Mourinho: I was never close to taking over at Barcelona in 2008

“Never.”

The words of Jose Mourinho when asked if he was close to joining Barcelona as boss in 2008.

Much has been made of the sliding doors moment in the Blaugrana’s history which saw them hire then managerial novice Pep Guardiola over Mourinho.

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Guardiola went on to deliver an unprecedented era of success at the club, cultivating the talent of Leo Messi who helped deliver two Champions League titles – in 2009 and 2011 – in three years.

Mourinho, who had famously worked at the Camp Nou as a translator and coach in the nineties, ended up on the other side of Spain’s biggest sporting divide as coach of Real Madrid.

In that role, his regular match-ups with Guardiola created one of the most bitter rivalries of all time.

“They [Barcelona] asked me to do an analysis of the situation of the team in an ugly moment, a moment of transition from the bad to the good, it was difficult,” Mourinho added while speaking to Movistar+.

“The person who asked me to do it was someone high up in the club. I did it, but nothing more.

“Then, fortunately for me, history took its course.”

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola during their time as Real Madrid and Barcelona managers

Image credit: Reuters

There is invariably an element of mischievousness with Mourinho, and who knows what “fortunately” refers to.

But the element of bitterness he harbours towards Barcelona doesn’t seem to have died down with time.

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‘We cannot force anything’ – Barcelona confirm fresh Dembele offer

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed Ousmane Dembele has been offered a new deal to stay at the club, adding further speculation around the Frenchman’s future in the ongoing contract saga.

Dembele has already turned down a number of proposals from Barcelona, who are trying to keep their wage bill down to a minimum as they continue to struggle financially.

Up until now, Dembele’s camp believe he’s worth more than what the club have put on the table, but the latest round of talks could see him finally put pen to paper on a new deal at the Camp Nou.

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In his latest update on the situation, Laporta said: “The offer was presented a long time ago and they have taken time to answer us.

“We cannot force anything because this depends on two parties.

“I believe that he will stay, but he is tempted by other options that he could believe are superior.”

Despite only scoring once in the league this season, the winger registered 13 assists in only 20 appearances as Barcelona surged up the La Liga table to secure a second-place finish.

The arrival of former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang has helped the 25-year-old rediscover the form that led to Barcelona snapping him up from the German side for £126m in 2017.

Dembele suffered an injury-plagued start to the campaign and missed the first few months of the season due to a knee-injury before damaging his hamstring, but since then he’s managed two goals and 13 assists across all competitions in 31 outings.

It’s well documented that the general impression is that Dembele wants to stay at the Camp Nou long-term, but is yet to commit his future to Xavi’s side with less than a month and a half remaining on his current deal.

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'Age doesn't concern me' – Xavi speaks out on Lewandowski rumours

Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez has said he is ‘not concerned’ by a players age as he addressed rumours linking Robert Lewandowski with a move to the club.

Sky in Germany reported that Lewandowski has told Bayern Munich will not sign a contract extension with the club with his current deal ending next summer.

And while Bayern Munich’s chief executive Oliver Kahn has insisted Lewandowski will see out the final year of his contract, Bayern then risk losing the player as a free agent in just over 12 months’ time.

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The 33-year-old Polish striker has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona as manager Xavi Hernandez looks to rebuild a club that has endured a trophyless season and the loss of Lionel Messi.

Yet while Xavi refused to give credence to the links, he admitted that age was not a problem in the transfer market.

“When it comes to signing, age doesn’t concern me… we signed Dani Alves when he was 38!”

“Players take care of themselves, they’re more professional. (Dani) Alves, (Zlatan) Ibrahimović, (Luka) Modrić, Cristiano (Ronaldo) or (LIonel) Messi are examples”.

Barca had been linked with a move for Erling Braut Haaland earlier in the year but with his move to Manchester City they have been forced to look elsewhere for a striker, with Lewandowski still among the very best in Europe.

And Barcelona’s transfer activity does not end there, with Frenkie de Jong also subject to a flurry of rumours linking him with a move away from the Camp Nou.

Manchester United are understood to be among those interested in the player, with De Jong’s former boss at Ajax, Erik ten Hag, taking over at Old Trafford.

But while it’s no secret De Jong has struggled to settle at Barcelona and Xavi insists he remains a key player at the club.

But with the Catalan Giants struggling to balance their books this season, even Xavi had to acknowledge that big offers could play a part in their decision-making this summer.

“I have said many times that Frenkie is very important. He’s key player,” added Xavi.

“…then there is also the financial situation of the club and it has to be decided. I’m not talking about Frenkie, in general”

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'Hazard stays' – Real boss Ancelotti confirms Belgian will remain at Bernabeu

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Eden Hazard will remain at the club next season.

Hazard has endured a torrid three years at Madrid, a spell plagued by injuries in which he has managed just 65 appearances and six goals in all competitions.

After a big money move from Chelsea in 2019, expectations were on Hazard to lead Madrid in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era.

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But his place on the wing has been taken by youngster Vinicius Jr, while Rodrygo has also outperformed the Belgian and looks to be above him in the pecking order.

Yet Ancelotti is convinced of Hazard’s quality, and says he will stay amid rumours linking him to a move back to Stamford Bridge.

‘I have not spoken to Hazard about his future,” he said. “But he remains motivated even though he has had a difficult time. He wants to show his quality. The plan for Hazard is clear, he stays.”

Ancelotti also emphasised the importance of a deep squad at Madrid and encouraged everyone to produce ‘quality minutes’ rather than worry about game time, using Rodrygo as an example.

“For a squad like Madrid’s there are many matches,” he added. “There will be rotations. With a more complete squad you can rotate more and everyone has chances.

“The first-team in a big team like Madrid is very complicated for everyone, not only for those who play less.

“The number of minutes is not important, it is the quality of the minutes. We have Rodrygo, for example. He has not played many minutes but they have been quality.”

Ancelotti – who managed Madrid between 2013 and 2015 and is a familiar face at the Bernabeu – admitted he has also been surprised by the players he knew less.

“No one has disappointed. Everyone has done their job. The one who have surprised me are the ones I knew less – Rodrygo, Ernesto Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga. Rodrygo because he has this talent, he has been so confident in front of goal.

Indeed, it was Rodrygo who scored two late goals to help Real past Manchester City in the Champions League final in dramatic fashion.

They will play Liverpool in the final on May 28, and Ancelotti had a few words of praise for Reds forward Mohammed Salah.

“It’s not easy to find a right or left winger like him in the transfer market. In his position, he is the best in the world,” he said.

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Vinicius Jr close to six-year Real Madrid contract, €1bn release clause – reports

Vinicius Jr is on the verge of signing a new deal with Real Madrid that will keep him at the club for six more years with a €1bn release clause.

The Brazilian, who scored the first hat-trick of his career on Thursday against Levante, is currently signed with Los Blancos until 2024, but the club have been trying extend the deal since the club’s Champions League quarter-final victory against Chelsea.

The club had planned to delay talks until the end of the season, but the winger’s performances this season have pushed negotiations forward. The 21-year-old is a fan favourite and is only the third Real Madrid player to register 20 goals and 20 assists, after Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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A report from Marca suggests Madrid want to lock Vinicius down until 2028 – longer than the forward had thought – and will increase his buyout clause to one billion euros.

His salary – untouched since he arrived at the club – will also be negotiated and Marca add that Real want to put him among the club’s top earners.

They are counting on the star to spearhead the next generation of success and Real Madrid as the likes of Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric and Benzema hit the twilight of their careers.

However, Luka Modric and Nacho have already signed extensions to keep them at the Bernabeu for a little while longer at least.

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'It got too much' – Toxic Mourinho relationship played part in Guardiola's Barca exit, says Pique

Pep Guardiola’s toxic relationship with Jose Mourinho played a part in his exit from Barcelona, according to Gerard Pique.

During a golden spell at Barcelona, Guardiola fashioned a team that played some of the greatest football ever seen.

The likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique swept all before them, dominating domestically and in Europe.

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Mourinho moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2010 and set about creating a rivalry with Guardiola and his Barcelona team.

As the rivalry between the two clubs intensified, Pique felt it began to detract from what was happening on the field and had a detrimental impact on Guardiola to the extent that he left the club in 2012 and took a sabbatical.

Speaking to Gary Neville’s Overlap podcast, Pique offered up his thoughts on the rivalry between Mourinho and Guardiola.

“We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us,” Pique said. “It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was, you know his style, and I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

“It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

“Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much.”

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Asked by Neville if Guardiola did not like how toxic things had gotten between the two clubs, Pique said: “I don’t think so.

“I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu, he did an amazing press conference but it was not about football.

“He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch.”

Pique felt Mourinho went down the route of antagonism as the players at his disposal were not as good as what Guardiola was working with – and said it impacted on relationships within the Spanish national side.

“Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us,” Pique said. “We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players.

“I remember going to the national team and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says ‘these guys hate you’, then you believe that.

“I was in the dressing room of the national team and went to (Real Madrid goalkeeper) Iker Casillas ‘hey Iker’ and the guy did not talk to me.

“At that time I did not know, but it was the coach he really knows how to go into the mind.”

Following his break from football, Guardiola has enjoyed major success with Bayern Munich and currently Manchester City.

Mourinho left Real Madrid in 2013, before returning to Chelsea and guiding them to the Premier League title in 2015.

He had a mixed spell at Manchester United, struggled at Tottenham and is now at Roma where he is one win away from guiding the club to a major European title for the first time in their history.

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Vinicius treble sees Real Madrid to emphatic 6-0 win over Levante

Real Madrid turned on the style in their penultimate match at the Santiago Bernabeu this season, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side blew away Levante 6-0 in La Liga to condemn Los Granotas to relegation from the top tier.

Los Blancos took an early lead, as they were ahead after just 13 minutes, and it came from an unlikely source, Ferland Mendy. The full-back scored his second of the season with a good finish at the near post after a surging run down the left flank.

Just three minutes after Federico Valverde hit the upright for Real, Madrid doubled their advantage with twenty minutes on the clock, as Karim Benzema scored an easy header at the back post to equal Raul Gonzalez’ goalscoring record for the club.

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Levante continued to be put to the sword, as Madrid had their third just after the half-hour mark, with Rodrygo scoring an easy tap-in from Luka Modric’s low cross.

The Croatian then had his third assist of the game as Real had their fourth on the stroke of half-time, as Vinicius Jr. got in on the act with a nice finish low into the bottom corner.

Vini Jr. then had his brace, tapping in from close range following a cut-back by Benzema in the 68th minute.

The winger then completed a fantastic hat-trick and his first for Los Blancos, as he placed an effort into the net from close range with eight minutes left to play.

TALKING POINT – Real turn on the style, as Levante blown away

Levante came into the game knowing that they needed a draw or a win to keep their slim chances of survival alive, but after just half an hour, Los Granotas were 3-0 down and Real Madrid were rolling them over in emphatic fashion.

As for Madrid, the scoreline could’ve easily been seven or eight, with Fede Valverde hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasions, and Levante goalkeeper Daniel Cardenas making a total of ten saves.

This game was ideal preparation for Real Madrid, as they look to stay in good form ahead of the Champions League final. For Levante, many players were understandably emotional at full-time as their fate was sealed, and their fans will be hoping that their team can bounce back once again at the first time of asking from the Segunda.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH – Vinicius Jr.

Vinícius celebra un gol ante el Levante

Image credit: Getty Images

This was one of those games where many of Real Madrid’s players were deserving of this accolade for their performances. Luka Modric got a hat-trick of assists, Karim Benzema was outstanding again, but Vinicius Jr. notching his first hat-trick in Real Madrid colours seals the deal.

The 21-year-old winger was on top form today, and looked a threat each time he got into the box from the left flank. He also provided the assist for Karim Benzema’s headed goal in the first half, capping off a superb display.

Post-match, the attacker revealed to the Spanish media that Carlo Ancelotti kept him on the pitch until the end of the match so he could seal his hat-trick, and that call proved to pay off from the Real Madrid coach.

PLAYER RATINGS

Real Madrid: Courtois 6, Vazquez 7, Vallejo 8, Nacho 7, Mendy 8, Valverde 8, Camavinga 7, Modric 9, Rodrygo 7, Benzema 9, Vini Jr. 10. Subs: Gila 6, Peter 6, Mariano 6, Jovic 7, Kroos 6.

Levante: Cardenas 8, Son 6, Caceres 5, Postigo 5, Pier 6, Miramon 5, Melero 5, Pepelu 5, Radoja 5, Gomez 6, Morales 6. Subs: Cantero 5, Marti 5, Campana 6, Vezo 5, Bardhi 6.

KEY MOMENTS

13’ – GOAL! (Ferland Mendy) – The home side have taken the lead here! Ferland Mendy has his second goal of the season! The full-back makes a quick run down the left flank all the way into the box before striking the ball into the net at the near post!

19’ – GOAL! (Karim Benzema) – Madrid have their second of the game and it’s that man Karim Benzema! Vinicius Jr. once again has the assist, as his cross from the left is met by Benzema’s leaping header at the back post, leaving Cardenas with no chance in the Levante goal.

34’ – GOAL! (Rodrygo) – Levante look dead and buried here, as Real Madrid score their third of the game, and it’s Rodrygo who gets his goal! The Brazilian initially picks the ball up in the box, before playing it out to Modric on the right byline. The Croatian then gets the assist with a low cut-back across the face of goal, and Rodrygo has the easiest of tap-ins from a yard out.

45’ – GOAL! (Vinicius Jr.) – Madrid are running riot here at the Bernabeu! Vinicius Jr. gets in on the act. The winger cuts inside from the left, before arrowing in a low shot into the far corner of the net. It takes a nick from a Levante player on its way in.

68’ – GOAL! (Vinicius Jr.) – Madrid have their fifth and it’s the Vini Jr. – Benzema combination again! The Frenchman is released in on goal, with Cardenas once again coming off his line. It almost comes to the point where Benzema ruins the opportunity as he tries to wrong foot the goalkeeper with a couple of feinted shots, but he eventually provides the cut-back for Vini Jr, who obliges with an easy tap-in.

KEY STATS

  • Vinicius Junior has scored his first hat-trick in 168 games for Real Madrid in all competitions.
  • Karim Benzema has equalled Raul’s goalscoring record for Real Madrid by notching his 323rd strike for the club.

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Araujo taken to hospital and conscious after sickening clash of heads

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo suffered a concussion but is conscious after a clash of heads with teammate Gavi against Celta Vigo.

The Uruguayan central defender collided with the midfielder in the 62nd minute and clashed heads, and after initially staying on his feet, dropped to his feet.

At that time his club were 3-1 up thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and another from Memphis Depay,

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The defender was rushed to hospital after extended treatment on the pitch that resulted in 11 minutes of added time, and the Barcelona crowd chanted ‘U-RU-GUAYO’ in tribute to their player. Barcelona tweeted to confirm the player had concussion..

However after the game, Spanish journalist Toni Juanmarti tweeted: “Araujo is conscious. Right now at the Barcelona Hospital to undergo medical tests and check/rule out”.

Araujo has been one of Barca’s best players in a difficult season, and signed a new contract with the team, with a one billion euro release clause.

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