The transfer window has been gently eased shut, and there were plenty of last-minute deals to keep fans across Europe captivated.

Southampton were busy, adding Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Duje Caleta-Car to their ranks, among others, while Barcelona allowed Martin Braithwaite to join Espanyol on a free transfer and sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea.

As the seconds ticked down, clubs dotted their i's, crossed their t's and blew the dust off their fax machines, and here is just some of what took place in the closing hours.

Busy Saints bring in four, lose one

As far as the Premier League goes, it was Southampton who got up to the most activity in the final moments, signing Maitland-Niles on loan from Arsenal and Caleta-Car permanently from Marseille on a four-year deal, as well as adding two Manchester City youngsters in Juan Larios and Sam Edozie. They let defender Yan Valery to Ligue 1 side Angers.

Brighton and Hove Albion completed the signing of Billy Gilmour from Chelsea and released Romanian striker Florin Andone, while Chelsea let Ethan Ampadu join Serie A side Spezia on loan and finally allowed Kenedy to depart Stamford Bridge after seven years to join Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Carlos Vinicius returned to the Premier League after a loan spell with Tottenham in 2020-21, having joined Fulham from Benfica on a permanent deal. The Cottagers also completed a loan deal for Leeds United winger Daniel James.

The Whites were frustrated in their attempts to sign Bamba Dieng from Marseille, but instead clinched a deal for Italian youngster Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich for an undisclosed fee.

Nottingham Forest added signings number 20 and 21 of the window in Josh Bowler from Blackpool and Loic Bade from Rennes, with free agent Serge Aurier potentially making it 22, though a reported late move for Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi failed to materialise.

Jan Bednarek had been linked with a move to West Ham earlier in the day but ended up leaving Southampton on loan to another team in claret and blue as Aston Villa brought in the Polish defender.

Brooks was here, now he's in Lisbon

On the continent, Benfica completed the signing of American defender John Brooks from Wolfsburg, while Maxi Gomez left Valencia for Turkish side Trabzonspor.

Los Che brought in a replacement for Gomez in Justin Kluivert on loan from Roma after his move to Fulham fell through due to work permit issues.

In France, highly rated forward Amine Gouiri swapped Nice for Rennes in a reported club-record fee apparently worth €28million, while Lille secured a loan deal for Everton midfielder Andre Gomes.

As well as signing Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin and losing Braithwaite, Barcelona also said goodbye on a temporary basis to Ez Abde, who joined Osasuna on loan.

Robert Lewandowski struck a brace for the second game in a row as Barcelona strolled to a comfortable 4-0 win against Real Valladolid.

The game saw Jules Kounde make his long-awaited debut for the club following his move from Sevilla, having had his registration postponed, but it was another of Barcelona's marquee additions who stole the show.

Poland international Lewandowski struck in both halves of Sunday's contest at Camp Nou, a poacher's finish at the far post for his first and a deft backheel for his second.

Pedri and Sergi Roberto were also on the scoresheet for Xavi's side, who stand unbeaten in LaLiga with seven points from a possible nine.

The hosts started strong but were foiled by the frame of the goal, Lewandowski heading into the post before Ousmane Dembele smashed a ferocious effort against the crossbar.

A breakthrough came after 24 minutes, though, Lewandowski on hand at the far post to stab home Raphinha's inviting cross.

It was two before the break, Pedri finding space around the penalty spot to comfortably steer Dembele's pass beyond the helpless Jordi Masip.

Barcelona's dominance continued in the second period, boasting 66 per cent possession on the hour mark, and, while fans had to be patient for a third goal to capitalise on their dominance, it was worth the wait.

Dembele cut inside from the right to tee a pass through to Lewandowski, who expertly backheeled a finish past his marker and the keeper – taking his tally to four goals in three matches for his new side.

Lewandowski was denied a hat-trick in stoppage time, striking the frame of the goal from close range, but Sergi Roberto was on hand to tuck away the rebound.

Jules Kounde is set to make his Barcelona debut on Sunday after he was belatedly registered to feature in LaLiga.

The France defender joined from Sevilla last month in a deal that could be worth €62.5million following a fine three-year spell at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

However, Barcelona were initially unable to register him to play in LaLiga as they needed to reduce their wage expenditure in line with the salary cap.

Registration priority was given to signings that arrived before Kounde, with Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen all making their debuts.

But media reports on Friday suggested Barca had finally been able to register the centre-back – head coach Xavi did not confirm that in his pre-match press conference on Saturday, merely saying they were "optimistic".

Kounde's registration is now official, however, with his move acknowledged in the transfer feed on LaLiga's website.

Therefore, Kounde is expected to face Real Valladolid on Sunday as Barca hope to make it back-to-back wins after thrashing Real Sociedad 4-1 last weekend.

The news will no doubt come as a relief to Barca fans after media speculation claimed Kounde would be able to walk away from the club for free if not registered before the transfer deadline.

If Kounde does not play at Camp Nou on Sunday, he is likely to make his debut against former club Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan next weekend.

Barcelona head coach Xavi is "pretty sure" defender Jules Kounde will make his LaLiga debut for his new team against Real Valladolid this weekend.

Kounde joined Barca from Sevilla for a reported fee of €55million this transfer window, after the Catalan club beat Chelsea to the France international's signature.

However, Barcelona's financial situation meant Kounde could not be registered to play in LaLiga, although other new arrivals Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen have each made their debuts.

But Xavi believes the situation is finally sorted and is confident Kounde will feature against Valladolid at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Xavi told reporters at his pre-match news conference: "It's a negotiation with LaLiga. We are pretty sure that Jules can play tomorrow. We are optimistic."

Kounde is sure to be a big help for Barcelona in Europe as they compete to lift their first Champions League trophy since beating Juventus in the final in the 2014-15 campaign.

Xavi's team will first have to get out of a tricky Group C that includes Inter and Viktoria Plzen, as well as Bayern Munich, who infamously thumped Barcelona in a humiliating 8-2 defeat in the 2019-20 quarter-finals.

And Xavi knows the size of the task ahead of his team, saying: "It's a very difficult group, perhaps the toughest. 

"We've made very good signings this season, we've invested a lot. The Champions League and the league, we want to go through and fight for the trophies. But the challenge is massive. It's perhaps the group of death."

Retired Real Madrid and Brazil legend Ronaldo Nazario has made true on his promise to cycle from Valladolid to Santiago de Compostela following their promotion to LaLiga.

The 45-year-old, who also owns his first professional club Cruzeiro, bought a controlling 51 per cent stake in the club in 2018 and has overseen their return to the Spanish top flight as president.

To help Ronaldo on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage made by thousands each year, he is riding an electric bike.

Commencing his trek from Valladolid's Estadio Jose Zorrilla with girlfriend Celina Locks, the 'poorly conditioned' World Cup winner insisted he is happy to follow through on that promise.

"When we were relegated, I knew we had to do a lot of work to get back to the Primera Division," Ronaldo said.

"I made the promise, we have done a very good job, especially at the beginning of the year with all the changes we made, all the philosophy we have changed.

"It will be beautiful. I know that I will suffer physically, but it will be an unforgettable experience."

The Pucelanos earned automatic promotion back to LaLiga a year after they were relegated from LaLiga, finishing equal on points with title-winning Almeria.

They booked their place in the Spanish top flight on the final day of the league season, leapfrogging Eibar and beating them to automatic promotion by a point, after they lost in injury time to Alcorcon.

Retired Real Madrid and Brazil legend Ronaldo Nazario has made true on his promise to cycle from Valladolid to Santiago de Compostela following their promotion to LaLiga.

The 45-year-old, who also owns his first professional club Cruzeiro, bought a controlling 51 per cent stake in the club in 2018 and has overseen their return to the Spanish top flight as president.

To help Ronaldo on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage made by thousands each year, he is riding an electric bike.

Commencing his trek from Valladolid's Estadio Jose Zorrilla with girlfriend Celina Locks, the 'poorly conditioned' World Cup winner insisted he is happy to follow through on that promise.

"When we were relegated, I knew we had to do a lot of work to get back to the Primera Division," Ronaldo said.

"I made the promise, we have done a very good job, especially at the beginning of the year with all the changes we made, all the philosophy we have changed.

"It will be beautiful. I know that I will suffer physically, but it will be an unforgettable experience."

The Pucelanos earned automatic promotion back to LaLiga a year after they were relegated from LaLiga, finishing equal on points with title-winning Almeria.

They booked their place in the Spanish top flight on the final day of the league season, leapfrogging Eibar and beating them to automatic promotion by a point, after they lost in injury time to Alcorcon.

Brazil legend Ronaldo Nazario has revealed he will fulfil a promise to cycle 500km following Real Valladolid's promotion to LaLiga.

The Pucelanos will be playing in the Spanish top-flight next season after finishing second in the Segunda Division.

Ronaldo, who became the club's majority shareholder in 2018, will now make the pilgrimage route from Valladolid to Santiago de Compostela, the culmination of the Camino de Santiago.

"To celebrate Valladolid's automatic promotion, I made a promise a long time ago, even when we were relegated [in 2021]," Ronaldo stated on Twitch.

"I promised that if we came back [to LaLiga], I would do the Camino de Santiago. I will do it by bike as I can't run.

"My wife [Celine] and I will leave from Valladolid on Sunday and travel to Santiago de Compostela by bicycle."

Valladolid secured promotion back to LaLiga at the first time of asking after suffering relegation last season, and Ronaldo believes the achievement is comparable with those in his own playing career.

The former striker fired Brazil to their fifth World Cup success in 2002, winning the Golden Boot in Japan after scoring eight goals at the tournament, including both strikes in their final win over Germany.

He claimed, as reported by El Norte de Castilla, that Valladolid's success was "right there next to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea."

 

Almeria will play in LaLiga again next season for the first time since 2015 after securing promotion from the Segunda on a dramatic final day.

The Andalusians were away to Leganes on Sunday and could only claim a 2-2 draw, but it was just enough to see them finish top of the table ahead of Real Valladolid due to a superior head-to-head record.

Valladolid, who are run by Brazil and Real Madrid great Ronaldo, thus secured their return to the top flight at the first time of asking.

But Almeria are back in LaLiga after seven seasons in the Segunda, having stumbled at the play-off stage in each of the previous two campaigns.

As such, the 2022-23 season will be their first term in LaLiga since being bought in 2019 by Turki Al-Sheikh, an advisor to Saudi Arabia's Royal Court and chairman of the country's General Authority for Entertainment.

Almeria have Alcorcon to thank, however.

Eibar looked set to be going up instead of them as they were drawing 0-0 away to already relegated Alcorcon, but a stoppage time winner for the Madrid-based club by Giovanni Zarfino meant it was all change at the top.

Suddenly, Eibar dropped out of the top two and Almeria shot to the top of the table, with the Basques instead having to settle for a spot in the play-offs.

Real Oviedo were the team to miss out in the play-off hunt as a result of losing 3-2 to Ibiza, meaning Girona and Las Palmas joined Tenerife in sealing their spots in the two-legged semi-finals.

Eibar will face Girona while Las Palmas will tussle with their Canary Islands rivals Tenerife in the other semi over the next week.

The final, also played over two legs, is set to be played on June 11 and 19.

There was little change towards the bottom of the table, with the bottom four already having their relegation confirmed.

Ronaldo has tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss Sunday's anniversary celebrations of Cruzeiro, the Brazilian club he recently bought.

The two-time Ballon d'Or winner, who top-scored in Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, has been experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

Ronaldo had been due to attend events marking Cruzeiro's 101st anniversary, but the 45-year-old former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter striker was instead isolating.

His positive case was announced by the Brazilian club, who were acquired by Ronaldo, with the support of an investment bank, in December.

"Cruzeiro reports that this Sunday morning Ronaldo Nazario tested positive for COVID-19," the Campeonato Serie B club said.

"This makes it impossible for him to travel to Belo Horizonte today, as well as his presence in the commemorative actions for the club's anniversary.

"Ronaldo is doing well, with mild symptoms and, on medical advice, is now in rest and social isolation."

Ronaldo has been majority owner of Spanish club Real Valladolid since 2018 and serves as the Segunda Division team's president. He had been due to meet with representatives of Cruzeiro supporters on Sunday and was scheduled to appear at a news conference on Monday before taking ill.

He began his playing career at Cruzeiro as a teenage sensation before heading to Europe to join Dutch giants PSV after the 1994 World Cup.

Ronaldo wrote on Twitter: "Cruzeiro nation, this is not the way I wanted to spend this January 2 which is more than special for us.

"I had the greatest anticipation and everything was organised for this moment. But there are situations in life that are beyond our control and, unfortunately, last night I found myself in one of them. I started to feel bad, had a PCR and woke up today with a positive result for COVID-19.

"The most important thing is that I am vaccinated, I will follow the isolation protocols and, at the end of it, I hope to be 100 per cent recovered to resume my schedule.

"Our meeting was not cancelled, it was postponed due to circumstances. And I make a point of celebrating with you the anniversary of our club! It's just the beginning of our fight together! I count on you, count on me."

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid's latest LaLiga title success feels particularly special in a year complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday to finish two points above Real Madrid, who themselves completed a turnaround by the same scoreline against Villarreal.

It is Atleti's 11th title and their second in nine years under Simeone, on top of winning two Europa Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

That sees Simeone overtake Luis Aragones (seven trophies) as the Spanish side's most successful ever coach.

Atleti were top for 30 matchdays and, despite being given a scare by Madrid and Barcelona in the closing weeks, Simeone feels his side are deserving champions in what has been a tough year for everyone off the field.

"It has been a complicated year," Simeone told Movistar+. "It's one of the best years to be champions. I'm happy for a lot of people. 

"Many people have been lost to the virus. For Atletico to be champions is a different feeling.

"The two league titles we have won come with different feelings. The world is experiencing a bad situation and I hope that we have given a lot of people some joy.

"Spending as long as we did on top is huge. I'm grateful, especially to those who played less than others. We stuck to our goals throughout."

Long-serving boss Simeone, who has also guided Atleti to a couple of Champions League finals, hinted earlier this season he may soon seek a new challenge.

The 51-year-old accepts that his training methods can take their toll on players but can see a bright future for Atleti going forward as he hinted at a longer stay.

"I've no doubts that people can get tired, but I'm very hard-headed," he said. "I knew and know that this club can keep growing and I hope it will continue like this.

"The club have done incredible work. Miguel [Angel Gil Marin], Enrique [Cerezo] and all of the unseen people have given us stability beyond results. They've always wanted this.

"They're not here celebrating, but soon we'll all embrace."

Oscar Plano gave relegated Valladolid a shock half-time lead against Atletico, but Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – the Argentine's 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – equalised before Suarez's winner.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 21 points to Atleti this season, more than any other LaLiga player, and Simeone was quick to praise both of his forwards, who have kept big-money signing Joao Felix out of the side during the run-in.

"I've been saying that Angel has needed a goal for a long time," Simeone said. "It makes me happy that he's been called up by the [Argentina] national team.

"As for Suarez, I said before that his surname speaks for itself!"

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

Barcelona showed they knew how to suffer in order to beat Real Valladolid, much to the satisfaction of boss Ronald Koeman.

Ousmane Dembele's 90th-minute strike gave the Blaugrana a 1-0 victory over their relegation-threatened opponents at Camp Nou, cutting the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to a solitary point.

Real Madrid are up next in El Clasico this weekend, with a thrilling three-way title battle looking set to go to the wire.

If any team looks capable of pulling clear it is Barca, who have won 13 and drawn one in LaLiga in 2021, although they were far from their fluent best for long periods on Monday – something Koeman acknowledged.

"You have to know how to suffer in all the games, we knew how to do it. So yes, we deserved to win," he told reporters.

"It is true that we have not been at the level of the last games , but it is normal that sometimes games like this happen.

"I think we lacked a bit of freshness, it could be because of the international break. So yes, we are now able to win our games and be champions."

That Barca's title destiny is now in their hands owes much to France winger Dembele, who is enjoying his most consistent run of form and fitness since a big-money 2017 switch from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

"Of course he is an important player, he has shown it today with his game, he has given us the points," Koeman said.

"His form this year is very good. Physically he has improved a lot and that has been the key to his consistency.

"I would like him to stay with us."

After the match, Barcelona announced Philippe Coutinho has undergone a successful meniscus procedure.

The playmaker has not featured in 2021 due to his knee injury.

Ousmane Dembele's struggles for fitness and form at Barcelona are deservedly coming right at the perfect time, according to team-mate Clement Lenglet.

Barca looked set to be held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Real Valladolid on Monday before Dembele volleyed a 90th-minute winner – victory closing Ronald Koeman's side to within a point of leaders Atletico Madrid with nine games of the LaLiga season remaining.

Since moving to Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in 2017, the 23-year-old France winger has been beset by injury problems.

But Dembele has become an increasingly integral member of Koeman's team since the turn of the year, forming a fruitful attacking alliance with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann was substituted against Valladolid and Messi was frustrated by former team-mate Jordi Masip in the visitors' goal, leaving Dembele to step forward as the hero.

"It doesn't surprise me," Lenglet told LaLiga TV. "He couldn't play a lot of games because of injuries and now it looks like everything is calm in that respect.

"When he is physically well he's a very good dribbler, he's got two good feet, a lot of speed. He gives us a lot.

"I'm very happy for him because he's worked hard for this and he deserves it."

Dembele was also involved in the game's other key moment, when Valladolid midfielder Oscar Plano was sent off for bring him down in the 79th minute.

Although Plano's challenge was unquestionably cynical, the red card came as a surprise to his team-mates.

Nevertheless, Lenglet felt the punishment fitted the crime.

"The red card was [decided] very quick," he said. "Ousmane took a very hard foul from behind, that's why the ref sanctioned him in that way.

"I think the card is deserved because of the foul from behind."

Next up for Barcelona is a crunch Clasico clash at Real Madrid on Saturday, with their bitter rivals two points behind them in third as an intriguing title race reaches boiling point.

"It's proved this league is very difficult. We’ve got to fight to win every game," Lenglet added.

"It's the fruit of our hard work these results. We've worked very hard in these last few months, things are going better for us but there's a long way to go."

Ousmane Dembele thumped in a 90th-minute winner as Barcelona beat Real Valladolid 1-0 and cut Atletico Madrid's advantage at the top of LaLiga to a solitary point.

Ronald Koeman's resurgent side had won their previous five top-flight matches but were short of their best for much of the first half, with Kenan Kodro hitting the crossbar for Valladolid.

Lionel Messi and his team-mates tried to crank through the gears in the second half but struggled to find a breakthrough, even after Oscar Plano was sent off 11 minutes from time for a cynical foul on Dembele.

The France winger would have the final word, swiping home on the volley after Ronald Araujo made a nuisance of himself on the end of Frenkie de Jong's cross - setting up next weekend's pivotal Clasico showdown perfectly.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was back in action for the first time since Germany's humiliating 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia and he was relieved to see Kodro's header cannon to safety off the bar.

Messi won a free-kick in the 15th minute and clipped wide but the visitors continued to acquit themselves well.

Roque Mesa grazed the top of the netting with a speculative strike before Barca let the playmaker run unchallenged for around 30 yards to blast over.

Barcelona belatedly found some rhythm before the interval and Pedri linked up nicely with Messi to fire in a rasping low drive that Jordi Masip tipped against the right post.

Koeman's front three were all involved before the hour – Messi releasing Dembele to draw a brilliant low stop from Masip, with Antoine Griezmann sending an improvised diving header wide on the rebound.

Jordi Alba survived appeals for a penalty after the ball flicked off his hand inside the Barca box and Plano sliced wide on another threatening break.

A yellow card would arguably have been suffice for Plano's petulance and Valladolid buckled at the last in what felt like a huge moment in the title race.

Ronald Koeman has no intention of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong ahead of next week's El Clasico, despite both players being one booking away from a suspension.

Barca will be looking to extend their 18-match unbeaten run in LaLiga when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Monday.

Messi and De Jong are both available for the game as the Catalan giants look to keep the pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid, who are four points better off ahead of Sunday's trip to Sevilla.

However, both players risk being banned for next Saturday's showdown with bitter rivals Real Madrid, having each been booked four times already this season.

But while the pair may be walking a disciplinary tightrope, Koeman is ready to risk star man Messi and central midfielder De Jong against Valladolid.

"We know that these two players are one card away, but it is not the time to rest players due to cards or freshness," he said at Sunday's pre-match news conference.

"We have ten games left. There is always the risk, but the best thing is to put the team out that I think can win the game."

Messi has been directly involved in 23 league goals in 2021 - 16 goals and seven assists - which is more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

The Argentinian has had a direct hand in eight goals in his last four LaLiga games against Real Valladolid - four goals and four assists.

Those goal involvements have helped Barca to 13 wins in their previous 14 LaLiga games against Valladolid, with the only exception being a 1-0 defeat away from home in March 2014.

Sergio Gonzalez's side have won just one of their past 11 league games, but Koeman will not take Monday's opponents lightly.

"You have to be prepared, you can't think that it will be an easy game," he said. "We have to go in with a lot of energy and rhythm and be good with the ball.

"We have to get back to our level. It could be a game without problems, but you always have to work hard to win."

Gerard Pique returned to training this week after recovering from a knee problem, while Sergi Roberto is also closing in on a comeback after two months on the sidelines.

Koeman will make a late decision on whether the defensive duo are ready to play a part against Valladolid.

"They are training with the team lately. They have improved a lot," he said.

"These are decisions that will be made tomorrow after the last training session. We aren't going to take risks [with injuries], nor next week, because there are more games coming this season."

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