Ilaix Moriba rejects Barcelona contract offer & could now be sold

Barcelona midfielder Ilaix Moriba looks increasingly likely to leave Camp Nou after rejecting the club’s offer of a new contract, president Joan Laporta has confirmed.

Barça have had high hopes for Moriba after he burst onto the scene in the second half of last season and made 18 appearances for the first-team, including four starts in La Liga.

However, the youngster’s current contract is due to expire in 2022 and he has informed the club that he doesn’t wish to sign a new one with the terms that are on the table.

“He has a year on his deal and doesn’t want to renew with the conditions offered by the club,” Laporta said as he explained the situation to the media.

“We have to send a message,” the president continued, hinting that Barça will refuse to bend over backwards to keep the 18-year-old. “He’s a great player but if he doesn’t renew there are other solutions. I feel bad but the club comes first.

“I ask him to reconsider and come to an agreement. I don’t understand why he doesn’t recognise what Barça have done for him.”

Laporta added that Moriba will be allowed to leave, but only if a club makes a suitable offer.

It was reported over the weekend that Barça have become ‘fed up’ of Moriba’s contract demands and have no intention of improving their offer to meet said demands, as Laporta has now alluded to.

Moriba has been left out of Barça’s pre-season trip to Germany and Austria, while it has been suggested that he will be excluded from first-team training until he signs the contract on offer.

Meanwhile, Barcelona and Lionel Messi have reached ‘total agreement’ over a new contract at Camp Nou.

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Giorgio Chiellini signs new Juventus contract until 2023

Juventus legend Giorgio Chiellini has signed a new two-year contract with the club until the summer of 2023, taking his time with the club into a 16th and 17th season.

Chiellini, who will shortly turn 37, has technically been a free agent since the start of July when his old contract expired. But following a heroic role captaining Italy to Euro 2020 glory, Juve have seen fit to offer him a new deal that will run until he is almost 39.

The defender spent his youth at Livorno and joined Juve outright in 2005 after initially being the subject of a co-ownership deal with Fiorentina and spending the 2004/05 season with La Viola.

He properly established himself as a starter during the 2006/07 campaign that Juve spent in Serie B following the Calciopoli scandal and never looked back.

Chiellini has since won nine Serie A titles, five Coppa Italia trophies and played in the 2017 Champions League final – injury had earlier ruled him out of the 2015 final.

An ACL injury and other subsequent fitness problems limited Chiellini to only four appearances in all competitions in 2019/20, but he returned to full fitness in the second half of last season, before going on to underline his status as an Italian legend at Euro 2020.

An injury in Italy’s second group match against Switzerland forced him to miss the next two games, only for him to return and play every minute of the quarter-final, semi-final and final against Belgium, Spain and England respectively, with the latter two going all the way to penalties.

Chiellini is keen on playing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and remaining with Juve should help with that target.

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Southampton complete signing of Chelsea talent Tino Livramento

Southampton have completed the signing of teenage Chelsea full-back Tino Livramento, who has signed a five-year contract at St Mary’s.

Livramento, who was named on Chelsea’s bench for two Premier League games towards the end of last season, had earlier confirmed his decision to leave the Blues is in order to take the ‘next big step’ in his career and further his development.

“I’ve been discussing with my dad about what we thought was best for my future. We felt like this was the right time for it to happen and for me to move on,” the 18-year-old said once his move to the south coast was made official.

“To have interest from a few top clubs, to choose Southampton was sort of a no-brainer. They are a solid Premier League club and the manager was quite a big factor as to why I wanted to come here and why I wanted to play for Southampton.”

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl commented: “I am very pleased we have been able to secure Tino’s signing. He is one of the best young players in his position in the country and there were a lot of clubs who were interested in signing him, but finally he chose to join us.

 “I think he has made a very good choice, and this will be an excellent place for him to continue his development and hopefully reach his full potential.

 “He is very much in line with the profile of player we want and I think he will adapt very well to our system and methods. To be around the first team of Chelsea at his age speaks about his ability.”

Livramento will wear Southampton’s number 21 shirt and provide competition and cover for Kyle Walker-Peters, who was until now the only recognised right-back in the first-team squad.

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Chicago Fire coach questions controversial red card against Wyatt Omsberg

Chicago Fire head coach Raphael Wicky has questioned the validity of an early red card that forced his side to face Philadelphia Union with 10 men for the much of the match.

The Fire were reduced to 10 in the 34th minute after VAR confirmed center back Wyatt Omsberg challenged Philadelphia forward Cory Burke and denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Chicago captain Francisco Calva complained in the moment that Omsberg’s actions did not merit a red card, while Wicky voiced his uncertainty at the call after the match.

“I cannot say much. I mean, look, we have VAR, we have VAR,” Wicky said. “If they review it on VAR with slow motion, with a lot of people and they think it’s a red card, then we need to trust them that it’s a red card. But it’s very, very soft. It is what it is. I have seen it once. I didn’t see in slow motion what they saw, but apparently Wyatt hit his knee or something.”

The foul enabled the Philadelphia Union to convert the awarded free kick into the equalizer, tying the match at 1-1. Despite the score and debated red card, Wicky spoke highly of his determined side.

“Great credit to the team, great effort and I’m proud of what they have done because it’s not easy, the situation where we are,” Wicky, who recently returned after an absence, said.

“Last week the results didn’t come and then you come here and then you’re winning 1-0 and then you go down a man. We immediately conceded the draw, the 1-1, so great reaction. It meant something and I think everyone showed a lot of character.”

The Chicago Fire currently sit in 13th place on the Eastern Conference table with 13 points in 16 matches. The team must improve dramatically to secure their spot in the fast approaching Major League Soccer playoffs.

MLS Week 16 best players – ranked

Week 16 of the 2021 Major League Soccer season has passed us by, but not without producing some stunning individual performances along the way.

From homegrowns to European imports, all manner of player have their say in this compelling, unpredictable league.

So, who were the best performers from the weekend? Let’s take a look.

Kai Wagner

Kai Wagner created five chances for the Union against Chicago Fire / Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Though they came from a goal behind, Philadelphia Union won’t be best pleased with their 1-1 draw against a Chicago Fire side with just nine away wins in MLS since 2014. Not least because the visitors had to cope with 10 men for 56 minutes after Wyatt Omsberg was dismissed.

It could have been much worse for the Union if not for the efforts of Kai Wagner. The German left-back was rock-solid defensively again, making three tackles and one interception, while ensuring not a single Fire player managed to dribble past him.

But it was his work in the final third that really caught the eye, with Wagner using his expertise from set-pieces to create no fewer than five chances on the day. Indeed, it was his free-kick – smartly drilled under the wall – which levelled the game in the 36th minute.

Gonzalo Higuaín

Gonzalo Higuain scored a brace in Inter Miami’s 2-1 comeback win over CF Montreal. / Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images

If we’re being polite, Gonzalo Higuain’s time in MLS so far has been a mixed bag. Fitness issues and wretched form from his teammates have combined to deny the Argentine his best form, but Saturday was definitely a night for him to cherish against CF Montreal.

Having gone 1-0 down to a first-half Joaquin Torres own goal, Higuain put Inter Miami on his back and dragged them to a first victory since May 16th with a second-half brace.

First, he helped older brother Federico win a penalty shortly after the break, feeding the ball the 36-year-old who was then clipped by Zorhan Bassong. Higuain made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, sending James Pantemis the wrong way.

And just 20 minutes later, Higuain fired the Herons into the lead. Some relentless Miami pressing forced a mistake from Montreal’s Rudy Camacho and although Higauin’s left-footed effort was initially saved by Pantemis, its sheer power meant the goalkeeper could only temporarily keep it from going over the line.

Emanuel Reynoso

Emanuel Reynoso is back in form for Minnesota United. / Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images

After blowing us all away with his creative exploits at the end of last season, Emanuel Reynoso has suffered an underwhelming start to the 2021 campaign with no assists and just one goal across his opening 12 appearances.

But those totals now stand at two apiece with Reynoso finding the net against LAFC, either side of assists against Portland Timbers and, most recently, Vancouver Whitecaps, slipping the ball through to Ethan Finlay who made it 1-1 in an eventual 2-2 draw.

But the assist was just the tip of the iceberg for Reynoso’s performance, with the 25-year-old creating six of Minnesota’s 11 chances on the night, while he also completed a match-high five dribbles, helping the Loons drive forward with the ball.

The most striking thing about Reynoso is, despite all his creativity, he’s also a willing defender and, indeed, the Argentine ended the night with four tackles, perfectly illustrating that work rate.

FC Dallas v Los Angeles FC

Pomykal opened the scoring for FC Dallas within three minutes at the weekend. / Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Paxton Pomykal says he’s getting back to his best and if his performance during FC Dallas’ 2-1 win away at Sporting Kansas City at the weekend is anything to go by, he’s quite right.

The 21-year-old opened the scoring inside three minutes with a wonderful effort from the edge of the box, opening up his body to create space before drilling a powerful shot beyond Jimmy Maurer.

But Pomykal didn’t stop there. During his 77 minutes on the pitch, the one-capped U.S international showed both sides of his game, creating two chances while also making five tackles, two clearances and one interception.

Pomykal never at simply playing the odd nice pass here and there. He brings 100% for his team every single time and it’s no surprise to see Dallas picking up form just as he gets back to his best.

Julian Araujo

Julian Araujo notched two assists against the Timbers. / Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images

There’s a logjam at right-back for the United States right now, which is likely why Julian Araujo keeping his options open and refusing to rule out Mexico.

The 19-year-old was absolutely sensational for the Galaxy during their 4-1 win over Portland Timbers at the weekend, using his attacking thrust to provide two assists from three chances created while completing three of his four attempted dribbles.

Of course, Araujo kept things on lock defensively, too, and with form like this, Gregg Berhalter and Tata Martino might well end up fighting over the youngster in the near future.

Nani

Nani was the match-winner for Orlando City against rivals Atlanta United. / Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Arguably more than any European import in MLS right now, Nani gets it. The Portuguese veteran would run through a brick wall for Orlando City if he could, such is his obvious commitment to the cause.

Of course, trying hard is nothing without talent, but Nani has plenty of that as well, and he showed it in Orlando’s 3-2 comeback win over fierce rivals Atlanta United.

Having already provided the corner that allowed Antonio Carlos to make it 1-1 in the first half, Nani finished the game in style with a diving header in the 87th minute, smart movement allowing the 34-year-old to get between the Atlanta centre-backs.

Nani now has eight goals and five assists in 2021 and is once again Orlando City’s talisman.

Carles Gil

Carles Gil bagged two assists against the Red Bulls to continue his fine 2021 form. / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Is there a better MVP candidate than Carles Gil in MLS right now? If so, we’d like to know about him!

The Spaniard provided his 10th and 11th assists of the season as New England Revolution came from behind to beat New York Red Bulls 3-2 at the weekend, creating a further three chances in what was yet another sensational creative display.

Gil forced the issue all game, completing a match-high three dribbles and attempting three shots of his own, while his ability to drive the ball forward from deep meant the Red Bulls simply could not overcommit.

The Revs might well go on to seal the Supporters’ Shield come the end of the season and if they do, there’s no end to the credit Gil will deserve.

Honourable mentions: Valentin Castellanos, Keaton Parks, Gustavo Bou, Cristian Dajome, Thiago Andrade, Alec Kann