Barcelona in talks with 32-goal striker Jonas, agent confirms

The Camp Nou side have made a move for the 32-year-old in their hunt for attacking reinforcements, his representative has revealed

Barcelona have entered talks over signing Benfica striker Jonas, as their search for attacking reinforcements continues.

The 32-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2015-16 campaign, scoring 32 goals in 34 outings to help Benfica to the Primeira Liga title and his performances have seemingly not gone unnoticed in Catalonia.

Barca have also been linked with Atletico Madrid attacker Luciano Vietto as they look to sign a forward to deputise for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

“Someone dealing on behalf of Barcelona approached us at the end of last season,” Jonas’ representative Tiago Goncalves told Globoesporte.

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“We were obviously quite flattered, because it was recognition that Jonas had a spectacular season.

“When a club are interested in signing someone, they have to act quickly because negotiations take time to reach their conclusion. A transfer could be difficult because there has not been any contact since the initial approach.

“I want to make it clear that Jonas is very happy at Benfica and feels beloved here. Barcelona’s approach is a reward for what he did at Benfica. But a transfer would only be an option if both Benfica and Jonas are happy with it.”

Former Valencia striker Jonas has a contract with Benfica until June 2018.

Fantastic Matuidi is in my plans, says Emery

The PSG coach has backed the midfielder to stay at the Parc des Princes despite competition for places in that department and the arrival of Grzegorz Krychowiak

Unai Emery says he wants Blaise Matuidi to stay at Paris Saint-Germain, despite speculation he could leave the club this summer.

Some reports have suggested that Emery is not a fan of the 29-year-old, and the midfielder even travelled to England to discuss his future during France’s Euro 2016 campaign.

However, the Spanish coach claims he is looking forward to working with Matuidi and insists he has a part to play at PSG next season, irrespective of the summer signing of Grzegorz Krychowiak.

“Matuidi is a fantastic footballer and he belongs to PSG,” Emery told reporters in a conference call as part of his side’s participation in the International Champions Cup. “He joins up later because he played the last game, the final of Euro 2016, with the French national team. We’re waiting for him. I’m waiting for him to come back.

“He is a great footballer and logically I don’t want to dispense with great footballers.

“A situation that is spoken about is that there are a lot of midfielders and that there could be a situation in a given moment that the player could leave, but of course, I as coach am behind him and as the coach, I’m waiting for his return to the team. The circumstances could change that, but in principle, it’s not what I want.”

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Emery moved to the Ligue 1 champions from Sevilla in the summer and is now working with former Netherlands, Barcelona and Ajax striker Patrick Kluivert, a surprise appointment as director of football at the Parc des Princes.

“The relationship with Patrick Kluivert, ever since he signed, has been fluid,” the Spanish coach said.

“He is here with us in this training camp in Los Angeles and he is permanently in contact because he is at the training sessions and the lunches with all of the team and we speak about how to cover the needs of the team.

“And a man like Patrick Kluivert, with great experience as a footballer, as a coach and as a football man, the truth is that the conversations we have about football, about players and about how we want to see the team, are very positive.”

Emery leads PSG into three prestigious friendlies over the coming days, starting against Inter on Sunday before meetings with Real Madrid and then Leicester in the International Champions Cup.

“We are going to be up against teams of the highest calibre and who will provide a real challenge and will give us an idea of where we are,” he said. “I think they are special games for the fans. They are preparatory matches which have an element of excitement and motivation for the two teams involved, and for the fans to be able to see how their team is looking in this competition.”

And on Leicester’s achievement of winning the Premier League, he added: “What Leicester did gives them a place among the top teams, it gives them a place in this competition. And it’s through their own merit: to win the Premier League with the consistency they had against such strong teams says much for the great job they did.”

The 44-year-old coach also outlined his ideas for PSG next season, with a strong emphasis on intensity and organisation.

“I believe that what the team needs to have is pressing,” he said. “I want a team with good order, that’s well organised to be able to carry out good pressing, but pressing with an objective in mind, with the objective that on the pitch there’s a control from that pressing and that the movement of the ball is for PSG.

“That’s the objective: to be able to press effectively, have the ball and have that protagonism towards the opposition goal.”

A star is torn? Keeping Mahrez must be Leicester's top priority

Sheer belief instilled by Claudio Ranieri went a long way to securing the club’s first Premier League title, but losing the Algerian would be a disaster


The phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ became synonymous with Leicester City as they romped their way to the Premier League title last term. But if we take that at face value, then we have to assume that replacing a few of the cogs that make up the Foxes machine wouldn’t cause much of an issue.

Team spirit, work ethic, fitness and so on are generally the buzz words and phrases that spring to mind when people are asked about the fairytale that was the club’s maiden English league title, but there’s more to it than that.

Pull the leg off a fly and it’ll buzz away into the sky, but remove it’s wings? For Leicester City, Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and, most importantly at this juncture, Riyad Mahrez, were and are the club’s wings.

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Kante is gone and Claudio Ranieri’s side are feeling the void. The Italian was right when he said the only thing new midfield signing Nampalys Mendy has in common with Kante – certainly at the moment – is that they share the same starting position. 

Mendy may grow into a world beater like his countryman, but there’s a long way to go before he hits the same heady heights.  Yes, he has only played one match so far and it’s harsh to judge, but given how Ranieri had to reposition the new acquisition with orders from the sidelines throughout the match against Celtic, it’s clear that he will take time to gel.

It’s true that Leicester have strengthened in other areas, with new striker Ahmed Musa looking sharp if not quite on the same wavelength as his team-mates yet, new goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler looks comfortable already and former Real Madrid youth Luis Hernandez appears tidy enough at centre-back.

And while Ranieri said in the build up to the International Champions Cup clash that the Foxes lost Nigel Pearson and Esteban Cambiasso before the start of last season and improved so much that they won the league, neither of those figures come close to offering the same output as one Riyad Mahrez.

Half fit and wandering up and down the line in typical almost lazy-looking style, the Algerian was once again the difference as Leicester defeated the Scottish champions at Celtic Park. There was no Dirk Kuyt-style pressing, just sheer brilliance when it was needed. 

Time and again Mahrez found himself in the right place at the right time – and if his team-mates were half as naturally gifted as the 25-year-old is, the numerous through-balls and crosses that he delivered would have been goals.

But, not first the first time, it was left up to the Algerian to make a difference. Moments after the second half began, a haring run was followed by a cut inside which allowed Leicester’s gem enough time to curl a sumptuous effort into the top corner.

Celtic went on to find an equaliser from the unlikeliest of sources in centre-back Eoghan O’Connell, but the damage was already done. Mahrez’s beautiful strike was enough to see the game through to penalties and an eventual win for the Premier League champions.

It’s performances like Saturday’s that make it imperative Leicester do everything in their power to hold on to their wing king. Players like Vardy, Kante and Mahrez are what makes a team great – players who can produce that little bit of magic to make the difference.

Claudio Ranieri simply cannot gamble on another star in the shape of the Algerian being born again next season. If Leicester are to continue their glorious fairytale, Mahrez must stay. 

Maradona 'hurting' as Higuain closes on Juventus move

The Argentina legend insists the striker is not to blame but believes the Napoli fans will be hurt by the striker’s sale

Former Napoli star Diego Maradona says he is “hurting” at the prospect of Gonzalo Higuain joining Juventus.

Widespread reports in Italy on Saturday suggested the Argentina striker is poised to move to the Serie A champions after they agreed to meet his release clause of just over €94 million.

The staggering sum would make Higuain the second most expensive transfer in history, behind Gareth Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid for €100m in 2013.

Italiano | Castellano Mi dispiace che Higuain vada da una rivale diretta come la Juventus. Ma non si può neanche dare…

Posted by Diego Maradona on Saturday, 23 July 2016

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said this week that the pursuit of the striker was “a lost battle”, given that Juve general director Giuseppe Marotta had himself stated that they would not trigger the release clause.

However, with the 28-year-old reportedly having undergone a Juve medical in Madrid on Saturday, Napoli fans led a minor protest against De Laurentiis outside the club’s training base, furious at the prospect of losing last season’s Serie A top scorer to their title rivals.

And Maradona, who inspired Napoli to two Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup, feels supporters are being overlooked by “those fat cats of business” – though he said Higuain himself is not to blame.

“This Higuain affair is hurting me because he is going to a direct rival like Juventus,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “But we cannot blame the player either.

“A player has a responsibility to himself and it is those fat cats of business that are grinning the most in this case. Nobody thinks of the fan.

“I’m tired of saying that today it seems to be more important to be a good businessman than a good president. This did not happen in my time. Too bad that FIFA continues to sleep.”

Higuain’s predicted move is likely to accelerate rumours surrounding Paul Pogba, with Manchester United reported to have reached an agreement with Juve to sign the France international for a world-record fee of close to €120m.

'I hope Ranieri is right' – Albrighton unsure of Mahrez stay

The Algeria international and Premier League winner has been heavily linked with a mega-money move to Arsenal in recent days but his team-mate hopes that such talk is false

Leicester City’s Marc Albrighton is hopeful Riyad Mahrez will stay at the club amid a storm of speculation around the Algerian attacker’s future. 

Mahrez has been heavily linked with a €50 million move to Arsenal, a rumour that both the player’s agent and manager have since denied.

Regardless, the Algerian is hot property after his exploits with the Premier League champions last season and Albrighton is hopeful that talk of a summer move is false.

“Hopefully what the manager says is right,” the Foxes’ number 11 said after their International Champions Cup win over Celtic. “You like to hear the likes of Riyad and Vards [Jamie Vardy] are staying and want to continue what we keep achieving. 

“A player of his quality is always going to attract attention from other clubs and the media are only going to keep that up, which you can understand, but as far as Riyad’s concerned he’s a level headed guy and he does his talking on the pitch – he proved that today.

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“You want to keep all your best players. Obviously N’Golo [Kante] we can only thank for being there last season and helping us to what we achieved. He was outstanding on and off the field, a great guy and as players we wish him all the best for the future.”

Leicester have signed a number of reinforcements since Kante’s exit to Chelsea, most notably midfielder Nampalys Mendy and striker Ahmed Musa, and Albrighton has lavished praise on the new faces.

“Musa looks sharp, quick – he likes to stretch defences. I don’t think he had too many chances to do that today but I think with the games that are coming this pre-season he’ll have plenty of opportunities. 

“He’s a player that’ll excite the fans from what we’ve seen already – he’s one to look forward to.

“Mendy’s the same in the middle. He dominated the first half, got himself on the ball, didn’t look out of place, didn’t shy away from the ball – he wanted it. He made some good passes at times which we need with N’Golo gone. I thought he was brilliant.”