Ousmane Dembele is considering a move away from Barcelona, but Joan Laporta hopes the winger will decide to stay put. 

Barcelona paid an initial €105million to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 and the five-year contract he received is set to run out next month.

Bayern Munich and Chelsea are reported to be keen on the World Cup-winning winger, who could be available on a free transfer.

Laporta acknowledged that Dembele is intrigued by the interest being shown in him, but the Barcelona president believes he could well choose to stay at Camp Nou.

"He wants to stay but is very tempted by other options that offer conditions that may be considered better than ours," Laporta told Radio Catalunya.

"The offer has been on the table for some time. They will respond when the season is over. We would've liked to have an answer sooner, but we can't force it.

"The coach likes him and I like him. We've made a very important effort to make him stay. He looks very comfortable and has a good relationship with everyone. Auba [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] has come, and they are very good friends.

"He has representatives who are in control of the situation, but I hope he stays. If not, we will reinforce that position."

Laporta sounded more confident on the prospects of teenage midfielder Gavi signing a contract extension after an impressive breakthrough campaign with the first team.

"Let's let the technical secretariat work. He has received an offer. I hope that Ivan de la Pena [Gavi's agent] responds favourably to the proposal," Laporta said.

A renewal for Dani Alves could also be on the cards as the 39-year-old right-back, who signed a cut-price deal to return to Barca, eyes a place in Brazil's World Cup squad.

Laporta said: "I would like him to continue. He adjusted a lot so as not to hurt us in the [financial] fair play issue. He is excited to play in the World Cup and if he continues with that attitude, he doesn't endanger our accounts. We'll see."

Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe wants a salary of €50million net and Barcelona had no interest in going that high, according to Joan Laporta. 

World Cup-winning attacker Mbappe has reportedly agreed personal terms to make a free-transfer switch to Madrid after his Paris Saint-Germain contract expires next month, though the Ligue 1 champions still hope to persuade him to stay.

The 23-year-old, who has scored 168 goals and supplied 77 assists in 216 games in all competitions for PSG, had also been linked with a switch to Barca.

However, the Catalan giants' president insists they would not have been willing or able to get anywhere near his demands.

"There are things that even if we had the money to do it, we wouldn't because it distorts our wage bill and that cannot happen again. It is something we are instilling in the club in all areas," Laporta told Catalunya Radio.

"We can't go past a certain level of spending. Mbappe is asking for 40-50 million [euros] net. He wants 50 [million euros] net. Mbappe is at the highest level but hasn't won the Champions League. That must also be taken into account.

"We will not talk about salaries of 25, 30 or 40 [million euros] net. It would be offensive to players who are expected to be a reference in world football and are just starting out at Barcelona. We are not going to do that, nor do we want to."

Barca have been tipped to sign another of European football's elite strikers in the form of Robert Lewandowski, though.

Lewandowski does not wish to extend his Bayern Munich contract, which has a year to run, and he could become available for a transfer before the start of the 2022-23 season.

Asked if the Poland international will sign for Barca, Laporta said: "Let's let the football management and technical secretariat work. I don't want to answer in detail.

"We are working to be more competitive, but it's not easy due to the economic situation. We are working to clean up the club's finances. Then we can do things.

"I hope to be able to say that in a year we have largely cleaned up the club's finances. If we manage to clean it up, all the operations we are contemplating will be able to be dealt with."

A departure for Frenkie de Jong could be one way Barca look to raise funds, but Laporta was unwilling to divulge much when asked about the Netherlands midfielder.

"There are Barcelona players who are coveted on the market and we will do what is best for Barcelona," he said.

"If we manage to clean up the club's finances, we will have fair play, cash … I don't know if there will be sales."

Barcelona are reportedly in the box seat to land Leeds United winger Raphinha in the next transfer window.

Raphinha, 25, is believed to be finished with Leeds, regardless of if they remain in the Premier League for next season.

After a season where he has so far scored 10 goals and provided three assists in 34 Premier League appearances – including a goal away at Stamford Bridge – the Brazilian international is said to have his selection from some of the world's best clubs.

TOP STORY – BARCA LEAD RACE FOR LEEDS' RAPHINHA

According to 90min, Raphinha favours a move to Barcelona if all things are equal, but the Spanish giants will have plenty of competition for his services.

If Leeds are relegated to the Championship, a release clause in Raphinha's contract will mean he can be had for £25million, although it could be double that – or more – if the Whites retain their Premier League status.

Vying with Barca will reportedly be West Ham, who supposedly made a bid in the January window, as well as Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Mail is reporting Ilkay Gundogan will be allowed to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, with one year remaining on his deal.

– According to The Guardian, Chelsea have entered the Robert Lewandowski sweepstakes, although he is believed to be destined for Barcelona.

Newcastle will test the waters to see if Jose Mourinho could be lured away from Roma, according to Marca.

– Marca also reports that Kylian Mbappe has agreed to a five-year deal with Real Madrid, although The Athletic insists no paperwork has been signed and PSG still hope to retain the France star.

Bayern Munich are showing interest in Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele ahead of his contract expiring in a month's time, per Sky Sports.

Barcelona boss Xavi looked to remain positive following a goalless draw with Getafe, as the club approach the end of an empty-handed season.

Barca lacked verve in the middle of the pitch without Pedri at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, creating nothing of substance despite having 71.3 per cent possession for the match.

The Blaugrana remain 12 points from Real Madrid, with both teams only managing a point this weekend, but the latter have the LaLiga title already wrapped up with a Champions League final awaiting.

Xavi wants to remain upbeat coming into the off-season, however, believing Barcelona have salvaged a season that could have finished much worse. Since his appointment, Barcelona have surged from mid-table to second place, which is where they will finish.

"As for the league, we were very far away, but the reality is that we have not been able to compete in other competitions. Now things have to be corrected, but it could have been worse," Xavi said.

"If the economic situation is good, I'm optimistic, but we'll wait. We have to plan now and we don't have much time. We are already against the clock to plan and to decide things."

Barca were knocked out of the Champions League's group stage and the Copa del Rey's last-16, opening with only four wins in their opening 11 league games before Xavi was announced to replace Ronald Koeman in November.

A 4-0 win over title winners Madrid in March was soured by their eventual elimination at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-final of the Europa League, confirming a trophy-less season.

Post-match on Sunday, despite Getafe generating a greater xG (0.43-0.22) with 28.7 per cent possession, Xavi tried to bring the result into context.

"The goal was to qualify for the Super Cup, to finish second, and we've covered that," he said. "Just as we were in November, December, January, we can be happy. Not so much with this game, we were too tidy in the first half, we need to generate more.

"We have not achieved the main objective of winning titles, I would not have signed for it [when taking the job], but we have denied the blow of a disastrous season."

Getafe and Barcelona played out an almost entirely uneventful 0-0 draw at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on the penultimate weekend of the LaLiga season.

A game with an enormous 'end of term' air about it never got going, though in reality that suited both teams.

The draw means that Barca have sealed second spot in LaLiga, while Getafe are now safe from relegation.

It represents an improvement on last season for the Catalan giants after they finished third behind Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

A very quiet first half unsurprisingly saw Barca dominate possession, but it was Getafe who created more chances and former Blaugrana player Carles Alena tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen from range, though the effort was easily dealt with by the German stopper.

Little of note happened early in the second half either, with Barca's first shot on target not arriving until the 48th minute as Ferran Torres tried to chip David Soria, but it was an easy save.

Memphis Depay was forced off with an injury, replaced by fellow Dutchman Luuk de Jong, who set up Alejandro Balde for a shot that flew over the bar following nice work from Ansu Fati down the left.

It was an otherwise quiet game, though, and the important thing for both was that they secured the point needed for a positive end to the campaign.

Julian Nagelsmann has "two or three" transfer targets in mind for when Bayern Munich have to replace Robert Lewandowski.

Bundesliga top scorer Lewandowski has told Bayern he wants to leave and is eager to move on during the close season, rather than have to wait for his contract to expire in June 2023.

That conflicts with the club's plan, as they remain steadfast Lewandowski will remain at Bayern for the duration of his deal.

It remains to be seen what happens next and Nagelsmann is not looking for an immediate signing to take the place of Lewandowski.

Instead, he is planning for the striker who might come in in 12 months' time and the Bayern head coach said on Sunday: "I have two or three names in mind, but we still have to explore the market."

Speaking to German broadcaster BR, Nagelsmann confirmed he would nevertheless be looking to bolster Bayern's squad in certain areas over the coming months.

He said: "We're trying to strengthen the team. We'll see what is financially possible. We'll meet with players to convince FC Bayern of their path."

Nagelsmann said he "would be happy if things would be a little quieter next year", after a testing first season at the helm in Munich. A disappointing Champions League exit to Villarreal in the quarter-finals followed a crushing 5-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal.

Before any calm descends, the Lewandowski situation may have to be resolved.

The 33-year-old is reportedly wanted by Barcelona and Bayern would sorely miss the contributions of a player who hit 50 goals in the season that ended on Saturday for the Bundesliga champions.

Speaking at Bayern's championship celebration event on Sunday, star midfielder Thomas Muller sang the praises of Lewandowski, but said the club would find a way to succeed without him.

"FC Bayern is constantly changing," Muller said. "We are constantly losing players, including those we would have liked to keep.

"You're not solely dependent on one player. Of course, Robert is a brutally good individual player. I don't know how long he'll be here. Maybe longer, but there was Bayern before Robert Lewandowski. The club is above everything."

Manchester United's midfield has long been an area of dysfunction, even in relative terms at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils have not been able to find balance with the likes of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred.

As a result, Erik ten Hag's rebuild at United could mean a big-name signing to rejuvenate their play in the centre of the pitch.


TOP STORY – KANTE TARGETED BY 

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants N'Golo Kante to form the basis of his rebuild at Old Trafford, according to the Mirror.

The 31-year-old has one year left on his contract at Chelsea and Ten Hag is reportedly confident in Kante's sustained ability to perform at the highest level.

Kante is believed to be an attainable target if Todd Boehly's takeover at Stamford Bridge is rubber-stamped, giving Thomas Tuchel a sizeable transfer budget to work with.

United are no guarantee to even play in the Europa League, sitting three points ahead of West Ham, who have a game in hand.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun is reporting Frenkie de Jong is prepared to waive €7million of unpaid wages by Barcelona in order to move to Manchester City.

- Arsenal have agreed on a fee of up to €25m with Bologna for Scotland international Aaron Hickey, according to Calciomercato.

- Robert Lewandowski is set to leave Bayern Munich and join Barcelona on a three-year deal, the Sun reports.

- Ousmane Dembele might be moving in the other direction to join Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season, per Sky Sports.

Julian Nagelsmann is taking emotion out of the situation after it was confirmed Robert Lewandowski wants to leave Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski scored his 50th goal of the season across all competitions as Bayern capped off another successful Bundesliga campaign by drawing 2-2 at Wolfsburg on Saturday.

However, it was revealed before the match that the 33-year-old had refused the offer of a new deal.

Lewandowski is under contract until the end of next season but wants a new challenge after eight years with the Bundesliga giants. Barcelona have been heavily linked with making a move.

While Nagelsmann acknowledged it will be a loss whenever Lewandowski does leave Bayern – the club must decide whether to cash in over the coming months or instead keep him for next season and allow a free transfer – he insisted there is no time for sadness.

Instead, he must focus on the task of finding a replacement for a player who has broken countless records.

Nagelsmann told a news conference: "Yes, it is or would be a loss, but he still has a contract until 2023, and I think we have all already commented on this.

"There is also no other statement about it, except that he has a contract until 2023. There is really nothing more to report.

 

"Of course, it's always the case that if you lose a very good player, or lose a player in general, then it's always not nice. 'Sad' is maybe the wrong word, there are other things in life to be sad about.

"It rather gives the incentive to look for a new striker after the next season or in the next season who can then replace Lewy. That is then the job we have to do.

"There is little room for sadness, but you have to try to make the best out of the situation for the future."

Reflecting on his first season as Bayern coach, in which he led the Bavarians to a 10th straight Bundesliga title but failed to get past the quarter-finals in the Champions League, Nagelsmann said: "It was tough. It was not that easy this season.

"The first half of the season was good. We expected another result in the cup, but in the end, we were very good in the Champions League group stage, and we were very good in the league.

"In the second part of the season, we were struggling a little bit. It was not that stable anymore. Sometimes we played well, we did not get the best results, especially in the Champions League. At the end, I think we could have done it a bit better."

Robert Lewandowski anticipates swift progress after he asked to leave Bayern Munich, a shock to the system for the Bundesliga champions.

The 33-year-old striker, who reached 50 goals for the season by netting a header in Bayern's final match of the campaign on Saturday, has made it clear he does not see his future at the Allianz Arena.

All involved at Bayern are aware of Lewandowski's stance, which was confirmed before the 2-2 draw at Wolfsburg by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

They must either sell him and bring in useful funds or face losing the Poland striker on a free transfer in 12 months' time. Keeping a disenchanted player would be a risk and Lewandowski urged all parties to find a positive outcome.

"I spoke to Hasan Salihamidzic and told him that I had made a decision not to extend my contract with Bayern," Lewandowski told Polish broadcaster Viaplay.

"Both sides must think about the future. I informed the coach of my decision. I am not renewing the contract, and now the most important thing for both parties is to find a good solution.

"It is very possible that this was my last game for Bayern. I have one more year on the contract, everything will be clarified in the near future."

According to Polish newspaper Przeglad Sportowy, Lewandowski added: "We want to find the best solution for me and the club. Both sides want the decision to quit in the summer or stay for the final season as soon as possible."

Lewandowski finished as the Bundesliga's leading scorer for a seventh season, matching Gerd Muller's record to secure the league's cannon trophy once again. In the league alone, he managed 35 goals, and that form has seen him strongly linked with LaLiga giants Barcelona.

The former Borussia Dortmund star is the top scorer among players from Europe's top five leagues, ahead of Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, who came into the weekend on 44 goals across all competitions.

Madrid could yet bring in Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain to pair up with Benzema, and that would add to the onus on Barca to make their own statement signing.

Barca have financial issues to iron out before any deal could go ahead, as head coach Xavi pointed out on Saturday.

He has not spoken directly about Lewandowski to confirm Barca's interest, but Xavi could use a prolific goalscorer if his team are to challenge Madrid for domestic silverware next season.

Xavi explained he would not be averse to signing a veteran player, having noticed how stars in their mid to late thirties are increasingly staying in good shape, pinpointing the likes of Luka Modric, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca's own Dani Alves.

Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann said after the Wolfsburg game that a busy week awaits him at the club's headquarters, even with the season at an end.

"Next week is going to be a lot of time for me at Saebener Strasse," Nagelsmann said.

"Lots of appointments, with the players as well, just to work on the future, so we'll hopefully be more successful than we are currently."

Robert Lewandowski has asked to leave Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said on Saturday.

The record-breaking striker wants a new challenge at the age of 33 after eight years with the Bundesliga giants.

His intentions had been mooted in recent days but have now been confirmed, with Salihamidzic telling Sky television the Poland international has made his position known.

In response, Bayern have told Lewandowski he remains under contract until the end of next season.

It means there could be months of uncertainty ahead as Lewandowski seeks to leave and Bayern look to convince him his future remains in Munich.

Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for the striker, but their head coach Xavi would not be drawn on Lewandowski when he spoke on Saturday.

Salihamidzic explained his conversation with the player, who hit a record 41 goals in last season's Bundesliga.

"He said that he would like to do something else. But our attitude hasn't changed: Lewa has a contract until June 30, 2023. That's a fact," Salihamidzic said.

"I spoke to Lewa. In the conversation he told me that he did not want to accept our offer to extend the contract and that he would like to leave the club."

Salihamidzic declined to entertain the question of what might change to alter the stand-off, saying: "I don't deal with that because our stance has always been clear."

The announcement regarding Lewandowski came in the minutes before kick-off in Bayern's final game of the season at Wolfsburg.

Predictably, he scored in the 40th minute to take his goal tally to the season to 50 across all competitions.

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo is a shock contender to face Getafe on Sunday – just five days after suffering a head injury that caused him to spend a night in hospital.

The 23-year-old Uruguayan suffered a heavy blow in Tuesday's 3-1 LaLiga win against Celta Vigo, clashing heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to come onto the field, and Araujo received around 10 minutes of treatment before leaving the pitch in an ambulance.

Xavi said after the match that Araujo was "conscious and out of danger", and his discharge from hospital was confirmed on Wednesday.

Barcelona stated on Tuesday that Araujo had suffered concussion, which is a brain injury.

In England, Football Association rules stipulate that any player with concussion should not be allowed to play again for at least six days; however, Barcelona believe Araujo could be ready to feature in Spain's LaLiga after coming through training with team-mates.

"Araujo wants to play," Xavi said on Saturday. "For us that means a lost. At no time was he unconscious, and he wants to play. He wants to be with us.

"I am moved by the commitment he has. The feelings on the training field are very good. He was not unconscious and in that sense it is important so that he can be there tomorrow."

Araujo posted on Twitter on Friday: "Thank God everything went well and it was nothing serious. Thank you all for your support. Blessings!"

The Uruguay international has played 42 times this term, totalling 3,181 minutes on the field – only Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes among outfield Barca players.

Xavi insisted age would not be a barrier when Barcelona rebuild in the close season as the Catalan giants continue to be linked with 33-year-old Robert Lewandowski.

The Barcelona head coach said he had not concluded discussions with club power-brokers over transfer plans, and had not spoken to the team's current players about plans.

Bayern Munich frontman Lewandowski is reportedly keen on joining Barcelona, while Xavi did not rule out an exit for Frenkie de Jong, who has been linked with Manchester United.

Uncertainty lingers over whether Barcelona will have much financial clout in the transfer window, as they attempt to come through an economic crisis that has hit Camp Nou hard.

It may be that the likes of De Jong – in what should be their prime years, at the top of their market value – have to be sacrificed in order to bring in the quick-fix solution that a player such as veteran goal-getter Lewandowski might provide.

Xavi told a news conference: "The circumstances of the club are what rule. I have an important part in decision-making. From here on, we depend on the economic situation.

"In a few days we should know where we are in order to plan for next season. The economic situation keeps us at bay, it is obvious that marks the present and the future of the club."

Asked about Dutch midfielder De Jong, Xavi said: "For me, he is a very important player. He has been a starter almost always, except when he has been rotated.

"He is a fundamental footballer, but then there is the financial situation of the club. He is a player that I like very much, but we are going to see how the situation is."

Xavi said Barcelona have "untouchables" in their ranks who must not be transferred, and although he did not name such players, the growing number of youngsters coming through the ranks such as Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi likely fall into that category.

Lewandowski, who has scored 49 goals in 45 games for Bayern this season, could be the player that allows Barcelona to bridge the gap to Real Madrid next season. Barcelona have moved far closer to Madrid's standards since Xavi was appointed in November, after a dismal start to the campaign under Ronald Koeman, but Los Blancos have carried off the LaLiga title with a comfortable cushion.

In light of the Lewandowski reports, Xavi was asked whether he could sign veteran players and was adamant he would, contingent on whether such stars kept themselves in good shape.

"I signed Dani Alves at 38," Xavi said. "It's not age, it's performance. Players take care of themselves so much and every year they are more professional.

"Ibrahimovic, Modric, Dani Alves, they all have a very high performance at important clubs. Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi too. Age is not a priority. If it improves us, that's the important thing."

Xavi declined to say whether Barcelona would be targeting a goalscorer, declaring it was "not the time to talk about this".

However, he said: "The club knows what we need to be competitive. The board will demand titles from us, and we have to improve."

Xavi, whose side face Getafe in LaLiga on Sunday, explained: "We're talking a lot about players for next year, but we still haven't met the goal of finishing second. There are two games left to finish with a good feeling. Then we'll plan and decide."

Bayern Munich are determined to keep Robert Lewandowski away from Barcelona's clutches as speculation mounts that the Polish striker will request a transfer.

After clinching a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern were bringing down the curtain on their season as they travelled to face Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Lewandowski has been champion eight times with Bayern and twice previously with Borussia Dortmund, having left Lech Poznan in 2010 to try his luck in Germany.

Now he is reportedly keen on moving to Barcelona, and with only one year remaining on his contract Bayern are facing a quandary.

They could make fresh attempts to persuade him to sign an extended deal. If it has already passed that point, they could dictate to Lewandowski that he must stay for the next 12 months before leaving on a free transfer. That would risk Bayern going into a new season with a disgruntled senior player.

The alternative is that they cash in on him now, when, at the age of 33, he would still bring in a hefty transfer fee.

Lewandowski has netted 49 goals in 45 games this season, making him the leading scorer across all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues (Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Premier League, Serie A).

Bayern president Herbert Hainer told German newspaper TZ: "Robert Lewandowski has a contract with FC Bayern until June 30, 2023. And he will fulfil it."

The Wolfsburg game could turn out to be Lewandowski's final match for Bayern, if he is serious about wanting a move.

Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann said the striker had shown professionalism in training but deferred to more senior club officials regarding Lewandowski's future.

"He has been training very well, showing good commitment and scoring great goals," Nagelsmann said in a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"He will be in the starting line-up [on Saturday]. His contractual situation is known and I won't give any information about anything else."

Speaking last month, Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn considered Lewandowski's situation, saying: "We are in contact with Robert and want him to stay with FC Bayern for as long as possible."

Kahn added: "Of course, at some point players like this get the idea: I've achieved everything here and won everything. Then it takes time to convince him to stay here."

Robert Lewandowski has told Bayern Munich he wishes to leave the club and head to Barcelona in the upcoming transfer window – and manager Julian Nagelsmann will reportedly not stand in his way.

Lewandowski, 33, is in the midst of a historic season, averaging more than a goal per game in both the Bundesliga and Champions League. He has 34 goals and three assists in 33 league fixtures, and 13 goals with three assists in his 10 Champions League games.

With his contract set to expire in just over 12 months, there was a feeling Bayern would prefer to hold on to the Polish star to boost their chances in the Champions League instead of cashing in, but that may not be the case.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI PUSHES FOR BARCA MOVE

Crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player two years in a row, and coming off his third consecutive season with at least 34 league goals, Lewandowski's time in Munich appears to be over as Sport reports he has his heart set on a Barcelona move.

Whether motivated by cashing in while the club still can, or simply honouring the wishes of one of the greatest players to ever wear the badge, Nagelsmann is said to be on board with Lewandowski's decision and will try to facilitate the transfer.

The report includes a note that it may be a difficult move for the Spanish giants to pull off financially, although he is likely central to their off-season plans, meaning the club will do everything in their power to prioritise making it happen.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting Real Madrid are "more confident than ever" in landing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe

– According to Mediaset, Chelsea have reached an agreement with Inter's Ivan Perisic to bring the Croatian over on a free transfer, although Fabrizio Romano insists that Perisic has not made up his mind yet.

– Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong will reject any advances from Manchester United and his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, according to the Daily Star.

– Calciomercato claims Paulo Dybala's agent is reportedly in London weighing up offers of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal.

Jude Bellingham will remain with Borussia Dortmund for next season, despite interest from Liverpool and United, according to the Daily Star.

Philippe Coutinho will go up "another level" after agreeing a permanent transfer from Barcelona to Aston Villa, manager Steven Gerrard has said.

Villa announced on Thursday that Coutinho will complete a £17million (€20m) move at the end of the season, having impressed in his half-season loan spell at the Premier League club.

The Brazil international has created the most chances among Villa players (24) since scoring and assisting on his debut against Manchester United on January 15.

Coutinho has also crafted the most 'big chances' – from which Opta would expect a player to score – in that period (five) to go along with his four goals and three assists.

Villa boss Gerrard expressed his delight at securing Coutinho's signature and suggested the 29-year-old will develop in the knowledge he has the full backing of Villa Park.

Asked why he thought Coutinho made the swap from Barcelona to Birmingham, Gerrard joked with reporters: "Probably my banter and my company to be honest!"

He added: "I was aware a little bit before it was announced, and I think it's fantastic for everyone connected with the club.

"You've seen the reaction from the supporters, it's very positive, they've seen him over the last five or six months play ever so well.

"He's still got loads left in him, in our opinion. To have him here full time and settled, I think he'll come again and go up another level because of that feeling of knowing where he's going to be playing for the next four years.

"I think he is a player that needs to feel wanted, he needs to feel support. Everyone at Villa is playing their part… the owners especially have made him feel really special.

"He feels really happy here, and it's fantastic that he wants to be part of this journey.

"I think you can't underestimate football happiness. In any walk of life, in any job, you've got to get out of bed with a purpose and with a drive and energy to enjoy your role. In football terms, that is to feel support from your team-mates, from your staff, but also from your supporters.

"If you get out of bed every morning and you're playing for an ambitious club where there's a journey and everyone is pushing to move it forward and improve it, and you're a big part of that and you're made to feel welcome and people want to build around you, that's very important in Phil's situation."

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