Barcelona have completed the signing of French defender Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia, as new boss Luis Enrique continues to stamp his mark on the Catalan club.
Mathieu, 30, is a towering left back or central defender who has played for Valencia since 2009 and he will add a solid core at the back for the Blaugrana. He will be unveiled on Thursday at the Nou Camp.
On paper, this seems like a strange signing but Enrique is moving fast to address his needs.
How many times over the past five, six seasons have we seen Barcelona dominate teams, then come undone to their Achilles heel of failing to defend set pieces or one hopeful cross being knocked home by the opposition? Plenty, is the answer.
Mathieu is known for his aerial dominance and alongside Gerard Pique in the back four, the two will provide Barca with a sensationally solid platform to build off. It would seem as though Mathieu will line up alongside Pique in central defense with Jordi Alba at left back and Dani Alves at right back, as Enrique prefers to go with a fluid 4-3-3 formation in line with Barca’s soccer philosophy.
We know Barcelona possess wonderful attacking talents in Lionel Messi, Neymar and know Luis Suarez, but it is good to see them make more pragmatic and sensible signings. That bodes well for Enrique’s first season in charge as the former Barca midfielder continues to build his own squad primed for success after a trophyless 2013-14 campaign for former Barcelona gaffer Gerardo Martino.
The Copa America Centenario opens in California on Friday, as the stars of North, Central and South America take center stage in the United States.
Well, most of them.
Neymar is out of the tournament thanks to an agreement between Barcelona and Brazil that will allow the superstar to play in August’s Olympics in Rio. And Barca teammate Luis Suarez is expected to miss the group stage for Uruguay while recovering from a hamstring injury.
As usual the focus will be on Lionel Messi and Argentina, whose powerful roster has finished runners-up at the 2014 World Cup and three of the last four Copa America tournaments. Opening with Chile before matches against Bolivia and Panama, Argentina will be expected to make a deep run. Critics know Messi is one of the best players in recent memory, but his failure to land a title outside of the Olympics with a squad that often includes Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain has haunted him, in a sense, at the international level.
Chile won’t be feeling much pressure after winning the 2015 Copa, albeit in controversial fashion that included whispers of home-cooking and a dirty incident from Gonzalo Jara that pained Uruguay physically and competitively. Still, Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) and Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich) will put on a show on American soil in an attempt to repeat. And keep an eye out for Eduardo Vargas, whose production with Chile far exceeds what he’s done at clubs Hoffenheim, QPR, Valencia and Napoli.
Uruguay may be without Suarez for a while — nothing new given his suspension for biting at the World Cup — but Edinson Cavani will look to make amends for his wrongly-given red card in last year’s tournament. Abel Hernandez was dynamite in lifting Hull City back into the Premier League this season, while Uruguay boasts one of the world’s most complete backs in Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin.
Andres Guardado of Mexico is criminally underrated and one of the best playmakers on the planet. The PSV man is joined on a solid El Tri roster that includes Bayer Leverkusen star striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
The USMNT will have to contend with Colombia’s star men, highlighted by James Rodriguez, the Real Madrid forward and star of the 2014 World Cup. Carlos Bacca can also dominate stretches of action for Los Cafeteros.
Neymar is out for Brazil, but holy smoke that roster is terrific. Group B’s favorites will roll out Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, Chelsea’s Willian, Zenit’s Hulk and Real Madrid’s Casemiro.
Other Premier League players on Copa America rosters
Major League Soccer players on Copa America rosters
Kaka (Brazil / Orlando City)
Kendall Waston (Costa Rica / Vancouver Whitecaps)
Ronald Matarrita (Costa Rica / NYCFC)
Johan Venegas (Costa Rica / Montreal Impact)
Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica / DC United)
Christian Bolanos (Costa Rica / Vancouver Whitecaps) Tim Howard (USMNT / Colorado Rapids)
Matt Besler (USMNT / Sporting KC)
Graham Zusi (USMNT / Sporting KC)
Kyle Beckerman (USMNT / Real Salt Lake)
Michael Bradley (USMNT / Toronto FC) Clint Dempsey (USMNT / Seattle Sounders)
Gyasi Zardes (USMNT / L.A. Galaxy)
Chris Wondolowski (USMNT / San Jose Earthquakes)
Jermaine Jones (USMNT / Colorado Rapids)
Darlington Nagbe (USMNT / Portland Timbers)
Steve Birnbaum (USMNT / DC United)
Nelson Valdez (Paraguay / Seattle Sounders)
Carlos Gruezo (Ecuador / FC Dallas)
Soni Mustivar (Haiti / Sporting KC)
Andre Blake (Jamaica / Philadelphia Union)
Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica / New York Red Bulls)
Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica / Portland Timbers)
Je-Vaughn Waton (Jamaica / New England Revolution)
Giles Barnes (Jamaica / Houston Dynamo)
Simon Dawkins (Jamaica / San Jose Earthquakes)
Anibal Godoy (Panama / San Jose Earthquakes)
Blas Perez (Panama / Vancouver Whitecaps)
Alberto Quintero (Panama / San Jose Earthquakes)
NASL players on Copa America rosters Yasmani Duk (Bolivia / New York Cosmos)
Pascal Millien (Haiti / Jacksonville Armada)
James Marcelin (Haiti / Carolina Railhawks)
Jean Marc Alexandre (Haiti / Fort Lauderdale Strikers)
Jerome Mechack (Haiti / Jacksonville Armada)
USL players on Copa America rosters Ryan Thompson (Jamaica / Saint Louis FC)
Rashford scored 8 goals in 18 appearances since joining the First Team under now-fired manager Louis Van Gaal.
Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward urged patience with the youngster on ManUtd.com:
“Marcus is a naturally talented footballer with great potential. He has taken his chances well and has integrated into the first team very quickly. I am delighted that Marcus has signed a new contract, he is at the right club to continue his development. He is still very young and we need to be patient but he is developing in the right way and we believe he has a great future ahead of him.”
With Rashford and Martial, United has tremendous potential in attack at very young ages. Let’s see if the youngster continues to deliver on this early promise.
Victor Guzman used Pachuca’s first shot on target of the game to score the deciding goal in stoppage time, and Tuzos are champions of Liga MX after a 1-1 draw in Sunday’s second leg of the Liga MX Liguilla final versus Monterrey.
Pachuca entered the game with a 1-0 lead, but found things level early before going down a man. But Guzman out-jumped USMNT left back Edgar Castillo for the title-winning goal, giving fellow U.S. back Omar Gonzalez his first Liga MX crown.
Gonzalez was left out of Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Friday against Colombia. Castillo was, too, but was called into replace injured Timmy Chandler.
We doubt Gonzalez is thinking about that much right now. He’s more likely thinking about dancing some more: