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Ronald Koeman plays down Barcelona speculation

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Ronald Koeman has moved to reassure Everton fans he will be sticking around at the Toffees (terrible pun klaxon) for the foreseeable future.

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After speaking to Catalan outlet Sport, Koeman was quoted as saying that he was “his dream” to return to Barcelona and manage the Nou Camp club, as well as to manage the Dutch national team.

Asked about that interview ahead of Everton’s trip to Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCsports.com) Koeman played down talk of him heading to Barca this summer as the Spanish giants will lose manager Luis Enrique’s who is stepping down.

“I mentioned several times that I think it is human ambition that means for players, that means for managers. That is not changing my contract or my ambitions with Everton,” Koeman said. “I am really happy to be in Everton. I am looking forward to next season. It is a big project and I would like to be a part of that project. The interview is coming out of 25 years ago we won the title at Wembley, so it is normal they will ask me questions about the Barcelona job. There is no chance I will leave Everton before the end of my contract.”

Koeman’s current deal at Everton runs until 2019 and by that time the Toffees may be close to having a new waterfront stadium in the City of Liverpool plus if owner Farhad Moshiri’s continues to invest heavily in the squad, Koeman may well lead Everton in the UEFA Champions League as all Evertonians dream.

Yet his dreams of returning to the place where he won a Champions League title (his free kick handed Barca a 1-0 win against Sampdoria in the final at Wembley in 1992) as a player to manage the club appear to be at the forefront of his mind.

Over the past few years Koeman has had great success in the Premier League first with Southampton (7th place in 2014-15 and 6th place in 2015-16) and now with Everton as the Toffees can easily finish the season in fifth place.

However before his move to England his nomadic coaching career took him to Holland, Portugal and Spain and in the latter two countries he failed to inspire big clubs in Benfica and Valencia. That, plus his ill-fated stint as an assistant at Barcelona from 1998-00 when Louis Van Gaal was in charge, means that perhaps not everyone at Barcelona is convinced that Koeman is the right man for one of the biggest jobs in the game.

With the Barcelona job becoming available this summer, it may be a case of the wrong place at the wrong time for Koeman. However, with Lionel Messi 29-year-old and the likes of Luis Suarez and Neymar around, can he really turn down the chance to manager Barca if they come calling?

Everton fans have every right to be a little worried.

 

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

 

 

 

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

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Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.