Barcelona youngster Ansu Fati seems to have hinted he could be facing up to a year on the sidelines due to his current knee injury.

Fati suffered a serious knee injury in November, having played 10 games in all competitions, scoring five goals. 

The Spain winger had surgery to address the problem with his meniscus and was reportedly set for four months out, but his return has been pushed back until at least April, with no firm timescale on his comeback.

It is not the first serious injury the 18-year-old has sustained, however, with Fati revealing he previously spent close to a year out of action due to fracturing his tibia and fibia – a lay-off he believes has prepared him for the challenge which he is going through.

"A few years ago I had a serious injury, a fractured tibia and fibula, and I couldn't play for almost a year." Fati wrote in a post on his official Instagram account.

"There were many days of suffering and pain, but also a lot of learning. It helped me to appreciate the little details.

"With my family and all the professionals who helped me at that time, I promised myself to keep going and work harder than ever to get back to doing what I love the most.

"Unfortunately, now I have to live through a similar situation, which I will face with the same mentality.

"I want to thank all those people who follow me and support me on a daily basis. Football is my life and no matter how many obstacles there are, I will always have the illusion of continuing to fight for my dreams."

Fati's comments cast further doubt over his chances of returning to action prior to the end of the season, which would also derail any opportunity of making Luis Enrique's Spain squad for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which begins in June.

Reports last week suggested Fati was looking to exhaust other options other than going under the knife again which, according to Spanish publication AS, was the advice of knee specialist Bertrand Cottet, who the player recently visited in Lyon.

Barcelona have extended young prospect Alex Collado's contract until June 2023.

The 21-year-old is the captain of Barca's B team, having joined the famed La Masia youth set-up as an under-10.

Barca exercised an option in Collado's deal to keep the attacking midfielder at Camp Nou for another two years.

Collado, who made his first-team debut against Celta Vigo in 2019, when Ernesto Valverde was at the helm.

He has featured 77 times for the B team, scoring 16 goals, and will hope to play his way into Ronald Koeman's plans.

Barcelona target Sergio Aguero still has much to offer at the highest level, according to former Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Aguero and City announced this week that the 32-year-old will be leaving at the end of the season after 10 glorious years.

The striker is out of contract at the end of a 2020-21 campaign City hope can end with a famous quadruple.

Barcelona have long been linked with a move to Aguero and are seen as favourites for his signature.

A switch to play in MLS has also been mooted but Wright-Phillips thinks it would be too soon for the Argentina star to make that step.

"For me, it would definitely be a bigger club [than one in MLS] - I don't think he'll go to the States just yet," Wright-Phillips told Stats Perform News when asked about Aguero's future.

"One hundred per cent, if he stays fit he's got a lot more to give. He still looks powerful, he still looks hungry.

"The games that I've watched that he's come on, he's made some excellent runs, and they didn't really get him the ball in those positions. 

"He's still got a lot to give, and I think he enjoys it. I don't see him sailing off to America just yet.

"I think [his future] kind of depends on how this season goes. 

"He's still in with a chance to win a Champions League medal, which if anyone deserves it, especially as a City player, it should be him. 

"That would just finish his career perfectly as a City player to win everything."

Injuries have restricted Aguero to only five starts across all competitions this season, but he is hoping to play a key part in the run-in before departing.

City have been linked with the likes of Erling Haaland and Harry Kane to replace Aguero, with Gabriel Jesus being the other main striker still at the club.

Wright-Phillips added: "To be honest, I was surprised [about the announcement].

"But when you get to a player like that, and he's getting old in football terms, he has not played probably as much as he wanted because of injuries or another reason that could have happened. 

"In his head he's probably just thinking he wants to play football. In a way I could kind of see it happening, but I'm devastated about it at the same time.

"If you look at his stats in general. He's scored I think 181 goals in the Premier League for City. He's got 257 goals for City in total. So he's a record breaker and you're always going to miss somebody like that. 

"As a fan it's devastating, you want to keep those players until they retire, and be selfish and not let anybody have them. But it's football isn't it, and sadly it always comes to an end."

Wright-Phillips was asked where Aguero ranked among all-time Premier League strikers, a debate that has attracted a host of opinions since the announcement.

The former England international added: "If you go on the stats, I would possibly put him in the top five and that's hard. 

"There have been so many amazing and world-class players with elite talent who are in the record books we're talking about. 

"The goals that he's scored, the one that stands out, the one that people always talk about in the game against QPR. It had to be him that scored it. 

"He was most probably the only person that would have scored that goal. Everything just worked out perfectly. 

"There where seasons when he didn't play all that much, he was injured, but he was still in the race for the golden boot and that says a lot for a striker. 

"He very rarely had purple patches or going so many games without scoring, until like this season when he's played hardly anything."

Manchester City will turn to Harry Kane if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

It is widely expected City will go hard to sign the Norway striker, who is being pursued by numerous big clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in the Borussia Dortmund man.

 

TOP STORY - KANE IN CITY'S SIGHTS

The Times reports that if City fail to win the race for Haaland's signature they will consider making an offer for Tottenham talisman Kane.

Kane is seven years older than Haaland but has a proven Premier League goal scoring record.

City have already confirmed Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of the season and are in the market to bolster their forward ranks.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail is reporting that City's main priorities in the transfer market are to sign Haaland and Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, as they turn to a younger generation of talent. The duo are expected to cost £200 million.

- Football Insider has reported Lionel Messi has requested FC Barcelona sign countryman Aguero as part of his own negotiations to stay with the Catalans. Mundo Deportivo claims Aguero is not a priority signing for Barca, with Memphis Depay, Romelu Lukaku and Haaland top of the list.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma has been linked with a host of big clubs and Sky Sport Italia are reporting that contract talks with AC Milan are at a standstill. Milan are allegedly offering €7million per-year deal but the goalkeeper wants more.

- Voetbalkrant are reporting Southampton are interested in Anderlecht's teenage defender Marco Kana.

- Ex-Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre is interested in becoming Celtic's new coach, according to the Daily Mail.

- Fichajes reports Leeds United's Rodrigo is unhappy in England and wants to return to Spain, with Real Betis and Sevilla in the mix.

Mino Raiola believes he may have been too cautious by moving his star client Erling Haaland to Borussia Dortmund.

The 20-year-old sensation joined Dortmund from Salzburg in January 2020 and has been on a goalscoring frenzy ever since.

Dortmund have reportedly set a €180million price tag for Haaland, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid all expected to compete for his signature.

With a reported release clause in the striker's contract from 2022, clubs will need to meet Dortmund's demands if they wish to sign Haaland a year earlier than that.

Raiola believes the form Haaland has shown in Dortmund colours proves he could have moved directly to one of the continent's biggest clubs.

"With Haaland, everybody was wrong," the super agent told The Athletic.

"He did things much quicker than everybody imagined. Haaland is in front of his own development. He is ahead of his own schedule. 

"Maybe I was too careful when I said: 'Oh no, let's move to Dortmund instead of I-don't-know-where.

"This boy — I'm 100 per cent convinced and everybody's convinced — can move to any club, wherever he wants, already on this level. 

"And he could have done that last year.

"But maybe last year there were still teams [saying], 'Oh, he was in Red Bull (Salzburg), can he do it in another club?'.

"He is quicker than his own prediction. So yeah, Haaland is the talk of the town."

Raiola insisted it was not completely certain that Haaland will leave Dortmund at the end of the season and opened up on the decision for him not to join United.

The Norway forward has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this season, adding another 10 from six in the Champions League, a competition where he tops the scoring charts.

United, meanwhile, are still searching for a long-term solution at the number nine position despite bringing in Edinson Cavani on a free transfer last year.

"There was no fall-out between me and [United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward," added Raiola.

"I do not know if Manchester United are briefing this but if they are then they are covering their own loss and that I find strange and disappointing.

"It was just a normal negotiation and the player has chosen a different path.  

"If they want to blame someone then, fine, blame me but the player is happy. He has made his choice and we went through a normal process.

"This is a moment of waiting and seeing what is in the best interest of the player. 

"Sometimes the best interest of the player is not to move when everybody says he has to move.

"And sometimes it is in the best interest of the player to move when everybody says he has to stay. So we will see what happens."

Football throws up so many twists, turns and scenarios. Thanks to COVID-19, Spanish football will dish up something truly unique in April.

Two Copa del Rey finals will take place in the space of a fortnight after the 2020 decider was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Athletic Bilbao front and centre.

Athletic will face rivals Real Sociedad in the mouthwatering rescheduled final on April 3 before going head-to-head with Lionel Messi's Barcelona in the 2021 showpiece on April 17.

Unfortunately, fans are barred from attending 'Derbi Vasco' in Seville, one of Spain's most famous rivalries as the Basque region is split between Athletic and La Real.

But it still represents a mammoth occasion in the inter-city rivalry, with Athletic – spearheaded by captain Iker Muniain, Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia – eyeing their first Copa del Rey title since 1983-84.

Benat was part of Athletic's run to the 2020 final, scoring in the first round and featuring in the last 16, before leaving San Mames for the A-League's newest team in Australia – Macarthur FC.

"Two finals are important, but Real Sociedad one is a derby and you always want to win whether it is a cup final or not," the 34-year-old, who spent seven years at Athletic before departing in 2020 but remains in contact with his former team-mates, told Stats Perform News.

"Derbies are special. But also, the Barcelona game will be nice and they will try to win."

Benat – a four-time Spain international having initially emerged from Athletic's youth team in 2005 – added: "The city of Bilbao comes along with the team in these days. The supporters are always there with Athletic. The truth is the entire city of Bilbao and the province of Bizkaia is full of red and white and they support a lot.

"The pity is they cannot attend to the game for the pandemic of COVID."

Benat's journey to Australia has seen him reunite with former Athletic team-mate Markel Susaeta in Sydney.

Susaeta spent the majority of his career at Athletic, where he made 507 appearances – only four players in the history of the club have managed more, Jose Angel Iribar (614), Jose Francisco Rojo (541), Joseba Etxeberria (514) and Andoni Iraola (510).

The 33-year-old Spanish winger wore the captain's armband and won the Supercopa de Espana in 2015 before departing his beloved Athletic in 2019, having first donned the iconic red and white stripes in 2007.

A three-time Copa del Rey finalist, Susaeta is no stranger to the Basque derby – he scored a brace in Athletic's 2-0 LaLiga win over La Real in 2012.

"It's clear that now is a big moment for Basque football," Susaeta, who will watch the final alongside Benat in the early hours of Saturday morning in Australia, said.

"Two finals is not normal, the situation is not normal. Athletic have a great opportunity to win a big title.

"In these matches, the emotion and intensity are very special. The wait is very long for the matches," Susaeta – part of the Athletic sides that were Copa del Rey runners-up in 2009, 2012 and 2015, said. "Athletic have been waiting for months. They are very excited. It's very difficult to control the emotions but it's a match all players want to play."

He added: "I think the derby of Bilbao and Basque country, it's a little bit more important that final. But there are two finals. I think the derby of Real Sociedad is more important.

"For Athletic, anyone can make the difference. Now they are playing well. In attack, they are creating more chances than before. They are in good condition for the finals."

Despite a change in the dugout, Athletic have already claimed silverware in 2020-21.

Marcelino replaced Gaizka Garitano in January, and he sensationally guided Athletic to a victory over Barca in the Supercopa de Espana final later that month.

Benat said: "Athletic were okay with Garitano, but they were not able to have a positive run to jump up in the table. And Marcelino has given extra confident to the players.

"The players trust him and you can see they gained confidence.

"I think Athletic have more experience lately. They have played some finals and they can have more experience, but I do think Athletic is a balanced team. They can play with or without ball and they can do great things with or without ball."

But one-time Spain international Susaeta, who reached the Europa League final with Los Leones under Marcelo Bielsa in 2012, is aware just how tough it is for Athletic to compete for trophies.

Athletic are a team who continue to play by their own rules. The Basque-only policy has captivated football and the sporting world, with Los Leones only picking players from one region since 1912.

Despite football's transformation by globalisation, Athletic remain defiant to their roots – only those born or raised in the Basque Country, which is made up of four provinces in north-east Spain and three in south-west France, eligible to represent the club. Rivals Real Sociedad operated a similar policy until 1989.

While it may come across as a disadvantage, limiting Athletic in the transfer market, the Spanish team have never been relegated from LaLiga while adhering to the famed policy. They have lost stars over the years, but the region continues to be a breeding ground for talent.

"It's very difficult to play in a final with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. Their salaries are very big and have the best players in the world," Susaeta added. "To play one final with Athletic and if you've grown up in the academy, it's one of the special things you can live as a football player. There's not many chances to win titles. It's very, very special."

Timo Werner only joined Chelsea at the start of the season, but could he leave Stamford Bridge?

Premier League giants Chelsea are among the clubs interested in Erling Haaland.

But reports claim Chelsea are not prepared to sanction a Werner exit.

 

TOP STORY – NO CHELSEA EXIT FOR WERNER

Chelsea are not planning on selling Timo Werner as they eye Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Telegraph.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea have been heavily linked with Haaland, who is also being targeted by Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Chelsea are against the idea of parting with Werner or using the German forward in a deal to prise Haaland to Stamford Bridge after one season in London.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are eyeing a move for Sergio Aguero after City announced their all-time leading goalscorer will leave the club on a free transfer at season's end, claims Fabrizio Romano. Inter, Chelsea and PSG have also been linked.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season. Koulibaly has been linked with United, PSG and Bayern Munich previously.

- While a Koulibaly departure is on the cards, could legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon arrive? Gazzetta dello Sport claims Napoli are interested in the Juventus great, who is searching for regular football.

Cristiano Ronaldo will decide his future before May, according to Tuttosport. The Juventus superstar has been linked with former clubs Madrid and United, as well as PSG.

- Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, Torino captain Andrea Belotti, PSV's Donyell Malen, AZ's Myron Boadu and Celtic star Odsonne Edouard are on Milan's shortlist of strikers in the transfer window, reports Calciomercato.

- The Athletic and other outlets claim Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche played down the possible transfer in an interview with Stats Perform News.

Fabian Ruiz insisted he is "very happy" at Napoli amid links with Atletico Madrid and LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Napoli and Spain star Fabian has repeatedly been tipped to return to his homeland, where Atletico, Madrid and Barca are reportedly interested.

Fabian – contracted to Serie A side Napoli until 2023 – has starred in Italy since arriving from Real Betis in 2018.

Amid speculation over his future, Fabian, who is on international duty with Spain for their World Cup qualifiers, told reporters: "I'm very happy at Napoli and I have two more years contract left there.

"Now I'm just focused on the next game on Wednesday as it will be very tough."

Fabian, 24, added: "About LaLiga, without a doubt it is one of the most competitive leagues in the world as there are many great players and teams.

"However, every player just tries to do the best for his own future. Sometimes you have to move abroad but it does not mean those leagues are better. The players are just interested in their happiness and work, so they make their own decisions.

"I can't say which one is better but I'm sure LaLiga is one of the three best leagues in the world."

Fabian has scored once and supplied one assist for Gennaro Gattuso's Napoli in Serie A this season.

 

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah refused to rule out an Anfield exit as he hinted at a move to LaLiga amid links to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Salah is contracted to Premier League champions Liverpool until 2023, but his future has become a talking point having previously refused to dismiss the prospect of joining Madrid or Barca in an interview with Diario AS in December.

The Egypt international has been a revelation since leaving Serie A outfit Roma for Liverpool in 2017, spearheading the Reds to Champions League and Premier League glory.

As Liverpool prepare to face Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals, with the opening leg on April 6, Salah was asked about his future.

"It's not up to me," Salah – who has scored a joint-high 17 Premier League goals this season – told Marca when asked if it is time to leave Liverpool.

"We'll see what happens but I prefer not to talk about that now."

When pressed on whether a move to Spain appeals, having already experienced England and Italy, Salah added: "I hope to be able to play for many more years. Why not?

"No one knows what's going to happen in the future, so... maybe one day, yes."

Salah's relationship with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made headlines amid reported tension between the pair.

Liverpool forward Salah was visibly frustrated when he was substituted by Klopp in the Premier League defeat to Chelsea earlier this month, with the German boss forced to play down the issue.

"It's a normal relationship between two professionals," Salah replied after being asked about his relationship with Klopp. "That's how I'd describe it."

The upcoming blockbuster Champions League tie will be a reunion between Liverpool's Salah and Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Salah was injured and forced to be substituted with a shoulder injury in the 2018 Champions League final after being hauled down by Ramos as Madrid went on to beat Liverpool 3-1.

Ramos was criticised for the incident, which impacted Salah's participation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"That game is in the past, so I don't think about it," Salah said. "I'm thinking about the team. Everyone is focused on their team and everyone wants to win... that's it."

Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe have been tipped to join Real Madrid.

But could Romelu Lukaku swap Inter for Madrid?

Madrid are reportedly keen on the in-form star.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TRACKING LUKAKU

Real Madrid are interested in Inter star Romelu Lukaku, according to the Telegraph via Mundo Deportivo.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been heavily linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

But Madrid are ready to bid for Lukaku, who is also reportedly wanted by former club Chelsea and Spanish giants Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports Atletico Madrid will not lower their asking price for star midfielder Marcos Llorente, who has been linked with Manchester United as well as City. Atletico will only begin negotiations if his £103million (€120m) release clause is triggered.

- Cuatro says Madrid do not want Cristiano Ronaldo to return from Juve as Mbappe and Haaland are their primary targets. United and PSG are both interested in Ronaldo.

Liverpool and Chelsea are chasing Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard, claims Diario AS. Odegaard is currently on loan at Arsenal, who want to make the deal permanent.

- ASRomaLive.it says Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette is wanted by Serie A side Roma, who are also eyeing Torino captain and Milan target Andrea Belotti.

Barca, Juventus and PSG are lining up to sign City veteran Sergio Aguero, reports Marca. Aguero is out of contract at season's end. Inter and Chelsea have also been linked.

- Fabrizio Romano says Madrid are still leading the race to sign Bayern Munich's soon-to-be free agent David Alaba, who has also been linked with Barca, Liverpool and PSG.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern are working to extend Leon Goretzka's contract, according to Romano.

Liverpool have set their sights on Torino right-back Wilfried Singo, claims Tuttosport. The 20-year-old has also caught Milan's attention.

Another day, another Erling Haaland rumour.

Haaland's future is dominating headlines amid widespread interest in Europe.

Barcelona are reportedly interested in the Borussia Dortmund sensation.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OUT, HAALAND IN?

Barcelona have identified Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a top transfer priority if Lionel Messi leaves at the end of the season, according to Diario AS.

Messi is out of contract at season's end and the superstar Barca captain has been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Should Messi depart, Haaland is wanted by Barca and head coach Ronald Koeman, though all eyes will be on Lyon forward Memphis Depay if the former remains at Camp Nou.

Haaland has also been linked with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG, Liverpool and City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims City are convinced Kevin De Bruyne will sign a new contract with the club. Raheem Sterling's contract is also on the agenda, while soon-to-be free agent Sergio Aguero will decide his future in the coming weeks. Aguero has been linked with Inter, Barca and Chelsea.

United are set to challenge Madrid in the chase to sign Villarreal defender Pau Torres, reports The Mirror. United are keen to bolster their defence amid links with Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate.

- Calciomercato says Inter will reject any offers for star Romelu Lukaku. It comes as Chelsea and Barca reportedly eye the in-form Belgian.

Barca are monitoring the future of Valencia star Jose Luis Gaya, according to Diario AS. The captain is negotiating a new contract with Valencia.

- Napoli and Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz is wanted by LaLiga trip Barca, Madrid and Atletico Madrid, claims Diario Sport.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Arsenal are considering a move for Real Betis star Nabil Fekir amid doubts over loanees Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos.

Tottenham and England star Harry Kane said he will decide his future after the upcoming European Championships.

Kane has been linked with Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City, as well as LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old striker, who emerged from Tottenham's youth team in 2009, is contracted to Spurs until 2024.

But Kane is shutting out speculation over his future as he prepares for Tottenham's EFL Cup final against City next month and England's bid to claim their first piece of international silverware since 1966 at the rescheduled Euro 2020.

"I think that's a hard question to answer right now," Kane told the Telegraph when asked about the noise surrounding his future at Tottenham.

"It's important that all my focus is on the two England games coming up now and the rest of the season with Spurs and then the Euros.

"To be thinking about speculation or rumours would be damaging in terms of my own performance.

"I always like to be focused on one goal and one job and that's to finish strong with Spurs, win these qualifiers with England and hopefully go on and have a great Euros.

"Look, I try to stay out of that speculation as much as possible.

"I'm fully focussed on doing the job on the pitch from now until the end of the summer, and then we'll see where we go from there."

Jose Mourinho's Tottenham are sixth in the Premier League, three points outside of the Champions League qualification places ahead of the April 25 EFL Cup decider against City.

England have been drawn in Group D for Euro 2020, which gets underway in June, alongside Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.

Kane has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, while he has netted 27 across all competitions for Tottenham in 2020-21.

Barcelona legend Xavi has endorsed "luxury coach" Joachim Low for the Barcelona job once he steps down as Germany boss later this year.

Low announced earlier this month that he will leave his role with the national side after the delayed European Championship finals, which are scheduled to begin in June.

The 61-year-old has been in charge since 2006 and guided his country to World Cup success in 2014, as well as winning the Confederations Cup three years later.

He revealed earlier this week he has been learning Spanish, only strengthening rumours he is in contention to take over at either Real Madrid or Barcelona at some point.

And Xavi, who is also regularly linked to the head coach position at former club Barca, believes Low would be a good fit at Camp Nou.

"He is a luxury coach," Xavi told Suddeutsche Zeitung. "He wants sparkle and attacking football, and he is a world champion.

"Low has helped Germany develop a different understanding of football that reminds me a lot of what I know from Spain and Barcelona."

Asked more specifically why Low would suit Barcelona, Xavi said: "Because of his way of understanding the game. And because of his personality."

Low's contract with the German Football Association was originally due to run until the 2022 World Cup, but he requested to leave his position early on the back of a disappointing 2020.

Germany won only three of their eight matches last year, which culminated in a 6-0 Nations League loss to Spain - their heaviest defeat since losing to Austria in a friendly in 1931 by the same scoreline.

Xavi, who was overtaken by Lionel Messi last week in the list of all-time appearances for Barcelona, feels it is the natural time for Low to seek pastures new. 

"With such a period of time, wear and tear is inevitable," he added. "That might be the case now."

Miralem Pjanic is determined to stay and fight for his Barcelona future despite a disappointing first season at Camp Nou.

Bosnia-Herzegovina playmaker Pjanic joined Barca last year in a deal that saw fellow midfielder Arthur move in the opposite direction to Juventus.

Each European superpower bowing out at the last-16 stage of the Champions League indicates the difficult situations both players entered with their new employers, but while injuries have occasionally hindered Arthur's progress, Pjanic has started to appear surplus to requirements under Ronald Koeman.

Pedri's development into a regular first-team fixture has not helped the 30-year-old's cause and Riqui Puig has been preferred as a midfield option off the bench in recent weeks.

An overall upturn in Barca's form, with a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double a possibility, has done plenty for Koeman's standing, with reports suggesting recently elected president Joan Laporta is happy for the Dutchman to continue as head coach.

Whoever is in charge next term, Pjanic told Mundo Deportivo he does not intend to go anywhere.

"I did not sign for Barca to leave the following year," he said.

"I signed to make history in a club that had been on my path for many years."

Pjanic first worked his way into the affections of Barcelona fans more than a decade ago, when he scored as Lyon dumped Real Madrid out of the Champions League in 2009.

He explained that the Blaugrana were interested in his services as a youngster before almost making the move in 2019 before Antoine Griezmann accounted for most of the transfer budget.

"I decided to start my career in France but I always followed what Barca did," he said.

"Two years ago, [former Barca sporting director Eric] Abidal wanted to sign me, we were talking but the club invested in Antoine and there was no money left for me.

"I had to wait live the dream of being a Barca player. I came to Barca because of my game and my experience as a winner, that's what they asked me to contribute when I signed. 

"They told me that my character and my experience would be vital to grow a generation of young people from La Masia who were climbing very strongly."

Despite his performances serving as a personal complication, Pjanic hailed Pedri as a player of "special intelligence… who will go very far" and also reflected upon a "spectacular" relationship with Lionel Messi, who "explains things about the environment that at first escaped me".

He conceded his relationship with Koeman is more distant, but his "dream" of winning the Champions League at Barcelona remains.

"If I don't play, the next morning I am training harder than ever so that the coaches will notice that I am not giving up," he added.

"Koeman doesn't talk much to players so what I have to do is keep working to be ready when he needs me."

Romelu Lukaku is Chelsea's back-up plan if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

Haaland is being circled by several top clubs including Chelsea, along with Manchester City and Real Madrid.

The Borussia Dortmund talent will demand a significant transfer fee which the Blues may be able to afford.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU FIRMS AS CHELSEA'S PLAN B

Chelsea have turned their attention to their former striker Romelu Lukaku as they look to bolster their forward options.

The Telegraph reports that Haaland still remains top priority but Inter forward Lukaku is being heavily considered.

The Manchester Evening News are also reporting City are interested in Lukaku as both clubs prepare to miss out on Haaland.

Inter have indicated that Lukaku, who was at Chelsea from 2011 to 2014 but spent spells on loan at West Brom and Everton, is not for sale.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca's front page discusses Real Madrid setting Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe as their transfer priorities amid a major reconstruction whilst reinforcing a Cristiano Ronaldo return is not part of their plans.

- ESPN claim Borussia Dortmund have set a €180m valuation on Haaland, as numerous clubs circle for the Norwegian forward's services.

- Manchester United are considering offering Jesse Lingard a new deal following his exceptional form on loan at West Ham United, according to The Sun.

- AS is reporting that Manchester United have also made an approach to sign Atletico Madrid's Marcos Llorente for £68.5m.

- Turkish outlet Ajansspor reports that Fenerbahce have contacted ex-Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri about potentially taking up their head coach role.

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