Barcelona have once again been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage following Inter’s win at home to Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday evening.
The result means that Barça will finish third in their group and transfer to the Europa League for a second season running. Also Read: How My Houseboy Took Me To Cloud 9 – Housewife There were lofty expectations of the Bluagrana following a summer of heavy spending and a strong end to the 2021/22 campaign under Xavi, but even the arrival of Robert Lewandowski has failed to save them from elimination at this stage again.
While Barcelona started the group stage well – defeating Viktoria Plzen 5-1 at Camp Nou – they then lost in successive games to Bayern Munich and Inter to give themselves a mountain to climb.
They then drew 3-3 with Inter in a classic Champions League encounter, and their hopes of qualification were only kept alive thanks to a last-gasp equaliser from Lewandowski. Also Read: I Need A Man Who Can Last 90 Minutes – Pretty Lady However, the Nerazzurri’s 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in Wednesday’s early kick-off ensured that they and Bayern will advance to the last 16 at Barcelona’s expense.
Barcelona reached the quarter-finals of last season’s Europa League after dropping into the second-tier competition, eliminating Napoli and Galatasaray before falling to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
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Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has confessed that he was pressured to leave the club this summer by president Joan Laporta.
One of the club’s top earners, De Jong was high on Manchester United’s wish list this summer but was adamant he did not want to leave Camp Nou, not least without being paid the significant deferred wages he was due from the club.
Publicly, Laporta claimed he wanted De Jong to stay but repeatedly argued that the Dutchman would need to agree to a pay cut if he wanted to do so. By the time the window closed, De Jong remained at Barcelona on the same contract as before.
Speaking to Ziggo Sport, De Jong reflected on his treatment from Laporta.
“I was calm. I decided in May that I wanted to stay,” De Jong began. “My opinion never changed during the whole period. I remained calm. (Watch The Video)
“But then, you know, the pressure started coming. From the newspapers, from the president…from everywhere, in fact.
“But I wanted to stay at Barça, so it never bothered me.”
25-year-old De Jong, whose contract runs until 2026, has struggled for minutes at Camp Nou this season. He has made seven appearances in (Watch The Video) La Liga but just three of those have come as a starter, with head coach Xavi often preferring the pairing of Gavi and Pedri in midfield.
De Jong has only managed one start in the Champions League as well, against Victoria Plzen in the opening round of fixtures, and has instead come off the bench against both Bayern Munich and Inter.
“I knew [Xavi] would give me fewer minutes at the beginning of the season,” De Jong acknowledged. “I want to be a starter again.
“Against Bayern, I wasn’t a starter but I hope to be against Real Madrid.” (Watch The Video)
A much-changed Barcelona secured a 4-0 victory away to Cadiz on Saturday evening.
A slow first half preceded strikes from Frenkie de Jong and Robert Lewandowski, both of whom tapped home from close range to secure the victory, before a lengthy delay due a medical emergency saw play paused for almost an hour.
Medical staff managed to evacuate the supporter in question before play resumed, after which Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele added a third and fourth goal.
Barcelona looked dangerous early on and Raphinha saw a strike cannon back off the post inside the first ten minutes.
The hosts did well to hold on and even posed a threat of their own, with their high press causing a handful of nervy moments for Barcelona at the back, although they never really looked like creating anything of note and instead focused on restricting the amount of chances on offer to Xavi’s side.
Shortly before the interval, VAR chose not to intervene after Alex Balde went down in the box under duress from Ivan Alejo, leaving Xavi shaking his head as the referee blew for half time.
Cadiz were the stronger side in the early stages of the second half and Fede San Emeterio will have been frustrated not to have made more of a ball that dropped his way in the box, firing over the bar when he should have done better.
Just seconds later, Barcelona went down the other end and opened the scoring. Gavi’s cut-back was palmed into the path of De Jong, who tapped home into an empty net to put the Blaugrana ahead. Xavi celebrated by bringing Lewandowski, Dembele and Pedri off the bench. Not bad.
Unsurprisingly, Barcelona looked more fluid with those three on the field and Sergio Busquets wasn’t far off adding a second as he sent his long drive narrowly over the bar.
The second did come 25 minutes from time and the sight of Lewandowski peeling away in celebration came as little surprise. The Pole started the move and pounced on the scraps from two yards out to remove any doubt about the victory.
However, the result became meaningless in the late stages of the game as a medical emergency in the crowd paused proceedings in the 82nd minute. Players from both sides left the pitch after 20 minutes and returned once it was deemed safe to do so to play out the remaining stages.
Ansu Fati added a third before the full-time whistle, finishing off a nice move from Lewandowski, before a glorious solo goal from Dembele brought things to a close.
Barcelona player ratings vs Cadiz (4-3-3)
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Some nice play out from the back but was barely needed all game.
RB: Hector Bellerin – 5/10 – Clearly needs more time to adapt. Off the pace going forwards and offered very little at either end. Did make a solid pass for the second goal.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – His passing left a little to be desired but Araujo was as solid as ever at the back. Dealt well with Cadiz’s pressure.
CB: Gerard Pique – 7/10 – Did well on his first league appearance of the season. Had plenty of fans enjoying his performance through gritted teeth.
LB: Alejandro Balde – 7/10 – Got forwards wherever possible and had to do twice as much attacking as normal to make up for Torres’ disappearing act in the first half.
DM: Sergio Busquets – 6/10 – Did his job of pulling the strings from deep without really making anything happen.
CM: Gavi – 8/10 – Just does so much at both ends of the field. Adores the dirty work and goes right down the other end to pick a pass, just as he did for the opener. A joy to watch.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – 8/10 – Played very high up to try and make things happen and did a pretty decent job of it. Nice movement for the opener.
RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – Can’t fault his effort but Raphinha struggled to break down Cadiz’s stubborn defence. Nice play for De Jong’s opener.
ST: Memphis Depay – 5/10 – Dropped deep to try and help the build-up but inadvertedly left Barcelona without a focal point.
LW: Ferran Torres – 4/10 – Clearly tried hard but everything he did seemed to go wrong. Couldn’t figure out when to keep the ball and when to pass.
SUB: Pedri (57′ for Gavi) – 7/10 – Some great touches and vision.
SUB: Ousmane Dembele (57′ for Torres) – 8/10 – Instantly made a difference with his agility and dribbling. Stepped things up a level. Glorious goal.
SUB: Robert Lewandowski (57′ for Memphis) – 8/10 – Offered the focal point that his side were looking for. Unsurprisingly got his goal just moments after coming on.
SUB: Ansu Fati (72′ for Raphinha) – 6/10 – Had one excellent dribble and a routine goal to score.
SUB: Marcos Alonso (78′ for Balde) – N/A
Manager: Xavi – 5/10 – Rested his top players but changed nothing to his system and that made for tough watching at times. His only tactical adjustment was bringing on his best players.
Antoine Griezmann has accepted that he’s limited to playing 30 minutes a match this season due to Atletico Madrid wanting to avoid triggering a clause that would force them to pay Barcelona €40m.
The Frenchman has come off the bench around 30 minutes before the end of every match so far this season, and that’s not a coincidence.
If he plays any more than that, a clause would be triggered that would force Atletico Madrid to pay Barcelona, his parent club, €40m to sign him permanently. They don’t want to do so as he’ll be available to sign on a free transfer come the end of the season.
As a result, he’s likely to be starting matches on the bench until then. Nevertheless, he’s still managing to make an impact, scoring two late winners recently, and has come to terms with his situation
“It is what it is, it’s out of my hands,” he told the press after scoring the winner against Porto in their Champions League opener.
“[I’m] grateful to God for being here. My family is happy, I of course want more, but I am going to give everything I have in the minutes I have.”
“I feel like a man of the club, I am happy here and I only want to play here and give everything for the club, for Cholo and for the fans.”
Diego Simeone danced around a question about the matter himself, not confirming the reason why Griezmann is coming off the bench at the same time in every match.
“We can see the reality and it is that in 30 minutes he is doing very well. We don’t know in 60. We look at realities,” said the manager
Barcelona were inspired to a 5-1 win over Viktoria Plzen on Champions League matchday one by a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick on his first European appearance for the club.
Lewandowski scored 33 Champions League goals for Bayern Munich in the last three seasons alone – including 13 in 2021/22 – and picked up exactly where he left off in his new colours.
But it was actually another new arrival who got the ball rolling at Camp Nou. Franck Kessie connected with his head to nod in Jules Kounde’s header back across goal from a deep in-swinging Ousmane Dembele corner just 13 minutes.
Lewandowski got in on the action around 20 minutes later. Sergi Roberto played him the ball and he just stroked it into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Plzen actually threatened to get back into the game on the stroke of half-time, halving the deficit through a Jan Sykora header. But it wasn’t long at all before Lewandowski got his second of the night to restore the two-goal cushion, this time a header that all the work of Dembele on the right.
His hat-trick goal was the pick of the bunch, mimicking his first but a more spectacular version. The lay-off from Ferran Torres was perfectly weight and the veteran Pole again just stroke it into the bottom corner, this time from around 25 yards out.
The fifth and final Barça goal was another Dembele assist, a chipped through ball over the top that Torres lashed in on the turn near the penalty spot.
The result puts Barcelona top of Group C ahead of their matchday two clash with Bayern Munich next week. Before then, they travel to Cadiz in La Liga on Saturday
Robert Lewandowski has revealed the reasons behind his upcoming move from Bayern Munich to Barcelona, adding that he wants to win titles with his new side.
The Poland striker has arrived in Catalonia for a medical after both Bayern and Barça confirmed an agreement for the transfer, which is worth around €50m.
Having become one of the leading players in Europe following his extraordinary exploits in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski’s desire to leave Bayern came as a surprise to many. But he has now explained why the move to La Liga is one he could not turn down.
He told Bild: “I wanted to play in another league than the Bundesliga, I had made that decision for a long time. But I have to emphasize: It was the most difficult decision of my life. I wanted to live somewhere else, discover something new with my family. My daughter Klara will start school next year, we had to make a decision. And that decision was that it should be something new. If not now, then that would probably never have been possible. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Barcelona had problems last season. But the club has incredible potential and has made good transfers now. I think the club is on the right track – back to the top. My goal is very clear to get up there with Barça and win trophies!”
Bayern had been adamant earlier in the window that Lewandowski would not be sold and tried to dig their heels in to prevent him leaving. The exit has soured the relationship between player and club, but Lewandowski claimed everyone has got what they wanted from the deal.
On his exit, he added: “I said that both sides did things that were unnecessary. But maybe certain things had to happen for the change to be possible in the end. I think both sides are happy now. Bayern gets a lot of money, I can go to Barcelona.
“It’s been a long, difficult road, but I think that in the end we can all look each other in the eye.”
Frenkie de Jong will jet off to the United States as part of Barcelona’s squad for their pre-season tour.
Noble Reporters Media understands Manchester United have agreed a fee totalling €85m with Barca for De Jong, who does not want any deal to advance until he’s paid a substantial amount in unpaid wages.
It had been suggested that he could be left out of Barcelona’s squad for their tour of the US, but club president Joan Laporta revealed on Friday that he expected the Dutchman to be part of the travelling cohort.
And Barcelona confirmed on Saturday that De Jong had been selected by Xavi to travel across the Atlantic. They will face Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and the New York Red Bulls before returning to Europe.
De Jong will be joined by new signings Raphinha – who was unveiled as a Barca player on Friday – Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen in the US, while Ousmane Dembele is also travelling after re-committing to the Blaugrana
Barcelona are hoping to complete the signing of Robert Lewandowski by Monday with a view to him joining his new teammates in the US.
Meanwhile, Manchester United are currently on a tour of Asia and Australia. They have asked new signing Christian Eriksen and the incoming Lisandro Martinez to remain in England due to the unnecessary amount of time it would take for them to join up with the squad for a few training sessions.
Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer has confirmed that the club have reached an agreement to sell striker Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona.
The Polish striker has already said his goodbyes to his Bayern teammates and Noble Reporters Media understands that Barcelona are looking to get the transfer over the line in the coming days, having spent months negotiating the terms of a €50m deal.
Despite a long-standing insistence that Lewandowski would not be sold this summer, Hainer has now publicly confirmed that the 33-year-old is heading to Camp Nou.
“We have a verbal commitment from Barcelona,” Hainer said. “It’s good for both sides that we have clarity.
“Robert is a very deserving player, he has won everything with us. We are incredibly grateful to him.”
Lewandowski’s agent, Pini Zahavi, has also confirmed the agreement in an interview with Sky Sport Germany.
“I would like to thank FC Bayern – and especially Oliver and Hasan – for ultimately understanding and respecting Robert’s dream of a new challenge in his career,” he said.
“Mateu Alemany, Hasan Salihamidzic and I were on the phone non-stop on Friday until midnight to find a good solution for all parties. In the end, I think everyone emerges as a winner from this story.
“Robert deserves to take on a new challenge with his head held high after so many great years and loyal service to FC Bayern Munich. And Bayern received very good financial compensation.
“This great club will always be one of the biggest in the world and I wish them the best of luck and success for the next season.”
Bayern have already brought in Sadio Mane from Liverpool to bolster their attack but will not be pursuing a deal for Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, after sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic dismissed the idea of such a move.
Lewandowski is now set to become Barcelona’s fourth signing of the summer, following Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha all putting pen to paper with the La Liga giants
Chelsea are quietly confident of capitalising on the uncertainty surrounding Ousmane Dembele’s future by striking an agreement to take him to Stamford Bridge, Noble Reporters Media understands.
The Barcelona winger’s contract expires at the end of June. He was put up for sale in January with talks over a new deal at an impasse due to his wage demands, but ultimately stayed at Camp Nou for the second half of the season.
Negotiations have resumed in the months since and Noble Reporters Media understands Barcelona have come closer to matching Dembele’s lofty aspirations, although they are still not confident he will put pen to paper. Club president Joan Laporta has even been forced to set a deadline for the player to make his decision.
Paris Saint-Germain have also tabled an offer for the France international, but upheaval behind the scenes at Parc des Princes could see them turn their attentions elsewhere. PSG’s proposal came under sporting director Leonardo, but he is expected to be sacked and replaced by the renowned Luis Campos – who is not among Dembele’s admirers.
That could give Chelsea a straight run at the soon-to-be free agent, and there is a quiet confidence that they can get their man now that the club’s takeover is nearing completion.
90min previously revealed that the Blues planned to resume talks with the Frenchman once Todd Boehly was officially installed as their new owner. Head coach Thomas Tuchel wants to strengthen in a number of areas, including in attack, where Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech’s futures are uncertain.
Dembele is also believed to be keen on moving to London.
However, sources have told 90min that Bayern Munich could complicate matters. Die Roten have held talks with Dembele’s representatives since their own contract discussions with wide man Serge Gnabry stalled.
Dembele is now preparing to enter the final month of his Barcelona contract with his future no closer to being resolved, and his agent Moussa Sissoko has confirmed his client ‘remains open’ to all possibilities.
“Ousmane’s future remains open and we are not going to enter into endless speculation,” Sissoko told Goal.
“When the time is right, Ousmane will take the best option. We are and have always been very respectful of all the clubs and we will continue in the same way as long as the process continues.
“When the time is right to make a decision, Ousmane will consider what is the best option for his future.”
Chelsea’s prospective new owners remain keen to sign Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona this summer and plan to reopen talks with the Frenchman if he is still available after their takeover is completed, 90min understands.
The Blues were leading the chase to sign Dembele on a free transfer this summer once his Camp Nou contract expires, but the sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich have forbidden them from negotiating any player transfers, leaving them unable to make an offer to the 25-year-old.
American Todd Boehly is confident that his group are close to finalising their takeover and is keen to get to work updating the squad, and one of their most pressing concerns is landing Dembele on a free.
Both Chelsea and PSG made bids in January to sign him from Barcelona, but a deal was not forthcoming as the player was happy to wait until the end of the season.
Camp Nou officials were prepared to push Dembele out of the door back then as they were frustrated with his refusal to accept a wage drop in a new contract. Talks have continued since then, but president Joan Laporta has confessed that they are struggling to match the sort of money Dembele has been offered from elsewhere.
Chelsea will try and push ahead with official talks once their takeover is confirmed and sources have told 90min they are hopeful that Stamford Bridge is Dembele’s preferred destination, but they remain unable to make an offer and instead have to watch on as other sides push ahead.
PSG’s offer remains on the table and 90min can confirm that Bayern Munich have opened their own talks with Dembele’s entourage in the hope of bringing him back for a second spell in the Bundesliga.
Listen now to 90min’s brand new podcast, Talking Transfers, with Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey& Toby Cudworth. This week they discuss Man Utd’s plans for Cristiano Ronaldo under Erik ten Hag, plus what his stay could mean for United’s transfer plans. There’s talk on Kylian Mbappe’s impending move to Real Madrid, Robert Lewandowski leaving Bayern, Raphinha to Barcelona and Steven Gerrard targeting Luis Suarez.
It was Dembele’s form with German rivals Borussia Dortmund that earned him his blockbuster move to Barcelona in 2017, but injuries have prevented him from reaching those same heights.
The winger has excelled under new Barcelona boss Xavi and currently sits on 13 assists from 20 La Liga appearances this year, but the presence of the former midfielder in the dugout does not appear enough to convince Dembele to stay.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confessed that his side’s defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final has brought back memories of Barcelona’s loss to Chelsea at that stage in 2012.
City were on top for the vast majority of the two-legged tie and were just seconds away from a 5-3 aggregate victory, only for two late goals from Rodrygo to send the tie to extra-time, where Karim Benzema struck from the penalty spot to secure a final berth for Los Blancos.
It was a similar story back in 2012 when Guardiola’s Barcelona were clearly the stronger side but came undone against Chelsea, who snatched a 1-0 win in the first leg before a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou sent Roberto Di Matteo’s men through to the final.
“I’ve always had defeats in the Champions League, I’ve had defeats so tough,” Guardiola said post-match in Madrid. “Barcelona against Chelsea, when both games were exceptional and we could not reach the final.
“It’s tough for us, we cannot deny. We were so close to arrive at a Champions League final.”
Guardiola insisted that his side buckled under the pressure of the occasion and admitted things did not go to plan for City.
“We didn’t play good in the first half, we didn’t find out game, but that’s normal. In this competition, it’s normal,” he continued.
“The second half was much better…much, much better. After the goal, we controlled the game. Jack [Grealish] helped us to control the game, but unfortunately we could not finish when we were close.”
Barcelona will take their time in reintroducing Pedri into the first team after another injury setback has meant that he is unlikely to play again this season.
The 19-year-old has emerged as a key player for the Blaurgana since his 2020 move from Las Palmas, but his time at Camp Nou has been blighted by fitness problems.
Pedri’s latest injury came in Barcelona’s Europa League quarter-final defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, coming off with a hamstring issue and missing the following four games since.
Mundo Deportivo report that the midfielder will not play at club level again this season and Barça do not want to rush him back. They recognise that Pedri is in need of rest after playing 52 times during his debut season in Catalonia before featuring for Spain at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics.
Barcelona’s medical staff and fitness coaches are working on a plan to ensure that Pedri can leave his injury woes in the past once he makes his return from this current ailment.
While Barça don’t want Pedri to return to the pitch until pre-season, there’s still a chance that he could feature for Spain in June’s Nations League fixtures.
Stefanos Tsitsipas couldn’t find his typical adrenaline when he took the court Thursday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
One could understand why, given the starts and stops he, his opponent Ivan Ivashka and the rest of the scheduled competitors endured after persistent rain prevented matches from getting on throughout the morning, afternoon and evening at the ATP 500 event.
“I felt my mind was not really in that kind of fight or flight instinct on the court,” he said late Thursday in press.
Additional elements of surprise soon came the way of Tsitsipas and Ivashka. The two were moved from Pista Rafa Nadal to Pista Jan Kodes with the goal of getting their second-round match completed if a dry window transpired. With the exception of Grigor Dimitrov, who squeezed in three games during the afternoon to complete his opening win, all other third-round players had been confirmed the day prior.
The relocation didn’t sit well with ticket holders of the main stadium court. Two points into the resumed encounter, which began around 7:30 p.m. with Tsitsipas leading 5-1, protesting fans caused play to be suspended once again.
“The rules of the tournament are that if there is 60 minutes of match play it is not obliged to return the cost of the tickets,” a statement from organizers read.
Avoiding complete chaos, the event opted to provide refunds to those impacted. Tsitsipas and Ivashka finally had their chance to compete without further disruption when crowd energy shifted to the match’s unfolding.
With one other contest on court, a doubles clash that Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez would take, 13-11 in a match tiebreak over incoming Monte Carlo champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, everyone wanted their chance to simply watch tennis.
Fans packed every potential viewing point. All corners were filled, as patrons late to the game stood on benches to follow the action. On the stadium court, the closest bleacher staircase and top row were lined with people taking in an alternative perspective.
Ivashka fought well, breaking Tsitsipas at the end of the second set to force a decider as a rainbow lit up the sky. But unlike Ram and Salisbury, Tsitsipas, coming off a successful Monte Carlo title defense, discovered the proverbial pot of gold. Regrouping in the cold weather, the world No. 5 marched on, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, to maintain his winning ways.
“It feels like I’ve been here for a week, to be honest with you,” said Tsitsipas. “It was a great relief to be out on the court and play some tennis until the fans started shouting again. But glad we were able to pull it through. Everything was created very well from my side and I was able to top it off with a good win at the end.”
Tsitsipas had mixed feelings about the protesters. Stating they “deserved to watch some tennis”, the 23-year-old was undecided on whether their actions were immature. As for the change in environment, he confessed the challenge of switching venues only added to the difficulty of the dreary day. From his vantage point, the two courts had varying speeds and he expected Ivashka to use the time from when they walked off Wednesday until their recommencement Thursday night to his advantage.
“I had no time today to warm up at all, to hit tennis balls. My first time was on court right before the match starts. It’s unusual. You don’t really get to be faced with those kinds of situations very often when you’re on the tour,” he said.
“I was trying to stay calm, take this one at a time. There isn’t much you can do, no one you can really blame for that. Weather is weather. You just have to deal with the circumstances.”
In 2021, Tsitsipas nearly backed up his Monte Carlo triumph at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona-1899 when he held match point on Rafael Nadal in a gripping final. The lefty would prevail, 7-5 in the third, but is not here this week, needing more time to recover from a rib injury.
Tsitsipas could take on a different Spaniard in the quarterfinals, if he and Carlos Alcaraz both advance. Alcaraz has won both of their meetings, on hard courts, but should they face off, it’ll be in a double-duty situation. The third round and quarterfinals are both scheduled for Friday, weather permitting of course.
Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique has admitted he played a part in taking the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia but insisted that he did nothing wrong by doing so.
Leaked conversations between Pique and Spanish FA (RFEF) chairman Luis Rubiales detailed how the Barcelona man, acting on behalf of his investment firm Kosmos, brokered a deal to sell the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia, with Pique’s group earning €4m per tournament until the deal ends in 2026.
On top of moving the cup from Spain to Saudi Arabia, the RFEF also changed its format. A ‘final four’ concept was introduced, with teams playing a semi-final and final to take home the trophy, which used to be contested between the winners of La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
“I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal,” Pique explained on Twitch. “I will give my side of the story in terms of the conflict of interest. It’s not something I will hide from, I feel proud because we have done a spectacular job.
“We [Kosmos] have good links with the Middle East, not just in Saudi Arabia. They wanted to take football competitions there and, seeing the panoramic, we opted to speak with Rubiales to see if he could be interested in taking the Supercopa there.
“He liked the idea, and now people are super hooked on the [new format] of the competition. Once accepted, we signed a mandate to explore options. Saudi Arabia wasn’t the only one, we spoke with Miami, (the RFEF) had an offer from Qatar.”
Pique stressed that the money given to the RFEF, understood to be around €40m per year, would be divided between the four teams involved as well as invested in all tiers of Spanish football.
The Barcelona centre-back also claimed that his 10% commission fee is relatively low for these kinds of deals and denied any suggestions that it may have been immoral or illegal for him to negotiate while still being involved with one of the club’s involved.
“[The audio was] leaked with bad intentions and making news of something which two years ago was not news,” he added. “The only illegal thing is leaking the audios.”
Barcelona manager Xavi urged his side to take a long look at themselves and work out how they could lose 1-0 to relegation candidates Cadiz at home on Monday.
The Blaugrana dominated possession and were far superior on the stats sheet, but they could not find a way through the stubborn Cadiz defence and ended up losing to a goal from one-time target Lucas Perez shortly after half-time.
The result leaves Barcelona second in La Liga but level on points with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid below them, although Xavi’s men still have one game in hand over their rivals.
After the game, Xavi admitted losing against Cadiz was a huge blow to his side’s top four aspirations and questioned how a team with Barcelona’s quality could fail to win a game like this.
“I’m angry,” he began. “We have missed a very good opportunity, a golden one, to move ahead of the other Champions League hopefuls and we’ve pretty much said goodbye to winning La Liga. I am angry.
“We have to play with more determination. We have to do more. I am the most responsible, but I am angry because we’re playing for qualification for the Champions League here. We should have shown more enthusiasm.
“We’re improving, but we want to do more, be fighting for titles. We all have to improve. We have to look each other in the eyes and ask where the desire was. A team such as our cannot be losing to Cadiz. At home, we have to show more desire and character.
“Everything worries me. We have to stay humble, we haven’t achieved anything yet. There has been a change in the model, but we have to improve. We have to play with more impetus. We have to score chances, and it’s essential to get ahead on the scoresheet. We have to improve.”
The defeat was Xavi’s first in La Liga since December last year, but came just days after they lost at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarter-finals
“We had a good run, but in the last two or three games, we haven’t been ourselves,” Xavi said. “We have to show more personality, win more duels… we just have to be better.
“There are seven finals left. We have to be self-critical and own our mistakes to improve from them.”
Barcelona are ready to offload a number of first-team players this summer and negotiate salary reductions with some of those that stay in order to bolster their finances.
Despite being in well-documented financial issues, Barcelona remain adamant that they can compete in the battle to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, while Mohamed Salah has regularly been tipped as a potential Plan B if his contract talks with Liverpool continue to drag on.
Both deals would be hugely expensive, so in anticipation for a costly summer, Marca note that more salary reductions will have to be on the cards.
Talks are already being planned with Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, all of whom will be urged to reduce or defer their salaries next season.
Barcelona plan to use a similar strategy to that of Samuel Umtiti, who was handed a new four-year contract in January which spread out the money he was set to earn on his previous deal, which had just 18 months to run at the time.
Umtiti, however, could still be shown the exit door this summer as AS note he is one of a handful of players who have been told they are free to leave at the end of the season.
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Alongside the Frenchman, Barcelona are looking to part ways with Neto, Sergi Roberto, Clement Lenglet, Oscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig, Martin Braithwaite and Luuk de Jong.
Final decisions also need to be made on Dani Alves, whose contract expires in the summer but is expected to sign a short-term extension, and Wolves loanee Adama Traore, who is only expected to join permanently if Francisco Trincao moves in the opposite direction.
Memphis Depay also wants guarantees on his minutes, with a number of sides across Europe circling if he does not get them. The Dutchman has recently been linked with Tottenham.
Despite Laporta’s wish to keep things a secret, there’s no doubt over who he is talking about. 90min has confirmed that the midfielder in question is AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, who snubbed a move to Tottenham to head to Camp Nou instead.
The centre-back, meanwhile, is Andreas Christensen of Chelsea. The Dane, who was at one point close to a contract extension at Stamford Bridge, has decided to up sticks and head for Spain at the end of the season.
If Laporta gets his way, Barcelona won’t be done there either. They have offered a contract to Ajax right-back Noussair Mazraoui and hope to get that over the line, but Bayern Munich have joined the race for his signature and are threatening to derail the Catalan move.
The German giants are even understood to have offered superior financial terms to the 24-year-old, with Barcelona unable to come much higher from their original offer.
There are also plans to sign another Chelsea man, Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spaniard is also out of contract in the summer but does have a one-year extension clause in his current deal, but before their takeover began, they were reluctant to trigger it out of respect for their long-serving captain.
However, with new ownership soon arriving at Stamford Bridge, it is not clear what the future holds for Azpilicueta, who has refused to discuss his contract situation publicly.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revealed that the club are looking to bring in four or five players this summer, but insisted that they will not make any signings that would ‘put the institution at risk’.
The Blaugrana have seemingly been linked with every single footballer in the world over the course of the past few weeks, with most media outlets clearly forgetting that the club announced that it was ‘technically bankrupt’ in October having amassed debts of over £1.2bn.
Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe are the biggest name players who have been linked recently, but in an interview with Mundo Derportivo, Laporta hinted that financial restrictions may mean moves for these players are not possible.
“We are working so that the salary limit that we have, which according to La Liga is negative in a significant amount, to reverse it in order to incorporate players that reinforce the team,” he said. “We are doing it in parallel, working on the financial issue and obtaining more resources to have the salary margin we need.
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“At the same time we are working from the sports management to incorporate four or five reinforcements that we think the team needs to be increasingly competitive.
“We will not carry out any operation that puts the institution at risk. It has been a maxim that we have followed since we became president again.”
Laporta continued: “We are going to continue with this philosophy and this criterion, not to put the institution at risk with operations that, not even if we were already healthy, we would. So, you can talk about players, about big-money operations in which Barça is not going to lose its head.
Laporta also hinted that, if a marquee player wants to come to Barcelona, he will need to make some financial sacrifices in order to make any move feasible.
“Most of the players want to come to Barça, they like the club, the team, our philosophy, our way of working, of understanding football,” he said. “And this is good, we are verifying it in many cases and daily.
“They will have to adapt to Barça’s salary levels and to an economic structure of the operation that maintains the sustainability and balance of the club.”
Barcelona came from behind to beat Real Madrid in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final tie, with impressive substitute Claudia Pina eventually securing the narrow win on what was a difficult night for the newly re-crowned Spanish champions.
Olga Carmona had given Real a deserved lead in the early stages, but the game hinged on a controversially-awarded penalty scored by Alexia Putellas early in the second half. From there, Pina went on to put Barcelona ahead, before Putellas sealed a flattering 3-1 win.
Real started incredibly brightly, pressing the reigning European champions with relentless intensity. Unusually, Barça couldn’t handle the pace of the game and the likes of Putellas, Aitana Bonmati and Patri Guijarro were way short of their normal level.
Although underdogs, the early opener was completely with the run of the play. Pressure in midfield forced Putellas into a misplaced pass that allowed Esther Gonzalez to drive at the back four and play in the advancing Carmona to finish in acres of space.
Going behind didn’t jolt Barcelona into life. Instead, Real continued as they had started, frustrating their illustrious opponents and denying them the chance to play their own game. The hosts even had a chance to double their when Gonzalez cracked the outside of the post late in the first half.
Another Gonzalez chance before the interval, racing onto a long pass, was saved by Sandra Panos.
Real were made to pay for that soon after half-time when a coming together between Carmona and Caroline Graham Hansen resulted in a theatrical fall from the latter and a lengthy pause while it was subject to a VAR review. The referee pointed to the spot and Putellas converted emphatically.
Pina could even have given the visitors the lead but fired over from inside the penalty area. At the other end, Gonzalez also narrowly missed the target.
Following the equaliser, it was clear that the relentless intensity of their performance was taking its toll on a tiring Real side. Barcelona were still nothing like at their best, but the gaps started to open up. Pina fired home with a low drive as the ball fell to her in the penalty area, before Putellas then clipped the ball over Madrid goalkeeper Misa in the final moments.
Real Madrid player ratings
Goalkeeper & defenders Misa (GK) – 6/10 – Made a couple of good stops but could do little about any of the three goals.
Lucia Rodriguez (RB) – 6/10 – Held her own on that side of the pitch.
Babett Peter (CB) – 7/10 – Made a few important interventions. Led with experience and by example.
Rocio Galvez (CB) – 6/10 – Withdrawn for fresh legs with 25 minutes remaining. Had done well to keep Barcelona under wraps.
Sofie Svava (LB) – 6/10 – Performed with a lot of energy up and down her flank and kept Hansen largely stifled. Sadly lost a 50/50 challenges seconds before Barcelona took the lead.
Midfielders Teresa Abelleira (CM) – 9/10 – Pressed and chased to completely limit what Barcelona were able to do in open play for most of the game.
Claudia Zornoza (CM) – 8/10 – Timely tackles and interventions ensured Real remained competitive until the closing stages.
Maite Oroz (AM) – 8/10 – So good in and out of possession and seemed to be everywhere. Perhaps faded as the intensity took its toll.
Forwards Athenea del Castillo (RW) – 7/10 – Her pace and direct running caused all kinds of problems for Barcelona.
Esther Gonzalez (ST) – 8/10 – Terrorised the Barcelona defence but was left to rue two missed chances in the first half – including one that hit the post.
Olga Carmona (LW) – 8/10 – Kept her cool to fire Real into an early lead amid surprising amounts of both space and time. Harshly penalised for the penalty and looked utterly dumbfounded by the decision to award it.
Substitutes Ivana Andres (CB) – 5/10
Caroline Moller (RW) – 5/10
Nahikari Garcia (LW) – 5/10
Kenti Robles (RB) – 5/10
Barcelona player ratings
Goalkeeper & defenders Sandra Panos (GK) – 7/10 – Had to make an important save from Gonzalez to stop her team going 2-0 down.
Marta Torrejon (RB) – 4/10 – Given a rough time by Carmona, with her positioning particularly dubious for the early goal.
Andrea Pereira (CB) – 4/10 – Really struggled with the movement of Carmona and Gonzalez when Real were in the ascendancy.
Mapi Leon (CB) – 5/10 – Didn’t seem to get exposed in the quite the same way as her fellow defenders in the first half. More comfortable afterwards.
Leila Ouahabi (LB) – 3/10 – Forced to take a yellow card for a cynical foul on Del Castillo to prevent a counter attack. Had a torrid first half and was withdrawn at the break.
Midfielders Aitana Bonmati (CM) – 5/10 – Frustration showed half an hour in when she cleaned out Carmona and was yellow carded. Improved as Real tired.
Patri Guijarro (CM) – 5/10 – Really struggled to gain a foothold and exert her usual level of control on the game.
Alexia Putellas (CM) – 6/10 – An unusually slack pass led to the breakthrough goal. Way off her game overall but scored from the penalty spot and capitalised when Real were tiring late on.
Forwards Caroline Graham Hansen (RW) – 5/10 – Way too quiet early on. Won a soft penalty after a VAR review soon after half-time with an over the top fall.
Jenni Hermoso (ST) – 5/10 – Lacked real service and a scuffed shot towards the end of the game summed up her night.
Fridolina Rolfo (LW) – 6/10 – Didn’t do enough to make an impact in the first half. A reshuffle then pushed her into a deeper left-back role in the second and actually proved to be more effective.
Substitutes Claudia Pina (LW) – 8/10 – Made a noticeable difference after coming on at half-time. had the energy that her teammates had lacked without her and scored a well-taken winner.
Barcelona remain keen on England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling, who 90min understands is considering his long-term options.
The 27-year-old has less than 18 months left on his current deal and City first engaged with him last summer over a contract extension.
After an excellent Euro 2020, Sterling struggled to make his club side’s starting line-up, but he soon fought his way back into Pep Guardiola’s plans.
Guardiola has not hidden his desire to keep the forward, though the former Liverpool man has not made a decision over his long-term future. Sterling is looking at possible avenues he may take should he leave, but 90min has been told than he is also considering penning fresh terms with City.
The main interest in his services has come from Catalunya, with Barcelona making moves for both Sterling and then-teammate Ferran Torres in January.
Noble Reporters Media revealed in November that Sterling made it known to City that he would like the chance to move to Camp Nou. City then allowed Torres to leave, but rebuffed their offers for Sterling.
Despite this initial failure, La Blaugrana remain interested in a deal and they are paying close attention to the ongoing contract talks.
If Sterling was to reject City’s proposals, the club would have a big decision to make as the England international could sign a pre-contract with an overseas club in January.
With Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus in similar contractual situations, City’s hierarchy are aware that some big decisions are due to be made, and talks with all three players are taking place.
Internally, the Cityzens don’t see an issue with Mahrez agreeing fresh terms, but the futures of Sterling and Jesus are still at a delicate stage. The club would be reluctant to allow any player of significant value to depart on a free transfer.
PSV Eindhoven winger Cody Gakpo has a gentlemen’s agreement with his club that could allow him to leave this summer, with Liverpool and Barcelona among those to step up their interest.
The 22-year-old, who has racked up 16 goals and 15 assists in all competitions this season, signed a new contract with PSV back in January but is still expected to leave the club at the end of the campaign.
The Athletic note that there is no release clause in Gakpo’s new contract, but as part of the negotiations, the Dutchman secured a gentlemen’s agreement that will see PSV co-operate with a transfer if a suitable offer arrives.
There have been no formal negotiations between PSV and any other clubs, but serious internal discussions have been held at Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, all of whom are considering making a move in the summer.
The Women’s Champions League group stage attracted over 14 million views in more than 210 countries and territories around the world thanks to DAZN’s ground-breaking coverage this season.
Coinciding with the launch of the group stage this season, DAZN’s free and easily accessible coverage on YouTube has provided a level of consistent coverage that has never before been seen in the history of the competition.
In addition to YouTube, there were also millions of streams on DAZN’s own online platform.
48 group games were collectively broadcast in 11 different languages. France was the country with most DAZN YouTube views, followed by the UK, Spain, Germany, the United States and Italy. Barcelona vs Arsenal on matchday one was the single most viewed match.
Prior to this season, Champions League coverage was sparse, meaning that the best players in the world didn’t have a platform to be seen.
“Finally, our fans, friends, and family have all been able to follow the entire competition, no matter where they live, all season long,” Lyon superstar Ada Hegerberg said. “That’s been game-changing and it’s fantastic to see the numbers going up and viewership grow.”
Visibility has been the main driver behind the incredible numbers and that only stands to grow now that the Champions League has reached the knockout stages.
Barcelona are hosting Real Madrid at Camp Nou for the second leg of their quarter-final tie later this month and the sell-out contest is expected to break the all-time attendance record for a women’s club match. But plenty more eyes will be on the huge game around the world.
Barça will travel to Madrid for the first leg on Tuesday night, with Bayern Munich to host Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the evening. On Wednesday, Juventus host Lyon, before Arsenal face Wolfsburg at the Emirates Stadium.
All of the additional DAZN content this season, including interviews, analysis, history and highlights, has helped package the Champions League as an incredible overall product for fans to consume and engage with beyond matches alone.
Barcelona vice president Rafa Yuste has admitted that completing a deal for Erling Haaland this summer will be ‘very, very difficult’.
Haaland’s incredible rise has continued this season despite several injury blows with the striker averaging a goal per game in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund.
He is widely expected to leave BVB this summer when a €75m (£63m) release clause in his contract kicks in, although reports in Germany did recently report that interested clubs would need to trigger this option before the end of April.
Noble Reporters Media understands that there are several sides in the running to sign Haaland with Real Madrid and Man City the current frontrunners. However, Bayern Munich remain interested too with Robert Lewandowski’s future far from certain.
Another potential destination is Barcelona. The club are in the midst of a squad rebuild and would love to have Haaland on board – but there remain doubts over how they would finance a deal.
Vice president Yuste has done little to dispel this uncertainty in a recent interview either.
“I can’t say that the deal is off as you never know in football – but it’s very, very difficult,” he told Marca.
“We won’t proceed with any deal that would create problems to our financial situation.”
Although the Haaland transfer looks increasingly unlikely, Barça will definitely have a few new faces in their squad next season. Noble Reporters Media understands the Blaugrana are hoping to announce the free transfers of Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie and Noussair Mazraoui this month, while a deal for Cesar Azpilicueta is also on the cards.