Suarez, Rakitic, Vidal and Umtiti could be leaving Barcelona

The squad changes are expected to help Barcelona financially, as the club was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 26 August 2020

Suarez, Rakitic, Vidal and Umtiti could be leaving Barcelona

  • The club’s restructuring began with the firing of coach Quique Setien after the Bayern loss

MADRID: With or without Lionel Messi, incoming Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman seems to be clear about who won’t fit into his squad next season.

Among them are some key players from recent years, including Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti.

Neither the club nor the coach have said publicly who is staying and who is leaving, but those four players reportedly have already been told that they are not in Koeman’s plans.

Their departures would certainly be part of the “profound” changes to the first team that the club announced after its season ended with a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

The rout also raised doubts about what would happen to Messi, who was outspoken about some of the club’s poor decisions this season. But club president Josep Bartomeu and Koeman said they were counting on the Argentina forward to stay. They both admitted, though, that there was a need to revamp an aging squad that left the club without a title for the first time since 2007-08.

The club’s restructuring began with the firing of coach Quique Setién a few days after the loss to Bayern, and new presidential elections were called for March.

Catalan radio station RAC1 said Suarez was one of the first to get a call from Koeman saying he wasn’t going to be used anymore. The 33-year-old Uruguay striker joined Barcelona from Liverpool in 2014 and helped the Spanish club win a series of titles, including four Spanish leagues, four Copa del Reys and one Champions League. He scored nearly 200 goals in more than 280 appearances with the club.

Among the players touted as possible replacements for Suarez were Lyon’s Memphis Depay and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martínez. Already on the team and ready to contribute in attack are Martin Braithwaite and youngster Francisco Trincao.

Also reportedly getting the call from Koeman was the 32-year-old Rakitic, the Croatia midfielder who also arrived in 2014 after a long stint with Sevilla. Rakitic was a regular starter throughout the years but hadn’t been getting as many minutes recently.

Young Dutchman Frenkie de Jong joined the club last year and Barcelona will also be counting on Miralem Pjanic, who was signed from Juventus in a trade involving Arthur.

The 33-year-old Vidal was set to leave after only two years with Barcelona. The Chile midfielder had been playing more often than Rakitic but could also lose space with Pjanic’s arrival.

The fourth player reportedly out was Umtiti, a 26-year-old central defender who has struggled with a series of injuries since joining Barcelona from Lyon in 2016. Clément Lenglet had been the regular starter in defense along with captain Gerard Pique.

The 33-year-old Pique was the first to call for a major restructuring of the club after the loss to Bayern, saying that if needed he himself would be willing to step aside to help the club.

There were still doubts about the future of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto.

The youngsters who have already been contributing include Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig, while Carls Aleña is due to return after a loan with Real Betis. Among the youngsters joining the club this season are Pedri, Matheus Fernandes and Gustavo Maia.

The squad changes are expected to help Barcelona financially, as the club was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona finished second to Real Madrid in the Spanish league.


Nurmagomedov stops Gaethje, announces retirement at UFC 254

Updated 25 October 2020

Nurmagomedov stops Gaethje, announces retirement at UFC 254

  • Nurmagomedov bout with Gaethje was his first fight since the death of his father and lifelong coach in July

ABU DHABI, UAE: Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from mixed martial arts after stopping Justin Gaethje with a triangle choke early in the second round at UFC 254 on Saturday night.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) made the announcement immediately after he impressively finished his first fight since the death of his father and lifelong coach in July. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov had a heart problem exacerbated by COVID-19, and his son was overcome by tears in the cage moments after choking Gaethje unconscious 1:34 into the second round of his third UFC title defense.
“This is my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “There’s no way I’m going to be back without my father. I spoke to my mother. She don’t know how I fight without father, but I promised it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow it.”
The 32-year-old Nurmagomedov was active with strikes and with grappling against Gaethje (22-3), the dangerous brawler who had knocked out four consecutive elite opponents while winning the UFC’s interim lightweight title.
After spending the first round largely trading punches and kicks with the aggressive Gaethje, Nurmagomedov used his unparalleled wrestling skills to take down Gaethje early in the second round and then worked into position for the finishing choke.
Gaethje appeared to tap out at least twice before the referee noticed and stopped the bout, by which time Gaethje was unconscious. He bounced up quickly and shared a moment of mutual respect with the dominant Russian champion.
“I know he was in a bad spot, but whether he was or not, he did what he needed to do,” Gaethje said. “I know his father is so proud.”
Also at UFC 254, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker made his case for another title shot with a solid unanimous decision over fellow contender Jared Cannonier in the penultimate bout on Fight Island.
Nurmagomedov’s first fight in 13 months would be an appropriate farewell for one of the most dynamic competitors in recent MMA history. The Dagestan-born grappling specialist developed a well-rounded game under the tutelage of his father and a Bay Area-based MMA gym, culminating in his ascent to the UFC title in 2018.
Nurmagomedov stopped Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in his next two bouts before his yearlong absence from competition. His victory over McGregor made him one of the world’s most famous combat sports athletes, and the UFC scheduled this pay-per-view show at an earlier-than-normal time to cater to his vast fan base in Russia and Europe.
But Nurmagomedov has spoken of retirement before, and his announcement confirmed he is finished with the sport after running through most of the UFC lightweight division.
“Dustin and Conor are going to fight in January,” Nurmagomedov said, referring to the probable meeting between the former contenders at UFC 257. “I choked them both out. I’m not interested in this.”
Earlier, Whittaker (22-5) gave a disciplined, active performance with impressive striking to earn his second straight UFC victory since losing his title to Israel Adesanya in late 2019.
Capping his effort by dropping Cannonier with a combination midway through the final round, Whittaker won two of three rounds on every scorecard while soundly outstriking Cannonier (13-5), who took his first loss in nearly 2 1/2 years.
Whittaker likely earned a chance at a rematch with Adesanya with the victory, but he didn’t call out the champion after his bout, instead expressing only excitement about returning home to put up his family’s Christmas tree. Whittaker withdrew from a bout with Cannonier scheduled for March in Las Vegas because he felt burned out on MMA.
“I’m very happy it’s all over,” Whittaker said. “We got the result we wanted. Work’s done, baby. I’m coming home.”
Earlier in the show, Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov stopped Walt Harris with a kick to the chest and punches on the ground 1:15 into the second round. Flyweight Lauren Murphy also bolstered her case for a title shot with a second-round stoppage of Liliya Shakirova by rear naked choke for her fourth straight victory.
UFC 254 was the last of five shows in a month inside the promotion’s secure bubble on Yas Island. The UFC, which paused competition for only eight weeks early in the coronavirus pandemic, returns to its hometown next week to begin a series of at least five consecutive shows on its corporate campus in Las Vegas.