For all their failings on the pitch this season, at least Barcelona are getting things right off it (outside of the boardroom anyways). The club have just confirmed their new away kit for next season, and it’s sure to be a hit.
2019/20 passed by with little reason to cheer about, as a meagre defence of their La Liga title saw them concede the trophy to rivals Real Madrid at the conclusion of the campaign.
There is still a potential Champions League to be won, but before European football returns, supporters of the club will have chance to enjoy a welcome distraction with the club announcing the release of their new 2020/21 away kit.
It’s the club’s first black away strip since the 2011/12 season, featuring an elegant blend of gold logos and trims. Nike once again have produced the Barça kits for the coming campaign, having been with the Spanish football giants since 1998.
“Black and gold go really well together and the kit looks really sharp,” Gerard Piqué said of the new attire on the official Nike website. “It has been a few years since we have had black, so it’s a nice change to have it back.”
Scott Munson, vice-president of Nike Football Apparel added: “The energy on the ground in Barcelona is hard to match, as is its passion for the football club. I think these colors work really well to create a clean look that will have that crossover appeal and make it popular in the streets that inspired it.”
Their previous season donning black kit turned out to be a pretty fruitful one for La Blaugrana, who won four trophies – although they did finish runners-up in La Liga and beaten semi-finalists in the Champions League.
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Inter Miami – the newly formed MLS club owned by David Beckham – are keen on signing Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and have reportedly submitted an offer for the Uruguayan.
A long-term knee injury sustained in January disrupted Suarez’s 2019/20 season as La Blaugrana surrendered the La Liga title to bitter rivals Real Madrid. He did, however, remain prolific as he scored 19 times in 34 appearances in all competitions.
Signs of decline were certainly laid bare, mind, and it remains to be seen whether Suarez will extend his stay at the Camp Nou past the summer of 2021 – when his current deal expires – although it’s understood that he’s set on doing so.
The Uruguay international revealed that if he was to play 60% of next season’s matches, a one-year extension of his contract would be triggered.
Catalunya-based news outlet Mundo Deportivo, though, report that Beckham’s Inter Miami have opted to test Suarez’s resolve by submitting an offer to the striker. The MLS club not only thinks that he’d be a huge coup for his supreme ability on the field, but also because they believe the Uruguay star will be popular with Miami’s prominent Hispanic community.
Suarez’s compatriot Nico Lodeiro, who currently plays in the US for the Seattle Sounders, revealed in November 2019 of the Barcelona legend’s desire to play in MLS one day.
“Luis wants to come to MLS. He likes the league. He always asks me questions about it… I think it’s only a matter of time before he is here,” he said.
Nevertheless, it’s believed that Beckham’s Miami are desperate to add a marquee signing to their ranks this summer. Alongside Suarez, David Silva and Edinson Cavani have been touted as potential targets.
The newly established outfit made their debut in MLS earlier this year, losing their opening three games before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to their campaign back in March.
Barcelona are keen to part ways with Martin Braithwaite in the summer, just six months on from his controversial transfer to the Camp Nou.
The Catalan giants purchased the former Middlesbrough striker on an emergency transfer from Leganes in February, taking advantage of a La Liga loophole that enables clubs to make signings outside of the transfer window if they have a player ruled out with injury for over five months.
With Ousmane Dembele’s lengthy stint on the sidelines, Barcelona activated Braithwaite’s €18m buyout clause, but Leganes were unable to sign a replacement and were ultimately relegated on the final day.
However, his stay in Catalunya is not set to be a long one. According to Spanish news outlet Mundo Deportivo, Braithwaite is not in Barcelona’s plans for next season, and they plan to offload him in the summer.
The forward still has four years remaining on his deal at Camp Nou, but the club are plotting to loan him out or sell him permanently – with Barcelona demanding close to the €18m they paid Leganes for the Dane in February.
The 29-year-old has sensed that he is surplus to requirements at Barça for some time and his agent, Ali Dursun, has already begun seeking out a new club.
Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Sevilla and Osasuna have all been sounded out over a potential deal.
Braithwaite scored once in 11 league appearances for Barcelona, as the club blew their lead at the summit of La Liga and lost out on the title to rivals Real Madrid by five points.
Their campaign was plagued by behind the scenes turmoil, with feuds between Eric Abidal and talisman Lionel Messi, the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, the hiring of Quique Setién and the resignation of six directors.
Although Braithwaite is poised to be on the move, Mundo Deportivo add that Barcelona have no intention of selling teenage sensation Ansu Fati as he is an ‘essential’ part of the team. Manchester United reportedly bid €100m for the 17-year-old in June.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has received interest from both Chelsea and Bayern Munich while he considers extending his contract at Camp Nou.
Tying Ter Stegen down to fresh terms is one of Barcelona’s top priorities this summer. Talks have rumbled on for months, with the coronavirus shutdown making things harder than they already were, and there is yet to be an agreement.
As noted by Cadena SER, both Barcelona and Ter Stegen are interested in thrashing out a renewal, but given the difficulty in doing so, Chelsea and Bayern have lodged offers with the German’s representatives.
Barcelona have asked players to take pay cuts in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and Ter Stegen is believed to be slightly frustrated by that. When recently asked by reporters (via Marca) whether he planned to extend his contract, Ter Stegen bluntly responded “we’ll see”.
Barcelona are still said to be ‘more than optimistic’ about getting a deal done, but the added pressure of interest from elsewhere will be an unwanted obstacle to overcome.
How genuine the interest actually is is another question entirely. For Bayern, they still have club captain Manuel Neuer in their starting lineup, while young Alexander Nübel is seen as the future of the position, so there is nowhere for Ter Stegen to really fit in at the Allianz Arena.
Chelsea’s interest seems a little more plausible. The English media have already confirmed that the Blues are potential suitors of Ter Stegen, although the huge cost of any potential deal has stopped any real progress from being made.
It’s likely that Chelsea have simply thrown out an optimistic offer in the hope of actually getting lucky, but the focus remains on cheaper targets like Ajax’s André Onana, Manchester United’s Dean Henderson and Burnley’s Nick Pope.
One other unlikely target on the radar is Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, who has previously been described as the Blues’ preferred replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga. Like Ter Stegen, the problem with this one is the cost of the deal – with Oblak boasting a €120m release clause – and Christian Falk notes that Atléti are not concerned about losing their star goalkeeper.
Los Rojiblancos do not believe that Chelsea can afford a £80m deal for Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and a huge move for Oblak, and with the Blues still pushing forward with their pursuit of the German, it does seem more than a little unlikely that they will be able to afford the Slovenian as well.
A wise and pensive Michael Owen once said: “Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.”
He couldn’t have been more right. Football is a game of goals, and no matter how good your team is, a classic centre-forward who can stick them away never goes amiss. But as football develops and managers begin to experiment and attempt to outsmart opponents with revolutionary tactics, the importance of a classic number nine is starting to wane.
Much like rock and roll and the routine of a half-time bovril however, the centre-forward will never die.
How good is it to see one of this rare breed pop up and take such genuine pleasure in smashing a ball into a net with such ruthlessness and contempt for his adversaries? Or batter home a towering header?
We are living in an era when their appearance is becoming more and more scarce, but back in the day, these guys were the bees knees.
Over the years, football has produced some wonderful centre-forwards who have crashed through the glass ceiling of scoring goals, while doing it in their own unique and prolific way. Here is 90min’s look back at the nine greatest players to have ever performed this role.
For many, this man is the greatest player to have set foot on God’s green earth. Pelé may receive some criticism on social media, from those who mock his supposedly generous goal record. But the fact that he scored so many goals that it became almost impossible to keep count, speaks volumes of the Brazilian.
Two-footed, strong in the air, majestic with the ball at his feet and a ruthless finisher, Pelé was possibly the most well-rounded footballer in the world. He won the World Cup a record three times during his playing career, scoring 77 goals for his national side over a 14-year spell.
Simply put, he was a genius of the game, and he’ll always be remembered as the man who coined and perfected ‘the beautiful game.’
The original Ronaldo. Pace, power, two feet, and an incomparable gift for sticking goalkeepers on their backsides. Never has the world stood up and taken notice as when this young Brazilian burst onto the scene with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and then Inter.
Sadly, injuries took their toll on the forward, who was forced to adapt from a man who could do everything brilliantly, to a man who could do most things exceptionally. As the raw pace escaped his body, Ronaldo settled for being an out and out goalscorer, enjoying five fruitful years at Real Madrid.
A two-time World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo will always be remembered as one of the most complete centre-forwards to grace our game. And even after all the goals, the trophies and the records, we are left with that burning feeling of what might have been.
A real penalty-box player. Every centre-back’s nightmare. Gerd Muller was possibly the most unconventional striker on this list in terms of appearance, but despite his short, squat physique, he was possibly the most lethal finisher of them all.
The German centre-forward may not have been blessed with the strapping body of a typical goalscorer, nor was he renowned for blistering pace, but boy, could he find the net? Muller came alive in the penalty area, and he could apply any type of finish to every ball that came his way. He just had the knack.
He still holds the record for the most goals in one season with Bayern, bagging 40 times in 34 league matches. Unbelievable.
This guy has an award for the most aesthetically-pleasing goal of the year named after him, so that tells you all you need to know. Ferenc Puskas was in the goals business during his long career, and brother, business was a-boomin’.
The powerful centre-forward was part of the famous Hungary side of the 1940s and 50s, scoring 84 goals in 85 international matches. That’s almost a goal a game, for those who skipped maths at school.
Overall, he walloped home 512 goals in 528 appearances, including eight famous years at Real Madrid, writing his name in the history books as one of the most prolific goalscorers in the 20th century.
Now this man could do it all. Marco van Basten was as complete a striker as they come, and along with his breathtaking consistency and reliability, he could also produce some moments of unrivalled spectacular wonder.
The Swan of Utrecht’s highlight reel would be a match for any other footballer in the world, and his near zero degree volley in the Euro 1988 final is lauded as one of the greatest goals in the sport’s history.
Van Basten could conjure a miracle on any stage, no matter how vital or insignificant, and the only shame is that injury curtailed his marvellous career. A star of the game.
Until very recently, this legend was the greatest player in Portugal’s illustrious history. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen that particular tag, there are many who still reminisce much more fondly on Eusebio’s sterling contribution to football.
Eusebio was one of the first genuine superstars of the sport, and his goal record pays tribute to this. The Portuguese forward rattled home 473 goals in 440 games. No need for calculators to figure out how special that is.
He won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup with an incredible nine goals, and was undoubtedly one of the star performers in the tournament. Grace and elegance personified.
Any player that wins the Golden Ball at a World Cup is pretty special. Romario was an insanely gifted footballer who possessed that natural Brazilian flair and spark that separates the Samba stars from us mere mortals.
Romario was a key component in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona, where he found the net 30 times in his debut campaign. He was also a key figure in the Vasco de Gama side which tore Manchester United apart in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, putting in a memorable display.
Over 1000 career goals (apparently), he is the second-most prolific striker in football history. Wow.
Batigol. When we reminisce on the most clinical strikers in football history, the name of Gabriel Batistuta always rears its head. The Argentine forward made his name in Europe over a nine-year spell with Fiorentina, where he became a club legend, rifling home over 200 goals for la Viola.
Although he showed himself to be Serie A’s deadliest forward during his time in Florence, it was at AS Roma where his heroics were rewarded with silverware. I Giallorossi lifted the 2000/01 league title – only the third in their history – and Gabigol helped himself to 20 valuable strikes over the course of the campaign.
Batistuta was pure power. The power in his legs allowed the forward to strike the ball from anywhere, with either foot, and with a vicious ferocity that made you pity the goalkeeper tasked with stopping his efforts. An icon of the 1990s, and a Serie A legend.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is now the chairman of Bayern – and you don’t get that role by being a shoddy striker! The German forward began his career with the Bavarian giants, scoring over 200 goals in 10 years at the club.
His versatility and adaptability to different styles of play made him the prolific forward he proved to be, while his lightning pace and clinical finishing always put him out of the defender’s reach.
A Bayern and West Germany legend, Rummenigge is part of football’s very fabric. A wonderful forward to complete the list.