Could Barcelona be about to make a splash in the free-agent market?

Strapped for cash amid the coronavirus pandemic, Barca are believed to have set their sights on two stars.

David Alaba and Sergio Aguero are on the agenda at Camp Nou…

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING OUT-OF-CONTRACT DUO

Barcelona are set to target Bayern Munich star David Alaba and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero , according to Mundo Deportivo.

Alaba and Aguero are both out of contract at the end of the season, prompting interest from embattled LaLiga giants Barca.

Bayern's Alaba has been tipped to join Real Madrid , while the likes of Manchester United , Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Aguero, meanwhile, is no certainty to renew in Manchester, where Pep Guardiola is reportedly eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter's Romelu Lukaku .

 

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-   Sport reports Raphael Varane wants to leave LaLiga champions Madrid . The French defender has previously been linked to United .

- Madrid cannot afford to sign the likes of PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Haaland due to their current financial situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, claims Marca.

- The Guardian says West Ham have lowered their asking price for Declan Rice , who has been linked to Chelsea and United .

- Martin Odegaard is close to swapping Madrid for Arsenal on loan, reports journalist Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also says United have not opened talks with Lens to sign Argentine centre-back Facundo Medina . The Red Devils are eyeing a new centre-back amid links with in-demand RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano .

Napoli want to sign either Sporting CP full-back Nuno Mendes or Benfica's Nuno Tavares , reports Calciomercato.

- There are serious doubts over Edin Dzeko's future at Roma, with Calciomercato claiming Juventus and Inter are monitoring the situation.

Will a Juventus-Paul Pogba reunion become a reality?

The future of Manchester United star continues to dominate headlines.

A move back to Turin could be on the cards for Pogba.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE TO MAKE POGBA OFFER

Serie A champions Juventus will try to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United at the end of the season, according to the Calciomercato.

Pogba appears set to leave United following the 2020-21 campaign after his agent Mino Raiola claimed the French midfielder was unhappy in Manchester.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked but Juve, who signed Pogba from United in 2012 before losing him to the Red Devils four years later, want to bring the World Cup winner back to Turin.

 

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- The Telegraph reports Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will be given £200million to spend on new players in the next transfer window. Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku are on the list of potential targets, as well as Benfica's Darwin Nunez amid doubts over Sergio Aguero 's future. Haaland has also been linked with neighbours United , Madrid , Barca , Liverpool and Juve .

Bayern Munich are interested in Madrid defender Eder Militao , claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Bayern look to replace David Alaba , who is set to leave the Bundesliga champions on a free transfer. Alaba has been tipped to join Madrid .

Milan  are close to re-signing star pair Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu , says Tuttosport. Corriere dello Sport reports Milan are also nearing a deal to sign veteran forward Mario Mandzukic .

- The Athletic claims Mesut Ozil is poised to leave Arsenal for Turkish giants Fenerbahce after reaching an agreement in principle to terminate his Gunners contract.

- The Transfer Window Podcast claims Madrid are considering the possibility of using Eden Hazard in a deal to lure Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Memphis Depay has been strongly tipped to move to Barca , however, Ok Diario reports the Lyon captain could join Madrid following Luka Jovic's loan return to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

Manchester United have been drawn against Real Sociedad in the Europa League, while Arsenal will face Benfica in the last 32 of the competition. 

United are one the Champions League teams to now be involved in the knockout rounds of the competition, though the draw was far from kind for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side despite being seeded. 

Sociedad sit top of LaLiga and have only lost twice so far this season in all competitions. 

The Spanish club – whose squad includes former United player Adnan Januzaj, as well as ex-Manchester City captain David Silva – will have home advantage in the first leg next February. 

Arsenal, meanwhile, will go on the road first in their tie with Benfica, who qualified from Group D behind Rangers. 

The Gunners have prospered in Europe this campaign but are struggling badly for form in the Premier League, Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Burnley their fourth in a row at home. 

As for their north London neighbours Tottenham, they will go up against Austrian club Wolfsberger when they resume their Europa League campaign in early 2021. 

Leicester City will be on the road for the first leg of their tie with Slavia Prague, while Milan will have to get past Red Star Belgrade if they want to remain on course to lift the only European trophy that has eluded the club so far. 

Steven Gerrard's Rangers go up against Royal Antwerp, Roma face Braga and Napoli will take on Granada.
 
As for Ajax, who finished third in a Champions League group that included Liverpool and Atalanta, the Dutch club have been drawn with Lille.

The first legs will be played on February 18, with the return fixtures to take place the following week.

Spurs will play their home game on Wednesday February 24, however, so to avoid a clash with Arsenal.

 

Europa League last-32 draw in full:

Wolfsberger v Tottenham
Dynamo Kiev v Club Brugge
Real Sociedad v Manchester United
Benfica v Arsenal
Red Star Belgrade v Milan
Royal Antwerp v Rangers
Slavia Prague v Leicester City
Salzburg v Villarreal
Braga v Roma
Krasnodar v Dinamo Zagreb
Young Boys v Bayer Leverkusen
Molde v Hoffenheim

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has controversially claimed the discussions taking place surrounding tackling racism in football are "very fashionable".

On Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash against Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed following allegations of racism.

Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba was seen remonstrating with fourth official Sebastian Coltescu, before he and his team-mates were followed down the tunnel by their PSG counterparts.

The club's official Twitter account later alleged Pierre Webo, the team's assistant coach, was exposed to racist language by Coltescu and the game was finally postponed after a delay of over two hours.

UEFA confirmed the game will resume at 18:55 CET on Wednesday with a new team of officials, while an investigation into the incident takes place.

PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe were among the players to post anti-racism messages following the incident.

Benfica boss Jesus was asked for his opinion at a news conference previewing Benfica's Europa League clash at Standard Liege on Thursday and gave a contentious reply.

He said: "I don't know what happened, what was said, but nowadays all this about racism is very fashionable.

"As a citizen I have the right to think in my own way and I can only have a concrete opinion when I know what was said at that moment.

"These days anything that is said about a black person is always a sign of racism, and the same thing about a white man is no longer a sign of racism.

"It's a wave that is taking over the world. Maybe there was a sign of racism, but I don't know what they said to that coach."

Paul Pogba's time with Manchester United appears to be coming to an end.

Agent Mino Raiola said Pogba – who re-joined the Red Devils from Juventus in 2016, having left in 2012 – is unhappy at United amid growing speculation over his future in Manchester.

Does a move to Real Madrid await the France international?

 

TOP STORY – POGBA EYEING MADRID

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba wants to join Real Madrid, according to Eurosport.

Pogba appears set for an Old Trafford exit after his agent Mino Raiola said his time at United is "over".

The World Cup-winning France international has since been linked with LaLiga champions Madrid, former club Juventus and Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain.

 

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Cristiano Ronaldo could return to United, reports Auto Esporte. The Juventus superstar has been linked to former club United and PSG, but Red Devils sponsor Chevrolet are willing to help finance a transfer.

- RMC Sport claims PSG star Kylian Mbappe will spurn a move to Madrid in favour of remaining with the Ligue 1 holders. Mbappe has been tipped to swap PSG for Madrid, though the France international has also been linked to Liverpool.

Barcelona sent scouts to watch Benfica forward Darwin Nunez, says Sport. The 21-year-old has impressed since arriving from Almeria at the start of the season.

- Premier League clubs Arsenal and Tottenham are battling to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, reports Calciomercato.

Eduardo Camavinga has notified his new agent that he wants to leave Rennes, claims Diario AS. The France sensation has been linked to Madrid, United and PSG.

RB Leipzig are in pole position to sign Salzburg's Dominik Szoboszlai but Calciomercato says Milan remain in contact.

Is Zinedine Zidane's second spell in charge of Real Madrid coming to an end?

Zidane guided Madrid to three successive Champions League titles in his first stint, and last season's LaLiga crown after returning to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2019.

But the Los Blancos great is under mounting pressure amid the club's struggles this season.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE IN DANGER

Mauricio Pochettino and Raul are waiting in the wings to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, according to widespread reports in Spain.

Madrid head coach Zidane is in danger of losing his job following Tuesday's Champions League loss to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Los Blancos have suffered back-to-back defeats and three in their past five outings across all competitions to be seven points adrift in LaLiga and on the cusp of Champions League elimination.

Thursday's Mundo Deportivo, Diario AS and Sport report former Tottenham boss Pochettino and Madrid Castilla coach Raul are eyeing the hot seat.

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- Calciomercato claims the race to sign Rennes and France sensation Eduardo Camavinga is down to Madrid and Manchester United. Serie A champions Juventus had also been linked, though there has been talk of Paul Pogba returning to Turin after leaving for Old Trafford in 2016.

- Bayern Munich star David Alaba is hoping to strike a January agreement with Chelsea, according to Fabrizio Romano's 'Here We Go Podcast'. Alaba is a free agent at the end of the season and he has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Juventus have shown an interest in Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti, according to Calciomercato. Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic are also on the shortlist.

Madrid are eyeing Benfica forward Darwin Nunez, reports Calciomercato. The Uruguay international has also caught the attention of LaLiga rivals Barca.

- What does the future hold for Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland? Heavily linked to United, Madrid, Liverpool, PSG and even Barca, Calciomercato says Juve are monitoring the Norwegian closely.

Rangers let slip a late two-goal lead against Benfica for the second time in a month to draw 2-2 in Thursday's Europa League clash at Ibrox.

Steven Gerrard's men were cruising at 3-1 in the reverse fixture with 13 minutes to go, only to switch off and draw 3-3 to leave the sides level on points in Group D.

History repeated itself in Glasgow as Scott Arfield's early strike and Kemar Roofe's superb second from 20 yards put the home side in control.

However, an unfortunate James Tavernier own goal with 12 minutes to go was followed soon after by a Pizzi drive to help Benfica snatch another crucial point, ensuring Rangers still have work to do to progress to the last 32.

Manchester City are reportedly set to extend the contracts of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they consider another forward.

Pep Guardiola signed a two-year extension at City this week, keeping him at the Premier League giants until 2023.

And more re-signings look set to follow.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY SET TO OFFER NEW DEALS TO STERLING, JESUS

Manchester City are set to offer Raheem Sterling a new deal, according to the Mirror.

Sterling, 25, is contracted at City until 2023, but the club are hopeful he will renew on improved terms.

Also under contract until 2023, Jesus is set for a bumper new deal, the Daily Star reports.

 

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- Staying at Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is considering Benfica and Uruguay forward Darwin Nunez as a successor to Sergio Aguero, according to The Telegraph. Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Also coming out of contract at the end of the campaign is Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Corriere dello Sport says Inter are eyeing the midfielder in January, while the Serie A giants are also looking at Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul as they consider selling Christian Eriksen.

- As Olivier Giroud struggles for game time at Chelsea, the striker is linked with a move. The Mirror says David Beckham's Inter Miami are considering making an offer for the France international in January.

- Yet to play in the Premier League this season, Dean Henderson may look to leave Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper wants a January loan move to boost his chances of keeping his spot in England's squad for next year's European Championship. It says Leeds United and Brighton and Hove Albion are interested.

- Another Manchester United goalkeeper seeking an exit is Sergio Romero. The Mirror reports United are prepared to accept £2.5million for Romero in January, having wanted double that during the close season.

Paris Saint-Germain's focus is reportedly on Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, not Sergio Ramos.

Ramos has been linked with the Ligue 1 champions with his Real Madrid deal expiring at the end of the season.

But PSG seemingly have other deals they want done first.

 

TOP STORY – PSG PRIORITISING MBAPPE, NEYMAR OVER RAMOS

PSG are prioritising new deals for Mbappe and Neymar over a potential move for Madrid defender Ramos, according to Goal.

Mbappe and Neymar are both out of contract in 2022 and have unsurprisingly emerged as targets for clubs in Europe.

The star forwards have both been at PSG since 2017, helping the club win Ligue 1 in every season since.

Interestingly, Mbappe and Neymar have both appeared in just 38 of 113 Ligue 1 games for PSG since arriving.

PSG have won 34 and lost just one of those, while averaging 3.3 goals for. Without at least one of them, their win percentage drops from 89.5 to 72, and average goals for dips to 2.5.

 

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- Out of contract at Liverpool at the end of the season, Georginio Wijnaldum's future remains unclear. CalcioMercato reports the midfielder is wanted by Barcelona and Inter.

- There could be plenty of movement coming up at Barcelona. Sport reports Riqui Puig has no plans to leave the club in January despite interest from Porto and Benfica. It also says while the LaLiga giants are prepared to let Puig and Carles Alena leave on loan, they are working on selling Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite, Junior Firpo and Matheus Fernandes.

- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports the club are working on a contract extension for Ousmane Dembele, whose current deal expires in 2022.

- With Lautaro Martinez continually linked with Barcelona, Inter are considering their options. The Serie A giants are eyeing Torino striker Andrea Belotti as a replacement if Martinez joins Barca, according to CalcioMercato. Since Belotti arrived at Torino in 2015, only Ciro Immobile (111) and Gonzalo Higuain (90) have scored more goals than his 85.

- Also in Serie A, Napoli are considering a loan move for Chelsea defender Emerson Palmieri, according to la Repubblica.

Benfica star Darwin Nunez will remain at the Portuguese giants until at least 2022 amid links to Barcelona, according to his agent Edgardo Lasalvia.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24million deal in September, and he has already caught the attention of LaLiga powerhouse Barca.

The 21-year-old forward opened his account with a hat-trick in the Europa League last month, while the Uruguay international has netted five goals across all competitions.

Juventus have also been linked to Nunez and when asked about the Benfica forward's future, Lasalvia said via Sport: "Darwin will remain at Benfica at least until 2022."

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus has tipped Nunez to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale.

Joao Felix left Benfica for Atletico Madrid for a club-record €126m last year.

"We got it right. We must not forget that he is a kid, he is 21 years old, there is a lot about the game that he does not know yet. He will learn with me and Benfica," Jesus told SportTV.

"All this decision-making ability, finishing and speed… He was Benfica's most expensive purchase, and when there is no pandemic, he will be the most expensive sale. He will be a world-class player.

"Unfortunately for me, maybe I will lose him in a short time."

Benfica suffered back-to-back Primeira Liga defeats following Sunday's surprise 3-2 loss at home to Braga.

The result has left Benfica four points adrift of leaders and rivals Sporting CP.

Darwin Nunez scored a stoppage-time equaliser as Rangers squandered a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 at 10-man Benfica and see their 100 per cent start in Europa League Group D come to an end on Thursday.

Steven Gerrard's side triumphed against Standard Liege and Lech Poznan in their opening two games, but they got off to a poor start at the Estadio da Luz as Connor Goldson diverted a low cross into his own net after just 60 seconds.

They powered back before half-time, though, taking ruthless advantage of Nicolas Otamendi's straight red card for a professional foul through an own goal from Diogo Goncalves and a fine strike from Glen Kamara.

Alfredo Morelos added a third shortly after the restart, but Benfica fought back for an unlikely draw as Rafa's 77th-minute effort preceded Nunez dramatically levelling proceedings with the clock winding down.

Darwin Nunez only joined Benfica in September, but his future is already making headlines.

Nunez has hit the ground running at Benfica, where head coach Jorge Jesus has tipped the 21-year-old forward to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale following the latter's €126million transfer to Atletico Madrid last year.

Barcelona are reportedly targeting the Uruguay international.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA STEP UP NUNEZ INTEREST

Barcelona are eyeing Benfica star Darwin Nunez as a replacement for Luis Suarez, according to ESPN.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24m deal in September, and the 21-year-old has scored four goals since moving to Portugal.

Barca wanted to sign Nunez from Almeria and the LaLiga giants are prepared to rekindle their interest.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport1 claims Bayern Munich are considering RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano as a replacement for David Alaba. Bayern withdrew their offer of a new contract for Alaba, who is in the final year of his deal with the Bundesliga and Champions League holders. He has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, BarcaJuventusParis Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Premier League pair United and Liverpool are believed to be interested in Upamecano.

Atletico are battling Bayern for Brighton and Hove Albion sensation Tariq Lamptey, reports the Daily Mail. Sevilla are also reportedly interested in the former Chelsea full-back.

- Barca are preparing a January bid for City centre-back Eric Garcia following their unsuccessful attempt to re-sign the Spaniard during the previous transfer window, says Sport.

- MilanNews claims Milan will offer Franck Kessie a new contract. Kessie's current deal expires in 2022 as the Rossoneri also look to re-sign Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, who has been linked to Manchester United.

- Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai is at the top of Inter's wish list as they eye youth, according to Calciomercato. Szoboszlai reportedly has a €25m release clause. The 20-year-old has previously been linked to Arsenal and Napoli.

Chelsea are not courting Juventus star Paulo Dybala as owner Roman Abramovich looks to protect new investments Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, says Calciomercato. Contract negotiations are ongoing between Dybala and Juve as the likes of PSG, Madrid, Tottenham and United reportedly monitor the situation.

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus dismissed speculation linking LaLiga giants Barcelona with Darwin Nunez.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24million deal in September.

The 21-year-old forward opened his account with a hat-trick in the Europa League last month, while the Uruguay international has netted four goals across all competitions.

Barca are reportedly interested in Nunez, who has been tipped by Jesus to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale following the latter's €126million transfer to Atletico Madrid last year.

Jesus was asked about Nunez and rumoured interest following Benfica's shock 3-0 Primeira Liga loss to Boavista on Monday.

"There is no point in talking about it, it could just be sports news. I don't comment, I was more interested in commenting on Benfica's victory than Darwin," Jesus said.

Benfica suffered their first league defeat of the season after succumbing to goals from Angel Gomes, Alberto Elis and Yanis Hamache.

The result left Benfica second and a point adrift of unbeaten leaders Sporting CP through six matches.

Benfica lost a Primeira Liga game by a margin of three-plus goals for the first time since October 2015, per Opta. Only Boavista and Sporting CP have won multiple league fixtures against Benfica by three or more goals in the 21st century.

Jorge Jesus did not take kindly to Benfica being compared to Barcelona because he thinks Ronald Koeman's team "has nothing".

Barca beat Juventus 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday following a run of one win in four games, which included a 3-1 home defeat against Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season.

Per game in LaLiga this term, the Blaugrana are averaging fewer shots (11), attempts on target (5), chances created (8) and passes (620) than in any of the previous eight campaigns at least.

Standard Liege winger Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez felt there was a comparison to be drawn between Barca's possession-based, attacking approach and Benfica, after the Portuguese giants beat the Belgian side 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.

Jesus' men had 67 per cent of possession, 16 attempts on goal, though only five were on target, and attempted 683 passes – over twice as many as Standard – in a resounding win over the Belgian team.

Former Benfica player Carcela-Gonzalez told Portuguese outlet Sport TV with a chuckle: "With Pizzi and [Adel] Taarabt, Benfica look like Barcelona."

It was not a comparison Jesus felt he could take pride in, however, given the situation at Camp Nou under Koeman.

"I will not say we are like Barcelona are now, nor do I want us to look like what they are now," said Jesus.

"The one from a few years ago, yes … the current team has nothing.

"I don't want us to look like the one from now, I don't care about the other one, though."

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