After six weeks on the sidelines following his horror back injury at the World Cup, Neymar has returned to full training for FC Barcelona earlier than expected.
The Brazilian winger, 22, was the star man for Selecao on home soil as he guided the host nation to the semifinals with four goals in five games. He also won the bronze boot as the tournament’s third top scorer and was named in the World Cup All Star XI.
Neymar was ruled out of Brazil’s 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany with a fractured vertebrae in his back following a challenge from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga in the quarterfinal tie. The Colombian player drove his knee into Neymar’s back but did not face any punishment during or since for the challenge which broke a bone in Neymar’s back.
With Barca’s season set to kick off on Aug. 24 against Elche, Neymar is an outsider to feature in that match as he continues his road to recovery.
With just under two weeks to build up his fitness and get in some game action, the former Santos star could feature on the bench for Luis Enrqiue’s new-look side. As of Thursday Neymar had not yet been cleared by team doctors to play in games but returning to full training is a huge step in the right direction.
When he does return to action, Barcelona will possess one of the greatest forward lines in world soccer with Neymar, Lionel Messi and eventually Luis Suarez lining up together at the Nou Camp.
The UEFA Champions League heavy list sees eight Premier League sides: United (1), Man City (5), Arsenal (7), Chelsea (8), Liverpool (9), Tottenham Hotspur (12), West Ham United (18), Leicester City (20).
Serie A is second with four clubs, while La Liga and Bundesliga have three clubs on the list. Ligue 1 (Paris Saint-Germain) and the Russian Premier League (Zenit Saint Petersburg) complete the group of 20.
The Associated Press’ stalwart reporter Rob Harris has this handy chart:
NEW: Manchester United are football's top moneymakers again after 11years with revenue of £515.3m/€689m. Complete Deloitte rankings (in £s) pic.twitter.com/jTC7khkruT
An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.
There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.
For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.
Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.
On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.
Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.
When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.
If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.
This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.
For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.
If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.
“In the second half it was good, but then it became a bit static. We had a penalty, and 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 would have been OK, but 1-0 I’m fine with that. I was not too concerned for going through, but I thought ‘Oh my God another 30 minutes’, but it is all good, no extra-time, job done, let’s go home. As nice as it is here, we leave as early as possible, so all good.”
On a rare goal for Lucas Leiva, Klopp adds: “Every week in training we play old versus young and he is a top scorer for old, which is unbelievable.”
One thing to note: Liverpool has only scored multiple goals in one of its last six matches. Sure, two were young lineups, but they were also against League Two competitions (and one was a clean sheet).
Look for the Reds to break out soon, perhaps Saturday morning when Swansea City visits Anfield.