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The latest football news from Spain covering La Liga, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, Malaga etc.

Spain 1-0 Portugal
30 June 2010

European champions Spain survived a stern test from Portugal to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup through David Villa's goal.

Two years to the day since they beat Germany to triumph at Euro 2008, Vicente del Bosque's side showed their slick brand of passing football is still just as effective by edging out their well-drilled Iberian rivals.

Spain had to survive a succession of missed chances by the Portuguese in the first half but, once Villa broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute with his fourth goal of the tournament, they rarely looked threatened.

Portugal, semi-finalists in Germany four years ago, had Ricardo Costa sent off for an off-the-ball clash with Joan Capdevila before the end but by then their fate already looked sealed.

The only concern for Spain, who play Paraguay in the last eight, is the continuing lack of form shown by striker Fernando Torres, who seems to still be feeling the after-effects of the knee operation he had in April.

Torres did play his part in a bright start by Spain, cutting into the area and testing Eduardo with a curling shot, but he quickly faded and it was actually Portugal who had the best openings before half-time.

Villa had also brought a fine save out of Eduardo early on, while Xavi fired a first-time shot over from a corner but, after surviving those scares, Carlos Queiroz's side not only found a way of keeping Spain at arms length, they also began to threaten at the other end.

Twice Cristiano Ronaldo tried his luck from long range with free-kicks, and on the second occasion Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas could not hold on to the ball and Gerard Pique had to mop up.

Casillas looked jittery again when he parried a pile-driver by Tiago and had to race to beat Hugo Almeida to the ball, which was dropping towards the net.

Almeida somehow missed the target after rising to meet Simao's inviting deep cross, while Tiago wasted another good opening when he nodded wide from Fabio Coentrao's driven centre.

That should have acted as a warning for Spain, but they were caught on the break again early in the second half and were lucky to escape when Almeida's cross span off Carlos Puyol and looped just beyond the far post.

Portugual failed to seriously test Casillas again after that, but it still took the introduction of striker Fernando Llorente, who came off the bench for the ineffective Torres just before the hour mark, to spark Spain into life.

Within seconds, Llorente met a Sergio Ramos cross with a diving header that flew straight at Eduardo, who was relieved when Villa bent a shot round his post from the outside of the box soon afterwards.

You sensed the Spanish knew this was their moment and, in their next attack, Xavi's clever backheel played in Villa, who had his first shot saved but lifted the rebound into the roof of the net.

Del Bosque's men grew in confidence after taking the lead and, with Ronaldo anonymous, Portugal seemed short on ideas of how they could find an equaliser.

Spain should have added to their lead before the end, with Eduardo saving from Ramos and Villa, while the impressive Llorente headed wide.

But one goal was enough for them to secure victory and they look in good shape to go past the last eight, which is as far as they have progressed at a World Cup since they finished fourth in Brazil in 1950.

Source: BBC Sport

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Iglesias plans naked ski if Spain win World Cup
28 June 2010

"If Spain win, I'm going to get drunk and ski naked in Biscayne Bay," says Enrique Iglesias, who is obviously just as passionate about football as he is about music.

"That is what we used to do when we were kids," he explains.

At the time this interview was conducted with the Spanish star, England were playing the crucial game against Slovenia in the first round of the World Cup.

From the hotel room in central London, the screams coming from grown men in suits watching the match in a conference room next door can clearly be heard.

Every time it sounds like a goal has been played, Iglesias leaps out of his chair to find out what has happened.

Not the best time to interview someone who is football mad.

"If Spain didn't qualify to the next round it would be like writing one of the greatest songs of all time and no-one being able to hear it," he says.

It is only once the game is over and he knows the outcome (they got through in case you were not aware) that Iglesias settles down to talk about his new album - Euphoria - which is out on 5 July.

Read the rest of the article on the BBC website.

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Spain enduring World Cup torture, says press
26 June 2010

MADRID — Spain's laboured qualification for the second round of the World Cup as they bid to add that title to their European crown received little praise from the domestic press on Saturday.

El Pais labelled the Spanish squad as looking like they were undergoing torture after watching their three group games - a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland, a 2-0 win over Honduras and a 2-1 victory over Chile - to finish top of their group but face a tough clash with 2006 semi-finalists Portugal on Tuesday in Cape Town.

"Spain obviously likes torture," opined El Pais, who went on to wonder where the dominant Spain of the past two years had disappeared to.

"After this third match we have still not seen the Spain, neither of Vienna (where they beat Germany 1-0 for the Euro 2008 title), nor of the past few months (they had a 12 match winning streak until they lost to Switzerland).

"The team is just not gelling."

However, El Pais does hold out hope that having breached the first barrier that 'The Red Fury' under coach Vicente del Bosque can rediscover their former elan.

"Now we have come through the Calvary of the first round," it is "time that Spain becomes the Spain of old."

Other papers weren't quite so downbeat with one of the sports dailies Marca congratulating them on coping with the added pressure of being strong favourites prior to the finals.

"Del Bosque's squad showed its capacity to work well under extreme pressure," it wrote, under the front page headline: 'Cristiano (Ronaldo), prepare yourself,' referring to the captain of the Portuguese side, who plays for Real Madrid.

"So, we are in the second round, but be careful, we have won nothing yet."

Its sports daily rival As ran the headline of 'Champions of the group!' and on the inside pages praises the squad for a 'professional job in the group stages,' thanks mainly to the 'individual talents' of David Villa and Andres Iniesta, who scored the goals against Chile.

"This match (against Chile) served as a big lesson, we were better in terms of individual players, but we lost in terms of teamwork," added As.

For El Mundo, Spain ended up top of its group against an 'intense opponent'.

"Pressure, pressure and pressure, from all sides," commented El Mundo.

"After having beaten a very good Chile side, it is now a real king of the jungle that awaits them (the Spanish), Cristiano".

Source: AFP

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Chile 1-2 Spain
26 June 2010

Spain's unquestionable class was just enough to edge them past a talented but ill-disciplined Chile team who deservedly joined the European champions in qualifying for the World Cup's knockout stages.

Vicente del Bosque's side have still not clicked in South Africa - and the South Americans put them under real pressure before being controversially reduced to 10 men just before half-time in Pretoria.

But flashes of individual brilliance from striker David Villa and fit-again midfielder Andres Iniesta sealed a last-16 clash against Portugal on Tuesday as they ran out Group H winners despite a shock defeat to Switzerland in their opening match.

Chile, who picked up seven red cards in qualifying, must face five-time winners Brazil on Monday without their strongest team after three key players were lost to suspension in a first half they threatened to take charge of with admirable invention before losing their heads.

After dominating possession but failing to score in that surprise 1-0 loss to the Swiss, Spain vowed they would not sacrifice their rich attacking instincts for a win-at-all costs philosophy.

Needing three points to guarantee progression, they started this match on the front foot - but Fernando Torres spurned two half-chances and the Liverpool striker clearly looks like a man still feeling his way back after injury.

Yet the European champions were soon being cut open as Chile, whom some observers consider to be a South American version of Spain, attacked them with short incisive passes and constant movement off the ball in support of their team-mates.

Coached by Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, they could have taken a 10th-minute lead after a brilliant move saw Jean Beausejour - a winger who plays for Club America in the Mexico - execute a clever one-two with Jorge Valdivia, but Mark Gonzalez failed to connect properly with his low cross.

In a rare struggle to monopolise the ball, Spain looked riled - but while Chile worked overtime to establish the upper hand they lost their discipline - both Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce were rightly booked for nasty tackles and will miss the match against Brazil.

Firmly against the run of play, Spain's first goal came fortuitously.

Gerard Pique over-hit a long pass out of defence - which the out-of-sorts Torres was never likely to reach - but Chile goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo foolishly raced out of his penalty area to clear unsuccessfully into the path of Villa.

Lurking near the left touchline as the ball squirmed towards him, Barcelona's new £35m signing Villa instantly guided it over Bravo into the net - with his weaker left foot - from all of 40 yards.

Undaunted, the ever-threatening Beausejour raced away from Spain's back-line as he nearly created a dangerous one-on-one with keeper Iker Casillas - but Pique sped back to make a crucial block.

Clever Iniesta, who has struggled for fitness in the past three months, then gave Spain what looked like some breathing space with a typically classy second goal, executing snappy give-and-go exchanges with first Torres and then Villa before coolly guiding the ball into Bravo's far corner with breathtaking simplicity.

The biggest flashpoint moment of the match occurred in the build-up to that goal, as Torres went down following his pass after what looked like an accidental trip from behind by Marco Estrada.

Referee Marco Rodriguez obviously saw the incident differently as he gave Estrada a second yellow card.

Only when Chile were down to 10 men did Iniesta and Xavi start dictating the flow of the match with the cute passing triangles they execute for Barcelona week-in week-out.

Recognising this, Bielsa made two changes at half-time - and three minutes after the interval substitute Rodrigo Millar, who had replaced Gonzalez, put the South Americans firmly back in to the match.

Finding space for himself among a posse of defenders outside the box, his snapshot took a wicked deflection off Pique to loop high past a flailing Casillas.

Chile now needed just one more goal to put themselves back in the frame to finish top, but Spain had just enough about them to take advantage of the extra man.

With Torres clearly struggling, on came Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas in his place as Del Bosque tweaked his side's formation to leave Villa - who now has three goals from this tournament - at the spearhead of their attack.

Although he thrived off the responsibility and set about terrorising the manful Chile defence with real adventure and wit, clear chances were at a premium as the match became more squeezed with both teams eyeing greater challenges ahead; namely a place in the quarter-finals.

Source: BBC Sport

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World Cup 2010: Disaster looms but Spain refuse to change their style
25 June 2010

The favourites are determined to win their crucial game against Chile tonight playing in their usual attractive manner

How fragile the consensus turned out to be. It should never have come to this. Not only were Spain favourites, they were also presented as football's enlightened ones. They were supposed to go into tonight's final group game against Chile with qualification already secured in style. Instead the 2008 European champions face them in the middle of a debate they thought long forgotten, fearing they could go the same way as both of the 2006 World Cup finalists: home.

The formula is simple. Spain have to top the group and avoid Brazil. With Switzerland facing Honduras, the likelihood is that they have to win to progress at all. They must beat an impressive Chile side which has won its opening two games and is led by a coach, Marcelo Bielsa, who inspires as much respect as he does curiosity. The question now is: how will Spain play? How, in fact, should they play?

It is a question that no one expected to be asking. It may also be a false one, even faintly ridiculous. Vicente del Bosque and his players have remained steadfast and the evidence points to a Spanish side that is largely functioning well. Yet the question won't go away. "If we had beaten Switzerland no one would be talking about this," Andrés Iniesta says. But Spain did not beat Switzerland.

Winning Euro 2008 did not just change Spain's history, it changed their future too, removing a dead weight. It reinforced a football identity previously lacking and proved that the aesthetic could be effective. There was a newfound, unwavering conviction about tiki-taka – the nonsensical phrase that roughly means touch-touch and defines Spain's technical, ball-playing approach.

That, at least, was the theory. But defeat against Switzerland and the performance against Honduras changed things with striking speed. A debate that appeared, in David Villa's words, to have been "buried" has been rekindled. Criticism has emerged, not least from the former coach, Luis Aragonés. After Spain's defeat by Switzerland, he complained that the selección lacked competitiveness. Worse, he said their failures had been "coming for a long time". After beating Honduras he said: "Spain don't inspire confidence."

Del Bosque said "there aren't two Spains" and many were critical of Aragonés's opportunism but the national debate was served. It has focused largely on two players, two positions: Sergio Busquets, the extra central midfielder where Spain had only one, and Jesús Navas, the wide man in a team previously without wingers. There have been debates, too about Cesc Fábregas and Fernando Torres, hinging mainly on whether to play an extra striker or an extra midfielder.

In short, the model is being questioned, attacked from both sides. So is the coach for committing 'treason' against it.

"I'm a football romantic," said the midfielder, Xavi. "I like attractive, attacking, beautiful football. When you win like that the satisfaction is double. Switzerland won by just looking to deactivate us. They were happy with the draw but got a win. I don't know what it is like to win like that." The problem is that Switzerland got the win at all, provoking fears that they had offered a plan for Spain's remaining opponents. A competitive edge, a little directness, pace, spark. Yet after beating Honduras, the debate swung the other way. Now they were too direct.

One front cover declared: "We won! (But this doesn't look like Spain)". An editorial bemoaned "little reward for such a significant renunciation of our style". "There was tiki, sure, but where was the taka?" one columnist asked. Another went further: "Spain must look in the mirror."

"I haven't renounced our style," Del Bosque protested. "I can't see the differences some are talking about. I try but I just can't. Besides, there's not only one way of winning – football is full of caveats." In his defence Spain have had more shots and corners than any other side, Alonso and Xavi have completed more passes, and Navas has delivered more crosses than anyone. The coach says the only thing that concerns him is Spain's finishing.

Not that he will leave out Torres, despite his wayward shooting against Honduras. Technique, talent and statistics apart, there is a curious parallel between Torres and Emile Heskey – players whose value can be judged in the performances of others as much as their own. Torres has 24 in 34 for Liverpool but did not score for Spain during qualification. Del Bosque, though, notes how his presence frees up David Villa, coming in from the left, and they will play together with Iniesta in what will essentially be a 4-3-3. There was a spirited defence too of Busquets and Spain's midfield shape will remain the same, with the Barcelona player alongside Alonso and Xavi. "If I was a footballer I would like to be like Busquets," says del Bosque.

Amid the concern there is also a glimmer of Spanish hope in their opponents' identity. Chile are a good side who might still be a good rival, a high-pressure side who could cause problems for Spain's less technical players like Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila and, to a lesser extent, Busquets. But they are also an attacking side that, unlike Switzerland, Spain believe will leave spaces. "We will not change our style because a result would suit us. We die by our principles," Claudio Bravo says. Chile's captain could hardly have chosen his words better. That is precisely the issue at stake – for both sides.

Source: The Guardian

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Iniesta, Ramos back in full training for Spain
25 June 2010

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta and right back Sergio Ramos trained as normal on Thursday, suggesting the pair will be available for Friday's decisive Group H match against Chile.

In warm sunshine at the European champions' training base in Potchefstroom, Iniesta looked to have fully recovered from the knock picked up in last week's 1-0 defeat by Switzerland that kept him out of Monday's 2-0 win over Honduras.

Although Ramos played against the Central Americans, he has been training apart from the rest of the 23-man squad because of sore ribs but was also able to complete a full session before travelling with the pre-tournament favourites to Pretoria.

As it stands, Chile top Group H on six points from two matches, Spain and Switzerland both have three points in second and third respectively with Honduras on none.

A win for Spain would put them through to the last 16, where they would more than likely face either five-times champions Brazil or Portugal, depending on the outcome of Group G.

Spain midfielder Xavi said he had been pleased to hear Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa was not planning to instruct his side to play for the draw that would see them through to the next phase.

Spain dominated possession against a defensive Swiss side but missed a slew of chances and were stung on the break in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament in South Africa.

"It's good that they are going to come out and play for the win and means we will hopefully see a good spectacle," Xavi told a news conference at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

"They are a very intense side, who bring a lot of rhythm to the game and pressure you up high with three forwards," he added. "Their current system is very similar to Spain's."

Source: Yahoo/Eurosport

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World Cup 2010: How many England players would make the Spain squad?
23 June 2010

After the Swiss aberration, Spain are back to where they belong: the best team at this World Cup. Their standard of play against Honduras was back to its usual height and had Fernando Torres been a touch sharper, they would have scored five or more. While Argentina and Brazil have been impressive and Portugal thrashed seven past the North Koreans, that Spanish attacking performance was a defining moment of this World Cup. It set down a marker.

What must have been particularly discouraging for the rest was the depth of talent available to Vicente del Bosque. Andres Iniesta was out with a thigh strain but the Spain coach could still afford to use Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata off the bench.

With Fabio Capello trying to find players capable of freshening up his team for the crucial game with Slovenia it made for a depressing comparison. England’s squad looks desperately thin.

Spain have been the best international side in the world for the last three years – ignore the Fifa ranking of Brazil as No1 – and their first team is formidable. How many English players would make that XI? Ashley Cole for sure, but it is hard to make a case for anyone else.

What was driven home on Monday night, though, was how few English players would have a hope of making the Spain squad, let alone the team. Here’s the Spain squad and here’s the England squad. If you go through it systematically, like-for-like, you’ll see what I mean.

Not a single one of our three goalkeepers would make it. Spain’s No3, Victor Valdes, would easily be England’s No1. One England insider said to me before the tournament that Spain’s seventh-choice goalkeeper would be England’s first choice. He was only half-joking.

Spain’s only weak position is left-back, where Joan Capdevila is capable but not brilliant. Ashley Cole is certainly the superior player. But across the rest of the defence it looks less convincing. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are not the players they were and Glen Johnson is miles behind Sergio Ramos at right back. You would probably take Terry ahead of Carlos Marchena as a back-up centre back to Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique.

The strength of the Spanish central midfield is ludicrous – Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas and Sergio Busquets. Steven Gerrard would get in ahead of Javi Martinez but that’s it. None of the English wingers are better than David Silva, Jesus Navas or Mata.

In attack you have the superb pairing of Torres and David Villa to contend with. Then Pedro Rodriguez provides real pace and trickery and can also play out wide. Wayne Rooney would go ahead of Fernando Llorente, the Bilbao target man, but I can’t see any of the other three – Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey – making it.

So out of the 23, if you go on a like-for-like basis, I reckon only four players – A Cole, Terry, Gerrard and Rooney – would make the Spanish squad. That’s the gulf in class Capello has to contend with.

Source: The Telegraph

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FIFA: No discipline for Spain's Villa
23 June 2010

JOHANNESBURG — FIFA will not take action against Spain striker David Villa after he raised his hand to the face of a Honduras player during the teams' World Cup match Monday.

FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola says its disciplinary committee found no grounds to open a case.

Villa appeared to push his hand across defender Emilio Izaguirre's face late in the first half at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, but went unpunished by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura.

Villa scored twice in Spain's 2-0 victory.

FIFA has made no decision to act against France coach Raymond Domenech for refusing to shake hands with South Africa's Carlos Alberto Parreira after a loss to the World Cup hosts Tuesday. Domenech appeared to breach FIFA guidelines on fair play when he snubbed Parreira after South Africa's 2-1 win at Bloemfontein, which eliminated both teams.

Source: Associated Press

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Barcelona weighing up £38m move for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres - report
23 June 2010

Barcelona are believed to be lining up a £38 million bid to secure the signature of Spain and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, according to the Daily Mail.

The Reds had a torrid campaign last season, with early exits in all cup competitions and a disaster in the domestic circuit that saw the club miss out on Champions League qualification.

The Merseyside club's biggest names have consequently been linked with moves away from Anfield since, with the Spanish heavyweights reported to have been keen on signing the hitman.

However, the Catalan club are believed to be unwilling to pay more than £38m to sign the forward, and believe that the Anfield ace is willing to join their ranks.

Chelsea have also been linked with a move for the prolific goal scorer, and it has been speculated that the Stamford Bridge coffers may open wider than the Spanish ones to sign the forward.

It is said that Barca believe that Torres' inclination to make a move to Camp Nou will see them pip their Premier League rivals in winning the race to sign the hitman.


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World Cup 2010: Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque unhappy
22 June 2010

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque was critical of his side, despite the vital 2-0 win over Honduras.

David Villa scored both goals as the pre-tournament favourites bounced back from their shock defeat by Switzerland, but Del Bosque was left unimpressed.

"We didn't play a good game. We had a lot of chances and we should have won by more goals," he said.

"There were touches of quality but we were more vulnerable today than against Switzerland. I'm not especially happy."

Villa sunk Honduras with a spectacular first-half strike and a deflected effort after the break but Spain wasted several other opportunities, including a missed penalty from Villa.

The European champions are likely to need a win against Chile in their final group match to make the second round and Del Bosque looks set to again partner Villa with the fit-again Fernando Torres.

"Fernando is a great player. He has just recovered from an injury but he looks on top form physically. Let's hope in the next match he can do some more sterling work," stated Del Bosque, who was also impressed by his Central American opponents.

"Honduras were daring, although we did expect that. They have great players like Wilson Palacios, Amado Guevara, Noel Valladares - the spine of this team is very good."

Match-winner Villa, who would have become Spain's record World Cup goalscorer with six goals if he had completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot, appeared more upbeat than his manager.

"If we beat Chile we're practically group winners, the good thing is that we now depend on ourselves," said the striker.

"It's a shame [about the penalty]. I could have passed [the other four players on five goals] but I'm still happy with the result."

Source: BBC Sport

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World Cup 2010: Fernando Torres on target as Spain hit Poland for six
09 June 2010

Fernando Torres finally returned to action after undergoing surgery for a knee injury and scored within 10 minutes of coming on as Spain crushed Poland in their final warm-up game before World Cup 2010. There was one concern for the Spanish following a masterful performance, with Andrés Iniesta forced to withdraw before half-time – although early indications suggest that his departure was a precautionary measure. The midfielder will undergo tests in Barcelona today.

For all the protestations of coach Vicente del Bosque, favourites is a tag the Spanish wear lightly, while the depth of their squad is startling. Every time a player departed an equally good one took his place – from Cesc Fábregas for Xavi Hernández, to Torres for David Villa, or Jesús Navas for David Silva. Not that Spain will want to be without Iniesta, who was forced to make way after just 38 minutes. The all too familiar sight of his retiring to the bench was even more concerning after a season blighted by muscular injuries.

The importance of his withdrawal was illustrated by the role he had played in Spain's opening two goals. After 13 minutes, he played a dangerous curling ball across the face of the six yard box with the outside of his right foot, which David Villa turned in. Then, a minute later, Iniesta scooped a wonderful ball into the path of Xavi, who simply rolled it across the face of the six-yard box for Silva to score.

Comfort came as he took his place on the bench – there was no sign of alarm, nor even an ice pack. And from Spain's reaction. Xabi Alonso and Fábregas had made it 4-0 by the time Torres appeared on 65 minutes. Eight minutes later, he confidently side-footed Pedro Rodríguez's pass beyond Tomasz Kuszczak. Soon he was bearing on the goalkeeper once more, but this time he couldn't not reach the ball first. It did, though, drop to Rodríguez to flight a delicate chip over the line as the keeper scrambled back. It was his first for the national team, Spain's sixth of a hugely impressive night.

Source: The Guardian

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Spanish Inquisition: How Much Is Cesc Fabregas Worth To Barcelona?
07 June 2010

Ahead of David Villa, Maicon, Angel Di Maria, and even Steven Gerrard, there is one name in Spain that seems to have eclipsed all others in becoming this summer’s transfer saga to follow: Cesc Fabregas.

The Arsenal midfielder had long been tipped for a return to his boyhood club, Barcelona, and over the course of this past season, the rumour mill kicked into high gear as it began churning a narrative that tied the 23-year-old midfielder to an imminent move back to Spain.

A target for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Spanish press sparked a media war as tabloids from both the Spanish and Catalunyan capitals began perpetuating claims that Fabregas would soon be prised away from north London to play for either Los Blancos or the Blaugrana.

Of course, once a Barca player, always a Barca player. As the 2009/10 season began to come to a close, Cesc publicly declared that if he were ever to play for a team besides Arsenal, he would only do so for Barca.

But while Fabregas may have had good relations with his former club, the Gunners were not all too enthralled with some of the Catalan giant’s very public advances toward their superstar captain and were particularly incensed with some of Barca president Joan Laporta’s bravado as he issued comments that made it sound as if bringing Cesc back to the Camp Nou was already a done deal.

So fragmented has the relationship between Laporta’s administration and Arsenal now become that in the dying days of Laporta’s presidency, pulling off the transfer coup that effectively marks the Barca president’s legacy at the club is now in danger of falling flat. As it stands now, Arsenal have resoundingly rejected a formal bid from Barca of just over £29 million and have vowed not to negotiate with the Spanish champions.

The player’s stated intentions are to leave the Gunners for his former club and a number of Barca players - Xavi, Carles Puyol, and Gerard Pique - have expressed their desire for the youngster to join them at the Camp Nou, but Cesc has also declared that he is unwilling to deal with such transfer speculation before the World Cup, instead choosing to concentrate on playing with Spain in this summer’s tournament in South Africa.

Thus, we have come to an impasse.

Initial reports claim that Laporta is set to launch another bid for Cesc this week with the hope of finalising the deal before Barca hold their presidential elections on June 13. But the truth is that the race against time, Fabregas’ desire to focus on the World Cup, and the unfavourable relations between Arsenal and Barca’s club directos could very well mean that Cesc’s possibilities of playing at Barca may fall outside of Laporta’s purview altogether, consequently delaying any kind of deal for the young midfielder until mid-July (after the World Cup).

In many ways, Fabregas’ transfer dealings between Laporta and Arsenal have begun to mirror Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon’s transfer push for Cristiano Ronaldo that ultimately angered the Manchester United hierarchy and made any initial possibility of a deal for the Portuguese superstar moot. Similarly, Laporta’s inability to remain diplomatic and respectful toward the London club may well have ruled him out of presenting Cesc as the final signing of his presidency.

The upcoming Barca elections are, therefore, pivotal to Cesc putting pen to paper for the Blaugrana. The leading candidate in the upcoming elections, Sandro Rosell, has flatly declared that €60 or €70 million (the price tag Arsenal have reportedly slapped on their captain) is far too great a price to pay for the playmaker.

Cesc is, of course, a premier player at his position and, at 23 years old, has nowhere to go but up. Given his age, ability, and potential for growth, the truth is that, in the wake of the inflated transfer market, if Fabregas is not worth €60-70 million, he is certainly not worth much less than that.

Real Madrid are, predictably, also playing their hand in an effort to influence the dealings. The chances that Cesc would play for Madrid are next to none. But despite that, Los Blancos could force Barca into paying far more than they would otherwise feel comfortable paying, if not ruling out the possibility of the young Gunner joining the Blaugrana altogether… at least for this summer.

With Madrid having pegged Fabregas as their “midfield transfer target” should the signing of Steven Gerrard fail, Los Blancos are effectively driving Cesc’s price up, forcing the Blaugrana to dig deeper into their wallet to meet the artificial demand. Fabregas’ signing for Barca could very well go through by the end of the summer, but if Madrid play their cards correctly, at what cost to their arch-rivals?

Would such a huge spending spree effectively demonstrate that Barca are just as much a Galactico-seeking club as their nemesis from the capital, or will the next Barca president insist upon the established Blaugrana model of building talent through the cantera rather than the chequebook and thus opt for the unpopular decision of foregoing Cesc’s signing?

And finally, there is the question of need. With such midfielders as Xavi - arguably the best midfield orchestrator in the world - Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets, along with a host of promising youth products in Thiago Alcantara and Jonathan Dos Santos, is Cesc’s signing for Barca, especially at what is widely anticipated to be an astronomical price, even necessary? How much of a potential move from London to Catalunya hinges upon need on the pitch as it does upon a desire to bring “the one that got away” back home, just as the club managed to do with Gerard Pique?

The World Cup may end on July 11, but it seems as if there will still be much drama and excitement in store before next year’s La Liga season kicks off. If David Villa's signing for Barca and Jose Mourinho's arrival at Madrid are anything to go by to start the warm months, it is bound to be a great summer for those who love the beautiful game.


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Rafael Benítez leaves Liverpool
04 June 2010

Liverpool have confirmed the departure of their manager Rafael Benítez. The club released a statement this afternoon saying the Spaniard is to leave the club "by mutual consent".

Kenny Dalglish is to assist the Liverpool managing director, Christian Purslow, in the search for a replacement. Roy Hodgson, Martin O'Neill and Louis van Gaal are among the bookmakers early favourites for the post.

"It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC," Benítez said. "I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager."

Benítez joined the club from Valencia in 2004 and guided the side to the Champions League title in his first season in charge. The FA Cup followed in 2006, but he was unable to transform his side's cup form into Premier League success.

Despite regular top-four finishes, the closest Liverpool came to the title during his reign was in 2008-09, when they were runners-up to Manchester United. Last season Benítez's side missed out on the Champions League qualifying spots, finishing the season in seventh.

Despite those shortcomings in the league, Benítez is admired by the Internazionale president, Massimo Moratti, who is searching for a replacement for José Mourinho at San Siro.

Liverpool FC today confirmed that Rafael Benitez is to leave the club by mutual consent.

Mr Benitez relinquishes his position as team manager after six years and the Board of Directors would like to place on record their grateful thanks for his services and wish him all the best in his future career.

The Board has now asked Managing Director Christian Purslow, with the assistance of Club Ambassador Kenny Dalglish, to begin a formal search to identify and assess potential candidates for the managerial position.

No timescale has been placed on the process and Liverpool FC will make no further statement until a new manager is appointed.

LFC Chairman Martin Broughton said: "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned.''

Rafael Benitez said: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager.

"Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Source: The Guardian

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Spain 1 - 0 South Korea
04 June 2010

Jesus Navas struck a stunning winner as Spain left it late once again before recording a narrow World Cup warm-up victory over South Korea.

Five days after Fernando Llorente's injury-time effort earned Spain a 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia, Navas popped up four minutes from time to slam an unstoppable 25-yard effort into the top corner of the net for the only goal of the match in Innsbruck.

That was Navas' first goal for his country and means the European champions have now won 11 successive games, and improved their overall record during the last few years to 44 victories - including two after extra time - in 47 matches, with just one defeat.

Spain had to work hard for the triumph, though, and it was not until the second-half introduction of some of their big guns that the Iberian nation started to take a clear upper hand.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque opted to start with a side made up largely of fringe players, and aside from a Cesc Fabregas effort that hit the crossbar, they created little to worry South Korea in the opening period.

The South Koreans, who suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Belarus on Sunday, did not create many problems either before half-time, although they did come close twice.

The first was in the 13th minute when Kim Jung-woo tried his luck from 25 yards and Spain goalkeeper Jose Reina was rooted to the spot as his shot whistled not too far wide of the near post.

The second opportunity was on the stroke of half-time when Reina did well to deny Park Chu-young and Lee Chung-yong in succession after the duo had combined well on the edge of the area.

In between those two incidents, Spain came the closest to breaking the deadlock when the fit-again Fabregas struck the woodwork in the 35th minute.

The Arsenal captain, whose future is the subject of intense speculation with Barcelona keen on his services, had plenty of time to pick his spot from 18 yards but saw his curling shot clip the crossbar and go over.

Fabregas was given some playing time after resuming full training following a cracked fibula, but Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who is recovering from knee surgery, was not risked.

Del Bosque made just the one change at half-time, giving Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes his debut in place of Reina, but it was not until the Spain coach made a batch of substitutions just before the hour-mark that the European champions took control.

Those changes saw David Villa, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Pedro Rodriguez sent into the action, and substitute South Korea goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong soon found himself under increasing pressure.

Javi Martinez fired over before Jung saved from Navas and Villa.

Huh Jung-moo's side almost caused a stir in the 83rd minute when Lee Jung-soo beat Valdes to a free-kick into the area, but his header went wide of goal and Spain could breathe again.

Immediately after that Villa fluffed a great chance to put Spain ahead, while two minutes later the newly-signed Barcelona striker was denied by Jung.

Jung could do nothing about the goal that beat him moments later, though, as Sevilla winger Navas buried a magnificent rising shot into the roof of the net to seal the win.

Source: ESPN

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