Category Archives: Spanish La Liga

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FC Barcelona confirms Javier Mascherano departure from the club

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FC Barcelona has confirmed that Javier Mascherano will leave the La Liga giants and is expected to join Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune.

Mascherano, 33, joined Barcelona from Liverpool in 2010 for £17m after spells at West Ham, Corinthians and River Plate and will leave this week after almost eight years with the club.

The Argentinian featured in 334 games for the Catalan club and won 18 trophies at the Nou Camp, including four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues albeit scoring just one goal.

However, he was not played as regularly under Ernesto Valverde who took charge of the club in the summer and made only 12 club appearances this season.

The centre-back will be given an official farewell on Wednesday, before playing at Barcelona’s Copa del Rey second-leg tie against Espanyol on Thursday to say goodbye to the fans.

After starting his career at River Plate, Mascherano had joined West Ham from Corinthians in 2006 along with teammate Carlos Tevez.

However, after just seven games for the Hammers, he joined Liverpool in 2007, initially in a loan deal that was turned into a four-year contract in 2008 for £18m.

He was also World Cup finalist, having played in the 2014 final as Argentina were beaten by Germany.

Valencia signs Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin or £12m

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Valencia CF has signed defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin from Arsenal on a four-and-a-half year deal for a £12m release clause in his contract.

The Spanish side is also understood to have attached £71.2m release clause to the former Gunner after the player himself had rejected interest from Premier League clubs West Ham United and Crystal Palace.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger broke the news after his team’s goalless draw against Chelsea in the League Cup, saying: “He (Coquelin) goes to Valencia. Because he didn’t get enough games with us this season and he had an opportunity and I let him go.”

Coquelin, 26, joins Valencia with the club third in La Liga, 11 points behind leaders Barcelona as they look to bring Champions League football back to the Mestalla.

The Frenchman enjoyed a degree of prominence under Wenger after his return from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic in December 2014 — most notably when he formed a partnership with Santi Cazorla — but struggled for game time this season and started in only one game in the Premier League.

Despite having only signed a new contract that had been set to expire in 2020 at Arsenal just a year ago, Coquelin was never in consideration to play against Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge.

“It’s true that there was interest in the summer but in my head I wanted to continue at Arsenal and do well there,” Coquelin said after joining Valencia. “It wasn’t to be and now this opportunity has come up.”

“I almost regret not having come before. I think it’s an excellent opportunity for me and I’m very grateful. It’s a big challenge, and a new start in my life for me, which I’m very excited about.”

Valencia would visit Deportivo La Coruna this weekend in La Liga as the struggling hosts would hope to build on their draw against Villareal last weekend and further their gap against the drop zone.

Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid coach defiant despite poor results

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane was in defiant mood as the former French star hits back at critics who claims that the club is in a downward spiral.

The defending Spanish and European champions’ stuttering season continued as their La Liga campaign saw another setback on Sunday following a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo.

La Liga leaders Barcelona now are 16 points ahead of Los Blancos in the table and with a daunting Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain to come, pressure on Zidane’s squad has been mounting despite his trophy-laden successes during his two years in charge.

Zidane, however, insists his side will get back on track with collective hard work and is adamant there are reasons to be positive for the rest of the season.

“You can analyse it as you like, that it’s a moment of crisis or not, but we’re here to find solutions,” he said. “I’m not going to go into the details. When there are things like we’re going through, where things aren’t going as we want, it’s about work. I always believe in that.”

“What you tell me is what a lot of people think: that there are people who are bad and I have to get them out of the team. It’s the opposite. When a player is bad, I will help him. I’m more interested in unity. We’re all in the same boat.”

“It’s everyone’s fault, mine first. We’ve had two spectacular years; thank you for saying so. It’s important people don’t forget that. There are people who say everything has gone to s***. No. The day of the Celta game, I focused on the good things.”

“Are things more complicated with a draw? Yes. The second half was not good, but we’re not going to go crazy about it. We’re going to think that, with work, we will achieve good things.”

Real would face Numancia in the second leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie on Wednesday, having claimed a 3-0 win in the first meeting.

Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid wants Bale to play regularly

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he was now looking for “regular games” from Gareth Bale after the player was absent for four months from injury.

Bale, 28, marked his first start in four months with a converted penalty in Thursday’s 3-0 Copa del Rey last 16 first leg win at Segunda side Numancia.

When Lucas Vazquez was tripped in the area near the hour mark — after Numancia had their own penalty claim turned down — Bale grabbed the ball and calmly slid home the spot kick.

After Numancia midfielder Pape Diamanka deservedly picked up a second yellow soon after half-time, Madrid sealed the win late on with a late penalty again won by Lucas Vazquez and converted by substitute Isco, and an added time far post header by Borja Mayoral.

Although by that stage Bale had been substituted, he presumably will start in Madrid’s La Liga trip to Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.

“It was important to see how [Bale] felt,” Zidane told the post-game news conference.

“In the end he played an hour, without problems, feeling physically well. He had played four games with 20 or 30 minutes [off the bench], this was his first start. So we will continue like this. We want him to play regularly now.”

Although a team including mostly youngsters and squad players did not really sparkle, Zidane said he was happy with how the game had gone.

“I am very happy as we got a good result in the end,” he added. “This was not an easy place to come, they have been playing well and made it tough for us, but we got a good result.”

“Many of these are players who do not play so often. In the second half we had some problems, above all when they were down to 10. But in general I am happy. We managed to get three goals, kept a clean sheet, so I am happy for those who played.”