Xavi has told Ousmane Dembele to stop prevaricating and either sign a new Barcelona deal or find another club by the end of January.

According to Xavi, there is "no alternative" for the French forward, who has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou.

Dembele has struggled since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, and this month's transfer window could be a final chance for the club to recoup some of that outlay.

Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany told Dembele this week he must leave "immediately", which prompted the 24-year-old to issue an angry riposte on social media.

"I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail," Dembele wrote.

Barcelona are fed up and want a resolution one way or the other, with Xavi seemingly willing to keep Dembele and let this storm pass if he agrees to extend his contract before the end of the month.

"Ousmane's situation hasn't changed," said Xavi on Saturday. "He has to decide. He is training well, but he knows his situation perfectly. There is no more debate, I think I was clear. It depends on him now. There are still days left and there is no alternative."

 

The situation is one that Barcelona could do without as they reel from a Copa del Rey exit at Athletic Bilbao's hands, and the crushing blow of losing teenage forward Ansu Fati yet again to a hamstring injury.

Fati could be out of action for months after the substitute was substituted during the Bilbao game, seemingly in tears as he left the pitch.

Xavi said the plan, agreed with club doctor Ricard Pruna, was for Fati to play for half an hour, so when the cup game went to extra time it conflicted with Barca's intentions.

Fati, who entered the game just after the hour mark, came off injured in the 96th minute, an apparent recurrence of the problem that had recently kept him out for two months.

"Ansu is very affected," said Xavi.

On Monday, a meeting will take place to decide on the next course of action, with Barca reportedly keen for Fati to go down the route of surgery.

"It is a relapse," Xavi said. "Pruna told me that he was to play for half an hour and extra time disrupted our plans. We are going to make a specific plan for him. On Monday we will have a meeting to decide what to do. 

"I'm not a doctor, but we have to mentally allow him to recover. [We need to] let him forget about the injuries and make a specific plan. We have lost an impressive footballer and it affects us all, but he is the main victim. We must do an exhaustive follow-up so that he does not injure himself more.

"It's a shame. We are sad because we have tried to take good care of him and he has been injured again. This is part of football. We are suffering major setbacks and this is very serious."

Fati previously spent 10 months on the sidelines due to a serious knee injury, resuming his Barcelona career in September this season.

Despite his limited action, Fati is Barcelona's second-highest scorer in 2021-22 with five goals. They have come in just 456 minutes of on-pitch action, with Fati out-performing his expected goals (xG) score of 1.92.

On Sunday, Barca travel to face Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga, with Fati definitively ruled out and Dembele also expected to be sidelined by the club.

Alaves have not won any of their last 10 LaLiga games against Barcelona (D2 L8), conceding 3.1 goals on average in these matches.

Barcelona have avoided defeat in their last seven away LaLiga games against Alaves (W4 D3), keeping a clean sheet in six of them. This is their longest unbeaten run at Mendizorrotza in the top flight, but this season's Barcelona are a different proposition, with the loss of Lionel Messi and to a lesser extent Antoine Griezmann meaning they lack presence on the road.

Indeed, Barcelona have won only two of their last 10 away games in LaLiga (D6 L2), beating Villarreal in November and Mallorca earlier this month. That follows a run of 12 wins from their previous 14 away games in the competition (D1 L1).

The likes of Sergio Busquets have come in for flak from supporters of the club, and Xavi says the veteran members of the team must justify their selection.

"The shots go towards the sacred cows, and they have to understand it," Xavi said. "The commitment of the veterans is spectacular, unquestionable, but now it depends on the performance. Until recently we didn't have many alternatives."

The former Al Sadd coach said he remains "optimistic" about Barcelona's prospects, and said there could be additions to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

"We are working on it, in several areas," he said.

Thomas Tuchel has spoken of his admiration for Ousmane Dembele amid reports the Barcelona outcast could be a transfer target for Chelsea.

Dembele looks to be on his way out of Barca due to a contract stand-off that has turned sour.

The France winger warned the Catalan giants that he would not be "giving in to any blackmail" after Barca director Mateu Alemany ordered him to find a new club "immediately".

Dembele is only under contract with the Blaugrana until the end of the season and Alemany declared he expects the 24-year-old to move on before the transfer window closes at the of this month as "we want to have players committed to the project."

Tuchel saw Dembele's talent first-hand when he played under the Blues boss at Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season before the former Rennes man joined Barca for an initial fee of €105million.

 

The Barca contract rebel's chances created per game average of 2.36 this season is better than any of the Chelsea squad who can play in the same position, while his dribbles completed (6.69) also compares favourably.

Dembele has also had more shots per game (4.46) and made more crosses from open play (6.69) than the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.

And while Tuchel stopped short of declaring his interest in his former player, the Chelsea head coach is well aware of what he is capable of.

"He is a very good player when he is at his top level," Tuchel said. "I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund.

"It was only one year; it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave. From there we are not in closest contact.

"We met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties."

Chelsea face a big Premier League derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele's future with Barcelona has been unclear for months.

The 24-year-old has snubbed a fresh contract extension offer at Barca.

On Thursday, it was confirmed the Blaugrana have subsequently put him up for sale in January.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY FOR DEMBELE MOVE

Chelsea are ready to make a January move for Barcelona's Dembele, claims The Sun.

France winger Dembele is out of contract at the end of this season and Barca now want him to leave this month.

Chelsea have interest in Dembele, although it is unclear if they want to sign him on loan or permanently.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are prepared to offer Jordan Veretout in exchange for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Goal and The Athletic claim that Paris Saint-Germain  are in talks with Spurs and Ndombele over a loan move.

- The Telegraph claims Tottenham are ready to make a January swoop for Milan's Franck Kessie, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

- Sevilla are still keen to sign Manchester United forward Anthony Martial on loan, according to Marca. The Spanish club had an initial offer rejected and could move for Lyon's Moussa Dembele as an alternative.

- Real Betis want to sign Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko this month, with the lure of regular football, claims The Sun.

- Crystal Palace have pulled out of the race to sign Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsey has had interest from Newcastle United, Wolves and Burnley.

Ousmane Dembele has reacted with fury after Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany ordered the winger to find a new club "immediately".

French winger Dembele has struggled at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million.

A string of injury setbacks have hampered his progress, although Barca head coach Xavi recently claimed Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position.

Dembele's contract runs until the end of the season, meaning this month's transfer window could be the last opportunity for the club to get back any money on their investment.

Barcelona do not want to lose such an expensive signing on a free transfer, and to that end they have been looking to extend his deal, but Alemany said all offers to Dembele "have been continuously rejected by his agents".

Alemany added, speaking to Barca TV on Thursday: "It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project."

This has incensed Dembele, with Alemany going on to say: "We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project. We expect a transfer to take place before January 31."

Dembele has been linked with clubs including Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle.

Responding to Barcelona's stance, Dembele issued a long statement on Instagram, saying he would not be "giving in to any blackmail".

The 24-year-old said he had put up with four years of reading lies about himself, declaring that claims had been made "with the sole purpose of harming me". He said it had been a mistake that he had not spoken out sooner.

"From today, I will answer with sincerity and without giving in to any blackmail," Dembele wrote. "I am 24 years old and like any man, I have faults, imperfections. I have known complex moments, injuries, I have been affected by COVID. Without any training, the coach called on me and I always answered present... without batting an eyelid.

"I appreciate the chance to do the best job in the world. Furthermore, my message is clear. I forbid anyone to pretend that I am not involved in the sports project. I forbid anyone to attribute to me intentions that I never had. I forbid anyone to speak in my place, [or] in place of my agent in whom I have complete confidence.

"Still under contract, I am fully concerned and at the disposal of my club, my coach. I have always given my all for my team-mates as well as for all the supporters... and this won't stop now."

Xavi has also told Dembele to sign or be sold, and the player who was acquired after the big-money departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain may have kicked his last ball for Barcelona. He was left out of the squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao.

Former Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann responded with fire and heart emojis to Dembele's passionate statement.

"I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail," Dembele added.

"As you know, there are negotiations. I let my agent take care of this, it is his field. My field is football, simply playing football, sharing moments of joy with my team-mates, with our supporters. Above all, let's focus on the essentials: WINNING."

Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

 

Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

Liverpool

Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

 

PSG

A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

Bayern Munich

Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

Borussia Dortmund

This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

 

Juventus

Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

Newcastle United

One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany has informed Ousmane Dembele to "leave the club immediately" after repeatedly turning down the offer of a new contract.

The Catalan giants have been in talks with the France international since July over extending his existing deal, which runs out at the end of this season.

Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million due to persistent injury setbacks.

Barca head coach Xavi recently insisted Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position as he underlined his desire for the forward to agree fresh terms.

However, the 24-year-old's agent Moussa Sissoko this week told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future. 

Sissoko also accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks with Dembele.

That led to Xavi issuing an ultimatum on Wednesday when telling the former Dortmund attacker to either agree to the offer on the table or be sold in the January window.

And after he was left out of Barcelona's squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao, Alemany revealed time has now run out for Dembele.

"With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July," Alemany told Barca TV.

"In all this time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barca has made different offers, we have tried to find a way for the player to continue with us.

"Those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents. It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project.

"We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project.

"We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don't want to have players who don't want to be at Barca.

"The fact that he was not in the [squad] list for today is the consequence of this whole process. The coach has our full support, it's a consistent attitude."

Dembele has played just six times in LaLiga this season and in just over half of Barca's league games since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago.

He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes.

That puts him on a par with compatriots Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial among players from Europe's top five leagues, and just behind Liverpool star Sadio Mane (0.64).

His goal tally has also come from an expected goals (xG) of 23.7, suggesting Dembele's finishing has been of a high standard, given the quality of chances that have come his way.

However, to put Dembele's injury issues into some context, the 129 games he has played for Barca is 91 fewer than team-mate Sergio Busquets over the same period.

Dembele has reportedly drawn interest from a host of Premier League sides, including newly-rich Newcastle United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. 

Barcelona coach Xavi has issued an ultimatum to Ousmane Dembele over his future: either sign a new contract or leave the club this month.

The Catalans have been in discussion with the winger for months about an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

Dembele has struggled badly with injury troubles since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, which have hampered his attempts to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou.

Xavi, though, has been eager to see the France international stay at the club despite him playing just six times in LaLiga this season and in only 52 per cent of all Barca's league games since his arrival.

This week, Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future and accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks.

It appears Xavi and Barca's directors have had enough of the situation and the message to Dembele is clear.

 

"What I can say is that we are making a difficult decision. If he does not renew, the club has decided they will make a decision," Xavi told reporters ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

"We've waited a long time. We have been in talks with him for five months.

"Either he renews or we look for an exit. In the end, the club has decided that if he does not renew, a solution must be found.

"We have to do what is best for the club. [Sporting director] Mateu Alemany has been talking with him and his representatives for months.

"It's not a pleasant situation for anyone, but what's clear is that the interests of the club must prevail here.

"He told me he wants to stay. It's a question for him. I've been really clear; I can't be more concise. Either he renews, or we look for an exit. It's all or nothing."

Xavi also made it clear he considers it a priority to extend the contract of defender Ronald Araujo, which expires at the end of next season.

"His renewal is a priority. He's a really important piece. He has a winning character," Xavi said.

"I hope an agreement is reached because he's a player for the present and the future. Ronald is a boy who adds a lot."

Ousmane Dembele's agent claims Barcelona have threatened to bench the winger for the rest of the season if he does not sign a new contract.

Dembele entered the final six months of his deal on January 1, meaning he is eligible to discuss potential moves to other clubs for next season.

Barca, especially coach Xavi, have been open in their desire to see Dembele commit himself to the club, despite his time there being largely disappointing since joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in 2017.

But reports suggest Barca have grown frustrated with the lack of movement, with Xavi previously urging Dembele to "make an effort" in talks.

Now, the likelihood of an agreement may have diminished even further after Dembele's agent accused Barca of refusing to negotiate and instead turning to "threats".

"It's applying pressure, and that doesn't work with people like us," Dembele's representative Moussa Sissoko told French broadcaster RMC Sport.

"Maybe it can work with agents who are cosy with Barcelona, but that's not the case, I am here to defend the interests of my player.

"We are not here to fuel the debates on social networks, but the truth must be told. Yes, we have demanding demands, but we have already shown that Ousmane's career choices are not dictated by the money, otherwise he wouldn't be here.

"If Barcelona wanted to negotiate, they could have tried to come to the table with us to discuss, except that there is no discussion, just threats of no longer playing in the side, and that's forbidden. We will assert Ousmane Dembele's rights if necessary.

"We don't know what we're going to do, nothing has been finalised, but [Barca's] hierarchy alone are losing Ousmane.

"From the start, we have shown that we want to discuss, with conditions of course, but without closing the door."

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

Aaron Ramsey has not had the best of times since moving to Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined Juve from Arsenal in 2019 on a four-year deal.

Ramsey has only managed 70 appearances in an injury hit two and a half years with Juventus.

 

TOP STORY – RAMSEY TO LEAVE JUVENTUS IN JANUARY

Aaron Ramsey is set to exit Juventus in the January transfer window, reports Sky Sports.

Italian transfer supremo Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Ramsey is likely to return to the Premier League, having already turned down an offer from Burnley .

Newcastle United have been linked with Ramsey, along with Everton.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich will consider swapping Kingsley Coman with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele in the off-season, reports L'Equipe. Coman's contract expires in 2023 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled.

- Sky Sports have reported that Newcastle are contemplating a bid for Lucas Digne. The full-back is set to leave Everton this month after a falling out with Rafael Benitez, though supposedly prefers a move to London, with Chelsea and West Ham also said to be interested.

- Everton, meanwhile, hold an interest in Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and have already made a bid, according to the Daily Mail and Sky Sports.

- Paris Saint-Germain may look to sign Lyon's Lucas Paqueta next off-season, so say L'Equipe.

- Manchester United are determined to secure Wolves' Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves in January, according to The Sun.

- Lazio have opened talks with Liverpool on a deal for Belgium international forward Divock Origi, claims LazioNews24.

- According to Sky Sports, five Premier League clubs have held talks with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

Dani Alves has been cleared to play in Barcelona's Copa del Rey tie at Linares Deportivo on Wednesday and Ousmane Dembele is back in the squad.

Alves agreed a surprise return to Barca in November and featured in a friendly draw with Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia last month.

The 38-year-old Brazil full-back's registration has now been sanctioned and he has been included in the squad for the round-of-32 match.

Dembele was also given the green light to travel to Andalusia after testing negative for coronavirus.

Barca have suffered a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp, with Alves having also tested positive, but Dembele is back in contention.

Clement Lenglet also returned a positive test last week and the defender remains sidelined after Barca revealed he and Samuel Umtiti are suffering with a stomach bug.

Sergino Dest, Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho, Pedri, Memphis Depay, Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite, Ferran Torres, Gavi, Ez Abde and Alejandro Balde are all ruled out of the cup clash.

The holders are also without suspended striker Luuk de Jong.

Xavi is "very optimistic" that Barcelona can further strengthen in the January transfer window, but is unsure whether forward Ousmane Dembele will remain at Camp Nou beyond this season.

Despite their well-publicised financial issues, with debts rising above €1.2billion last year, Barca have brought in Ferran Torres from Manchester City this month for an initial €55million (£46.7m).

Barca will be unable to register Torres until they have offloaded some other players as they would risk exceeding their salary cap, yet other big-name stars continue to be linked with a switch to Camp Nou.

Among those touted as a target for the Catalans is Erling Haaland, with club president Joan Laporta this week refusing to rule out a potential move for the in-demand Borussia Dortmund striker.

Responding to rumours regarding his side's interest in Haaland, Laporta told the football world to "get ready" because Barcelona "are back".

Xavi shares Laporta's enthusiasm and believes the arrival of Torres, who was presented at Camp Nou on Monday, will galvanise supporters following a poor first half to the campaign.

"I'm very close to [Laporta] and I'm very optimistic. I like his ambition," Xavi said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's Copa del Rey last-32 tie with Linares Deportivo. 

"We are working to return. We are close to the Champions League positions. It is not easy, but we are working hard to give Barca what it deserves. We are on the right track.

"The signing of Ferran Torres makes the fans breathe as well. We are working practically 24 hours a day. We must follow the president's lead. It is a positive message to say that we have returned.

"If we sink into misery, it does not help. We must be positive. The president leads the way."

 

Haaland has scored 76 goals in 75 games for Dortmund since making his debut in January 2020, a tally bettered by only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (103 goals in 87 games) among players from Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

Alvaro Morata, currently on loan at Juventus from Atletico Madrid, has been touted as another potential option for Barca to bolster their attack, which was depleted by the high-profile exit of Lionel Messi in August.

Asked about the links with Haaland and Morata, Xavi said: "I don't want to talk about hypotheses, only the players we have here. 

"They are both great players but they are not ours. If Morata signs for Barcelona then I will answer questions on him."

Barca cannot realistically bring in more players until others make way, however, with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele potentially on their way out.

Coutinho has started just five games all season, while Dembele is into the final five months of his deal and is officially free to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs from abroad.

The France international's time in Catalonia has been hampered by a succession of injury setbacks, but when fit he has made an impact and averages 0.6 goals or assists per 90 minutes in LaLiga, which is a similar amount to Antoine Griezmann (0.67) and team-mate Memphis Depay (0.66).

"We have to wait for Dembele," Xavi said. "I'm calm as I can't do anything else. Dembele has to make an effort and think about his future – it depends on him.

"As for Philippe, I've not spoken with him. He's a professional and helps us a lot. But in order for us to have entries, there must be exits."

Xavi also confirmed Barca are hopeful of having Dani Alves, another recent recruit, registered ahead of the midweek cup tie with third-tier Linares Deportivo.

Alves' only appearance since early September was in a friendly against Boca Juniors last month, but Xavi expects the experienced full-back to play a big part in the remainder of Barca's campaign.

"I see him very well. He is spectacular in training, with a lot of intensity and a professionalism," Xavi said. 

"He will help us a lot with his arrival on the wing. He is 38 years old, but as is training will help us in many games. He is a superb player and I hope he can play every three days for us."

Romelu Lukaku's club future has been thrown into the spotlight after an explosive interview.

The Belgian striker revealed his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea in August.

Lukaku was subsequently dropped by coach Thomas Tuchel for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU COULD MAKE STUNNING SWITCH TO SPURS

La Gazzetta Dello Sport claims that unsettled Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku could make a cross-city switch to Tottenham to re-unite with Antonio Conte.

Lukaku and Conte worked together at Inter where they won the Serie A title last term.

The striker revealed his frustrations at Chelsea over the weekend, with Tuchel offering no guarantees about his future.

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland will not leave Borussia Dortmund during the January transfer window, reports Fabrizio Romano. Haaland has not decided his next destination yet, despite rumours of a pre-agreement with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

- Ara claims Barcelona will offer Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United as part of a swap deal for want-away forward Anthony Martial.

- Tottenham and West Ham United  are both keen to sign Wolves' Adama Traore, claims the Telegraph. Wolves want £20million for the Spanish forward.

- Olympiakos' Guinea international midfielder Aguibou Camara is attracting interest from Milan and Liverpool, claims Calciomercato.

Xavi is urging Ousmane Dembele to "make an effort" after contract negotiations between the Frenchman and Barcelona hit an obstacle.

The 24-year-old has entered the final six months of his contract at the club, meaning he is able to begin talking with other clubs over a free transfer at the end of the season.

Dembele's Barca career has been largely disappointing since joining from Borussia Dortmund for a reported €105million in 2017, with injuries restricting him to just 86 LaLiga appearances from a possible 165.

Yet, ever since Xavi was appointed as Ronald Koeman's replacement in November, the new coach has frequently spoken of his admiration for Dembele, repeatedly backing him to be the best player in the world in his position.

Xavi remains hopeful in light of rumours suggesting Barca and the player's representatives reached something of a stumbling block in talks, though he wants Dembele to play his part as well if he truly wants to stay.

Asked about the apparent "tension" encountered in negotiations, Xavi told reporters: "I am not disappointed. It's a negotiation.

"Agents are difficult. At Barca we have a clear position and it is in progress, it's not over. I'm optimistic and I hope that Ousmane makes an effort. He has a fantastic proposition [but] there is always a tug of war.

"I hope he can stay because he is a player capable of making a difference and could be the best footballer in his position. It's an opportunity for him and he can't miss it.

 

"I don't think he'd be happier elsewhere than he is here. Barca is the best club in the world, the sporting project is going to be more important than economic [aspect], and I have let him know. That is why I am hopeful.

"I naturally told him that we need him. He is an important player for us. He knows that the project is very interesting for him. The economic issue does not concern me."

One player being linked with joining Barca is Alvaro Morata.

Reports suggest Xavi wants to bring the Atletico Madrid-owned striker back to Spain from Juventus.

While it would seemingly be a complicated deal – and that is before you consider Barca's need to offload players before registering new ones due to their salary limit – it is one that seems to make sense on the face of it.

Though Ferran Torres has arrived from Manchester City, Xavi has appeared unconvinced by his options in the striker role, with Luuk de Jong supposedly set to have his loan from Sevilla terminated, though the coach was reluctant to talk about Morata.

He said: "Let's talk about the players we have. Ferran Torres and [Dani] Alves are going to improve our squad.

"They are very good for our style of play. The rest are theories and that's something that does not concern me."

January 1 ushers the start of a new year and, for many, a chance for a fresh start. That is particularly true in the world of football as it signals the day the transfer window opens and some of Europe's top talents can plot a lucrative move elsewhere.

A number of the sport's top talents, including Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, are due to be out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and can therefore open talks with teams abroad in January.

While the futures of Mbappe and Pogba will be heavily discussed in the coming weeks, other big names across the continent will also become that little more attractive to buyers given their availability on a free (notwithstanding their lucrative salaries, of course!).

Stats Perform looks at the best players soon to be out of contract and therefore available to sign pre-contract agreements elsewhere from January 1.

 

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Where better place to start than with a goalkeeper potentially seeking a new destination. Lloris has spent 10 seasons with Tottenham and has captained the side for the past six years, while also skippering the France national team since 2012.

Spurs have historically been reluctant to offer long-term deals to players in their 30s and that policy could see them lose one of European football's finest goalkeepers from the past decade. He has racked up 392 appearances for Tottenham, keeping 131 clean sheets in the process.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Martial did not quite transform into the superstar forward many were expecting upon joining United from Monaco six years ago, but neither has the France international been as big a flop as some would suggest.

Indeed, since making his Premier League debut in September 2015, only Marcus Rashford (57) has scored more goals for United than Martial's 56. Those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 43, with that xG differential of 13 the largest of any player at the club in that timeframe.

 

Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Chelsea face the prospect of losing four defenders without receiving a fee of any sort at the end of the campaign, with Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Rudiger all nearing the end of their respective contracts.

Tying down Rudiger to fresh terms should be the priority, given there has arguably been no better defender in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel first took charge of Chelsea on January 27, backed up by the centre-back's Premier League-leading 17 clean sheets over that period.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

No player has quite dominated the transfer column inches in the same manner as Pogba in recent years and, with no sign of a new contract being signed anytime soon, it now looks certain the 28-year-old will depart United for a second time.

Pogba may have struggled for consistency at Old Trafford, not helped by niggling injury issues, but he has averaged one assist per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season – a tally not matched by any player to have played more than once.

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG rejected multiple offers from Real Madrid in 2020, but as it stands they are powerless to stop one of the game's leading lights departing at the end of the season.

As well as breaking a number of goalscoring records, Mbappe's 215 direct goal involvements in all competitions since making his PSG debut in September 2017 – 147 goals of his own and 68 assists – is a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (242) and Lionel Messi (246).

 

Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Inter have so far been able to persuade Nicola Barella and Lautaro Martinez to extend their stays at San Siro, but Brozovic's future remains unclear heading into the new year.

Brozovic was a key part of Inter's Scudetto-winning side last term, featuring in 33 of their 38 games, and has started all 19 of their matches this campaign. Only Ruben Dias (1,713), Joao Cancelo (1,803) and William Saliba (1,840) have played more successful passes than the Croatia international (1,681) among players from Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Gareth Bale and Isco are two high-profile Madrid players set to move on either in January or at the end of the season, but as well as trying to seal Mbappe's signing, Madrid's other priority might be ensuring Modric does not bring an end to his decade-long spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2022.

Proving that age is just a number, 36-year-old Modric has been as good as ever for LaLiga leaders Madrid this season. The six big chances created by the midfielder in 2020-21, leading to four assists, has been bettered by only four others in the division.

 

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Dembele has struggled to come close to justifying his hefty transfer fee, reported to be an initial €105million, but he was recently described as having the potential to be the best attacking player in the world by head coach Xavi.

Barca president Joan Laporta is also eager to keep hold of Dembele, who has managed 30 goals and 22 assists in 126 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.6 goals per 90 minutes. For comparison, that is an identical number to Antoine Griezmann during his short-lived stint at Camp Nou.

Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Strongly touted as a target for the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Zakaria will depart Borussia Monchengladbach in 2022 after confirming to the German club that he intends to run down his contract.

The defensive midfielder averages 52.3 passes every 90 minutes and 47.1 successful ones, the latter being the ninth-most this season among Bundesliga midfielders with at least 500 minutes played. Among the same group of players, only seven average more than his two successful dribbles every 90 minutes – all of those being more attack-minded players.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Dybala has indicated that he wants to remain a Juventus player beyond this season but the longer talks over a new deal drag on, the more unlikely it appears he will still be in Turin six months from now – and that would be a major blow for the Bianconeri during an already difficult period.

The Argentina international has eight goals and four assists in 17 appearances this term, without being at what many would consider his best form – at least three more direct goal involvements than Juve's next most threatening player Alvaro Morata and double that of Federico Bernardeschi in third.

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