Month: February 2017

Barca edges Atletico with late Messi winner

Lionel Messi kept FC Barcelona in contention of La Liga with a late winner to see off the title challenge of league rivals Atletico Madrid.

In spite of tawdry performances reminiscent of Paris and Leganes, Barca took the lead in the second half through Rafinha when Luis Suarez — who had an effort ruled out — took a shot which bounced off two defenders to land at his feet.

But Atletico got their equalizer when Diego Godin levelled when he headed home Koke’s free-kick less than ten minutes later.

Barca needed Messi to quickly pounce on a loose ball in the box at the 86th minute to win the game for the champions, after his initial effort was blocked by defender Stefan Savic.

The Catalan team led briefly in La Liga before Real Madrid went back to the top of the table by one point later in the day when they came back from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 3-2. Real still have a game in hand over Barca and Sevilla.

On the other hand, Atletico Madrid are nine points off Barca and 10 off Real. The 2014 title winners looked well out of the title race at the end of 2016.

However, a run of eight La Liga games without a defeat this year, including six wins, had given them an outside chance of mounting a late challenge — but now it looks like it will be a bridge too far for them.

Wayne Rooney confirms stay at Manchester United

England captain Wayne Rooney has calmed rumours of a possible move to China after making a statement saying that he will be staying with Manchester United.

Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford was reportedly in China this week speaking to interested clubs, and the speculation was fueled after Jose Mourinho, manager of the Red Devils, admitted that there was “no guarantee” Rooney would stay.

However, the United and England captain has now confirmed in a statement that he is not interested in moving with United still involved in the FA Cup and Europa League.

“Despite the interest which has been shown from other clubs, for which I’m grateful, I want to end recent speculation and say that I am staying at Man United,” he said.

“I hope I’ll play a full part in helping the team in its fight for success on four fronts. It’s an exciting time at the club and I want to remain a part of it.”

The 31-year-old’s contract worth around £300,000-a-week is due to expire in 2019, a deal with a Chinese Super League club worth up to £500,000-a-week could not be realistically completed before the January transfer window closes next Tuesday.

Out of three clubs that were likely destinations for Rooney, two of them — Beijing Guoan and Jiangsu Suning — dismissed speculation about a transfer while the third option — Tianjin Quanjian — but their coach, Fabio Cannavaro, said talks did not progress.

Neymar to stand trial on corruption charges

Barcelona player Neymar and his club will stand trial on corruption charges over his transfer from Brazilian team Santos, after losing a final appeal.

Santos, Neymar’s mother and a company run by the 25-year-old footballer’s parents will also face charges.

The case comes from a filed complaint from Brazilian investment group DIS, which owned 40% of Neymar’s transfer rights. It claims it received less money than it was entitled to when Neymar joined Barca from Santos for £49m in 2013.

Barca thought they had brought the affair to a close when a judge archived the case in June, but Spain’s public prosecutor successfully overturned the ruling in September, allowing the case to proceed.

“Santos FC, Barcelona FC, Neymar, his mother Nadine Goncalves and N&N, the family company, have lost their appeals to have charges of fraud and corruption dropped,” the Spanish High Court said in a statement.

Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence and a fine of nearly £8m for Neymar. They will also seek a fine of about £7.2m for Barcelona and £5.6m for Santos.

However, even if the Brazil international were found guilty he would be unlikely to go to jail. Under the Spanish legal system, prison terms of under two years are typically suspended.

Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi was sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud in July of last year. He has appealed against the sentence.