Cesc Fabregas continues to be linked with an imminent return to the EPL as his class, ability to dominate the pace of the game and rotate into space while combining with those around him haven't gone unnoticed by other major European clubs. Despite not having reached the level of dominance he enjoyed at Arsenal, Fabregas' 3,336 minutes in 47 appearances made him one of the most-used players within the Barcelona squad in Tito Vilanova's first season in charge -- a clear indication of how highly he is trusted by the Catalan coach.
With the majority of the Barcelona news focusing on either transfer sagas or club politics, many seem to have forgotten that a considerable number of Blaugranas (eleven) are about to set the ball rolling at the Confederations Cup in Brazil. - Confed Cup Team Preview: Spain Let's be honest here: I still believe this tournament is yet another clever strategy which allows FIFA directors and national football federations to raise extra funds by ruining players' resting time while clubs pay their huge salaries.
El Periodico informs that Lionel Messi has been accused of dodging tax payments of around four million euros by the Catalan authorities. Unsurprisingly, given the player's impact on a global scale, the news seem to have hit every corner of the world. La Pulga's representatives were quick to react: "We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about the news, because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation.
Part 2 of my Blaugrana player ratings for the 2012-13 La Liga championship season. Click the links for Part 1 of the player ratings and the comprehensive end of season review. Thiago Alcantara, midfielder: 6 -- After struggling with injury in the earlier stages of the season, the La Masia graduate starting proving his freshness, vision and unique touch in midfield whenever given the chance. Thiago stat: 28 through-passes into the area in 36 appearances. Keep, loan or sell? Keep, ensuring the Hispano-Brazilian youngster progressively gets increasing playing time in order to fulfill his full potential as he is basic for the club's future.
As promised in my end of season review, here are my Blaugrana player ratings for the 2012-13 La Liga championship season. Victor Valdes, goalkeeper: 6 -- Performed to a decent standard all season but was clearly affected by Barcelona's defensive weakness, being faced by rival forwards on a one-on-one basis far too often. His irresponsible move to announce his irrevocable decision of leaving the Camp Nou a massive 18 months before his contract expires brought unnecessary drama upon the team during Tito Vilanova's absence.
With yet another exciting season having come to an end, it is time to look back and analyse what the Blaugranas have achieved since the ball started rolling back in August. A successful domestic season Newcomer Tito Vilanova famously replaced coach Pep Guardiola after his voluntary decision to swap coaching Barcelona for a stress-free sabbatical year looking around the streets of Manhattan. The club decided to only invest a combined 33 million euros in signing Jordi Alba and Alex Song to reinforce the team last summer, hoping that those two additions would be enough to cover the gaps in an already successful, high-quality squad full of world-class players.
Neymar's arrival at the Camp Nou is a welcome boost for Barcelona after a trying few months, but it will take more than the world's most feted young star sweeping through the door to eclipse all of their problems. Nobody is saying that they should scrap La Masia or the club's footballing philosophy, but in the nearly six-week period since the 4-0 hammering at Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal first leg, there has been some serious soul searching. In this period of reflection, Barca's transfer activity has come under intense scrutiny.
Barcelona achieved a comfortable 4-1 win against Malaga at the Camp Nou on Saturday in Matchday 38 of La Liga. David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Martin Montoya and Andres Iniesta scored for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 61 percent of possession, created 10 scoring chances and attempted 10 shots, six on target. The Deciding Moment – David Villa scored what could very well be his last goal for the Catalans after only three minutes: Great vision and accurate passing from Iniesta; an unselfish assist by Pedro from the wing after a clever, angled run; accurate finish by the Asturian forward on a typical Barcelona goal.
Football can be cruel at times. Having successfully defeated a liver tumour a couple of times and even managed to come back to a degree of fitness that will allow him to continue playing as a professional, the Barcelona directors decided it was time for Eric Abidal to leave the Camp Nou after six seasons defending the Blaugrana. Strictly speaking, the reasons the club decided to release the former France international are obvious: the 33-year-old has recently recovered from major surgery and the mere fact that the doctors have given him the green light to continue to play at this level isn't much short of miraculous.
Since Barcelona, Santos and the player himself all confirmed the agreement to join the Liga champions next season, Neymar-mania has invaded the Catalan capital. Despite the fact that his future shirt number at the Camp Nou hasn't even been confirmed yet, Cules have already flooded to the stores to be the first to have a piece of their exciting, talented new signing. Unsurprisingly, expectation around the 21-year-old forward is massive. Brazilian stars such as Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho have famously succeeded at the Camp Nou in the past, but I strongly believe that comparing Neymar to such legends wouldn't be of benefit to his career in the slightest.
Barcelona achieved a convincing 0-2 win against Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat in Matchday 37 of La Liga on Sunday. Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez scored for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 70 percent of possession, created 10 scoring chances and attempted 10 shots, four on target. The Deciding Moment – A mere 14 minutes after the opening whistle, Alexis Sanchez beat Cristian Alvarez after a highly skillful effort from the left wing. Barceona's traditional passing game enabled the Chilean to receive from a wide position, throw a diagonal run, combine with David Villa and finish with a calm, accurate strike which ended up unbalancing the game in the Blaugranas' favour.
The Catalan media are reporting that Barcelona and Santos have finally reached agreement on a fee for the transfer of Neymar to the Camp Nou next season. But the Brazilian club have also accepted a desperate last-minute bid from Real Madrid to hijack the transfer - so now it is entirely up to the player to decide his future. As happens whenever news of this sort hits the front pages, information is confusing at this stage - it varies according to where it is published. Generally speaking, it is believed the transfer fee would be €25 million, a couple of friendlies and a €7 million-a-year wage, and Los Blancos reportedly have offered €35 million to the club and an €11 million yearly wage to the player.