Barcelona Plotting to Hijack Move for Liverpool Target and World Cup Goalscorer

Liverpool could see their pursuit of Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri hijacked this summer as La Liga champions Barcelona join the race for his signature, according to reports in Spain.

The Stoke City winger is expected to leave the bet365 Stadium after he returns from World Cup duty, where Shaqiri has already hit the headlines for a controversial celebration after scoring the winning goal against Serbia on Friday.

Serbia v Switzerland: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

It was reported that Liverpool were the favourites for his signature as manager Jürgen Klopp looks to bolster his attacking options ahead of the new season.

But a report from Don Balon suggests that Barcelona will rival the Reds in the hopes of landing Shaqiri after the World Cup.

Barça are said to be evaluating the future of Ousmane Dembélé this summer but recent reports suggest that the France international will remain at the club next season. 

The club’s hierarchy are, however, eager to bring in competition for places in their attack in a bid to further Dembélé’s development. Although Don Balon continues by suggesting that Shaqiri is being eyed as an alternative to second choice striker Paco Alcácer.

A number of names have been floated around but Shaqiri is now believed to be one of Barcelona’s top transfer targets, largely thanks to his rumoured £13.5m release clause.

But the 26-year-old has already expressed his desire to stay in the Premier League next season, insisting that he is perfectly suited to life in the top flight of English football.

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“I think the [Premier] League is perfect for me,” Shaqiri told Aargauer Zeitung ahead of the World Cup. “I would love to stay in England but I don’t want to rule anything out. It’s the best league with the best players.”

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Sticking the Boot In: Emmanuel Petit Claims Lionel Messi ‘Is Not a Leader Like Cristiano Ronaldo’

?Former ?Arsenal and ?Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit has claimed that Lionel Messi lacks the same leadership qualities possessed by rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Writing for ?Paddy Power, Petit discussed his feelings towards Messi’s performances at the ?World Cup so far, saying: “It was shameful to watch them. To see Messi walking with his head down, he should be ashamed.

“I don’t feel sorry for him, either. When things don’t go well for him, he’s always down on the pitch, he shows no reaction.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia'Argentina v Croatia'

“He’s not a leader. He’s no Ronaldo in that regard. Messi is one of the best players ever, but he needs to show that mentality.

“He needs to wake up! When things go well with ?Barcelona he’s a terrific player. We’ve seen it in the ?Champions League though, when things don’t go well, he can disappear on the pitch. He’s not there anymore. 

“He’s not running, he’s walking. He’s not concerned about the ball. Come on man.”

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Despite his criticism of Messi, Petit believes that he is not solely to blame for Argentina’s lacklustre displays. 

“The whole team’s body language was so poor, they’ve no confidence and no trust between each other. The way they looked, I cannot see Argentina qualifying now.

“It would be a shame to see them qualify, because against Iceland they looked terrible with no inspiration.

Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

“The manager, Jorge Sampaoli, has made so many mistakes since the start of the tournament, in choosing his team, making substitutions, just everything.

“You remember so many Argentina teams with great players in the past, but this team is so far from those. I’m not that surprised though, I’ve been saying it since before the World Cup that there was no chance they would win it because of that defence.”

Argentina find themselves bottom of Group D, and need a victory over Nigeria to have any chance at qualification. Even with a victory, Argentina will also be watching Iceland’s clash with Croatia, knowing that a convincing win for the Icelandic side could eliminate Argentina, regardless of their performance. 

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Real Madrid Enter Battle With Barcelona & PSG to Sign Chelsea Star Who ‘Supported Them as a Boy’

??Chelsea will face significant competition in their efforts to keep N’Golo Kante at Stamford Bridge this summer, as a whole host of European superpowers are queuing up to sign the two-time Premier League winner.

?Le Parisien reports that Real Madrid are in pole position to make the 27-year-old their “new Makelele”, with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain also interested. Kante supported Real as a boy and a move to the Bernabeu would be a dream come true.

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PSG will not let this one go without a fight. They have identified Kante as the ideal successor to Thiago Motta and the French champions’ sporting director Antero Henrique travelled to London last week for talks with Chelsea about the possibility of doing a deal.

Barcelona have opted for a more passive approach, inviting members of Kante’s family to the Nou Camp for a game at the end of last season. They want to reinforce their midfield options after the departure of Andres Iniesta.

It’s a lot to take in for a player who was plying his trade in the French second division just five years ago. Kante’s meteoric rise took him to Leicester City, where he famously helped the Foxes win the Premier League, before repeating the trick at Chelsea the following season.

However, a disappointing 5th place finish in the league last season means that Chelsea will play Europa League football in 2017/18, and they may struggle to hold on to their prized assets, of which Kante is one.

Kante, who has played both of France’s matches so far at the World Cup, is contracted to the Blues until 2021.

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Report Claims Man Utd Will Use Paul Pogba in Swap Deal for Barcelona Midfielder

Manchester United midfield Paul Pogba could be used as a makeweight to bring Croatia international Ivan Rakiti? to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports in Spain.

The Barcelona midfielder has been at the top of United’s wishlist for some time, but Rakiti?’s contract at the Camp Nou will see him tied to the club until 2021 after agreeing to an extension last year.

Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

But a far-reaching report from Don Balon claims that Manchester United are so keen on bringing Rakiti? to the club that Pogba will be used as part of the deal to ensure they can sign the 30-year-old Croatian.

It is also claimed that manager José Mourinho’s relationship with Pogba is beyond repair, a key factor in the Frenchman’s rumoured exit.

Rakiti? was born in Switzerland and, as so many young players do in that country, came through the ranks at Basel. He moved to German outfit Schalke 04 in 2007 for just £4m, and the midfielder went on to join Sevilla four years later for just £2m.

It was in Andalusia where the Croatia international became a household name for fans across Europe, with Rakiti? going on to make 149 appearances for Los Nervionenses where he scored 32 goals and claimed 41 assists.

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He eventually moved on to Barcelona for £16m in 2014, and the midfielder has made over 200 appearances for the Blaugrana. Rakiti? is also a vital part of the Croatia national team, who most recently secured a 3-0 win over Argentina at the World Cup.

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Cesc Fabregas Questions Cristiano Ronaldo’s Impact at World Cup Amidst Lionel Messi’s Struggles

Cesc Fabregas has questioned the true impact of ?Cristiano Ronaldo at the ?World Cup as he jumped to the defence of a besieged Lionel Messi following Argentina’s disappointing performances in Russia. 

The ?Real Madrid striker has struck four goals so far for Portugal but Fabregas, who failed to be named in Spain’s squad this summer, has insinuated that his chances have been served to him on a platter.  

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia'Argentina v Croatia'

And whilst Ronaldo is making the most of his chances, the ?Chelsea midfielder claimed Messi is struggling to match his output due to having the weight of Argentina’s hopes on his shoulders as he weighed in on the debate surrounding the two greatest players currently in the game.

“These days, Cristiano Ronaldo has a very different role for Portugal, he mainly stays up front and you no longer see him running all over the pitch,” he wrote in a column for ?BBC Sport.

“He is one of the big names in Russia who has made a strong start to this World Cup, in terms of goals, with four so far.

“Yes, he is playing well, but if you really look at what he has done, he has scored one penalty, one free kick, one goal from a corner and one with a shot that David De Gea should have saved. 

“You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals. You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.”

Fabregas also looked to praise his former ?Barcelona teammate who has been unable to flourish amidst a troubling time for Argentina which has resulted in a draw with Iceland and a defeat to Croatia, leaving their hopes of qualifying for Last 16 hanging on a thread. 

He added: “It was a similar story for Messi against Croatia, but it was not all his fault. As I said in my TV analysis after Argentina’s defeat, they look like a broken team.

“So it is has been really difficult for him. He does not have the quality in behind him, when he needs someone who can help him build up the play.”

Argentina must come out as victors in their final group game against Nigeria on Tuesday if they have any chance of progressing, whereas Portugal need only one point against Iran on Monday to guarantee their spot in the knockout stages. 

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