Wednesday Kickoff: Neymar inches closer to Barcelona; Lewandowski only wants Bayern move; and more

Neymar1-MogiMirimPaulista (GazetaPress)

By DAN KARELL

Neymar looks to be accelerating his move abroad.

After years of promising that he wouldn’t leave until after the 2014 World Cup on home soil, the Brazilian starlet is moving closer to a move to Barcelona this July, according to reports out of Brazil.

According to the reports, Neymar signed a deal with Barcelona last week, and could make his final appearance for Santos on Sunday in the side’s first domestic match of the season against Flamengo. The 21-year-old is set to join up with the Brazil squad for friendly matches and then the Confederations Cup starting on June 2.

The report also states that Neymar’s release clause on his current contract at Santos is more than $84 million, but that Barcelona has met it, and the Santos board could approve the deal as early as Wednesday. Barcelona star Lionel Messi is reported to have said this week that he would welcome a move for the Brazilian forward.

Since coming into the first team in 2009, Neymar has gone on to win the Paulista State Championship three times, the Brazilian Cup in 2010, and the Copa Libertadores in 2011. In this season’s Paulista tournament campaign, Neymar scored 12 goals in 18 appearances.

Here are some more stories to get your day started:

LEWANDOWSKI ONLY HAS EYES ON BAYERN MOVE

Borussia Dortmund enter their final match of the season before transfers could tear their side to shreds, and in addition to Mario Götze’s confirmed transfer to Bayern Munich, forward Robert Lewandowski could be headed there too.

Heading into the final year of his contract, reports in Germany have stated that Lewandowski has told Borussia that he only would move to Bayern Munich, ignoring the calls from Premier League or La Liga clubs. Lewandowski’s agent was reported last month to have said that he already has an agreement with a club, though it won’t be announced until after the season.

Borussia are looking to get what they can from the Poland international this summer to avoid the risk of losing him on a free transfer. Despite coming second in the league, Lewandowski improved his goal-scoring record in all competitions, bagging 36 goals in 48 matches.

GÖTZE SUFFERS INJURY SETBACK IN TRAINING

Mario Götze’s race to recover took a big hit on Tuesday at Borussia Dortmund training.

The 20-year-old midfielder reportedly suffered a setback to his recovery from an injured hamstring, forcing him out of practice and dwindling his chances of being available in his club’s biggest match of the year against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Götze first injured his hamstring in the Champions League semifinal second-leg defeat to Real Madrid on April 30 and had hoped to come back in time for the final at Wembley in London, but this setback has put doubts over his fitness levels.

The German international has had his best season for Borussia before he heads to Bayern Munich this summer, scoring 16 goals in 44 matches and providing some crucial assists along the way.

LIVERPOOL ACCEPTS WEST HAM BID FOR CARROLL

Two years on from a $52 million move from Newcastle to Liverpool, the Merseyside club are willing to sell off forward flop Andy Carroll for less than half what they paid.

West Ham, where Carroll has spent the season on loan, have had a bid for $22 million accepted by Liverpool for the 24-year-old forward. The England international scored seven goals in 24 Premier League appearances this season, but suffered a serious heel injury in the club’s final match against Reading, ruling him out for the next three to four months.

The transfer deal will become set in stone once Carroll agrees personal details, though it’s unknown at the moment if he wants to move permanently east London. There are also rumors that Newcastle has a clause in Carroll’s contract where they could buy him back at a cut price.

In other news, West Ham has announced that forward Carlton Cole will be let go when his contract ends in June, while confirming the signing of Romania captain Razvan Rat.

QUICK KICKS

Real Madrid have unveiled their kit for next season, featuring a yellow-orange alternate uniform. (REPORT)

Ajax manager Frank de Boer has signed a contract extension with the club through 2017 after winning three successive league titles. (REPORT)

AS Roma have been fined €50,000 and forced to close the “Curva Sud” which houses the club’s Ultras, for one match next season. (REPORT)

Brazilian club Internacional, managed by former Brazil coach Dunga, is reportedly in talks with AC Milan over a transfer for Robinho. (REPORT)

After winning the club’s first title in 10 years, Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Oscar Garcia has left the club after just one season due to personal reasons. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Do you think the time is right for Neymar to go to Europe? Do you see Lewandowski succeeding at Bayern? Do you feel Carroll can live up to the lofty expectations regardless of where he plays?

Share your thoughts below.

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45 Responses to Wednesday Kickoff: Neymar inches closer to Barcelona; Lewandowski only wants Bayern move; and more

  1. joe says:

    Why any person of color would want to play in La Liga is beyond me. The monkey chants and bananas hurled from the stands are omnipresent. Combined with the photographs of the Beijing Olympic basketball team and Sergio Garcia’s recent remarks reflect a society that is seriously misguided and living in the past.
    IMO, players that take the money from Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc. are selling out.

    • PD says:

      Well that’s the dilemma, isn’t it? I agree that these kinds of racist actions should be punished severely, but Barca is arguably the best club of the past 5 years and hails from a region in Spain that sees itself as set apart from mainstream spanish culture. I think anyone (including Neymar) would jump at the chance to play there. Plus, a club with Real Madrid’s lineup would have easily dominated any other league, and let’s be honest, money talks.

      But the culture in the stands is different from the culture on the field –not sure changing one does not necessarily change the other (look at all the problems in eastern european leagues that do not have marquee players). Punish the front office by forcing matches to be played in empty stands and by fining clubs for the actions that the place on stadium property. That will change things quicker than player boycotts.

    • Josh says:

      I don’t think it’s selling out to play for two of the best clubs in the world. It’s a lifelong goal for just about any player. As much as I hate the Yankees, I understand why guys dream of playing for them.

      As for persons of color playing there, it’s happened in almost all of the Euro countries. Italy seems like the absolute worst

    • Eurosnob says:

      What are you smoking? I’ve seen many La Liga games, but I have never seen bananas hurled from the stands or monkey chants. Of courese, if one tries hard enough, he could find a few deviants among the fans in any league (EPL, Bundeslinga, MLS, and La Liga), but most Spanish fans come to see soccer rather than to abuse players of color. A bigger concern for Neymar would be Barcelona’s nightlife (e.g. Ronaldinho, Maradona, etc) and the increased level of competition.

      • joe says:

        You are simply wrong about racism in Spain. I could link dozens of articles about it and give my personal testimonial, but it would be more effective if you researched it yourself. Give it a look – it will open your eyes.

        • Eurosnob says:

          Racism exists in the US, England, France, Italy, Germany and many other countries. Why single out Spain as a hell hole of racism? Maybe you had a bad personal experience in Spain, but you could run into a bad situation in lots of countries. Considering that Danny Alves, Song, Abidal, Eto, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (Phenomeno) all either played or are currently playing for Barcelona, why would it be so intolerable for Neymar?

    • RK says:

      This doesn’t happen in other countries?

      • joe says:

        I never stated or even inferred it doesn’t happen in other countries, but having said that, give me two examples of this type of overt racism at an MLS match.

        • Eurosnob says:

          While I don’t think that MLS has a racist atmosphere and most games have family friendly environment, you can still find idiot fans. Have you forgotten one fan’s reaction to New England player Kheli Dube’s game winning goal at Columbus or the chants “mow my lawn” to certain players by some of the supporter groups?

  2. Kosh says:

    I’m not sure which is more surprising – Andy Carroll is valued at $22 mil OR that West Ham has $22 mil to spend (and if so THIS is how they chose to spend it).

    • biff says:

      +1, i am skeptical of that one.

    • jon says:

      agreed. what in the world is west ham doing

    • Sly says:

      I wasnt a big fan when liverpool paid so much for him, but Torres was bolting and they had to make a splash to keep him so they got a big guy who would have held the ball up and terrorrized defenders the old fashioned way.

      Then Torres bolted anyway they spent the remainding money on some dude not really known that well outside of the Netherlands and struck gold with Suarez. For over 10 million pounds less.

      I felt that Andy never got a chance from Rodgers and that sometimes a bruiser who can finish with head each leg is someone who can do you a spell in games when your playing against physical Stoke or a small team like Barca.

      That being said Sturridge made him surplus. And the stink of that big money “failure” it had to happen. Believe me when I say West Ham got a steal. When healthy (big when that one) he is good for 15 goals a season. West Ham are also moving into the most modern stadium in London in 2 years you need to fill seats and sell jerseys and play so hard against local London clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea that you are competing for Hearts and Minds. This was a brilliant move.

  3. biff says:

    There are also reports in Germany that FC Bayern has invited Lewandoski’s two agents to sit in the FC Bayern section at Wembley. Pretty bad what FC Bayern are up to ahead of this CL Final. Totally disrupting Dortmund and neutralizing their two most important players. I don’t see anyway that either Gotze (if healthy) or Lewandoski could give 100% for Dortmund this Saturday against the team they will be joining in five weeks. Dortmund should let the two guys watch the game from the stands with Bayern supporters. And make no mistake, Bayern know exactly what they are doing, basically buying the CL title and this is payback for Dortmund humiliating them the previous two seasons.

    • PD says:

      unless dortmund wins…

      • biff says:

        ha-ha. True, and would be one of the greatest victories ever. And, I admit, I would kind of enjoy seeing a few of the Bayern guys crying after this game.

        • PD says:

          Yeah. I admire Bayern’s excellence in footballing, but I hate their arrogance. I love it when prideful giants get humbled.

          Not that Dortmunders are saints either… it would just be nice to see new names on the champion podium.

    • HoboMike says:

      If Goetze doesn’t play, that’s just ridiculous. I doubt that he’s even THAT hurt.

    • David says:

      If the players minds are elsewhere, how is this Bayern’s fault? Gotze agreed to go to Bayern, Lewandowski is the one who said he’d only go there, and you blame Bayern for taking their mind of the CL final? It’s a mildly shrewd move (if your reports are accurate) that Bayer invited Lew’s agents to sit in the Bayern section, but the players are the ones who chose their path. No one forced them to make this decision.

      • Josh says:

        But they don’t have to be put in that position until the teams agree to a deal or they start speculating rumors about it. It starts much earlier on the club side than the player side

      • biff says:

        @David: I can’t really argue your point. True, it takes two to tango. But Klopp said in an interesting interview in the Guardian that Bayern put pressure on Gotze telling him that if he declined to sign for a move this summer, then they would pull the offer forever, no second chances. But there is more to this, and there have been intentional leaks, like the Lewandoski news today, that appears to be aimed at destabilizing Dortmund before the big game.

        I think what Bayern is doing, stealing Dortmund’s top players at the crucial point in CL competition, plus the press leaks, is wrong. You can say all is fair in love and war and soccer, but it’s still wrong. And I have a feeling this whole thing could come back to haunt Bayern, not to mention cause divisions on the German national team. Pep Guardiolo has no idea what he is getting into. This could be highly entertaining.

        The one thing is: Dortmund are definitely wearing the white hats at the current time, handling the whole thing with class.

        link to guardian.co.uk

      • Leo says:

        Let’s not let Bayern off of the hook entirely. When Reus opted to join Dortmund over Bayern from M’gladbach, Bayern leaked stories about how they wouldn’t guarantee him a starting spot and players insinuated that he, in effect, couldn’t carry their jock straps.

        Bayern has never been above gamesmanship, and frankly, it shows a bit of a lack of class. It seems they’re more comfortable fighting in the papers rather than on the pitch.

  4. Adam M. says:

    Neymar has been stagnating in Brazil of late and everyone pretty much recognizes that the pride of being able financially to keep him in the country and on Santos pre-World Cup is outwieghed now by the need for him to take his game to the next level and get pushed by better talent. Neymar is the second dagger that Barca have lacked since Eto’o left, he’ll take some of the pressure off of Messi, and, oh, by the way, Messi and Neymar on the same team.

  5. Travis says:

    Neymar simply isn’t what Barca needs, they have a lot more high priority spots than that. A new CB to replace the aging Puyol should be their first pursuit for example

    • Adam M. says:

      Neymar isn’t only what Barca needs, but he does fill a big need and signing him keeps him away from Madrid.

      • Travis says:

        I don’t see how he fills a big need at all, they already have a lot of talented quick attackers (messi, pedro, alexis, etc.). If anything they need a more clinical finisher at the focal point of their attack. Neymar is an attacking talent but i see him as a bonus, not a need for Barca. If Barca were to only sign Neymar this year I don’t see how they would be any better than last.

        • Grubbsbl says:

          Pedro and Sanchez had poor seasons. Villa looks past it. There is no denying Barcelona need another attacking player who can stretch the play, beat a man in a 1v1 situation and create. I say this as a Man United fan. They also need a CB, but I expect that to happen as well.

          • Travis says:

            Neymar is untested in Europe, he could be great but I am not so sure. I guess I just don’t get blowing your transfer budget on a player who has only played in the extremely attacker friendly Brazilian league. He could help Barca but I wouldn’t place his position as one of their top needs is all

    • PD says:

      play Neymar at CB. that will toughen him up right quick.

  6. Kosh says:

    Whoever is sitting on a modest transfer kitty better get with the spending now while the getting is good. Because with the amount of money that’s about to fly this window (with the anticipated splash of the cash by Barca, Chelsea, Cit’eh, Monaco, maybe even Arsenal this time around) guys who are worth $7 mil today will all of a sudden be valued at $20 mil come July.

    Well unless you are looking at English players – who are almost always as overpriced as they are overrated. Carroll? $22 mil??

    • PD says:

      It’ll interesting to see if all this cash gets thrown the way of Dempsey Altidore Bradley or Howard…

  7. jon says:

    neymar is used to being the focal point of attack and spending a lot of time on the ball. Its going to be a very very tough adjustment for him to integrate in barca’s pass and move offense and defer to messi, iniesta, etc. he’ll have to evolve his game, or will fail. i give him 50/50 odds of making it more than two years.

  8. Jason says:

    Dang Italian Ultras groups…been racist for decades. Tried telling you guys that when Boatneg was crying about them. They need their privledge of attending matches recinded…they can watch from some pathetic watering hole as they will never end the racist and mostally facist behavior they were formed under. How do regular attendents take children to matches with that junk being chanted and those nasty signs being posted?

  9. beto says:

    Real Madrids new kit looks just like AC Milan’s and Chelsea’s and most of MLS’… Adidas really is the least interesting kit provider out there..

  10. Good Jeremy says:

    Call me crazy, but will Neymar even be a regular starter at Barcelona? Lost in all of his flair is the fact that he has been inconsistent and has underachieved this year.

  11. Ben says:

    The Germans love to point out the flaws of other leagues, but the Bundesliga is becoming just as stupid. Munich is stripping the second place team of their best players.

  12. Nikora says:

    It must be so frustrating to be a Dortmund fan.

    • SBI Troll says:

      I’ve moved on from Götze. But Reus, Gundogan, and Lewandowski must stay. It will all be worth it once Munich loses Saturday.

    • Josh says:

      It most certainly is. Especially since the rumors for Lewandowski to Bayern were becoming bigger right before the four-goal semifinal.

  13. RK says:

    So now it’s official that Liverpool made an awful, awful investment.

  14. Dudester says:

    What’s a better deal and which player would you buy? Neymar to Barcelona for 84 mill or Bale to Madrid for the same price.

    • Travis says:

      Bale, I have seen him dominate in Europe which is a different beast than the Brazilian league. Also I’ve seen him play outwide and through the middle with fairly solid effectiveness. I’m not sure anyone is worth that sort of sum but Bale is more worth it than Neymar to me.

      • Dudester says:

        Tottenham want at least 60 mill £ for bale.Not exact what the conversion rate is but that’s close to 80 mill $. I agree bale is the better player but Neymar with his skill on the ball and quick interchanging 1-2 game suits Barca better.Just as Bales power and pace style suits Madrid better.

  15. Matts says:

    Having got Neymar, barca should go for Lewandowski, a shot takes from outside 18yard box, so that tough defence could be overcome from far. Then barca should he Hummel and Varmalean