Barcelona presidential candidate Victor Font wants to lure Pep Guardiola back from Manchester City and vowed to keep Lionel Messi at the club.

Josep Maria Bartomeu quit as president at Camp Nou on Tuesday, ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership, along with the entire board of directors.

Following Bartomeu's decision to quit it has been reported Barcelona's presidential elections will be held in the second week of January, with Font tipped to be one of the frontrunners.

Font, 48, claimed that if he wins the vote he will seek to bring Guardiola back as head coach, get other big-name ex-players involved, and ensure Argentina international Messi stays.

Guardiola enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in charge of Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, winning LaLiga three times and the Champions League trophy twice.

Messi, meanwhile, had expressed a desire to leave Barca in August only to reverse his decision to avoid a legal dispute, but his contract is set to expire at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Font told Sky Sports: "It is our intention to build a very strong and competitive project and we are very lucky at Barca that we inherited a style of play that Johan Cruyff instilled throughout the organisation.

"And most of the best professionals who know about this style are also fans and love the club - like Pep Guardiola, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Carles] Puyol.

"They are all legends that love Barcelona but do not work for Barca today - we need to bring them back to ensure we will have a very competitive project.

"The only thing Messi needs is to know he is part of a competitive project that aspires to win the next Champions League.

"We have no doubt that if we basically have the honour to take the helm of Barcelona, we will be able to achieve that."

Barcelona are currently 12th in LaLiga after a slow start to the season under new boss Ronald Koeman, who was only appointed as Quique Setien's successor in August.

Lionel Messi may yet remain at Barcelona.

Messi, 33, stunningly requested to leave the LaLiga giants during the close season but ended up staying at Camp Nou.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has still been expected to leave at the end of his contract next year.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S CHANCES OF KEEPING MESSI BOOSTED

The resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu has boosted Barcelona's chances of keeping Messi beyond 2021, according to The Telegraph.

Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

Manchester City and Inter have been most heavily linked with a move for Messi.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United sent a scout to watch RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano against Nurnberg in the DFB-Pokal last month, according to Bild. Upamecano has been linked with United previously and played 90 minutes as the Premier League side thrashed RB Leipzig 5-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

- With Virgil van Dijk injured, could Liverpool be eyeing Bayern Munich defender David Alaba? The Daily Star reports the Premier League champions were handed a boost in their prospects of a January transfer for Alaba after the defender's contract talks with Bayern collapsed. Alaba is out of contract next year.

- Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus could be set for a transfer battle. The Mirror says United have joined Barcelona and Juventus in becoming interested in Ajax's 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch.

- Inter may be in the market for a left wing-back in January. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants may look at Chelsea duo Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri, two players they have been linked with previously.

Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho will not return to fitness before the November international break, according to the Brazil national team.

Coutinho suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday's defeat to Real Madrid despite completing the full game at Camp Nou.

Barca said a timescale for the former Liverpool man's return "depends on how the injury evolves", but Brazil's doctors have also now assessed the player.

Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar believes "there is not enough time for the recovery of the player for his participation in the next two rounds of [2022 World Cup] qualifiers", a statement read.

Brazil have therefore called up Lyon's Lucas Paqueta in his place for the fixtures against Venezuela and Uruguay on November 13 and 17.

Should Coutinho be available for Barca again following the break, he would make his return against Atletico Madrid almost a month on from the initial issue.

Coutinho is set to be joined in missing Brazil's qualifiers by Liverpool's Fabinho.

The midfielder, who has been playing in defence for the Reds since Virgil van Dijk's injury, sustained a hamstring problem in Tuesday's Champions League win over Midtjylland.

Liverpool were waiting for a scan on the injury on Wednesday, but Jurgen Klopp suggested Fabinho's absence would not represent a major blow for Brazil, as he has earned just 12 caps for his country and started on five occasions.

"I'm not sure if Tite's too worried because he plays him never, so he will probably now not sit on the bench for the next [two] international games," Klopp said.

Eden Hazard relished his return to action on Tuesday as he turned out for Real Madrid for the first time since early August in the 2-2 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Winger Hazard appeared off the bench for the final 20 minutes of the Champions League clash in Germany after recovering from a muscle injury in his right leg sustained at the end of September.

That issue was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Belgium international, who has struggled since signing from Chelsea for €100million in June 2019.

Hazard, who had 16 goals in 37 games in his final Premier League season, scored just once in 16 LaLiga matches last term, missing four big chances.

The former Lille star's creativity was also greatly reduced, assisting only three goals in the league for Madrid compared to 15 the previous campaign with Chelsea.

He laid on 1.7 chances per 90 minutes across his first season in Spain, down from 3.0 in the prior term.

But Hazard was simply happy to be back on the pitch against Gladbach, saying: "I am here to play football.

"After two or three months without playing, I am very happy. All I want is to play."

Madrid were 2-0 down when Hazard was introduced, before strikes from Karim Benzema and Casemiro rescued a late draw.

The substitute was not involved in either goal, failing to create a chance while missing a clear opportunity of his own, but was delighted to be involved in the dramatic comeback.

"I think we have shown great character," Hazard said. "We were losing 2-0 and, in the final moments, we could even have scored more.

"I could have scored, but I missed. We did not get three points, but the result tastes like victory."

Dayot Upamecano is a player in demand following his exploits for RB Leipzig.

Upamecano attracted plenty of interest before re-signing at Bundesliga side Leipzig in July.

Manchester United have been linked previously and are reportedly plotting another move.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT UPAMECANO

Manchester United will pursue a cut-price deal for RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano, according to The Times.

United have been keen to bolster their defence and the Red Devils were previously linked to France centre-back Upamecano, who has also caught the eye of the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Upamecano signed a new deal in July, though the contract reportedly includes a release clause of around £38million (€42m) at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports a third round of negotiations regarding a new contract for Bayern star David Alaba failed. Alaba will become a free agent at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Barca are believed to be interested.

Milan are interested in Schalke centre-back Ozan Kabak and Hellas Verona's Matteo Lovato, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Kabak has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool.

- Tuttosport reports Barca and Juventus could be involved in another swap deal. After exchanging Miralem Pjanic and Arthur at the start of the season, Juve's Federico Bernardeschi and Barca forward Ousmane Dembele could also move in opposite directions.

Barca could raid PSV for Donyell Malen as an alternative to Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Barca tried to sign Depay in the previous transfer window but a move did not material as his contract expires at season's end.

On Tuesday, Josep Maria Bartomeu announced he was resigning as president of Barcelona.

The 57-year-old confirmed he and the entire board of directors would be stepping down prior to a planned vote of no confidence at Camp Nou offices this weekend.

Below is the full speech Bartomeu delivered to reporters, members and fans...

 

"Good evening Barca members, I am here today to inform you of my resignation and that of the rest of the board of directors. 

"This is a well-considered, calm, consensual and collective decision by my fellow directors who have accompanied me over recent years in a loyal and committed fashion with regards to the project and the club, and who have made so many sacrifices thinking always of Barca.  

"This morning, as you well know, I received a reply from the Catalan Government to the letter that we sent yesterday. Their reply was clear. I will read the text: 'We inform you that the Catalan Government, represented by members from the Presidential, Interior and Health Departments, reiterate that there is no legal or sanitary impediment for the holding of the vote of censure, as long as they include, in the organisational protocol of the aforementioned vote of censure, the requirements that the PROCICAT technical group presented to FC Barcelona in the meeting which took place on 21 October.' That means a decentralised vote.

"To the point. They do not say anything else. They make no mention of our request in the same meeting and in previous meetings, which consisted of requesting legal coverage to have 15 days' notice to be able to organise the necessary complicated logistics to hold a vote that respected the minimum of health and safety measures necessary at that moment. Decentralised voting that, for the first time, proposed voting in 21 different polling stations, distributed geographically, 13 in Catalonia and eight in the rest of the state.

"Neither do they talk about the date of the vote, even though they know that we are obliged to call it this very day, and if we do not, we will not be complying with our own statutes.

"For that reason we asked them for legal coverage. The same that they requested from the Central Government in order to take extreme measures such as the curfew amongst others. However, they have decided to not grant us what they themselves have requested and received from the State Government. Frankly, they have decided to wash their hands of the subject in the face of a situation that was uncomfortable for them without thinking of the consequences that their decision can have.

"Immediately afterwards, at midday today, a meeting was called for the vote of censure committee. The representatives from the club's board of directors proposed holding the vote, as requested by the Catalan Government, in 21 different polling areas, but on November 15 and 16, in order to be able to carry out the necessary logistics.

"Both the representatives from the instigators of the vote, as well as the president of the committee, representing the Catalan Football Federation, not only opposed the idea but also that they would bring legal action against the club's board of directors. That was recorded in the minutes of the meeting taken by the notary.

"Yesterday, in my appearance, I spoke of the astonishment provoked by such decisions. Today, I have to say that these decisions, aside from being contradictory, seem to us irresponsible.

"I know that it is a strong statement but I cannot see another better that reflects what I think. At a time at which the Government itself is imposing painful measures on citizens that have serious social and economic consequences on families, businesses and where, as of yesterday, there is talk of even stricter measures such as weekend lockdowns, where experts talk of the danger of the collapse of our health care system, when also the same experts recommend lockdown of the entire population, where we see contradictory versions, from members of the Government themselves, such as the obligation or recommendation that all companies implement home working. At such a moment and in the circumstances, I cannot find any other word to describe this decision other than irresponsible.

"However, we have to act responsibly. For that reason we cannot hold the vote of censure in the current circumstances. It was necessary to do so in conditions that guaranteed everybody's health, so that nobody could fail to take part through fear or mobility problems, or because they formed part of a vulnerable group. We cannot nor want to put ourselves in a position of having to choose between protecting people's health and exercising the right to vote. For that reason we have taken the decision to not call the vote and resign forthwith.

"We know that we will leave the club in the hands of an interim board that, in the current circumstances of the pandemic, has no guarantee of being able to hold elections in the short term. We know that and I hope that the interim board will be able to carry out our decisions to help the club through the pandemic crisis.

"The desire of this board of directors has never been to hold on to power at the club, as we have heard repeatedly over the last few months. I can assure you of that. So, why did we not resign before?

"After being knocked out of the Champions League, the easiest thing was to leave. The easiest thing was to resign. Yet the day after that painful defeat we had to take decisions that we could not put off any more, key to guaranteeing the sporting future and immediate sustainability of the club. Furthermore, we had to do so in the middle of a global crisis without precedent. We could not leave the club in the hands of an interim board with limited powers.

"Who would have found the new coach? Who would have handled transfers? Who would have fought for Leo Messi to stay? Who would have carried out the budget cuts? Who would have handled the salary adjustments of the professional sportspeople at the club?

"As a board we understood that, out of responsibility, we have to take those decisions. The majority of which were uncomfortable and unpopular.

"The most obvious sign that we were not holding on to power is that we called elections for the month of March. The earliest date allowed by the statutes. That was because we believed that this would help to calm things down, allow teams to work and allow an ordered transition to the newly elected Board of Directors.

"An early resignation would have led to the club being tied up in an electoral process, a power vacuum, under the management of an interim board with limited powers that within a few weeks would have to take sporting and economic decisions with serious consequences that could not be put off.

"That is what I explained in my appearance on Monday: we had no reason to resign with elections called for March and with lots of work related to our management still to be done. Work that, for reasons of responsibility, we could not shirk, despite the personal cost to us and our families.

"A club like Barca needs to have ordered transitions from one board to another. Too many times in the past we have found ourselves suddenly in the final stages of a mandate that has not allowed this to be carried out, something essential in an organisation of the dimensions of ours. It is for that reason that our statutes provide for  an ample period of time to call elections: to allow this transition to be made in the best way possible.

"In contrast, it has been suggested what we had hidden interests, things to hide, even that we wanted to avoid making financial commitments... False insinuations and unfortunately many of them motivated by electoral or political interests.

"I have always accepted criticism. They say I am very resilient. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have accumulated enough experience, together with my fellow members of the board the know the realities of managing the club.

"I have always said that self-criticism makes us stronger and that Barca has always come out of difficult times. However, what we have experienced in the last few months goes beyond any limit. We have been shown a lack of respect, to me and my fellow board members; we have been insulted, threatened, even me and my family and my fellow board members.

"At the moment there are people who ask me what motivated me to join the Barca board of directors, first as a board member and then as president and if it was really worth it. In fact, it has been an honour to serve my club in this capacity.

"Over all these years as a board member and president I have tried to exercise my role representing the club's members with respect, humility and honesty.

"Today, however, we are obliged to resign. And we have to do without having completed the financial measures this season to reduce our immediate expenditure and to guarantee the growth of our revenue. I hope in the days to come an agreement can be reached to implement our salary adjustment from part of the playing staff and our employees. A measure that, if it is not applied, could have serious consequences for the future of the club. I have confidence that the interim board will be able to complete the process and that everyone can come to an agreement for the good of Barca.

"Today I can announce something that will change in an extraordinary way the future revenue of the club for the years to come.

"The board of directors have approved the acceptance of requirements to take in a future European Super League of clubs, a project put forward by the biggest clubs in Europe.

"The details of these requirements will be made available to the next board, and the decision about participation in this competition shall have to be ratified by the next Assembly of Delegate Members.

"And I also wish to announce that we have approved the future new format for the Club World Cup.

"We can say with pride that we are the best sports club in the world in terms of the value of its sponsorship revenue. We have achieved this in competition with clubs that are owned by huge magnates, corporations and even countries, and we have done that while maintaining our own ownership structure, with the club in the hands of the members, maintaining our nature as a club for the people, without raising season ticket prices since 2011 and still having lower prices than the big European clubs.

"The European Super League will guarantee the club's financial stability, which will continue to belong to the members. It shall never become a limited sports company.

"Our uniqueness means that we never have to share dividends among our members and that the almost €200million accumulated profit that this board has made since 2010, the highest profits ever achieved by any board in the history of the club, shall be invested in sporting and capital projects.

"The club is unquestionably solid, despite the difficulties we are going through. In these last three years we have developed new business lines, such as our digital strategy, with projects like the new OTT, Barca TV+, the development of contents through Barca Studios, the e-commerce platform for online sales and the research for new knowledge and new revenue via the Barca Innovation Hub.

"The Barca Corporate program was passed yesterday, and pending its finalisation and approval of the Assembly of Delegate Members, it will generate greater value for these new projects and the club’s ordinary activities.

"I'd also like to mention the Espai Barca, a club project approved by the members in a referendum and that will become one of Barca's main sources of revenue in the future. Espai Barca is already happening, investments have already been made, and the first part of it, the Estadi Johan Cruyff, is already finished and operative. We shall be supplying the new board with the political agreement, the technical projects and a funding proposal whereby the work will be paid without it having to affect the club's ordinary affairs. Goldman Sachs is not asking for any kind of guarantee that would put the club's viability at risk in any way.

"It is worth looking up and remembering that since 2004, Barca fans have felt very privileged indeed. We are enjoying an extraordinary era of success, an unprecedented era in European football. There have been new cycles, with new managers and players, but we have kept on winning. We have won 34 titles, more than Bayern [Munich], Porto, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

"Of those 34 titles, 22 have been won under this board in the last 10 years. An unprecedented success rate in this club's history.

"The upheaval of the squad in the last few months should have happened a year earlier, and for that I accepted my part of the responsibility. How? By calling elections for March 2021, the soonest possible in accordance with the statutes to bring a mandate to an end.

"And why do the statutes include that option? To guarantee a smooth transition between one presidency and the next. And that is what the club needs, given its huge size, the highly competitive industry in which it operates as well as the context brought about by the health crisis.

"We needed to rejuvenate the squad, renew our hopes, change the inertia and dynamic … and that is what we did. It has meant the departure of players who have played essential roles in recent years. I would like to reiterate my gratitude to them for what they gave to the club in their time here. And we have also promoted highly promising youngsters from Barca B and some exceptional talent signed from elsewhere.

"As I said last Monday, the decision to hire a new coach in Ronald Koeman was one that the board had to make, in the same way that we had to approach the summer transfer market. And I am very happy with my decision.

"I hope that time will confirm it and people will continue to appreciate the assets that we have renewed and generated over all these years. We are the most loved club in the world, the biggest in terms of fan numbers, and followers on social networks, and our global nature is unquestionable, with offices in Hong Kong and New York.

"We wanted to be a benchmark in terms of promoting the role of women in society, with the professionalisation of our women's team as the flagship project, and which is now setting new standards on a national and continental level. And also defending the role of women at our club and in the history of sport.

"I am proud of what we have done; making Barca a club that is committed to society, to its country, to children and to the most vulnerable, with a Foundation that is such a huge benchmark in the world of sport and that has played such a fundamental humanitarian part in this pandemic.

"We are proud to have worked on and consolidated over these years our social programs to escort the elderly at matches, the game with free entrance for the needy, travel to away matches, and the youth section in the stadium; reviewing the waiting list system and doing so much to combat fraud. And for creating such a body for our supporters clubs as the World Confederation of Penyes, which is made up of 30 federations and has made the supporters movement stronger, more efficient and more global than ever.

"I can also assure you that La Masia has been consolidated as a sporting and human training centre, with a program providing care to the more than 600 young athletes in our youth system.

"And we are also proud to have so many Barca academies around the world teaching boys and girls to play football our way and in accordance with our values.

"The multi-sport nature of our club is more alive than ever. The Social Area has done wonderful work to foster our amateur sports, with more than 1,500 athletes of all ages, with a particular focus on youth training schemes.

"Since 2010, we have won 149 different professional titles: 19 in basketball, 52 in handball, 31 in roller hockey, 27 in futsal and 20 in women's football.

"I have sometimes said that our fate was to run Barca at one of the most turbulent times for the country and for the club too. We have had to deal with all kinds of situations, both in a historic political context (where we have always stood beside our institutions, and defended such non-negotiable principles as the right to freedom of expression and the right to decide), and we also had to overcome the death of Tito Vilanova.

"We have also watched in disbelief as a Barca president, Sandro Rosell, was so unfairly imprisoned. And have put up with sometimes irrational and cruel insults and criticism from the media, which have often gone way over the line regarding what kinds of things are admissible.

"But now it is time to turn the page. I expect everyone will have their opinions and will draw their own conclusions.

"I just hope to be able to continue enjoying our Barça, but now from a distance. I wish all the best to the new president and board, which shall be chosen by the club's own members. They shall always have my respect and my support whenever they feel they need it.

"It is we the members who decide our future. Nobody else. That is part of the Barca identity and what makes us so great, the most loved club in the world. And that was the goal of our Strategic Plan when we began our mandate in 2015: to make Barca the most admired, loved and global sports club in the world. And I believe we have achieved that goal and much more.

"I thank all the members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, technical secretaries, coaching staff, executives, full-time and temporary employees, the members of all commissions, the patrons of the Foundation, and especially my fellow board members, both past and present.

"In short, my thanks to the whole blaugrana family for all the wonderful work and support over all these years since we arrived in 2010 with Sandro Rosell as our president.

"I also thank those people for their constructive criticism and encourage them all to continue making this the greatest club in the world. Thank you very much.

"Visca el Barca i Visca Catalunya!"

Josep Maria Bartomeu's ultimately unpopular tenure as Barcelona president has finally come to an end after the club's entire board resigned.

Barca won the treble in his first full season in charge in 2014-15, led by the thrilling front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

But it seems unlikely Bartomeu's time as the top man at Camp Nou will be remembered for that success.

Barca subsequently suffered humiliation after humiliation in the Champions League, reaching a remarkable crescendo with August's 8-2 quarter-final demolition at the hands of eventual champions Bayern Munich.

However, it was Bartomeu's failings in the transfer market that helped put the Catalan giants in such a position.

While Neymar left and then Lionel Messi pushed for a move of his own, Barca recruited in disappointing if often spectacular fashion.

Not all of Bartomeu's signings were poor, but we look at the 10 permanent deals that defined his reign.

 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen – €12m from Borussia Monchengladbach

That stunning first season of on-field triumphs came after an excellent summer transfer window, although Ter Stegen was restricted to Champions League action initially as fellow new man Claudio Bravo started in LaLiga. Germany international Ter Stegen quickly proved his worth in the 2014-15 European campaign, keeping a joint-high six clean sheets courtesy of 31 saves, while trailing only Manuel Neuer for successful passes (245) and passing accuracy (80 per cent) among goalkeepers.

Ivan Rakitic – €18m from Sevilla

Another to join in the €165m spending spree of 2014, Rakitic only departed this year to return to Sevilla. The midfielder was a consistent performer throughout his time at Camp Nou, yet perhaps his best season was reserved for his first 12 months at Barca. He scored five times in LaLiga and laid on seven assists – the most in his Barca career – from 35 chances created.

Luis Suarez – €81m from Liverpool

The most important and surely best signing of Bartomeu's tenure followed in that same transfer window as Barca prised Suarez from Liverpool after their failed Premier League title bid in which he netted 31 times. That same scoring form continued in LaLiga, where Suarez struck up a great partnership and friendship with Messi. The Uruguay international left for Atletico Madrid prior to the 2020-21 campaign – a key factor in the ongoing Barca crisis – having scored 198 goals for the club, trailing only Messi and Cesar Rodriguez. Suarez scored a sensational 40 LaLiga goals in 2015-16, along with 16 assists and 23 tackles, typifying his work rate. All three were high marks for his Barca career.

Thomas Vermaelen – €18m from Arsenal

Along with Ter Stegen, Rakitic and Suarez, though, came a signing that would prove more in keeping with much of the rest of the work done under Bartomeu. Vermaelen cost a decent fee, was scarcely fit and rarely looked like troubling the starting XI when he was. He made just 26 LaLiga starts in five years at Barca.

Andre Gomes – €35m from Valencia

After making just two signings in 2015-16, Barca were busy in the market again the following campaign. A combination of form and fitness meant few if any of the 2016-17 signings could be considered successes, but Gomes was perhaps the worst. Signed for a fee that could have risen to €55m, he scored three goals and provided one assist in the league across two seasons before leaving for Everton.

Ousmane Dembele – €105m from Borussia Dortmund

Barca's dealings had been questionable even before they sold Neymar, but the money brought in for the Brazilian then appeared to burn a hole in the pocket of Bartomeu, who proceeded to spend it in a series of unsuccessful ways. Dembele seemed a reasonable enough replacement for Neymar but injuries disrupted his progress. He has supplied just 12 goals and 11 assists in the league since signing, although he remains at Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho – €120m from Liverpool

Barca tried for Coutinho when Neymar first left and returned for the Liverpool star again in January. Yet the Blaugrana did not appear to have a role made for the playmaker, sticking to a 4-3-3 formation that forced him out wide or deep in the midfield. Another still at Barca, a reasonable enough initial return of eight goals and five assists from 29 chances created in the remainder of his first season did not provide a platform for success. He spent last season on loan at Bayern and scored twice in the humbling of his parent club.

Malcom – €41m from Bordeaux

As Barca went big again in 2018-19, there appeared to be a third attempt at replacing Neymar. Malcom was just 21 and should have been one for the future but did not last long. A single season brought one goal and two assists before he left for Zenit.

Antoine Griezmann – €120m from Atletico Madrid

Project replace Neymar: part four. With attempts to bring the PSG number 10 himself back to Barca failing, a long-awaited move for Griezmann was instead completed. A World Cup winner who led the line for one of Barca's biggest domestic rivals, Griezmann certainly had the pedigree but has so far struggled to work with Messi in attack. The pair are yet to create a single chance for one another in LaLiga this season and have combined on just 23 passes.

Martin Braithwaite – €18m from Leganes

Braithwaite is evidently delighted to be at Barca, but perhaps that is the problem. It is a stunning indictment of Bartomeu's tenure that Ronald Koeman had to turn to the Denmark international in a bid to rescue last week's Clasico defeat. He now wears the number nine shirt that belonged to Suarez.

Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as president of Barcelona, with the whole board stepping down with immediate effect ahead of a proposed vote of no confidence. 

Bartomeu announced his decision on Tuesday, a day before Barca – under the tutelage of the outgoing president's final coaching appointment in Ronald Koeman – take on Juventus in the Champions League. 

It brings to an end a six-year reign for the 57-year-old, who had insisted only on Monday that there was no reason to resign from his position. 

Barca won the treble in Bartomeu's first year in charge, yet things gradually began to unravel over the course of his tenure. 

Successive Champions League capitulations to Roma and then Liverpool signalled the beginning of the end during what was a tumultuous final year for Bartomeu.

May 2019: Anfield nightmare

Barca – who had collapsed at Roma in the previous season's quarter-finals – had a 3-0 advantage as they arrived at Anfield to complete the Champions League semi-final. 

Liverpool were without forward duo Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino too, yet the Reds stormed to a 4-0 triumph, making Barca the first team since Gothenburg in 1986 to lose a semi-final having held a three-goal first-leg advantage. 

January 2020: Valverde out, Setien in

Having led Barca to successive LaLiga titles, Ernesto Valverde survived the capitulation at Anfield but a poor run of form that culminated in a defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana marked the end of his tenure. 

With then-Netherlands boss Koeman reportedly an option, Barca - who had spent big on Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann - were turned down by club legend Xavi, so Bartomeu opted instead for the experience of former Real Betis boss Quique Setien, a somewhat surprising appointment.

August 2020: Humiliation in Lisbon

Setien managed six victories from his opening eight LaLiga matches, though Barca went down 2-0 to Real Madrid. However, an 18-point haul was enough to propel them to top of the table when the coronavirus pandemic caused the suspension of football across Europe. 

Yet Barca, who had dropped out of the Copa del Rey in February, drew with Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid upon the resumption, then lost to Osasuna at home to gift rivals Real Madrid the title. 

It meant Barca headed into their Champions League quarter-final tie with Bayern Munich in Lisbon knowing they had just one shot at silverware, though what followed was one of the most humiliating moments in the club's illustrious history. 

Bayern crushed Barca 8-2 on their way to lifting the trophy, the on-loan Philippe Coutinho scoring two of the goals in the rout of his parent club, and Setien's spell was over.

August and September 2020: Koeman takes charge, Messi wants out 

Having missed out to Setien previously, Camp Nou legend Koeman finally landed his dream job. However, the ink on the Dutchman's contract was barely dry by the time reports emerged that superstar Lionel Messi wanted to leave the club. 

Barca subsequently confirmed that Messi had asked to be released from his contract, with the 33-year-old citing a clause in his contract which would allow him to leave for free, rather than for his €700 million buyout clause. 

After much speculation, however, Messi confirmed on September 4 that he would remain with Barca for the final year of his contract, though he criticised how the club had been run and reiterated his dissatisfaction of Bartomeu's leadership. 

October 2020: Bartomeu resigns 

A 3-1 Clasico defeat to Madrid in front of an empty Camp Nou was the final game of the Bartomeu era. The rest of Barca's board also resigned too - it now remains to be seen where the club go next. 

He did not go quietly, though. Announcing his decision during a speech that did not allow any chance for questions from the media, Bartomeu revealed Barcelona had accepted an invitation to join a proposed new European Super League. 

"The European Super League will make it so the club can remain being one of the members," the outgoing president said.

Barcelona have accepted an invitation to join a proposed new European Super League, according to outgoing president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Bartomeu made the announcement on Tuesday in a speech confirming he and Barca's board of directors are resigning.

"We accept entry into a European Super League of football clubs," he said. "This acceptance will have to be ratified by the next assembly. We have also approved the format of the new Club World Cup.

"The European Super League will make it so the club can remain being one of the members."

A report from Sky Sports last week claimed Liverpool and Manchester United were leading talks around the prospect of a new FIFA-backed tournament featuring the world's biggest clubs.

It was claimed more than a dozen teams from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain were in negotiations to become founder members of a possible European Premier League backed by $6billion (£4.6billion) of funding.

Bartomeu's comments made it clear that Barca are one such club to have been approached to join the proposed competition, which could start as early as 2022 and comprise home and away fixtures between 18 teams.

Any final decision would have to be ratified by a vote held by the next Barca president and board of directors.

In his speech, Bartomeu did not state whether Barca's involvement in any new such competition would lead to them withdrawing from LaLiga or the Champions League.

The new Club World Cup was scheduled to begin next year, in place of the traditional pre-World Cup tournament, the Confederations Cup, with FIFA expanding the tournament to 24 teams and China selected as host.

The coronavirus pandemic means the event is likely to be pushed back until at least 2022, however.

Bartomeu's admission that Barca have accepted the plans for the new tournament is at odds with the view of the European Club Association (ECA), which last year produced a letter insisting "no ECA clubs would take part".

Writing on Twitter on Tuesday after Bartomeu's resignation speech, LaLiga president Javier Tebas said: "Unlucky Bartomeu, announcing on the final day participation in a phantom competition that would be the ruin of Barcelona, and ratifies his ignorance in the football industry.

"A sad end for a president who had success and, in the end, errors."

Barcelona have accepted an invitation to join a proposed new European Super League, according to outgoing president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Bartomeu made the announcement on Tuesday in a speech confirming he and Barca's board of directors are resigning.

"We accept entry into a European Super League of football clubs," he said. "This acceptance will have to be ratified by the next assembly. We have approved the format of the new Club World Cup.

"The European Super League will make it so the club can remain being one of the members."

Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as president of Barcelona.

The LaLiga club announced on Tuesday that Bartomeu and the entire board of directors have chosen to step down with immediate effect following a meeting.

Bartomeu had insisted on Monday there was no reason for him to resign ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership, which was expected to be held at Camp Nou this weekend.

However, the 57-year-old has changed his mind due to the ongoing institutional problems at the club and the risk of possible exposure to coronavirus that Barca members would face if they went to vote.

In a statement read out on Tuesday, Bartomeu announced: "I am communicating my resignation from the position of president, along with my entire board of directors."

The news marks the end of a turbulent era at one of the world's grandest football clubs.

Bartomeu, previously a leading figure for Barca's handball and basketball section and then vice-president of sports, was first elected president in 2014 after predecessor Sandro Rosell resigned as legal proceedings were opened into allegations of misappropriated funds relating to Neymar's transfer a year earlier.

Barca enjoyed huge success in Bartomeu's first year, winning the treble under head coach Luis Enrique in 2014-15 - the last time they lifted the Champions League trophy - and Bartomeu won re-election that year with 54.63 per cent of the vote.

He then introduced a "Strategic Plan" for the period 2015 through 2021, "with the objective of making Barca the most admired, beloved, and global sports institution, a plan which includes an annual revenue goal of €1billion by 2021".

Bartomeu also won backing for the Espai Barca project, an ambitious plan to renovate Camp Nou and its surroundings and construct brand new facilities for training and Barca's other competitive sports teams.

Barca won the domestic double in 2015-16, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, before lifting the Copa del Rey in 2016-17 in Luis Enrique's final season in charge.

However, concerns were by this point growing over the club's transfer policy, as huge investment in the playing squad failed to arrest a steady decline in the team's fortunes, and Neymar's €222million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 provoked further frustration.

Ernesto Valverde took charge and delivered two further LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey, but humbling Champions League exits at the hands of Roma and Liverpool prompted scrutiny both of the coach's methods and the sporting project overseen by Bartomeu.

When 2019-20 ended with no trophies and a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, calls for Bartomeu to step down before next year's elections grew louder, with tensions between the board and playing squad reaching a critical point when captain Lionel Messi attempted to leave the club.

Messi eventually stayed but accused Bartomeu of going back on a promise that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would be allowed to leave if he wished, describing the running of the club as "a disaster".

A motion against the incumbent president passed the threshold of 16,250 member votes on October 8, forcing the club's board to set a date for a vote of no confidence that will no longer be necessary.

Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as president of Barcelona.

The LaLiga club announced on Tuesday that Bartomeu and the entire board of directors have chosen to step down with immediate effect following a meeting.

Bartomeu had insisted on Monday there was no reason for him to resign ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership, which was expected to be held at Camp Nou this weekend.

However, the 57-year-old has changed his mind due to the ongoing institutional problems at the club and the risk of possible exposure to coronavirus that Barca members would face if they went to vote.

In a statement read out on Tuesday, Bartomeu announced: "I am communicating my resignation from the position of president, along with my entire board of directors."

The news marks the end of a turbulent era at one of the world's grandest football clubs.

Bartomeu, previously a leading figure for Barca's handball and basketball section and then vice-president of sports, was first elected president in 2014 after predecessor Sandro Rosell resigned as legal proceedings were opened into allegations of misappropriated funds relating to Neymar's transfer a year earlier.

Barca enjoyed huge success in Bartomeu's first year, winning the treble under head coach Luis Enrique in 2014-15 - the last time they lifted the Champions League trophy - and Bartomeu won re-election that year with 54.63 per cent of the vote.

He then introduced a "Strategic Plan" for the period 2015 through 2021, "with the objective of making Barca the most admired, beloved, and global sports institution, a plan which includes an annual revenue goal of €1billion by 2021".

Bartomeu also won backing for the Espai Barca project, an ambitious plan to renovate Camp Nou and its surroundings and construct brand new facilities for training and Barca's other competitive sports teams.

Barca won the domestic double in 2015-16, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, before lifting the Copa del Rey in 2016-17 in Luis Enrique's final season in charge.

However, concerns were by this point growing over the club's transfer policy, as huge investment in the playing squad failed to arrest a steady decline in the team's fortunes, and Neymar's €222million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 provoked further frustration.

Ernesto Valverde took charge and delivered two further LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey, but humbling Champions League exits at the hands of Roma and Liverpool prompted scrutiny both of the coach's methods and the sporting project overseen by Bartomeu.

When 2019-20 ended with no trophies and a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, calls for Bartomeu to step down before next year's elections grew louder, with tensions between the board and playing squad reaching a critical point when captain Lionel Messi attempted to leave the club.

Messi eventually stayed but accused Bartomeu of going back on a promise that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would be allowed to leave if he wished, describing the running of the club as "a disaster".

A motion against the incumbent president passed the threshold of 16,250 member votes on October 8, forcing the club's board to set a date for a vote of no confidence that will no longer be necessary.

Ronald Koeman says it is a major challenge to be head coach of Barcelona but insists he must be given time in the role.

The Catalans have endured a mixed start to the season under the former Netherlands boss, who took charge after Quique Setien was sacked in the wake of the 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich in August.

Barca started their 2020-21 Champions League campaign with a 5-1 win over Ferencvaros, but they have taken only seven points from five matches in LaLiga.

They lost the first Clasico of the season 3-1 at home on Saturday to Real Madrid, who were reeling from consecutive defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk, with Koeman's men failing to muster a single shot on target after a Lionel Messi effort in the 24th minute.

Koeman, however, has urged fans to be patient as he attempts to turn Barca back into a side capable of winning top honours, amid reports emerging on Tuesday that club president Josep Maria Bartomeu is set to resign.

"When I was speaking with Barca to be coach, I knew it wouldn't be an easy challenge because of the changes we want to make, because of the COVID-19 issue, the economic issue, but the challenge is very big," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I just ask for calm, for time, because we're changing a lot of things. In the game with Madrid, in 60 minutes, the team was very good."

Koeman is preparing his side to face Juventus on Wednesday in what will be opposite number Andrea Pirlo's biggest game in his short coaching career.

Pirlo, who took on his first head coach job prior to the start of the season, may be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus while with Portugal.

Koeman hopes to see Ronaldo available despite the formidable task of facing the Champions League's all-time leading goalscorer.

"It's a game between two great teams who want to go very far in this competition. It's important that we get a good result, with the football we want to play," he said.

"It's an important game for everyone and beautiful to watch. We always want the best on the pitch. Ronaldo is a great player. I don't know if he'll be able [to play]; it's not my problem, nor my decision. But hopefully, he can be there.

"It's easier to give an opinion on Pirlo as a player. He was a great player in midfield and he gave a lot of success to various teams in Italy. He's had little time as a coach and if he's already the coach of a team like Juventus, it's for a reason."

Koeman could reportedly face disciplinary action in Spain for his comments after the Clasico, in which he suggested VAR has been used to penalise his team this season.

"I don't regret my comments after the Clasico," he added. "I said I wouldn't speak further on the subject and the most important thing is the game tomorrow. It's important to play well and get a good result."

Kylian Mbappe's days as a Paris Saint-Germain player are numbered, according to the striker's former France team-mate Adil Rami. 

The 21-year-old has been repeatedly linked with Real Madrid, while Premier League champions Liverpool have also been touted as having an interest in his future. 

Mbappe is contracted to PSG until the end of the 2021-22 season, and if he holds off signing a new contract then the prospects of him leaving before then may increase. 

He could join fellow World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Rami is convinced Mbappe is planning for a future away from the Parc des Princes. 

Speaking on RMC show Top of the Foot, Rami said the lack of news about a new deal for Mbappe at PSG makes his exit an inevitability. 

"I think it's done, especially since it's not moving forward in the discussions," Rami said. 

"You have the impression that it annoys him to talk about it, he does not talk about it with the club, his entourage. 

"And from the moment where it annoys him, it means he does not want to hear it. It is awkward for him. 

"His future is all mapped out and it's sad for the Parisians, even for Ligue 1. I love this player." 

Rami, who was a member of France's 2018 World Cup winning squad alongside Mbappe, is now playing in Portugal with Boavista. 

Mbappe has shown startling form in the early years of his career, following up his 33 Ligue 1 goals in 2018-19 with 18 from 20 games in the truncated subsequent campaign. 

This season he has begun with six goals and three assists in four starts and an appearance off the bench for PSG in their domestic campaign. 

Fabian Ruiz continues to attract interest from his native Spain.

The former Real Betis midfielder joined Napoli in 2018 and he has starred for the Italian club.

Real Madrid are reportedly keen to bring Fabian back to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – FABIAN TOPS MADRID'S LIST

Real Madrid have renewed their interest in Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to Calciomercato.

Fabian, who is contracted to Serie A outfit Napoli until 2023, has been linked with Madrid, LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Manchester City previously.

The Spain international continues to impress Zinedine Zidane's Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United remain hopeful of signing Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland, claims The Athletic. United tried to sign Haaland before the Norwegian opted to join Dortmund from Salzburg in January. Haaland's €75million (£68m) release clause becomes active in 2022 and United are prepared to wait amid reported interest from the likes of Madrid and Juventus.

- The Athletic also says United are still trying to prise Jadon Sancho from Dortmund after failing to land the England star during the previous transfer window. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid and Barcelona.

- AS reports Milan are weighing up a January move for PSG striker Mauro Icardi. The former Inter captain completed a permanent transfer from the Nerazzurri at the start of the season.

- With doubts over Thomas Tuchel's future in Paris, Le10 Sport says the PSG head coach has received approaches from several Premier League clubs. Tuchel is out of contract at the end of the season and sporting director Leonardo is reportedly looking to move on from the German.

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