Andrés Iniesta’s intention to stay at Barcelona, a small blow to David Moyes’ hopes

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It was the contract rejection heard ’round the world – $16 million gross plus $4.1 million in add-ons not enough to keep Andrés Iniesta at Barcelona.

That was back on September 20th and even though it was merely a first offer, the reaction of Don Andrés’ was enough to send shockwaves through clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City.

City, of course, don’t ‘need’ Iniesta, per se. It’s just that, well, he’s Iniesta. Think about it. Slotting him into a midfield alongside the likes of fellow Spanish internationals David Silva and Jesus Navas, as well as former Barcelona teammate Yaya Toure – not to mention a reborn Samir Nasri – would be downright filthy.

So you can see where Manuel Pellegrini’s head was at.

United, on the other hand, need Iniesta like a drunk needs ale. Yes, everyone and their mother is aware that the Red Devils have managed to unearth some creative talent in Adnan Januzaj but to compete for titles Premier League clubs need more than one midfielder who views the pitch as something other than a single lane track.

Iniesta’s vision could change United’s view on the concept of space. He could open up patches of grass at Old Trafford that haven’t been touched since Ronaldo graced the grounds. He could show them the value of going left to right and how sometimes the killer pass is merely five feet away.

So when he heard the news that Iniesta had rejected Barca’s first offer on his contract – which, by the way, doesn’t expire until June 30, 2015 – you can imagine the gerbil wheel spinning  in David Moyes’ mind. ‘If we can just get Iniesta to hold off re-signing until January, we can hit Barcelona with a massive offer they can’t refuse.’

$50 million? $60 million? $70 million?

As outlandish as those figures may sound, they’re all possible when it comes to United buying a creative, game-changing midfielder. The main reason? The demand. Simple as that. Another reason? Because when Arsenal, of all clubs, dropped $68 million on Mesut Ozil, the transfer world took pause.

Did tight bummed Arsenal really just spend $68 million?

Was this really what things have come to?

In short, yes. Because Arsene Wenger realized something that few other managers have – whereas there are a plethora of strikers in the world who will get you 20+ goals in the Premier League, there is a distinct paucity of creative, game-changing midfielders. The Silvas, Ozils and Iniestas of the world are few and far between.

And so, with his cracked lips licked, Moyes was ready to pounce on his own midfield maestro. Until, of course, today when Iniesta spoke about his club future ahead of his country’s World Cup qualifier against Georgia. “You have to be where you want to be, and Barca is the place for me,” Iniesta told Movistar’s webpage. “The club knows that and wants me to stay, so I hope and expect to spend the years I have left playing there.”

Mere words, yes, but coming from the player who spent his childhood at La Masia it’s a strong indication of where his future lies.

For Moyes, it’s a minor, temporary setback in his transfer plans. But one way or another, come January, you can bet the Scot will be heading somewhere with fists of money and an intent on finding United’s next great midfield wizard.

Spurs’ Alli wins PFA Young Player award for 2nd straight season

Photo credit: Tottenham Hotspur / Twitter: @SpursOfficial
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Dele Alli joined Wayne Rooney (2004-05 and 2005-06) on Sunday as the only repeat or back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award winners since the turn of the century.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Alli showed in 2016-17 — much like his Tottenham Hotspur teammate and 2014-15 Young Player of the year winner Harry Kane — that he’s much more than a one-season wonder, improving upon 2015-16’s goal and assist numbers (10 and 9) with a 16-goal, 5-assist season this time around.

Alli was signed by Tottenham (out of League One and relative obscurity) for a fee just north of $6 million in 2015. Recent rumors have linked the 21-year-old with a move to join the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for a transfer fee well over 10 times what Spurs paid to MK Dons.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

Between Alli and Kane, Spurs players have won the last three Young Player of the Year awards, and five of the last six (Gareth Bale in 2012-13; Kyle Walker in 2011-12). Only Eden Harzard could break up Spurs’ stranglehold on the award, in 2013-14.

El Clasico: Messi scores 499, 500; Barca, Madrid level on points

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After 31 (and 32, respectively) games played, three points were all that separated Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table in La Liga.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

After another 90 scintillating, pulsating, thrilling, plot-twisting minutes of El Clasico on Sunday, there’s not a single thing to separate the two sides (other than Barca’s current tiebreaker on head-to-head meetings, and Madrid’s game in hand). This time, it was Lionel Messi who outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the meeting of the world’s brightest stars, the former scoring twice and reaching the 500-goal mark in his Barcelona career (all competitions).

Casemiro opened the scoring with a tap-in into an empty net in the 28th minute. Marcelo floated a ball to the back post, where Sergio Ramos made clean contact but came up with nothing but hit nothing but woodwork. Fortunately for Los Blancos, the ball ricocheted off the post, bounced across the face of goal and found the Brazilian midfielder all by his lonesome.

The lead was short-lived, though, as a bloodied Messi scored yet another of his patented Messi goals just five minutes later. With two touches atop Madrid’s penalty area, he slalomed past and beat three defenders before applying the cool finish past Keylor Navas with that magical left foot of his.

Following the halftime break, the balance of play tipped in Barca’s favor. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez went oh so close to putting the visitors ahead either side of the hour mark, but Navas produced a pair of stunning saves that’ll (perhaps) go a long way toward silencing his increasingly vocal critics.

[ MORE: Griezmann scores no. 25 as Atleti win to hold onto 3rd ]

There was absolutely nothing the Costa Rican no. 1 could do about Rakitic’s 73rd-minute strike, though. Cutting inside onto his left foot, the Croatian caressed and curled the ball toward the far post, where it made a hard right turn at the last possible second and nestled itself into the

Already up a goal, the game appeared to swing totally in Barca’s favor just four minutes later. Sergio Ramos, the most Sergio Ramos player to ever Sergio Ramos, went lunging in, with two sets of studs exposed, on Messi. He was rightly shown a straight red card.

Another pair of plot twists were still to come, though, as James Rodriguez got on the end of Marcelo’s cross and slammed the first-time finish past Marc Andre ter Stegen with four minutes of regular time remaining.

Then, with all of 13 seconds remaining in stoppage time, that man — the undisputed best player in the world and the greatest of all time — broke Madridista hearts once again. Sergi Roberto started the sequence all the way back in midfield, and Jordi Alba supplied the cross to the top of the box, and Messi drove that same left foot through the ball to beat Navas for the last-kick winner. The shirt-off-held-aloft celebration was simply salt in the wound.

MLS Snapshot: Larin outduels Villa in Orlando’s win over NYCFC

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The game in 100 words (or less): I’ve been saying it since the preseason: Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and it wont be long before MLS’s best young striker since… ever(?) makes the jump across the Atlantic Ocean. Canada’s greatest-ever hope for international soccer relevance bagged a brace (31st and 51st minutes) on Sunday, bringing his 2017 season total to six goals (37 for his career, which is just over two full seasons old), as Orlando City SC narrowly edged New York City FC, 2-1 at Yankee Stadium. He’s also scored nine goals in seven career games against NYCFC. Larin wasn’t the only star striker on display, and the scoresheet, though, as David Villa provided NYCFC’s lone goal of the game which made the final 15 minutes mighty interesting. If not for Joe Bendik’s stunning, point-blank save in stoppage time, Villa would have drawn NYCFC level and stolen a point.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Larin finishes from close range for 1-0 — Scott Sutter provided the cross into the box, and Lain found space between two defenders for the easy finish.

51′ — Larin brushes off Wallace, heads home for 2-0 — Larin versus an opposing winger (Rodney Wallace on this occasion) is a mismatch that Orlando will look to exploit every single time. 9 times out of 10, it’ll end up like this.

74′ — Villa finishes a brilliant set-piece routine — Maxi Moralez couldn’t have hit a better ball into the box, and we couldn’t have expected any better finish from Villa.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cyle Larin

Goalscorers: Larin (31′, 51′), Villa (74′)

LIVE: Real Madrid host Barcelona in El Clasico

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Let’s go.

Real Madrid host Barcelona at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday in the final installment of El Clasico this season in La Liga.

[ LIVE: Follow El Clasico, here ] 

With Barca three points behind their bitter rivals who top the La Liga standings and also have a game in hand with six weeks to go, nothing but a win will do for Luis Enrqiue’s men.

All of the talk before this game has been about the absence of Neymar as Barca have decided to not put the Brazilian forward in their squad after they appealed his three-game ban but have yet to hear back on his suspension.

Aside from that bizarre situation, it’s been a mixed week for the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League.

Barca were knocked out by Juventus at the quarterfinal stage, while Real Madrid got by Bayern Munich in an exhausting clash at the Santiago Bernabeu which required extra time to set up a semifinal tie against Atletico Madrid.

The stars will come out to play as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will collide.