Bartomeu: Vilanova not to blame for Neymar tax case

The Barca chief was interpreted by some as suggesting the legal proceedings are the late coach’s fault, but he insists his words have been twisted

Bartomeu: Vilanova not to blame for Neymar tax case

Josep Maria Bartomeu has hit out at those who have suggested he was blaming the Neymar tax case on deceased former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova.

The Barca president is facing a potential prison sentence if found guilty of misdemeanours with regards to the financial aspect of Neymar’s transfer in 2013 and a video of Bartomeu addressing public prosecutor Judge Ruz emerged on Friday showing him saying it was Vilanova’s idea to bring forward the move by a year.

That led to claims Bartomeu was pinning the blame on the coach, who died of cancer in April 2014, but the Barca supremo is claiming his words have been twisted from their original intentions.

“It’s a wrong interpretation to say I was blaming Tito,” he said. “I don’t like people playing with Vilanova’s name. I’m disappointed and we are against those who want to tarnish his reputation.

“Sandro Rosell carried out the signing as he was the most known in Brazil. The coach asked us to make sign him as soon as possible and that is how we could sign Neymar one season before.

“Tito is not responsible of anything, just of bringing Neymar to Barca. And that is great, as we are pleased the player is here.”

The quotes Bartomeu was referring to were spoken at a hearing in February and Cadena Ser published a video of the Barca chief’s explanation.

“We spoke to our coach, who at that time was Tito Vilanova, and he asked me and the then president Sandro Rosell if we could bring forward the signing of Neymar by one year as he felt that the team needed a player with his characteristics,” Bartomeu said in legal proceedings with Judge Ruz.

“He wanted to make the signing in 2013 instead of bringing him over in the summer of 2014. The plan was for Neymar to finish the World Cup in Brazil and then move to Barcelona but we wanted to carry out the wishes of the coach.

“Rosell, had a good relationship with his father, spoke to him and we saw how they’d forged a deal to bring him to Barcelona a year ahead of what was originally scheduled.

“The coaches don’t get involved in the price of players. He told us that he only had one match-changing player and wasn’t interested in keeping David Villa. He wanted Villa to leave and that we’d sign Neymar as a striker.

“If Neymar coming wasn’t realistic we’d stick with David Villa who had another year left to run on his contract. We understood the needs of the coach; this happened in New York in February 2013.”

Bartomeu then went on to reveal that Rosell was the one who eventually made the deal happen, stressing he did not play any role in the transfer.

“In this case as it was a Brazilian player and, as Sandro had lived there, he knew the market well, so it was Sandro Rosell who dealt in all negotiation with Neymar’s father.

“Did I get involved with any negotiation with Santos or Neymar’s father? No, no. At no point.”

It’s football, not UFC – Neymar angered by rough treatment

The forward was the victim of several strong tackles on Sunday but one of the alleged offenders says the 23-year-old was guilty of “theatre”

It's football, not UFC - Neymar angered by rough treatment

Neymar accused Chile of employing “UFC” tactics after he was on the end of some rough treatment during Brazil’s 1-0 friendly victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Roberto Firmino’s 72nd minute strike was enough for the Selecao to extend their winning streak to eight matches, but the major talking point was Gary Medel’s stamp on Neymar.

The Inter midfielder appeared to tread on the Barcelona star during a first half altercation, but escaped without caution, much to Neymar’s dismay.

“This wasn’t a game of football,” he said. “It’s meant to be football not UFC. The referee is there to stop these things from happening, but there were four referees and none of them saw anything!

“It seems we have to suffer. I am a sufferer!”

Medel, meanwhile, rejected the post-match protests of the 23-year-old in a scathing response on Twitter, in which he accused him of “theatre”.

“Tackles are normal in a game. Some players do theatre, others play football … it’s a pity that not everyone gets on with the game.”

The victory means Brazil boss Dunga has won every game since taking over from Luiz Felipe Scolari following last summer’s World Cup.

Isco: Don’t compare me to Iniesta

The former Malaga star has urged people to stop comparing him to the Barcelona midfielder and is determined to become a household name himself

Isco: Don't compare me to Iniesta

Real Madrid midfielder Isco has admitted he is growing tired of the comparisons with Andres Iniesta, even though he feels honoured to be likened to the Barcelona man.

The 22-year-old, who joined Madrid from Malaga in the summer of 2013, has drawn comparisons with his fellow Spain international due to his style of play, yet he is determined to become a big name himself.

“It is an honour that people are comparing me to Iniesta because of everything that he has achieved,” Isco said at a press conference.

“But, and I have said this before, I do not like these kinds of comparisons. Andres is Andres and I am Isco. I am a different person and player.

“I want to etch my name into the history books myself, both at club and international level.”

Isco went on to stress that he is a good relationship with Iniesta and is happy to play alongside him with the national team.

“I get on with Iniesta very well. It is very easy to get along well with him, just like with all players at the national team.”

Henry: Messi was treated differently for his infamous handball

The ex-Arsenal and Barcelona star is still bitter he was so heavily criticised for the role he played in France earning a spot at World Cup 2010

Henry: Messi was treated differently for his infamous handball

Thierry Henry says the reaction to his infamous handball against Republic of Ireland was unfairly hysterical, claiming that when Lionel Messi was involved in a similar incident, he was labelled “a genius”, whereas it was if he had “killed someone”.

The former France international used his hand to control a cross during the second leg of his country’s 2010 World Cup qualification play-off with the Irish in Paris before teeing up William Gallas for a goal that saw Les Bleus book their berth in South Africa courtesy of a 2-1 aggregate win.

Henry was vilified for his perceived dishonesty both by the press and his peers but he pointed out that former Barcelona team-mate Messi did not have his character called into question after scoring with the aid of his hand in a game against Espanyol in 2007.

“You are talking about people I spent so many times on the pitch with,” he told Canal Plus.

“I just said to them, ‘Yes, it was hand, I’m sorry.’ And you know what? They told me: ‘We don’t blame you.’

“I saw Liam Brady, the Arsenal legend, and he asked me: ‘Did you touch it with your hand?’ And I answered, ‘Yes, it was my hand.’ I spoke to the press that night. I could have ignored them but I didn’t.

“I spoke honestly – it was a reflex. A reflex by a competitor, just like when you reach out for the ball on the line when your goalkeeper is beaten.

“When I see Messi scoring against Espanyol, diving to touch the ball with his hand, people say, ‘What a genius, now he is closer than ever to Maradona.’ But when it was me, it was like I had killed someone.”

Henry also dismissed the suggestion that his decision to leave Barca for MLS outfit New York Red Bulls just six months after the handball incident was in any way influenced by the flak he received in his native France for the alleged act of poor sportsmanship.

“I have always wanted to go there [to the United States],” the Arsenal icon added.

“Anyone who knows me would tell you that. Also, to escape what? To escape who? I wanted to go as soon as 2009, but I didn’t because I kept playing with the national team. That is total rubbish.”

Robinho: I didn’t know about my Man City move until the last minute

The 31-year-old moved to the Premier League in a £32.5 million deal in 2008 but admits that he was unsure which team he was going to play for prior to his transfer

Robinho: I didn't know about my Man City move until the last minute

Former Manchester City forward Robinho admits he didn’t know he was joining the club until the “very last minute”.

The 31-year-old arrived from Real Madrid in £32.5 million (€44m) deal on deadline day in 2008 but had also been linked with a switch to Chelsea, who were then managed by former Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Robinho spent only 16 months at City before returning to Santos on loan but insists he valued his time in the Premier League.

“I remember that there was big expectation,” Robinho told City’s official website.

“I knew I was going to play in England but I didn’t know for which team and I was very happy when I found that I had the opportunity to play for Manchester City.

“It was on the very last minute but with me it has always been like that.

“It was really important, a team that opened doors for me. It was a big transfer. At that time City didn’t have many big players in their team but it is a club that have a lot of love and respect.”

Trophy or bust for Ancelotti as Madrid board prepares Zidane for top job

The Madrid coach is on borrowed time, and only a major trophy will be enough to keep him in a job beyond this season

Trophy or bust for Ancelotti as Madrid board prepares Zidane for top job

“It is necessary to make changes from time to time, even in times of success,” said sporting director Jorge Valdano the day after Real Madrid had won a 29th La Liga title in 2003. That was the club’s explanation for sacking coach Vicente del Bosque after a trophy-laden three-and-a-half years in charge.

That day has lived long with many observers of the Blancos. The heartless severing of ties with a man who, only 12 months prior, had led them to a second Champions League in three attempts left critics denouncing Florentino Perez’s reckless pursuit of glory, while fans developed a detached relationship with every new coach thereafter. They know that Bernabeu bosses are kept on a short leash.

It is against this backdrop that Carlo Ancelotti’s future is now being discussed with increasing fervour.

Only 10 months ago Ancelotti became the first Real Madrid coach to win a Champions League since Del Bosque and, as recently as December, led them to the world title on the back of 22 straight victories. But now the Italian looks set to be dealt with just as harshly as the current Spain boss unless his side’s form changes dramatically before the season is out.

“Anything that is not a victory seems like a crisis at Real Madrid,” former Blancos boss Juande Ramos told Goal.

“Three months ago, they won the Club World Cup after 22 wins in a row, and it seemed they were gods. Three months later things have turned a little and it seems they are despised.

“It’s what comes with the territory of that job. But there is no doubt that Carlo Ancelotti is a great coach and has enough experience to steady the ship.”

But regardless of Ancelotti’s experience, Sunday’s defeat to Barcelona in the season’s second La Liga Clasico leaves the capital club four points adrift of the Catalans at the top of the table, with their poor form in 2015 having also affected their status as favourites to lift the European title.

The very real possibility that the club could end the season with no further silverware means the club are already thinking of Plan B. There will be no mercy shown to Ancelotti unless the Champions League or La Liga is added to the bulging trophy cabinet.

Goal sources at Real Madrid have confirmed that no amount of second place finishes will be enough. Indeed it was only Sergio Ramos’ last-minute equaliser in last year’s European final which kept Ancelotti in a job. Defeat to Atletico Madrid in Lisbon would have seen the Italian shown the door and the same stipulations stand in 2015.
While Perez attempted to appease fans at a press conference recently, he failed to confirm that Ancelotti will be back in charge for 2015-16. Sources close to the club believe the president had more selfish motives behind that appearance since he had also been whistled by fans at the 4-3 home defeat to Schalke in the Champions League days earlier.

For his part, Ancelotti is considered too much of a soft touch by Perez and the Madrid board. Which is ironic, as previous boss Jose Mourinho was felt to be too dominant a character. While the players are huge fans of the Italian, reiterating their support for him whenever possible in media interviews, there is no such compassion held by the directors. The backing of the squad will only buy their coach time if they are collecting trophies on the pitch.

Victory at the Camp Nou might have been a lifeline, but the 55-year-old admitted his side had run out of ideas late in the game. And a similar shortage of clear direction over the rest of the campaign could well open the door for Zinedine Zidane.

The French legend is rapidly heading to the top of the wanted list having served as Ancelotti’s number two in 2013-14 and taken charge of Real Madrid Castilla this term. Perez remains a huge fan of the former World Cup winner following his five-year spell with the club as a player, and is willing to give him his first job in senior coaching sooner or later.

The 42-year-old wasn’t among the list of considerations when Jose Mourinho left the Bernabeu two years ago, with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Joachim Low joining Ancelotti on the shortlist. Yet his increased hands-on experience in the intervening period, combined with a lack of outstanding candidates elsewhere, leave the former Ballon d’Or winner and three-times Fifa World Player of the Year as a clear favourite for the role.

Only victories will save Ancelotti now. Either an overhauling of Barcelona’s La Liga lead or a first ever back-to-back Champions League triumph is needed to keep the wolves from the door. He may have made a rod for his own back by collecting four major trophies in 2014, but Madrid’s standards have always been notoriously high.

It’s win or bust from here on in for the Italian.

Mourinho: We couldn’t cope with PSG… now we must win the Premier League

Jose Mourinho admitted that Chelsea “couldn’t cope” with Paris Saint-Germain after his side were knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday evening, but insists the Blues cannot dwell on their disappointment.

Mourinho: We couldn't cope with PSG... now we must win the Premier League

The French champions – who had Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off in the first half – twice came from behind to draw 2-2 and progress to the quarter-finals on away goals, and Mourinho was dissatisfied with the way his side failed to nullify PSG’s threat.

“Of course, we had the game in our hands twice but I think the opponent was stronger than us,” he told Sky Sports. “They coped better than us with the pressure of the game. I think with them at 10 men we felt the pressure of winning even more.

“They had nothing to lose, they just played their game. We couldn’t cope with that. We conceded two goals from set-pieces where the organisation is clear, where the markers have to decide and the players in the zone are the same. We conceded two goals that were difficult to accept.”

Mourinho, though, says that Chelsea must now turn their focus to the Premier League as they attempt to win the domestic title.

“I told my players as I always do that it’s not after the match that I kick tables and doors,” he added. “It’s time to be calm and analyse the team because we have a game on Sunday and we have to win the Premier League.

“We are playing to win the Premier League and we have more matches to play.”