Spain midfielder Pedri declared his desire to "win everything every year" after signing a new contract at Barcelona, which he believes to be the "best club in the world".

The 18-year-old has secured new terms until the end of the 2025-26 season with a release clause of €1billion after establishing himself in the first team last term, having been initially signed from Las Palmas to play for Barcelona B.

Pedri featured in a club-high 52 games across all competitions in 2020-21 and played the seventh-most minutes (3,529). The teenager also completed the fifth-most opposition-half passes of any Barcelona player in LaLiga (1,100).

The young midfielder has also impressed for Spain, with nobody completing more passes ending in the final third at both the Tokyo Olympic Games and Euro 2020 – making 117 in Japan and 177 in his first senior major tournament.

A Copa del Rey with Barca and a silver medal in Tokyo remain Pedri's only team honours so far, but the youngster is convinced he is in the right place to earn major silverware, despite the difficult financial situation the Blaugrana find themselves in.

"My hope is to be here for many years, it is a difficult moment but it is the best club in the world and it is going to get up and achieve great things," Pedri said.

"I'm at the best club in the world and I want to aspire to win everything every year. Thank you to the president and the club and I hope [I will be here] will be many more years.

"They have all made me improve and grow as a footballer and hopefully many more dreams will come.

"It is true that everything has happened very quickly but thanks to these three people, my mother, my father and my brother, they help me to have the feet on the ground and give me advice. I am very grateful to them for everything.

"While at Barça you can dream of winning titles, this club is the biggest in the world and when I won the Copa del Rey I felt a lot of happiness, I can't put it into words."

Pedri has also been nominated both for the Golden Boy award and the Ballon d'Or, marking his meteoric rise since arriving at Camp Nou last year.

"[The Golden Boy nomination] is a prize for the work of the season and the fact that Gavi is there is a pride for Barca, which has many talented young people and I hope we can do great things,” Pedri said.

"I don't have to decide [who wins the Ballon d'Or] but I would give it to Leo [Lionel Messi] for all that he has helped me, he is the best in the world."

Pedri also insists he is unfazed by the enormous release clause inserted into his new contract, focusing instead on the length of the deal and his ambitions for the years to come.

"[The release clause] is an image of what the club is betting on for me," Pedri said. "I really want to add great things to this club and I prefer the years and the project that are more important to me than the clause.

"I leave the responsibility aside when I enter the field. I take it as I really want to go back and show the confidence they have given me."

Lionel Messi should never have been allowed to leave Barcelona for another European club, according to former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The relationship between Messi and Bartomeu reportedly became toxic during the latter's final months in charge at Camp Nou, and Joan Laporta's election win in March 2021 appeared to point to a brighter future for the team.

However, in August there was the bombshell announcement that Messi would be released as the club could not afford to retain him, with their finances having been hit badly during the pandemic.

An agreed contract had to be discarded and Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain, who have no such money worries under their Qatari owners.

There ended Messi's 20-year career at Barcelona, during which he became the pivotal player. Messi departed as the club's record scorer, with the most first-team appearances of any player in Barcelona's history, and against his own wishes, a sobbing superstar waving an unexpected farewell.

"I have always thought that it is essential that he should be with us, not only because he is the best in the world but also because of his economic and institutional contribution," Bartomeu said, in an interview with Mundo Deportivo.

"It is a mistake to let Messi go. He represents much more than a footballer that you fall in love with."

Messi attempted to leave Barcelona after the 2019-20 season, believing an agreement that he should be allowed to depart if he told the club of his intention by May 31 should have been allowed to carry over until the end of August, given the delay in the campaign caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

That was rejected by Barcelona, with Bartomeu fighting to keep Messi with the Catalans.

"He wanted to leave the club, we talked about it and I said no," Bartomeu said. "I have always thought that Messi is very important for our club, also Barca is for him and it would be a serious problem if he left, as I think it has been now.

"I told him that if he wanted to go like Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta, to Qatar, China or the United States, something we understood, we can talk about it and we will do a tribute and a farewell.

"But Messi didn't have a team yet and he wanted to be free. We told him: 'We want Barça to be your last club in Europe. If you want to go to another continent later, no problem. But we want you to continue,' and that was a bit of the story of the summer of 2020. Us telling him that we wanted him to continue and he, that he wanted to leave. But without knowing where. I always asked him where he wanted to go."

Bartomeu frowned on suggestions there had been no strategy for growing the team, which was said to have been a major complaint of the Argentina forward.

He also dismissed any suggestion that players had an overbearing influence, having admitted Messi and Luis Suarez promoted the idea of bringing in Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, before he arrived for an eye-watering fee in January 2018.

Barcelona agreed a deal said to be worth up to £142million for the Brazil midfielder, whose signing has not lived up to expectations.

Asked about player power, Bartomeu told the Spanish newspaper: "In the dressing room they have a power and you have to listen to them. It does not only happen at Barca. 

"You have to take them into account, they know the day to day and during this term we signed many players. Sometimes we have taken their considerations into account and sometimes not."

Ansu Fati was the subject of a rejected €150million bid from an unnamed Premier League club that would have helped solve Barcelona's financial woes, former president Josep Maria Bartomeu has claimed.

The money worries at the troubled LaLiga giants have been laid bare over the past year, with the club having seen huge streams of revenue lost amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the money crisis that ultimately led to Los Cules legend Lionel Messi departing on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, while several other big earners agreed to take a pay cut to help alleviate the cash-flow issues.

Bartomeu stepped down in October 2020 following a vote of no confidence, while it has been reported Barca's debts are at the €1.35billion mark.

The ex-president insists there was never any risk of the club dissolving and said teenage superstar Fati attracted interest that could have helped balance the books, but Bartomeu said the decision was taken to find alternative ways of redressing Barca's economic situation.

"No, never [was there a risk], it's fine as an alarmist message. Barca is a sports club and also in the case of the pandemic, the Royal Decree says that the losses due to COVID will never be losses that allow the dissolution of the club, which has assets of players, patrimonial, digital and has a low but high balance sheet value at the market level," he told Mundo Deportivo.

"That is why it is impossible that it is at risk of dissolution. In the summer of 2020 we had a very good offer for Ansu who would have settled the accounts that year and we prefer to bet on the sports project than not to fix the economic issue.

"We knew that when we reopened the Camp Nou to 100 per cent, in a short time we would recover the level of income."

It was reported in November of last year that Manchester United were the team to make a bumper bid for Fati, although that was never officially confirmed.

Asked to elaborate on the Fati offer, Bartomeu explained that had the pandemic never occurred, Barca would not have been in such a precarious financial position.

"It [the Fati bid] was from an English club. It would have been a direct benefit for the year 20-21, but at Barca the sports project prevails and the economy continues," he added.

"Until March 2020 we could afford the amounts that had been agreed. They are very high contracts, which are important because we are the most valuable club in the world.

"A few months ago, Forbes said it that way for the first time in 122 years of history. It is news of satisfaction. That in 2020, in the year of a pandemic, that we are number one in the world, contrasts with the mismanagement message since external organisations, such as LaLiga or Forbes, say so.

"The club has also been declared the best football club of the last decade. This allows you to have a solid base to continue progressing."

Late last month, Fati made a long-awaited return from a meniscus injury sustained in November 2020 that saw him require surgery on three occasions.

Former Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique believes LaLiga cannot compete with the Premier League, particularly in the absence of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018, before returning to Manchester United on deadline day this year, while Barcelona's financial difficulties forced Messi to find a new club in August, joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

The departure of the superstar pair from the Spanish league has coincided with LaLiga falling behind other top European leagues financially – especially the English top flight.

As a result, Jose Enrique expects clubs from the two leagues to have dramatically different fortunes in the Champions League, tipping Premier League sides for more success after the all-English final last season as Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0.

"Ronaldo is not at Madrid, Messi is not at Barcelona," Jose Enrique told Stats Perform. "Now, listen, on TV sometimes people just wanted to watch those teams because of those two.

 

"That's the reality. And obviously, the income is not gonna be the same. But again, Madrid and Barcelona they are always two teams that in two legs they can beat you. Madrid, I believe more. A little bit more even if they're struggling.

"But obviously the Premier League, even with the COVID situation. Look at Chelsea who won the Champions League and went out there and spent 100 something million and bought Lukaku. So you can’t compare at the moment.

"Listen, in our game of football, anything can happen. But I [think] the strongest teams, they're gonna be the English teams, definitely, in the Champions League."

It is not only the Premier League that Jose Enrique thinks is ahead of LaLiga, with the 35-year-old explaining that the wages on offer in Serie A are also superior to those in Spain.

"For example, Italy I see them as strong as well, the Italian League," Jose Enrique continued. "And now I know how much they pay to the players and everything and I know in Italy they're paying quite good, even normal teams.

"In Spain, they're not paying nearly that much compared with some of the fees that they've been [doing] there."

Atletico Madrid's "world class" strike force of Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Angel Correa and Joao Felix will help the club to finish above Real Madrid, Barcelona and any other challengers in the LaLiga title race.

That is the view of ex-Valencia, Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza defender Jose Enrique, who told Stats Perform he also expects Atleti to put up a fight for the Champions League under "annoying" boss Diego Simeone.

The reigning Spanish champions are level on points with city rivals Madrid at LaLiga's summit after eight matches thanks to a 2-0 win over Barcelona – who are five points worse off in ninth with a game in hand – prior to the international break.

Atleti have been far from perfect at the start of their title defence, though, having dropped points against Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo Alaves this term, losing 1-0 to the latter in the shock of the season so far.

Simeone's side have also had to ride their luck at times, with three of their 11 league goals coming in added time and another two arriving in the 78th and 79th minute.

Suarez leads the way with four goals, including a strike against former side Barca two weeks ago, while Correa has three to his name.

With that goal against Barca, the Uruguay international completed the set by scoring against all 31 teams that he has faced in the Spanish top flight.

 

Joao Felix has yet to get off the mark for the LaLiga campaign, though, and Griezmann is also goalless in the league since rejoining from Barcelona at the end of the most recent transfer window.

Yet while Madrid have double the number of goals as Atleti, Jose Enrique rates Los Rojiblancos' attack as the best around and cannot see past them finishing top for a third time in nine seasons this time around.

"I think it will be Atletico," the Spaniard, who also spent eight years in the Premier League with Newcastle United and Liverpool, said when asked who he expects to win the title.

"I know there been some games where they had to struggle in terms of scoring, with 90-something minute winners or whatever. 

"But what they have in the players they have is just incredible. You see the strength of the squad they have. They just signed Griezmann and they have Suarez, Joao Felix, Correa. 

"You talk about those four and for me that could be in any team in the world, and the four of them are strikers.

"Correa can play out on the wing sometimes, Joao Felix as well. But you're talking about four world-class strikers in my opinion. So, for me they are amazing. 

"It is true that that defensively, maybe there's a little bit more. But this is a team that I really believe is going to win the league this year.

"In the Champions League they're going to be annoying again, because Simeone is very, very annoying, always."

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu defended his Camp Nou tenure by insisting that he oversaw a "serious and responsible" period at the club.

Bartomeu stepped down as Barcelona chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership.

Barca won numerous major honours during that era, including their most recent Champions League in 2015, by which point concerns were growing over the club's transfer policy.

There has been a steady decline in recent years and the Catalan giants' financial problems have been laid bare since Laporta took over from Bartomeu in March.

The club's total debt has spiralled to the €1.35billion mark and they were unable to fulfil a contract that had been agreed with Lionel Messi in the most recent transfer window.

On the back of Messi's shock departure in August, Laporta alleged that Bartomeu was to blame due to his "disastrous" running of the club.

However, in his first interview since departing the club, Bartomeu has highlighted some of the positives from his tumultuous tenure. 

"Has our management been disastrous? I know it's a phrase that's been running but our management has been very serious and responsible," he told Mundo Deportivo.

"It was rigorous with a project and strategic plan that was established in 2015.

"Sports management and the entire heritage project prevailed, economically and socially. We've done many projects and we're the board that's been most active.

"But as of March 2020, that serious and rigorous management was truncated by the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, which drastically decreased revenues. 

"From then on we suffered from a deep cut."

Asked again about Laporta's comments, Bartomeu said: "It has not been disastrous. There have been benefits of about €185m. It has been a good management.

"Forbes magazine said that in 2020 the club was the most valuable in the world."

Spain midfielder Pedri has signed a new long-term contract with Barcelona.

The 18-year-old had less than 12 months remaining on his previous deal – though the club did have the option to extend that by a further two seasons.

Nevertheless, they have instead opted to push ahead and secure him to entirely fresh terms, with the talented midfielder committing himself to the Catalans until 2026.

A Barca statement read: "FC Barcelona and the player Pedro 'Pedri' Gonzalez have reached an agreement to renew his contract until June 30, 2026 . The termination clause is set at €1billion."

Pedri has experienced a rapid rise since joining Barca from Las Palmas last year, establishing himself as a key player after initially being signed for the Blaugrana's B team, stepping up to the senior side after impressing Ronald Koeman in his first pre-season.

Indeed, Koeman used Pedri in 37 top-flight games last term, with only Frenkie de Jong (also 37) playing as many matches for the Catalan club.

He ranked seventh among outfield players at the club in terms of LaLiga minutes as well (2,428), while De Jong (3,159) and Sergio Busquets (2,527) were the only midfielders to spend longer on the pitch for Barca.

Many comparisons have been drawn between Pedri and Barca great Andres Iniesta due to the former's nimble stature and passing ability.

Only four team-mates – Lionel Messi, De Jong, Busquets and Jordi Alba – completed more opposition-half passes than Pedri (1,100).

The teenager playmaker has also shown his class at international level, impressing for Spain at Euro 2020 and going on to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

At both tournaments, the Tenerife-born prospect completed more passes ending in the final third than any other player – making 83 in Japan and 177 in his first senior major tournament.

In fact, at Euro 2020 Pedri became only the second European player aged 18 or younger to start as many as five matches in a major tournament, and his last-16 appearance against Croatia made him the youngest player to ever start a knockout game in the European Championship.

Barca, now they have tied down one of their key assets, will be hoping to also agree new long-term deals with the likes of Ansu Fati, Gavi and Ronald Araujo as they look to youth amid a rebuild.

Spain midfielder Pedri has signed a new long-term contract with Barcelona.

The 18-year-old had less than 12 months remaining on his previous deal – though the club did have the option to extend that by a further two seasons.

Nevertheless, they have instead opted to push ahead and secured him to entirely fresh terms, with the talented midfielder committed himself to the Catalans until 2026.

Pedri has experienced a rapid rise since joining Barca from Las Palmas last year, establishing himself as a key player for the Blaugrana.

The teenager playmaker has also shown his class at international level, impressing for Spain at Euro 2020 and going on to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Sergio Aguero needed Lionel Messi to tell him why he was being continually overlooked for Ballon d'Or honours.

Despite scoring a record 260 goals for Manchester City, Argentine striker Aguero has never come close to winning the trophy that Messi has carried off six times.

Being repeatedly overlooked began to trouble Aguero, but when Messi spelled out what he was lacking, it all made sense.

Now at Barcelona, Aguero looks back on his City career and appreciates why his feats fell short of making him a major contender for a prize Messi has won more than anyone else.

"Many times I thought about what was missing," Aguero told Spanish newspaper El Pais. "And one day I asked Leo. He told me that to have a chance to win the Ballon d'Or I had to win the Champions League. And he is right.

"The subject of trophies with the national teams is also important. Take [Fabio] Cannavaro's case, for example, when he won the World Cup in 2006."

Cannavaro took home the Ballon d'Or that year, with Italy team-mate Gianluigi Buffon in second place.

"I played great seasons, scored many goals and won many titles," Aguero said, "but I was not in the Champions League final. And last year when we reached the final, I had a knee problem, COVID and different injuries."

 

In 10 years at City, Aguero hit at least 20 Premier League goals in a season on six occasions, and only in one campaign (2012-13) did his minutes-per-goal record in the competition creep above one goal every 140 minutes.

That is a record that attracted Barcelona, with Messi's run of form over the same period having seen him score at between one every 57 minutes (2012-13) and one every 143.1 minutes (2006-07) in LaLiga.

Aguero has recovered from a calf injury and on Wednesday he featured in a training game for Barcelona against UE Cornella, meaning a competitive debut could be just around the corner.

It remains to be seen whether Aguero will be fit enough to play a part in Sunday's LaLiga match against Valencia, as Barca look to get their season on track.

A home fixture follows against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League; then comes the first Clasico of the season, with Real Madrid visiting Camp Nou on October 24.

Long-time Argentina team-mate Messi was at Barcelona when Aguero arrived, but he has since departed for Paris Saint-Germain.

Aguero recalled visiting Messi when it emerged he would be forced to leave Barcelona.

"It was a moment of shock. He was in a very bad way. When I found out I couldn't believe it. That Saturday I went to see him at his house," Aguero explained.

Aguero said he attempted to cheer up Barcelona's record goalscorer.

Now there will be expectations on Aguero's shoulders, and despite losing Messi, he says moving to Barcelona was the right choice once his City contract expired.

"Let's be honest. What player does not want to be at Barca?" Aguero continued.

"The majority of footballers would like to wear this shirt, no matter how good or bad Barca is. I arrived with the expectation of playing with Leo and that a good team would be put together, which was what the club tried to do. When they called me, I thought: 'I don't care what they pay me. I'm feeling good and I'm going to help the team as much as I can.'"

Eden Hazard is "medically perfect" but there is concern about the Belgium star's injury problems, according to national team boss Roberto Martinez.

The playmaker has endured a miserable time in Spain due to persistent physical issues since his move from Chelsea in 2019 for a reported €100million (£88.5m).

Hazard has only completed four matches for Los Blancos in all competitions, scoring just five goals in 51 appearances in total, as patience over his lack of availability runs thin among fans and local media.

The 30-year-old impressed in the first half of the Nations League semi-final against France last week, as Belgium took a 2-0 lead into half-time, but he was taken off in the 74th minute as Martinez's side went on to lose 3-2 to the world champions.

Hazard sat out the 2-1 third-place play-off defeat to Italy, Martinez saying he was suffering from "muscle fatigue" but adding he did not know how long the former Lille star would need to recover.

Indeed, Martinez has found it difficult to determine why Hazard, a player he believes can still challenge for the Ballon d'Or, has endured so many injuries since his move to Spain two years ago.

"It's certainly true that Eden is not now in a physical situation to be at 100 per cent for 90 minutes," Martinez told El Larguero. "What's important now is to have patience, to work well and try to get Hazard, bit by bit, to get back to that level he's always had.

 

"His situation in Spain is very atypical. He found a situation that's new for him, because he was never injured and suddenly finds himself over the course of two years with no explanation for so many injuries.

"We're all worried and I'm sure Real Madrid are as well. He's a player who needs the ball, needs to dribble, and in order to reach his maximum physical level, he needs to play games.

"What I've seen is that he is medically perfect. The first 45 minutes [against France] were really enjoyable. We hope that, between Real Madrid and the national team, we can help him so he can get the minutes he needs. If he's at the level of those 45 minutes against France, I'm sure he'll bring a lot of success to Belgium, but especially to Real Madrid."

Martinez's future has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following reports he was a prime candidate to take over from Ronald Koeman as Barcelona head coach.

That was until Barca president Joan Laporta insisted he would give Koeman time to turn things around amid a run of just two wins in eight matches in all competitions.

Regardless, Martinez says he has not spoken to the club and has not yet decided if he will commit to the Belgium job beyond next year's World Cup in Qatar.

"It's been a difficult period because it seems like you don't want to answer, but the truth is they've not had any contact with me," he said.

"You know how rumours with coaches work. It's nothing more than an anecdote that helps me start the day with a smile.

"I still haven't decided [if I will stay after the World Cup]. Whenever I talk about my future, I don't usually clarify it.

"We're continuing a really beautiful, ambitious project and you have to think day by day. I've learned that the emotional side of a national team is on another level to what happens at a club."

Newcastle have the wealthiest owners in the world following their £300million takeover last week.

The Magpies have since been linked to a host of top players including Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho, with Timo Werner now joining that list.

The Premier League club are 19th in the table, winless this season with only three points from seven games, which suggests they need significant strengthening.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE KEEN ON GERMAN STRIKER

Newcastle are set to splash the cash and could make a bid to sign Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner, says Bild.

The report claims Newcastle have been "in regular contact" with Werner's agent ahead of the January transfer window.

Werner joined Chelsea in a £47.5million deal in June last year from RB Leipzig.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are willing to sell France international midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Newcastle linked as a suitor, as they raise funds for moves for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni and Manchester United's Donny van de Beek.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are looking to sign Chelsea's Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Liverpool are open to the idea of bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield from Barcelona in January, claims the Express.

- Fichajes claims Liverpool are also considering a £68million (€80m) swoop for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, while they also progress contract talks with Mohamed Salah.

- Barcelona and Milan are top of the queue in the pursuit to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of this season, according to the Daily Mail.

- Phil Foden has agreed terms on a new six-year contract with Manchester City, reports Goal.com.

Ex-Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique claims that former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has "destroyed" the Catalan club.

Barca find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, with six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi forced to join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after the Blaugrana were unable to provide him with a new contract.

The Blaugrana have won just one trophy – a Copa del Rey – in the last two seasons and have not started their first campaign without Messi in 16 years well, sitting bottom of their Champions League group and winning just three of their first seven LaLiga games.

Jose Enrique believes the dramatic decline of a once-formidable club is down to a string of poor decisions from the hierarchy and points the finger primarily at Rosell, who served as Barca president from 2010 to 2014.

"Well, I think, with a completely open heart and honestly, I think Sandro Rosell has just destroyed this club," Jose Enrique told Stats Perform. 

"It is destroyed, economy-wise. [New Barca president Joan] Laporta is obviously taking everything now because obviously, it's anyone and everyone asking him for answers. But it's true that he arrives to a club that is very, very in debt with a lot of players on a lot of money."

 

The one-time Liverpool and Newcastle United defender was particularly scathing about Barca's activity in the transfer market over the last few years under the presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, who replaced Rosell in 2014 before stepping down in 2020.

"[Luis] Suarez, look what they did to him," Jose Enrique continued. "You sign [Antoine] Griezmann who really is not even half of the player that Suarez is. That's what it is. So, they do a lot of strange things.

"They go out and buy [Ousmane] Dembele for 100 million. They do a lot of stuff. I remember when they signed [Philippe] Coutinho, and I love Coutinho. But they play him as a left winger as well. When actually, he's more a midfielder or number 10.

"So, they've been doing so many things wrong for many years, and now they are taking [the consequences]. They lose Messi, who obviously is the standout player of this club. He was, he’s not anymore.

"Now they are struggling, and I believe to get back to their best is gonna take a while. I don't know how long, depends on their spending, depends how much income they have, because obviously, they have to get rid of a lot of players.

"Again, for example, [Miralem] Pjanic. When they signed Pjanic, they [sent] away Arthur Melo and you're giving away the player that Messi actually says is the closest player he's seen to Xavi. And that he's 23, and you take Pjanic who is 30.

"It's a strange thing, and you have to say, "why are these things happening?"

"Obviously, I don't want to blame anyone, but I'm sure there's been things behind [the scenes] that are still being discovered.

"When the club is struggling it is because something is going wrong behind [the scenes], that’s reality. And that's why Barcelona is in the situation it is right now because they've been doing things wrong. Simple as that."

Barcelona could soon be able to call on Sergio Aguero after the forward returned to some form of action during a training match on Wednesday.

Aguero joined Barca on a free transfer following the expiration of his Manchester City contract at the end of last season.

The 33-year-old helped Argentina win the Copa America during the close-season, yet a calf injury suffered just before the start of 2021-22 has seen him miss the opening weeks of the campaign.

Barca and under-pressure Ronald Koeman need all the help they can get. The Blaugrana sit ninth in LaLiga following a 2-0 defeat to champions Atletico Madrid last time out, while they have also lost both of their Champions League matches so far.

In a boost, Aguero returned to training over the international break and on Wednesday he featured in a training game against UE Cornella.

It remains to be seen whether Aguero will be fit enough to play a part in Sunday's match against Valencia, as Barca look to get their season on track.

A home match against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League is then followed by the first Clasico of the season, with Real Madrid visiting Camp Nou on October 24.

Jules Kounde is seemingly bound to eventually move to the Premier League.

But where will the French centre-back land?

Manchester United and Chelsea are both believed to be interested.

 

TOP STORY – ANOTHER DEFENDER SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?

Manchester United are in the race to sign star Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, according to Fichajes.

Kounde was tipped to join Champions League holders Chelsea but a transfer did not materialise before the end of the previous window, much to the frustration of the player.

Despite the arrival of Raphael Varane, United are reportedly set to make a move for the France international centre-back.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Wednesday's Diario AS claims Real Madrid have re-activated their interest in United star Paul Pogba, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. A deal for Pogba would reportedly provide further encouragement for Kylian Mbappe in their pursuit of the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

- Corriere dello Sport claims PSG and Atletico Madrid want Nicolo Barella as his contract talks with Serie A champions Inter stall.

- The Express reports United are considering a move for Monaco and France sensation Aurelien Tchouameni, who is also attracting interest from Madrid, LiverpoolChelsea and Juventus.

Barcelona will sell Sergio Busquets in order to sign Milan's Franck Kessie, says El Nacional. Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and the star midfielder has been linked with United, PSG, Liverpool, Arsenal and Inter. The front page of Wednesday's Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Pogba are among several soon-to-be free agents being eyed by Barca.

- Le10 Sport claims PSG could join the race for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, who is seen as a potential replacement for Madrid target Mbappe. Vlahovic has been linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Juve, Inter, Arsenal and Liverpool. PSG are also believed to be interested in Borussia Dortmund's sought-after forward Erling Haaland.

Diego Simeone asked Luis Suarez to contact Lionel Messi regarding the possibility of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining Atletico Madrid prior to signing for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi ended a 21-year spell with Barcelona in August as he signed for PSG on a free transfer after the Blaugrana were unable to re-sign the club great due to salary cap restrictions.

Suarez, who Barca surprisingly allowed to join Atletico last year after being deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman, formed a deep relationship on and off the pitch with Messi during their six years together at Camp Nou.

The pair formed a scintillating attacking trio with Neymar, and Suarez assisted the Argentina captain 47 times – five more than any other player to feature with Messi at Barca.

And Simeone revealed he attempted to partner Suarez and Messi again when the Barca legend became available following confirmation of his departure.

"I'll tell you a detail… With what happened in Barcelona, we called Luis [Suarez]," Simeone told Argentine outlet Ole when asked about any potential move for his compatriot.

"With all due respect, I didn't call Leo [Messi], but I did call Luis to ask how Messi was doing, if he was eager or if there was a slight possibility that he would come to Atletico." 

However, the mission to secure the 34-year-old came to an abrupt end, as Simeone explained: "[It was] something that lasted three hours, because PSG was already obsessed with that [signing]."

It would have been a peculiar feeling for Simeone and the club's fans to see Messi lining up for Atletico, given Los Colchoneros were among Messi's favourite opponents during his time in Spain – his 32 goals against them second only to the 38 plundered in clashes with Sevilla.

Therefore, Simeone knows first-hand the quality Messi possesses. But, true to form, the Atletico head coach insisted the focus would have remained on the team effort even if he had pulled off such a coup.

"He was always at Barcelona, I was always at Atletico [during Messi's career] and we didn't coincide as players in the national team," he continued. "But to me, if you ask me where Messi has to play, I tell you in a team that wants to win, in a team that knows what it has to do to win.

"It doesn't matter where he plays, it matters that the team is prepared to win. Don't think about him, think about the team."

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