Manchester City have not yet made an approach for Erling Haaland, though Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke knows that any offer the Premier League champions did make would be unmatchable for the Bundesliga club.

Haaland is reportedly City's priority target ahead of next season, as Pep Guardiola looks to bring in a top-class striker.

The 21-year-old has had a stop-start campaign with Dortmund due to injuries, but has still scored 23 times in as many matches, averaging a goal every 77 minutes across all competitions.

Haaland has been a sensation since signing for Dortmund in the middle of the 2019-20 season, though seems likely to leave the club at the end of the campaign when a €75million buy-out clause in his contract reportedly kicks in.

City, along with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, have been heavily linked. Watzke, however, insisted no official approach has yet been made by any club.

Dortmund's chief executive is under no illusion, though, that the club would be unable to compete financially should City make an offer. But he is confident that BVB's model of investing in new talent after losing star players will continue to prove fruitful.

Speaking to Sport Bild, Watzke said: "I've given up judging media rumours. Otherwise, my day would have to have 36 hours.

 

"We don't currently know anything specific from the player side, nor has anyone approached us. However, we cannot keep up financially if Manchester City comes in [for Haaland].

"We've seen it a few times: we lost [Robert] Lewandowski to Bayern in 2014 and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang to Arsenal in 2018.

"We've always created a new star. If Haaland leaves, we will find another new talent and develop it into a star, and that will also do the Bundesliga good."

Watzke would not comment on any potential targets for Dortmund, though.

Haaland scored twice in Norway's 9-0 hammering of Armenia on Tuesday, having previously netted for his country in last week's 2-0 win over Slovakia.

Now, the striker's immediate focus will be on helping Dortmund push Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race, with Marco Rose's team – who face RB Leipzig in a huge game on Saturday – trailing the league leaders by six points.

Joan Laporta would be keen to sign either Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe – but only if they wanted to join Barcelona and presented more reasonable financial demands.

Both Haaland and Mbappe could be on the move at the end of this season, with Europe's biggest clubs positioning themselves to sign the best forwards of their generation.

Haaland is widely thought to have a €75million release clause at Borussia Dortmund, while Mbappe's Paris Saint-Germain contract will expire – even if the Ligue 1 giants are trying to agree a renewal.

The exciting pair therefore represent relatively cheap signings on the face of it, but both would require significant outlays in terms of wages and agents' fees.

For that reason, Barca president Laporta is struggling to see how either could arrive at Camp Nou.

"Haaland or Mbappe? If I had to choose, I would stick with what I have clearly stated," Laporta told RAC1. "The one who makes it clear they want to play for Barca, the one who wants to come here.

"For the time being, neither of the two has expressed that to me. If they don't feel like it, it will be difficult.

"What has been expressed to me is the conditions about these two deals. We would never accept to spend those figures, no way."

Barcelona's financial restrictions led to the release of Lionel Messi to PSG last year, with a move to bring the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner back also ruled out by Laporta.

Arsenal continue their rejuvenation under Mikel Arteta, but a striker is becoming a positional need.

After his relationship with Arteta soured, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left for Barcelona during the January transfer window and has found verve under Xavi.

Although Alexandre Lacazette has been a compatible fit for Arsenal, he and Eddie Nketiah are out of contract at the end of the season, and the Gunners may look to Old Trafford. 

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL TO MOVE FOR RASHFORD

Arsenal are preparing an approach for Manchester United star Marcus Rashford in an attempt to bolster their stocks up front, according to The Mirror.

The Gunners were linked with a number of forwards during January, including Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak, but it appears Rashford's status at Old Trafford has shifted following United's Champions League exit.

The 24-year-old has one year plus an option for a further season on his current deal, but appears to be a peripheral figure under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

Rashford has made just 10 starts in the Premier League this season and scored only five goals across all competitions. 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City and Real Madrid are in best position to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, but the 21-year-old has rejected City's first offer, AS reports.

- Barcelona could offer versatile defender Oscar Mingueza as part of a package to land Leeds United winger Raphinha, Sport has reported.

- Juventus have shown their interest in Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger as they aim to replace Giorgio Chiellini, according to The Sun.

- The Daily Mail are reporting that Inter are keen to sign Juve's Paulo Dybala, who will be out of contract at the end of the season and is not having his deal renewed.

Barcelona have re-established themselves this term after a strong January transfer window.

Barca head coach Xavi, appointed in November, has overseen a major form reversal culminating in last week's 4-0 Clasico win.

The Blaugrana have their sights set on more additions as they continue to re-build after Lionel Messi's exit last year.

TOP STORY - BARCELONA SET SIGHTS ON SALAH

Barcelona boss Xavi is determined to land Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah , claims Mundo Deportivo.

The cash-strapped Catalans have switched their attention from the race for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

Salah is yet to re-sign with Liverpool where he is out of contract in 2023.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said he will not put the club at financial risk in order to sign Erling Haaland, per Fabrizio Romano for Mundo Deportivo.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool will not pursue West Ham United's Declan Rice amid interest from several clubs in the England international midfielder, claims Football Insider.

- Leeds United has rejected a £29million bid from  Barcelona  for 25-year-old Brazilian winger  Raphinha , whose release clause is set at £60million, according to Sport.

- Arsenal midfielder  Granit Xhaka  remains a transfer target for  Roma head coach Jose Mourinho, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- According to the Daily Mail, Wolves and Portugal winger  Pedro Neto  is on  Paris Saint-Germain's  wanted list.

Joan Laporta says Barcelona being linked with a move for Kylian Mbappe is "part of the show business of football" and vowed the club will not "lose our heads" in the transfer market.

Real Madrid are strong favourites to sign Mbappe when his Paris Saint-Germain contract expires at the end of the season.

Barca have reportedly emerged as contenders to lure the France striker to LaLiga in a move that would be hard to take for their fierce rivals.

But Blaugrana president Laporta brushed of talk of the Catalan giants landing the prolific 23-year-old as a free agent.

He told Mundo Deportivo: "I think this is part of the show business of football, I have nothing to say about it."

Laporta added: "Here, everyone is free to launch messages and proclamations and we already know that this is part of the world of football, that the big clubs are interested in great players. 

"But I'm not going to start, and you have to allow me not to, to talk about players because if I do, the only thing I can do is harm the interests of our club. 

"If we talk about a player and we had the intention of signing him, we would increase the price. Neither with this player nor with others do I want to comment on issues because it would harm the interests of the club. 

"The technical secretary and sports management are working to improve our squad, which is getting better and better, we are more and more satisfied. 

"I want it to be clearly understood that we prioritise the team above all else, a team reinforced in each of its lines and what we do not participate in is raising players or looking for players who are more than the team. 

"What we want to strengthen is the team we have that plays based on a genuine Barca system. The club thinks that this is what the football team needs, this genuine style that for me is the key to everything and is what we have to do, a team that can play this system with highly talented players."

Barca lost Lionel Messi due to the club's huge financial troubles and Laporta says there is no chance they will be reckless with recruitment. 

He added: "I insist, I will not talk about specific players but I can tell you that we will not carry out any operation that puts the institution at risk. 

"It has been a maxim that we have followed since I became president again, it happened to us in various circumstances and we are going to continue with this philosophy and this criterion, not to put the institution at risk with operations that we wouldn't do, even if we were already healthy.

"So, you can talk about players, about big-money operations in which Barca is not going to lose its head. The partners are calm because we are not going to lose our heads for an operation of these magnitudes. 

"Most of the players want to come to Barca, they like the club, the team, our philosophy, our way of working, our understanding football. And this is good, we are verifying it in many cases and daily. 

"They will have to adapt to Barca's salary levels and to an economic structure of the operation that maintains the sustainability and balance of the club."

Pedri wants Erling Haaland to join Barcelona when he leaves Borussia Dortmund. 

Haaland's Dortmund contract does not expire until 2024, but he reportedly has a release clause that means he could be signed for €75million at the end of this season. 

Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United have all been heavily linked with a move for the Norway striker. 

Haaland has scored 80 goals in 82 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund since joining from Salzburg in January 2020, winning the Golden Boy award that year. 

That prolific goalscoring record is the main reason Pedri – who was named the 2021 Golden Boy – hopes Haaland's next move sees him end up at Camp Nou. 

"It's something for the club. But Haaland has great qualities and almost everything he touches ends up in the goal," Pedri told TVE. 

"I hope he can come because I've always said I want the best players at Barca." 

Barca had no trouble in front of goal on Sunday, though, as they overcame LaLiga leaders Real Madrid 4-0 in El Clasico. The gap between the teams now stands at 12 points, with the Blaugrana possessing a game in hand. 

Following the resounding triumph at the Santiago Bernabeu, Pedri is refusing to give up on finishing top of the pile this season. 

"We have to try to win everything and make them lose and put pressure on them. We can win the league, I won't say we can't," he said. 

Pedri is on international duty with Spain, who take on Albania and Iceland in friendlies on Saturday and Tuesday with their place at the 2022 World Cup already secured. 

Luis Enrique's side are among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar, and Pedri feels a triumphant campaign is the only way for Spain to feel successful. 

"A good result would be to win the World Cup, but it's a very difficult competition. We'll take it one game at a time and hopefully put another star on the badge," he said. 

Barcelona are determined to keep Erling Haaland out of Real Madrid's clutches and view a deal for the Borussia Dortmund striker as "difficult, but not impossible".

Signs are pointing to Haaland leaving Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, with Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester City all thought to be keen to sign the Norwegian striker.

There is the worrying potential scenario for Barcelona of Madrid signing Kylian Mbappe as well as Haaland, to reinforce attacking options that already include Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

It might be beyond Madrid's means to attract both in-demand frontman to the Santiago Bernabeu, given the financial implications of such deals, and Barcelona are having to work out what they themselves can afford to spend.

Financial struggles at Camp Nou have seen the club have to tread carefully in the transfer market, although they have enabled head coach Xavi to strengthen with the likes of Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore.

Speaking on Cadena Ser radio, Barcelona president Joan Laporta's advisor, Enric Masip, also said it was not beyond the realm of possibility that Lionel Messi could return to the club in a playing capacity. Record-breaking captain Messi was forced out last summer, when Barcelona realised they could not afford to register him.

Masip said of potential transfer movement: "The signing of Haaland is difficult, but not impossible. Many circumstances have to be met to be able to sign him. The club, despite the economic situation, are looking for formulas to continue making signings.

"I refer to the words that the president said: the club is in a position to be able to sign, but obviously, there have to be movements. For someone to come, someone has to leave.

"That is in the hands of the technical secretariat and then later there is the economic part. Speaking of Haaland, he is a player who has enormous quality and is a true '9'. At a football level, he is a player who would always be interesting in any big team."

Masip added, according to Mundo Deportivo: "I would prefer that Mbappe and Haaland don't get together in Madrid."

 

Since the day of Haaland's Dortmund debut on January 18, 2020, the Leeds-born forward has managed 80 goals in 82 club games across all competitions, putting him second among players from Europe's top five leagues (Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Serie A).

Only Robert Lewandowski (118 goals in 99 games for Bayern Munich) has managed more, with Haaland three ahead of Mbappe and five clear of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi sits eighth on that list with 60 goals in 97 matches, while he also sits third for assists in the same period (38 – beaten only by Bruno Fernandes' 39 and Thomas Muller's 51) and has hit the woodwork more than anyone (27 times).

Regarding a possible return for Messi, Masip said: "Nothing is impossible, but there have been no winks as such from the club."

Messi is enduring a tough first season at Paris Saint-Germain and has scored just two Ligue 1 goals for the French league leaders. The Argentinian hit a record 672 goals for Barcelona.

He signed a two-year deal with PSG in August 2021, with an option for a third year.

Haaland appears a likelier acquisition for Barcelona than Messi, although the club's tune appears to change regularly when it comes to talk of the prolific Dortmund frontman.

Laporta earlier this month seemed to dampen expectation of such a deal, given the hefty cost involved.

"Even if we had the best economic situation, there are operations we would not do," Laporta told Esport3.

Borussia Dortmund coach Marco Rose explained that Erling Haaland knows he is still missing an edge following his return from injury, but has full confidence in the striker.

Haaland started for the first time since January 22 on Sunday, as Dortmund were held to a 1-1 draw at Cologne to dent their hopes of mounting a Bundesliga title challenge.

It was hardly a vintage display from the 21-year-old, who managed as many touches in his own box as Cologne's (four), while he missed both of Dortmund's best opportunities based on Opta's expected goals (xG) model.

Haaland, who may well be entering his final few months at BVB, drilled wide in the first half when one-on-one with Marvin Schwabe, who stood firm against the forward after the break, denying Dortmund's number nine from close range.

Those opportunities had a combined xG of 0.73. Essentially, Haaland had a 73 per cent chance of getting a goal from those chances

However, with Haaland getting 87 minutes under his belt before making way for Reinier Jesus, Rose has no doubt his star man will return to his best form after the international break.

"I'll start with Erling," Rose told a news conference. "I think the game was important for Erling. You must create chances, which he did once today with a big one.

"He had a good game. I briefly talked to him, and he knows that he's still missing something. But I think we're on a good path and he will score again if he returns healthy from the international break."

 

Dortmund are unbeaten in their last six Bundesliga games but have dropped valuable points against Augsburg and now Cologne during that run, allowing Bayern Munich – who thrashed Union Berlin 4-0 on Saturday – to move six points clear at the top.

"I just said it in the interview outside, I will play this game with you. If we lose a game, you say 'you screwed up', then we win a game and Bayern drops points and I get asked if we are involved again in the title race," Rose said.

"So, it's almost a running gag now. We like to be up there and want to win games. We didn't win, so we are disappointed. The result of not winning football games is that the gap between Bayern and us is growing.

"But we also already had game days like last week where we got closer. We have seven more games after the international break. We play [RB] Leipzig at home in a sold-out stadium. We want to get the maximum out of this season."

Michael Laudrup has questioned whether Barcelona need to sign Erling Haaland and is unsure whether the Norwegian would suit Xavi's style of play.

The Borussia Dortmund striker, who has hit 16 Bundesliga goals at a rate of just 75.31 minutes per goal this campaign, has been linked with a close-season move to many of Europe's biggest clubs.

Barcelona have been touted as a possible destination for the 21-year-old, but club president Joan Laporta recently suggested that such a transfer might be beyond the Catalan Giants, saying he wouldn't "do deals that could put the institution at risk".

Former Blaugrana forward Laudrup, who scored 40 league goals during a five-year spell at Camp Nou between 1989 and 1994, pondered whether Haaland's attributes would suit the patient passing game preferred by head coach and Barca legend Xavi.

"I have doubts as to whether he [Xavi] needs a striker like him," Laudrup told Catalonian radio station RAC1.

"I don't argue with Haaland as a goalscorer. He's incredible. He keeps scoring and scoring and it's no coincidence. The only thing is that he is a very physical player who needs a little space. 

"He is not the ideal player [for Barcelona], he does not participate with the ball and in combinations in narrow spaces. He has to play in a team that plays and then gives him balls. 

"He will always score goals in any team but I have doubts about how he plays compared to how he plays with Barca".

Ahead of their huge Clasico clash with Real Madrid on Sunday, Barcelona have taken 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga since Xavi took over as coach, a record bettered only by Madrid, who have taken 39 points in that period.

 

Barcelona were languishing in ninth place in LaLiga when Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman departed, but Laudrup, who won the 1992 European Cup alongside Koeman as part of Johan Cruyff's legendary Blaugrana side, says his former team-mate did not get the same level of backing from the club's hierarchy as Xavi has.

"I haven't spoken with him [Koeman] recently," Laudrup added. "But I have followed Barca also in Ronald's time and his moment was a difficult moment for Barcelona, due to the debt, Messi's goodbye. 

"Ronald came at the most difficult time for Barcelona in recent years. He had a lot of problems. 

"Now Xavi has come and things have improved, the easiest thing is to say that with Xavi things are going much better. Xavi will be a great coach, and I'm not saying this to defend Ronald, but in his [Koeman's] time, due to some circumstances, there were no chances of signing [new players]. 

"Now with Xavi in January, Ferran [Torres] arrived, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and Adama [Traore]. You have to remember those chances that Xavi has had, Ronald didn't have.

"Justice in football, sometimes [it] exists and sometimes [it] doesn't. Ronald will have had his faults, like everyone else, but he hasn't had the squad possibilities that there are now with Xavi."

Spotify's new $235million deal with Barcelona has given the Spanish side some extra spending money, and all eyes are on Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, and currently occupy fifth spot in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season.

Pogba recently made headlines after his home was burgled while he played in the second leg of United's tie against Atletico, coming off the bench in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE IN ON POGBA 

According to The Daily Star, Barcelona's recent windfall has the club looking around at options to add to Xavi's side, with Pogba now considered within their price range and near the top of the list.

Pogba, 29, has nine assists and one goal in his 16 Premier League appearances this season, with his contract set to expire this summer.

Meanwhile, TuttoJuve say Manchester United have identified Dutch 19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch as a potential replacement if they can pry him away from Ajax. 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona coach Xavi has said club legend Lionel Messi will "always be welcome" back at Camp Nou. However, Marca also report that Messi does not plan to leave Paris Saint-Germain during his two-year contract.

- According to Fichajes, Newcastle United are interested in signing superstar forward Neymar, who is under contract at PSG through 2025.

- Juventus are to target a move for Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, The Daily Star reports, if the English giants manage to sign Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Antonio Rudiger is set to join Juventus when his Chelsea contract expires this summer, signing a four-year deal with the iconic Italian club.

- Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to a free transfer to Barcelona, with the deal expected to be completed at the end of the season according to Football Insider.

- The agent of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho said he would one day like to return to Serie A, according to The Daily Mirror. The 30-year-old Italian spent three seasons with Hellas Verona, and five seasons with Napoli before heading to the Premier League.

Manchester United's hopes of silverware this season are officially over and focus is now turning towards the 2022-23 campaign.

The Red Devils are left focusing on their top-four battle in the Premier League following elimination to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 this week.

That has surely ended Ralf Rangnick's hopes of landing the managerial position full time, though it remains to be seen who will be in the Old Trafford hot seat come next term.


TOP STORY – UNITED RAMP UP MANAGERIAL SEARCH

The likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel have each been touted as contenders to replace Rangnick, but another name may now be in the frame.

According to Spanish outlet Fichajes, Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui is also being considered for one of the top positions in world football.

Lopetegui has previously managed Real Madrid and the Spain national team and is in his third season with Sevilla, whom he remains under contract with until 2024.


ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United intend to splash the cash when the transfer window reopens at the end of the season and, according to Fichajes, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar is in their sights. The Brazil international was jeered by his own supporters during last week's win against Bordeaux.

- After two years with Tottenham, Fabrizio Romano claims that left-back Sergio Reguilon could be on his way back to Spain in the coming months. Barcelona are said to be monitoring his situation, while Madrid have a buy-back clause of around €40million.

- It could be a busy transfer window for Madrid, who have also been strongly linked with PSG forward Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's in-demand striker Erling Haaland. However, Goal reports that Los Blancos are losing hope of beating Manchester City to the signature of the latter.

- Man City midfielder Rodri has another three years to run on his contract, but The Telegraph suggests that the Premier League leaders are eager to tie the midfielder down to an even longer deal, with talks between the two parties ongoing.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Nikola Milenkovic is on the radar of Inter and Man Utd. Inter are said to have made the Fiorentina and Serbia defender one of their primary targets, while United had scouts present to watch him against Bologna last week.

Pep Guardiola insisted he would not swap any of his Manchester City players as they chase treble glory – batting away speculation about Erling Haaland.

City could match Manchester United's 1998-99 feat of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in one season, and Guardiola is no longer ridiculing that possibility.

They are a nose ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League and through to the quarter-finals of both knockout competitions, achieving such success largely without a recognised 'number nine' striker.

Haaland is the player most frequently linked with City, although Real Madrid and Barcelona are known to admire Borussia Dortmund's prolific marksman too. A decision could reportedly come soon regarding Haaland's future.

"Since I'm here, apparently every month, two months, we're going to sign 50 players," Guardiola said, when asked about the 21-year-old Norwegian. "Right now, listen, it's impossible I'm going to talk about some guy who's not here, and I don't know if he will be here. He's a Dortmund player.

"You can ask for this player or another one or another one. A transfer window is going to start, and many things are going to happen."

Southampton provide the opposition on Sunday in the FA Cup, with Guardiola taking issue with a reporter who questioned whether it might be challenging to motivate his City players for the trip to St Mary's.

Given City's other targets and Liverpool's rapid gain on them in the title race, some might consider the FA Cup a distraction, but not Guardiola.

"How do you ask me this, when we show in the last six years that we play every game in every competition like it was the last game in our lives?" Guardiola said.

"I know it looks like everything is gone, it is over, no chance of anything, but the manager still trusts a lot in his players to try to win every competition, being who we are.

"I want to do it with these guys. I would not change one single player to do these next two months we have ahead of us. Success? I don't know."

 

Since Guardiola joined City ahead of the 2016-17 campaign, Southampton have won just one of the 13 clashes between the sides (D3 L9), a 1-0 victory in July 2020 on home soil. City have drawn home and away in the Premier League with Southampton this season, however.

Guardiola was asked about how City have achieved spectacular success during his reign, while neighbours Manchester United have fallen short of delivering trophies.

United's last major silverware came in the 2016-17 season when they won the EFL Cup and Europa League, and despite high investment in players since then, they have been unable to keep pace with City.

"I would love to give an opinion about that, not to help them, because I'm sorry, but I don't have an opinion because I'm not there," Guardiola said. "I don't know the reason why. I think the team they have is fantastic. We cannot deny how good they are. But the reason why, I would say because the contenders are good too."

Guardiola said City were enjoying success due to the financial backing they have, and the support he and his staff receive from club hierarchy, comparing this to United in the Alex Ferguson era and Chelsea during early years of Roman Abramovich's ownership.

When it comes to others falling short, Guardiola said: "The difference in this club is there is strategy for many years. We lose, but this is the way."

City are losing only very rarely these days, which means the treble dream lives on. They won the domestic treble in 2018-19, but now the three trophies they are chasing include the old European Cup.

"I would say in September, October, November, it's more difficult," Guardiola said. "But we have two months left and still you can be there to win the titles, it can be possible. On the other side, it happened once in the lifetime."

Xavi insisted Barcelona will focus on winning the Europa League as a means to qualify the Champions League, while declaring the clash with Galatasaray on Thursday as a "final".

Barca were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash with Galatasaray, setting up a winner-takes-all decider in Istanbul.

The Blaugrana have progressed from seven of their last eight ties in the UEFA Cup and Europa League last 16, with their only elimination at this stage coming in 2003-04 (1-0 on aggregate versus Celtic).

Turkish side Gala have also only won one of their previous nine meetings with Barcelona across all competitions (D3 L5), with that lone victory coming in November 1994 in the Champions League (2-1).

Barca head coach Xavi sees the competition as a perfect chance to qualify for the Champions League, despite his side being likely to qualify via finishing in Spain's top four - currently sitting third in the league.

"For us the main objective is to be in the Champions League," he told reporters at Wednesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we are in the Europa League, which if we win it would give us access to the Champions League. We are very excited, even if it is the Europa League, we are really looking forward to it.

"For us it's a final [against Galatasaray], it's heads or tails. The first part of the first leg was not good, we didn't come out with intensity.

"The example should be the [4-0 win] over Osasuna, where we were intense and we soon managed to get ahead.

"This is a final, in a stadium where they cheer and shout more. We have to try to do what we already did [at Napoli]."

Barca face a decisive week, with the trip to Galatasaray preceding El Clasico in LaLiga as they battle Real Madrid on Sunday, but Xavi feels he is capable of handling the pressure.

"I take the pressure naturally, I like it. I'm very competitive, I'm a winner and we like to experience these situations," he added. 

"We didn't have the best result in the first leg, but I see it as an opportunity. We're in the same situation of the game in Naples and from there we came out very strong.

"This is Europe and nobody is going to give you anything. The fitness issues, above all, are the inconvenience [this week]. We try to make a specific plan so that the players who play can recover in time for Sunday."

Barca are reportedly pursuing Erling Haaland, who Xavi was said to have met in Munich, but the Norwegian could end up at Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.

Asked how he would respond to the attacking stars heading to the Spanish capital, Xavi responded: "We're working on the present - we want to win and go through to the next round.

"The club is working on the future team, but the team is still more important than individual players. If they add to the team and make us better, that will be great but the team will always prevail."

Manchester City appear frontrunners to secure Erling Haaland's signature after Borussia Dortmund adviser Matthias Sammer inadvertently hinted at a move for the striker.

Haaland has taken the Bundesliga by storm since he arrived from Salzburg in January 2020, scoring 80 goals in 80 appearances across all competitions.

That has made him one of the most sought-after talents in European football, with a host of elite clubs circling for when his reported €75million release clause kicks in at the end of this season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid were reportedly among the favourites to secure the Norwegian's services, with Blaugrana boss Xavi said to have met with the 21-year-old in Munich.

But Pep Guardiola's City, who Haaland's father Alf-Inge played for between 2000 and 2003, have now emerged as the leading candidates, with Sammer acknowledging the dangerous partnership the Spanish boss and talisman could form at the Etihad Stadium.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, Sammer was asked how Haaland could work with Guardiola, to which he replied: "They will both benefit from each other. Because Pep, of course - I was able to experience him for three years - has a certain idea.

"I can also imagine dealing with a centre-forward, no question. But he will also have to learn from the centre-forward."

When pressed if his answer meant a deal was already done, Sammer retreated and suggested he had no idea. However, he did offer an insight into the possible figures involved in talks for Haaland.

"I didn't hear anything today, yesterday, the day before yesterday," he said. "I know City is after him. The numbers - I had whiplash! I passed out. My wife picked me up again. Accordingly, it is possible."

City missed out on their key striker target Harry Kane from Tottenham before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, and will be keen to ensure they make no similar mistake on this occasion.

Mohamed Salah is arguably the best player in the world on current form, though Liverpool have not yet tied him down to a new deal.

Talks over fresh terms for the 29-year-old have been ongoing for some time, but nothing is close to being agreed.

With his contract up in 2023, Salah could become one of the most sought-after free agents.

 

TOP STORY – MO HAPPY TO WAIT

According to Fabrizio Romano, Salah is perfectly happy at Liverpool and is not considering pushing through a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid or Barcelona.

However, there has been no further progress on the contract talks.

Salah, who has scored 28 goals already this season across all competitions, remains fully focused on Liverpool but could leave on a free transfer at the end of next season.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland will demand that a release clause is included in his contract should he sign for Manchester City, reports The Sun. The Daily Mail suggested a deal was close.

- Bundesliga reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft, however, has claimed that Haaland is of interest to Bayern Munich, who may be faced with the prospect of losing Robert Lewandowski.

- Bayern are also said to be interested in Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest. That is according to a report by Fichajes.

- Foot Mercato say that Neymar will be offered back to Barcelona, as Paris Saint-Germain prepare for a "shake up" ahead of next season.

- Juventus and Milan, meanwhile, are interested in Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, according to Calciomercato.

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