Tag Archives: iniesta

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

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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.

Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0: Match report – Lionel Messi strikes twice to send Catalan giants through

Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 (4-2 on aggregate): Magical Messi makes mockery of Italian giants and Villa seals the deal

PUBLISHED:

21:34 GMT, 12 March 2013

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 12 March 2013

Lionel Messi put in another astonishing display to lead Barcelona to the quarter final of the Champions League following a dominant display against AC Milan at the Nou Camp.

Two goals down from the first leg, Messi was on target after just five minutes and although Christian Abbiati was at his best to repel the home side, he could do little to stop Messi doubling Barca's lead five minutes before the break.

David Villa – preferred by Jordi Roura to Cesc Fabregas – scored a vital third before Jordi Alba's injury time strike settled the tie.

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Match facts

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Puyol 77), Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro (Adriano 83), Messi, Villa (Sanchez 74).

Subs not used: Pinto, Fabregas, Song, Tello.

Goals: Messi 5, 40, Villa 55, Jordi Alba 90.

AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant, Montolivo, Ambrosini (Muntari 60), Flamini (Bojan 75), Niang (Robinho 60), Boateng, El Shaarawy.

Subs not used: Amelia, De Sciglio, Nocerino, Bonera.

Att: 96,000.

Ref: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).

Milan struggled to deal with the
movement of an inspired Barcelona while they failed to create enough
chances with Victor Valdes rarely tested in the home goal.

It took just five minutes for Barcelona to reduce the deficit and take the lead on the night.

Xavi's intricate pass found Messi whose unstoppable curling effort into the top corner gave Abbiati no chance.

It was Messi's 52nd goal of the season
and he almost created one for Andres Iniesta moments later before
Philippe Mexes intercepted.

The home side were in full flow and
after 13 minutes Abbiati was forced into making a fantastic save to tip
Iniesta's effort on to the bar before Messi somehow shot wide following
up.

The stopper had to be in top form four minutes later to acrobatically tip Xavi's stinging effort around the post.

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Quarter finalists

Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray
Juventus
Paris St Germain
Real Madrid
Bayern Munich or Arsenal
Malaga or Porto

Even at this early stage it was a case
of when, not if, they were to draw level on aggregate and the home side
thought they should have had a penalty when Massimo Ambrosini collided
with Pedro inside the box.

However, the visitors survived and
slowly began to deal with the attacking onslaught of the home side,
whilst creating chances of their own.

The best fell to lone striker M'Baye
Niang who raced clear after breaking the Barca offside trap and although
he beat Valdes, his effort hit the post and away from danger.

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

Milan were made to pay just seconds later and again it was Messi who was the scorer.

Ambrosini lost out to Iniesta who fed Messi, who looked to be in an offside position when the ball was played.

The flag stayed down and the Argentinian cut inside and fired past a helpless Abbiati with his lethal left foot.

Pedro picked up a booking before the
end of the half for a foul on Ignazio Abate, meaning he would miss the
quarter-final first leg should they progress, while Mathieu Flamini was
also facing a suspension for a challenge on Pedro.

Barca began the second period much
like the first and after 55 minutes Xavi's pin-point pass eluded a
sliding Cristian Zapata to find Villa, whose left-footed finish gave the
Milan stopper no chance.

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Shackled... or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Shackled… or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

In a bid to increase their attacking options, Massimiliano Allegri brought on Robinho and Sulley Muntari for Niang and Ambrosini respectively.

With 15 minutes left goalscorer Villa was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, with Carlos Puyol coming on for Javier Mascherano shortly afterwards.

The home side were thankful for Jordi Alba's intervention after 81 minutes to deny Robinho a simple chance from close range, before Adriano came on for Pedro.

The win was sealed late on when Alba somehow gathered the strength to burst down the left to fire past Abbiati in what was another memorable Barca performance at the Nou Camp.

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash

Jose Mourinho misses Ballon d"Or gala to watch son play in Madrid

So, why did Mourinho snub Spanish football's big night at the Ballon d'Or gala

By
Lee Bryan

PUBLISHED:

15:41 GMT, 9 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:52 GMT, 9 January 2013

Amidst the glitz and glamour of the Ballon d'Or gala night, one of football's most famous faces was missing.

But Jose Mourinho's absence wasn't a calculated snub in protest at the Barcelona dominance, as many have been speculated.

The Real Madrid boss, who missed out on coach of the year to Spain's Vicente del Bosque, claimed initially that he would miss the event in order to swat up on Celta Vigo, his team's next opponents.

Keeping it real: Jose Mourinho missed the Ballon d'Or gala to watch his son play

Keeping it real: Jose Mourinho missed the Ballon d'Or gala to watch his son play

Prize guy: Vicente del Bosque won coach of the year, while Messi was the player of the year for the fourth consecutive year

Prize guy: Vicente del Bosque won coach of the year, while Messi was the player of the year for the fourth consecutive year

Prize guy: Vicente del Bosque won coach of the year, while Messi was the player of the year for the fourth consecutive year

However, Spanish newspaper AS has revealed that Mourinho was in fact in Madrid, watching his son in action for CD Canillas.

According to the report, the former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager arrived at around 7.45pm and was accompanied by two bodyguards.

It was about that time in Zurich that Lionel Messi was being awarded his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or, ahead of Barca team-mate Andres Iniesta and Real star Cristiano Ronaldo.

**Click here to see video of Mourinho at the match in Madrid

Who voted for Rooney in the Ballon d"Or?

Messi can't bring himself to vote for Ronaldo in tactical Ballon d'Or picks while Rooney is popular only in Georgia and North Korea

-bycountry.pdf” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>Click here to see how the international captains, coaches and media voted

With an astonishing and record-breaking 91 goals in the calendar year, it was perhaps a foregone conclusion that Lionel Messi would collect a fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d'Or last night.

But that didn't stop international captains and coaches employing some political voting tactics to try and get their friends, compatriots or teammates further up the leaderboard – or at least block their rivals from winning.

With national team captains, coaches and a selected journalist from each FIFA nation eligible to vote, the annual award seems to have become football's answer to the Eurovision Song Contest in terms of tactical voting.

Scroll down for video

Top of the world: Lionel Messi scooped a fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or trophy last night, receiving 41.6 per cent of the votes from international coaches, captain and journalists

Top of the world: Lionel Messi scooped a fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or trophy last night, receiving 41.6 per cent of the votes from international coaches, captain and journalists

Messi had a vote as captain of Argentina and picked Andres Iniesta as his first choice, Xavi as his second and Radamel Falcao as his third pick.

This could be interpreted as returning the favour to his two Barcelona teammates after setting up so many goals for him this year, but it's interesting that his closest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is left out.

Ronaldo is Portugal captain but chose to hand over responsibilities to Bruno Alves, perhaps as a way of getting round the rule that voters can't pick themselves.

Ronaldo is on record as saying that he would vote for himself if he could. 'I am what I am,' he said in the run-up to the award announcement.

But he could rely on Zenit St Petersburg defender Alves to exclude Messi from his voting and put the Real Madrid star, naturally, at the top.

Not his night: Cristiano Ronaldo looked the part, but was a distant second behind Messi, despite delegating his voting rights to Portugal teammate Bruno Alves

Not his night: Cristiano Ronaldo looked the part, but was a distant second behind Messi, despite delegating his voting rights to Portugal teammate Bruno Alves

Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella
had no room for Ronaldo though and went for Messi and his international
teammate Sergio Aguero, with Falcao, the third choice for quite a large
number of voters, completing his selection.

Paulo Bento, the Portugal manager, was a little more sporting, giving Messi his third pick.

The international coaches are proud and parochial, with many selecting players from their own squad despite them having little chance of scooping the main prize.

Germany's Joachim Low was pretty left-field with his picks, choosing Mesut Ozil first, Manuel Neuer second and Xavi third, while Italy's Cesare Prandelli opted for Andrea Pirlo, who was admired by a number of coaches around the world.

Keeping it in the country: Germany Head Coach Joachim Low picked Mesut Ozil as his first choice

Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Ozil

Keeping it in the country: Germany Head Coach Joachim Low (left) picked Mesut Ozil as his first choice

Spain's Vicente del Bosque can be excused for picking Iker Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta but it's a damning indictment of the state of the English team that Roy Hodgson just went for Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao.

Wayne Rooney's only two votes came from Georgia and North Korea, suggesting he has quite a following in those countries, while Mario Balotelli wouldn't have been too happy to learn his only vote came from Palestine.

Voting pact: Wayne Rooney's (right) only votes came from Georgia and North Korea, but plenty gave Robin van Persie (left) a pick

Voting pact: Wayne Rooney's (right) only votes came from Georgia and North Korea, but plenty gave Robin van Persie (left) a pick

And Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have scored one of the goals of the year, with his audacious propeller kick for Sweden against England, but just two voters – the captain of Djibouti and the Niger coach – thought him worthy of the top prize.

There are also plenty of examples of players going for teammates, former teammates or even those who play in the same position.

Hugo Lloris, of France and Tottenham, selected Casillas as his first choice and, randomly, had Didier Drogba third.

Goalkeeper's Union: Hugo Lloris (left) gave his winning vote to fellow custodian Iker Casillas

Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas

Goalkeeper's Union: Hugo Lloris (left) gave his winning vote to fellow custodian Iker Casillas (right)

Dutchman Wesley Sneijder opted for free-scoring Robin van Persie for his first pick, while Gianluigi Buffon and Casillas also went for national unity with Pirlo and Sergio Ramos respectively their first choices.

Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher chose former Manchester United man Ronaldo ahead of Messi and also included Van Persie third.

Lionel Messi
Marco van Basten
Michel Platini
Johan Cruyff
Ballon d'Or
4
3
3
3
League titles
5
7
3
10
Domestic cups
7
7
2
7
European Cups
3
3
1
3
World Cups
0
0
0
0
Career Games
430
431
504
568
Career Goals
319
300
265
326
Strike rate
0.74
0.70
0.53
0.57

VIDEO: Messi's boot supplier, adidas, team up with illustrator Richard Swarbrick to celebrate the Argentina ace's latest Ballon d'Or success

LIVE Ballon d"Or: Follow events as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta find out who is world"s best

LIVE Ballon d'Or: Follow events in Zurich as Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta find out who is crowned world's best player

Puskas Award for the most significant or beautiful goal and Coach of the Year Award.

18.03: Messi faces familiar foes for the most prestigious award in football. Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta and past winner and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

18.00: Well here we are ladies and gents. The big question on everyone's lips is: Can Lionel Messi really win this for the fourth year running

Despite donning a suspect, spotted jacket with matching bow tie, the Barcelona man has had a near perfect few years.

In 2012, the diminutive Argentinean scored an incredible 91 goals.

Favourite: Lionel Messi is expected to pick up the Ballon d'Or for the fourth time

Favourite: Lionel Messi is expected to pick up the Ballon d'Or for the fourth time

Tito Vilanova returns to dugout as Barcelona win 4-0 against Espanyol

Vilanova returns to dugout as Messi gets his first of the year in 4-0 Barca win

PUBLISHED:

20:22 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

21:02 GMT, 6 January 2013

Tito Vilanova returned to the Barcelona bench with the minimum of fuss tonight as his side got all of their work done inside the first 30 minutes of the Catalan derby.

Manager Vilanova, back at the helm after a brief spell out for surgery on his parotid gland after contracting cancer for the second time, was given the easiest of nights as his stellar cast of players made life comfortable for him.

They had scored all of their goals by the time the 30th minute ticked by and after that it was procession football, with Pedro twice denied a hat-trick by the offside flag while other chances also passed.

Back with a bang: Pedro Rodriguez scores past Kiko Casilla

Back with a bang: Pedro Rodriguez scores past Kiko Casilla

After Xavi had opened the scoring, Pedro then chimed in with his brace before Lionel Messi set off on his pursuit of 100 goals this year with a penalty.

The Argentinian scored a record-breaking 91 times in 2012 and is expected to go even further this time around. His only regret will be that he did not make the most of the leisurely second-half conditions.

The writing was on the wall for Javier Aguirre's side early on, with Xavi's goal setting the template for how Barca would play all night.

All together now: Barcelona's players celebrate their 4-0 win

All together now: Barcelona's players celebrate their 4-0 win

Messi slid a pass through to Andres
Iniesta on the left, the cut-back arriving for Xavi to tap in from close
range, and he opened his body slightly to make the finish.

Three minutes later Messi and Cesc
Fabregas combined to release Iniesta but he was denied by Francisco
Casilla, but the keeper could do nothing as Pedro got his first in the
15th minute.

Again it was from a cut-back, this
time from Fabregas, and at first it looked as though it was Messi`s
goal, with replays then showing Pedro got the slightest of touches to
his shot.

Good to be back: Tito Vilanova returned to the dug-out to see Barcelona win 4-0

Good to be back: Tito Vilanova returned to the dug-out to see Barcelona win 4-0

It was three with 27 minutes gone,
Pedro racing onto Sergio Busquets' defence-splitting pass and lobbing
Casilla, and the keeper was all at sea again a minute later as he
bundled over Fabregas as he went away from goal.

Messi duly stepped up and converted from the spot, the first goal of what will no doubt be many this year.

The brakes were applied a little after that, with Espanyol defending better and Barca not as incisive. Casilla denied

In the goals: Lionel Messi scored his first goal of 2013

In the goals: Lionel Messi scored his first goal of 2013

Fabregas and a flag denied Pedro a 65th-minute hat-trick when Fabregas, crossing after Messi`s pass, was called offside.

The same thing happened again with 17
minutes left as Pedro chipped wide to Alves and then followed in to
score from the cross, while Espanyol`s only real chance ended with
Victor Valdes saving from a clean-through Juan Albin.

Messi then rattled the bar with a
25-yard free-kick, but after such an early rush, there would be no more
goals as Barca restored their 16-point lead over Real Madrid.

Oriol Romeu would welcome the signing of David Villa

Bienvenido! Spanish compatriot Romeu would welcome Villa's arrival at the Bridge

PUBLISHED:

20:24 GMT, 27 December 2012

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UPDATED:

20:24 GMT, 27 December 2012

Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu would welcome the signing of David Villa with open arms if the prolific Spain international ends up moving to Stamford Bridge during the transfer window.

Chelsea have been closely linked with a move for the 31-year-old striker, who has been in and out of the Barcelona starting line-up this season since returning from his long injury lay-off after breaking his leg.

Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said earlier this week the Nou Camp outfit had no intention of letting Villa leave in January.

Target: Chelsea want Fernando Torres's compatriot David Villa to move from Barcelona on loan

Target: Chelsea want Fernando Torres's compatriot David Villa to move from Barcelona on loan

But Romeu would be delighted if his fellow Spaniard did make the switch to Chelsea.

'I don't know that Villa's situation is, but if a great player like him comes, the record goalscorer with the national team, he would be welcomed and we would be happy,' said Romeu, quoted as telling Spanish radio show Esports Cope.

The Spanish midfielder underwent surgery on a serious knee injury earlier this month after starting four out of Rafa Benitez's first five games as manager of Chelsea.

Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta hopes Villa stays put, telling reporters today: 'I don't know if there's a chance (he could leave), I don't think so, although for me personally I wouldn't like it if he did, because Villa is a vital player.'

As reported in the Mail yesterday, Villa provides an attractive short-term solution for Chelsea.

The striker is Spain's record goalscorer with 53 international goals in 85 caps but does not fit the Barca ideal for young players with their best years ahead of him.

Torres and Villa formed a formidable partnership at International level but VIlla has only scored five goals in 18 appearances this season and is falling from favour.

Villa is understood to earn 110,000 a week, which is near the top of the Stamford Bridge pay structure but not out of reach.

He can operate at centre forward if
Torres is unavailable or play from wide either side, giving Benitez a
valuable option in his quest to rotate his support strikers and keep
them fresh.

With Daniel Sturridge on the move to Liverpool and Romelu Lukaku preferring to stay at West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea are without a recognised striker beyond Torres, and both Eden Hazard and Victor Moses have been tried in the role with little effect.

Transfer talk: Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Oriol Romeu would be delighted if Barca striker David Villa arrived at Stamford Bridge

Transfer talk: Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Oriol Romeu would be delighted if Barca striker David Villa arrived at Stamford Bridge

Dovetail Chelsea are looking for Villa to either merge with Spanish team mate Fernado Torres (right) or to provide cover for the striker as Daniel Sturridge may be on his way to Liverpool

Dovetail Chelsea are looking for Villa to either merge with Spanish team mate Fernado Torres (right) or to provide cover for the striker as Daniel Sturridge may be on his way to Liverpool

Michu is proving to be one of Spain"s best exports

Bargain buy Michu is proving his worth alongside some of Spain's greats

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UPDATED:

16:08 GMT, 23 December 2012

Before the start of the season, most fans in England had never heard of him. Now, Swansea City’s Michu is one of the most talked-up, threatening midfielders in the Premier League.

The Spaniard pegged back Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium, making sure Sir Alex knew exactly who he was, and in doing so recorded his 13th goal of the season to earn his side a hard-earned point.

A snip at just 2million, he represents one of the league’s biggest bargains. But where does he stand among his country’s best

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

The main man: Michu has proved to be a great signing for Swansea so far

Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona
Barcelona’s Xavi turns 33 next month but has just signed a contract extension, keeping him at Camp Nou until 2016.
A true dead-ball specialist and an expert in both expansive and contained possession, he is not the biggest goal-threat, having only crept into double figures once in his career.
Estimated market value: 68million
Games: 17
Goals: 4
Shots: 25

Xavi Hernandez

Andres Iniesta

Barca duo: Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are two of Spain and Barcelona's best

Andres Iniesta, Barcelona
He smashed in the goal which won Spain the World Cup in 2010 and his humble approach is eternally endearing. An accomplished technician, Iniesta makes up for anything he lacks in physical prowess with intelligence and versatility.
Estimated market value: 61.5million
Games: 12
Goals: 1
Shots: 16

Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
One of the game’s modern-day greats, Fabregas is a superb passer, an accomplished finisher, was the very heart of Arsenal’s midfield and is proving indispensable for the Primera Liga greats.
He also has nine assists to his name and has dropped into Tito Vilanova’s highly-charged, switch-driven approach with ease.
Signed from Arsenal for 35million
Games: 15
Goals: 5
Shots: 21

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

Back home: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011

David Silva, Manchester City
Silky Silva had a slow start with Manchester City, often finding he was easily out-muscled and dispossessed, but since settling with the Premier League champions, he’s been lively and exciting.
A true playmaker, his absences through injury this season have certainly been felt.
Signed from Valencia for 24million
Games: 15
Goals: 1
Shots: 25

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Little master: David Silva has proved to be a key player for City

Andres Iniesta: Secret to Barcelona"s success – constant evolution

Football perfection Impossible. Constant evolution is secret of Barcelona's success

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UPDATED:

09:48 GMT, 21 December 2012

Barcelona star Andres Iniesta believes football perfection is impossible to attain and that instead his team focus on evolving every year.

The midfield magician, who is up for the this year’s FIFA's Ballon d'Or award against superstars Leonel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says improvement not perfection is the aim of the squad at the Nou Camp.

Speaking to BBC's Football Focus programme, the 28-year-old said: 'There is no such thing as the perfect player. Everyone can improve and things can be done better. I rate myself as someone who enjoys the learning process and someone who tries to be better every year.

Team ethic: Iniesta believes football perfection is impossible

Team ethic: Iniesta believes football perfection is impossible

'Perfection doesn't exist. There are players who are close but it is almost impossible to be perfect. If that was the case there wouldn’t be evolution in football.

'I don't consider myself a star. I consider myself a footballer who tries to improve myself by doing things well. What really makes me happy is when I feel I've improved at the end of each year and I hope this feeling can go on and on.'

Iniesta is a key part of the record-breaking Barcelona and Spanish national team that has won both the World Cup and last two European Champions and completed another year at the top of the FIFA world rankings.

United front: Iniesta was among the players present at the press conference where boss Tito Vilanova's cancer relapse was announced

United front: Iniesta was among the players present at the press conference where boss Tito Vilanova's cancer relapse was announced

United front: Iniesta was among the players present at the press conference where boss Tito Vilanova's cancer relapse was announced

Barcelona announced on Thursday that Tito Vilanova’s operation on his parotid gland had gone 'as expected' as the 44-year-old began a second battle with cancer.

Vilanova, who also had a tumour removed from his throat in November last year, will now start six weeks of chemotherapy.

In a statement, the club said: 'Vilanova’s surgical procedure has gone as expected. His clinical progress will determine how long he remains in hospital.

'The expected timeframe has been maintained. Tito asks for his privacy and confidentiality to be respected.'

Gold standard: Iniesta was among the Ballon D'Or nominees

Gold standard: Iniesta was among the Ballon D'Or nominees

You can watch the full interview on Saturday at 12.15pm on BBC One.

Lionel Messi signs new Barcelona deal

Want to sign Messi You'll have to wait until 2018 as superstar signs 12.5m-a-year Barca deal

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UPDATED:

11:11 GMT, 18 December 2012

Lionel Messi has agreed a new contract to keep him at Barcelona until 2018.

The Catalan giants confirmed on their official website the Argentinian would pen the deal 'in the coming weeks'.

Barca also revealed Xavi and Carles Puyol had agreed extensions until 2016.

Six more years: Messi is poised to sign a new contract with Barcelona

Six more years: Messi is poised to sign a new contract with Barcelona

Messi's current deal runs until June 2016 and the new agreement will keep him at the Nou Camp beyond his 31st birthday.

The deal is expected to be structured so that it increases yearly, rising to 12.5million a year net before bonuses.

Messi, 25, signed his last big contract in the 2009-10 season with then sporting director Txiki Begiristain and his vice-president Marc Ingla.

Incredible year: The Argentinian has already scored 90 goals in 2012

Incredible year: The Argentinian has already scored 90 goals in 2012

The top 10 richest players

1 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 27.5m

2 David Beckham (Free agent) 26.2m

3 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 24.3m

4 Samuel Eto'o (Anzhi Makhachkala) 19.4m

5 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 17.2m

6 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St Germain) 16m

7 Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) 15.7m

8 Yaya Toure (Manchester City) 14.7m

9 Fernando Torres (Chelsea) 13.9m

10 Kaka (Real Madrid) 12.9m

That contract is heavily incentivised
with his pay, after bonuses, in any given season automatically becoming
his basic pay for the following season.

The forward has enjoyed an
extraordinary year, even by his own remarkable standards, netting his
89th and 90th goals of 2012 at the weekend.

The 25-year-old had already surpassed Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

He is also in contention to claim a
fourth successive FIFA Ballon d'Or crown, being named on a three-man
shortlist alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate Andres Iniesta.

Xavi

Carles Puyol

New contract: Xavi and Puyol have agreed extensions until 2016

Defender Puyol's contract was due to expire at the end of the season, while midfielder Xavi's ran out the following summer.

Their new deals are set to keep them at Barca for the rest of their careers and underline their commitment to the runaway Primera Division leaders under new coach Tito Vilanova.

They also reduce the chances of former boss Pep Guardiola being able to tempt them away if he returns to club management next season.

A statement on the Barcelona website read: 'This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players. Over the course of the next few weeks, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Leo Messi will all be signing their respective new contracts.'