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Gerard Pique wants Barcelona to reward outgoing coach Luis Enrique with a ninth trophy of his three-year spell in charge in Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Alaves.

Victory would see Barca lift the Cup for the third straight season under Enrique, but unlike in the past two years it would be Barca’s only major silverware of the campaign.

The Catalans missed out on La Liga to Real Madrid last weekend and were dumped out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Juventus.

And Pique wants his boss to go out as a winner in the last ever competitive game at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium.

“He is one of the best coaches in the history of the club,” said the defender.

“He deserves a great final. The best way to leave would be on a high with a trophy and tomorrow is a good opportunity.

“I want him to leave as a winner.”

However, Enrique himself warned against the threat posed by Alaves as the Basques played a huge role in costing Barca the league with a shock 2-1 win at the Camp Nou back in September.

“I have the chance to end my cycle with Barca with another title, but we are facing without doubt the revelation of La Liga this season.”

Indeed, on a night of goodbyes at the Calderon, Mauricio Pellegrino could also be taking charge of Alaves for the final time with plenty of clubs eyeing the Argentine’s services.

As well as taking Alaves to their first Copa del Rey final, Pellegrino’s men finished ninth on their return to the Spanish top flight after a decade in the lower leagues.

“I am very thankful to these boys for the work they have put in,” said Pellegrino.

Whilst Alaves have never reached Spanish football’s showpiece occasion before, they did reach the UEFA Cup final back in 2001.

Liverpool edged a thrilling final 5-4 back then and Alaves captain Manu Garcia urged the club’s fans to revel in the atmosphere as they did 16 years ago in Dortmund.

“This is a historic event,” he said. “It is a final and we only want to be champions. I want to tell the fans to enjoy the day as much as possible.

“As a youngster I experienced Dortmund, I have a lot of memories of that day and I want the fans to go there with their shirts, flags and scarves and be proud of Alaves.”

Alaves’ quest to make history will be helped by the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez.

Barca also have no natural right-back available with Sergi Roberto also suspended after both players were sent-off in the second leg of a tempestuous semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

However, Pique expects Barca to have the resources to cope.

“We have to face up to that problem. There are players here with the ability to replace them. We are Barca. Whoever plays has to perform”, he added

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Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he has “more or less” decided his future at the club.

The 31-year-old has played a bit-part role for United this season, coming on as a last-minute substitute in the Europa League final triumph over Ajax.

“There’s lots of offers on the table, both in England and abroad,” he said.

But United’s all-time leading scorer with 253 goals said he would only move to former club Everton if he stayed in the Premier League.

It is understood Rooney does not want the issue to drag on until the final day of the transfer window on 31 August, and he will go away with his family to discuss and decide on his next course of action.

Rooney has ruled out playing for any other Premier League side apart from Everton, while Toffees manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh have both said publicly this season they would be interested in the player should he become available.

Rooney joined the Old Trafford club for £27m in 2004 and has gone on to play more than 550 games, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s 44-year goalscoring record this season.

But he has only started 15 league games this term and failed to play in the EFL Cup final victory over Southampton at Wembley.

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Griezmann has a 100m euro release clause in his contract and the 26-year-old France international said earlier this week that his chances of joining United were “six out of 10”.

Since then, a major stumbling block has been removed by United securing the return of Champions League football. They will go straight into the group stage after their victory over Ajax in Stockholm.

Griezmann has the pace and trickery United lack but, should a move falter, Torino forward Andrea Belotti is another option. The 23-year-old Italy international has scored 25 goals in Serie A this season.

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann has scored 15 goals in 41 appearances for France
Keane, meanwhile, left United for Burnley in January 2015 but Mourinho is known to be eager to bring the 24-year-old defender back to Old Trafford.

The Portuguese views predecessor Louis van Gaal’s decision to sell the centre-back for £2m as a mistake and believes his central defensive options are limited.

In theory, a 25% sell-on clause agreed at the time of that deal should bring the price down. However, Burnley manager Sean Dyche has said the Clarets have no financial need to sell Keane, who made his England debut in March.

Prior to the January transfer window, United showed interest in Benfica’s Sweden centre-back Victor Lindelof, 22, while left-back is another area of weakness.

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Manchester United are likely to limit their summer spending to three or four key signings.

United will be in the Champions League and boss Jose Mourinho said executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has had his targets “for more than two months”.

Mourinho wants to enhance his forward and defensive options to challenge for the Premier League title next season.

United have been linked with Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann and Burnley centre-back Michael Keane.

“Ed Woodward has my list,” the Portuguese manager said after his side beat Ajax to win the Europa League for the first time on Wednesday.

“Now it’s up to him and the owners.”

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Just days after Barcelona lost the Spanish Laliga to rivals, Real Madrid , a Supreme Court in Spain on Wednesday confirmed a 21-month jail sentence and 2.09-million-euro ($2.25 million) fine imposed on Lionel Messi for tax fraud, months after the Barcelona

football star lodged an appeal.

The Argentina international and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were in July 2016 found guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi’s income earned from his image rights from 2007-09.

The income related to Messi’s image rights that was hidden includes endorsement deals with Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company.

Both Messi and his father were given 21 months in jail — sentences likely to be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than two years.

They appealed to the Supreme Court.

While the court confirmed the sentence for Messi on Wednesday, it reduced it to 15 months jail for his father, taking into account that his football star son had paid back the defrauded money to tax authorities.

During last year’s trial, Messi had argued that he trusted his father with his finances and “knew nothing” about how his wealth was managed.

But the Supreme Court argued that he would have known about his obligation to pay taxes on income earned from his image rights.

Messi’s tax fraud trial in June last year took place against a backdrop of simmering voter anger over steep cuts to health and social spending, as the government struggles to bring Spain’s public deficit down.

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Pogba has struggled to justify the world-record transfer fee of £89m paid to Juventus last summer but this was a stage on which he showed flashes of the qualities that persuaded Mourinho to make him such a high-priority signing.

Like this United side, there is still much to do before he can be regarded as the finished article but the manner in which he made sure early midfield dominance was secured was impressive and he added a goal for good measure.

It may end up being classed as an own goal but Pogba will happily accept it, trying his luck from 20 yards after being afforded just a little too much space by Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and helped by a huge deflection off Davinson Sanchez. And perhaps he was due that touch of good fortune after being thwarted by the woodwork so often this season.

And it was another profitable night for another big-money Mourinho buy, Mkhitaryan. The Armenian struggled in the first half but showed what a priceless poacher’s instinct he has, swooping from close range for another Europa League goal.

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Mourinho has had his moments of frustration this season – especially with 15 Premier League draws that led to an unsatisfactory sixth-place finish.

It left United’s Champions League hopes resting on this game but the win and subsequent qualification for the group stages of Europe’s elite tournament means that Mourinho can regard this season as a real success.

Some may question the quality of United’s performances and this undoubtedly remains a work in progress but two trophies and that place back in the Champions League is an impressive outcome, irrespective of the style in which it was achieved.

It was also a European final won without key defender Eric Bailly, who was suspended, and 28-goal leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who sustained a serious knee injury in the quarter-final win against Anderlecht at Old Trafford.

Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have received much praise for their work this season and getting into next season’s Champions League – Mourinho has done that and added the actual tangible reward of two pieces of silverware on top.

Mourinho’s mood has often been dark this season but he still has that habit of dealing in his favourite currency, namely trophies.

And the result means United can, finally, regard their season as a successful one as a night which started with a mixture of silence then applause for those who died in Monday’s attack and ended with Wayne Rooney lifting the Europa League trophy on what is very likely to be his final appearance for the club.

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Ajax 0-2 Manchester United
Manchester United claimed their second major trophy of the season and secured Champions League football as they overcame Ajax to win the Europa League final in Stockholm.

On an emotional night following the attack which killed 22 people at Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday, United’s fans were allowed a measure of celebration as Jose Mourinho’s side won in comfort.

Paul Pogba’s deflected shot put them ahead in the 18th minute and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s sixth Europa League goal of the campaign, flicked in from Chris Smalling’s header at a corner, confirmed they would add to the EFL Cup won against Southampton earlier this season.

Wayne Rooney made a brief appearance as a substitute with a minute left and the game won, being handed the captain’s armband by Antonio Valencia on what could well be his farewell appearance for United.

And as the final whistle sounded and United’s celebrations began, chants of “Manchester” rang around the Friends Arena in tribute to those who died and were injured in the attack which cast a shadow over this showpiece occasion.
Mourinho – who has so often looked so unhappy this season – ran on to the field to celebrate with his players and was thrown in the air by his coaching staff and hugged by his son.

It means United are now the fifth team to claim the full quota of European trophies, joining an illustrious list with Ajax, Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

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Arsene Wenger is convinced the Arsenal board is to blame for his side’s dismal performances this season after refusing to clarify his future, according to reports.

Arsenal head into Saturday’s FA Cup final having finished fifth in the Premier League and endured another humiliating campaign in the Champions League.

Wenger is believed to be in line for a contract extension despite failing to steer in his side to a Champions League spot this season.

It is the first time in his reign as Arsenal boss that Wenger has failed to secure Champions League qualification.

But the Frenchman believes Arsenal’s board should bear the brunt of the criticism for this season’s failings.

Wenger is furious that he did not receive more public backing during the difficult campaign and thinks the top brass at the club should have put an end to uncertainty around his future.

The Arsenal manager admitted that the confusion surrounding his future at the club distracted his players, but does not think that uncertainty was his fault.

Wenger himself has been unsure in recent months whether the board wanted to keep him at the club, according to the Mirror.

Arsenal can make it a happy ending to a dismal season by beating league champions and local rivals, Chelsea at Wembley.

Wenger expects to sign a new two-year deal at the club, but is also aware there will be changes to his role as manager.

A director of football is believed to be on the agenda with Wenger prepared to accept the changes that are set to be implemented by the board.

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho owes his career to the Europa League, and the 2003 UEFA Cup final when Porto conquered Celtic in one of European football’s most memorable matches. Desmond Kane remembers being in Seville when Jose Mourinho truly became the ‘Special One’.

He has always been dressed for success in the world game’s steamiest outposts, but never more so than at the Estadio Olimpico in sweltering Andalusia back in the noughties.

Light blue tie, white shirt, grey suit to match the silver flecks bore into his bonce and a pair of Oporto’s finest slip ons added a dash of elan to a fraught evening. There is nothing like looking the part. Or playing it.

Jose Mourinho was a charming man long before he worked in Morrissey’s home city. In sultry Seville on May 21, 2003, Mourinho was in his element in 30 degree evening heat that felt like playing football under an element.

It is fair to say the Portuguese martinet has been more handsome than some of the sides he has ran in 23 years as one of the world game’s most elite coaches. His Porto team were no different, a potent paradox: masters of startling, sexy football in one breath, harbingers of horrid, unappetising gamesmanship in the next.

When Mourinho’s side managed to outlast Martin O’Neill’s Celtic, a Glasgow team as tough as teak with an appetite for the heat of battle, 3-2 after extra-time in a ferocious final. he did more than win a football match: he was a leading protagonist in a cultural phenomenon that no European final could not touch then, and has not replicated since.

Manchester United’s trip to face Ajax for the Europa League final in Stockholm will not measure up to Seville even if Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a hat-trick. Memories are made of this.

Mourinho won the final that Celtic made. As the BBC commentator Barry Davies said on the night as over 80,000 good-natured Celtic fans, some buoyant on Buckfast and bonhomie, overwhelmed the Porto fans making the short journey across the border. Yet there was no arrests, merely friendly exchanges of scarves and songs in their hearts. Celtic’s consolation was UEFA and FIFA awards for their support’s conduct.

“I’ve seen a few of these finals, European finals, I think something over 25 now. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen support like this, provided by the supporters of Celtic,” said Davies.

UEFA’s security expected around 4,000 fans to travel from Scotland for a match staged on a working Wednesday. Celtic brought 80,000 in what was the largest travelling support for a major European final. No team from Portugal or Scotland had won the UEFA Cup before Seville, but Celtic’s hopes of adding the UEFA Cup to their European Cup success of 1967 saw one percent of the world’s air traffic head for Seville on the morning of the match.

The locals lappied it all up especially Real Betis fans seeing their city turn green.

Mourinho mocked the Europa League when he became Chelsea manager for a second time in 2013. It was an odd brickbat to throw at the tournament a decade as Seville did as much for Mourinho’s career as Roman Abramovich.

In such a respect, his dismissal of the Europa League’s credibility was a bit like trashing your own house after knocking back the Sagres. One suspects it was more a barb aimed at Rafael Benitez, who had departed Stamford Bridge a month earlier clasping the trophy he had previously housed proudly in Valencia.

But still. Mourinho would never have been special without the old UEFA Cup. Or the Europa League as it was rebranded for enlargement purposes in 2010.

He won the Champions League when Porto downed Monaco 3-0 in 2004 and led Inter Milan to the promised land with a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in 2010. He has lifted multiple national titles and cups with Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid.

But Seville was vital to the unfolding of the narrative that contributes to the Mourinho legend. He struck greater gold than his medal that night.

“I keep saying that was the most emotional final of my career, because even the Champions League finals (of 2004 and 2010) were much more under control, the result was always under control. This one was 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, extra time, 3-2; it was a really emotional night for us.”

Who knows what would have happened to Mourinho if Celtic had unearthed the winner in Seville? Derlei scored twice for Porto that night. The opening goal before half-time and the winner late in extra-time after Bobo Balde had been red carded for walloping Porto’s Brazilian forward with a mistimed challenge.

Larsson struck twice for Celtic with two headers, twice restoring parity at 1-1 and 2-2 after Dmitri Alenichev had stroked Porto 2-1 clear in the second half.

If you are asked to remember your favourite Mourinho moments, some will recall him rampaging down a touchline at Old Trafford on his way to winning the Champions League in 2004, his first press conference at Chelsea when he declared himself the ‘Special One’ or visiting the Camp Nou as Inter coach in 2010 when his side who did not so much park the bus against Barcelona than board up the goal with planks of wood and barbed wire.

Others will recall his Real Madrid years in prodding a finger in the eye of the Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova during one heated exchange of views at the Clasico in 2011.

Yet seven years before he was a regular visitor to Seville, came the night that made him a wanted man.

He planted a flag in the psyche of the continental game that he was more an urbane individual with a winning mentality. He also made himself a clear and visible target for the very largest concerns in Europe that would persuade Chelsea to appoint him their manager two years later, and later coveted by Inter, Madrid and United.

Mourinho emerged from the night as a reliable leader of men as he managed to find enough technical fire to douse an animated Glasgow team that included the former Barcelona striker Larsson as its totem supported by a sturdy cast including Paul Lambert, Stilian Petrov, Chris Sutton and Johan Mjallby.

The ingredients that gave Porto victory over Celtic have been hallmark of his career, namely the ability to win against the odds, to win by defending with purpose and to win by fraternising with the dark arts that many find unappealing. Losing is for losers, and Porto weren’t for finishing second.

Vítor Baía, Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha, Maniche and Derlei. Nine of the team that started in Seville started in the 3-0 win over Monaco in the Champions League final a year later.

There were no ends to which Mourinho would not stretch in Seville. Porto were technically superior to Celtic, they were 27 weeks unbeaten before the final, but it was the manner of their play that left a sour taste in the mouth as they took forever between their goals to return to the pitch and play acted like a night at the Old Vic.

One recalls seeing Mourinho whizz out of the stadium the day before the match. He stopped off to chat to a group of media sorts who had missed the press conference. He looked like an assured figure who felt Porto had Celtic’s number, before being thrown into a tumble drier of chance.

“Every time I see Martin O’Neill I remember I was the lucky one that day.”

Porto were worthy winners of the UEFA Cup, but their behaviour was not worthy of the name. Not that he cares much for the aesthetics of the sport. It is a familiar tale of Mourinho’s success where the ends justifies the means. Winning on the edge is still winning.

“The Champions League is the Champions League, it means much more than UEFA Cup and probably winning it was the best day of my football career. But as a football game I must say that Celtic-Porto in Seville was the most exciting football game I have ever been in. An unbelievable game. ”

And suddenly he goes back to the future in Stockholm where one match could change his future. A win would endorse his standing as United manager having limped home in sixth place in the Premier League, lower than the much-maligned Louis van Gaal’s best of fourth and fifth.

Winning the Europa League would bring back Champions League football to Old Trafford, and banish the memories of his calamitous end of days at Chelsea. It would also quell the dissent that suggests he remains overly cautious in trying to meld a stylish unit that has seen £89m midfielder Paul Pogba, the word’s costliest purchase, largely deployed in a wasteful holding role.

Life began for Mourinho at 40 in Seville, but life chances are settled on more poignant moments. Is this a little bit of history repeating itself?

The trophy that made Mourinho special could yet save him.

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