Neither Barcelona nor Chelsea have presented an offer to Sevilla for sought-after centre-back Jules Kounde, according to the Spanish club's sporting director Monchi.

Kounde attracted interest from Chelsea last year and Sevilla acknowledged at the time they rejected at least one offer for the defender.

While the fee involved then is unclear, Sevilla were reportedly holding out for as close to the France international's €80million (£68m) release clause as possible.

Indications this year are that Sevilla have relaxed their stance slightly, with suggestions their asking price is close to €70m (£60m).

Such figures would appear to be out of Barcelona's reach given their financial problems, though Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has been frequently talking of activating "levers" – such as selling off TV rights and half of their merchandising business – to inject capital and ensure the club remains competitive in the transfer market.

Monchi seemed to acknowledge Barca's interest in Kounde, as he distanced himself from criticism of Laporta's dealings in trying to ease the club's economic woes.

"Xavi has good taste, but there are zero contacts with Barca," Monchi told Onda Cero. "As for their 'levers', everything that fits the rules of the game [is fine] ... You have to be innovative, have inventiveness."

But it would appear Chelsea are focusing their efforts on other targets first as well, despite an apparent necessity to get centre-backs in after seeing Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger depart.

"[Chelsea] have to look for two or three central defenders. They don't have many, but there are also more English clubs and clubs from other countries that are looking for central defenders," Monchi continued.

"There are calls from everywhere. The money is starting to roll in a bit. It's what we have left until August 31.

"There is interest. Jules has had a good season, he has established himself in the French team, he's going to go to the World Cup – that has made more clubs interested.

"Directly, there has been little movement, but his name is marked with a fluorescent highlighter in the sports directorates of important clubs.

"Kounde is in the United States. He will join us in South Korea a little later and I don't know what will happen tomorrow.

"There is movement around Kounde, yes. Many teams are looking for central defenders. Let's see what happens."

Sevilla have already seen one important player leave, with Kounde's centre-back partner for the past three years – Diego Carlos – moving to Aston Villa.

Galatasaray defender Marcao was rumoured to be his replacement, and Monchi confirmed there is an interest in the 26-year-old.

"Marcao is a centre-back that is among the names we have considered," he said. "From then on, obviously, he is not the only one. I always try to work with alternatives.

"He has passed all the filters we have to decide and is on that final list of players. He's a centre-back who may only seem aggressive, but he's left-footed with a very good touch, with personality... He's an interesting centre-back who meets the profile we have in mind."

Barcelona have announced the signing of Andreas Christensen on a free transfer from Chelsea.

The centre-back has moved to Camp Nou after his contract with Chelsea expired at the end of June.

Denmark international Christensen has agreed a four-year deal that includes a €500millon buy-out clause. 

Christensen had been linked with Barca for some time after it began to look likely he would not extend his stay in west London.

Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed on Saturday that Christensen's deal would be officially completed and announced this week.

He becomes Barca's second signing of the transfer window, with Franck Kessie's move from Serie A champions Milan – also on a free transfer – having been confirmed earlier on Monday.

Christensen joined Chelsea from Brondby back in 2012 and made his professional debut two years later, but it was only after a two-year loan spell with Borussia Monchengladbach that his Blues career began to take off.

He has made 167 appearances for the club in all competitions, including 26 last season, scoring four goals in total.

A Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup winner in his Stamford Bridge career, Chelsea won 92 of the matches in which Christensen featured.

With Christensen and Kessie on board, Barca's focus seems to be on completing a move for Leeds United winger Raphinha.

Chelsea have reportedly agreed a fee with Leeds for the Brazil international, but Laporta insisted Raphinha has indicated he instead wishes to join Barca, who are hopeful of striking a deal despite their financial issues.

Barca are also in talks with Ousmane Dembele over a new deal, with the France winger now a free agent, while Manchester United have an interest in Blaugrana midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

He played in 31 of Milan's 38 Serie A matches and scored six goals from midfield, a tally only bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (eight), Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud (both 11).

However, fresh terms could not be agreed between the Rossoneri and Kessie, meaning the Ivory Coast international became a free agent on July 1.

Barca were always considered the strong favourites to land the 25-year-old, whose Camp Nou contract contains a €500million release clause.

 

Kessie will compete with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong for a midfield spot, though the latter is expected to join Manchester United.

In all, Kessie played 174 Serie A games for Milan since initially joining from Atalanta in June 2017, with Napoli's Piotr Zielinski (179) the only midfielder to feature more times.

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Franck Kessie on a free transfer following the end of his spell with Milan.

The midfielder has agreed a four-year deal with the Blaugrana, which was made official on Monday following months of speculation.

Kessie spent five seasons at San Siro, the first two of those on loan, and helped Milan to their first Scudetto triumph in 11 years in his final campaign with the club.

Paulo Dybala's time at Juventus ended in a way where neither party was ultimately happy with the outcome.

Despite his desire to stay, the Bianconeri were unwilling to keep the Argentina forward, allowing his contract to run down.

Reports suggest his next destination will not be in Serie A but in the Premier League, with a number of clubs showing interest.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED, ARSENAL AFTER DYBALA

Arsenal and Manchester United are set to engage in another transfer battle over Dybala, according to La Repubblica.

With the Premier League giants already in the race to sign Dybala's compatriot Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, it has been reported the two clubs have been in contact with his agent Jorge Antun.

The 28-year-old is available as a free agent with his contract at Juventus expiring this off-season, and a move to Inter stalling after Romelu Lukaku's transfer.

Reports suggest United are looking at Dybala as a replacement for the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, whose signing at Juventus coincidentally signalled the beginning of the end for the former in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, United and Barcelona have reportedly agreed on a fee for Frenkie de Jong but are now in process of negotiating add-ons, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Bernardo Silva has told his agent he wants to go in the opposite direction and leave Manchester City for Barcelona, Sport is reporting.

- Chelsea are making progress in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt after Juventus lowered their asking price, per CBS Sports.

- Leeds United have opened talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Tyler Adams, The Sun is reporting.

Francisco Trincao has returned to Barcelona after Wolves opted against triggering their purchase option.

The 22-year-old winger joined Wolves on loan last July, reportedly paying £5.1million (€5.9m) to borrow him for the season.

As part of the deal, Wolves secured an option to buy the Portugal international for £25million (€29m) at the end of the loan, but that rarely looked a realistic outcome.

Trincao featured 28 times for Wolves in the Premier League, though only 16 of those appearances were as a starter, and he had a hand in just four goals.

Despite Wolves letting Trincao return to Barcelona, they will – according to a report published on Sunday by the West Midlands-based Express and Star – receive 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

He heads back to Barca with his future at Camp Nou unclear, as the club are keen to offload deadwood amid something of a financial crisis.

Barca reportedly spent €31million in January 2020 to bring Trincao to the club from Sporting Braga, but his impact has been largely minimal.

Robert Lewandowski's status and Sadio Mane's transfer have taken up the majority of attention at Bayern Munich this close season.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry's uncertain future has lurked in the background, despite his importance to the team in recent seasons.

Reports suggest he is set to leave for the Premier League sooner rather than later, with a number of clubs showing interest.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS QUEUE FOR GNABRY

Arsenal and Manchester United are both preparing to sign Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry, according to the Daily Star.

According to reports, Gnabry is set to run down his contract after rejecting terms for a renewal, with one year left on his deal.

This leaves Bayern with compromised leverage as time becomes a luxury, despite their desire to cash in this window, instead of letting him go for free at the end of next season

While Arsenal and United are preparing a £40million (€46.4m) bid, The Sun is also reporting Gnabry would become a priority for Manchester City if Raheem Sterling leaves.

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, the Gunners and United are engaging in a bidding war for Ajax's Lisandro Martinez, according to the Daily Mail.

- Martinez's team-mate and compatriot Nicolas Tagliafico is attracting interest from Brighton and Hove Albion and Lyon, per Fabrizio Romano.

Barcelona have no intention to sell Frenkie de Jong to United but are looking for the midfielder to take a pay cut, Diario AS reports.

Mohamed Salah was prepared to join Chelsea before Liverpool made him the highest-paid player in their history, The Sun is reporting.

Rafael Marquez is set to return to Barcelona as head coach of the Blaugrana's B team, club president Joan Laporta has confirmed.

The former defender, widely considered one of Mexico's greatest ever players, won La Liga four times and lifted the Champions League trophy twice with Barcelona between 2003 and 2010. 

He also won 147 caps for his country and appeared at five consecutive World Cups between 2002 and 2018, making his final professional appearance in El Tri's round-of-16 loss to Brazil in Russia four years ago.

The 43-year-old is now set to follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique by coaching Barcelona B, who play in the third tier of the Spanish league system.

Speaking at an event in S'Agaro, Laporta said: "Rafa in principle had [agreed] to be the coach of Barca Atletic last year, [but] he had a situation that prevented him from doing so.

"Now this has already been resolved and Rafa will be the coach of Barca Atletic next season. 

"I am especially happy because I had Rafa as a player, he is a person with a great personality, captain of the Mexican team, and who was part of one of the best Barca [teams] in history."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists the club have "no intention" of selling Manchester United target Frenkie De Jong, but says the midfielder may have to accept a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

De Jong, who emerged as one of European football's hottest properties under Erik ten Hag at Ajax before joining Barca in 2019, has been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford since his former boss took over at United.

The Netherlands international said in May that his preference would be to remain at Camp Nou, which he labelled his "dream club", but the Blaugrana's financial difficulties have given rise to speculation he could depart.

Barcelona's desire to recruit wantaway Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has only amplified such rumours, but Laporta believes De Jong is happy at the club and could stay – if an agreement over his salary can be reached.

"Frenkie de Jong is a Barca player and is recognised as one of the best players in the world," Laporta told reporters.

"We know of clubs that want him, not only United, and we have no intention of selling him. The player, I get the impression, wants to stay. 

"He is comfortable at Barca and I will do what is in my power so that Frenkie stays here, but it is also a salary issue and it would have to be adjusted.

"What is certain is that the salary levels of some players are not in line with the salary levels that the board of directors that I have the privilege of presiding over have set."

 

De Jong made 47 appearances for Barcelona during the 2021-22 season, scoring four goals and boasting the best passing accuracy (91.18 per cent) of any of the club's midfielders to play at least 20 games in all competitions.

Laporta refused to be drawn on Barcelona's interest in Lewandowski, however, only affirming his respect for the Poland international's current club. 

"He is a Bayern player," he said of the striker, who plundered 50 goals for the Bundesliga champions last season. 

"Everyone knows that he is a great player, but I would prefer to be reserved because he is a Bayern player. 

"We know that he has publicly stated that he wants to come to Barca and we are very flattered, but we have respect for Bayern Munich, which is one of the best clubs in the world. Between clubs, we respect each other."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed the club have been in talks with Leeds United regarding Raphinha, who "wants to come" to Camp Nou.

The 25-year-old looks poised to leave Leeds amid a fierce battle for his services, with Chelsea widely reported to have had a bid accepted, while Arsenal have also been attributed with an interest.

Barcelona have long been seen as the favourites, however, though there have been questions as to whether the club could afford the winger due their financial problems – though they were boosted by a TV agreement this week.

Laporta has now confirmed that Raphinha does indeed want to move to Barcelona.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended. We have communication and we have spoken personally," he told reporters on Saturday.

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and are making their proposals. He wants to come."

Laporta also confirmed that two deals are set to be made official this week, with Barcelona landing Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on free transfers following the expiration of their deals with Milan and Chelsea respectively.

He added: "We will present Kessie on Wednesday and Christensen on Thursday."

The club are also expected to announce a new contract for Ousmane Dembele, who is reportedly ready to accept a wage reduction in order to remain with Xavi's side.

Luka Modric believes that Kylian Mbappe could still move to Real Madrid in the future despite snubbing the Champions League winners to remain at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe was widely expected to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, with his contract at PSG having been set to expire, but instead he elected to pen a new deal to extend his stay in Paris through to 2025.

That led to an angry reaction from Madrid fans, and even LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who expressed his frustration by declaring the decision an "insult to football" as he launched a complaint to UEFA.

However, Modric has stated that Mbappe should not be crucified for staying in France and believes the door remains open for the 23-year-old to head to Madrid in the coming years.

"Mbappe decided as he decided, that is his right and now he lives with that decision. It goes on," Modric told Sportske.

"We all thought he would come to us, it didn't happen and – now what? Well, we're not going to crucify the man.

"Mbappe is a great player, but as I always repeat, in any context, no player is more important than the club. Real is the greatest, above every player and it will always be like that.

"Who knows what can happen tomorrow, let alone in three or four years in football? Only time will tell."

Mbappe's snub did not affect the end to the season for Madrid, who having wrapped up another LaLiga title, went on to defeat Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final, which was held in Paris.

Luuk de Jong has brought an end to his three-year spell in LaLiga with Sevilla and Barcelona by returning to PSV.

The 31-year-old joined Sevilla from PSV in 2019 and scored 19 goals in 94 appearances, including a brace in the club's 3-2 win over Inter in the 2020 Europa League final.

He joined Barcelona on loan last season and featured 29 times, but the seven goals netted were not enough to persuade Xavi's side of making a permanent move for the striker.

Rather than return to Sevilla for the 2022-23 campaign, the Netherlands international has instead re-joined Eredivisie side PSV on a three-year deal.

PSV and Sevilla both confirmed the transfer on their official websites on Saturday, with reports from Spain valuing the transfer in the region of €4million.

De Jong scored more than 100 goals for PSV in his previous five-year stint at the Philips Stadion, helping his side to three league titles, and is excited to be back in Eindhoven.

"I'm home again. That's how it really feels," De Jong said. "I can't wait to score goals for PSV again and hope to see the whole stadium jump again after that. 

"Great things can happen this season together. In all the years I played here, we went for the title. It seems logical to me that I want to do that again. 

"In addition, I want to enter the Champions League with PSV. It is fantastic to be able to play football on that podium."

De Jong, who had been linked with numerous other clubs, added: "It gives a great feeling to return. In recent weeks I read that many fans were hoping for it.

"This choice was not very difficult for me to make. The club is building something very beautiful and I want to be part of that. It feels like something great is about to happen here."

De Jong, capped 38 times by the Netherlands, has also previously won the Eredivisie and Dutch Cup with Twente.

He joins the likes of Xavi Simons, Walter Benitez and Ki-Jana Hoever in joining PSV, who are now managed by Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Hugo Ekitike may end up staying at Reims in this transfer window as he waits on a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Newcastle United have long since agreed a deal with Reims for the forward, but the transfer has not progressed further.

Reports have suggested the demands of Ekitike's agent have put off Newcastle, while the 20-year-old has continued to be linked to other clubs.

And Oscar Garcia, the Reims coach, revealed on Friday the player is in no hurry to leave.

Wantaway Reims stars are said to have a July 10 deadline to secure moves, and with purported interest from Madrid subsequently dismissed, Ekitike's short-term future could still be in Ligue 1.

Garcia told a news conference: "He told me that he wanted to stay, but if Real Madrid or Barcelona arrive...

"I feel Hugo is calm. I spoke with him. He will have no problem staying at the club – and neither will I."

 

Ekitike scored 10 goals and assisted three more in the league last season, contributing a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average.

Attempting only 31 shots, his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, far outperforming his expected goals total of 7.0.

As well as Newcastle and Madrid, Ekitike has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Ernesto Valverde has secured a return to Athletic Bilbao after being appointed the club's head coach on president Jon Uriarte's first day in office.

Valverde remains a popular figure at the club following a successful second stint as the first team's coach between 2013 and 2017.

During that four-year spell, Valverde took Athletic into the Champions League, reached the final of the 2015 Copa del Rey and a few months later ended the club's 31-year trophy drought with a 5-1 aggregate defeat of Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana.

He eventually left in May 2017 to take over from Luis Enrique at Barcelona, with whom Valverde won two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa before being dismissed in January 2020.

The Blaugrana have won just one trophy since.

Valverde's return for a third spell in charge of the team he also represented for six years as a player coincides with the election of Uriarte as Athletic's new president.

Uriarte's key pledge in his election campaign was to bring Valverde back as coach following Marcelino Garcia Toral's departure in May.

Former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa – who has also coached Athletic before – appeared to be Valverde's biggest rival, having reached an agreement to take over if presidential candidate Inaki Arechabaleta had won the election.

But Uriarte took 47.7 per cent of the vote compared to Arechabaleta's 33.7 per cent, with his success confirmed last week.

As such, Valverde will extend his record as the coach with the most matches managed at Athletic (306), while supporters will hope he can maintain the feat of not finishing below seventh in his last spell – they have not ended a season higher than eighth since his departure.

Barcelona have given themselves a major financial boost that should see their salary cap increase significantly after selling 10 per cent of their LaLiga TV rights for the next 25 years to an investment firm.

Last week, club president Joan Laporta promised to activate the "levers" that would ease Barcelona's financial concerns, and Thursday's announcement is the first such step.

The deal sees Barcelona generate capital gains totalling €267million, with Sixth Street Partners making an initial investment of €207.5million.

The investment group will subsequently receive 10 per cent of Barca's domestic TV rights revenue until 2047.

Barca's need for a financial injection was urgent due to their financial year ending on June 30 – their accounts at the end of Thursday would have impacted the salary cap for the upcoming season.

 

Last year, Barca's financial woes saw their salary cap slashed by €280m to just €97m for the 2021-22 campaign – to put that into context, six clubs had larger wage limits. Real Madrid were top of the pile with a cap of €739m.

That was ultimately the reason they could not sign Lionel Messi to a new contract, but the capital injection on Thursday will allow Barca to end this financial year with a profit, thus ensuring a salary cap increase that should be significant.

The club are also expected to sell almost 50 per cent of the Barca Licensing and Merchandising (BLM) part of the business, but that is now less urgent.

Speaking after the TV rights deal was announced, Laporta said: "We are activating economic levers and executing on our patient, sustainable, and efficient strategy to strengthen the club's financial footing.

"Sixth Street is a proven supporter of football, an experienced investor across global sports and media, and a partner that will contribute significant knowledge and resources while allowing us to independently manage our operations."

Barca are still yet to confirm the arrivals on free transfers of Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie, who have been strongly tipped to join.

The club are also keen on signing Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde are reportedly key targets.

Thursday's news should allow the club greater room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.

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