Lionel Messi says he will be at Barcelona for “as long as they want me to be”. Barca have previously said the ability to offer the 29-year-old, their all-time top scorer, an improved contract will rest on their capacity to raise revenue from sponsorship deals and player sales. He is out of contract in 18 months’ time. Messi was asked by magazine Coach if he would consider a Premier League move, and he said: “I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be.”
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has turned down a £430,000-a-week offer from China. Toure, 33, was the subject of interest from the Chinese Super League last summer. He decided against moving then and gave the same response when he was contacted again to say the offer remained open during the current transfer window, which closes on 31 January. The Ivorian’s contract at the Etihad expires in the summer. Toure’s future appeared in doubt when he was left out of the City squad by Pep Guardiola at the start of the season.
Brazilian striker Neymar is the most valuable player in Europe – worth about £216m – according to a new study which values 10 players at more than 100m euros. Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi is valued by academics at £149m while the only England players in the top 10 are Tottenham duo Harry Kane (£122m) and Dele Alli (£96m). Paul Pogba, who joined Manchester United for a record £89m in the summer, is valued at £136.4m. The study has been carried out by a team of academics from the CIES Football Observatory, using a transfer value algorithm. They have calculated the value using criteria that includes player performance and characteristics, such as age and length of contract.
Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben has signed a contract to extend his stay with the German champions until the summer of 2018. The former Chelsea player’s current deal was due to expire at the end of the season but he is now tied to the club until he is 34. “In his position Arjen is one of the best players in the world,” Bayern Munich’s executive board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “He’s been here for almost eight years and has become a key part of the club.”
Bad news for football agents looking to send their clients to Chinese clubs on crazy contracts. Chinese Super League clubs will only be allowed to play three non-Chinese players per game in their next season – which begins in March. A rule change has reduced the number of foreigners allowed in a move which could slow down the wave of big-money signings from Europe. A statement said the new measures will address “irrational investments.” Previously the rule was “4+1” – four foreigners of any nationality plus one Asian in a matchday squad.
Sunderland manager David Moyes has confirmed striker Victor Anichebe is out of Saturday’s match against Stoke. Anichebe is out with a hamstring injury but Moyes said full-back Billy Jones could return. The Scot also said goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could return earlier than expected from a knee injury. The 22-year-old was expected to be out for at least six weeks following an injury picked up on Boxing Day but Moyes says he could return in three or four weeks.
Hull City have made a double signing with Oumar Niasse and Evandro Goebel arriving in the transfer window. It was confirmed today that the Senegal international Niasse had signed on a six-month loan until the end of the season. The 30-year-old Evandro has agreed to join permanently on a two-and-a half-year deal for an undisclosed fee. His move from Porto is subject to international clearance.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been named Premier League manager of the month for December, his third win on the bounce. The Blues won all six of their league matches during the final month of 2016 as part of a 10-match winning streak which took them to the top of the table. That run came to an end on January 4 with a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. “This award shows we’re working very well,” Conte said. “December was a great month for us. It was important for the table and for our confidence.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been named the Premier League’s Player of the Month for December after his five goals helped Manchester United find winning form. The 35-year-old Swedish striker has enjoyed his first season in English football and now has a total of 18 goals in all competitions for Jose Mourinho’s team. He opened December with a flicked lob against Everton at Goodison Park, then claimed United’s late winner in their 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.
Luis Suarez became the third quickest Barcelona player in history to reach 100 goals last night as they beat Athletic Bilbao to reach the Copa del Rey quarter-finals. The ex-Liverpool striker, in his 120th game for the Catalans, scored the opener as they won 3-1 to go through 4-3 on aggregate. Only Mariano Martin (99 games) and Hungarian striker Laszlo Kubala (103) have done it in fewer matches. It took Lionel Messi – who scored last night’s winner – 188 games to reach 100 goals, although he has been playing for the first team since he was 16.
Manchester United have triggered a clause in Marouane Fellaini’s contract that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2018. Fellaini signed a four-year deal with the option of a further year when he joined from Everton for £27.5m in 2013. United boss Jose Mourinho has activated the option despite uncertainty over the 29-year-old midfielder’s future. Fellaini was booed by his own fans last month but scored in the EFL Cup semi-final win against Hull on Tuesday.
Japanese striker Kazuyoshi Miura will take his professional football career into his 50s after signing a new contract with second-tier Yokohama FC. Miura is the oldest scorer in the history of the domestic league after netting at the age of 49 last season. He turns 50 on 26 February. He started his career in Brazil with Santos, making his professional debut in 1986, and had brief spells with Genoa and Dinamo Zagreb in the 1990s.
Chinese Super League clubs certainly are splashing the cash. Reports in Spain suggest Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez has rejected a £26m-a-year deal from Hebei China Fortune. AS claims the offered wage – from the club currently managed by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini – was nearly nine times higher than what the Colombian currently earns at the Bernabeu.
Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlinhas only featured eight times under Jose Mourinho this season and now he’s on his way to Everton. Mourinho confirmed after United’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg win over Hull City on Tuesday that the former Southampton player was leaving. “I am sad and happy, sad because I like him and he could be an option for us, happy because this is what he wants, to play every game and be important in the team,” added Mourinho.
Maria Sharapova will make her professional tennis comeback following her doping ban at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart in April. The former world number one is serving a 15-month ban after testing positive for cardiac drug meldonium last January and is eligible to compete again on 26 April. The tournament starts on 24 April but the 29-year-old, who will enter as a wildcard, will not be allowed to attend until the Wednesday, the day of her first match. “I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my favourite tournaments,” she said. “I can’t wait to see all my great fans and to be back doing what I love.”
The World Cup will be expanded to host 48 teams, up from 32, FIFA has decided. An initial stage of 16 groups of three teams will precede a knockout stage for the remaining 32 when the change is made for the 2026 tournament. The sport’s world governing body voted unanimously in favour of the change at a meeting in Zurich on Tuesday (today). The number of tournament matches will rise to 80, from 64, but the eventual winners will still play only seven games. The tournament will be completed within 32 days – a measure to appease powerful European clubs, who objected to reform because of a crowded international schedule.
Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world’s best player at the inaugural Best FIFA Football Awards in Zurich. Real Madrid and Portugal forward Ronaldo, 31, beat Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann to the prize. Ronaldo also won the Ballon d’Or in December, with both honours recognition for success in the Champions League with Real and Euro 2016 with Portugal. Carli Lloyd of the United States was named the world’s best female player. Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri was named best men’s coach, ex-Germany boss Silvia Neid won the female coach award, while Penang’s Mohd Faiz Subri received the Puskas award for the best goal of 2016.
Super Eagles of Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi has left Chelsea to join Chinese Super League side Tianjin TEDA with a reported weekly wage of £140,000. The 29-year-old Nigerian has played 372 times for Chelsea since joining in 2006 but has not featured this season. He said it had been “an honour” to play for the Stamford Bridge club but it was time to “seek a new challenge”. Mikel has won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Former Olympiakos manager Marco Silva has been confirmed as Hull City’s new boss. The 39-year-old Portuguese has signed until the end of the season at the KCOM Stadium. He replaces Mike Phelan who was sacked on Tuesday with the Tigers bottom of the Premier League. Silva left the Greek side in the summer and had previously been linked with managerial vacancies at Championship sides Wolves and Nottingham Forest. He will take charge of Hull’s next game against fellow Premier League strugglers Swansea in the FA Cup third round at home on Saturday.
Watford are ready to cash in on Odion Ighalo amid fresh interest from the Chinese Super League. Ighalo has twice snubbed big-money moves to the Far East in order to stay at Vicarage Road. Watford were forced to reject Shanghai SIPG’s record £37.5million offer on the eve of this season as he did not want to go. Now Shanghai Shenhua, managed by Gus Poyet , are preparing a move for the misfiring striker. Boss Walter Mazzarri has said publicly Ighalo will be going nowhere. But privately the Hornets want him out – even if the Nigeria star digs his heels in again.