Yaya Toure Insists That Rafael Marquez Was ‘Ten Times Better’ Than Gerard Pique at Barcelona

Yaya Toure has insisted that Rafael Marquez was ten times better than former teammate and current Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

Marquez made over 240 appearances for Barcelona between 2003 and 2010, winning plenty of silverware in the process, including two Champions League trophies and four La Liga titles. He recently hung up his boots after making history at the 2018 World Cup by becoming only the third player to have played in five separate tournaments.

In an appearance on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Toure was asked to put together his ‘ultimate XI’ from the players he had played with during his illustrious career, which included significant spells at ?Barcelona and ?Manchester City.

The team was rather bizarre, featuring a unique 3-1-6 formation that accommodated no less than five strikers, and there were plenty of omissions from Toure’s days at Barça that didn’t go unnoticed. 

One player who didn’t feature was ?Pique and, when questioned about Marquez’ inclusion over the Barca veteran, Toure was happy to explain his decision, stating, as quoted by talkSPORT: “Marquez was a tough defender. I don’t think people remember him because he didn’t play in England.

“But maybe if you want to remember him, go to YouTube and you check Rafael Marquez, Barcelona, No 4, what a defender.

Gerard Pique

“He was 10 times better than Gerard Pique. Ten times better. Believe me. He was so so good. If you watch him on YouTube, you’ll see. I’ve been in love with him.”

Toure also opted to leave out the likes of Victor Valdes, Ronaldinho and Xavi, all of which achieved tremendous success during their time at Camp Nou.

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Pep Guardiola Resigned to Missing Out on Frenkie De Jong as PSG Near Agreement

?The Frenkie de Jong transfer saga appears to be nearing a resolution, with multiple reports indicating that Paris Saint-Germain are confident of signing the young Dutchman soon.

Manchester City and Barcelona were both strongly linked with De Jong as well, but PSG have reportedly stolen a march on their rivals as they seek to replace Adrien Rabiot, who they are hoping to offload before the end of the month.

Both ?Paris United and ?AS are reporting that a deal for De Jong is imminent. It is believed that he will move for a transfer fee of around 75m and will earn 8m in his first year, with that wage increasing annually over the course of a five-year contract.

In contrast to PSG’s optimism, Pep Guardiola appears resigned to missing out on De Jong. ?Manchester City want to sign a defensive midfielder as Fernandinho’s long-term replacement, but they will be forced to look at other options instead.

“If you are the only one who want players it’s easy,” Guardiola said, quoted by ?Goal, who still seem to believe that ?Barcelona are favourites for De Jong’s signature. “But if you want one and many, many clubs want him it’s more complicated.  

“You have to be quicker and more efficient. The club knows it will be more expensive for everybody and it is what it is. But I’m not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player.”

Pep Guardiola

De Jong assured Ajax fans last week that he intended to stay at the club until the end of the season. The Amsterdam side are still in the Champions League and the Eredivisie title race, so they don’t want to lose one of their best players.

Whatever happens, ?Mundo Deportivo claims that Ajax want to clear things up before returning to Eredivisie action on Sunday. One way or another, a decision is near.

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Philippe Coutinho: Why Barcelona Should Stand by Him Despite a Difficult First Year at the Club

?It was meant to be the move of his dreams when Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool to join Barcelona in January 2018 for £146m, although a year on from the transfer, things haven’t quite gone according to plan for the Brazilian.

After a promising start to his career in Catalonia during the second half of last season, netting ten goals and providing six assists, the 26-year-old has found his first full season more problematic, with recent reports suggesting he could even leave the club.

Despite his well-documented struggles this season, ?Barcelona simply have to stick with the Brazil international, who will come good given both time and backing. 

UEFA Champions League'FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur FC'

Compared to last season’s impressive tally, Coutinho has amassed just six goals and five assists across all competitions this campaign, with the ‘Little Magician’ repeatedly criticised for his inconsistent displays, while continual comparisons to club legend Andres Iniesta and confusion regarding his best position – left wing or centrally – clearly haven’t helped. 

To compound matters further, the attacker has become somewhat of a bit-part player under Ernesto Valverde this season, starting just ten ?La Liga games due to the boss reverting back to Barca’s more conventional 4-3-3 as opposed to the 4-4-1-1 Coutinho impressed in last season, coupled with the return to form of another recent big-money signing in Ousmane Dembele.

Philippe Coutinho

It has led to speculation regarding Coutinho’s future at the club, ?if Manchester United’s interest is to be believed, which as unlikely as it is, highlights his current standing at Barcelona which has clearly diminished compared to that of a year ago upon his arrival. 

Despite recent struggles, his time at ?Liverpool before his move to Barca points to keeping hold of Coutinho, especially judging by his numbers for the Merseyside club:

Philippe Coutinho’s Liverpool Goal and Assists Output (all competitions)

?Season Goals? Assist? ?Total
?2012/13* ?3 7? ?10
?2013/14 ?5 8? ?13
?2014/15 ?8 6? ?14
?2015/16 ?12 7? ?19
?2016/17 ?14 9? ?23
?2017/18** ?12 8? ?20

*joined Liverpool on January 30 2013

**left Liverpool on January 6 2018

Whether that was due to a positional change or the change in management style from Brendan Rogers to Jurgen Klopp, Coutinho’s creative output continually improved the longer he remained at Liverpool, and was on course for his best season at Anfield before his subsequent move. 

If Coutinho also wants to look for signs that his time at a big Spanish club will work out, then Luka Modric of Real Madrid is an ideal case study. 

After being voted MARCA’s worst signing of the 2012/13 season following his move from Tottenham, the Croat has since become a three-time Champions League winner and La Liga winner, as well as being the latest recipient of the prestigious Ballon d’Or, due in part to his performances for Los Blancos. 

An extraordinary example yes, but the similarities in playing style between the two, as well as initial struggles, suggest that Coutinho’s future at Barcelona is far from a lost cause, because of the immense talent the diminutive playmaker possesses and the phenomenal fee the club paid to land someone who was a long-term target.

Philippe Coutinho

While this season has largely been a disappointment for the former Liverpool and Inter man, it has provided moments that Blaugrana faithful can look on with promise, as Coutinho played a key part in an impressive 4-2 win against Tottenham, scoring a goal and providing an assist on the night – the only game this season he’s managed to do both.

More recently, his display during a 3-0 win against Eibar – which was his first La Liga start in five games – got people talking for the right reasons, with the Brazilian providing the assist for Luis Suarez’s opener from the left wing in ?what was a fine performance from him. 

Ruben Pena,Philippe Coutinho

At 26, it’s safe to say the best is yet to come from the attacker in a Barcelona shirt, who despite his difficult transition from Anfield to the Nou Camp is a talent too good to be discarded so soon. 

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Javier Hernandez Named on List of Potential Targets for Barcelona After Munir Departure

?In one of the more bizarre transfer stories you’ll read this January, West Ham’s Javier Hernandez has reportedly been named on a six-man shortlist of transfer targets for Barcelona, as they seek to acquire some short-term backup for Luis Suarez. 

Academy graduate Munir departed for Sevilla last week, leaving the Catalan giants short of an alternative number nine to step in for Suarez, and speculation has since gone into overdrive as to who they could sign as a replacement. 

Luis Suarez

One such possibility, according to ?Sport, is ?West Ham’s out of favour striker Javier Hernandez, who is currently out with a back injury. 

The precarious claim is that ?Barca are after an experienced striker who knows European football, and will be available on a short-term basis until the end of the season, and it seems Hernandez’s name has been thrown into the picture by the Spanish outlet because he meets these criteria. 

FBL-ENG-PR-FULHAM-WEST HAM

While it’s possible Barca could be looking at him as an experienced plan B to Suarez, however, the number of reasons it looks unlikely far outweigh the possibility of any transfer materialising.  

The 30-year-old’s best days seem to be long behind him, having only scored five goals in all competitions in an injury-ravaged season so far. Take into account the player’s Madrid connections, and the passionately unforgiving nature of the Barca faithful, and it looks like a bit of a stretch. 

Andy Carroll,Javier Hernandez

Fernando Llorente, ?Tottenham’s forgotten target-man, is another rumoured target, and looks a bit more likely, since he’s actually fit and has had substantial success in ?La Liga with Athletic Bilbao. 

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Transfer Rumours: Wilson to Wolves, Ndombele to Everton, Ake to Chelsea and More

We’re approaching the mid-way point of the January transfer window, and already we’ve seen a handful of completed deals, the early signs of a mid-season clear-out at Liverpool, and Manchester United, as ever, linked with an entire match-day squad of centre-backs.

Indeed, the window can move thick and fast, and as such, it can be hard to keep on top of even the confirmed happening, let alone the avalanche of rumours that emerges from the darkness around this time of year. 

With that in mind, we’ve thrown together a quick roundup of six rumours to have a look at today. 

1. Palace, Fulham and Huddersfield Among Interested Parties in USA Target-Man

Gyasi Zardes

Huddersfield have struggled desperately for goals so far this season, Fulham a little less so, but given each side’s woes throughout the first half of the season, it comes as no surprise to see them linked with some extra quality in the attacking third. 

TeamTalk have today claimed that both sides, as well as Crystal Palace and a host of Championship clubs, are interested in 27-year-old USA international Gyasi Zardes, who has scored 20 goals in 36 games for Columbus Crew in MLS.

At present, the talk is of a summer move for the versatile attacker, but whether Premier League  interest can inspire a January exit remains to be seen.

2. Everton Could Sell Idrissa Gueye to Finance Move for £75m-Rated Lyon Midfielder

Tanguy Ndombele,Stiven Mendoza

In one of the more outlandish rumours doing the rounds this afternoon, it’s reported that Everton could look to cash in on PSG’s interest in Idrissa Gueye, to raise funds for an ambitious move for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele. 

This one comes from the Daily Star, who cover a lot of ground, but the central theme is that Lyon want £75m for the player, and Everton could move on Gueye to fund a large part of any potential fee.

Manchester City, Tottenham, Barcelona and Real Madrid are also credited with an interest, with the former reported to have already had a £45m bid for the player rejected.

3. Wolves Enter Race With Chelsea to Sign Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-BOURNEMOUTH

Wolves are reported to be interested in signing Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, as they look for a proven goalscorer to challenge Raul Jimenez for a first-team place. 

Chelsea are widely thought to have earmarked the Cherries striker as a plan B to Gonzalo Higuain, and while the Birmingham Mail acknowledge that they remain favourites for his signature, they claim Wolves are now on the prowl for the 26-year-old and could rival the Blues’ efforts in securing him.

If Wilson does end up leaving Bournemouth this month, ten goals in 23 appearances in all competitions suggest he’ll be a decent addition wherever he lands. 

4. Real Madrid Send Scouts to Watch Genoa Starlet as They Seek Ronaldo Replacement

Genoa CFC  v Atalanta BC - Serie A

Over in Spain, it seems Real Madrid are still kicking themselves for failing to sign a viable replacement for Ronaldo in the summer, and are keen to act on that with a move for Genoa’s free-scoring Krzysztof Piatek.

With 13 goals, he’s the second top scorer in Serie A (to Ronaldo’s 14, ironically) and AS report his antics so far have piqued the interest of Real, who have had scouts closely monitoring him in recent weeks.

In all competitions, it’s 19 goals in 21 appearances so far for the 23-year-old. Not a bad return all things considered.

5. Nathan Ake Could Return to Chelsea as Blues Consider £40m Buy-Back Clause

Nathan Ake

In what could represent one of the worst bits of financial business since Manchester United lost almost £100m on Paul Pogba, Chelsea are reportedly considering meeting a £40m buy-back clause to secure the return of Nathan Ake, just two years after they sold him to Bournemouth for half of that. 

Whether or not the clause actually exists is of course up for debate, but the Sun claim it does, adding that Chelsea see £40m as a price worth paying for a player they perceive to be one of the best defenders in the league. 

He already has the haircut to replace the out of contract David Luiz should he depart in the summer, and as a composed, ball-playing defender, he fits the Maurizio Sarri mould to a tee. 

6. Barcelona Want Fernando Llorente as Back-Up for Luis Suarez

Manchester Unitied v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

To round things off with a nice weird one, Barcelona are considering bringing in forgotten Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente, as they seek an experienced alternative to Luis Suarez.

The 33-year-old, who moved from Swansea 18 months ago to act as Spurs’ plan B to Harry Kane, has managed just 36 minutes of Premier League action this season, and reports in Spain (via the Daily Mail, granted) claim that he could be in contention for a return to his native country with the La Liga leaders.

You can’t imagine there would be a lot more firs-team football on offer at the Nou Camp, but a high-profile return to La Liga to wind down his career might prove to be just the ticket for the target-man.

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