Rooney: Barcelona back to their brilliant best
The Manchester United ace has hailed Luis Enrique's men as a "fantastic" team, arguing they're on the same level as Pep Guardiola's all-conquering outfit
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney believes that the current Barcelona side are as good as anything to have come out of Catalunya during the last decade.
The Blaugrana had been crowned champions of Europe on just one previous occasion, in 1992, before beating Arsenal in the Champions League final in 2006.
Pep Guardiola replaced Frank Rijkaard at the helm two years later, heralding an unprecedented era of success at Camp Nou, with the then-rookie Catalan coach leading Barca to two European titles in his four seasons in charge.
Guardiola's side have been lauded as one of the finest the game has ever seen but Rooney feels that the team that won the treble last season, under new boss Luis Enrique, are just as good.
"Barcelona are a fantastic team," the Manchester United striker told ESPN. "After Real Madrid winning the Champions League [in 2014], [Barca] wouldn't have liked that and they've come out again and been incredible really.
"I believe they've probably been as good as they ever have been over the last 10 years.
"It's a different way of playing [under Luis Enrique]. They're defending a little bit deeper and not going and closing down teams the way they did and they're hurting teams on the counter-attack.
"You can see there's a change in the way they play but, with the players they have got, obviously [Lionel] Messi, Neymar and [Luis] Suarez, they are a massive threat to anyone."
Rooney, of course, is only too familiar with Barca's brilliance, having been part of the United sides beaten by the Blaugrana in the Champions League finals of 2009 and 2011.
"You're so close to winning it and to lose twice to Barcelona is hard to take really.
"I think you sometimes have to hold your hands up and say they were the better team - the best team in Europe - and it was going to be difficult for us to win the game.
"I'd say probably the game at Wembley [in 2011], being there, it would have been nice to have won the Champions League there."

Manchester United take on Barcelona in California in a friendly clash on Saturday at 22:00CET.
Posters with the image of Barack Obama are offered for sale to motorists in Nairobi, ahead of the U.S. president's visit to Kenya.
Obama's visit to his father's homeland might be a short one, but Kenyan entrepreneurs are hoping that it will have long lasting benefits on the country's economic development.
Preparations have been in full swing for weeks, with Nairobi abuzz with excitement and anticipation.
The U.S. president will travel to the Kenyan capital later this week to address the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The immediate consequences of the visit will be clearly felt in the city, with airways and roads gearing up for a complete lockdown.
Barcelona could challenge Uefa fine over Catalan flags 
The Blaugrana say that while they respect the decision, they do not agree with it and are mulling over launching an appeal
Barcelona are considering challenging Uefa's decision to fine them €30,000 for their fans displaying Catalan flags during last month's Champions League final win over Juventus in Berlin.
The sanction was announced on Thursday, with the European game's governing body punishing the Blaugrana for "the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature".
"FC Barcelona respects Uefa’s decision that was relayed to the Club on Thursday in relation to the Champions League final in Berlin," read a statement released on the Catalans' official website.
"However, it does not agree with that decision, especially in the light of the Uefa delegate’s description of the Barca members and fans’ behaviour as excellent, both before, during and after the game, as stated in their report.
"With the aim of defending the rights of the Club and its members and while respecting current legislation, the Club’s legal services will consider the possibility of questioning the fine announced today, Thursday.
"Our conviction is that the rights of the Club and members are not incompatible with current legislation."
While Barcelona play in Spain's Primera Division, the club is fully supportive of the pro-independence movement within Catalunya and has long been a key component in the region's cultural identity.

Caption:A Solo Turk F-16 of the Turkish Air Force performs during the Motril International Air Festival in Motril, near Granada, on June 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ JORGE GUERRERO (Photo credit should read Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish warplanes bombed ISIS positions in Syria for the first time early Friday, escalating the conflict in the region a day after members of the terrorist group killed a Turkish soldier in a border clash.
Three F-16s took off from an air base in southeastern Turkey and struck three ISIS targets just inside Syria, Turkish authorities said.
Turkey's decision to attack ISIS positions was taken during a national security meeting Thursday headed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
It followed the firefight earlier Thursday in which at least five ISIS militants in northern Syria approached the border and fired on a Turkish border unit, killing one of the soldiers and wounding two others, according to the Turkish military.
Turkey initially responded to the clash by firing artillery into Syria.
    The Turkish military has targeted positions in Syria before but only as a response to incoming fire from the Syrian side of the border. This is the first time Turkey has used its warplanes to attack ISIS positions.
    Striker Lukas Podolski has joined Galatasaray from Arsenal on a three-year deal.
    Former Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski
    The Germany international, 30, has signed for the Turkish champions for a reported fee of £2.8m.
    Podolski moved to Arsenal from German side FC Koln in 2012 for a reported £11m and scored 31 goals in 82 appearances for the Gunners.
    He helped Arsenal win the FA Cup in 2013 but spent the second half of last season on loan at Inter Milan.
    His chances became limited as Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger added the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck to his forward options.
    Wenger also has Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at his disposal.
    Argentina's Lionel Messi says his team of celebrated talents are "desperate" to match their status by winning the Copa America final against hosts Chile.
    Angel Di Maria (left), Lionel Messi (centre) and Sergio Aguero
    The 2014 beaten World Cup finalists have not won a major trophy in 22 years.
    "This generation is desperate to win a title with the national team," said 28-year-old Barcelona forward Messi.
    "As a team, we deserve to win something and it would mean so much after the World Cup where we came so close."
    Argentina's squad includes Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.
    "If this generation of players don't win anything we're going to regret it for the rest of our lives," said Aguero of Manchester City.
    La Albiceleste will join Uruguay as the most successful side in the tournament's history if they win a 14th Copa America title.
    In contrast, Chile, whose line-up includes Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, are aiming to win the tournament for the first time having finished as runners-up four times.
    The hosts have also never beaten Argentina at the Copa America in 24 attempts, but some tickets are being sold for nearly £15,000 for the game at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
    "For a lot of people, it would be enough to have reached the final," said Chile's Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo. "What could be better than winning the Copa America playing at home?"
    Tunisia has declared a state of emergency, just over a week after 38 tourists, mainly Britons, died in an attack in the resort city of Sousse.
    Tunisian security forces on the beach at Sousse, one week after deadly attack (3 July)
    The state of emergency gives security forces more powers and limits the right of public assembly.
    Authorities had already tightened security in the wake of the attack on 26 June, deploying armed officers at hotels and beaches.
    Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi is due to address the nation later.
    Security forces were criticised for not responding more quickly to the attack in Sousse, when a gunman opened fire on tourists on a beach before entering a hotel.
    Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the attack, the most deadly in Tunisia's recent history. Those killed included 30 Britons.
    In March, two gunmen killed 22 people at the renowned Bardo museum in Tunisia's capital, Tunis.
    Analysts say Tunisia has been put at risk by the chaotic situation in neighbouring Libya, and by the threat posed by Tunisians who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq returning home.
    The last time Tunisia declared a state of emergency was in 2011, in the uprising which overthrew President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
    Senior ISIS leader Tariq al-Harzi -- a man known as the "emir of suicide bombers" -- was killed by a coalition airstrike in Syria last month, a U.S. official said Thursday.An English-speaking ISIS fighter orchestrates the mass execution of a group of men in an ISIS recruitment video called "Flames of War."

    Al-Harzi played a key logistical role for ISIS, overseeing efforts to get jihadists and weapons into Iraq and Syria to fuel the militant organization's war machine, according to U.S. authorities.
    The Tunisian, believed to be one of the first foreign fighters to join ISIS, also helped organize the Sunni extremist group's devastating use of suicide and vehicle-borne bombs in Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
    "This was a big get," said Mike Rogers, a CNN national security commentator and former chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. "It will be very disruptive to their operation for at least some period of time."

    $3 million reward

      Al-Harzi was killed in Shaddadi, Syria, on June 16, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Department of Defense.
      The ISIS leader had been on the U.S. Designated Terrorist List since last year and the State Department had offered a $3 million reward for information on him.
      The Pentagon said last month that al-Harzi's brother, who was also an ISIS operative, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, on June 15.
      The brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi, was seen as an intermediary between ISIS and jihadists in North Africa. The U.S. government labeled him "a person of interest" in the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept 11, 2012.

      Role beyond Iraq and Syria

      But Tariq al-Harzi was a more prominent figure in ISIS.
      He was believed to be in charge of the terrorist group's operations beyond Iraq and Syria -- operations that have become much more significant in recent months as ISIS has established a foothold in Libya and gained affiliates in Nigeria and Egypt, among other places.
      He organized the procurement and shipping of weapons to Syria from Libya, the Pentagon said.
      According to a jihadist profile, Tariq al-Harzi was freed from Abu Ghraib prison during an ISIS raid in July 2013.
      The United States has targeted other senior ISIS leaders. In May, an Army Delta Force raid in eastern Syria killed Abu Sayyaf, who U.S. officials said was in charge of oil and gas financing for the militant group, as well as other operations.