by Tim Stannard
1) Barca struggling to afford stars
Oh, what a conundrum. By letting Leo Messi stay at Barcelona, the club could be pouring all their money into a footballer who is hitting his thirties this year, while allowing the squad depth to weaken due to the impacting financial constraints.
But by letting Leo Messi leave Barcelona, the Catalan outfit would be waving goodbye to a footballer who digs them out of more holes than supporters can possible remember. Just two over the past four days in actual fact against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao.
But despite the importance of Messi to all things Barcelona, the words from the club’s Chief Executive, Oscar Grau, on Wednesday were intriguing. Rather than a definitive promise that the footballer would have his contract extended past 2018, the vibe was very much cool-heads and compromise in trying to balance Barca’s books.
Further challenges to that bean-counting concept were published by UEFA on Thursday with European’s governing body confirming that Barcelona had the highest wage bill in the organization with $362million spent on player salaries in 2015, an increase of 37 percent from the year before. Even more fuel to the fire to fears that Barca simply can’t afford Messi despite the footballer being priceless.
2) Madrid chase unbeaten record in Seville
Real Madrid’s wage bill in 2015 was considerably smaller at $307m, despite James Rodriguez sucking up large chunks of it for not much reward.
Even more reasons to be cheerful as Madrid looks to break the all-time unbeaten streak record for a Spanish club by avoiding a loss Thursday’s Copa del Rey clash against Sevilla. A win or draw would see 40-matches unbeaten for Coach Zizou, who is already having to fend off talk of winning the Treble, despite being only in January. Such is life.
And guess what! You can see if Real Madrid can become record-breakers live on beIN SPORTS from 3PM ET / 12PM PT or catch the best action and reaction on the XTRA at 7PM ET / 4PM PT.
3) Payet on strike to force West Ham move
REVOLT! West Ham United manager, Slaven Bilic, - not a man to confront, SB would presume – has revealed that midfielder, Dmitry Payet, is now refusing to play for the EPL club, trying to force a transfer away from the London outfit. “"We have said we don't want to sell our best players but Dimitri Payet does not want to play for us," fumed Bilic ahead of Saturday’s clash against Crystal Palace.
And by beautiful coincidence, transfers were also the talk at West Ham’s opponents with Big Sam Allardyce poo-pooing the story from Wednesday that Christian Benteke was to be sold to fund a winter window squad splurge. "Never say never but at the moment he is a Crystal Palace player," said former England boss Allardyce.
4) Milik on brink of return to boost Napoli
A couple of good stories to give some zip to the Serie A title race. Napoli are set to be boosted by the return of Arkadiusz Milik to the training pitch in two weeks after a knee-ligament injury picked up in October.
And Inter are planning on keeping hold on the promising, but not really playing Gabigol. That’s what the player’s agent says despite the footballer managing just a smattering of minutes with the Serie A side.
5) Bouchard falls at semifinal hurdle Down Under
Bad news from Down Under for Canada’s Genie Bouchard. The comeback train derailed a little with Bouchard failing to make the final of the Sydney International, losing to Britain’s Johanna Konta in a 6-2, 6-2 loss. Konta will be facing Agnieszka Radwanska in the final, which you can catch live on beIN SPORTS from beIN CONNECT from 12AM ET / 9PM PT.