Eurozone: Barça try to silence talk of Guardiola exit

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The Independent Online

When is a new contract not a new contract? When it is just a ploy to put an end to unsettling speculation. Pep Guardiola's appearance alongside Joan Laporta this week was hailed as the Barça coach signing a new deal but it was nothing of the sort.

His players gave him a spontaneous round of applause in the first training session after the press conference but with a wry smile the coach told them: "Nothing is signed yet, now stop clapping and start running".

Guardiola has not budged an inch on his insistence that he would wait to the end of the season – after the club's supporters have elected a new president – before negotiating and signing a new contract.

The Barça coach simply agreed to verbally and publicly commit to the club beyond the end of this season to stem the tide of speculation linking him with a move to the Premier League.

The bad news for his possible suitors is that while the press conference might have been contrived, Guardiola was nothing but sincere when he said: "I cannot think of any club where I would be better off than here." If the season goes well and he is happy with the election result he will sign a two-year deal keeping him at the Nou Camp until 2012.

Tonight he takes his players to Valladolid as they look to extend their lead at the top to eight points over Real Madrid who play Malaga tomorrow. "You don't win anything for being top at the halfway point of the season," said Guardiola, who also admitted he was concerned about his side easing up after being knocked out of the Spanish Cup. "When you are in the habit of playing a game every three days you are permanently switched-on but now there are longer breaks between games and there is a danger we will relax," he said.

Madrid have to start turning scoring opportunities into goals. "Real shoot and Barça score", was the headline that best summed up the two sides' form this week. Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to score this year although he averages more shots per game than Spain's current top scorer, Leo Messi.

Ronaldo will be a busy man after this summer's World Cup. Real Madrid are planning to tour Asia for the first time since 2005. The club are currently studying offers to play in Taiwan and Vietnam having already decided to play matches in both Japan and China.



Real deal for Ribéry is on the cards, claims Schuster

Franck Ribéry will move to Real Madrid in the summer according to the club's former manager Bernd Schuster. Ribéry returns to Bundesliga action today when Bayern face Werder Bremen as they continue their pursuit of leaders Bayer Leverkusen. Having refused to sign a new deal the player's contract runs out in 2011 and Munich must part with the French forward this summer or lose him for nothing the following season. Schuster hinted at a pact between Real and Bayern when he said: "I am sure that Ribéry will play at Real Madrid.

"There is no point wasting any more time discussing his future because for me it is a closed matter. From next summer he will be a Madrid player. The club has no choice. Either he goes there or he will leave for free the following year. When a player gets an idea in his head there is nothing anybody can do about it."



City and Chelsea lose out in battle to sign Canales

Real Madrid have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City to the signing of Racing Santander youngster Sergio Canales (left). Madrid have tied down the 19-year-old on a five-year deal, paying his club €5m (£4.3m).

Canales' father travelled to England this week to talk with several English clubs but ultimately the pull of Real means the player will move to the Bernabeu subject to Real finalising an agreement with Racing on Monday. The player will be loaned back to Santander for the remainder of this campaign and the whole of next season.



Van Nistelrooy says goodbye to Bernabeu

Ruud van Nistelrooy will be given a hero's send-off tomorrow before Real Madrid's home game against Malaga. The former Manchester United man will say goodbye to supporters having all but sealed a move to Hamburg. The Dutchman won over sceptical fans when he signed in 2006, top scoring in the Fabio Capello side that won the league.

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