Jules Kounde is the only one of Barcelona's new signings who was not registered on the eve of the LaLiga season.

Barca head coach Xavi on Friday revealed the club were "very optimistic" that their new recruits would be registered, but all five may not be given the green light for their first match of the LaLiga campaign against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

It later emerged that Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have been registered along with Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, who signed new contracts

Centre-back Kounde's registration has not been sanctioned by LaLiga despite Barca having activated a fourth economic lever on Friday.

It had been reported that Kounde may be the last of the five new recruits the Catalan giants have brought in to be registered, given the big-money signing from Sevilla underwent surgery to repair a minor pelvis injury in June.

Barca have been busy raising funds to try and meet LaLiga's salary limits and sold a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million, having also agreed a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify and sold a percentage of broadcast rights.

The Blaugrana have lowered their wage bill by offloading players and could also sell Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who have both been linked with Chelsea.

Blaugrana head coach Xavi said in a press conference on Friday he was prepared for the possibility that some of his new men may not be eligible to play this weekend.

He told reporters: "We are working hard and everyone at the club is very positive. Maybe not 100 per cent [of the players will be registered], but we are optimistic. We'll see. The club has signed very well, I am very excited about the players we have signed. We have time until tomorrow and now we are very optimistic."

Barca are expected to make Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso their next signing and they continue to be linked with Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

Xavi says Barcelona are "very optimistic" that their new signings will be registered, but they may not all be given the green light for their first match of the LaLiga season against Rayo Vallecano.

Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have arrived at Camp Nou since the end of last season, but there is uncertainty over whether they will be able to make their competitive debuts on Saturday.

The Catalan giants have been busy trying to raise funds in order to meet LaLiga's salary limits ahead of the season and activated a fourth economic lever on Friday.

Barca sold a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million, having also agreed a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify and sold a percentage of LaLiga broadcast rights, 

They have been able to lower their wage bill by offloading players and more could follow, with Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reportedly targets for Chelsea.

Blaugrana head coach Xavi says he is prepared for the possibility that some of his new men may not be eligible to play this weekend.

He told reporters: "We are working hard and everyone at the club is very positive. Maybe not 100 per cent, but we are optimistic. We'll see. The club has signed very well, I am very excited about the players we have signed. We have time until tomorrow and now we are very optimistic."

Xavi maintained his plans for the opening match of the season have not been badly disrupted by being unsure over who will be available.

He said: "It has little influence, as at the end of the day we work on different systems, different variants. Either one or the other players, very few things change.

"We pretty much have two players for each position. We work the same, we don't have a different system with the way we play in attack. Not a lot varies and I insist that right now we are very optimistic of registering the players."

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva and Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso continue to be linked with Barca, with just under three weeks before the transfer window closes.

A deal to sign Alonso is reported to have been agreed and Xavi made it clear he is eager to do further business.

"We are still planning ahead, that's a reality," the former Spain midfielder said. "We are going to see what we are going to do until August 31.

"Of course, we need to have players leave in order for others to come, but the transfer market is open until the 31st and there is work to be done for all of us. We'll see."

Xavi also revealed he wanted Nico Gonzalez to stay rather than join Valencia on loan for the season, adding: "[Nico] came to me three weeks ago. I insisted that he continue because he would have minutes. I like Nico.

"But a few days ago he came back and told me that there was a team where he would play. He has been brave and is going to Valencia.

"I hope he comes back more mature because it must be important for the future of Barca. For the midfield we have [Sergio] Busquets, [Miralem] Pjanic, Kessie, Frenkie, Sergi Roberto, and even Christensen, who can play there."

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel is hoping to welcome more new faces to Stamford Bridge before the end of the transfer window as he confirmed Marcos Alonso is close to joining Barcelona.

Jorginho's first-half penalty was enough to get Chelsea's 2022-23 Premier League campaign off to a winning start on Saturday, ending a run of four consecutive defeats for the Blues at Goodison Park.

New signings Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling started the hard-fought victory, the latter twice coming close to a debut goal, while Marc Cucurella also made his Chelsea bow from the bench.

Having already parted with substantial fees for that trio, Chelsea have also been linked with moves for Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana and Barcelona star Frenkie de Jong.

After Chelsea won their opening Premier League match for the third consecutive season despite failing to produce a fluid performance, Tuchel insisted more recruits are required. 

"Yeah, if we can add, we'll add," Tuchel told Sky Sports.

"Maybe not midfielders as a first option but we are open for everything, and I think we can use new energy, new legs, and fresh input to bring us to a new level.

"If not, then we will push this team, but I think we could use some more input and some more quality. We are on it, but we will not tell you!"

Having dominated the opening period on Merseyside, winning the second-most corners on record in the first half of a Premier League match (13, second to Tottenham's 15 v Aston Villa in December 2012), Chelsea were indebted to Edouard Mendy for making two strong saves to preserve their lead after the break.

Mendy has now kept a clean sheet on 47 per cent of his Premier League starts (31/66) – only Ederson (50 per cent) has a better record among goalkeepers to have started at least 50 games in the competition.

But with Chelsea having struggled for results at Everton in recent seasons, Tuchel was content with the Blues picking up a victory despite not being at their best.

"We struggled last season to get points here, we have the points, a win is a win," he added. "It's most important for everything to get better, because we have to get better.

"I could assume that we are maybe not on our highest level. We have players in, but they came in late, pre-season was a bit turbulent. 

"The last week in training was promising, some situations in the first half were quite good, and in the second half we had simply not enough movement on the ball. It was a strange second half without the rhythm from our team and the interruptions, 10 minutes extra time... a bit strange.

"But we hung on and we did what was necessary to keep a clean sheet, so there are positive things and from there we go.

"Very classic that we win 1-0 with a penalty from Jorginho. Like I said, we know that we need to get better but first of all, a win helps us to be open for improvement and for the atmosphere and spirit."

Meanwhile, with Chelsea acquiring Cucurella this week, they look set to allow fellow wing-back Alonso to leave for Barcelona.

The Spain international was left out of the squad for the trip to Merseyside, and Tuchel confirmed that decision was the result of his desire to join the Blaugrana.

Asked whether Alonso's absence indicated a move to Camp Nou was close, Tuchel told reporters: "That is the case. 

"He tries to leave and we agreed to this wish. That's why it would not have made sense to put him on the pitch today. 

"He would've been on the pitch otherwise but in this situation, it was the right thing to do."

Marcos Alonso looks to be on his way to Barcelona after he was left out of Chelsea's squad to face Everton.

The Spain full-back reportedly said his goodbyes at the London club this week as he nears a return to his homeland.

Alonso did not travel to Goodison Park for the Blues' opening match of the Premier League season and is expected to become big-spending Barca's next recruit.

Chelsea splashed out to sign Marc Cucurella from Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday, while Ben Chilwell has returned after a long spell on the sidelines due to injury.

Thomas Tuchel also omitted Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi from his squad for the trip to Merseyside amid reports they could leave the club.

Barca president Joan Laporta on Friday said he was confident the Catalan giants would be able to register all of their new players despite claims LaLiga will require them to generate more funds.

It is becoming increasingly likely that Chelsea striker Timo Werner will be on his way out of Stamford Bridge with reports he has been offered to Real Madrid, while Newcastle United are also investigating a possible loan.

The two new teams linked with Werner come after Bild reported recently he was willing to take a 50 per cent pay-cut to return to former club RB Leipzig, indicating the Blues are well and truly shopping him around.

The 26-year-old scored only four Premier League goals in 21 appearances last season, though also recorded four goals and two assists in his five Champions League contests.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA'S WERNER ON THE WAY OUT

Chelsea and Madrid have been in recent contact about the Spanish side's interest in 20-year-old Armando Broja – who Thomas Tuchel is said to be a fan of – though El Larguero is reporting that the London club put Werner on the table instead.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror claims Newcastle have also touched base about a potential loan deal, and the report states they are currently a more likely landing spot than his former club Leipzig.

His reported weekly wage of £270,000 per week would need to be significantly reduced to accommodate a move to either Leipzig or Newcastle, and that could be where Madrid come into the equation.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic is reporting that Brighton have put their foot down on a £50million asking price for 24-year-old left-back Marc Cucurella, who Manchester City is aggressively chasing.

Newcastle have had a £40m bid for Leicester City's James Maddison rejected, with his price-tag said to be at least £50m, according to the Times.

– Sport is reporting that Barcelona still have the intention of signing Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso from Chelsea, despite the English club marking them off-limits after being beaten to the signing of Jules Kounde by Barca.

Milan have agreed to a £26.9m deal for exciting 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles de Ketelaere, according to Calciomercato.

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting that Stoke City are in advanced discussions to secure young Man City midfielder Liam Delap on loan.

Newcastle United are planning a move for out-of-favour Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Julian Draxler, with the Germany international's price tag believed to be in the range of £25million (€29.5m).

Draxler, 28, has spent the past six seasons with the French giants, but his last campaign was mostly from a bench role, with 13 of his 18 Ligue 1 appearances coming as a substitute.

He also had two separate injuries that forced him to miss over a month each time, but with 58 senior caps for Germany and a World Cup right around the corner, he could be a savvy purchase for a club desperate for a marquee signing.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENQUIRE ABOUT VERY AVAILABLE DRAXLER

According to French publication Le 10 Sport, Draxler is on Paris Saint-Germain director of football Luis Campos' "blacklist" of players who have no future at the club.

The report says he has been asked to find a way out, and with a relatively low price tag – around half the £40m demanded by Lyon in Newcastle's reported pursuit of Lucas Paqueta – the stars could be aligning for the Magpies to land an established international on a cheaper deal.

Draxler was left out of PSG's pre-season squad for the recent tour of Japan, indicating he already has one foot out the door, but it remains to be seen if Newcastle will be his landing spot.

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Chelsea are reportedly willing to part ways with Timo Werner, with Foot Mercato claiming the forward was included in an offer to former club RB Leipzig  in exchange for defender Nordi Mukiele, who appears to be PSG-bound.

– Sport believes Chelsea will block Barcelona moves for Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso due to the Spanish club's chase of Blues target Jules Kounde.

– The Guardian is reporting that Gianluca Scamacca will have his medical this week before confirming a £35.5m move from Sassuolo to West Ham.

– According to Calciomercato, Milan have increased their bid for Club Brugge midfielder Charles de Ketelaere to €32m, and are also trying to secure a move for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech.

Barcelona have told Memphis Depay to find a new club after Robert Lewandowski's arrival, according to AS.

Barcelona are looking to strengthen their defence in the transfer market after club president Joan Laporta claimed they had seen off competition from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain for Robert Lewandowski.

The Catalan giants have made several additions as Xavi bids to better last season's second-placed league finish, acquiring Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, Leeds United's Raphinha and Bayern Munich great Lewandowski.

Barca finished some 13 points behind rivals Real Madrid last season, although that represented an achievement of sorts with the Catalan giants having sat ninth in LaLiga when Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman.

In an interview with Hristo Stoichkov for TUDN during Barca's pre-season tour of the United States, Laporta said their business is not yet complete.

"Now we are going to work on the defence," Laporta said. "Xavi has us oriented with a series of players and I hope that the Catalans will have new joys, because the Catalans like Lewandowski.

"This team gives you a guarantee of work, it gives you a guarantee that the players have a profile that is hungry, and we are trying to ensure that they have a better environment. 

"Xavi knows what the fans want, so that when we go to the stadium we have a good time and see that genuine style, playing football with maximum expression and also with goals. 

"Verticality, pressure, possession, control of the ball, all this Xavi wants to implement at its maximum expression."

Barcelona have been strongly linked with moves for Chelsea duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso after boasting just the sixth-strongest defensive record in LaLiga last season, conceding 38 goals (more than Sevilla, Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Villarreal).

Meanwhile, 12 teams in the Spanish top flight bettered Barca's tally of 11 clean sheets last season.

The signing of Lewandowski, who scored 50 goals in all competitions during his final season with Bundesliga champions Bayern, represents the biggest coup of the transfer window for Barcelona, and Laporta claims they were not the only party pushing hard to sign him.

"We made a first offer and it ended at 45 [million euros], plus five. It's within our possibilities, the player has also adjusted his salary to be within our possibilities and the Catalans are now very happy", Laporta added. 

"We have competed with teams like PSG and Chelsea, and the player wanted to come to Barca. This is what I like.

"As Johan [Cruyff] said, 'I want players who want to come to Barca', and we have to thank him because he has been earning less and enduring great pressure from Bayern, for whom I have great respect.

"Barca needs, like any great team, a goalscoring striker. He is a goalscoring machine gun. 

 

"This player has been awarded the golden boot several times, if you look at his record he guarantees a goal, and every great team needs a striker who guarantees you goals.

"I think that Johan would like Lewandowski – he is a goalscoring striker, different from others we have had.

"Also, with [Ousmane] Dembele, Raphinha, Ferran Torres, who for me is a player who has a goal and has a lot of potential, all of them and Ansu [Fati], [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang - it's going well, it's progressing very well, we have a forward [line] with guarantees of putting on a show and scoring goals.

"I want Barca to become a world reference again. In the economic sphere, we are recovering the club, we are achieving it, although we have to work more. 

"But the football side of things does not wait and I think we are doing a good job."

Chelsea are looking to swoop in and scoop up Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been Manchester United's primary midfield target since the appointment of new boss Erik ten Hag.

De Jong, 25, has 44 international caps for the Netherlands, and has spent the past three seasons with the Spanish giants.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been adamant the club does not want to part ways with the star they paid €75million for back in 2019, but the club's financial position may force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO STEAL UNITED TARGET WITH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALLURE

De Jong is reportedly been hesitant about a move to United due to the fact that they could not offer Champions League football, and that is where Chelsea will have their advantage in negotiations.

The Metro is reporting the Stamford Bridge club are preparing an offer that will include both players and cash, with €60million as well as Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso said to be on the table.

The elephant in the room regarding a De Jong move is that Barcelona reportedly owe the Dutchman £17m in deferred wages, and the Daily Mail claims he wants the balance fully paid before he signs off on any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

United have been told they will need to pay £106m in order to secure the signings of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony, according to the Daily Record.

– According to i Sport, Chelsea are working on a new contract extension for Reece James, despite three years still remaining on his current deal, in an effort to fend off interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Wolves will send 19-year-old Fabio Silva on a season-long loan to Anderlecht after purchasing him for £35m two years ago.

– The Mirror claims Leeds United are preparing a club-record offer of £32m for 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles De Ketelaere, who already has eight senior international caps for Belgium.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, the likely departure of Raheem Sterling has put City in a position to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract extension.

Andreas Christensen hopes he is not the only defender to leave Chelsea for Barcelona this close season, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso both appearing to be targets for the Catalan club.

Christensen was presented as a Barca player on Thursday after departing Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract.

Spain internationals Azpilicueta and Alonso have been linked to the Camp Nou giants, too, and Christensen revealed he had discussed the move with both players.

"I spoke to them and told them I was going to Barca," he said in a news conference. "They are great friends, and hopefully I can play with them.

"I haven't met my team-mates here yet, who have a lot of quality, but I do want to play with [Azpilicueta and Alonso] again next season."

Barca sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff was also asked about the Blues pair and said: "It is true that the change of ownership at Chelsea delays everything a bit.

"We want to reinforce several positions of the team, and we have several names on the table.

"What has struck me the most is that all the players open their eyes when they hear the name of Barca and are willing to lose money to adapt to the salary scale.

"We are proud to see how people are willing to lose money to come to this club. The new wage structure must be fair and stable.

"We don't want to talk about names, because they have a contract with their clubs, but it is true that we are looking to reinforce positions that we consider fundamental."

Speculation over Declan Rice's future has long centred on an apparently inevitable departure from West Ham United.

The Hammers run to the Europa League semi-final has amplified talk around the England international midfielder, with Chelsea and Manchester United linked.

According to reports, though, the 23-year-old appears content at London Stadium with a World Cup on the horizon.

 

TOP STORY – DECLAN RICE TO STICK WITH WEST HAM    

Declan Rice will not leave West Ham despite interest from Manchester United and Chelsea, according to The Mirror.

The 23-year-old has been reticent to sign a new deal at the club, but he is reportedly in no hurry to leave yet either, seemingly wanted to stay settled ahead of November's World Cup in Qatar.

United have looked to Rice as one of their primary transfer targets as Erik ten Hag looks to overhaul the squad, but Rice appears set for one more season at West Ham following their run to the Europa League semi-final this term.

Hammers management had previously advised that Rice is not for sale, and strong performances at the World Cup with England would likely only increase his already lofty market value.

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are showing interest in Milan's Rafael Leao after Kylian Mbappe opted to stay at Paris Saint-Germain, according to Marca.

– Los Blancos are also looking to scupper Liverpool's move for Aurelien Tchouameni, despite the player having already agreed terms with the Reds so say The Mirror.

Barcelona are discussing personal terms with Marcos Alonso, who is set to leave Chelsea, Fabrizio Romano reports.

– Arsenal defender William Saliba wants to stay at Marseille, where he has been on loan, per Goal.

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

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- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

Timo Werner and Mason Mount registered doubles as Chelsea dismantled Southampton and claimed an outstanding 6-0 victory at St Mary's in the Premier League on Saturday. 

Following the disappointment of home losses to Brentford in the Premier League and Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals in their previous two outings, Chelsea were back on song on the south coast. 

Marcos Alonso, Mount, Werner and Kai Havertz all hit the back of the net as Thomas Tuchel's side blew Saints away and surged into a four-goal lead inside just 31 minutes. 

Werner and Mount were on target early in the second half to complete the rout and open up an eight-point gap to fifth-placed Arsenal, who lost at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. 

The pressure from Chelsea was incessant early on and they took the lead when Alonso drilled home a cushioned pass from Mount, who rifled in a brilliant second from 20 yards. 

After hitting the woodwork twice, Werner finally had a goal when he pounced on a loose header from James Ward-Prowse at the halfway line and held off Jan Bednarek before rounding Fraser Forster. 

Havertz tucked home a simple finish in the 31st minute when Werner's shot came back off the upright, and only a trio of strong saves from Forster stopped the gap increasing before half-time. 

The onslaught continued after the break with Werner rolling the ball into an empty net after Forster parried N'Golo Kante's dink straight to him. 

Edouard Mendy kept Che Adams at bay on a rare Saints attack and Chelsea punished his miss when Mount converted on the follow-up after Forster kept Christian Pulisic and Werner out. 

Alonso and Reece James went close but Southampton were able to get to the final whistle without conceding another goal, though Chelsea's confidence will have been sufficiently boosted before their second leg against Madrid. 

What does it mean? Chelsea's rip-roaring start makes the difference 

With Alonso, Mount and Werner finding the net in the opening 21 minutes, Chelsea had their earliest three-goal lead ever in a Premier League away game. 

It was four 10 minutes later, meaning they were the quickest to reach that tally away from home in a top-flight game since October 2011, when Chelsea needed just 27 minutes at Bolton Wanderers. 

The incredible start meant the game was all but done by half-time and Chelsea were able to cruise to the final whistle. 

Mount on top 

In a little over a quarter of an hour, Mount had a goal and an assist for Chelsea. It was the fifth time he has scored and set up another in the same game this season, with Mohamed Salah (also five) the only player to match him. 

Another Hasenhuttl horror show 

Southampton conceded at least four goals in a single half for the 21st time in their Premier League history. Seven of those instances have now come under Ralph Hasenhuttl. 

What's next? 

Chelsea travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Madrid, while Southampton have a week to recover before the visit of Arsenal in the Premier League. 

Things have not quite gone to plan for Cristiano Ronaldo in his second coming at Manchester United.

The Red Devils are out of both domestic cup competitions and sit well off the pace of Premier League leaders Manchester City, making an unlikely Champions League triumph their remaining hope for silverware this season.

Ronaldo is enduring a five-game goal drought and, according to a report, he could choose to end his second United spell after only one season.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO WANTS MENDES TALKS OVER FUTURE

Cristiano Ronaldo will speak with his agent after growing disillusioned with life at Manchester United, according to the Daily Star.

The forward is hoping to speak with Jorge Mendes when he is back in Portugal for March's World Cup play-off against Turkey about his options after the end of the season.

Ronaldo, whose contract runs until the end of 2022-23, wants to see who will be appointed as United's next permanent manager – but he is not in favour of giving the job to interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba is also looking to leave Manchester United this year when his contract expires, but he will have to accept a pay cut to get a move abroad that he wants, the Mirror says.

- A possible replacement for Pogba could be Youri Tielemans. Het Nieuwsblad reports Leicester City have dropped their asking price for the midfielder, who is wanted by United and Arsenal.

Real Madrid rejected the idea of signing Dusan Vlahovic, now at Juventus, because they are putting everything into getting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, says Cadena Ser.

- However, AS reports Madrid are still seriously interested in Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, which could scupper Robert Lewandowski's hopes of moving to the Spanish capital.

Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt is flattered by interest from Chelsea and Barcelona, Sport Mediaset claims.

Barca are also desperate to sign Haaland and will therefore prioritise cut-price deals for defenders, says ESPN. Chelsea trio Cesar AzpilicuetaAndreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso are on their shortlist.

Romelu Lukaku believes taking the knee could be losing its effectiveness in football's fight against racism as he called on social media companies to do more to combat online abuse.

Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso recently revealed he would no longer be taking the knee before matches, with the Spain international saying the gesture is "losing a bit of strength".

Players in Premier League teams have been taking the knee before games since matches resumed in June 2020 following the United Kingdom's first coronavirus-enforced lockdown, after the unlawful police killing of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis the previous month had sparked protests against racial injustice across the globe.

Some players, such as Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, have since elected not to take the knee, though the majority of teams and players in the top flight still do so.

However, Lukaku - who was the subject of racist abuse during his time with Inter in Serie A - has now joined his team-mate Alonso in doubting the strength of the gesture.

The striker told CNN: "I think we can take stronger positions, basically. Yes, we are taking the knee, but in the end, everybody’s clapping but, sometimes after the game, you see another insult."

Lukaku added that social media executives must take the lead in tackling online hate.

"The captains of every team, and four or five players, like the big personalities of every team, should have a meeting with the CEOs of Instagram and governments and the FA and the PFA, and we should just sit around the table and have a big meeting about it," Lukaku said.

"I have to fight, because I'm not fighting only for myself. I'm fighting for my son, for my future kids, for my brother, for all of the other players and their kids, you know, for everybody.

"At the end of the day, football should be an enjoyable game. You cannot kill the game by discrimination. That should never happen."

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso will no longer take a knee before Premier League matches as he believes the anti-racism gesture "is losing a bit of strength".

Players have been taking a knee prior to kick-off in Premier League games since June 2020 in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Brentford striker Ivan Toney have both opted out of the gesture this year, arguing that more should be done to eradicate racism.

Alonso has now followed suit and will instead point to the Premier League's 'No Room for Racism' badge on his sleeve when other players kneel.

"I am fully against racism and I'm against every type of discrimination. I just prefer to put my finger to the badge where it says no to racism, like they do in some other sports and football in other countries," Alonso said.

"I prefer to do it this way and, of course, to say very clearly that I am against racism and I respect everybody."

Asked if his decision was a political one, Alonso said: "I don't know. I just prefer to do it this way. It's my way to do it, I think it's another way.

"And maybe I think it's losing a bit of strength the other way, so I just prefer to do it this way and to show I am fully supportive of fighting against racism."

Alonso, who took a knee throughout last season, has not discussed the issue with his Chelsea team-mates.

"We haven't talked about it. We are in the changing room and we are like a family," he said. "I have a very good relationship with everyone. 

"I love everyone and, up to now, we haven't talked about it. I don't think there is a need to but, of course, if I have to speak to anyone, I will say the same that I just told you and I don't think there will be any problems. 

"For now, I prefer to point to the sleeve and that's what I will do."

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