish prosecutors, the Catalan mayors met with Catalonia’s regional head Carles Puigdemont to show their defiance. The prosecutors had warned in the previous week that officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with abuse of office, civil disobedience and misuse of public funds.

On September 13, 2017 the Spanish prosecutors had summoned more than 700 Catalan mayors for questioning after they said that they would permit municipal spaces to be used for voting. If the mayors did not respond to the order, the police could arrest them as per the order.

Assembling in Barcelona’s downtown, the mayors gave speeches in front of hundreds of protesters waving pro-Independence flags, assuring continued support for the referendum.

Sources: Reuters, Euronews

Barcelona loosen purse-strings for Dembele

When this transfer window began, purists from all around the globe declared that the end of football as we know it was swiftly approaching. The beautiful game was finally dead, and football had lost all pretence of being anything other than a business. The last nail in the coffin was to be hammered in by Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé, who was being courted by the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City in early June for a sum of £125 million, an amount that was deemed extravagant for an unproven 18-year-old.

Since then, the record transfer fee has been shattered by Neymar’s £222m move to Paris Saint-Germain, which in turn allowed Barcelona to snap up Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembélé for £138 million. The French forward had an exceptional year with Dortmund in 2016-2017, racking up 10 goals and 20 assists prior to his move to Spain.

In the two-month period between the opening of the transfer window and the announcement of Neymar’s move, a transfer fee of £150m seemingly went from being ludicrous to entirely reasonable. Considering the fact that Dortmund bought Dembélé from Rennes for just £12m in 2016, it seems unlikely that Dembélé is currently ten times better than he was a year ago. However, Barcelona’s signing of Dembélé was still hailed by many as a statement of intent, highlighting their determination to invest in youth and potential.

The ‘true value’ of a footballer has always been subject to swift and significant change, and transfer records have been broken time and again. It defies belief that just 21 years ago, Alan Shearer became the most expensive player in the world after his £15m move from Blackburn to Newcastle, a measly one-tenth of the amount splurged by Barcelona on Dembélé. If you were to factor in the inflation rate in England from 1996 to 2017, Shearer should be worth around £26m today, a full £9m less than what Liverpool paid for the famously inept Andy Carroll in 2011.

With the steadily increasing influx of money from record breaking television deals, sponsorship payments and the sales of merchandise and tickets, transfer prices are bound to increase over time. The implementation of Financial Fair Play by UEFA may curb some of the excessive spending that exemplified football in the 2000s, but we are now at a point where a club can pay £150m for a 20-year-old and still be praised for doing good business.

Barcelona terror attack: a dreadful day for Spain

Spain is mourning over the death of 13 people, who were killed in a terror attack that took place in Barcelona on Thursday, August 17. More than 100 people were severely injured in this attack.

Though ISIS has taken responsibility for this terror attack, the authorities still have to confirm it.

The fatal event began in the evening when a van rushed through the crowd on the Las Ramblas avenue, a popular tourist spot of Barcelona. The driver escaped the scene, but a police manhunt for him continues, reported the Guardian.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called this attack an act of jihadi terrorism.

Later, a second attack took place in a coastal town Cambrils which is around 120 km from Barcelona. In this six bystanders and one police officer were injured.

Post this attack, police officers shot dead five suspects, some of whom were wearing what appeared to be explosive belts. Authorities have claimed that both the attacks are linked. Police have taken two suspects into custody, although neither of them is the driver.

These attacks are also being linked to an earlier explosion that destroyed a house in Alcanar, killing one person and wounding at least one more

Sources – CNN, The Guardian 

Asensio fires Madrid to fourth trophy of the year

Real Madrid defeated Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeau, in a late-night kick-off on Wednesday winning 2-0 (5-1 agg.) to become the Spanish Super Cup Champions for the tenth time.

It was one-way traffic right from the start, and Madrid drew first blood as early as the fourth minute when Marco Asensio pierced the net from 35 yards out with a screamer that left Barcelona goal keeper Ter Stegn glued to his feet. Karim Benzema heaped misery on the Cules as he slotted home a left footed finish around the 40th minute.

When the team sheet was drawn cynics raised their brows over Zinedine Zidane’s team selection, as he chose to rest Gareth Bale, Isco and Casemiro, while only Luka Modric returned to the thick of things. Lucas Vasquez along with Asensio were put in to stretch and inject pace in midfield while Mateo Kovacic along with Toni Kroos anchored at the centre of the park.

Ernesto Valverde’s decision to go with a three-man back line with Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Umtiti backfired and soon Sergi Roberto was pushed back from his midfield role.

Madrid pressed high, which unsettled a midfield without Iniesta and the defense was too brittle and disorganized to contain the attacking prowess of the Whites.

Messi was the only live wire for Barcelona, but lack of support from his partner Luis Suarez did not help the cause. There was intent to get on the score-sheet but Keylor Navas pulled off two fantastic saves, one from Messi and the other from Suarez to maintain a clean-sheet.

Both teams start their league campaign on Sunday as Madrid will travel to Deportivo whereas, Barcelona would host Betis at Camp Nou.

News Sources- Marca.com, The Guardian 

Neymar all set to move to St.Germain from Barcelona

Iconic Brazilian striker Neymar skipped training session with Barcelona in light of his decision to inform the club about moving to French Club Saint-Germain in a blockbuster deal of $263 million. Just eight months back, Neymar had signed a deal with the Spanish Club in which the terms of his buy out deal was raised to more than double which itself was a historical act. He was also signed to retain contract with Barcelona till 2021 as per the deal. Barcelona also confirmed Neymar’s actions by an official statement referring to the same.

The Brazilian who had joined the club in 2013 had scored 105 goals for the club and had helped them retain a string of trophies including a coveted Champions league crown along with two league titles. While Barcelona had already been looking for replacement for the striker by zooming on star players like Ousmane Dombale (Dortmund), Coutinho (Liverpool) and Paulo Dybala (Juventus).However, Javier Trebas, president of National Football League has stated that the move would violate Financial Fair Play rules of UEFA and the league will not accept payment from Saint-German Club. Interestingly, UEFA had stated that no such complaint had been received so far and they, at the moment, are not planning to block the deal, and are willing to look into details of the issue.

 

News Sources- ANI, LiveMint 

Luis Enrique announces decision to resign at the end of the season

In a post-match conference after Barcelona’s 6-1 victory over Sporting Gijon, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique announced his decision to step down at the end of the season. Enrique’s contract expires in the summer, and he has cited the demanding nature of his job as the reason for his resignation.

Enrique took on the role of manager after Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s premature departure in 2014, and led Barcelona to a historic treble at the end of his first year in charge, winning the Champions League, the La Liga and the Copa del Rey. FC Barcelona replicated their domestic success in the Spaniard’s second season at the helm, and also won the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.

The Blaugrana manager’s announcement has been supported by club authorities, who were informed of the decision during pre-season preparations. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu issued a statement of support, saying “Luis Enrique has brought us great success and he can still bring us more. The players are motivated to do it. We accept Luis Enrique’s decision. He has been a great coach. Now it is time to end his spell in the best possible way.”

Enriique has assured supporters that his dedication for the job will remain unchanged. Barcelona are currently competing in three competitions, and while they have a strong chance of winning the La Liga and the Copa del Rey, progress in the Champions League seems like an arduous task. The Catalan giants travel to Paris on the 8th of March, and will attempt to overturn a 4-0 first-leg defeat.

Sources: 1] Marca

2] ESPN