The Blaugrana are hoping to revamp their forward line with two stellar signings but their hopes hinge on the success of a post-season clear-out
On Tuesday morning, a Tidesports source claimed Inter were ready to send a message to Barcelona.
“You want Lautaro?” the headline ran. “Give us Griezmann.”
It was labelled it a “crazy idea” and no such proposal has been made, but, to the outsider, it would not have appeared so far-fetched.
As it stands, Inter would lose their dynamic 22-year-old forward Lautaro Martinez for ‘only’ €111 million (£97m/$121m) if Barca activate the Argentine’s present buy-out clause, which expires on July 15.
At least by including Griezmann in a swap deal, the Nerazzurri would immediately secure a fine replacement, a World Cup winner with a point to prove. Indeed, the French forward would probably be open to a move.
Even before his protracted transfer to Camp Nou, Griezmann didn’t look a natural fit for Barcelona’s three-man attack. As has shown so often in the past for France and Atletico Madrid, he has better playing off a more conventional No.9. Like Romelu Lukaku, for example…
Of course, Barca paid €120m (£105m/$131m) to sign Griezmann just last summer but do they really need him? Did they ever?
What Barca needed – and still need, is a successor for their 33-year-old first-choice centre-forward Luis Suarez. While Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak is considered an attractive ‘Plan B’, Lautaro looks better equipped than any other forward in world football to fill Suarez’s shoes and the Blaugrana are willing to offer the 22-year-old a contract worth €10m (£9m/$11m) a year.
So, a deal involving Griezmann would solve everyone’s problems, right? Perhaps, but nothing at Barcelona is quite so straightforward right now, not even a straight swap deal.
Even before all hell broke loose at boardroom level, the Blaugrana had financial worries.
Barca set aside €60m (£52m/$66m) for player transfers during the 2020-21 financial year. However, €31m (£26m/$34m) has already gone on Francisco Trincao, who will arrive from Braga in July.
Of far greater and more pressing concern, though, is the fact that Barca needs sto raise €124m (£108m/$136m) in player sales to meet their budgetary requirements for 2019-20.
The hope is that Getafe, Betis, Schalke and Nice all activate their options to buy Marc Cucurella, Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Perez and Moussa Wague, respectively, at the end of the season.
If those loan deals are made permanent, it would generate €52m in funds, which would still leave Barca significantly short of their target. That is why they would listen to offers for former starting centre-back Samuel Umtiti, January signing Martin Braithwaite, La Masia product Carles Alena and even Nelson Semedo.
However, finding a buyer for Philippe Coutinho is Barca’s primary concern.
The Brazilian is presently on loan at Bayern Munich but the Bavarians have zero interest in their option to make the deal permanent for €120m (£105m/$131m).
Barca has just as little interest in retaining Coutinho’s services and, at this stage, they would be willing to let their €160m (£140m/$175m) signing from Liverpool go for ‘just’ €80m (£70m/$87.5m).
Coutinho, though, will still prove difficult to shift. Liverpool has improved since January 2018; Coutinho has regressed.
Barca’s asking price may not be met. Consequently, the Blaugrana could even decide to cut their losses on Ousmane Dembele, the talented but inconsistent, injury-riddled winger who joined from Borussia Dortmund in August 2017 for €105m (£92m/€115m).
In the current market, Barca would be lucky to get a third of that money. And that is the Catalans’ other concern.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit football hard, shaking its fragile financial foundations to their very core. There is no telling what effect the current, worldwide uncertainty will have on the transfer market.
However, it seems unlikely that even wealthy clubs would be willing to invest vast sums of money in underperforming or injury-prone players.
That is obviously a great cause for concern for Barca, given their transfer plans will be dictated by the success of their summer clear-out.
As well as removing well-paid veterans from the wage bill, such as Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, the Catalans need to sell several players to not only balance the books for 2019-20 but generate additional money to buy players for next season.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has bigger worries right now but the under-fire Barcelona president still wants to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou.
The sporting side of the club, though, have prioritised Lautaro, believing him to be the ideal Suarez replacement.
Barca being Barca, they will try to buy both. But that looks impossible right now, unless Griezmann is offloaded. And this is where the situation gets even more complicated and ridiculous.
If Barca is to sign Lautaro for ‘just’ €111m, they need to do so before his buy-out clause rises on July 16. Making Griezmann part of the deal would, thus, make sense, given their financial constraints.
However, Barca does not want to let Griezmann leave without knowing for certain that Neymar is returning, and that is just not going to happen.
There is even an acceptance at Camp Nou that the Neymar soap opera will run right until deadline day.
Nonetheless, Barca’s transfer targets are still Lautaro and Neymar, even though there is presently just €29m (£25.3m/$34.7m) in the 2020-21 transfer kitty.
Something’s got to give. Someone’s got to go. Maybe even Coutinho, Dembele and Griezmann.
Because Barcelona aren’t presently in a position to buy Lautaro or Neymar. Trying to sign both, then, looks like a truly crazy idea.
RSG Restates Commitment To Youth Dev Via Sports
The Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on School Sports, Chief Aribitonye Okiri, has said that the state government-led by Chief Nyesom Wike, is committed to develop youths in the State through sports.
He stated that it is not in doubt that the State has hidden talents at the grassroots that are yet to be discovered.
Chief Okiri, said this at the finals of the National School Sports Competition held at Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday.
According to him, Governor Wike is poised to reach out to young ones in all the local government areas, in the state and engage them with sporting activities in a bid to discover hidden talents.
“As I speak, the governor has reiterated his desire to reach out to the children in all parts of the state and unearth their talents through engagement in sports, believing that all Rivers children are talented” Chief Okiri said.
Also speaking, the second Vice President of Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF), Pastor Emmanuel Ebong, thanked Governor Wike, for proving a worthy partner of NSSF and appeal to other corporate organisations to emulate Nigeria Breweries Ltd in partnering NSSF in sports development.
At the end of the final competition, Community Secondary School, Okochiri in Okrika Local Government Area, dominated the medal table.
24 States Set For Lagos Athletics Championship
The Lagos State Athletics Association has confirmed the entry of 24 states and some clubs for its lucrative Athletics Meet fixed for Thursday, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Yussuf Alli who is the Meet Director for the Lagos Open Athletics Championship made the disclosure at the weekend even as he hinted a few other states may still join the already confirmed 24 states and clubs.
He said: “Yes, we are very much on track for the Lagos Open Athletics Championship which will be coming up this Thursday.
“Right now, we already have 24 states and some top racing clubs that have confirmed their participation, a few more may join before we close the window.”
The Lagos Open Athletics Championship is a one-day meet simultaneously serving as another qualifying window for the Tokyo Olympics as well as a preparatory event for athletes that have already qualified for the sporting showpiece.
In the past days, Lagos has been a beehive of activities with the National trials at the Yaba College of Technology Sporting complex and now the train is moving to the heart of the city in Surulere as the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics continues to gather momentum.
The list of events to be competed for at the Lagos Open Athletics Championship includes the 5,000 meters, 400 meters hurdles, 100 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters, and 100 meters.
There would also be top-quality action across the relay events including; the 4×100 meters open, 4×100 meters open and 4×400 meters mixed relay.
Long jump, High jump, Triple jump, Shot put as well as 4×100 secondary schools relay and 4×100 secondary schools relay have all been penciled down for the maiden Lagos Open Athletics Championship.
Already, the top three finishers across all the events have been assured mouthwatering prizes by the organisers.
Okagbare Sets New Record At Olympic Trials
Blessing Okagbare will be heading to Tokyo Olympics in the best form of her life after running the second fastest time in the world this season.
The 32-year-old ran 10.63 seconds to win the Athletics Federation of Nigeria Olympic Trials at the Sports Complex of Yaba College of Technology in Lagos on Thursday.
The 10.63 seconds time saw her tie with Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’ best time in 2021 ahead of the delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Okagbare ran 10.99 seconds in the semifinal of the event to set a new championship record , and before clocking 10.63 seconds in the final to set a new record. The scorching 10.63 time is also a new African record. Only Florence Griffith Joyner who holds the world record at 10.49 seconds has run faster. The Nigerian has now emerged one of the favourites for the 100m gold at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who first ran 10.63 seconds this season.
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