Barcelona director ‘makes decision’ on selling Raphinha

Barcelona sporting director Deco wishes to see Raphinha remain at the club, a report has claimed, despite rumours linking the winger with a move away.

The Spanish giants will be in need of sales this summer if they are to avoid further financial complications, leaving many to suggest an exit for Brazilian star Raphinha – with the club previously tipped to consider a sale if the right deal arises.

However, SPORT suggest that Deco does not wish to part ways with the player, even if prohibits the purchase of fresh talent.

The report goes on to say that Deco, who served as Raphinha’s agent before joining Barcelona, does not want to force the Brazil international to move to the Saudi Pro League, where clubs are ready to offer hefty sums for the winger.

DecoDeco

Deco has a huge influence at Barcelona / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Should Raphinha remain with Barcelona, questions will remain over his role. He managed just 17 starts in La Liga last season, with Xavi instead favouring the emerging Lamine Yamal in his position instead.

The 27-year-old remains under contract at Camp Nou until 2027 and has regularly made it clear he does not want to leave.

Without selling Raphinha, Barcelona will be unable to finance a move for another winger, with Athletic Club’s Nico Williams said to be the preferred target if sufficient funds can be raised.

Raphinha is currently away preparing for Copa America with Brazil, after which there could be further conversations about his future. New manager Hansi Flick will be keen to speak with the winger and confirm his plans for the coming season.

READ THE LATEST BARCELONA NEWS, TRANSFER RUMOURS & GOSSIP

Albania score fastest goal in European Championship history

Albania’s Nedim Bajrami broke the record for the fastest goal in European Championship history after scoring in the 23rd second of their group stage encounter with Italy.

The Azzurri, the reigning champions heading into Euro 2024, were much-fancied for Saturday evening’s match at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund.

But they were dealt one heck of a sucker-punch with Albania, competing at just their second ever major tournament, taking a shock lead almost immediately from kick-off.

The goal came from a wasteful throw-in from left-back Federico Dimarco. He attempted to find centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, who was caught by surprise and pipped to possession by Bajrami, and he took one touch to set himself before unleashing a fierce strike past Gianluigi Donnarumma at the near post.

FBL-EURO-2024-MATCH04-ITA-ALBFBL-EURO-2024-MATCH04-ITA-ALB

Scenes of joy in Dortmund / ALBERTO PIZZOLI/GettyImages

Much of the 80,000-strong crowd at the Westfalenstadion were of an Albanian persuasion and the stadium rocked in jubilation as their country scored just their second-ever Euros goal, and one that proved to be a record-breaker.

Unfortunately for Albania, their joy was relatively short-lived as Italy equalised only ten minutes later. Bastoni atoned for his earlier error with a fine header from a Lorenzo Pellegrini cross to pull his side level.

Italy then took the lead through Nicolo Barella soon after as Albania’s task turned into a mighty uphill battle following such a promising start.

After Sunday’s game, Albania return to action on Wednesday against Croatia in Hamburg, while Italy play a day later against fellow heavyweights Spain in Gelsenkirchen.

READ THE LATEST EURO 2024 NEWS, PREVIEWS & PLAYER RATINGS

Man City looking to ‘blow up’ Real Madrid’s move for River Plate teenager

Manchester City are hoping to muscle in and snatch Argentine teenager Franco Mastantuono away from the clutches of Real Madrid, according to reports in Spain.

The 16-year-old has been extensively linked with 15-time Champions League winners Madrid since the turn of the year, with an agreement over a future transfer already mooted by some local media outlets.

Mastantuono has a £45m release clause in his River Plate contract – standard procedure these days for some of South America’s brightest young talents – but Madrid have not formally agreed to pay the figure to the Argentine giants.

Spanish publication SPORT report that Madrid have already agreed personal terms with Mastantuono’s representatives, with negotiations spearheaded by the club’s renowned head of scouting Juni Calafat.

But Manchester City are said to have entered the race at the 11th hour, in a bid to ‘blow up’ Madrid’s move, and are hoping to lean on their past dealings with River Plate in order to facilitate a transfer to the Premier League.

Julian AlvarezJulian Alvarez

Julian Alvarez joined City from River Plate in 2022 / Alex Livesey – Danehouse/GettyImages

City bought Julian Alvarez from River in 2022 – he joined prior to becoming a World Cup winner with Argentina – and he will be joined by Claudio Echeverri next year after a deal worth £15m was agreed at the start of the year.

Mastantuono could be next to follow, should City’s recruitment team spring into action, but it remains to be seen whether or not the player would prefer to move to the Premier League champions, or whether he’d like to join the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior at Real Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have targeted some of the best young players in the world in recent years, recruiting the likes of Bellingham, Vinicius, Eduardo Camavinga, Rodrygo and Aurelien Tchouameni, and have again struck gold to land Brazilian wonderkid Endrick from Palmeiras.

The diminutive forward will head to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer after turning 18, having potentially played a starring role for Brazil at this summer’s Copa America.

READ THE LATEST TRANSFER NEWS & GOSSIP FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Lamine Yamal smashes two European Championship records in Spain’s demolition of Croatia

Lamine Yamal is now the youngest player in the history of the European Championships to feature in a game and provide an assist.

At the age of 16 years and 338 days, Yamal shattered two records as Spain beat Croatia 3-0 in their first group stage game at Euro 2024. He is the only 16-year-old to ever play at the tournament.

The Barcelona winger’s place in La Roja’s starting lineup proved to be deserved too, coming up with the assist for their third goal of the day.

Spain broke the deadlock through Alvaro Morata, who was fed by a smart pass between the lines from Fabian Ruiz. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder got on the scoresheet himself soon after when he danced away from Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic before firing home from the edge of the box.

Croatia seemed content to get into half-time at 2-0 down, only for Spain to score with one final attack. A short corner routine allowed Yamal to step inside and put the ball on a plate for Dani Carvajal to tap in at the near post.

Daniel Carvajal, Lamine YamalDaniel Carvajal, Lamine Yamal

Carvajal gave credit to Yamal for the assist / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Yamal could have added another record to his collection after half-time when he missed a glorious chance to score, with goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic denying him with a low save when one-on-one.

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente withdrew Yamal with just under five minutes of regulation time remaining to a warm ovation from the small contingent of La Roja fans inside the Olympiastadion.

Yamal and Spain will return to Euro 2024 action on Thursday evening when they face holders Italy in Gelsenkirchen.

READ THE LATEST EURO 2024 NEWS, PREVIEWS & PLAYER RATINGS

The age of Jamal Musiala is here – let’s have some fun

Unlike certain other countries, Germany aren’t really viewed as an over-confident footballing nation – any arrogance they do possess has been well earned over the last half-century.

They have also been on the end of some mighty humblings since they won the 2014 FIFA World Cup though, dampening their most recent spirits. Euros-fever hadn’t quite swept the country ahead of this summer’s championships on home soil, despite the appointment of Julian Nagelsmann as head coach vastly improving results and performances.

Perhaps there should have been more fanfare from Germany regarding the top-line talent at their disposal. The legendary Toni Kroos will hang up his boots once his Euro 2024 is over, Florian Wirtz is a €150m man in waiting, Antonio Rudiger remains one of the world’s best defenders.

That, somehow, is before you even get to Jamal Musiala, who deserves a spot much higher on Germany’s billing, particularly after his sensational 10/10 performance on opening night.

The versatile forward began Friday’s 5-1 win against Scotland in the tournament’s curtain-raiser on the right, but effectively played wherever he pleaded. For such a meticulous tactician like Nagelsmann and in a team with the likes of Kroos and Wirtz already in it, that’s quite a privilege to be afford.

Musiala more than delivered on his end of the deal. From minute one, he sought to run at Scotland, the ball seemingly glued to his right boot with the finest adhesive in all of Munich. He kept going, and going, and going. The Tartan Army didn’t have a defence for it. How could they?

Florian Wirtz, Jamal MusialaFlorian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala

Musiala and Wirtz both shone / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Alongside Musiala’s grace was his grit, his pirouette by his power. The ferocity of his goal, Germany’s second of a memorable night, was equal in its flair, swerving away on his tiptoes and finding a yard of separation before lashing a strike beyond the helpless Angus Gunn between the Scotland sticks.

Until his 74th-minute substitution, in which the Munich Football Arena rose to its feet and warmed him with the standing ovation he deserved, Musiala always found some way to torment Scotland, to excite Germany and to wow the neutral. At only 21, he could yet be a major figure in German football for another five or six tournaments even once this current one closes.

In many ways, Musiala is a throwback. In a pre-match VT, he claimed that he is often likened to Kaka, and that comparison certainly leapt off the screen later in the evening, such is his gracious blend of wizardry and elegant forcefulness.

But in the modern game, you also need the stats and tangible impact if you are to live at the footballing summit. Musiala just so happens to have that. 20 goal involvements for Bayern Munich in 2023/24, 32 the year prior, and now one already at Euro 2024.

With football on terrestrial television across Europe this summer, Musiala has a chance to cement his status as a household name. It’s a shame he doesn’t already boast that accolade already, but quality will always shine through – his time is now.

READ THE LATEST EURO 2024 NEWS, PREVIEWS & PLAYER RATINGS