Manchester City target €57m Neymar swoop

The 21-year-old has long been linked with a move to Camp Nou, but the Premier League champions are increasingly confident that they can outbid the Primera Division leaders

By Greg Stobart

Manchester City want to make Brazilian superstar Neymar a €57 million marquee summer signing as they prepare to battle with Barcelona for the forward’s signature.

City directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain held talks with the Neymar’s representatives at Wembley on the night of England’s friendly against Brazil on February 6.

THE VIEW FROM BRAZIL

NEYMAR WORTH HIS WEIGHT IN GOLD
Luiz Alberto Moura | Goal.com Brazil

Neymar has long insisted that he is willing to stay at Santos until after the World Cup. The club are understandably willing to keep hold of a player of his undoubted talents, but also because he will be key to their marketing strategy in 2014.

Of course, Neymar is earning a considerable amount from sponsors himself. Eleven of them, to be precise, including underwear, shampoo and mobile phones. He also has a range of his own products, such as pillows, mugs and school notebooks. Indeed, 92% of his gross income comes from endorsements, with his Santos salary contributing just 8%.

Brazilian newspaper Diario de Sao Paulo suggested that Neymar earned £40m in 2012, while his father, Neymar Silva Santos, has stated that his son’s earnings will supported the next five or six generations of the family.

That came six weeks after City director of football Begiristain flew to Sao Paulo for initial talks with Brazilian club Santos over a big-money move for Neymar.

Santos hope to keep the 21-year-old until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but are braced for summer bids, with Spanish giants Barcelona also long-term admirers of the player.

As exclusively revealed by Goal.com in January, Barca have deployed right-back Dani Alves as a secret weapon to lure his compatriot to Camp Nou, something which the player himself recently confirmed.

And reports of a multimillion pre-contract deal between Barca and Santos refuse to go away, despite constant denials from all parties.

City, however, remain hopeful of striking a deal to bring one of the hottest properties in world football to the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League champions are looking for a marketable stellar signing and are also keeping tabs on Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract situation at Real Madrid – though the Portuguese himself stated that it would be very difficult to join the club due to his ties to United.

But Neymar appears a more likely possibility, not least because Begiristain has a strong relationship with the Brazilian’s father.

City also believe they have the financial muscle to outbid Barcelona both in terms of transfer fee and wages as the spiky relationship between the two clubs continues to simmer.

The Catalan giants are concerned that Soriano and Begiristain, former executives at Camp Nou, are looking to use their inside knowledge to target young players in the Blaugrana squad.

Now the two clubs are preparing to go head to head for Neymar, who has scored 70 goals in 133 games for Santos.

He is also the star of the Brazil national team having netted 17 times in 28 international appearances.

Berlusconi reveals Verratti interest

The AC Milan president claims he wanted Andrea Pirlo, to whom the Paris Saint-Germain starlet has been compared with, to remain at San Siro but was powerless to stop him leaving

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has expressed interest in signing Paris Saint-Germain starlet Marco Verratti.

The midfielder most recently hit the headlines by equalising in stoppage time during Italy’s 1-1 friendly draw with Netherlands, and has played regularly under Carlo Ancelotti in Ligue 1 this season.

“Verratti is a player that [Milan] are considering to buy,” Berlusconi told Sportsmediaset. “We need to see if the financial aspects [of any deal] are good enough for us to acquire him.”

Verratti has been compared to Azzurri icon Andrea Pirlo due to his fine performances in a Paris Saint-Germain shirt this term, and Berlusconi lamented the loss of the talismanic midfielder who left San Siro for Juventus on a Bosman transfer in 2011.

He said: “[The Pirlo transfer] was done behind my back. We brought in [Riccardo] Montolivo to replace the saddening departure of Pirlo.

“I did not want to sell him. I have put it behind me, but I wanted to be informed and I wanted to talk to him, but I have put it behind me.”

Milan are 11 points behind the Bianconeri in the Scudetto race this season in third, having surged up the table since mid-December.

Ibrahimovic: I'm the greatest behind Ali!

The Sweden international has joked he is ‘the greatest’ after the heavyweight boxer, and added he would be open to a move to the Bundesliga at some point in the future

Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has compared himself to former world champion boxer Muhammed Ali, but admits he is the behind the heavyweight fighter in the pecking order.

“I am the greatest!” he joked to Bild, before adding: “Wait, is that even possible? Alright, then I’m the greatest behind Ali!”

The Sweden attacker has been in fine form for PSG this season, scoring 21 goals in 22 Ligue 1 starts so far this season.

But the striker also admitted his interest in moving to Bayern Munich, should the opportunity arise.

Pep Guardiola will takeover at the Allianz Arena at the end of the season, and Ibrahimovic, who was signed by the former Barcelona coach during his time at Camp Nou, says he would be open to a move to the Bavarian giants.

“The Bundesliga is certainly a league that attracts me. One day, maybe I will go there,” he told 11Freunde.

“I still have a little time left in my career. If I chose to go to Germany, it would have to be Bayern Munich.

“For me they are one of the top five clubs in the world.”

The Sweden international has been criticised in the past for not remaining loyal to his employers, with his latest comments set to add fuel to that fire.

However, he believes moving across Europe has aided him in becoming a better person.

He added: “I’ve lived in five countries – Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and now France. I have learned to get to know new people and cultures.

“It has certainly made me more mature.”

Fiorentina admit interest in Borini and Osvaldo

The club’s sporting director Daniele Prade has revealed the club are looking at bringing in a natural goalscorer, though, he believes signing either player could prove difficult

Fiorentina sporting director Daniele Prade has admitted the club are interested in bringing Liverpool’s Fabio Borini and Roma’s Pablo Osvaldo to Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Despite signing Giuseppe Rossi in the January transfer window, reports of interest in striker Stevan Jovetic has led the Viola looking at attacking alternatives.

Borini and Osvaldo played together for Roma before the former moved to Anfield in the summer, and though Prade revealed the club’s interest in the pair, he admitted it may be difficult to lure them away from their current teams.

“We are looking for a forward with the hunger for goals. A player who lives to score goals,” he told Radio Toscana.

“We like Fabio Borini, but it is unlikely that Liverpool will want to let him go.

“Osvaldo? I do not think that Roma will want to strengthen a direct rival of theirs, but you can never say never.”

Vincenzo Montella’s side are currently sixth in Serie A, 13 points behind leaders Juventus; and are the fourth highest scorers in the league with 45 goals to their name.

Arsenal in talks to sign Amorebieta, says agent

As revealed by Goal.com in January, the Premier League outfit are interested in the 27-year-old centre-back but will now have to wait until the summer after failing last month

Arsenal are in talks to sign Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta on a free transfer at the end of the season, according to the player’s agent.

Goal.com exclusively revealed on January 31 that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger hoped to bring the centre-back to the club in January, along with Nacho Monreal.

Arsenal failed to agree a deal before the transfer window shut, but are seemingly still keen to recruit the player following the conclusion of his contract at the end of June, although his representative Gines Carvajal has revealed they face competition from a number of other clubs.

Carvajal told Izvestia: “We have had some contacts with Anzhi [Makhachkala], they were ready to make a good offer, but my client wants to play in England, so the transfer to Russia was not possible.

“We are in talks with Arsenal, he could join them in June.”

The 27-year-old has played over 250 games for Bilbao, and looks to join Fernando Llorente, who has agreed to join Juventus, in leaving the club on a Bosman at the end of the season.