Andrés Iniesta: ‘I’ve squeezed out every drop, there’s nothing left’ | Sid Lowe

As Spain’s midfielder prepares for his final World Cup he discusses how he spent his last minutes at Barcelona, the times he hit near-perfection and how football in his village shaped him “‘An intimate moment,” he calls it. Late on a Sunday night, his last there, Andrés Iniesta sat alone in the middle of Europe’s biggest stadium, silenced now. The nets had been folded up, the lights turned out and everyone else had gone but he remained, kit on, boots and socks off to feel the grass. “It was lovely to sit there, a moment between me and the pitch where I enjoyed myself so much,” he says. “Just me saying goodbye to my home. Every corner of the Camp Nou holds a memory. It’s very powerful, brutal. It was emotional.” After 22 years, 16 in the first team, he was leaving Barcelona; leaving Spain, too. As Continue reading "Andrés Iniesta: ‘I’ve squeezed out every drop, there’s nothing left’ | Sid Lowe"

It’s the Sids 2018! The complete review of the 2017-18 La Liga season

Barcelona cantered to the title but couldn’t go unbeaten, the Madrid clubs each landed a European trophy and Real Betis were the great entertainers All that and in the end it came down to this … nothing. There were tears and plenty of emotion, Fernando Torres serenaded off and Andrés Iniesta sitting alone on the Camp Nou turf long into the night, lights out for the last time, but for the first time in history there was no dramatic ending and nothing to play for on the final day of the Spanish season. Not the title, not Europe, not relegation, not the Pichichi, not the Zamora either – and not even a first-ever unbeaten league campaign. Barcelona had lost that record seven days earlier, finally defeated 37 games in, without Leo Messi. Still, they did win a friendly in South Africa three days later, so that’s okay. They also won Continue reading "It’s the Sids 2018! The complete review of the 2017-18 La Liga season"

Barcelona tickets on sale for US summer tour

< !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> FC Barcelona will be heading to the United States this summer for a preseason tour ahead of its 2018/19 LaLiga season. During the 2017/18 season, Barcelona won the Copa del Rey final after defeating Sevilla in the final. Plus, of course, they won the Spanish LaLiga title in convincing fashion. During this summer’s International Champions Cup, Barcelona will be playing against tough opposition including Spurs (in Los Angeles), AS Roma (in Arlington, Texas) and AC Milan (in San Francisco). In the 2018 International Champions Cup, all of the teams will play three games each to determine who will win this summer’s competition.   Here’s the schedule of Barcelona games this summer in the United States (all kickoff times listed are in the Eastern United States time zone):   Saturday, July 28 Barcelona vs Tottenham Hotspur (International Champions Cup), 11pm, Los Angeles [TICKETS]   Tuesday, July 31 Barcelona vs Continue reading "Barcelona tickets on sale for US summer tour"

Andrés Iniesta signs for Japanese club Vissel Kobe after leaving Barcelona

• Iniesta describes arrival on three-year deal as ‘very special day’
• Midfielder said by Japanese media to be earning £22.5m a yearAndrés Iniesta has signed for the Japanese side Vissel Kobe after bringing down the curtain on his brilliant Barcelona career. The 34-year-old midfielder appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani. Continue reading...

Bojan Krkic: ‘I had anxiety attacks but no one wants to talk about that. Football’s not interested’

The forward, who scored 900 goals for Barcelona’s youth teams and was labelled the ‘New Messi’, opens up on how the huge expectations affected him“I have a problem,” Bojan Krkic says, edging forward on the sofa. “I love football, it’s my life.” Outside, through the balcony doors, the sun dips behind Vitoria, northern Spain. His homeland is one of five countries in which he has played; he started at Barcelona, where he became their youngest player to make a league debut, and then had spells at Roma, Milan and Ajax. He joined Stoke in 2014 before loans at Mainz and now Alavés. He has won four league titles and the European Cup twice, been a world champion and played alongside some of the finest footballers of a generation. He has scored in La Liga, Serie A, Eredivisie, the Premier League and the Bundesliga, and he is proud of all that. So it might sound like a Continue reading "Bojan Krkic: ‘I had anxiety attacks but no one wants to talk about that. Football’s not interested’"

Arsenal were close to signing Ronaldo and tried to sign Messi, says Wenger

• Arsène Wenger reflects on how he tried to sign both in 2003
• ‘Ronaldo was very close. Messi didn’t work because of agents’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi could have played together at Arsenal had things worked out differently. Arsène Wenger, who took charge of the final game of his 22-year reign on Sunday, has revealed how he tried to sign both in 2003. Instead Ronaldo went to Manchester United before joining Real Madrid, and Wenger was unable to prise Messi from Barcelona. Continue reading...

European roundup: Barcelona lose unbeaten record after 5-4 Levante defeat

• La Liga champions Barça lose despite Philippe Coutinho hat-trick
• Juventus win seventh consecutive Serie A title with Roma drawBarcelona’s long unbeaten run in La Liga ended in thrilling fashion as the champions suffered a shock 5-4 defeat away to Levante in their 37th game of the campaign after resting Lionel Messi. Levante raced into a remarkable 5-1 lead against the Double winners after 56 minutes and although Barça fought their way back with a hat-trick from Philippe Coutinho and a Luis Suárez penalty they were denied the chance to end the Liga season without losing. Continue reading...

Sevilla resist Real Madrid fightback to stay in Europa League race

• Cristiano Ronaldo missing through injury as Real lose 3-2 at Sevilla
• Ousmane Dembélé hits double as Barcelona thrash Villarreal 5-1Sevilla remain in the hunt for a Europa League spot as Joaquin Caparros secured his first win since taking temporary charge with a 3-2 win against Real Madrid at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. The visitors, who could have moved above their city rivals Atlético and into second with a win, were without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and suspended Gareth Bale and it showed as they posed little attacking threat. Continue reading...

Barcelona and Real Madrid explode into life to make the clásico matter | Sid Lowe

There was supposed to be little to play for but after 28 shots, four goals, a red card and bags of controversy, it didn’t feel like it “Nah, nah, it was quiet,” Marcelo grinned and everyone laughed. A few metres away, through the door to the left, Ernesto Valverde took a seat and came straight out with it. “Decaffeinated,” he said dead pan, the hint of a smirk of his face. There was a bit of a laugh then too. Everyone knew what they meant, the irony not lost on anyone, Valverde’s first word of the week, sent right back at them.
Outside, the confetti had settled all around the Camp Nou, billions of bits of colour everywhere, and it was quiet now, midnight approaching and 97,797 people heading home, but still their minds raced and their hearts too, trying to make sense of it all, picking their way Continue reading "Barcelona and Real Madrid explode into life to make the clásico matter | Sid Lowe"

An unmarked grave to hero status: the Irishman who saved Barcelona | Paul Doyle

Fergus Dowd, an IT systems analyst for Dublin, won the backing of Luís Figo, Roy Keane and a film director to help rescue from obscurity Patrick O’Connell and his exploits at BarcelonaLike absolutely no other middle-aged IT systems analysts from Dublin, Fergus Dowd went to a Blyth Spartans match and wound up spearheading an international campaign to resurrect the memory of a former Manchester United captain who saved Barcelona from extinction. Sometimes, apparently, it takes an extraordinary Irishman to tell the story of an extraordinary Irishman. Patrick O’Connell, a footballer with what might be classed as scoundrel tendencies as well as qualities that enabled him to become a heroic manager, had lain in an unmarked London grave for 57 years until Dowd heard about his singular life and decided to rally, with almost Geldofian zeal, the football world into action. The story of how he and a trio of Continue reading "An unmarked grave to hero status: the Irishman who saved Barcelona | Paul Doyle"

An unmarked grave to hero status: the Irishman who saved Barcelona | Paul Doyle

Fergus Dowd, an IT systems analyst for Dublin, won the backing of Luís Figo, Roy Keane and a film director to help rescue from obscurity Patrick O’Connell and his exploits at BarcelonaLike absolutely no other middle-aged IT systems analysts from Dublin, Fergus Dowd went to a Blyth Spartans match and wound up spearheading an international campaign to resurrect the memory of a former Manchester United captain who saved Barcelona from extinction. Sometimes, apparently, it takes an extraordinary Irishman to tell the story of an extraordinary Irishman. Patrick O’Connell, a footballer with what might be classed as scoundrel tendencies as well as qualities that enabled him to become a heroic manager, had lain in an unmarked London grave for 57 years until Dowd heard about his singular life and decided to rally, with almost Geldofian zeal, the football world into action. The story of how he and a trio of Continue reading "An unmarked grave to hero status: the Irishman who saved Barcelona | Paul Doyle"

Gareth Bale denies 10-man Barcelona victory over Real Madrid in El Clásico

Rarely has a draw felt so good to this stadium. Barcelona are three games away from completing an unbeaten season after this draw with Real Madrid with 10 men. Twice Barcelona led, twice Madrid equalised, but El Clásico finished 2-2 and with the Camp Nou chanting “Champions!”. A game that was supposed to be decaffeinated, nothing riding on it, Barcelona champions already, was instead among the most tense and controversial in recent memory, with eight yellow cards, one red card, four goals, countless confrontations and tension all the way to the end. Continue reading...

Brilliant Barcelona’s low-key La Liga title should not be underestimated | Sid Lowe

Perhaps with time, Ernesto Valverde and his team sealing a first unbeaten Spanish league title since 1932 will be more valued The league came to a close at both ends of Riazor, two human circles forming. Deportivo de La Coruña’s players joined together, arms around each other, for a few final words offered quietly and sadly in the rain. As they broke, there were some whistles and they walked slowly towards the tunnel and the second division, relegated again. The manager, their third this season, told them to go with their heads held high, insisting “we’re not angry, we’re unhappy”, but most looked down as they left, eyes lost. In the stands above, there were tears and reproach. Do you understand that, Celso Borges was asked, stopping briefly before departing. “Yes, of course,” he said. “We shouldn’t feel ashamed, but these are difficult moments and it’s hard to digest.” Continue reading "Brilliant Barcelona’s low-key La Liga title should not be underestimated | Sid Lowe"

Andrés Iniesta in tears as he confirms Barcelona exit after 21 years – video

Andrés Iniesta has confirmed he will leave Barcelona at the end of the season after 21 years at the club. The Spanish playmaker has played an influential role at Barcelona, coming through the youth system before turning professional in 2001. Since then he has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies Continue reading...

Luis Suárez helps sink Valencia as Barcelona set 39-game unbeaten record

Barcelona responded to their shock Champions League elimination to AS Roma by beating Valencia 2-1 on Saturday in a subdued atmosphere at the Nou Camp, setting a Liga record run of 39 games unbeaten and taking them a step closer to another title. Luis Suárez gave Barcelona the lead after a quarter of an hour by meeting a delicious outside-of-the-foot pass from former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho, scoring with one touch from close range. Continue reading...

Six of the most dramatic nights in the European Cup and Champions League

From the 1960 final to the miracle of Istanbul, Europe’s top club competition has provided many moments to rival the drama of Real Madrid’s quarter-final against Juventus The almost shocking conclusion to what had been a notable Juventus recovery against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu has not only divided opinion – it was a penalty all day long, one could only admire the stealth with which Medhi Benatia administered his shove in the back of Lucas Vázquez and the bravery of Michael Oliver for punishing it – but has also inspired much talk of the evening being one of the most dramatic in the history of the European Cup and Champions League. However the latter stages of the competition have frequently produced controversy, spectacle and drama. Here are six other notable European nights to consider. Continue reading...