Xavi believes Barcelona's financial issues will have been the overriding factor if Manchester City win the race to sign Erling Haaland.

Widespread reports claim City will announce the signing of Haaland this week, with the defending Premier League champions ready to activate his €75million release clause.

Barca and Real Madrid are said to be seriously interested in the Borussia Dortmund striker, who has scored 28 goals in 29 games in all competitions this season.

But Barca are still operating under the financial constraints that led to Lionel Messi's departure before the start of the campaign.

And it is those restrictions, according to Xavi, that are seemingly set to take Haaland to the Etihad Stadium rather than Camp Nou.

Xavi told a media conference ahead of Barca's LaLiga clash with Celta Vigo on Tuesday: "It's not official, when it is, you ask me again...

"If I rule him out for us? I'm not going to lie to you, with our economic situation it's very difficult."

Asked if Haaland is choosing money over a project, Xavi replied: "I wouldn't say that. I'm not going to disrespect other club's sporting projects.

"City have a lot of titles and compete at a top level. If what you say happens, it would've been because of our financial issues."

While Xavi did not go into detail about the club's plans for the transfer window, he conceded the squad needs to be strengthened with Barca 12 points behind newly-crowned champions Madrid.

"This year is not positive and we have to reinforce ourselves," said Xavi. 

"All who come will be welcome. People have to leave. The situation is not easy, it is one of the most difficult in the history of the club. But we have to strengthen ourselves. There is evidence and everyone has seen it.

"We have made a football diagnosis. Then there is the economic. We are very clear about what we want for next year and we will try to do everything that can be done."

One player Xavi is keen to keep on the books is winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract expires at the end of June.

Dembele has recorded 11 assists in LaLiga this season, tied for the most in the division alongside Karim Benzema, and he has been linked with a host of top clubs.

"The club already knows my idea," Xavi added on Dembele. 

"I would like him to stay. He has helped us and, if he stays and renews, he will help us. He has already done so this season."

Raphinha has been a bright spark for Leeds United as they have battled relegation from the Premier League this season.

Following the weekend's results, the Whites are in huge danger of going down after they dropped into the bottom three. As is the case in football, the vultures will circle in that eventuality.

The Brazil international has long been on the list of targets for Barcelona and the winger looks likely to move on at the end of the season, when Leeds could find themselves back in the Championship.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS RELEGATION TO SPEED UP RAFINHA'S BARCELONA MOVE

Leeds United's potential relegation from the Premier League could help force Raphinha's move to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Even if Ousmane Dembele signs a new contract, the Catalan giants are keen to land another winger.

While Dembele's future has reportedly depended on Barcelona's qualification for the Champions League, the desire to sign Raphinha has been clear regardless. 

Leeds' relegation would reportedly allow the the 25-year-old to leave for €25million (£21.4m), though there is no clause in his contract that establishes an exact price.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez could be scuppered with Inter Milan not looking to sell the 24-year-old, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester City's deal with Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland could be finalised and announced next week, the Sun is reporting.

- Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea in the race to sign Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni , according to Marca.

- Bayern Munich are preparing to begin talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Konrad Laimer , Fabrizio Romano reports.

Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid still have plenty of work to do if they are to finish in LaLiga's top four and qualify for the Champions League.

Atleti beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday to move six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with three games to go.

Yannick Carrasco's 40th-minute penalty, awarded for Jesus Vallejo's barge on Matheus Cunha, was enough for Atletico to snap an 11-game winless run in this fixture.

Los Rojiblancos can seal a 10th straight season of Champions League football with three points against Elche on Wednesday, but Simeone is taking nothing for granted.

"There are three games left. Everyone is competing to finish fourth and it will not be easy," he told Movistar. "But of course this is a strong and decisive step for us.

"We played the game we wanted to play. We had many chances but couldn't be forceful and that pushed us to the limit against a rival that improves as the minutes go by."

Atletico hit the post through Carrasco late on and outshot their opponents 16 to 15, but just two of those attempts were on target – one of those being Carrasco's penalty.

Madrid had six shots on target by comparison – only against Cadiz have they tested the opposition goalkeeper more times in LaLiga this season (nine) without scoring.

Jan Oblak has struggled for form this season but produced a number of fine saves to help Atleti to their first ever win over Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano.

Indeed, those six saves are the most he has made in a single LaLiga match this campaign, surpassing the five he registered in March's 3-1 win against Betis.

 

Like head coach Simeone, though, the Atletico goalkeeper is not thinking of Champions League football just yet.

"We're still not sure of that," he said. "Until it's secured then the weight is going to be on us. On Wednesday we have to come out in the best way and get the three points.

"There are three games left, which is a lot. Hopefully we're not made to suffer until the last minutes."

Following their midweek trip to 14th-placed Elche, Atletico host Sevilla and then travel to Real Sociedad on the final day.

Carlo Ancelotti intends to continue rotating his Real Madrid side across their remaining LaLiga matches with all focus on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Madrid were beaten 1-0 by fierce rivals Atletico Madrid in Sunday's El Derbi after making seven changes from their dramatic midweek European win against Manchester City.

While the likes of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior were brought on at the second half, Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois remained on the bench at Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Blancos have already sealed the title and can afford to chop and change with three more LaLiga outings to come before their May 28 showdown with Liverpool. 

Ancelotti's side host Levante on Thursday and round off their domestic campaign with games against Cadiz and Real Betis.

Asked if he will continue to make changes to his side, the Italian coach told Movistar: "Yeah. Those who played less today will now play on Thursday.

"But the team that plays against Betis will more or less be the team that will play the [Champions League] final. The aim is to reach the final with everyone available.

"We still expect to compete, play with a high intensity and good rhythm. In the second half today the rhythm was good."

 

Madrid's defeat was their first against neighbours Atletico in 12 matches in all competitions in a run stretching back to 2018.

The visitors fired in 15 shots against Atleti, six of which were on target – only against Cadiz have they tested the keeper more times in LaLiga this term without scoring (nine).

Yannick Carrasco's penalty shortly before half-time proved the difference for Atleti, who ended the game with an expected goals (xG) value of 2.33 compared to 1.26 for Madrid.

"It was a good, competitive match," Ancelotti added. "We played much better in the second half and couldn't have asked for more in a match that comes after an exciting week.

"I didn't really expect any more from my side."

Atletico's penalty was awarded two minutes after Jesus Vallejo felled Matheus Cunha in the box, with VAR instructing referee Cesar Soto Grado to check the pitchside monitor.

That was the first spot-kick Los Rojiblancos have scored against Madrid in LaLiga since Diego Forlan converted from 12 yards in March 2010.

Ancelotti was surprisingly not asked about the contentious incident and joked "aren't we talking about the penalty" as he exited his post-match news conference.

Atletico Madrid took advantage of Carlo Ancelotti's decision to rotate as they edged out fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 on Sunday to tighten their grip on fourth place in LaLiga.

Four days on from their stunning comeback win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, Madrid made seven changes for their trip to Wanda Metropolitano.

That told as Madrid, who were crowned Spanish champions last week with four games to spare, fell behind to a 40th-minute Yannick Carrasco penalty that was awarded after a VAR check.

Despite the introduction of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior, Madrid could not find a leveller in the absence of top scorer Karim Benzema as they fell to a rare El Derbi defeat.

 

Much was made of Atleti's decision to not give Madrid a guard of honour ahead of kick-off in their neighbours' first league outing since sealing a 35th league crown.

The home side were far more fired up for the match and twice went close in the opening eight minutes, with Angel Correa and Carrasco firing wide from good positions.

Carrasco made the breakthrough from the penalty spot before half-time, though, after Matheus Cunha was barged over by Jesus Vallejo just inside the box.

The referee had initially allowed play to continue for a couple of minutes, but he was instructed by the VAR to check the pitchside monitor and reversed his initial decision.

Luka Jovic was denied by Jan Oblak and Casemiro should have done far more with a tame shot that was curled straight at the Atletico keeper as Madrid pushed for a leveller.

Atleti wasted chances of their own as Carrasco fired over and Cunha could not convert past Andriy Lunin when played in by substitute Antoine Griezmann, who also went close.

Carrasco nearly sealed things when hitting the post 14 minutes from time, but his earlier penalty proved enough in the end thanks to another Oblak save to keep out Vinicius and a bad miss from Nacho.

Erling Haaland looks set to announce his exit from Borussia Dortmund within days as the club prepare to lose their star striker. 

Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl, who will step up from his player licensing role to become sporting director at the season's end, said on Sunday that the club were braced for the 21-year-old to move on. 

Manchester City are reported front-runners for the signature of the Norway international, who joined Dortmund in late December 2019 after catching the eye at Salzburg. 

Kehl told German broadcaster Sport1: "I think we will have clarity next week. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves on in the end." 

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have also been heavily linked with Haaland, but the prospect of a move to LaLiga has seemed to cool in recent months. 

Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, had a playing stint at City and the Dortmund striker was born in Leeds, so a move to England may hold particular appeal. 

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, has repeatedly declined to discuss the prospect of bringing in Haaland. 

However, with Champions League trophy success again proving elusive for City this season, acquiring a striker of Haaland's pedigree looks imperative for Guardiola. 

Dortmund are expected to sign Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg as Haaland's replacement, with Kehl also expecting movement in that direction in the coming week. 

Haaland has scored 28 goals in 29 games across all competitions for Dortmund this season, proving prolific despite his campaign being disrupted by injuries. He scored 41 times in 41 matches last term, his first full season in Germany. 

Kylian Mbappe will be making the right choice if he leaves Paris Saint-Germain for Real Madrid, according to Bixente Lizarazu. 

France international Mbappe is set to be out of contract at PSG at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid. 

The Ligue 1 champions hope to convince the 23-year-old to extend his stay at the Parc des Princes, though.

According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Madrid want 50 per cent of Mbappe's image rights and that is making the attacker seriously consider a renewal in the French capital. 

However, Lizarazu thinks a move the Champions League finalists and the possibility to link up with international team-mate Karim Benzema would be ideal for Mbappe. 

Asked where he would like to see Mbappe playing, Lizarazu told Telefoot: "Real Madrid – it seems clear to me. 

"The Champions League culture, the electricity there is in the stadium, and on top of that the team is perfect. He would do well there. The combination with Benzema would be great. 

"Now, if he's taking so long to decide, it's because he's waiting for an answer from PSG. The answer on the structure, the organisation, the mentality. The team, collectively, will it respond? 

"There are a number of factors, so maybe he is waiting for that and changes at the level of certain directors." 

Following their exit at the hands of Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, Leicester City are at the fork in the road that faces every club their size following some success.

History says that sustainable progress will have to come at the expense of selling the players who got the club to such heights.

While James Maddison and Wesley Fofana have long been on the wish lists of bigger clubs, Youri Tielemans reportedly looks set to leave also.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, REAL MADRID SET ON TIELEMANS

Arsenal are closing in on a £40million transfer for Leicester City and Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, The Sun is reporting.

Real Madrid are waiting to pounce, however, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Leicester are now reportedly resigned to selling the 25-year-old, whose goal won the Foxes the FA Cup last term. 

Tielemans has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football, meaning Manchester United have dropped out of the race.

ROUND-UP

- Fernandinho appears set to leave Manchester City, despite having a year remaining on his contract, citing a personal decision, per Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are looking to sign Villarreal's Pau Torres for a fee below his release clause of £55million (€64.3m), Football Insider reports.

- The Daily Star are reporting Nemanja Matic, who will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, is set to join Juventus.

- West Ham are leading the race to sign 23-year-old Chile international Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers, according to The Sun.

Xavi is not ready to welcome the end of Barcelona's season despite the relief of clinching Champions League qualification on Saturday.

The Blaugrana beat Real Betis 2-1 in Seville to ensure the fifth-placed side can no longer catch them in second.

Ansu Fati's scuffed shot broke the deadlock, before ex-Barca defender Marc Bartra responded with a similarly untidy header.

It fell to Jordi Alba to win the match and secure Barca's top-four place with a sublime 94th-minute volley.

Coach Xavi saluted his side for the effort they put in to recover from a poor start to the season, having won every match they have played against top-10 opposition in 2022.

But he still has his sights set on tying up second place.

"We've taken a weight off our shoulders," Xavi said. "It could have been a more complicated and difficult season.

"The team has competed a lot. We have not played excellently in many games; in others, yes, but we have a winning soul and competitive character.

"We beat the top 10 in this second round of the season. It's evidence that we have to play better. It has to be analysed, but we have made a titanic effort from November to here.

"We will be in the Champions League, the competition we deserve. Now we want to be second."

However, Xavi added this achievement was the "minimum required" at Camp Nou, saying: "I want to compete for titles. We can't miss another year not being competitive."

The former Barca midfielder will hope Fati can have a big role to play in an improved 2022-23 campaign, having been limited to 12 appearances – in which he has still scored six goals – due to injuries this term.

Xavi hailed Fati as his "difference-maker", scoring 75 seconds after his introduction from the bench, and said: "It's a very good feeling to have him back."

Jordi Alba waited until the 94th minute on Saturday to sensationally clinch a 2-1 win at Real Betis and Barcelona's place in next season's Champions League.

The Blaugrana needed all three points against fifth-placed Betis to be sure of a top-four finish and looked set to be frustrated after Marc Bartra cancelled out Ansu Fati's opener.

But Alba unleashed an outrageous volley into the roof of the Betis net with almost the final kick to achieve Barca's aim with three matches to spare.

The result was perhaps harsh on Betis, who passed up their own chances to complete a first LaLiga double over Barca, yet there was no arguing with the quality of the decisive goal.

Dani Alves wants to stay at Barcelona past the end of this season but acknowledges the club will decide his future.

Having left the Blaugrana to join Juventus in June 2016, Alves announced his return to Camp Nou in November 2021, though he had to wait until January to be eligible to feature for the Catalan giants.

The 39-year-old has contributed one goal and three assists in 13 appearances since then, 12 of them starts, as Barca look to ensure a top-four finish in LaLiga after improving since Xavi's arrival as head coach in November.

After making a positive impact since returning, Alves is hoping to extend his long association with Los Cules past the expiration of his deal at the end of the campaign.

While pledging to always "give 200 per cent" for the club, however, Alves admitted his future would be decided by others.

"I live intensely all day, without thinking beyond that because I don't know what will happen. But what is certain is that I would like to continue because I feel at home here," he told Marca.

"I am at this club and team, which I had to fight to return to for five years and I think I can keep contributing, although it doesn't only depend on me. 

"I'm not too worried about it, though. My mission was to come here and show what I can contribute. I'm not one of those people who thinks, because of my career and everything I've won, that I don't have to keep proving myself. 

"I will always think that I have to prove my worth. I can't do anything else but give 200 percent to the club that I love. But it's up to them to decide. 

"I know where I am in my life and my career, but I also know what's inside me. I think any club that doesn't have me is losing out. 

"If Barcelona want me to renew my contract, I'm delighted. If they don't want me to then I'll say 'thank you very much' and will continue to defend this club to the death wherever I am."

 

Having gone unbeaten in 13 away league games (eight wins, five draws), Barcelona can strengthen their grip on second place in LaLiga when they travel to Copa del Rey winners Real Betis on Saturday.

With things looking up again at Barcelona after the ill-fated tenure of Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman, Alves says the club's transfer business will decide whether the Blaugrana can compete for major honours next season.

"It will depend on the transfer market business. That will determine whether the club can aspire to great things or not. You have to get it right and add quality to what you already have," he added.

"Xavi's arrival brought knowledge of the club, of fighting for the badge and history of this club. It is also important to make mistakes because it gives you more experience. If you don't make mistakes, you don't see if what you're doing is right or not. 

"Mistakes have been made and we've seen which way isn't the way to go, so now the club is restructuring again. But we don't know how long it will take. 

"If the new signings take in the idea that Xavi proposes then it won't be long before the club aspires to great things again. If not, it will take a bit longer. But people need to understand where they are and what needs to be done to get good results."

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is "one of the most underrated players in history" according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d'Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti's team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.

The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former "awesome".

"For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays," Ceferin said.

"Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone's shadow. 

"It's amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.

"We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all."

After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City's expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition's history.

He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti's men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.

"That's the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world," he added. "And when you watch these games… it's amazing. 

"I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs. 

"But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.

"The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I'm looking forward to the final."

Carlo Ancelotti insisted there are no problems with Gareth Bale within the Real Madrid dressing room after the Wales international missed Los Blancos' LaLiga title celebrations.

Madrid lifted their 35th league title last Saturday after a 4-0 hammering of Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Los Blancos celebrated on the pitch with the trophy in front of supporters after the game.

Ancelotti's side then embarked on a bus parade around the Spanish capital the following day, but Bale was not present on both occasions as he cited "back spasms" for his absence.

Eden Hazard, much like Bale, has not featured often for Madrid this season but could be seen joyously involved with the midweek celebrations after a dramatic Champions League win over Manchester City.

That continued the speculation as to the popularity of Bale, who has just played five times in LaLiga this season, but Ancelotti believes his side hold a "mutual respect" for the former Tottenham man.

"There is no distance with the dressing room, they have mutual affection, he was absent because he could not move. It happened to me," the Italian told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos is another Los Blancos name linked with the exit door in the next transfer window, but has been offered more chances in recent weeks, featuring in eight of the last nine games.

Ancelotti revealed his desire to keep the midfielder at the club ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

"I've had a chat with Ceballos, he knows what I think of him, what the club think of him and he has to make what he thinks is the best decision," he added.

"He knows what I think, what his team-mates think, then he has to sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti reserved special praise for right-back Dani Carvajal, who impressed against Pep Guardiola's City in the remarkable Champions League turnaround.

"He has struggled with injuries but he's got a good, strong personality," he continued. "I know he's been frustrated at times and has not been able to deliver to 100 per cent.

"He was outstanding against Manchester City. Nobody has ever thrown in the towel, given up. To wear the Real Madrid shirt means a lot to these players, Carvajal now is in excellent shape, he's helping a lot.

"Also, when the team need him most he's there."

Carlo Ancelotti hopes to continue living a "long honeymoon" at Real Madrid, and said he respects Atletico Madrid despite the fact the club will not give his side receive a guard of honour in Sunday's derby.

Los Blancos celebrated a 35th LaLiga title by hammering Espanyol 4-0 last week before reaching the Champions League final in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Madrid were trailing 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate before substitute Rodrygo scored twice in injury time, dramatic scenes that preceded Karim Benzema scoring the winning penalty in extra time to set up a showpiece with Liverpool in Paris.

Following the win over Espanyol, Ancelotti was pictured smoking a cigar when celebrating with his squad – a photo that went viral on social media.

Asked if he was enjoying a renewed youth in his second spell at Madrid, Ancelotti told a news conference: "You can say that [I am enjoying it more than ever].

"But I really enjoyed my time at Napoli for example, I didn't win titles I enjoyed my time at all the clubs I've managed.

"At Everton I didn't win a title but loved beating Liverpool. Everton are now struggling, we finished quite high up in the table with Everton. 

"Real Madrid is different. You could say, yeah, it's a honeymoon period. I'm still on the honeymoon, a long honeymoon, from December through to May – hopefully the end of May."

Madrid's first league encounter since regaining the title is against the side they deposed at champions in the form at Atleti, who released a statement on Monday saying they will not provide a guard of honour – an act that is commonplace in Spanish football.

Ancelotti has no qualms about the decision, though.

"I'm not used to this because we don't see it in Italy. If they do it then great, if they don't then I still respect the club," he added.

"I have the utmost respect for Atletico Madrid."

Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid have "four finals" left to secure Champions League football as they prepare for the derby with Real Madrid on Sunday.

Atletico followed up a goalless draw with Granada by losing 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao last Saturday, allowing fifth-placed Real Betis to move just three points behind Simeone's side.

LaLiga champions Real Madrid secured the title with four games to spare courtesy of a victory over Espanyol last weekend and are up next for Atletico, who have lost their past eight in all competitions against Los Blancos.

Madrid are also on an 11-game unbeaten streak against Atletico in LaLiga, their best such derby run against Simeone as coach, and the Argentine knows the Rojiblancos are in need of a result to ease the pressure.

"The reality is that we are in a decisive situation, there are four finals left," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"We will face the derby in the best way, with great enthusiasm and try to evade everything that is being talked about around the situation. What worries us is the result.

"I hope that the team can express itself in the best way, that it is strong, focused, competitive and from there good things happen. If you show yourself strong, in the match everything will be positive."

 

Atletico have already caused a stir prior to kick-off at Wanda Metropolitano by confirming they will not offer Madrid a guard of honour, with their strong response claiming the performative gesture was not required.

Instead, Atletico congratulated their neighbours in a statement and Simeone followed suit by commending the work of Carlo Ancelotti as he questioned the need for the media frenzy surrounding the guard of honour.

"Always in this search for questions they try to generate controversy, what he said, what he feels," he added.

"The reality is what the club said in a statement, explained perfectly, to congratulate Real Madrid above all, to the footballers and to their coaching staff because they have done a great job.

"I have great respect for Madrid, who have just become champions, but we have more respect for our people who are with us all day."

Despite Madrid already lifting the title, Simeone suggested Ancelotti will not make many tactical changes as he prepares for a familiar Los Blancos set-up.

"The structure is not going to change or the way of playing," he continued. "Carlo is a great coach, with very clear ideas. In that case, the names vary but not the tactics."

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