Barcelona boss Quique Setien says he likes "all good players" amid links of a move for Valencia striker Rodrigo.

The LaLiga leaders are in the market for a new striker after Luis Suarez was ruled out for the majority of the campaign following surgery on his knee.

Barca have been linked with numerous players since Suarez went under the knife on January 11, including Chimy Avila, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Timo Werner.

Rodrigo is another rumoured target and Setien waxed lyrical over the Spain international, who has been nursing a knee injury of his own over the past few weeks.

Asked specifically about Rodrigo at his pre-match news conference ahead of this weekend's league clash with Valencia at Mestalla, Setien said: "I like all good players.

"He's an extraordinary footballer and tomorrow he could give us problems - he is a key player for their team.

"I would have preferred if he wasn't playing, but we know that if he's not there then there is another player. Valencia have a great squad with or without Rodrigo."

Setien was appointed as Ernesto Valverde's successor last week and has won his first two games in charge, including a 2-1 Copa del Rey victory against Ibiza in midweek.

Barca were given a real scare by the minnows, requiring a last-minute goal from Antoine Griezmann to secure a comeback victory and a last-16 tie against Leganes.

And after dominating the possession count in the wins over Granada and Ibiza, Setien admitted it would have counted for little had his side not picked up the victories.

"I had a huge shock in Ibiza," he said. "I am not going to lie, this is clear. We have to stress a lot the things that we give high importance to. In theory, this shouldn't take us long.

"But in general I already know that lots of people only care about results. Those will only care to win, not how we play. This is like this in today's football and its fine to me.

"I believe that the way [you play] should be valued too, how you get to the victory or how you lose. That seems like the right way to look at things, even though I can understand that some people only care about the results."

Barca are level on points with Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga ahead of their meeting with Valencia, who are seventh in the table after losing 4-1 at Real Mallorca last time out in the league.

Setien is wary of a response from Albert Celades' side, however, adding: "When a team like Valencia loses their previous match, the desire to break this streak is a motivation. As I always say and repeat, I always expect the best version of our rivals. 

"Valencia is a great team, without doubt, with very good footballers. They will make things difficult for us and it will be truly a match of great level. 

"Our capacity to harm them might be bigger because they are a team with capacity to attack. Surely they will try so we will take the most of those spaces. We will probably have more spaces than in the previous two matches."

Mikel Arteta described his confidence in Arsenal signing new players this month as "50-50", but he appears confident Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not about to leave the club.

Calum Chambers has suffered a serious injury, while Arsenal will now also be without David Luiz through suspension after a red card at Chelsea, leaving Arteta short on defenders.

The Gunners have been linked with Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykola Matvienko and Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, although Arteta would not comment on specific names ahead of the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth.

The head coach acknowledged Arsenal have been looking at defenders, but he was unsure if there would be any January arrivals.

"I'm not going to be discussing any transfer links publicly," he told a news conference. "It's something that we are trying to do internally and, when we have news, we will communicate with you guys.

"We've been looking at different positions. Obviously, since I joined, we lost Calum and we had other circumstances and injuries in those positions, so it's true that, at the back, we've been short.

"But there are other positions as well, depending on what happens in the market, that we might need to assess.

"At the moment, I am 50-50, because this transfer window is very, very complicated. I only want to bring somebody in if I'm really convinced that he can really improve the level that we have."

One move Arteta is keen not to see go through, though, both this month and beyond, is Aubameyang to Barcelona, amid reported interest from the LaLiga giants.

Suggestions in the Spanish media this week said Aubameyang was open to the transfer, but that is not Arteta's understanding.

"As far as I know, a week ago, after a game at home, we were discussing that he said he was so happy," Arteta said.

"He didn't agree with the things that were written in the media and [said] he has his future here. That's what I understand at the moment."

Dani Ceballos' future appears less clear, the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder having been linked with a return to LaLiga after struggling to establish himself at Emirates Stadium and contending with injury.

"I had a conversation with Dani," Arteta said. "When I joined the club, he wasn't here, he was in Madrid because he was doing his rehab - for over a month - in Madrid with the team that owns him.

"And then, when I came here, he was doing his rehab and, by the first two or three weeks, he was getting back to fitness and I haven't seen much of him because he's only trained with us for a week or 10 days.

"So it's very early to assess what I can or cannot do with him. I heard about all those things but I have nothing to comment.

"He needs to get back to fitness and fight for his place. After that, we will make the selection that I think is fair with what I see on the pitch."

Real Madrid must again overcome lower-league opposition in the Copa del Rey last 16, while holders Valencia go to giant-killers Cultural Leonesa.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid survived a scare against Unionistas de Salamanca in the previous round, and they will this time visit Real Zaragoza, who are fourth in LaLiga 2.

Barcelona were also tested by minnows in the previous round, scraping past Ibiza, but they have the benefit of a home fixture as they bid to reach the quarter-finals.

With LaLiga sides kept apart where possible, the Blaugrana were selected in one of just two ties solely involving top-tier teams.

They will face Leganes at Camp Nou while the majority of their LaLiga rivals are away from home.

Segunda B side Cultural defeated Atletico Madrid in extra-time on Thursday, and their reward is a meeting with Valencia, who beat Barca in last season's final.

Badajoz, the only other third-tier side remaining in the competition, also have LaLiga opposition in the form of Granada.

The second all-LaLiga tie saw Real Sociedad drawn at home to Osasuna.


Copa del Rey last-16 draw in full:

Badajoz v Granada
Cultural Leonesa v Valencia
Tenerife v Athletic Bilbao
Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid
Mirandes v Sevilla
Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal
Barcelona v Leganes
Real Sociedad v Osasuna

The Christian Eriksen saga could reach an end point as soon as Monday.

Reports in Italy indicate the midfielder's move to Inter is all but complete and a medical has been scheduled.

Eriksen's uncertain future has troubled Tottenham since well before Mauricio Pochettino's departure, with the Denmark international due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – ERIKSEN DEAL AGREED

Eriksen, 27, will undergo a medical in Milan at the beginning of next week, according to various reports in Italy.

CalcioMercato claims Tottenham owner Daniel Levy has accepted an offer from Inter worth €15million (£12.6m), plus €5m (£4.2m) in add-ons.

Eriksen's new contract will reportedly run through to 2024 as the playmaker looks for a fresh start after growing stale in the Premier League.

If the move goes ahead, he will become Antonio Conte's third signing of the January transfer window after wing-backs Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could face frustration in their long-running negotiations for Bruno Fernandes, which The Sun says have "collapsed" due to Sporting CP's valuation.

- United, meanwhile, are considering a shock move to bring Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tevez, 35, back to Old Trafford, claims Tuttosport. The Red Devils are in need of attacking reinforcements after losing Marcus Rashford to injury.

- Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has given LaLiga giants Barcelona the green light to begin transfer talks, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Bayern Munich have commenced "concrete discussions" with Lyon over 19-year-old winger Yaya Soumare, reports L'Equipe. Salzburg and Bayern's Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig are also said to be interested.

- Brazilian attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta asked Stefano Pioli to be left out of Milan's match against against Brescia because he is keen to leave the club, claims CalcioMercato. Paris Saint-Germain are said to be interested.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong says tactics have not changed much since Quique Setien took over as head coach from Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde was sacked following the 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals, with Setien – an advocate of Johan Cruyff's possession-based approach – named as his successor on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 61-year-old appears to have had a prompt influence on Barca's style, the Catalans enjoying 82.4 per cent of the ball in the LaLiga win over Granada and 78 per cent in Wednesday's Copa del Rey victory in Ibiza.

Barca only managed three goals across those two games, though, suggesting they are yet to find a fluency to their attacking play – something for which Valverde was often criticised.

And De Jong says Setien has not made many alterations yet to the team's approach, telling reporters at a sponsor event on Thursday: "He doesn't ask anything concrete of me. The idea he has is the same as Valverde, the style of Barcelona possession.


"The only things that have changed are small details, but the intention is to have the ball.

"It seems like I've adapted easily, and I'm happy, but I know I can do much better. I also believe we have a lot of room to evolve as a team and we'll be better throughout the season."

De Jong signed for Barca last January but did not move until the end of the season, helping Ajax to the Eredivisie title and the Champions League semi-finals before his departure.

The Netherlands midfielder is now hoping to go further in European competition, perhaps as part of a treble.

"I want to win every trophy but, if I had to choose one, I'd choose the Champions League, although I want to lift LaLiga and the Copa del Rey," he said.

"Last year, Barcelona-Ajax would have been a beautiful final. Hopefully, I can be there this year."

Aston Villa have paid Barcelona €1million for 16-year-old English striker Louie Barry - predicting he could become "an outstanding number nine" with the club.

England Under-17 international Barry joined Barcelona from Villa's neighbours West Brom in July last year and was placed in the club's La Masia academy.

However, Barry is cutting his time short with the Camp Nou giants in favour of a chance at making the grade at Villa.

Barcelona announced in a statement: "Louie Barry is leaving FC Barcelona to join Aston Villa. The Villans will pay 1,048,000 euros to acquire the 16-year-old striker."

Barry made his debut for Barcelona's youth team in October and scored two goals in seven domestic league games, also appearing as a substitute in three UEFA Youth League matches.

Barcelona said he had demonstrated an "exemplary attitude" during his time at the club, while Villa were thrilled with their business.

Villa academy manager Mark Harrison said: "It sends a powerful message about the ambition of this football club.

"We're delighted - Louie is a local person and his family are all Villa fans, as is Louie.

"He is still a very young man but as he's developed, he's always been one player that you always recognise as having outstanding attributes."

Harrison told VillaTV: "He's got a fantastic mentality, he's desperate to do well for this football club.

"He's really driven, he's got great family support, but in terms of what he can achieve, we firmly believe that he can be an outstanding number nine for this football club."

Barcelona goalkeeper Neto could spend time on the sideline after spraining his left ankle in Wednesday's narrow Copa del Rey win over Ibiza.

Neto suffered the injury when he collided with team-mate Clement Lenglet and an Ibiza player in the 50th minute of the 2-1 victory.

The 30-year-old Brazilian was able to complete the match but will undergo testing on Thursday to determine the extent of the issue, Barca confirmed in a statement.

Neto was making his fourth appearance for the club since arriving from LaLiga rivals Valencia in the close season.

Barca needed two late Antoine Griezmann goals to avoid embarrassment against their third-tier opponents, who took a shock ninth-minute lead through a Josep Caballe deflection.

First-choice keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will almost certainly return in goal for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Valencia, with 20-year-old Inaki Pena in line to serve as deputy.

Teenager Naci Unuvar became the youngest player to score on debut for Ajax with a nerveless penalty in Wednesday's KNVB Beker thrashing of amateur side Spakenburg.

Aged 16 years and 223 days, attacking midfielder Unuvar was introduced for the final 15 minutes in Amsterdam and rounded out a 7-0 rout after he was brought down in the box.

Unuvar's record-setting goal might be of interest to Barcelona, who reportedly monitored the Netherlands youth international during last year's U-17 World Cup.

"I immediately asked Klaas-Jan Huntelaar if I could take the penalty, because he would normally take it," Unuvar told Fox Sports Netherlands after the match.

"It was great that everyone let me [take it] and was happy for me. The keeper went to the wrong corner. It was a really nice moment."

Siem de Jong led the way for Ajax with a perfect hat-trick in the dominant last-16 victory, while Lassina Traore scored twice and Dusan Tadic netted the other.

Ansu Fati will get more starting opportunities "as long as he keeps developing", Quique Setien said after Barcelona's Copa del Rey escape against Ibiza.

Setien rested the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for Wednesday's visit to the Segunda B club, who took a surprise lead after nine minutes against LaLiga's leaders.

An incredible upset appeared on the cards until Antoine Griezmann equalised in the 72nd minute and then netted the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Fati, 17, burst onto the scene with goals against Osasuna and Valencia earlier in the season and scored the winner at Inter in the Champions League last month, but contributed little to the 2-1 victory in Ibiza.

Despite his lack of influence on the contest, Fati will be provided with more chances to prove himself by Setien.

"The first thing we are doing is seeing the players in different positions," Setien told reporters.

"[Fati] has a lot of talent. We will see how he progresses. He will get more starting time as long as he keeps developing."

Setien was far from satisfied with Barca's performance, adding: "I did not like the team. I would have preferred things another way.

"But in a stadium like this, it is harder. They were aggressive and intense in defence. It has not been easy. 

"I would have loved for us to have been more precise and to have played better. But from here we will take away conclusions for the future. 

"It is when you do things badly that you can improve."

Antoine Griezmann saved Barcelona from Copa del Rey humiliation as he scored a second-half double to see off Ibiza 2-1.

Having made an impressive start to his tenure with a dominant 1-0 win over Granada in which Barca had 82 per cent of possession, Setien rested Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for the trip to the Balearic island.

LaLiga's pacesetters enjoyed similar superiority in terms of time on the ball, but appeared on course for an incredible upset defeat to the Segunda B club, who took the lead through a goal credited to Josep Caballe inside 10 minutes.

Ibiza had chances to extend their advantage, but the hosts eventually ran out of steam and Griezmann levelled in the 72nd minute, before securing Barca's progression to the last 16 in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

The third-tier club opened the scoring with a goal that will serve as an indelible moment in their history in just the ninth minute of proceedings.

Rai Nascimento's pull-back from the left was met by Javi Perez who, after being allowed to ghost into the box by Riqui Puig, saw his shot deflected beyond Neto by Caballe.

Neto was beaten again eight minutes later, but Angel Rodado's effort was correctly chalked off for his push on Clement Lenglet.

Only the woodwork spared Barca further embarrassment as Rai's close-range effort hit the inside of the left-hand post and bounced out, with Neto palming Rodado's follow-up over the crossbar.

Barca grew more dangerous in the second half and they finally found a way through when Frenkie de Jong fed Griezmann and the France international slotted home in confident fashion.

Extra time looked an inevitability, but Barca were able to ensure they did not have to exert themselves for another half-hour as they found the winner in the fourth of six additional minutes.

Jordi Alba was this time the man to send Griezmann clear and he made no mistake with a near-post finish that broke the hearts of a raucous home crowd.

What does it mean? Setien's tinkering almost backfires

Setien unsurprisingly shuffled his pack for the cup encounter, but a back three of Sergi Roberto, Lenglet and Junior Firpo always looked vulnerable, and so it proved. Barca were fortunate not to fall further behind in the first half and can count themselves very lucky not to have suffered an almighty humbling.

A tale of two halves for Griezmann

Griezmann had the fewest touches (18) of any Barca player in the first half but he contributed the two most important ones of the second to leave Setien breathing a sigh of relief.

Puig caught napping

Brought on for Ivan Rakitic at the weekend as Barca sought the winner against Granada, Puig looks set for an increased role at Barca under Setien, but this was a learning experience for the 20-year-old. He was at fault for the opener and was ineffective at the other end of the pitch, failing to create a single chance.

What's next?

Barca face a tricky trip to Mestalla to face Valencia on Saturday. For Ibiza, it's back to the challenge of earning promotion from Segunda B Group 1, in which they trail leaders Atletico Madrid 'B' by two points. Bottom club SS Reyes are next for Pablo Alfaro's men.

Antoine Griezmann saved Barcelona from Copa del Rey humiliation as he scored a second-half double to see off Ibiza 2-1.

Having made an impressive start to his tenure with a dominant 1-0 win over Granada in which Barca had 82 per cent of possession, Setien rested Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for the trip to the Balearic island.

LaLiga's pacesetters enjoyed similar superiority in terms of time on the ball, but appeared on course for an incredible upset defeat to the Segunda B club, who took the lead through a goal credited to Josep Caballe inside 10 minutes.

Ibiza had chances to extend their advantage, but the hosts eventually ran out of steam and Griezmann levelled in the 72nd minute, before securing Barca's progression to the last 16 in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

 

FIFA has revealed a record amount was spent on transfers in 2019, with deals for Eden Hazard, Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix topping the bill.

A report issued by world football's governing body on Wednesday revealed $7.35billion (£5.6billion) was spent by clubs in the transfer market in 2019, an increase of 5.8 per cent on the previous year.

The study also confirmed that English clubs spent the most, though the total figure of $1.52billion (£1.14billion) was a 22.1 per cent decrease from 2018.

Joao Felix's €126million transfer from Benfica to Atletico Madrid – who sold Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona for €120m – was the biggest deal of 2019, while Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid in a deal reportedly worth €100m.

Harry Maguire became the world's most expensive defender with a reported £80m switch from Leicester City to Manchester United, while Ajax sold young stars Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong to Juventus and Barcelona respectively for an initial €75m each.

There was also a rise of 16.3 per cent in spending in the women's game, with over 800 transfers made in total.

Kylian Mbappe has suggested he cannot replicate what Lionel Messi has achieved at Barcelona and will instead look to Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration.

Since bursting onto the scene with Monaco in 2016, a move to Paris Saint-Germain and a charge to World Cup glory with France has made the 21-year-old one of the leading lights in football.

However, when it comes to choosing between Messi and Ronaldo on who to model his career path on, Mbappe acknowledged his switch from Monaco to PSG means he cannot follow in the footsteps of Barca's six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"It's too late for me to carve out a career like Messi's, I would have had to stay at Monaco," Mbappe told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Without taking anything away from Messi, now I have to draw on Cristiano's career for inspiration.

"If you're French, obviously you would have grown up with [Zinedine] Zidane as your idol. After that, it was Cristiano, who I have been fortunate enough to have faced as an opponent, at club level and with the national team.

"I also love Brazilian players like Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Kaka. And to the young players who look up to me, I'd like to send them a message from someone who believed in their dream, always giving the best they had to give, trying to push their own limits to be able to make a mark in sport."

Mbappe also believes Ronaldo gives Juventus an edge in the Champions League, a competition the Portugal captain has won five times, making the Serie A giants a favourite.

"Juventus are a strong side - they've shown that in the finals they've played during the past few seasons," said Mbappe, who has scored 21 goals in all competitions for PSG this term.

"They have always lacked something to give them the edge and now they have that in Cristiano. He's a player who makes you win major trophies.

"This year Juventus are among the favourites – along with the usual suspects – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool."

Manchester United have lined up another exciting midfield transfer target amid their ongoing pursuit of Bruno Fernandes.

As the wrangling over figures with Sporting CP continues, the Red Devils have reportedly submitted a sizeable offer to Birmingham City for teenage talent Jude Bellingham.

But making the first move might only spark a European bidding war.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SUBMIT BELLINGHAM BID

Birmingham youngster Bellingham's clear potential has convinced United to launch an offer worth more than £30million, reports the Sun and Sky Sports.

The 16-year-old midfielder has burst onto the scene this season and the Old Trafford outfit are understood to be keen to test him in the Premier League.

However, they could face stiff competition from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and other heavyweight clubs across the continent.

The Mirror, meanwhile, claims United have made a "breakthrough" in negotiations for Portugal international Fernandes, having reached a "compromise" transfer fee in the region of £55m.

 

ROUND-UP

- David Beckham's Inter Miami have contacted Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero to assess his interest in a switch to MLS, adds the Sun.

- Tottenham have enquired about Real Madrid winger and former Spurs star Gareth Bale, according to Spanish television programme El Chiringuito.

- Barcelona, still searching for a new striker, have ruled out RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and Lille's Victor Osimhen, suggests Mundo Deportivo, with Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno a more likely target.

- Serie A side Roma are set to discuss personal terms with Matteo Politano after agreeing a €25million fee with Inter, according to Sky Sport Italia.

- Inter, meanwhile, are said to be in discussions with United youngster Tahith Chong, who is also on Chinese outfit Jiangsu Suning's radar as his contract runs close to expiring, says Sky Sport Italia.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is interesting Premier League champions City and Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, reports SportMediaset.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique have all been left out of Barcelona's trip to Ibiza in the Copa del Rey.

The trio are being rested for the round-of-32 clash against the third-tier side.

Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele remain unavailable due to injury, although the former has begun the next stage of his treatment process in Catalonia as he recovers from meniscus damage.

Quique Setien has called up youngsters Carles Perez, Riqui Puig, Abel Ruiz and Chumi to the 18-man squad, alongside rising star Ansu Fati.

Barca face a potentially difficult LaLiga trip to Valencia just three days after the Ibiza clash.

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