Manchester United's midfield has long been an area of dysfunction, even in relative terms at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils have not been able to find balance with the likes of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred.

As a result, Erik ten Hag's rebuild at United could mean a big-name signing to rejuvenate their play in the centre of the pitch.


TOP STORY – KANTE TARGETED BY 

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants N'Golo Kante to form the basis of his rebuild at Old Trafford, according to the Mirror.

The 31-year-old has one year left on his contract at Chelsea and Ten Hag is reportedly confident in Kante's sustained ability to perform at the highest level.

Kante is believed to be an attainable target if Todd Boehly's takeover at Stamford Bridge is rubber-stamped, giving Thomas Tuchel a sizeable transfer budget to work with.

United are no guarantee to even play in the Europa League, sitting three points ahead of West Ham, who have a game in hand.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun is reporting Frenkie de Jong is prepared to waive €7million of unpaid wages by Barcelona in order to move to Manchester City.

- Arsenal have agreed on a fee of up to €25m with Bologna for Scotland international Aaron Hickey, according to Calciomercato.

- Robert Lewandowski is set to leave Bayern Munich and join Barcelona on a three-year deal, the Sun reports.

- Ousmane Dembele might be moving in the other direction to join Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season, per Sky Sports.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hopes "with all my heart" that Ousmane Dembele will sign a new deal to stay on at Barcelona.

Dembele is into the final few weeks of his contract and has been widely tipped to join another club as a free agent.

The France international was told publicly to leave Barca by the club during the January transfer window after talks over fresh terms broke down.

But after initially being shut out of the side, Dembele has forced his way back in and has been a consistent performer for the Blaugrana over the past four months.

Indeed, after setting up two goals in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Celta Vigo, Dembele has now assisted a LaLiga-high 13 goals this season.

That includes 11 assists alone since the turn of the year, which is two more than former team-mate Lionel Messi as the most across Europe's top five divisions in 2022.

Aubameyang profited from another of those assists against Celta and has called on Dembele, who he also linked up with at Borussia Dortmund, to remain at Camp Nou.

"He is my little brother," Aubameyang told Movistar+. "We have been together for a long time, from the first day he arrived at Dortmund.

"Over time we have built up this sibling relationship. That's why I love him so much.

"He's doing very well now and I am very happy for him. I hope with all my heart that he stays." 

Dembele is one of three French players since 2006-07 to have provided 13 or more assists in a single season across Europe's top five leagues, along with Kylian Mbappe and Christopher Nkunku. 

 

Aubameyang scored twice for Barca after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, before Iago Aspas' strike seemingly gave Celta a route back into the match.

That was Aspas' 10th goal in 15 LaLiga games against Barcelona, a tally that only Diego Forlan can match against the Catalan giants in the competition this century.

But Jeison Murillo was dismissed for a foul on Depay and Barca saw out the win, albeit one that was overshadowed by a sickening head injury sustained by Ronald Araujo.

Barca have now won three in a row to all but seal second place in LaLiga, though head coach Xavi was left with mixed feelings as his side were not at their best.

"We didn't play a good game, yet we still got the three points," he said. "The feeling is not overly good. We have to understand what each game requires.

"It was hard for us to understand that we had an extra man. We lacked the neatness that we have asked so much for. But we were effective and continue to fight for second."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as Barcelona eased to a 3-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in a game overshadowed by Ronald Araujo leaving the field in an ambulance.

Araujo clashed heads with Gavi shortly after the hour mark at Camp Nou and, after initially appearing to run off the injury, collapsed to the floor before being attended to by medics.

That incident came shortly after Iago Aspas had struck to give Celta some hope following Memphis Depay's opener and a couple of goals from Aubameyang either side of half-time.

But a red card for former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately left the visitors, who recovered from three down to draw 3-3 in the reverse fixture, with too much to do in Tuesday's LaLiga contest.

 

Dembele showed superb trickery to take the ball past two opponents and pull it back for Depay to sweep past Matias Dituro, who got a hand to the shot but could not keep it out.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, returning from illness that ruled him out last weekend, kept out Thiago Galhardo at full stretch and denied the same player from a header soon after.

Barca doubled their advantage before the interval through Aubameyang, who tucked into the bottom-right corner after Nestor Araujo failed to deal with Depay's cross into the box.

Aubameyang took advantage of some more good play from Dembele three minutes after the interval by clinically sweeping home Barca's third.

A poor pass from Ter Stegen to Araujo allowed Galhardo to pounce and play in Aspas, but Celta's momentum was halted when last man Murillo fouled Depay and was sent off.

Barcelona saw Araujo leave the field with a head injury soon after and had a fourth goal for substitute Riqui Puig ruled out for offside, but they had no trouble seeing out the win, despite 11 minutes being added on.

Ousmane Dembele's signing for Barcelona had become emblematic of Josep Maria Bartomeu's turbulent presidency.

An untenably ballooning wage bill saw the club face bankruptcy in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and in a need to cut wages, the French attacker has become an expendable asset.

However, Dembele is reportedly determined to make keeping him at Barcelona more feasible, despite being set to leave at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE OPEN TO BARCELONA WAGE CUT

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ousmane Dembele is prepared to reduce his salary in order to sign a new contract at Barcelona, Sport reports.

Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko and the Barcelona board reportedly met and the assertion was made that the France international was willing to take a pay cut to continue playing under Xavi.

Return on investment has always lingered over the 24-year-old attacker following his €140million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. 

Dembele has provided one goal in all competitions this season for the Blaugrana, but leads the team in assists with 11 from 28 appearances.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are looking to the Premier League to bolster their squad for next season, with Granit Xhaka, Douglas Luiz and Nemanja Matic all being considered, Calciomercato reports.

- Barcelona are also keen to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski but no opening bid has been made yet, per Fabrizio Romano.

- The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are considering a £50m move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

- Wayne Rooney has become to top candidate to replace the dismissed  Sean Dyche at Burnley on a permanent basis, according to the Sun.

Jordi Cruyff declared "dreaming is free" when asked about the prospect of Barcelona signing Robert Lewandowski and says now is not the time to talk about Frenkie de Jong's future.

Lewandowski has only 14 months remaining on his Bayern Munich contract and has been linked with a move to Camp Nou.

Erling Haaland is also reportedly a target for the Blaugrana, but Manchester City are the favourites to land the Borussia Dortmund striker.

Barca technical director Cruyff on Wednesday stated the Catalan giants are keeping their options open in the transfer market.

He said at the inauguration of the Cruyff Court Constanti: "I haven't ruled out anyone. I'm not very willing to talk about names. There will be others who respond.

"The only thing you do is annoy the clubs where they play, I'm more concerned about the [current] squad. They're all great players."

Quizzed specifically about prolific Poland captain Lewandowski, Cruyff replied: "He is a player who has a contract, we are the last to decide. Dreaming is free."

 

De Jong's Barca future has been the subject of speculation, with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain thought to be keen on the midfielder.

Cruyff says the focus must be on securing Champions League qualification rather than potential transfer business.

He said: "They ask me about him because there is some criticism or doubt and I said that he is a highly valued player within the club and in the world of football and this is not the time to talk about this type of thing.

"We are in the middle of something that is above everyone, each one of us. We have to meet the minimum objectives and we are fighting for it."

Cruyff also revealed contract talks with Gavi and Ousmane Dembele are ongoing after Ronald Araujo signed a new deal this week.

"I think that these days or these weeks, it's time to work on them, we'll see if they end well or not," he said. "We're trying to achieve the same success as with Araujo."

After a disappointing few seasons in LaLiga, Eden Hazard may be heading back to the Premier League next term.

Hazard has made 65 appearances for Real Madrid since arriving ahead of the 2019-20 season, but has not played more than 25 minutes in a league game since a late-January fixture against Elche.

Battling poor form and injury, Real Madrid are reportedly planning to loan the Belgian winger out for next season, and one Premier League club has jumped to the front of the line.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL HOPE TO LAND HAZARD ON LOAN

If Real Madrid are to loan out Hazard, Foot Mercato is reporting that Arsenal are the team most aggressively seeking his services.

According to the report, Real Madrid's plan is to loan the former Chelsea star for the 2022-23 season, with the goal of increasing his value enough to sell him ahead of the 2023-24 season, when one year remains on his deal.

Arsenal used a similar tactic to land Martin Odegaard last season, securing him on loan from the Meringues in January before signing him with a €35million transfer seven months later.

It is worth noting that the Foot Mercato report also stated that Hazard has no interest in leaving the Spanish side after this season, and may be willing to ride out the rest of his contract.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle United are set to challenge Manchester United for the signature of Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to i News.

Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund are reportedly interested in Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino, per Fichajes.

– El Nacional is reporting that Barcelona believe Ousmane Dembele will leave the club and head to Paris Saint-Germain if the French giants do not retain Kylian Mbappe.

– According to ESPN's report, Erling Haaland fears Manchester United would not be able to match his competitive ambitions on the pitch.

– Benfica's Darwin Nunez is signing with a new agent as Arsenal and Manchester United circle the striker who has five goals in nine Champions League games this campaign, per Metro.

Xavi has reiterated his admiration for Ousmane Dembele's professionalism as the Barcelona boss confirmed negotiations over a new contract for the winger were under way.

Dembele was told publicly to leave Barca by the club during the January transfer window, after contract talks broke down.

The France international's current deal runs out at the end of the season, meaning he will be able to leave Camp Nou on a free transfer.

However, with no move having materialised before the end of January, Dembele has been reintegrated into Xavi's squad and seems to have rediscovered his form.

Dembele has started Barca's last four LaLiga matches, providing five assists across those appearances.

The 24-year-old also scored and teed up two other goals as a substitute in a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at the end of February.

On Tuesday, with Barca's squad given a day off ahead of travelling to Germany for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, Dembele was spotted going to the club's training ground, with reports stating that he did extra physical work.

"He's an example in the way he trains, the way he plays, his attitude and commitment," Xavi told a news conference when asked about Dembele. 

"I don't know how he was before but I've got no complaints. I see a very happy, very motivated player and with his winning attitude.

"He's happy and comfortable here and so that's not a surprise that he trained on his day off. He's a great professional, I said that when he wasn't playing as well."

Dembele created seven chances in Barca's win over Sevilla on Sunday, also providing the pass for Pedri's goal in a 1-0 victory.

Earlier this week, Barca executive Mateu Alemany reportedly met with Dembele's agent to restart negotiations over a new deal, and this speculation was confirmed by Xavi.

"It is a negotiation. We are also in talks with Ronald [Araujo], Gavi, Sergi Roberto, it is a process," he said.

"The club knows my priorities and we are working. Hopefully Dembele can stay, with work he can be the best in his position.

"The club is working hard and I hope they decide to stay. Gavi, Araujo, Dembele... if we can have them next year we'll be a better team and squad."

Xavi was equally as effusive in his praise for Araujo, who he revealed has agreed to fresh terms.

"For us he is a guarantee and Barcelona have a central defender for ten years or more," Xavi said.

"There are few central defenders in the world like him. He has been the key in the negotiation. He is very humble, direct, he is a luxury.

"I am delighted. As a person he is a hard worker. Barcelona fans can be proud that he has decided to stay at Barcelona."

Xavi refused to be drawn on talk of Barcelona signing Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger ahead of Sunday's LaLiga showdown with Sevilla.

Sahr Senesie, Rudiger's half-brother and agent, was this week pictured entering a hotel in Barcelona with Blaugrana director of football Mateu Alemany and technical director Jordi Cruyff.

The Germany centre-back is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and has been free to talk to clubs from overseas since January.

But Barca head coach Xavi is focused on masterminding a win at Camp Nou this weekend that would move his side above Sevilla into second place, rather than potential new recruits.

He said during a press conference on Saturday: "I'm not going to talk about signings, we have a lot at stake. It is true that Mateu, Jordi and the board are working for next season, but our [job] is to go for second place tomorrow."

Ousmane Dembele is in a similar situation to Rudiger, with his Barca deal expiring at the conclusion of the campaign.

Xavi praised the France winger's professionalism amid uncertainty over his future and says only the 24-year-old can decide where he will be playing next season.

He said: "I haven't had a single complaint about Dembele at a professional level since I arrived. He's a footballer of many levels, well worked, I still think he can be the best in his position. It's up to him, the renewal depends on him."

Meanwhile, the Barca boss is optimistic Gavi and Ronald Araujo, who are both under contract until the end of next season, will sign new deals.

"The club cannot afford to lose Gavi and Araujo, they are very important to us and I show it with the minutes I give them. I am optimistic and I hope a solution is reached," Xavi said.

Barca are unbeaten in 12 matches and have won five consecutive games in the Spanish top flight, the last of which was a 4-0 Clasico thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu before the international break.

The Catalan giants are 12 points adrift of Los Blancos with a game in hand and Xavi has demanded they maintain their momentum at the expense of Sevilla.

"The message is to continue, not to let our guard down, not to relax," he said. "The Bernabeu was good, but the goals are to be as high as possible in the league and win the Europa League." 

The coach added: "The break could have been good for us. It is a final sprint in which we have to grit our teeth."

Luuk de Jong will not face his parent club after testing positive for coronavirus, while Sergino Dest, Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto are ruled out due to injury.

Joan Laporta is not aware that Ousmane Dembele may want to stay at Barcelona but revealed contract talks with Gavi and Ronald Araujo are "on track".

Dembele has just three months remaining on his Barca deal and there is no sign of the France international agreeing to extending his stay at Camp Nou.

However, Blaugrana vice-president Rafael Yuste this week stated "if Dembele continues to feel comfortable, then we can meet his agents and he could stay".

Barca president Laporta says there are no developments over the former Borussia Dortmund forward's future as the in-form Catalan giants strive to make a late charge for the LaLiga title following a 4-0 Clasico thrashing of Real Madrid.

He told Mundo Deportivo: "Dembele is a wonderful, charming boy, at least he hasn't caused us problems since we took charge of the club. 

"Perhaps we are seeing the best Dembele since he was at Barca, for sure. He is a player that the coaches have known how to manage better, starting with Xavi, who is managing the player wonderfully. 

"But we made him a renewal offer that expired on December 20 last year. He decided not to take advantage of that renewal. Now Xavi says that he was counting on him because he is a player who makes a difference. 

"Now, the renewal of Dembele? Let's see, the option he had has expired and we are already setting salary levels that all those who stay next season will have to accept. Some levels that have to maintain the sustainability and balance of the club and the squad."

Asked if Barca will make a new offer for Dembele, Laporta replied: "At the moment, for our purposes, we have no news that he wants to continue. 

"I don't know if his representative has been in contact but I think not because he would know and in principle we are focused on this last stretch of the league to try to make a splash and win it. At the end of the season, I suppose that in some way there will be talks but within the salary levels that we are establishing."

Teenager midfielder Gavi and Uruguay defender Araujo are contracted until Barca until the end of next season, but Laporta has no concerns about their futures.

He said: "This is on the right track. Yes, they are players that we want to continue, within these salary levels that we are establishing. We would like them to continue for many years.

"There is no need to be worried about their cases. Negotiations are under way and everything is going perfectly normally with Araujo and Gavi."

Ousmane Dembele may yet sign a new contract with Barcelona after going from strength to strength under head coach Xavi, according to the club's vice-president Rafa Yuste.

France international Dembele was informed by Barca director Mateu Alemany to leave the club "immediately" in January after repeatedly turning down the offer of a new deal.

The 24-year-old was linked with a number of heavyweight clubs in the most recent transfer window, but a move away from Camp Nou did not materialise before the deadline.

Dembele has since been integrated back into the side by Xavi and is once again a key player for Barca now that his injury issues appear to be behind him.

It looked certain the former Borussia Dortmund forward would leave on a free transfer at the end of the campaign, but Yuste is not ruling anything out.

"As you know, negotiations did not bear fruit on their day, but Xavi tells us he is an exceptional player and he contributes a lot to the club," Yuste told Catalunya Radio.

"I think Xavi is doing fundamental work, including psychologically, because Dembele is better understanding the system. It's clear Xavi is a reference for the players.

"If he feels more and more comfortable, which I think will be the case, I do not rule out that we can meet with his agent again with the possibility of him continuing with us."

 

Dembele set up two goals for Barcelona in Sunday's stunning 4-0 win over fierce rivals Real Madrid as Barca made it 12 games without defeat in all competitions.

He is the second Barca player to provide two assists in the first half of a Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu this century, after Xavi in May 2009.
 
That double took Dembele to seven LaLiga assists in 2022 – at least two more than any other player – to go with his strike against Athletic Bilbao.

Those seven assists have come from an expected assists (xA) return of 3.6, which is the biggest positive differential of any player in the Spanish top flight this calendar year.

While tying down Dembele to fresh terms is now back on the agenda for Barca, the club are also continuing to work on new deals for Gavi and Ronald Araujo.

"We are working on this to the maximum, within our possibilities," Yuste said. "The manager is optimistic about the situation. They are all happy, which makes negotiations easier."

Barcelona technical director Jordi Cruyff has said "we will see" about the future of Ousmane Dembele after the France international put in another impressive showing in the 4-0 home win against Osasuna on Sunday.

Dembele has been unable to agree an extension to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of this season, and spent a spell on the sidelines in January as the winger became an unpopular figure with fans at Camp Nou.

The 24-year-old did not secure a move away from Barca in the January transfer window, and head coach Xavi has slowly reintroduced him to a team in form.

Dembele registered two assists and made five key passes, the most of any Barca player, during the win against Osasuna.

Following the victory, which lifted the Blaugrana to third in LaLiga, Cruyff talked to SPORT about the former Borussia Dortmund man's future.

"The situation regarding Dembele's renewal is not easy. I think the most important thing is that he continues to help the team and the rest, we will see," Cruyff said.

"He has played a good game, like many players who end their contract with the future already done and others who are looking for a better contract. [It is important] that he continues helping the team to achieve the maximum objectives, and the rest we cannot control."

Dembele has five assists in his past four LaLiga appearances, as many as he managed in his previous 45 league games for the club.

Cruyff also had words of praise for Ferran Torres, who scored twice after coming in for criticism for missing a series of chances in previous games.

On the January arrival from Manchester City, Cruyff added: "There was more noise outside than inside... Nobody at the club had any doubts."

Barcelona boss Xavi says he had no doubts that Ferran Torres would start shining for Barcelona after the Spain international scored a brace in Sunday's 4-0 win over Osasuna.

The 22-year-old had scored just one goal in six LaLiga appearances following his move from Manchester City, but he found the back of the net twice in a routine win that lifted the Blaugrana up to third in the table.

His first came from the penalty spot after Gavi had been fouled in the area and he added a second before the midway point with a cool finish after being picked out by the impressive Ousmane Dembele.

That brace – his first in 78 appearances in LaLiga – came from just four shots, with the 22-year-old having scored just once from his previous 16 attempts in the Spanish top flight.  

Xavi was delighted with his contribution and insisted he had no doubts Torres would soon click into gear at the Camp Nou.

"With Ferran I already said that the goals would come; it was a matter of time," he told reporters. "Besides, all the work and what he gives us up front. 

"I would say that he has been, at times, unlucky in front of goal, but fantastic in the rest. He is one of the best in the team going into space."

Barca added gloss to a 12th win in their last 14 home LaLiga games against Osasuna through goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Riqui Puig.

Aubameyang’s goal was also teed up by Dembele, who has now provided five assists in his last four LaLiga games – the joint most in the competition alongside Athletic Bilbao's Alex Berenguer and the same amount he managed in his previous 45 league games. 

"Dembele is a player who is able to make the difference through scoring, assisting and running into the penalty area. Today he played a very good game," he added.

"If you perform, you make the fans happy. People see that they give their lives for Barca and you can't fool people. You can't fool Camp Nou."

The result means third-placed Barca are 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who they face in El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu next Sunday.

Asked if there is any possibility of Barca making a late title charge, Xavi responded: "LaLiga is very difficult, even with winning at the Bernabeu. They have only lost two games and we would need them to lose three or four. We cannot be too optimistic."

Manchester United still appear keen to sign Ousmane Dembele if the winger leaves Barcelona at the end of the season.

Dembele was told he could leave Barca in January after refusing to sign a new contract.

However, no clubs came in for the former Borussia Dortmund attacker, who will instead see out the remaining months of his deal at Camp Nou and looks set to leave on a free.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED ARE DEMBELE'S ONLY SUITORS

According to Spanish newspaper Sport, Dembele's options for when he leaves Barca are limited. In fact, the report claims that United are now the only team interested in the France international.

Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea were among the clubs reported to hold an interest in the 24-year-old previously.

However, according to Sport's report, United are in a queue of one as it stands.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham are now the favourites to sign Nottingham Forest's Middlesbrough loanee Djed Spence, ahead of Arsenal and Bayern Munich, Goal reports.

- Journalist Raffaele Auriemma told TeleClubItalia that Fabian Ruiz is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season and that Arsenal have made a proposal.

- AS, meanwhile, believes that Barcelona could look to sign left-back Alex Moreno from Real Betis ahead of next season.

- Another defender who looks set to join Barcelona is Andreas Christensen. Fabrizio Romano reports that a deal is close for the centre-back to join on a free from Chelsea.

- Fichajes reports that Real Madrid could become involved in a three-way tussle with Barca and Arsenal for Lille forward Jonathan David.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta hopes Ousmane Dembele changes his stance and reconsiders the contract offer from the Catalan club.

Dembele has failed to agree an extension to his current contract, which is due to expire at the end of this season, leading to a spell on the sidelines in January as the winger became an unpopular figure with fans at Camp Nou.

The 24-year-old did not secure a move away from Barca last month, and head coach Xavi has slowly reintroduced him.

Dembele delivered a masterful attacking show in a 23-minute cameo against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, scoring one and assisting two more as Barca cruised to a 4-0 victory.

That made him the first Blaugrana substitute to play a part in three goals in a single LaLiga game this century, and Laporta expressed his hopes the former Borussia Dortmund could yet stay.

"Dembele knows our offer and that we have always wanted him to stay. We hope that at the end of the season he will reconsider it," Laporta said on Monday, as quoted by Cadena SERe.

While Dembele shone against Athletic, Xavi also reserved special praise after the game for Pedri, who he compared to former team-mate Andres Iniesta.

The Spain midfielder attempted (92) and completed (86) more passes on Sunday than in any prior LaLiga match for Barca, also setting a new high for touches (107).

Laporta followed Xavi's plaudits as he hailed the former Las Palmas man's recent outings.

"[Pedri] is destined to be one of the best players in the world, if not the best, but he knows that he has to work hard," Laporta said.

Barcelona head coach Xavi compared Pedri to Blaugrana legend Andreas Iniesta, while he hailed the performance of Ousmane Dembele against Athletic Bilbao.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's fourth goal in his past two LaLiga appearances put the Catalan side in control against Athletic on Sunday, before a late flurry added deserved gloss to the scoreline.

Substitute Dembele, whose future remains in doubt after failing to agree to an extension on a contract that expires at the end of the season, scored one and assisted two more for substitutes Luuk de Jong and the fit-again Memphis Depay.

With those involvements, Dembele become the first Barca substitute to play a part in at least three goals in a single LaLiga game in the 21st century.

After moving back into LaLiga's top four with a 4-0 success, Xavi reserved special praise for midfielder Pedri and Dembele.

"How [Pedri] understands the game, it's wonderful to watch him play," Xavi told reporters. "He reminds me a lot of Andres Iniesta, I haven't seen many talents like that.

"I see many scenarios for Dembele, we have seen the Dembele that we want and know he is capable of doing."

Asked whether the France international will stay at the club, Xavi added: "That is no longer my thing, I have always said that he has been very professional."

Barca sit level on points with Atletico Madrid, who ran out 2-0 victors against Celta Vigo on Saturday, and moved just one shy of third-placed Real Betis after they fell to Sevilla.

The Blaugrana still boast a game in hand over their fellow top-four contenders and Xavi refused to give up hope on any possible outcome in LaLiga.

"The feelings are getting better and better," he continued. "The team is training very well, that's why the results come.

"We have worked very well and it has paid off against a team that has a very good middle and low block and that defended very well.

"Even with the [seven] changes they made, they are a strong team. Putting four goals past Athletic is not easy at all, Marcelino's teams are always very hard-working and difficult.

"We're fourth, we'll go for third, then second and if it reaches us we'll go for first. You have to be realistic and humble and keep working day by day, nothing more."

Barca have lost just one of their past 15 top-flight fixtures and will look to continue their impressive run of form when they visit Elche next Sunday.

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