Gerard Pique accepted it will be "difficult" for Barcelona to rein in Atletico Madrid at LaLiga's summit after Cadiz snatched a late 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Atleti's surprise home defeat to Levante a day earlier had given Ronald Koeman's side the chance to move six points behind Diego Simeone's league leaders.

They appeared to be on course to do just that after Lionel Messi marked a club-record 506th league appearance with a 32nd-minute penalty.

Alex Fernandez sealed a dramatic point for the visitors in the 89th minute, though, slamming home from the spot after Clement Lenglet was ruled to have clipped Ruben Sobrino.

The result ended Barca's seven-game winning streak in LaLiga and left them with 47 points after 23 games this season – their lowest tally at this stage of the season since the 2006-07 campaign when they amassed 46 points.

While Pique acknowledged it will not be easy to challenge Atleti for the title, he insisted they will not give up.

"It hurts a lot because Atletico's defeat gave us a chance," he told the club's official TV channel.

"Losing two points is difficult to take. Every game that you do not win, your options are reduced a little. There is an important distance [between Barca and Atleti], not unassailable, but it will depend on the next games. If we get good results, we will have options.

"It's difficult, obviously. We have to try. It's a hard blow. On Wednesday, we have another test against Elche.

"We have to recover our game and feelings because, if not, we could lose more games. We need to raise our heads, improve mentally and win against Elche."

Following the visit of Elche, Barca travel to Sevilla on Saturday.

Gerard Pique is in contention to face Paris Saint-Germain after being named in the Barcelona matchday squad.

Barca host PSG at Camp Nou on Tuesday as their huge Champions League last-16 tie gets under way.

Pique has not played for almost three months since being replaced in the November 21 defeat to Atletico Madrid in LaLiga.

He suffered a sprain to his right knee and partial damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.

But the defender has been named in a 21-man squad on the morning of the game, from which head coach Ronald Koeman will pick his team.

Barca followed the announcement with an excited tweet declaring Pique "is back".

As well as Pique, forward Martin Braithwaite is included after being medically cleared.

Ronald Araujo is still out, so the potential involvement of Pique alongside Clement Lenglet at centre-back will come as a big boost to Barcelona.

While former Barca star Neymar is ruled out, PSG still boast a host of attacking talent including Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and in-form Moise Kean.

Ronald Koeman does not agree with Gerard Pique's claim that referees favour Real Madrid over other LaLiga sides.

Pique this week quoted a former referee who, according to the Barcelona defender, said 85 per cent of officials in Spain's top flight were from Madrid.

In an interview with Post United, Pique said: "How are they not going to whistle in favour of Real Madrid? Even unconsciously, how are they not going to give more for one side than the other?"

Pique added last season, when Madrid won the title, was "the most absurd refereeing experience ever".

En route to the championship in 2019-20, Zinedine Zidane's side earned a joint-high 11 penalties and conceded a joint-low two.

But Koeman disagrees with his centre-back, who reportedly could be sanctioned for his comments, insisting the league's referees are honest.

"Those are [Pique's] words. I can only comment on this year, not on previous seasons," Koeman told reporters.

"There are decisions in which we have had no luck, but I don't think they are against us. They are decisions of the referee and also VAR.

"I always think that the attitudes of the referees are honest. They give what they see and are not in favour of any team."

The numbers have changed this term as Madrid have received a joint-low 37 cards (36 yellow, one red) but only Cadiz (none) and Huesca (one) have won fewer than their two penalties.

The defending champions have also conceded a joint-high seven spot-kicks heading into this weekend.

Barca have been shown 38 cards, won five penalties and given away two.

Koeman was speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to Real Betis, which follows hot on the heels of Barca playing 120 minutes against Granada in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Victory after extra time in that match set up a double-header with Sevilla in the semi-finals, adding to an already packed schedule.

Koeman feels the calendar is "killing the players" and pleaded for help from competition organisers.

"It is difficult," he said. "The number of games that the big teams have, with three competitions, on top of the COVID situation, makes everything more difficult.

"You have to talk with the players to see how they are physically, their feelings. Sometimes you have to give someone a rest to be able to have everyone in the best condition.

"If we count tomorrow's game and Wednesday's, there are 12 games in a row, of which 11 are away from home. And that's playing at 21:00, coming home at 03:00 in the morning. It is difficult for the players to be able to play all the time. We need help.

"I hope that one day UEFA or LaLiga will think about the number of games and what this does to the players. It is not normal. The games we've had to play, the trips, the schedules, playing the Supercopa between four teams, in my opinion, is a lot.

"Each coach has his opinion about the fixture schedule that the players have to go through. I think this has to stop, it's killing the players. We will have many injuries as a result of this. It is impossible.

"Hopefully one day they will make a decision to help the players with their fitness."

Ronald Araujo says he is inspired by Gerard Pique as he bids to carve out a lasting career at Barcelona. 

The 21-year-old Uruguayan has played in 10 LaLiga games already this season after featuring in just six during his debut campaign for the Catalan giants in 2019-20. 

In those appearances he has completed eight blocks – three more than any other Barca player – made the second highest number of clearances (29) and has yet to be dribbled past by an opponent. 

His displays have earned him comparisons with club icon Pique and Araujo admits he looks to the 33-year-old, who has made 553 appearances for Barca, for inspiration. 

"His experience has always been one thing that I have looked at since I arrived and more now that I share a dressing room with him," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"I like to look at the characteristics of each player but from Gerard I like to look at how he plays with the ball, which is something that I felt was missing from my play, and also that he is a defender who is not very fast but is always well positioned. 

"I pay attention to that a lot. Every day I try to get a little information out of him in every game and in every training session."

Araujo also praised the influence of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, adding: "Marc speaks to me a lot, how to position myself or have peace of mind to play with the ball.

"Marc is very important and I always emphasise that he is always talking to us and is very important to us. 

"When he gives us the ball he already tells us where the opponent is coming from because he is looking straight ahead and these are very important references for us."

Araujo joined from Uruguayan side Boston River in August 2018 and is already thinking about spending the next decade at a club that has made a significant impact on him.  

"I work to be able to be here for many years, it is one of my goals and something that I would like," he said. 

"I really like Barca and everything that Barca is and I want to be here for many years. If there is the possibility of being here for 10 years I would be very happy. And then the rest, one day being a captain or whatever, that will come by itself. 

"The important thing is to continue being me and doing what I do every game and every training session and helping the team because it is my way of helping us to be connected and I myself feel connected when I am talking all the time. I can concentrate and I know that I help my colleagues."

Ronald Koeman's Barca, who are 10 points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Eder Sarabia, the assistant to Quique Setien during his Barcelona tenure, has been appointed head coach of the Gerard Pique-owned FC Andorra.

After working under Setien at LaLiga clubs Las Palmas, Real Betis and Barca, Sarabia has taken his first head coaching job with the Segunda B side.

His appointment came just hours after Nacho Castro was relieved of his duties, with Andorra sitting second in Segunda B3 and having won 2-0 against Llagostera on Sunday.

Sarabia has been backed by Pique despite being involved in reports of unrest during Setien's turbulent Barca stint, which ended last August.

His touchline manner during a Clasico against Real Madrid last March reportedly drew the ire of the Barca players, while in June he was involved in further controversy when footage purportedly showing Lionel Messi ignoring his instructions was shared on social media.

Gerard Pique hopes Barcelona can convince Lionel Messi to stay at the club for years to come.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave the LaLiga giants during the close season, but ended up staying at the club.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is linked with the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

But Pique hopes Messi will remain at Barca, where he has spent his entire professional career.

"We will have to ask Leo. It is his personal decision … and we will see what happens," the defender told Radio Marca on Friday.

"I believe that as long as he continues to wear the Barca shirt there is always hope.

"We hope they can seduce him so that he stays more years."

Messi has struggled to live up to his usual form so far this season, scoring six goals in 11 games – including three in eight in LaLiga.

He is without an assist in LaLiga, while he has created just 2.1 chances per 90 minutes – his lowest since 2012-13 (1.6). His 0.4 big chances created per 90 minutes is also the lowest since that campaign.

It comes with Barcelona struggling in 13th in the table and awaiting a presidential election next year.

Pique, who suffered a knee injury earlier this month, said he had previously thought about one day becoming the club's president.

"If I see that I can contribute things that can help the club then I will decide," he said.

"It is an illusion that I have always had, but I don't know if it will come true."

Gerard Pique suffered knee ligament damage during Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, Barcelona have confirmed.

Pique hobbled off in clear discomfort at the Wanda Metropolitano after Angel Correa landed awkwardly on his lower right leg.

Late on Saturday, Barca announced the experienced centre-back had suffered a sprain and further analysis revealed damage to both the interior lateral and anterior cruciate ligaments.

"Tests carried out this Sunday on Gerard Pique have shown that he has a grade three sprain in the internal lateral ligament and partial injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee," a statement read.

"The evolution of the injury will condition his availability."

Although Barca declined to put a timeframe on Pique's recovery, Catalan paper Sport reported that much hinges upon whether or not surgery is required.

A sprain allowed to heel on its own might see Pique back in action within two months, while going under the knife would see him sidelined for between four to six months.

The bad news continues to mount for boss Ronald Koeman, who will also be without the versatile Sergi Roberto for two months due to a ruptured thigh muscle.

Barca are languishing in midtable in LaLiga after eight games, with Roberto and Pique joining Sergio Busquets, Ansu Fati and Samuel Umtiti in the treatment room.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was left feeling concerned by the manner of Atletico Madrid's winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Wanda Metropolitano.

Barca travelled to Madrid having won only one of their previous five LaLiga matches, a run of results that already had them playing catch-up in the table.

Defeat – their third in a little over a month – means they could end the weekend in the bottom half of the table, with the Blaugrana seemingly struggling to recover from a tumultuous pre-season off the pitch.

The solitary goal conceded against Atletico came at the end of the first half when Gerard Pique – who was later substituted with a nasty-looking knee injury – failed to cut out Angel Correa's pass, and Yannick Carrasco skipped past the stranded Marc-Andre ter Stegen before slotting into an empty net from 35 yards.

The whole situation left Koeman frustrated.

"It is worrying," he told Movistar. "For a big team, conceding a goal like this ... it can't be, because it's the 47th minute, we had the ball and then they score, 1-0.

"We controlled and we knew that it was difficult to create many chances. We had a pair and with the score 0-0, the game would have been totally different [if they had taken either chance].

"Like any coach, I am responsible for the team's results."

Although the campaign is still in its early stages, Atletico's win saw them go nine points clear of Barca.

Koeman recognised it as a significant gap to bridge and is demanding a streak of wins from his men in response.

"It's a pretty big difference, but there is a lot of the league left and a lot of games," he continued.

"We know that every match is complicated, but after this defeat we have to chain an important winning streak.

"I have seen a team that has fought until the last second to been able to level the game, so in this sense I am not worried."

Barca confirmed after the match that Pique had sustained a knee sprain" though further tests are required to determine the extent of the injury.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique suffered a potentially serious knee injury in Saturday's LaLiga contest with Atletico Madrid.

Atletico forward Angel Correa awkwardly fell on top of Pique's lower leg after being tackled, causing to bend the wrong way at the knee.

Pique was left in visible pain and seemingly unable to walk unaided.

The centre-back hobbled off the pitch thanks to the assistance of medical staff, but the look of anguish across his face was mirrored by one of concern on coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca were 1-0 down at the time of his withdrawal.

In a show of support, Pique's former defensive partner for Barcelona and Spain, Carles Puyol, tweeted: "Forca @3gerardpique I hope it's nothing."

Gerard Pique acknowledged Barcelona have been regressing season on season but is convinced that will slowly change following some big boardroom changes.

The Catalan giants are gearing up for a presidential election after Josep Maria Bartomeu and the entire board stepped down from the position ahead of an expected vote of no confidence.

Barca finished 2019-20 trophyless and have this season made their joint-worst start to a LaLiga campaign since the competition shifted to three points for a win.

However, Pique is looking forward to a brighter future at Camp Nou once a new board of directors is in place.

"The club is as it is right now," he told Movistar following Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev. "We are in a process of many changes. 

"I think it was necessary to turn this around. It was obvious that the trend was decreasing and that we were a little worse every year. 

"We have to give this time, but there is no transition year at Barca so we don't have much time. There will be a change with the board and it will be seen little by little. 

"It is not an easy year for us, not only because of what is happening at the club. Life is a continuous change in which you have to adapt."

He added: "I am convinced that we are going to change because the feelings are better. There are new people, young people who are making the game more dynamic. 

"We need some time to gain confidence. We can only work very hard and strong. With work, I believe that the results end up coming. We are confident that we can do great things and there is still a lot of this season left."

Barcelona picked up a third successive Group G win thanks to an early Lionel Messi penalty – his third successul spot-kick of this Champions League campaign – and Pique's header in the second half.

Dynamo were depleted by a coronavirus outbreak in the camp but tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen six times and pulled one back through Viktor Tsygankov.

Barca are three points clear of second-place Juventus and nine better off than Kiev and Ferencvaros, but Pique conceded there is still room for improvement.

"It was a game that we started very well," he said. "In the first 20 minutes we should have scored several goals. 

"Then the game got complicated. After the 30th minute they dominated us a lot. There was restlessness at times and they scored a goal. 

"There are things to improve. There have been moments when the pressure has not been good From then on, in the Champions League, all the teams have a level. 

"We have had to grit our teeth and suffer. We are in a good situation in the Champions League but in the league we have to turn it around."

Ter Stegen was making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury and insists the points matter more than any individual praise aimed his way.

"I think in the end it was very important to win today," he said. "I really wanted to be on the field again and do what I like the most.

"My saves do not matter - it matters that we won today and that I am back on the field. I am very happy for the team and that we are top."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman "respects" Gerard Pique's opinion and has backed the defender to do his talking on the pitch in Saturday's clash with Real Madrid.

La Vanguardia published an explosive interview with Pique on the eve of the first Clasico of the season in which the long-serving defender heavily criticised his club.

The 33-year-old hit out at president Josep Maria Bartomeu in particular over his handling of Lionel Messi's contract saga and admitted Barca have gone backwards since 2015.

Pique did reserve some praise for new boss Koeman, however, and the Dutchman insisted he has no problem with the timing of the interview.

"He has been here for many years and I have been here for three months," Koeman said at a pre-match news conference on Friday ahead of the Camp Nou meeting with Madrid.

"He has his opinion and I respect it. He's smart and knows that if he does an interview of this type, tomorrow he will be ready and play well. I respect all opinions if he is involved."

Pique has been named in a 23-man squad that also includes the returning Jordi Alba and misfiring forward Antoine Griezmann, whose role in the side has been questioned.

Griezmann has yet to score, assist or create a single chance for one of his team-mates in LaLiga this term from four starts, but Koeman is expected to stick with the Frenchman.

"Like anyone he is available to play," Koeman said. "It is not good to discuss his role ahead of every game. We have many more players and want everyone at their best level.

"The team is always the most important thing and we choose the best players for each match."

Griezmann's poor return is in stark contrast to Ansu Fati, the teenage attacker having scored four goals in five appearances this term - more than any other Barca player.

Fellow youngster Vinicius Junior has also been in good form, scoring in three of his last four appearances, and Koeman can see both players getting better over time.

"We know that they are two very good players despite their age," he said. 

"They are learning many things and their trajectory is going very fast. For me the age of the player is not important - what matters to me is their performance.

"Ansu Fati will be a star in the future, but he must work and develop. We will support him to be one of the best in the world, and we will do the same with the other youngsters."

Barca, who like Madrid suffered a surprise defeat in their last league outing, are seeking a first Clasico win in three attempts.

The Catalan giants have failed to score in the last two Clasicos and Koeman acknowledged the importance of picking up a positive result this weekend to rebuild confidence.

"It is important, of course," he said. "The players deserve it for the work they are doing every day. They show a lot of ambition and have started playing in another system. 

"They have shown ambition and hunger. A game against Madrid is always something a bit more. If you win a match, everything is easier."

Lionel Messi earned the right to leave Barcelona at the end of last season, according to Gerard Pique, who has hit out at president Josep Maria Bartomeu and defended signing a new contract in an explosive interview.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi stunned the world in August when he told Barca of his intention to leave the club he has spent two decades with.

He intended to trigger a clause in his contract to walk away on a free transfer, but the validity of such a stipulation was murky due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The saga was brought to a temporary end on September 4 when the forward announced he will stay at Camp Nou for another year, rather than challenge Barca in a legal battle.

But Pique feels the club handled the situation the wrong way, with Bartomeu allegedly backtracking on a promise to let Messi leave whenever he felt the time was right.

"I didn't have much contact with him around that time because it was a very personal decision," he told La Vanguardia ahead of Barca's Clasico clash with Real Madrid on Saturday.

"But I remember saying: 'Leo, it's one year, and then new people will come in'.

"He had more than earned the right to make a decision and if he considered that he should go... I as president would have acted differently.

"A player who for 16 years has given you so much. You are obliged to come to an agreement with him. It cannot be so obvious that the two parties are so far apart.

"How can it be that the best player in history, who we have the luck to enjoy, gets up one day and send a burofax because he feel they are not listening to him?

"Everything is too shocking. What is going on? Leo deserves everything. The new stadium should have his name and then that of the sponsor. 

"We should preserve our figures, not discredit them. It makes me nervous."

Pique also criticised Barca's "outrageous" decision to allegedly hire a social media company to damage the reputations of certain key figures, including himself and Messi.

"As a Barca player, I see that my club as spent money to criticise us – not only people outside the club, but also those who are still playing. That is outrageous," he said, with the club having denied the claims.

"I asked for an explanation and [Bartomeu] told me: 'Gerard, I didn't know'. I believed it, but then you see the person in charge of hiring those services is still at the club.

"It hurts a lot. I say that because I personally told the president before. What else can I say? Is it painful? Yes. Can I do something else? Well, no.

"My relationship with the president is cordial but there are certain things that remain."

Pique this week penned a new four-year contract, which has reportedly caused a dressing-room split as a number of players – including the defender – are said to have signed a letter saying they will not negotiate with the current board.

Asked about his decision to renew, and whether he considered departing Catalonia, Pique said: "If the coach didn't depend on me, I'd have had no problem [leaving].

"The club told me and other players that due to the pandemic they will suffer a lot financially. In that situation, Barca is not above anyone. 

"Barca have given me everything, so I put myself at their disposal. They tell me all the money I can give up this year will be collected in the future.

"I think we are helping the club. The pay may be bigger in the future but for there to be a future we must act like this.

"In a personal capacity, each player is free to accept the club's proposal voluntarily. 

"Another thing is that they force you unilaterally and that they do it with the ways that they have done it. There, the truth is, I totally disagree."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be ready to extend his contract at Milan after a fine start to the season. 

Ibrahimovic returned to the Serie A club in January, extending his deal in August through until the end of the 2020-21 season. 

However, the veteran striker could be set to remain at the club for longer, per speculation in Italy.

 

TOP STORY – IBRAHIMOVIC COULD RENEW AT MILAN UNTIL 2022

Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola is already studying a plan to extend the striker's deal at Milan until 2022, according to Corriere della Sera.

The 39-year-old has scored four goals in two Serie A games for league leaders Milan this season, including a brace in the derby win over rivals Inter at the weekend.

Ibrahimovic netted 10 goals and provided five assists in 18 league appearances in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Unhappy about being left on the bench against Crotone, Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus is again a subject of interest. However, Tuttosport reports the aim is still for the playmaker – who is contracted until 2022 – to renew his deal before January.

- Barcelona could be set for good news. Goal reports Barcelona are working on new deals for Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet after agreeing to a contract with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Meanwhile, AS says Gerard Pique is ready to accept a pay cut.

- Phil Jones is yet to play for Manchester United this season and could leave in January. The Sun reports United could demand £20million for the defender, who is contracted until 2023.

- Maurizio Sarri could be set for a return to coaching. CalcioMercato reports the former Juventus and Chelsea boss is a target for Fiorentina amid pressure on Giuseppe Iachini after the club collected just four points from their opening four Serie A games of the season.

- Out of contract at Marseille at season's end, Florian Thauvin could be set for a move. Le 10 Sport says Milan are interested in the forward.

- With Virgil van Dijk out due to a serious knee injury, Liverpool could be looking for a defender in January. Football Insider says Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White remains on the Premier League champions' radar.

The transfer saga that is Jadon Sancho-Manchester United continues to roll on.

Sancho has long been tipped to join United, though Borussia Dortmund are adamant the England star will not return to his homeland this off-season.

United, however, are reportedly not giving up.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED HELD UP BY PERSONAL TERMS

Manchester United remain keen on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho but personal terms and an agent fee are holding up their pursuit, according to ESPN.

Dortmund have insisted Sancho will not be sold, though United continue to target the former Manchester City youngster in a blockbuster transfer.

United have reportedly been given the green light to speak to Sancho and his representative but there has been an impasse with the player's camp over salary demands.

ROUND-UP

- Journalist Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen are still negotiating a deal for star Kai Havertz. While Chelsea are confident, there remains a difference between the two clubs as Leverkusen hope to conclude a deal by the end of the month.

Jack Grealish to United? The Aston Villa captain continues to be linked with a move to Old Trafford and ESPN reports United goalkeeper Sergio Romero could be included in a deal to sign Grealish. Romero is United's number two behind David de Gea and the Argentina international's future is unclear, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly keen for Dean Henderson to challenge for the number one spot.

- According to Cadena Ser's El Larguero, Luis Suarez is aiming to stay at Barcelona. Linked with a return to former club Ajax, Suarez is reportedly one of a number of players who could be forced out following Ronald Koeman's arrival. However, Suarez, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto all want to speak to Quique Setien's replacement.

- Amid doubts over Pique's long-term future with Barca, Libero claims newly promoted Premier League side Fulham have made an offer for the Spain international star.

United remain interested in signing Barca teenager Ansu Fati, reports Marca. The 17-year-old reportedly switched agents to Jorge Mendes, having previously been represented by Messi's brother.

- The Telegraph says Chelsea are considering a move for Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva. The 35-year-old will become a free agent following the Champions League final and he has already been linked with former club Milan and fellow Serie A side Fiorentina.

Juventus are negotiating with United for Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa, claims La Gazzetta dello Sport. The report also says the Serie A champions are speaking to City regarding Alex Sandro, while new boss Andrea Pirlo is eyeing Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

- Tuttosport's frontpage on Thursday suggests a merry-go-round of strikers. Inter have reportedly told Real Madrid that Romelu Lukaku is not for sale, Juve are in talks with Wolves to sign Raul Jimenez and Inter are challenging the Bianconeri for Dzeko. Meanwhile, Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik is heading towards Roma.

- The countdown is on for Madrid to sell outcasts Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, according to Marca.

For the Barcelona players and staff, there was nowhere to hide in the glare of the Estadio da Luz. 

An unprecedented, unmitigated, humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Friday laid bare the serious malfunctioning of one of the world's grandest clubs. 

President Josep Maria Bartomeu has already confirmed that "announcements will be made" next week, likely beginning with the future of coach Quique Setien, but Barca's problems run far deeper, from the boardroom to the dressing room. 

"Nobody is safe," said Gerard Pique after the match. "It is not the first time, the second time or the third time, it's very tough. I hope it is useful for something." 

The defender needs nobody to tell him that significant changes must be made at Camp Nou and he himself offered to leave for the good of the club. Ironically, such a public admission suggests he is the kind of character Barca need to keep. 

Who, then, are the people who should go if Barca are to become great again? 

THE BOARD

Josep Maria Bartomeu

The buck stops with the president. Bartomeu survived those infamous nights in Rome and Liverpool, but Lisbon must surely be the beginning of the end for a man who has presided over a wretched, expensive decline. Victor Font is presently the only rival candidate for the 2021 elections, if we get there.

Javier Bordas

Bordas is the director in charge of the football first team at Barca and, regardless of the presidency, it is only right that a new figurehead is put in place to oversee the rebuild.

THE EXECUTIVES

Eric Abidal

Barca's first-team technical secretary came under pressure after a public falling-out with Lionel Messi this year, and his job now looks untenable.  It's essential Barca appoint someone who can repair the damaged relations between the board and the players. Carles Puyol has been touted as a good candidate for the role, including by Messi. 

Oscar Grau

As CEO, Grau is the beating heart of Barcelona's operations and he cannot escape blame for the way the football project has been run in recent years. Speculation has seen Sevilla's Monchi linked with the role.

THE COACHES

Quique Setien

The problems ran deeper than Ernesto Valverde and sacking his successor will likewise not solve everything, but watching him lean against the Luz dugout, silent and stewing, made it abundantly clear that he cannot fix this team. Mauricio Pochettino is available and, despite past reservations, he seems willing to put aside his Espanyol loyalty.

Eder Sarabia

Setien's assistant would almost certainly follow him out of the door. Sarabia looks to have struggled to get the players to buy into the boss' demands and it would not make much sense to stay.

THE SQUAD

Martin Braithwaite

Barca were given special dispensation to sign Braithwaite from Leganes due to injury, while Leganes were denied the same option. They were relegated, Barca's season ended in infamy, and Braithwaite was not even eligible to play. West Ham are apparently interested.

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho came off the bench to score twice and assist another for Bayern against Barca, the Catalans having loaned out their €140million-plus man after becoming unconvinced by his form. You'd struggle to imagine a more damning visual indictment of Barca's transfer policy.

The coronavirus pandemic has hampered spending across the continent, but any moderate fee for the Brazilian would help Barca to build for the future.

Rafinha

Rafinha has played eight league games in three years for Barca, spending most of that time on loan at Inter and Celta. Now 27, it's time they cash in. Everton and Wolves have been linked. 

Ivan Rakitic

Unfairly maligned by a section of the fanbase, Rakitic has probably reached the point where a move is in everyone's best interests. He has declined since helping Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and, despite insisting he will stay, a return to Sevilla would ease the burden on the Barca wage bill and help to bring down the squad's average age.

Nelson Semedo

Right-back has been a problem position since Dani Alves left in 2015, and Semedo's performance against Bayern made it clear that he is not the long-term solution. Manchester City had been linked, although Pep Guardiola will surely have been put off by Friday's viewing.

Jean-Clair Todibo

He's only 20 and has played four times in LaLiga, but selling Todibo would be a simple way for Barca to raise desperately needed funds. Schalke, who signed him on loan in January, had a €25m purchase option.

Samuel Umtiti

Barca were terrified of losing the centre-back in the wake of Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain move, with Umtiti's release clause at just €60m. Since that buyout price was increased to €500m, Umtiti has been undermined by injuries, inconsistency and coaching changes at Camp Nou, but he could still command a decent fee.

Arturo Vidal

One of the few players who has impressed under Setien, Vidal is 33 and should not really be part of the Barca rebuild. His contract is up next year, so now is the time to sell to earn even a small fee.

Moussa Wague

Nice chose not to activate their purchase option on the full-back, but he remains a sellable asset for Barca, who are unlikely to use him in the first team next season.

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