Tag Archives: busquets

PSG 2 Barcelona 2 – match report: Lionel Messi and Dani Alves goals canceled out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Blaise Matuidi

PSG 2 Barcelona 2: Late Matuidi goal gives French side hope as Messi and Co are held in Paris

PUBLISHED:

20:43 GMT, 2 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:16 GMT, 2 April 2013

Barcelona scored two away goals but were twice pegged back in a dramatic Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Parc des Princes.

Lionel Messi gave Barca a half-time lead, a goal owing much to Dani Alves' vision, before departing with a hamstring injury at the interval.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic controversially equalised against his former club and though Xavi's late penalty looked to have ensured a first-leg lead for Barca, Blaise Matuidi made it 2-2 with a deflected last kick of the match.

On target - again: Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona

On target – again: Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona

MATCH FACTS

PSG: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Beckham (Verratti 70), Matuidi, Lucas Moura, Pastore (Gameiro 76), Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi (Menez 66).

Subs not used: Douchez, Sakho, Chantome, Van Der Wiel.

Booked: Matuidi, Beckham, Ibrahimovic, Sirigu.

Goals: Ibrahimovic 79, Matuidi 90.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Bartra 84), Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi (Fabregas 46), Villa (Tello 81).

Subs not used: Pinto, Thiago, Montoya, Song.

Booked: Pique, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Dani Alves.

Goals: Messi 38, Xavi 89 pen.

Attendance: 45,000

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Ergolding)

The first chance fell to PSG with less than five minutes played. Ezequiel Lavezzi cut inside, sending Gerard Pique sliding the wrong way, and Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets stuck out a foot to stab the ball against the frame of his own goal.

Alex climbed highest to meet David Beckham's corner but headed well wide, and Victor Valdes then dived to save Javier Pastore's low drive and had to scramble to recover the loose ball ahead of the onrushing Alex.

It added up to an opening 15 minutes of Parisian dominance, though Andres Iniesta soon curled just wide at the other end.

PSG pressed again and when Pique flattened Ibrahimovic just outside the 'D' and was booked, Valdes had to push the Swede's fierce low free-kick around the post.

Ibrahimovic dragged a shot wide after a driving run from Lucas Moura but Barca began to make better use of their possession, with Alexis Sanchez's shot deflected wide before Messi opened the scoring eight minutes before half-time.

Alves curled a staggering pass into the box with the outside of his right foot and Messi ran on to the ball and fired first time inside the far post.

Easy does it: Messi runs off in celebration after making it 1-0

Easy does it: Messi runs off in celebration after making it 1-0

Celebration time: Messi celebrates with Daniel Alves and Xavi Hernandez after his goal against PSG

Celebration time: Messi celebrates with Daniel Alves and Xavi Hernandez after his goal against PSG

The Argentinian curled another effort millimetres over the bar but appeared to tweak his right hamstring in the process and was a passenger as half-time approached.

He was replaced by Cesc Fabregas upon the restart, and a Barca statement released during the second half confirmed he will undergo tests tomorrow to determine the extent of his injury.

Matuidi, impressive defensively in the first half, showed up in attack but was blocked off by Javier Mascherano as he pursued his own heavy touch into the penalty area, though no foul was given. Pique then prevented the all-action Matuidi from reaching Ibrahimovic's pass.

Not going to plan: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham look dejected as Barcelona celebrate

Not going to plan: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham look dejected as Barcelona celebrate

Beckham

David Beckham heads the ball

Getting stuck in: Beckham started for PSG and played for 70minutes before being replaced by Marco Verratti

Stars of the show: Messi is tracked by Beckham

Stars of the show: Messi is tracked by Beckham

Battle for the ball: Messi holds off the challenge of Beckham

Battle for the ball: Messi holds off the challenge of Beckham

Going in for the tackle: Beckham brings down Cesc Fabregas

Going in for the tackle: Beckham brings down Cesc Fabregas

In the book: Beckham is shown a yellow card by Referee Wolfgang Stark

In the book: Beckham is shown a yellow card by Referee Wolfgang Stark

The imperious Thiago Silva's clearance
denied Barca a second goal and Sanchez could not connect properly with
Fabregas' deep cross, shooting weakly at Sirigu.

Matuidi was booked for fouling Iniesta, ruling him out of the return leg, before Lavezzi was replaced by Jeremy Menez.

Alves
went close to a goal of his own when he curled a free-kick just wide
before Mascherano chopped down Menez to also earn himself a ban.

Take Zlat! Ibrahimovic makes it 1-1 with close range finish

Take Zlat! Ibrahimovic makes it 1-1 with close range finish

Eyes on the ball: Ibrahimovic made it 1-1 with his goal

Eyes on the ball: Ibrahimovic made it 1-1 with his goal

Menez's free-kick was deflected behind
and the resulting corner caused chaos. Jordi Alba and Mascherano
collided and were both prone in the six-yard box, playing three PSG
players onside as the half-cleared set-piece was returned into the box,
and Valdes was forced into a point-blank save from Ibrahimovic's shinned
effort.

Barca had to defend the next corner
with nine men and the controversy continued even after the pair
returned, Thiago Silva heading Menez's free-kick against the post before
the rebound was jabbed home by an offside Ibrahimovic.

Going down: Alexis Sanchez falls under the challenge of PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu

Going down: Alexis Sanchez falls under the challenge of PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu

Spot on: Xavi scores his side's second goal from the penalty spot

Spot on: Xavi scores his side's second goal from the penalty spot

Substitute
Kevin Gameiro was almost sent through by Ibrahimovic's flick-on, only
for the bounce to deceive the diminutive France international.

With a minute remaining, though, a penalty handed Barca the advantage in the tie once more.

Last kick of the game: Blaise Matuidi scores his side's second equalising goal late on

Last kick of the game: Blaise Matuidi scores his side's second equalising goal late on

Happy ending: Matuidi celebrates his goal late goal

Happy ending: Matuidi celebrates his goal late goal

Sirigu was booked for pulling down Sanchez and Xavi sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Ibrahimovic
lashed another effort into Valdes' net but this time was correctly
flagged offside – but there was still late drama to come.

Ibrahimovic nodded the ball back and
Matuidi's shot was squeezed between the legs of substitute Marc Bartra,
wrong-footing Valdes and levelling the scores.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in for FIFPro World XI

Gerrard and Lampard face Spanish competition for midfield berths in World XI

|

UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 26 November 2012

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are the only English midfielders in contention for a spot in the FIFPro World XI.

They will battle it out with 13 others for the three midfield spots, including Barcelona quartet Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.

In contention: Steven Gerrard (left) could be named in the FIFPro team

In contention: Steven Gerrard (left) could be named in the FIFPro team

The Premier League could also be represented by Manchester City's David Silva and Yaya Toure in the middle of the park.

Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole were among the 20 defenders listed earlier this month with the final team to be chosen on January 7 at the Ballon D'Or gala in Zurich.

Full list of midfielders

Xabi Alonso (Spain / Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Spain / FC Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Spain / FC Barcelona), Steven Gerrard (England / Liverpool), Eden Hazard (Belgium / Chelsea), Andres Iniesta (Spain / FC Barcelona), Frank Lampard (England / Chelsea), Luka Modric (Croatia / Real Madrid), Mesut zil (Germany / Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (Italy / Juventus), Franck Ribery (France / Bayern Munich), David Silva (Spain / Manchester City), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany / Bayern Munich), Yaya Tour (Ivory Coast / Manchester City), Xavi Hernandez (Spain / FC Barcelona)

Barcelona field La Masia team for first time in La Liga game… but how does the Premier League compare

The La Masia Dream Team: Barcelona field a homegrown side for the first time… but how do the English leagues compare

By
Adam Shergold and Liv Lee

PUBLISHED:

12:50 GMT, 26 November 2012

|

UPDATED:

13:48 GMT, 26 November 2012

Any 4-0 victory away from home is satisfying, but the Barcelona coaching staff would have been more glowing than usual last night.

For the first time, Barca fielded an entirely homegrown eleven for much of the match at Levante, so this was as much a triumph for the club’s fabled La Masia academy as anything else.

The historic moment came in the 14th minute when the only outsider, Dani Alves, went off injured and was replaced by Martin Montoya.

Production line: For the first time, Barcelona fielded a side entirely made up of players from their famous La Masia academy (pictured), which produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta

Production line: For the first time, Barcelona fielded a side entirely made up of players from their famous La Masia academy (pictured), which produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta

And so the La Masia XI read: Victor Valdes, Martin Montoya, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas.

Not too bad, is it

Of course, not every one of those players was born in the shadow of Camp Nou – Messi was born 6,500 miles away in Rosario, Argentina and Iniesta’s home village is geographically closer to Madrid.

Prodigy: Cesc Fabregas in action for Barcelona's youth team against Athletic Bilbao in 2003. The La Masia product was sold to Arsenal in 2003 before returning to Barcelona eight years later

Prodigy: Cesc Fabregas in action for Barcelona's youth team against Athletic Bilbao in 2003. The La Masia product was sold to Arsenal in 2003 before returning to Barcelona eight years later

And, as we know, many of them flew the nest after their football education – Gerard Pique to Manchester United, Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal and Jordi Alba to Valencia – only to return to familiar and friendly surroundings.

But the common thread is that their football skills were honed and their talent nurtured at La Masia.

For over 30 years, La Masia, which was an 18th-century country farmhouse, has been the heart of Barcelona’s legendary academy production line.

Aside from the current generation, previous graduates include Jordi Cruyff, Pepe Reina, Mikel Arteta and Thiago Motta.

Top class: former Manchester United defender Pique (back row, left), Arsenal's Fabregas (back right) and Messi (front right) during their time at La Masia

Top class: former Manchester United defender Pique (back row, left), Arsenal's Fabregas (back right) and Messi (front right) during their time at La Masia

Sing song: Bobby Robson, then Barcelona manage, next to young goalkeeper Pepe Reina and (second left) Andres Iniesta

Sing song: Bobby Robson, then Barcelona manager, next to young goalkeeper Pepe Reina and (second left) Andres Iniesta

While the operation has long since outgrown the dormitories of the farmhouse – there are 15 different squads beneath the B team and more than 300 talented hopefuls from all around the world – La Masia remains the spiritual home.

As Pep Guardiola, the manager who reaped the benefits most from La Masia’s magical conveyor belt of prodigies, said: ‘The player who has passed through La Masia has something different to the rest – it’s a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child.’


THE PREMIER LEAGUE HOMEGROWN SHORTAGE

Sportsmail took at look at the homegrown talent on display in last weekend's Premier League clashes. Most teams had only one or two on the pitch.

Manchester United and Newcastle led the charge with four each, while six teams, including Chelsea and Manchester City, failed to turn out a single academy player.

None came close to rivalling the full house that Barca bred from its own esteemed training facility.

Still running: Paul Scholes was perhaps the most famous graduate of Manchester United's academy in the team that beat QPR on Saturday

Still running: Paul Scholes was perhaps the most famous graduate of Manchester United's academy in the team that beat QPR on Saturday

The full list:

Manchester United (4)

Jonny Evans, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck

Newcastle United (4)

Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Shane Ferguson, Sammy Ameobi

Aston Villa (3)

Ciaran Clark, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton

Liverpool (2)

Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling*

Southampton (2)

Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana

Tottenham Hotspur (2)

Steven Caulker, Jake Livermore

West Ham United (2)

James Tomkins, Mark Noble

Arsenal (1)

Kieran Gibbs

Everton (1)

Leon Osman

Reading (1)

Hal Robson-Kanu

Stoke City (1)

Ryan Shotton

Sunderland (1)

Jack Colback

Swansea City (1)

Ben Davies

Chelsea, Fulham, Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic (0)


Flying start: Liverpool have bright hopes for Raheem Sterling, one of two homegrown talents in the side that drew at Swansea

Flying start: Liverpool have bright hopes for Raheem Sterling, one of two homegrown talents in the side that drew at Swansea

*Sterling was on the books of Queens Park Rangers between 2003 and 2010, when he was signed by then Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for 600,000. Sterling spent two years in Liverpool's youth teams.


Factory of football: The Nou Camp complex in Barcelona, comprising the main and B team stadiums and a number of training buildings and pitches

Factory of football: The Nou Camp complex in Barcelona, comprising the main and B team stadiums and a number of training buildings and pitches

Dwarfed: Despite being the oldest part of the Nou Camp site, La Masia is tiny compared to the high stands of the main stadium

Dwarfed: Despite being the oldest part of the Nou Camp site, La Masia is tiny compared to the high stands of the main stadium

THE CHAMPIONSHIP HOMEGROWN PLAYERS

In the Championship match-ups there was an even poorer show of youth academy players. Six teams fielded three, but not a single club managed any more than that.

Like the Premier League there were six teams without a single homegrown player on show.

Hot shot! Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha is being courted by a number of top flight sides after a blistering start to the season

Hot shot! Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha is being courted by a number of top flight sides after a blistering start to the season

The full list:

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3)

Carl Ikeme, Anthony Forde, David Davis

Blackburn Rovers (3)

Martin Olsson, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley

Bristol City (3)

Louis Carey, Joe Bryan, James Wilson

Derby County (3)

Mark O’Brien, Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick

Leeds United (3)

Tom Lees, Dominic Poleon, San Byram

Middlesbrough (3)

Jason Steele, Seb Hines, Stuart Parnaby

Huddersfield Town (2)

Alex Smithies, Jack Hunt

Charlton Athletic (2)

Chris Solly, Danny Green

Watford (2)

Tommie Hoban, Sean Murray

Brighton (2)

Lewis Dunk, Dean Hammond

Burnley (1)

Chris McCann

Birmingham City (1)

Jack Butland

Crystal Palace (1)

Wilfried Zaha

Ipswich Town (1)

Luke Hyam

Leicester City (1)

Jeffrey Schlupp

Barnsley (1)

Reuben Noble-Lazarus

Cardiff City (1)

Ben Nugent

Peterborough United (1)

Joe Newell

Millwall, Blackpool, Bolton, Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday (0)

LIVE: Barcelona v Real Madrid – El Clasico action as it happens

LIVE: Barcelona v Real Madrid – follow all the El Clasico action as it happens

|

UPDATED:

18:41 GMT, 7 October 2012

Sportsmail brings you live coverage of the first 'El Clasico' clash of the season between Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be on show as hosts Barca look to stretch their eight-point lead over reigning La Liga champions Real.

HT: Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 1

Barcelona: Valdes; Alves (Montoya 28), Mascherano, Adriano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Fabregas, Messi, Pedro.

Subs not used: Pinto, Bartra, Song, Roberto, Sanchez, Villa.

Goal: Messi 31.

Booked: Pedro.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Khedira, Alonso; Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria; Benzema.

Subs not used: Adan, Albiol, Coentrao, Essien, Modric, Kaka, Higuain.

Goal: Ronaldo 23.

Booked: Alonso.

HALF-TIME: The referee brings to an end a rather scrappy yet immensely gripping first half. Madrid have picked off Barca extremely well on the break and had four glorious chances in the opening half an hour, only one of which was taken – by Ronaldo. Messi's equaliser came courtesy of a defensive howler from Pepe and kickstarted a spell of dominance for the hosts, though they have struggled to find the final ball and often been crowded out on the edge of Real's area. Both sides will be looking to improve in the second half – which promises to be a cracker.

43 mins: Apart their fine finishes, Ronaldo and Messi have both been very quiet tonight. It's been a midfield battle between the likes of Busquets and Alonso – who has just picked up Madrid's first card.

40 mins: Pedro is booked for catching Ramos with a high foot. /10/07/article-2214191-15661B28000005DC-967_634x382.jpg” width=”634″ height=”382″ alt=”Lone ranger: Ronaldo (left) celebrates his goal as his team-mates watch on” class=”blkBorder” />

Lone ranger: Ronaldo (left) celebrates his goal as his team-mates watch on

29 mins: Two corners in quick succession for Barca… it comes to nothing. The home side have really not been at the races so far tonight and are being picked off on the break with ease.

28 mins: Barca's defensive injury crisis worsens as Alves hobbles off to be replaced by young right back Martin Montoya.

27 mins: Real could be four up here. Will they be made to pay for their profligacy

25 mins: Sitter!!! Di Maria puts it on a plate for Benzema just 10 yards out but the striker fluffs his lines, the ball hitting his standing leg again and striking the post. It was practically an open goal!

Sitter: Ramos reacts after heading wide from 12 yards

Sitter: Ramos reacts after heading wide from 12 yards

GOAL!!! Barcelona 0 Real Madrid 1 (Ronaldo)

Who else… Real break with purpose, not for the first time, and Benzema slides in Ronaldo, who fires home low left-footed shot that beats Valdes at his near post. Alves should have shut him down quicker there and Valdes hardly covered himself in glory either.

21 mins: Iniesta has Barca's first shot in anger, curling high and wide from 20 yards out.

19 mins: Real force the first corner of the game… Miss!!! Ramos should have buried that – a free header on the penalty spot but it's wide.

15 mins: Unsurprisingly, Pepe is the first player to be found guilty of play-acting after he is caught on the ball by Fabregas – the big defender was lucky to get the free-kick there.

13 mins: Chance! Ozil finds Benzema at the back post cutting in from the right to cross but the big Frenchman completely miscues his volley, the ball hitting his standing leg and nearly going out for a throw in.

Protest: Those calling for Catalan independence show their support at Camp Nou

Protest: Those calling for Catalan independence show their support at Camp Nou

11 mins: Sergio Busquets is lucky to escape a booking as he pulls back a breaking Di Maria.

8 mins: Adriano is nearly caught dallying on the ball by Khedira on the edge of his box and he's rushed into a sliced clearance.

4 mins: Both teams have started at break-neck speed. Real look like giants out there against what is an even smaller than usual Barca line-up.

2 min: Adriano is indeed alongside Mascherano at the back. Ronaldo has started on the left for Real with Di Maria on the right.

1 min: Hold on to your hats, we're off…

6.48pm: Incredible scenes as 98,000 home fans hold aloft cards to display the image of Catalonia's La Senyera flag – this one is as politically-charged as they get.

High hopes: Roanldo is challenged by Dani Alves

High hopes: Roanldo is challenged by Dani Alves

6.46pm: A couple of interesting side-plots to the action on the pitch today are Jose Mourinho and Tito Vilanova squaring up for the first time and the Catalan independence protest that is set to take place throughout the game…

6.44pm: Real have no such injury problems and are able to field what is probably their strongest line-up. Expect Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo to interchange positions behind Karim Benzema, who will no doubt be asked to rough-up the lightweight centre back pairing of Mascherano and Adriano.

6.39pm: Barca, beset by injuries, are forced to line up Adriano – normally a left back or left winger – alongside Javier Mascherano at centre back. That move comes after captain Carles Puyol broke his arm in midweek, adding to a defensive injury list that already contained Gerard Pique and Eric Abidal.

6.34pm: Just six games into the season and this is already looking like a must-win for Real Madrid – defeat and they're 11 points behind their main rivals. They can take heart from the fact that they won here in the league last year though.

6.30pm: As I'm sure you all know our live coverage is centred around English Premier League clubs, but we've made an exception tonight as we bring you coverage of 'El Clasico'… can you blame us

Star performers: Barcelona's Messi (left) and Real's Ronaldo

Star performers: Barcelona's Messi (left) and Real's Ronaldo

Champions League round-up: Bayern beaten, Barcelona win

Bayern stunned by high-flying BATE Borisov as Barca's victory comes at a cost

|

UPDATED:

21:38 GMT, 2 October 2012

BATE Borisov claimed one of the biggest scalps in their history after stunning in-form Bayern Munich 3-1 at the Dinamo Stadion to open up a three-point lead at the top of Champions League Group F.

Goals Alexander Pavlov and Vitaly Rodionov put the Belarusian champions in charge and although Bayern pulled one back in stoppage time through Franck Ribery, BATE added a third through Renan Bressan to seal their first ever home win in the competition.

Goals either side of half-time by Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas
helped Barcelona maintain their perfect start to the season after a 2-0
win at Benfica.

Party time: Bate Borisov celebrate beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League

Party time: Bate Borisov celebrate beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League

However, the Catalans' night was soured towards the end when captain
Carles Puyol was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a
broken arm after he landed awkwardly when attacking a corner, before
Sergio Busquets was shown a straight red card two minutes from time.

Also in Group G, Georgios Samaras' late header earned Celtic a 3-2 victory over 10-man Spartak Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Blow: Barcelona's Carles Puyol is taken off the pitch on a stretcher

Blow: Barcelona's Carles Puyol is taken off the pitch on a stretcher

The victory means unfancied BATE have now won both their group matches having previously downed Lille 3-1 away, while for Bayern the defeat ends their nine-match winning streak at the start of the season and leaves them on three points in Group F.

Valencia got their Champions League campaign up and running as two goals from Jonas sealed a 2-0 win over Lille.

On their way: Jonas of Valencia scores against Lille in the Champions League

On their way: Jonas of Valencia scores against Lille in the Champions League

Chelsea top Group E after Juventus were surprisingly held to a 1-1 home draw against Shakhtar Donetsk. It took a thunderbolt from defender Leonardo Bonucci to guarantee a share of the spoils after Alex Teixeira had put the Ukrainians ahead on the counter-attack.

In Group H, Galatasary were made to pay for poor finishing as a 27th-minute goal from Ruben Micael and a last-gasp effort from Alan gave Braga a smash-and-grab 2-0 win.

Cesc Fabregas complains about life at Barcelona

First Ronaldo, now Fabregas… Barca midfielder unhappy with Nou Camp life

|

UPDATED:

18:50 GMT, 4 September 2012

Cesc Fabregas has admitted his frustration over his recent inconsistent performances for Barcelona.

The Spain international midfielder, who revealed his frustration at not playing every minute of every game, was substituted only 63 minutes into Barca's narrow victory over Valencia on Sunday.

Despite starting all three Primera Division games so far this term, Fabregas remains far from happy playing a cameo role for his boyhood club, having returned to the Nou Camp last summer for 30million after eight years at Arsenal.

Upset: Cesc Fabregas takes his 'unhappy face' home with him

Upset: Cesc Fabregas takes his 'unhappy face' home with him

His complaint echoes that of Real
Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who refused to celebrate his brace
against Granada due to feeling 'sad' for 'professional reasons'.

Fabregas told Radio Marca: 'There's no such thing as a great substitute in the world of football.

'I couldn't tell you what makes a great substitute.

'I always wish my team-mates well and put a happy face on.

'If I have to take my unhappy face home then so be it, but I would never let my team-mates or manager see it.'

The versatile 25-year-old competes for a starting berth in the centre of the park with Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and new recruit Alex Song, his former Gunners team-mate.

Sad: Cristiano Ronaldo has been complaining at Real Madrid

Sad: Cristiano Ronaldo has been complaining at Real Madrid

'Everybody likes to play every minute of the season,' he added.

'I've always said that I play for the best team in the world, but I came here to compete, to learn and enjoy, not to sit wracking my brains.

'The manager knows what I can offer. But across the three positions that I can play, I am competing with the three best players in the world.

'I'm delighted to be a part of this team but when a coach tells me I have to go, I'll go.

'But I will not make it easy for him to do so, by any means. I will keep going, looking forward to the time that things change. I came here to see out my career.'

Tito Vilanova refuses to rule out Alex Song move

Barca boss Vilanova won't get caught singing up as Song pursuit continues

|

UPDATED:

09:28 GMT, 9 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

New Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova has refused to rule out a move for Arsenal midfielder Alex Song.

The Spanish club have sounded out the Gunners star as they bid to reinforce the defensive side of their squad before the season.

Current Catalan players Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have added their own voices to the growing calls for the Cameroon international to move to the Nou Camp.

Come to papa: Alex Song is wanted by Barcelona, but Arsenal want him to stay

Come to papa: Alex Song is wanted by Barcelona, but Arsenal want him to stay

Song was arguably Arsenal's best performer last season, behind Robin van Persie, and is looking to be rewarded handsomely by the club when contract talks start in the coming weeks.

Such is his position, the midfielder, while not angling for a move, wants to listen to what Barcelona have to offer.

But speaking after his team's friendly win over Manchester United, Vilanova refused to be drawn on the speculation.

'I don’t like talking about players who are not in our squad,' he replied when asked directly about the player.

'There are many players outside of Barca who I like and I cannot talk about them. It would be a lack of respect to other clubs.'

Barcelona after Arsenal"s Alex Song

Barcelona hit bum note with Arsenal as they plot 12m move for midfielder Song

|

UPDATED:

14:04 GMT, 31 July 2012

Arsenal are bracing themselves for a fresh transfer tussle after it emerged Barcelona were preparing a bid for Alex Song.

The Cameroon international was one of the Gunners star performers during an indifferent season, striking up a particularly profitable relationship with Robin van Persie.

It is the Dutchman who is at the centre of another saga following the release of a statement on his website which questioned the ambitions of the club.

There is no suggestion Song himself is angling for a move, but the midfielder's contract is up for renewal in two years and he is a strong position to negotiate favourable terms.

Sing up for the Arsenal: Alex Song is being linked with a move to Barcelona

Sing up for the Arsenal: Alex Song is being linked with a move to Barcelona

Barcelona are keen to strengthen the defensive side of their game having let go Seydou Keita during the summer window. They also struggled with the defeat in the heart of their backline last season, often relying on midfielders Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets.

And now Catalan newspaper Sport say new manager Tito Vilanova will move for Song – a decision sanctioned by the players and coaching staff – to the tune of 12.5m.

The report also suggests Song and Cesc Fabregas – who left north London for the Nou Camp a year ago – maintain a strong friendship.

Manchester City and Barcelona want Daniel Agger

What should Agger do City locked in battle with Barca for Liverpool star

|

UPDATED:

07:20 GMT, 30 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Manchester City and Barcelona are fighting it out for Liverpool defender Daniel Agger after both grew frustrated in the pursuit of Javi Martinez.

Roberto Mancini has targeted the Dane with Kolo Toure almost certain to leave the club this summer, leaving just Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott as top class centre-backs at the club.

The Spanish club, meanwhile, are even more desperate to bolster their rearguard ranks after being forced at times last season to operate with midfielders Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets in the heart of defence.

Options: Both Manchester City and Barcelona are keen on signing Daniel Agger

Options: Both Manchester City and Barcelona are keen on signing Daniel Agger

New boss Tito Vilanova initially had his heart set on Spain and Athletic Bilbao star Martinez, but an asking price approaching 30million has scuppered any deal. Bayern Munich are also keen.

City appear to hold the trump card, with Agger happy and settled in England, but Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo claim close friends of the 27-year-old believe an offer from Barca would by the most likely to tempt Agger away from Brendan Rodgers' revolution.

That didn't stop the Premier League champions making a 12m bid, which was subsequently rejected, according to the Daily Mirror.

The Danish international has two years left to run on his current Liverpool contract, and has indicated he would be willing to discuss an extension.

The versatile defender moved to Anfield in 2006 from Brondby and has gone on to make more than 200 appearances for the club.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reports that Ivory Coast star Toure could make his way to Barcelona should they miss out on Agger.

Euro 2012 results: Spain 4 Italy 0

Spain 4 Italy 0: Silva, Alba, Torres and Mata the heroes as La Roja create history in Kiev

|

UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 1 July 2012

Sensational Spain trampled all over those boring jibes and marched straight into the history books with a magnificent Euro 2012 final victory over Italy in Kiev.

First-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba and late efforts from substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata confirmed La Roja as the first team to record three successive major tournament victories, including a World Cup, with the biggest ever win in a European Championship final.

Champions! Torres scored the Spaniards' third as the Italians were blown away in Kiev

Champions! Torres scored the Spaniards' third as the Italians were blown away in Kiev

Spain v Italy – match facts

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva (Pedro Rodriguez 59), Fabregas (Torres 75), Iniesta.

Subs not used: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Reina.

Booked: Pique.

Goals: Silva (14), (Alba 41) Torres (84), Mata (88).

Italy: Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Balzaretti 21), Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (Thiago Motta 57), De Rossi, Balotelli, Cassano (Di Natale 45).

Subs not used: Sirigu, Maggio, Ogbonna, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Barzagli.

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

And they did it with the most awesome
display of passing power, which made a mockery of all those who had
questioned them beforehand.

It was all too much for Mario
Balotelli, who marched straight down the tunnel at the end and angrily
shrugged away efforts from Italian officials to get him to stay, before
returning for the presentation ceremony.

Yet the thing was, Italy were not
disgraced and would have held out hopes of a comeback until Cesare
Prandelli's final replacement Thiago Motta was stretchered off within
four minutes of his arrival, leaving his team-mates to battle through
the final half hour with 10 men.

Ultimately though, Spain's display was a fitting end to the best European Championships in almost three decades.

Four players in particular, Iker
Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Xavi deserve a special
mention after starting all three finals, in Vienna, Johannesburg and now
Ukraine.

But, as 'Ole' rang around this
magnificent stadium, it was a night to glory in tiki-taka – and the
players who put it into practice.

Heads I win: Silva scores the opening goal past Italy goalkeeper Buffon

Heads I win: Silva scores the opening goal past Italy goalkeeper Buffon

Heads I win: Silva scores the opening goal past Italy goalkeeper Buffon

Heads I win: Silva scores the opening goal past Italy goalkeeper Buffon

Throughout the tournament, the argument for Spain being a dour outfit had been building.

It dominated the pre-match press
conferences and was fuelled still further by Arsene Wenger, who accused
the world champions of “betrayed their philosophy” by turning their
tiki-taka style into a negative.

After 15 minutes of the most majestic
football imaginable, the greatest noise was the sound of all those words
being rammed jubilantly down throats.

Double your money: Iniesta's pass found Alba who stroked the ball home for Spain's second

Double your money: Iniesta's pass found Alba who stroked the ball home for Spain's second

Double your money: Iniesta's pass found Alba who stroked the ball home for Spain's second

Double your money: Iniesta's pass found Alba who stroked the ball home for Spain's second

Coach Vicente del Bosque refused to
bow to the demand for a regular centre-forward to be included in his
starting line-up and was rewarded with a start the quality of which was
on a par with anything this group of players has ever produced.

Ramos had a couple of early efforts,
so too Xavi. Andres Iniesta also had a shot blocked before Spain cut
their opponents' defence to shreds.

The move was astounding in its simplicity.

Three and easy: Torres came off the bench to score in a Euro final for the second time

Three and easy: Torres came off the bench to score in a Euro final for the second time

Three and easy: Torres came off the bench to score in a Euro final for the second time

Alvaro Arbeloa started it, Xavi was
also involved before Iniesta split the Italy defence with a pass Cesc
Fabregas was able to cut-back from the by-line.

And who should be there to head home
None other than little David Silva, who had got free at the near post
and flicked the ball into the far.

/07/01/article-2167328-13E2466C000005DC-641_634x420.jpg” width=”634″ height=”420″ alt=”Icing on the cake: Mata made it four with a couple of minutes left on the clock to complete the rout” class=”blkBorder” />

Icing on the cake: Mata made it four with a couple of minutes left on the clock to complete the rout

Icing on the cake: Mata made it four with a couple of minutes left on the clock to complete the rout

Again five passes were involved. This
time it went back to front. Iker Casillas, Fabregas and then Alba, who
fed Xavi and kept motoring.

What unfolded can only make Barcelona
thankful they had agreed to pay Valencia 13million for the full-back
before the tournament started. His price would have gone up
significantly otherwise.

Party time! Casillas lifts the trophy to spark the celebrations for the European champions

Party time! Casillas lifts the trophy to spark the celebrations for the European champions

Party time! Casillas lifts the trophy to spark the celebrations for the European champions

Party time! Casillas lifts the trophy to spark the celebrations for the European champions

Xavi has played that straight through
ball thousands of times in his illustrious career. The pace on it was
perfect. Alba, beyond Italy's back-line, steadied himself before sliding
a shot calmly past Gianluigi Buffon.

Under normal circumstances, the half-time statistics would have underlined Spain's superiority.

It's a dog's life! Balotelli's adoptive family were there to watch him in the stands with a banner

It's a dog's life! Balotelli's adoptive family were there to watch him in the stands with a banner

It's a dog's life! Balotelli's family were there to watch him in the stands with a banner

In fact, they showed Italy had played more passes and secured 53 per cent possession, almost unheard of against this Spain team.

With Casillas not enjoying his most
secure evening, the Azzurri would have expected to create something
meaningful. But the bounce of the ball would not go their way.

No impact: Balotelli was in devastating form in the semi-final but found the going hard against the Spaniards

No impact: Balotelli was in devastating form in the semi-final but found the going hard against the Spaniards

No impact: Balotelli was in devastating form in the semi-final but found the going hard against the Spaniards


No impact: Balotelli was in devastating form in the semi-final but found the going hard against the Spaniards

Casillas got in the way of a thunderous effort from Antonio Cassano and Balotelli fired over.

No-one could accuse Prandelli of
lacking guts. Within 11 minutes of the re-start he had used all his
substitutes and seen one of them Antonio di Natale bring a decent save
out of Casillas after collecting Riccardo Montolivo's pass inside the
area.

Game over: The closing ceremony heralded the final match of the tournament and marks four years until he next event in France

Game over: The closing ceremony heralded the final match of the tournament and marks four years until he next event in France

Game over: The closing ceremony heralded the final match of the tournament and marks four years until he next event in France

Game over: The closing ceremony heralded the final match of the tournament and marks four years until he next event in France

Unfortunately for Italy, the last
replacement, Motta was only on the field for four minutes before he
pulled a hamstring and had to be stretchered off.

It was dreadful luck for the Azzurri,
who now knew their task was a hopeless one. All that was left was to
stave off humiliation.

Soak it up: Fans of both teams soaked up the atmosphere ahead of kick-off around the ground

Soak it up: Fans of both teams soaked up the atmosphere ahead of kick-off around the ground

Soak it up: Fans of both teams soaked up the atmosphere ahead of kick-off around the ground

Soak it up: Fans of both teams soaked up the atmosphere ahead of kick-off around the ground

Even that was beyond them as substitutes Torres and Mata struck in the final minutes. Italy didn't deserve that.

Their first competitive defeat to Spain – penalties excepted – since the 1920 Olympics.

Spain, record breakers twice over, now unbeaten in this competition for 29 games, a run that stretches back to June 2004.

History makers. How boring.

Fans for coming: The supporters of both teams brought real colour to the proceedings

Fans for coming: The supporters of both teams brought real colour to the proceedings

Fans for coming: The supporters of both teams brought real colour to the proceedings