Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

Barcelona's Gerard Pique is among those to have shown his support to A-League player Josh Cavallo, who has come out as the first openly gay top-flight footballer in the world.

Adelaide United defender Cavallo made the announcement in a video and open letter on social media on Wednesday.

The news is a historic moment for sporting community and one Cavallo hopes will help others find the courage to follow in his steps.

"I want to help change this," he said. "I want to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.

"It is astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world. 

"Hopefully this will change in the near future."

Cavallo's announcement was met with widespread supporting, with Pique praising the 21-year-old for making the public announcement.

"I don't have the pleasure to know you personally, but I want to thank you for this step that you take," Pique posted on Twitter. 

"The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward."

Pique's former Barca team-mate and current Atletico Madrid loanee Antoine Griezmann said: "Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo".

Barca were one of a number of teams to commend Cavallo, posting: "THANK YOU, @JoshuaCavallo for taking a huge step forward! 

"Your courage contributes to normalizing diversity in the world of sports."

Premier League side Arsenal tweeted: "Thank you @JoshuaCavallo for your strength and bravery...

"You are an inspiration to millions. Everyone deserves the right to be themselves."

Several other top-flight players have previously come out as gay once their professional playing careers were over, including former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan came out while playing in a lower tier and is now plying his trade for semi-professional side Hume City.

Gerard Pique has reiterated his desire to see out the remainder of his career at Barcelona, but suggested he will consider retiring early if he is no longer a regular starter.

The ex-Spain international is into his 14th season at Camp Nou since returning to the club from Manchester United in 2008 and remains a key presence at the back.

Pique turns 35 in February but is confident in his ability to keep going, despite competition from Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti.

"I've never had competition like that, but it is not a bad thing," he told El Pais. "As a young man you learn at what level you can compete.

"When I was 19 and on loan at Real Zaragoza I discovered that I could perform in LaLiga against the greats.

"At 34 you know what level you are at and whether you're going to play.

"The debate over 'veterans' and youngsters is created by the media and extends to the fans.

"It's like with the national team when there was a campaign about whether Pique should be there or not – that's where the whistles generated from.

"As some of us who have been here for many years know, it's good to see new people. I understand youngsters are the attraction because they're the future and it's a project.

"But older players are necessary, and I'm not just saying that because I'm the oldest. I have the experience of having lived through a lot and can pass that on."

 

Pique proved his importance to Barca with the winning goal in Wednesday's 1-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.

At 34 years and 260 days at the time of the goal, that saw the centre-back surpass Sylvinho (34d, 241y) as the oldest player to score for Barca in the competition.

He is also now also the joint-leading goalscorer among defenders in Champions League history, level with Real Madrid icon Roberto Carlos (16 each).

"The truth is I don't feel like a 'veteran'," Pique said. "The other day I saw the record I was the oldest European scorer for Barca and that depressed me a little.

"But then I saw Roberto Carlos was the defender I'm level with for most goals and that was better. 

"Of course, if I reach an age that I'm no longer considered as important as I've previously been, I will go. 

"But I still have my rebellious side, I still make the same jokes and I feel physically well.

"I'm not the fastest, but I can compete against the best and not feel inferior. As long as it remains like that, I'll play."

Asked if that means he may consider joining another club before retiring should he fall out of favour at Camp Nou, Pique said: "I will retire at Barca. That is for sure.

"What I won't accept is playing as a substitute. If it comes to the last three months of a season and that happens, well... But a whole year on the bench? No, I don't want that."

Gerard Pique accepts Barcelona were second best in their defeat to Atletico Madrid and says his side could have played for three hours and still would not have scored a goal.

The Catalan giants fell to a second straight defeat in all competitions – and their first in LaLiga since May – as they went down 2-0 to a Luis Suarez-inspired Atletico on Saturday.

Barca had two shots on target over the 90 minutes at Wanda Metropolitano, only one of which seriously troubled Jan Oblak as he kept out Philippe Coutinho's attempt.

Memphis Depay, who has had the joint-most shots on target of any player in LaLiga this term (13, level with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema), struggled up top as he fired over from his only effort.

Atletico were clinical at the other end by comparison, scoring from two of their six shots as Suarez set up Thomas Lemar for the opener and calmly tucked in a second before half-time.

Barca have now shipped five goals without response in their past two games, and Pique, who played a full part in the losses to Benfica and Atleti, recognises his side have multiple issues to work on.

"We started well, but they scored two similar goals from very little," he told Movistar. "It is difficult for us. We are suffering and there are several problems.

"People already know the issues. Even a blind man can see what we lack. But we will recover from this.

"It is not something we have experienced before, but the dressing room is good. We're not getting involved in anything else."

 

Pique was referring to the ongoing speculation over head coach Ronald Koeman's future, with the Dutchman's status uncertain after 14 months in charge, although he this week received a public vote of confidence from Joan Laporta.

Barca have won just one of their past six matches in all competitions and are ninth in LaLiga having played seven games, five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid.

Asked if he expects Koeman to leave before his side's next game at home to Valencia in two weeks' time, Pique said: "The players don't get involved in that.

"We just listen to what the coach tells us. There is little we can do. That's down to the president and the coach."

Gerard Pique remains convinced Barcelona can recover from a slow start to challenge for trophies as Ronald Koeman received backing from within the club.

After a first LaLiga goalless draw with Cadiz in their 27th meeting, Barca have managed just two wins from their five top-flight games so far. 

Meanwhile, the Catalan club have gone without scoring in two of their past three games in all competitions, as many as in their previous 41, as they continue to suffer in the absence of Lionel Messi, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain amid financial difficulties. 

Despite the underwhelming opening to the campaign, Pique has called for unity at the club in pursuit of finding resolutions to their issues on and off the pitch. 

"The club have been riding the crest of a wave for many years," Pique told Movistar after Thursday's 0-0 draw. 

"We are going through a situation we aren't used to. These are turbulent years, with the change of president, and change of coaches. Together we have to do our best to provide peace of mind. 

"Everyone wants to win. There are many ways to deal with it. We can all complain or we can work. The players are here to work. 

"Let's not look for two sides. We are all with the president and also with the coach. We can't control the noise [around the club] and don't want to think about it." 

 

Indeed, the goalless draw means Barca have scored just eight goals after their first five games in the league, their worst return at this stage since 2003-04 (five). 

Frenkie de Jong's late dismissal was also Barca's second red card of the season, along with Eric Garcia against Athletic Bilbao, as many as in the whole previous campaign as Koeman's side continue to lack discipline. 

However, Pique is adamant Barca will return to the top of Spanish football. 

"I don't wear the Barcelona shirt to finish second or third," he continued. "I'm here to compete for trophies. 

"Sometimes we have to face moments like this. We feel the fans are behind us and the situation is complicated for us all. 

"I'm absolutely convinced, despite the start, that we'll be competing. The team is in good spirits and have the desire." 

Koeman's relationship issues with president Joan Laporta have been well-documented, as the former appears to be heading towards the exit door if results do not come soon. 

Barca technical secretary Ramon Planes did at least reject any suggestion that Koeman will be relieved of his duties ahead of the game against Levante on Sunday. 

"Yes, it will be with Koeman, who has our support," Planes responded to Movistar after the Cadiz game. "Football is set up like this, the coaches are in permanent examination and in a big club, even more so. 

"We are Barca, the best club in the world, we have a good squad, and the objective is to win and win, because there are no transitional seasons. We have a squad to fight for the title." 

Gerard Pique believes Josep Maria Bartomeu was among the worst presidents in Barcelona's history.

Bartomeu held the post from January 2014 until his resignation in October last year, courting controversy along the way.

His exit was forced amid the threat of a no-confidence vote as Barca lurched from one setback to the next on and off the field.

Barca won the treble in Bartomeu's first year in charge, yet things gradually began to unravel over the course of his tenure. 

Lionel Messi had made clear his desire to leave before eventually sealing a move to Paris Saint-Germain, while Pique is one of several players who have taken a pay cut to ease the Camp Nou club's perilous financial situation.

With questionable head coach appointments added into the mix, it is clear Pique does not think too highly of the job Bartomeu did.

"I can't say if he is the worst," Pique told comedy show La Sotana.

"From what I have experienced, he must be [up] there. We are all guilty, but it is true that the club have not gone where all the Catalans want.

"Now I am hopeful and excited. The next five or 10 years will be very good for Barcelona."

Pique also leapt to the defence of fellow defender Samuel Umtiti, who has come under fire for his refusal to leave as part of the club's intended cost-cutting exercise.

"He is fulfilling the contract with all obligations," said Pique.

"People have to be empathetic. The attitude is impeccable. He has never missed a training session. Another thing is who signed the contract, a president who was voted in by the members.

"Why shall we whistle at him? Most people have been in a company for 30 years and do nothing. If I were at another club, for example [Manchester] United, I would be doing the same as Umtiti. Every situation is different. I only ask people to be empathetic."

Ronald Koeman had no complaints as Barcelona could only draw at Athletic Bilbao, hailing his battling side and Memphis Depay in particular.

Depay scored his first Blaugrana goal 15 minutes from time at San Mames to cancel out Inigo Martinez's opener and secure a point.

The Netherlands international became the first Barca player to have a goal involvement in each of his opening two LaLiga appearances (one goal, one assist) since both Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez in 2011-12.

Yet Depay could have added to his tally as he squandered the best of his three chances – valued at 0.24 expected goals – four minutes from time.

"I could have scored two goals," he told Barca TV. "In the end, I did it with the left.

"I am very pleased to have scored, for having scored my first goal, but disappointed not to have scored the second chance I had."

Koeman was pleased with Depay, however, adding: "He has scored a great goal and had a chance for another. We must highlight the attitude of the team after the 1-0 against.

"[Depay] has effectiveness, speed, strength. He's a great player, that's why we've signed him. You have to have personality, here the demand is better and he takes it well."

 

Indeed, despite Depay's late chance, Koeman suggested Barca would have been fortunate to win.

They had 67.3 per cent of the possession but just nine attempts to Athletic's 16.

"We initially lacked calm and the ability to find the free man," Koeman said. "We made mistakes and couldn't get out.

"Little by little we entered the game, we reacted well after the 1-0 and in the end we were better. We could even win, but maybe it would have been too much."

Barca had some issues at the back, with Eric Garcia sent off late on after Gerard Pique had departed with injury.

In a worrying trend, this is the sixth time in Pique's past 13 LaLiga starts he has failed to see out the full match, as many substitutions as in his previous 111 outings.

But Koeman said Pique's problem was "not serious and I hope he will be available for next week".

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique compared Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe to Brazilian great Ronaldo as he hailed Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Mbappe and Haaland are two of the most in-demand players in the transfer market, with LaLiga giants Real Madrid reportedly interested in both.

PSG's Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract in Paris – has long been tipped to join Madrid, while Haaland has also been linked with Barca, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Mbappe scored in PSG's 4-2 Ligue 1 win at home to Strasbourg on Saturday, having now either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in the competition (eight goals, four assists).

Haaland took his tally to 62 goals in 61 games for Dortmund after bagging a brace as the German giants opened their Bundesliga season with a 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Pique was asked to pick between Mbappe and Haaland in an appearance on Twitch following Barca's 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday, and he replied: "Mbappe and Haaland are different.

"One is very similar to Ronaldo Luis Nazario, who is Mbappe. Haaland is more powerful, stronger, he is a goal killer."

Barca kicked off the Lionel Messi-less era by seeing off Sociedad at Camp Nou in the opening game of the LaLiga season.

Messi – the club's all-time leading goalscorer – joined PSG after his contract expired, with Barca's financial difficulties forcing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to leave.

"It was tough," Pique said on Messi's exit. "I have known him since I was 13 years old.

"He has made us all better. We have to accept it because it is reality. We will all step forward to be competitive."

Jordi Alba accused people of spreading misinformation regarding his willingness to take a pay cut at Barcelona, insisting he will join Gerard Pique in reducing his salary to help the club's dire financial situation.

After a tumultuous week that saw Lionel Messi complete his stunning switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Barca launched their LaLiga campaign with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad in which Pique opened the scoring on Sunday.

The former Spain defender headed home a free-kick from new signing Memphis Depay, who was only playing because Pique agreed a substantial salary reduction that allowed Barcelona to register the Netherlands forward within their league-enforced salary limit.

Speaking after the match, where Martin Braithwaite scored two goals and laid on the game-clinching goal for Sergi Roberto, Pique confirmed fellow club captains Alba, Roberto and Sergio Busquets would also bring down their pay.

"My commitment to Barca has always been total, I've been here all my life, 10 years in the first team and eight in the youth categories," Alba told reporters after the game to address suggestions in some quarters he had not been as forthcoming as Pique in Barcelona's time of need.

"I can speak for myself and for the president [Joan Laporta]. We are all going in the same direction. As Gery has said, the commitment has always been the same. Now it will be our turn [to take pay cuts] and there should be no doubt about us.

"What hurts me is that lies are told, I think I've shown how I feel about Barca. The club has given me a lot and we have to be grateful. What hurts me is the lies.

"I think I have to give face, I will give everything as I have always done on the pitch. Things can turn out better or worse, but no one can doubt the commitment.

"My commitment has always been to help the club, just like the rest of the captains."

Alba also reflected on the departure of Messi, with whom he shared a close bond on and off the field.

However, he insisted it had not been within the capabilities of himself and the other club captains to make it financially viable for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to remain at Camp Nou.

"Leo, apart from being the best in history, was the player I understood the best, so imagine the efforts I would have made for him," the left-back said.

"Leo is an issue separate from the captains, it is a matter of the club

"What I cannot bear is lies and things being leaked so that my character is doubted. I am the first to admit it if I am wrong, but I can't stand the lies."

Ronald Koeman believes Barcelona played their best football in "years" during the opening hour of their first LaLiga game since Lionel Messi's exit as they saw off Real Sociedad 4-2.

Martin Braithwaite's brace after Gerard Pique had opened the scoring gave Barca a three-goal advantage with 59 minutes played in Sunday's contest at Camp Nou.

Julen Lobete and Mikel Oyarzabal scored quickfire goals to set up a nervy conclusion to the game, but Sergi Roberto struck in injury time to seal a deserved win for the home side.

It was the perfect way for the Catalan giants to put the shock of losing their all-time leading goalscorer Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on a free contract this week behind them.

And while Koeman would prefer to still have Messi in his squad, the Dutchman feels Barca proved there is life without their former captain as they outclassed La Real.

"We know that we are good with the ball, but we have worked hard on pressing and to do so with everyone," Koeman said during his post-match news conference. 

"We have to be more collective than before. For me, the team in the first half hour was the best Barca in years. It is the path we want to follow.

"I would like to have Messi in the team. Of course we don't have the player who decides games on his own, but this is more about the collective now.

"We have to create opportunities to score. Today we scored four so it's fine."

Pique got the ball rolling for Barcelona with his 19th-minute opener, heading in a pinpoint free-kick sent in by Memphis Depay on his competitive debut for the club.

Depay, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj could only be registered by Barca on Saturday after Pique accepted a substantial pay cut to ensure they met LaLiga's salary cap limit.

Pique celebrated his goal by kissing the Barcelona crest on his shirt and Koeman hailed the long-serving defender for putting the team first.

"For me, Pique was also the team leader last year," Koeman said. "Due to injuries he couldn't play as much as he would have liked. He has been exemplary for all the Catalans."

 

Braithwaite was Barcelona's star performer in their opening match of the 2021-22 campaign with his two goals, which makes him the first Danish player to score a brace in LaLiga this century.

His double came from an expected goals return of 0.89 and Koeman expects the 30-year-old to play an important role this campaign, despite being heavily linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

"I have always said that he is a great example of a professional soccer player," Koeman said. "He always works for the team and he has improved his game – not only because of the goals. 

"He helps us in many areas. He also has speed and always he is very difficult to defend against. I am delighted to have players like him."

Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 11 league games against Real Sociedad in LaLiga, but tougher tests lie in wait with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid to come in their next seven games.

Following a period of doom and gloom, Koeman is hoping for a positive future with returning supporters fully behind their side.

"We know that the season is very long and many things can happen," Koeman added. "If the fans see a team with enthusiasm, that tries to do things well, with a positive attitude, that always helps. 

"We need the fans. We have to leave them happy and I think they have gone home happy today."

Gerard Pique says cash-strapped Barcelona's captaincy group are "proud" to take a pay cut after he scored in a 4-2 LaLiga victory over Real Sociedad.

Barca revealed on the eve of the club's opening game of the campaign that Pique had taken a "substantial" reduction in his wages in order for Depay, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj to be registered.

Pique's gesture ensured the Catalan giants, who were unable to keep Lionel Messi due to their financial troubles, are within the salary cap.

Fellow skippers Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba are also prepared to take a pay cut.

Depay started to repay Pique by setting up the opening goal on his debut and Martin Braithwaite struck twice, with Sergi Roberto completing the scoring after late goals from Julen Lobete and Mikel Oyarzabal gave La Real hope of salvaging an undeserved point at Camp Nou.

Pique criticised the way the club has been run following Messi's departure, but the Spain centre-back was determined to do everything in his powers to ease their problems.

He told LaLiga TV: "I was born here, I was brought up here. I've lived all my life pretty much in Barcelona and I've been a player for Barcelona for a long, long time.

"It was a gesture [to reduce his wages], I think it was the gesture that was required. I'm in contact with the other captains as well. I think they're going to make a very similar step very shortly. I wanted to be the first to get it done.

"We're a family here. All the captains have the same intentions to help the team. It's a decision that we've taken and we're proud of the decision we've taken. There's plenty of desire to keep performing and keep playing well

"I think sometimes people talk a lot and don't understand the situation properly. Right from the end of last season I've been in touch with Sergi Roberto, with Jordi Alba, with Sergio Busquets and it's something that has to be agreed with the club.

"The club needed someone to do this so we could register the players in time for the first game. I was the one that did it but the other players are prepared to do it.

"Sometimes the information that comes out isn't 100 per cent clear. It's not complete. But the club have asked players to make a sacrifice and players are going to do that. All the players have wanted to help the club."

Some Barca fans chanted Messi's name in the 10th minute, although some were not impressed with that gesture.

Pique is confident Ronald Koeman's side can have a season to remember without their leading all-time goalscorer, who joined Paris Saint-Germain after his contract expired.

"We knew the supporters would react the way they've reacted," said Pique. "I'm not going to talk to you about what Lionel Messi means to this club, we all know that. The most important player in the history of this club and the most important player in the history of football.

"But everything changes, nothing stays the same for ever. We have to keep going and I think we've got real quality. I'm convinced we're going to compete for everything this season

"We'll miss Leo, of course we will, but the team has shown in this game that we're all together, we've got goals in the side and despite the fact we were a little bit looser in the second half they didn't create too many chances throughout the game. I think we're going to enjoy ourselves this season."

Memphis Depay went some way to repaying Gerard Pique as Barcelona started life without Lionel Messi by beating Real Sociedad 4-2 in their first game of the LaLiga season.

Depay, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj could only be registered by Barca on the eve of Sunday's game at Camp Nou because Pique took a substantial pay cut, ensuring the cash-strapped Catalan club met LaLiga's salary cap limit.

Impressive debutant Depay set up Pique for the opening goal after chants of 'Messi' reverberated around the stadium in the 10th minute of the Blaugrana's first game since his sensational move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Martin Braithwaite was on target at the end of the first half and added a second after the break before late goals from Julen Lobete and Mikel Oyarzabal set up an unlikely tense finale.

Sergi Roberto eased the nerves with a fourth Barca goal in injury time as they started the campaign with a richly deserved victory.

Antoine Griezmann headed against the crossbar as La Real struggled to contend with Barca's crisp passing and movement in a blistering start from Ronald Koeman's side, but Pique opened the scoring after 19 minutes.

Depay had been lively from the start and the Netherlands forward whipped in a pinpoint free-kick for the unmarked centre-back, who headed in from eight yards out.

Brave goalkeeping from Alex Remiro denied Depay a debut goal soon but Braithwaite doubled vibrant Barca's lead in first-half stoppage time, planting a powerful header into the net after Frenkie de Jong stood up an inviting cross.

Jorda Alba failed to hit the target with only Remiro to beat after he was sent clear early in the second half, but he made amends just before the hour mark.

Depay slipped the marauding full-back in with a clever pass and Remiro could only palm his cross into the path of Braithwaite, who fired home from six yards out.

Barca were relentless and Pedri forced a fine reflex save from the busy Remiro before Lobete pulled a goal back with a measured left-foot finish.eight minutes from time and Oyarzabal curled home a sublime free-kick.

Sergi Roberto sealed the points, though, tucking home the excellent Braithwaite's cross from the right.

Barcelona have finally registered new signings Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia after Gerard Pique agreed to a "substantial" pay cut.

The Catalans have faced well-documented financial problems, leading to the exit of all-time leading scorer Lionel Messi this week and leaving them unable to officially add players to their squad.

However, Messi's switch to Paris Saint-Germain and Pique's willingness to accept a reduced wage ensures that Barcelona now meet LaLiga's salary cap limit.

And on the eve of Sunday's opening LaLiga clash with Real Sociedad, Barca announced Depay and Garcia, as well as striker Rey Manaj, are all able to play competitive football.

A statement on Barcelona's website on Saturday read: "FC Barcelona is able to register Memphis, Eric Garcia and Rey Manaj to play in the Spanish Liga de Futbol Profesional. 

"This has been made possible thanks to an agreement with Gerard Pique whereby the Barca second captain's salary has been substantially reduced.

"This means that all of the first team players will be available for selection by Ronald Koeman for this Sunday's opening Liga fixture against Real Sociedad."

Barcelona added that they are working closely with Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets to adapt the pair's salaries as they look to further reduce their wage bill.

Both players are "totally and utterly willing to cooperate" with Barca, who have also offloaded Jean-Clair Todibo, Junior Firpo, Konrad De la Fuente and Matheus Fernandes during the close season.

Ronald Koeman, speaking at a news conference on Saturday ahead of the visit of Sociedad, praised Barca's long-serving players for helping the club during a difficult period.

"We know perfectly well the financial situation of the club and it needs help in every way," Koeman said. 

"The attitude of Gerard, [Sergi] Roberto, Busquets and Alba must be highlighted. Those who have been here for many years want to help the club improve the economic situation.

"It is important and shows that they are people from home."

Sergio Aguero has yet to be registered by Barca, but the LaLiga giants are in no rush to do so as the Argentina international has been ruled out for 10 weeks through injury.

Barca's other recent arrival Emerson Royal is believed to already be registered as he is returning from a loan spell with Real Betis.

Gerard Pique has put Lionel Messi's imminent departure from Barcelona down to the former board's poor running of the club.

The Catalan giants announced in a shock statement on Thursday that Messi will not be extending his 21-year stay at Camp Nou due to the club's dire financial situation.

Messi, who scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the LaLiga side, is now expected to complete a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite the Argentina international agreeing to take a 50 per cent pay cut, Barcelona were unable to honour the new contract agreed with him due to LaLiga's salary cap limit.

Barca are estimated to be in around €1.2billion of debt, a hangover from the previous Josep Maria Bartomeu regime which spanned from 2014 until 2020 when he was ousted.

Pique has spent the last 13 years playing alongside Messi and believes the situation could have been avoided.

"This has not been one of the best days for us. We have lost the best of all time," Pique said following Barca's 3-0 win over Juventus in Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy clash at Estadi Johan Cruyff.

"We knew this day would arrive, but the team was still touched, especially those of us who spent many years sharing a dressing room with him.

"The management of recent years has not been the best and that has penalised us."

 

Messi's name was chanted throughout the prestigious friendly with Juve, with goals from Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and Riqui Puig earning Barca a routine victory.

Ronald Koeman spoke ahead of the game about an exciting future despite the loss of Messi and reiterated after the victory that it is important his side put the saga behind them.

"It is normal that when a player like Messi leaves it will be hard for everyone, but we have to turn the page because we cannot change this situation," he said.

"You have to play well and win, work more. Others can occupy that position and have a leading role. But we will no longer have Leo. We have to turn the page and be hopeful."

Messi's departure could have a knock-on impact for Koeman, with fellow Argentina international Sergio Aguero reportedly looking to leave Camp Nou before kicking a ball.

Aguero was ruled out of Barca's final pre-season outing with a calf problem, but Koeman denied suggestions the striker wants to terminate the contract signed just last month.

"That is not true," Koeman said. "He has signed and is excited. It is a pity that he was injured this morning. 

"We have to wait for his recovery. It happened in training. We know that when he is fit he can contribute a lot."

Among a number of positives on the field for Koeman during pre-season has been the form of new signing Depay, who took just three minutes to open the scoring against Juve.

The Netherlands international has three goals in four matches since arriving on a free transfer from Lyon, emphasising Koeman's point of there being life after Messi.

"Memphis showed again today that he can be very effective," Koeman said. "We know we must score more and the squad must improve.

"The best in the world will be missed, but you have to accept it. We are not living in the past. There is a future for this team.

"This result against Juventus was very good and achieved by playing some good football. We have taken another step and will only get better when other players return."

Ronald Koeman proclaimed Lionel Messi to be the "best player in the world" after it was confirmed the Barcelona legend will be leaving the club.

Messi enjoyed an outstanding career at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his time with the LaLiga giants ended abruptly this week due to Barca's dire financial situation.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was expected to sign a new contract, having become a free agent on July 1, before Thursday's announcement shocked the football world.

Koeman, who managed the forward during the 2020-21 campaign, joined a host of football's big names in paying tribute to Messi.

"Still hard to understand that you will not play for [Barcelona] anymore," the head coach wrote on Instagram. "Thanks for everything you have done for our club. I really enjoyed the full season we worked together.

"I am impressed with your work ethic and desire to win. It makes you the best player in the world. For now, I wish you and your family the best!"

With Messi expected to move to Paris Saint-Germain, Koeman must prepare for life without the four-time Champions League winner.

Memphis Depay and Antoine Griezmann will have incredibly large shoes to fill in the 2021-22 campaign, while Barca players past and present used social media to praise their former team-mate.

Gerard Pique, who won the treble with Messi in his first season back at the Catalan club, posted on Instagram that "nothing will ever be the same again" following the end of an era.

"Now you are leaving, but I know that one day you will come back," the centre-back continued. "There are pending things to do. Have fun, enjoy wherever you go and keep winning as only you know how to do. Here we will miss you. I love you Leo."

Luis Suarez, formerly part of the formidable trio with Messi and Neymar, pipped Barca to the title with Atletico Madrid last term but he too revealed his admiration for the "best player ever".

"I will always be grateful for how you received me since I arrived because of what a great human being you are," Suarez wrote.

"Proud to have shared thousands of wonderful moments at [Barcelona] and to be lucky to have played with you. I sincerely hope that what happens in the future is the best for you and your family. I love you so much."

Despite only playing for two campaigns with Messi, Barca youngster Ansu Fati used his Instagram account to say farewell to his captain.

"All the boys who come to the Masia dream of being able to play with you, I feel lucky to have fulfilled it," Fati posted. "I wanted to thank you these two years for your gestures of affection towards me and for everything I learned.

"[Messi] my family and I will always be eternally grateful, I wish you and yours all the best."

Page 1 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.