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Neymar v Lautaro Martinez: Who should Barcelona sign?

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Neymar and Lautaro Martinez have been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona. We use Opta data to see who would best suit the Catalans.

Football may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Barcelona are reportedly already planning their transfer business ahead of the window reopening.

The LaLiga champions have been short of options up top this term as a result of injury lay-offs for Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and reinforcements are being sought.

Two players continue to be continually linked with a switch, with Barca supposedly torn between a move for Inter striker Lautaro Martinez or ex-Camp Nou favourite Neymar.

Martinez has once again starred for Inter this season and the possibility of a move to Catalonia has been talked up by compatriot Lionel Messi.

But speaking earlier this week, Rivaldo claimed Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar would be a better option for his former club given his added experience.

Using Opta stats, we compare the form of the two players in all competitions this season and establish just who would be the better signing for Barcelona.

 

GOALS

Whoever Barcelona bring in to lead the line, they will need to have the ability to link up with others in the final third and continue getting the best out of star man Messi.

READ   Reports: Cristiano Ronaldo identifies two clubs to join after Juventus as ‘last big contract’

But first and foremost, Quique Setien’s side need a goalscorer that can find the net and make a difference in key games.

Both Neymar and Martinez have the ability to do just that, scoring 18 and 16 goals respectively in all competitions this term.

However, Neymar has played nine games fewer than Martinez, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 106 compared to 152.

ALL-ROUND ABILITY

There is little between the two players in terms of where their goals are scored, each netting two apiece from strikes outside the penalty box this term.

Neymar is comfortable using both feet to find the net, though, using his left foot seven times and his right 10 times to beat the opposition goalkeeper.

Inter striker Martinez, by comparison, has only managed a couple of goals with his weaker left.

But the Argentina international is better in the air, the stats suggest, given he has scored three headed goals in 2019-20 – two more than Neymar.

 

ASSISTS

The deciding factor in which of the two players Barcelona should sign may well come down to their relationship with Messi.

Neymar knows Messi well from his previous four-year stint at Camp Nou, while Martinez regularly links up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner at international level.

READ   PSG sporting director opens up on Kylian Mbappe criticism amidst Real Madrid rumours

In terms of pure team play, this is another category Neymar edges having assisted nine goals this season, with Martinez lagging behind on two.

 

BIG GAME CREDENTIALS

If Barcelona are to spend a nine-figure sum on a player, they will expect to be reimbursed with goals in big matches and at key moments in games.

It is arguably Martinez’s form on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League, that has fuelled rumours of a move to Barcelona.

The 22-year-old scored in four successive Champions League games during the group stage, making him the fifth Argentinian player to do so, though it was not enough to prevent Inter from exiting the competition.

PSG remain alive and well in the competition and that is in large down to Neymar, who scored in both legs of the last-16 comeback win against Borussia Dortmund.

In fact, since joining the French giants in 2017, Neymar has been involved in a goal every 70 minutes in UEFA’s showpiece competition.

It is that ability to have a say on the biggest matches, plus his individual brilliance and underrated ability to set up others, which just gives Neymar the edge over Martinez at this moment in time.

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France

Coronavirus: I felt worse than Mbappe when he was tested for COVID-19 – Herrera

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Kylian Mbappe was tested for coronavirus earlier this month, but Ander Herrera was in a worse condition.

Ander Herrera revealed he felt worse than Kylian Mbappe when his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate was tested for coronavirus.

Mbappe tested negative for coronavirus earlier this month, just days out from PSG’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund.

But Herrera said he was in a worse condition than Mbappe, with the midfielder missing the clash due to a thigh injury.

“It was two days before PSG v Dortmund and the previous weekend Neymar had a group meal and I had been by his side,” he told Cadena SER on Thursday.

“I was worse than him.”

PSG’s win over Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors which sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals was their last match with sport around the world brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial impact of the suspended, and potentially cancelled, seasons is set to be felt and Herrera is open to taking a pay cut.

READ   Jose Mourinho reveals why Kylian Mbappe reminds him of Ronaldo

“We have to be consistent with the situation of the clubs,” he said.

“Personally, I am very grateful to PSG for having me here and of course I would listen to them.”

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Cavani to Boca Juniors? Hopefully very soon – Bermudez

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Jorge Bermudez discussed rumours linking Boca Juniors to Edinson Cavani.

Boca Juniors sporting director Jorge Bermudez is hopeful Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani will join the Argentine giants “very soon”.

Cavani is out of contract in June and the Uruguay international has been linked with a move away from PSG following his failed transfer to Atletico Madrid in January.

The 33-year-old – PSG’s all-time leading goalscorer – has also reportedly emerged as a target for new MLS franchise Inter Miami.

But Bermudez believes Boca, where club legend Juan Roman Riquelme is now vice-president, can lure the PSG forward to Buenos Aires.

“Knowing Riquelme and the distance to [former Uruguay international Diego] Forlan, and knowing the category of Cavani, hopefully it will be very soon,” Bermudez told Radio Cooperativa.

“He would give us a great hand and be very supportive. I think he wants to come to Boca.”

Bermudez added: “If he comes it is for a real desire and the signs are clear.”

READ   Solskjaer expecting Herrera announcement soon

Prior to the postponement of Ligue 1 and football due to coronavirus, Cavani had scored seven goals across all competitions in 2019-20.

Cavani has called Paris home since swapping Napoli for PSG in 2013.

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Next Generation – Rayan Cherki, Lyon’s latest academy gem earning links to Real Madrid, Man Utd

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Rayan Cherki has earned links to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool. Here’s the lowdown on the teenage Lyon midfielder.

‘Next Generation’ is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

Rayan Cherki is Lyon’s latest academy prodigy and has set his sights firmly on the top, openly admitting last week that he aspires to one day play for Real Madrid.

He is the 16-year-old who has already made 12 senior appearances for Lyon and been tipped to emulate Kylian Mbappe as the next big thing to come out of Ligue 1.

Madrid are not alone in showing an interest in the teenage midfielder, though, with Manchester United and Liverpool also among those to have been linked.

Able to play on either flank or through the middle and capable of embarrassing defenders with his trickery, Cherki is very much a player with the world at his feet.

 

 

THE BREAKTHROUGH

After scoring in the UEFA Youth League at the age of 15, becoming the youngest player to do so at the time, Cherki was already a name on Lyon fans’ lips when making his senior bow.

That came in a stalemate with Dijon in October, making him the youngest player – at 16 years and 63 days – to appear for Lyon in Ligue 1 since Willem Geubbels in 2017.

By comparison, World Cup-winning striker Mbappe was still more than nine months away from his Monaco debut at the same age.

And while the game finished in a bore draw, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas heaped praise on the youngster and later said he has the potential to become better than Mbappe.

“He is more technical than Mbappe… and more important – he has broken out at a younger age,” Aulas told Tuttosport in February. “If he stays at Lyon for another few years, he will become even better than Mbappe.”

READ   Neymar becoming the leader Paris Saint-Germain hoped for

Aulas was not alone in hailing Cherki, with boss Rudi Garcia singling him out for his energy in the middle of the park – something that would start to become a more regular occurrence.

 

 

STEPPING UP

Praise and potential is one thing, of course – showing that you are capable of living up to the hype is another matter entirely.

In the five months between making his senior debut and the enforced Ligue 1 break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cherki regularly justified the talk of being the next big thing.

He has gone on to make 12 appearances for Lyon in all competitions – four of those as a starter – totalling 453 minutes in total.

Impressively, the France Under-16 international already boasts three goals and two assists, giving him a return of one goal involvement per 91 minutes on the field. He is also creating a scoring opportunity every 41 minutes.

Four of those goals involvements – two strikes of his own and two assists – came in January’s Coupe de France win over Nantes, earning front-page billing on French daily L’Equipe.

If Europe’s elite clubs had not taken notice of Cherki before then, they certainly did at this point.

 

 

SUSTAINING HIS FORM

Lyon have a history of bringing through talented youngsters, with the likes of Nabil Fekir, Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso and Samuel Umtiti among them.

The first player born in 2003 or later to play in Ligue 1, Cherki now needs to maintain the form he has displayed in his first half-season in order to emulate those aforementioned stars.

READ   Jose Mourinho reveals why Kylian Mbappe reminds him of Ronaldo

And the attacking midfielder, whose solitary league start came away at Paris Saint-Germain, certainly does not lack confidence when it comes to his career path.

“My dream is to play for Real Madrid,” he said in an interview with Lyon TV last week, perhaps swayed by the progress of compatriots Benzema and Raphael Varane at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cherki, also eligible to represent Italy or Algeria at international level through his parents, also outlined his intention to one day win the Ballon d’Or.

The versatile attacker still has a long way to go for that to happen, of course, and there are improvements to be made. One of the criticisms has been his insistence on going it alone too often, rather than taking an easier option.

“He has a strong ability to beat players but uses it too much and not especially wisely,” Garcia said at the turn of the year, perhaps trying to downplay the growing hype. “We have to be careful with our young players, that’s why we protect him a lot, especially in the media aspect of things. He is fairly quiet, but he must be aware that he still has huge room for improvement. The good thing about him is that he listens. If he continues like this, he will be able to go as high as possible.”

Heed the advice of his manager and the path to superstardom awaits for Cherki, whether at Lyon, Real Madrid or elsewhere.

Lyon’s youngster of many talents appears very much to be the next big thing to emerge from an academy that just keeps on giving.

 

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