Barcelona Striker Aubameyang Victim Of Armed Home Robbery


LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the victim of a violent armed robbery at his home in the early hours of Monday, the Spanish club said.

“He is ok now, scared but ok,” a Barcelona source told AFP, confirming press reports.

At least four men broke into his home in Castelldefels near Barcelona through the garden and threatened him and his wife with guns and iron bars, and hit him, daily El Pais reported.

The thieves fled by car after forcing the Gabon international to open a safe and making off with jewels that were inside, the newspaper reported.

A spokeswoman for Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, confirmed they were investigating a violent robbery in Castelldefels but refused to identify the victim, citing privacy rules.

“The investigation remains open and we are gathering information,” she told AFP.

The incident comes as Aubameyang is linked with a return to the Premier League after interest from Chelsea.

He joined Barcelona in February from Arsenal after reportedly having fallen out with Gunners manager Mikel Arteta due to disciplinary breaches.

Several high-profile footballers in Spain have been subject to robberies though most of these break-ins occur while the stars are playing.

In June police arrested six people in connection with the three-million-euro burglary at the house belonging to former Brazil forward Ronaldo.

Paris Saint-Germain player Marco Verratti was staying at Ronaldo’s house in Ibiza but was not home when the burglars struck, taking jewellery and money.

And earlier this month police recovered Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski’s watch, which was stolen as the player signed autographs before a training session.

-AFP

Barcelona Sell Off Assets To Make Signings In Attempt To Restore Glory Days

 

Barcelona’s attempts to establish themselves once again as a force in La Liga and the Champions League this season have seen the heavily-indebted Catalans gamble with their future to enable a striking summer spending spree.

A year after being forced to let Lionel Messi go as eye-watering reported debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.39 billion) crippled the club, Barcelona have spent 153 million euros on transfer fees alone to strengthen their squad, with Robert Lewandowski the most notable new arrival.

“This is a really exciting season. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make all the fans happy,” coach Xavi Hernandez said before last weekend’s 6-0 friendly win over Mexican side Pumas UNAM.

“That means winning trophies. That is our main objective.”

After three years of struggles, on and off the field, the summer has seen hope return to Camp Nou, with president Joan Laporta talking of an exciting “new era” when the club unveiled Lewandowski as a Barcelona player.

“Euphoria” was the headline on the cover of local daily Sport the same day.

Even partisan Madrid-based sports daily Marca admitted that Barca were “frightening” in the wake of their drubbing of Pumas UNAM last weekend, when Lewandowski scored his first goal since his arrival from Bayern Munich.

Yet how Barcelona have gone about raising the funds to sign Lewandowski, as well as centre-backs Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen, AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, and Leeds United’s Brazilian winger Raphinha has raised eyebrows.

Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga’s financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings and, crucially, to register any new players.

– Pulling levers –

They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic “levers”.

The club sold 25 per cent of their domestic television rights for the next quarter of a century to US investment firm Sixth Street for some 400 million euros.

Barcelona sold 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual productions, to Socios.com for 100 million euros on August 1, and then another 25 per cent to US investment firm GDA Luma for 100 million euros more.

In the space of a few weeks, 600 million euros had been brought in to fill the coffers.

The aim was to clean up the club’s finances, make it possible to increase the salary limit set by La Liga and allow the new signings to all be registered for the start of the season.

On top of that, Barca signed the biggest sponsorship deal in their history with Spotify, bringing in a reported 435 million euros for the music streaming giant to feature on the club’s shirts and to have naming rights to the Camp Nou.

And so Barcelona look well placed to become serious title contenders again as they prepare to host Rayo Vallecano this weekend.

Only time will tell if mortgaging part of the club’s assets in exchange for an immediate influx of cash will bear fruit.

– De Jong to leave? –

Yet, Barcelona are still waiting for La Liga to allow them to register their new signings, although they hope to be able to do so in time for the season.

They are also hoping to further ease their financial problems by reducing their wage bill.

The Catalans have been trying to persuade Frenkie de Jong to leave, with suggestions even made that a contract he signed in 2020 was not legal. The Dutch midfielder says he wants to stay.

Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Memphis Depay are also candidates to depart the Camp Nou, with the latter reportedly a target for Juventus.

On top of that, efforts have been made to persuade certain players, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, to accept wage reductions.

Barca’s “economic miracle”, as the press have called it, still has to be transformed into a footballing miracle.

-AFP

Barcelona Beat NY Red Bulls 2-0 To Cap Unbeaten US Tour

Barcelona’s Dutch forward Memphis Depay (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the international friendly football match between the New York Red Bulls and FC Barcelona at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on July 30, 2022. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

 

Ousmane Dembele and Memphis Depay lifted Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday as the Spanish giants finished their four-match friendly tour of the United States unbeaten.

French winger Dembele fired Barcelona ahead after 40 minutes before a sellout crowd of 25,252 at Red Bull Arena.

Depay made it 2-0 in the 87th minute — five minutes after the Red Bulls were reduced to 10 men when Daniel Edelman was sent off for a wild sliding tackle on Pablo Torre.

While newly signed striker Robert Lewandowski remains in search of his first goal for Barcelona, the club heads back to Spain having racked up three wins and a draw in four friendlies, Saturday’s victory following a 6-0 win over Inter Miami, a 1-0 triumph over La Liga rivals Real Madrid and a 2-2 draw with Juventus.

French winger Dembele opened the scoring with his third goal in two matches. From a pass by Raphinha, he unleashed a right-footed blast into the bottom right corner of Carlos Coronel’s net.

Depay struck in the 87th, capitalizing on a Red Bulls defensive mixup to slot the ball into an empty net.

Lewandowski, signed from Bayern Munich for around 50 million euros was formally introduced as a Barca player at the start of the tour in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Polish striker was clearly pushing to open his Barcelona account in the first half but failed to connect on a spate of attempts.

That included a header over the bar in the 17th minute and a 20th-minute attempt in which he escaped a trio of defenders to unleash a shot that was also over the bar.

In the 25th minute, Dembele broke free down the right side to set up Lewandowski, but Coronel easily gathered in his shot. Coronel had to work harder in the 30th to deflect another attempt from Lewandowski.

A lively Red Bulls side had a smattering of chances, notably two headers from Sean Nealis that both went wide.

But the hosts, in the midst of an MLS Cup playoff push, changed their entire 11 for the second half.

A handful of halftime changes for Barcelona didn’t include Lewandowski, but he didn’t have any more luck in the second half as substitute keeper Ryan Meara denied him twice before he departed in the 73rd minute.

Barcelona will conclude their pre-season with a match against Mexico’s Pumas UNAM at Camp Nou next Sunday.

AFP

Lewandowski Promises To Help Barcelona ‘Return To The Top’

In this file photo, Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Dynamo Kyiv in Munich, southern Germany, on September 29, 2021.
CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski said Monday he was raring to go at new club Barcelona and determined to help them “return to the top and win as many titles as possible”.

“I’m finally here. I’m delighted to be at Barça,” the former Bayern Munich star told Barca TV after joining his new teammates in Miami where Barcelona are starting a four-match US tour this week.

“The last few days have been long, but finally an agreement has been reached. I’m ready to take on this new challenge,” continued the 33-year-old.

“I’ve always wanted to play in La Liga and in the big teams, so Barca is a great opportunity for me.

“I’m here to help Barca get back to the top and win as many titles as possible.”

Barcelona’s last domestic title was in 2019 and their last Champions League trophy was in 2015.

On Saturday, Bayern Munich announced that they had reached an agreement with Barcelona for Lewandowski after two months of endless negotiations between the clubs.

The two-time FIFA men’s player of the year has reportedly agreed on a four-year deal worth 50 million euros ($50.4m), including five million in potential add-ons.

He is the club’s fourth summer transfer after Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie from AC Milan and Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen on a free transfer, and Brazil winger Raphinha, recruited for 70 million euros from Leeds.

The club has also extended the contract of French winger Ousmane Dembele, who is committed until 2024.

A very generous transfer window for a club which suffered from an abysmal debt, exceeding one billion euros in the long term, a few months ago.

-AFP

Bayern Star Lewandowski Poised For Barcelona Move — Reports

Bayern Munich's Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring a goal for Bayern Munich on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

 

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is set to move to Barcelona in a deal worth 50 million euros ($50.4m), according to multiple reports on Saturday.

Both clubs reached an agreement overnight (Friday), according to Bild and Kicker newspapers and the Sky Germany channel, ending a standoff with the Polish forward who has said he wants to leave the Bavarian giants.

At the end of May, Lewandowski said “it is certain that my story with Bayern has come to an end.”

Lewandowski, twice voted FIFA men’s player of the year, is reported to be set to sign a four-year contract with Barcelona.

“The striker has planned to arrive today (Saturday) in Barcelona to undergo his medical examination and sign for four seasons,” Catalan newspaper Sport reported.

“The Polish player will not be at the presentation of the Bavarian team today,” said Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo, adding that the 33-year-old will join the Spanish team for their tour of the United States from July 18-31.

Bayern had only offered Lewandowski a one-year extension to his contract, which expires in the summer of 2023, according to German media.

The Polish international was also unhappy with the salary offered and had clashed with the Bavarian club’s coach Julian Nagelsmann, over his tactical choices.

Lewandowski joined Bayern in 2014, scoring 344 goals in 375 competitive matches and broke the Bundesliga single-season scoring record.

He won the Bundesliga in each of his eight seasons with the club as well as the Champions League, the Club World Cup and three German Cups.

Raphinha Set To Join Barcelona

Liverpool forward Raphinha

 

Brazil winger Raphinha, who played a pivotal role in Leeds United retaining their place in the Premier League last season, is poised to sign for Barcelona after the clubs agreed to the deal in principle on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old will cost the Catalans a reported 55 million euros ($55.3million) — with a potential 15 million euros in add-ons — and sign a five-year contract.

“Barcelona and Leeds United Football Club have reached an agreement in principle for the transfer of Raphael Dias Belloli, Raphinha, pending the player passing his medical,” read a statement on the Barcelona website.

Barcelona said they were buying: “a winger who is excellent in one on one, taking on defenders being a key part of his game.”

Raphinha spent two seasons at Elland Road, scoring 17 goals and providing 12 assists after they signed him from Ligue 1 outfit Rennes for £17 million – the French side are due a cut of the transfer fee.

Raphinha — who had two years remaining of his contract — became a fans’ favourite and earned himself a permanent place in their hearts when he scored a penalty in the 2-1 win over Brentford in their final match of last season to ensure they stayed up in the English top-flight.

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch — who replaced the sacked Marcelo Bielsa at the end of February — paid tribute to Raphinha admiring the dedication he showed in the battle to keep them up.

“I’ll say this about Raphinha,” said Marsch on Sky Sports from the team’s base on their pre-season tour of Australia.

“If you think about a young man who was pretty much guaranteed to go on a reduced transfer fee (reported to be £25 million), 100 per cent to Barcelona if we were relegated.

“Then you watch the performances and the commitment he had to make sure the club was going to stay up, I think it would be difficult for any 25-year-old to perform with that pressure the way that he did.

“We are so thankful.”

Barcelona have been able to spend after easing their massive financial problems by selling 10% of their TV rights at the end of June to American company Sixth Street for 25 years at a cost of around 207.5 million euros.

Raphinha — capped nine times — is Barca’s third signing of the close season following Ivory Coast defender Franck Kessie from AC Milan and Denmark central defender Andreas Christensen from Chelsea.

Raphinha is the second big name to leave Leeds in the close season with England midfielder Kalvin Phillips departing for champions Manchester City for a fee of £45 million.

Leeds, though, have not been quiet themselves in the transfer market buying six players as they bid to avoid a repeat of last season’s nerve-wracking experience.

Among them is Colombian winger Luis Sinisterra, who they signed for a reported £21.4 million last week from Dutch side Feyenoord as Raphinha’s departure became inevitable.

-AFP

Barcelona Complete Move For Milan Midfielder Kessie

Franck Kessie, of AC Milan, celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match between US Sassuolo and AC Milan at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, Italy, on May 22, 2022. Isabella Bonotto / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Isabella Bonotto / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

 

 

Barcelona on Monday announced the signing of Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie on a free transfer from Italian champions AC Milan.

“The player will sign a contract until 30 June 2026 and his buy-out clause will be set at 500 million euros ($523 million),” Barcelona said in a statement.

Kessie, 25, spent the past five years in Milan after first arriving in Italy when he joined Atalanta in 2015.

He scored seven times in 39 appearances for Milan last season as the club won the Serie A title for the first time since 2011.

The Ivorian will be presented by the club on Wednesday, while Denmark defender Andreas Christensen is expected to be unveiled as a Barca player this week as well after leaving Chelsea.

Asisat Oshoala Claims Golden Boot In Women’s Spanish Primera Division

Photo of Super falcons captain, Asisat Oshoala

 

Super Falcons forward, Asisat Oshoala, has picked up the top scorer award for the Barcelona Fermeni side with a goal tally of 20.

Oshoala also became the first African woman to win the highest goalscorer gong in the Spanish Primera Division since it began in 2011.

She was also instrumental in guiding her Barcelona team to history as the first team in Spanish football history to win the league title with a perfect record

The Spanish champions finished the season with 30 wins in 30 matches, with 159 goals scored and just 11 conceded.

Despite her impressive tally, the 27-year-old was unable to increase her number of goals after being introduced in the 63rd minute for Jenifer Hermoso in the match against Atletico Madrid On Sunday.

The Nigerian captain was the highest goal scorer at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and was named the best player at the tournament.

She was also named best player and second top goalscorer with the Super Falcons team who won the 2014 African Women’s Championship.

In September 2014, Oshoala was made a Member of the Order of the Niger by President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan. In 2021, she was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30.

 

Frankfurt Fans Made Barca Feel ‘Robbed In Our Home’ – Xavi

Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP
Barcelona’s Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter-final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Xavi Hernandez said Barcelona felt like they had been “robbed in their own home” after the Camp Nou was packed with Eintracht Frankfurt supporters in their Europa League defeat by the German side on Thursday.

More than 20,000 Frankfurt fans managed to get tickets for the second leg, with a sea of white shirts in the stands creating a hostile atmosphere for the Barca players.

Frankfurt took the lead in the fourth minute on their way to a 3-0 lead and while Barcelona pulled two goals back in injury-time they were unable to avoid losing 4-3 on aggregate.

READ ALSO: Quadruple-Chasing Liverpool Reach FA Cup Final, Ending Man City’s Treble Bid

“It’s not an excuse but the atmosphere affected us. We were not comfortable,” said Xavi in a press conference on Sunday. “I had a bad feeling from as soon as we got on the bus at the hotel and we did not feel at home.

“Then we gave a penalty away in the first minute,” Xavi added. “It was a nightmare night in every sense, on and off the pitch. It started badly and ended badly. You feel robbed in your own home.”

Barcelona officially allocated 5,000 tickets to Frankfurt supporters but more than 30,000 tickets were bought via unofficial channels.

The club’s president Joan Laporta said he was “ashamed” by the number of Frankfurt fans inside the ground and has insisted tickets will be non-transferable in future.

One Barca fan group, La Grada d’Animacio, has said they will boycott the team’s La Liga game on Monday at home to Cadiz in protest.

“It was a mistake by the club, for sure,” said Xavi. “When the club finds out what caused what happened on Thursday, they will explain it to us.”

The loss to Frankfurt was Barcelona’s first under Xavi since December and came after a last-gasp 3-2 victory over struggling Levante in La Liga.

Barca sit second in the table, 12 points behind Real Madrid with a game in hand. They are only three points ahead of Real Betis in fifth, although Betis have played two games more.

“The level has dropped, that’s clear,” Xavi said.

Asked if his team can still challenge Madrid for the title, Xavi said: “If we don’t win the eight games we have left, no. The first objective is to qualify for the Champions League next season. If after that we can challenge for La Liga, perfect.”

Pedri will miss the game against Cadiz after injuring his hamstring against Frankfurt.

“He was in his best form of the season, it’s a setback for him and the team,” Xavi said.

ta/jc

© Agence France-Presse

Barcelona Stunned By Frankfurt, West Ham And Rangers Reach Europa League Semis

Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP
Barcelona’s Spanish defender Jordi Alba and teammates react at the end of the Europa League quarter final second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 14, 2022. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Favourites Barcelona were dumped out of the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals on Thursday, while West Ham United and Rangers joined RB Leipzig in qualifying for the last four.

Serbian international Filip Kostic scored twice either side of a Rafael Santos Borre strike at the Camp Nou for Frankfurt, who survived a late fightback to win 3-2 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate.

Sergio Busquets scored a late consolation before Memphis Depay’s even later penalty for Barcelona but Eintracht held on, to the delight of the estimated 30,000 German supporters who travelled for the game.

READ ALSO: NFF Appoints Coaches For CHAN, U-20, U-17 Male National Teams

They go through to their second Europa League semi-final in four seasons, having lost on penalties to Chelsea at the same stage in 2019.

“I am speechless. Nobody expected this, if you are honest. Everyone expected us to suffer,” said Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.

Barcelona’s recent revival under Xavi Hernandez has been remarkable but this defeat means they have won just once at home all season in Europe, and their campaign is now set to end without silverware.

“It’s a hammer blow for us. They deserved to go through,” admitted Xavi.

After conceding three penalties in their weekend win over Levante, Barca fell behind to another spot-kick inside four minutes against Eintracht, as Kostic converted after a foul by Eric Garcia to the delight of the enormous away support.

The visitors scored again in the 36th minute as Colombian forward Borre fired high into the net from range, and Kostic’s low finish into the far corner made it 3-0 midway through the second half.

Busquets had a late goal disallowed for offside before he found the net with a fantastic strike from 20 metres in the first minute of injury time.

The game carried on into an 11th added minute when Depay netted a penalty after Evan Ndicka was sent off, receiving a second caution for a foul on Luuk de Jong.

West Ham outclass Lyon

Yet Eintracht maintained their record of not having lost to Spanish opposition since the 1960 European Cup final against Real Madrid, and they will face West Ham in the semi-finals.

The English side are through to their first European semi-final since losing the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup final to Anderlecht after they outclassed Lyon in France, winning 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.

The Hammers took the lead in the 38th minute of the return when Craig Dawson headed in a Pablo Fornals corner.

Captain Declan Rice slotted in their second just before the break, his sidefoot effort from the edge of the area beating Lyon goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck with the aid of a deflection.

The outcome was put beyond doubt when West Ham scored again three minutes after the restart as Fornals sent Jarrod Bowen away to make it 3-0.

“The journey in two years, we were talking about relegation, and now we’re talking about getting to the semi-final of a European tournament. It’s fabulous, and we’re all going to look forward to it,” said West Ham manager David Moyes.

Rangers through in extra time

There was drama in Glasgow as Rangers were taken to extra time by Braga before winning 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate as the Portuguese side finished the game with nine men.

James Tavernier gave Rangers a second-minute lead to level the tie on aggregate, and they had another goal disallowed and then hit the woodwork before winning a penalty just before the interval.

Vitor Tormena was sent off for a foul on Kemar Roofe, and Tavernier netted from the spot.

David Carmo’s 83rd-minute header took the tie to extra time, but Roofe’s 101st-minute finish put Rangers back in front on aggregate and Braga then had Iuri Medeiros dismissed.

Rangers will now face Leipzig in their first European semi-final since reaching the 2008 UEFA Cup final.

French international Christopher Nkunku scored both goals as Leipzig beat Atalanta 2-0 in Italy to win their last-eight tie 3-1 on aggregate.

Nkunku opened the scoring in the 18th minute in Bergamo and then added a late penalty, his 30th goal of the season in all competitions.

Aubameyang: Barcelona’s Free Gift Who Keeps On Giving

Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heads the ball during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 3, 2022. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

 

 

“A gift from heaven,” was how Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez described the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the striker, discarded by Arsenal, has certainly delivered.

It is hard to think of a more significant January acquisition than Aubameyang, given his impact on Barca’s immediate and long-term future.

By the end of the season, Aubameyang’s goals could be the biggest factor in Barcelona finishing in La Liga’s top four, an achievement that could prove transformative.

He has scored nine goals in 12 games so far, including a hat-trick against Valencia and two against Real Madrid.

Missing out on the Champions League next season would have derailed Barcelona’s financial recovery and destabilised the entire project under Xavi, who looks an astute appointment now but was unproven when he took his first major coaching job in November.

Barcelona’s fortunes have turned around so dramatically that they now have two chances to qualify for the Champions League.

They could finish in the top four in La Liga, where they are second after overhauling Sevilla on Sunday, or they could win the Europa League where they are clear favourites.

They face Frankfurt on Thursday in the first leg of the quarter-finals, with the winner to face Lyon or West Ham in the last four.

 

Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts to being fouled during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 3, 2022. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

 

The 32-year-old Aubameyang’s departure from Arsenal mid-season continues to cause debate in England, with some questioning Mikel Arteta’s decision to let the striker leave for free, particularly given the team’s struggles to score goals.

Many say the wisdom of that move will depend entirely on whether Arsenal finish in the Premier League’s top four and qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

“I think (the problem) was just with him and after he made this decision, I can’t tell you much, he wasn’t happy and that’s it. I was not very happy, I was very calm and that’s it,” Aubameyang said in February of Arteta.

Perhaps more to the point is that in January, Arsenal and Barcelona had very different priorities.

While Arteta was nurturing and protecting a young Arsenal team for the future, Barcelona wanted to patch together a short-term squad capable of averting impending financial disaster.

Aubameyang’s disciplinary problems, age and lack of fitness meant he no longer fitted in with Arteta’s long-term vision.

– ‘A privilege to have him’ –
But his goals, talent and ego made him the perfect fit for a Barcelona side desperately in need of a quick fix.

“Auba has been a gift from heaven,” said Xavi.

“He is a player who is positive, has taken very well to the dressing room, he adapts very well to the needs of the team, he scores. It is a privilege to have him and he will contribute a lot to us.”

Barcelona’s veteran defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets agreed. “He’s working really well,” said the 33-year-old.

“He came needing more minutes but he’s getting them. I hope he keeps contributing like this because he’s a great guy. Getting him on a free transfer is a gift.”

 

Barcelona’s Dutch forward Memphis Depay (L) slaps hands with Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 3, 2022. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

 

Barcelona president Joan Laporta confirmed that Aubameyang’s contract runs until 2025 but has a break clause at the end of next season, in 2023.

He will be almost 34 by then and it seems entirely plausible that Barcelona, who still have enormous debts to erase and a hefty wage bill to trim, will move Aubameyang on.

It might well be that after an impressive first stage, Aubameyang’s own hunger and drive begin to fade. Barcelona could face the same problems Arsenal did.

Whatever the outcome it will still be hard to argue the deal for Aubameyang to join Barca was not a roaring success.

If Aubameyang does nothing else, his role in vindicating Xavi and securing qualification for the Champions League this season will have been immense, and for that Barca should always be grateful.

Clasico Thrashing Could Change Everything For Barca, Says Xavi


Barcelona’s Spanish coach Xavi gestures during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 20, 2022.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Xavi Hernandez said Barcelona’s 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid could be transformative for the club after their Clasico demolition at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Barcelona blew Madrid away as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice either side of goals from Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres.

The match was billed as a test of Barca’s progress under Xavi and they passed with flying colours, a humiliation of their fiercest rivals suggesting they are primed to challenge again for La Liga next season.

“It can change the dynamics of the present and the future,” said Xavi. “We had lots of chances and we were much better than Madrid, far superior. We deserved to score so many goals.”

Asked if Barcelona are back, Xavi said: “It can be. This is the right path.”

And while the result might have little bearing on the title race this term, a defeat of this magnitude, at home, and against Barcelona, will cause serious reverberations at Real Madrid.

It will go down with other historic Clasico thrashings, like when Barca won 6-2 at Real Madrid in 2009 under Pep Guardiola or 5-0 at home two years later.

Questions will be asked about Carlo Ancelotti’s future, with Madrid outplayed tactically and technically by Xavi’s Barca, who were faster, slicker and, perhaps most worryingly, could easily have won by more.

“We played badly and I planned the game badly,” said Ancelotti. “I am sorry for the defeat and I am sad. But we have to keep it in perspective.”

READ ALSOAubameyang Scores Brace As Barcelona Humiliate Real Madrid


Barcelona’s Spanish forward Ferran Torres (R) celebrates with Barcelona’s Gabonese midfielder Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) and Barcelona’s French forward Ousmane Dembele (C) after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 20, 2022. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Madrid were admittedly without the injured Karim Benzema and Ferland Mendy while there could have been a degree of complacency, given they kicked off nine points clear at the top of the table after Sevilla were held to a goalless draw by Real Sociedad.

But none of that will excuse a loss as dramatic as this one, the only relief now that a resurgent Barcelona are still 12 points behind, albeit with a game in hand.

Aubameyang’s double means he now has nine goals in 11 games for Barcelona and the Gabon striker is looking like a superb January signing.

Pedri was outstanding again too — but this was a night for the bigger picture, as Barcelona’s revival made its biggest statement so far.

When Barca were beaten by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in January, the Catalans were criticised for celebrating the manner of their narrow defeat.

“We are getting closer,” said Gerard Pique.

After five consecutive losses to Madrid, a win of any kind was the next step for Barca but a hammering like this could be transformative, delivering a huge boost to confidence, vindication of Xavi’s project, and optimism for next season all in one fell swoop.

‘We Are Back’ 

Barcelona’s players celebrate after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 20, 2022. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Shortly after the final whistle here, Pique tweeted: “We are back.”

Eder Militao clattered Pedri in the opening minute and that was about as close as Real Madrid got to him all game.

Soon, the chances started coming for Barca as Ferran Torres pulled back for Aubameyang but he scuffed straight at Thibaut Courtois, who then had to palm wide a curling effort from Ousmane Dembele.

Barca’s dominance was growing and in the 29th minute, they scored, Dembele racing round the outside of Nacho Fernandez and crossing for Aubameyang to head in.

Vinicius Junior might have changed the game if he had converted after being sent through but a heavy touch allowed Marc-Andre ter Stegen to save.

Instead, Barcelona doubled their lead when Ronald Araujo headed in from a corner before half-time and after it, the humiliation began.

David Alaba and Militao both committed themselves to sliding tackles and both missed, Aubameyang executing a superb flicked pass to Torres, who made no mistake.

Worse was to come, as Pique’s ball over the top allowed Aubameyang to scoop in a brilliant finish for a fourth in the 51st minute. Madrid thought they were spared by the offside flag but VAR intervened and the goal stood.

Aubameyang, Torres, and Dembele could all have furthered the embarrassment for Madrid, the latter poking wide after skipping in behind and holding off Militao.

By then, Aubameyang had gone off, the victory already complete and the stadium quickly emptying.

AFP