It is fair to say Barcelona's signing of Martin Braithwaite has raised a few eyebrows.

After being granted special dispensation to complete a deal for the Leganes forward outside of the transfer window, Barca announced the arrival of Braithwaite on Thursday.

Braithwaite moves to Camp Nou with a modest return of 10 goals in 43 LaLiga appearances and having had uninspiring spells at Middlesbrough and Bordeaux prior to moving to Spain.

Yet, this is hardly the first time a Barcelona signing has seemed puzzling to those on the outside.

Here, we take a look at some of the strangest, not necessarily the worst, signings Barca have made in recent history.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

This feels like the caveat of surprising not worst needs re-emphasising. Ibrahimovic's standing as a world-class talent is not in question. But it was a signing that seemed out of place with Barca's style of play under Pep Guardiola, and a deal made even more perplexing by the club's decision to sanction Inter's signing of Samuel Eto'o, who was part of a devastating triumvirate with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. While Eto'o went on to win the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10, Ibrahimovic – while still managing a solid return of 16 goals in 29 LaLiga outings – never really fit the mould at Camp Nou and reports of discord with Guardiola were always bubbling under the surface. He was shipped out to Milan a year later with a LaLiga and Club World Cup medal to show for his efforts.

ALEX SONG

Cameroon midfielder Song made over 200 appearances for Arsenal but not many truly thought he was a player with the calibre to shine at Barcelona. With Barca's midfield boasting the talents of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Javier Mascherano, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets when he joined in 2012 it was hard to see where Song fit in. And so it proved, with Song twice being sent out on loan to West Ham before a permanent move to Rubin Kazan was agreed in July 2016.

JEREMY MATHIEU

David Luiz, Marquinhos and Mats Hummels were all tipped as potential additions for a Barca side seeking a central defender in July 2014. For one reason or another none made the move and so Barca paid the €20million release clause to Valencia to make Mathieu the most expensive defender over the age of 30. Having only really played one full season as a centre-back it was not a deal that exactly screamed value. But, to his credit, Mathieu proved a useful squad player and he left Camp Nou with two LaLiga medals, three Copas del Rey and a Champions League win to his name.

PAULINHO

This one definitely falls under the category of surprising rather than worst. Paulinho was widely regarded as a £17million flop during a two-season stay with Tottenham so not many could have foreseen Barcelona forking out a reported €40million fee to sign the Brazil midfielder from Guangzhou Evergrande. But Paulinho was a solid squad man at Barca and his one-season stay – he would re-join Guangzhou in July 2018 – saw him make 34 league appearances, as well as returning a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double.

ARTURO VIDAL

Much like Ibrahimovic, it was not a question of Vidal's talent or achievements, more if he could fit the stereotype of a Barca player. The Chile midfielder, who has won top-flight titles in Italy and Germany with Juventus and Bayern Munich, has proven a useful player for Barca, helping the club to LaLiga glory last term, but has made just six league starts this term. The 32-year-old was the subject of reported interest from Inter in January.

KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG

A player certainly not devoid of talent but Boateng is the sort of player who in years to come many will say out loud "I didn't know he'd played for them!" A nomadic career has seen him take in spells with the likes of Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, Milan and Schalke but few would have imagined Barca would come calling in January 2019. However, with Ernesto Valverde on the lookout for back-up to Luis Suarez and Boateng having had experience of playing as a centre-forward in LaLiga with Las Palmas, a loan deal with Sassuolo was agreed. He made just four appearances and is now enjoying a temporary spell at Besiktas from Fiorentina.

JEISON MURILLO

Much like Boateng, Murillo arrived on a short-term loan in the 2019 January window as a short-term option. With injuries to Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen leaving Barca short at centre-back it was not particularly a surprise to see them enter the market, more that they moved for Murillo who had made just one LaLiga appearance for Valencia since joining on a full-time deal from Inter. Opportunities, as you may expect, proved scarce and Murillo played just four times for Barca.

Barcelona have completed the controversial signing of Martin Braithwaite from Leganes after the club were granted special dispensation to complete the deal outside of the transfer window.

LaLiga's champions were given permission to sign a forward after injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele left them short of striking options.

Barca on Thursday confirmed they have met an €18million release clause to bring in the 28-year-old until June 2024, with a buyout clause set at €300million.

Braithwaite has scored six goals in 24 LaLiga appearances for relegation-threatened Leganes this season.

Reports that Barca were poised to seal the contentious move raised questions over how the Catalan giants are able to draft in reinforcements with the window closed.

Leganes, who are 19th in LaLiga and two points from safety, reportedly had an appeal to complete a transfer of their own turned down as signing a replacement for a departing player does not comply with the rules in Spain.

Struggling Leganes also saw fellow striker Youssef En-Nesyri join Sevilla in a €20million deal in January.

Braithwaite arrived at Leganes in January 2019 after an uninspiring spell at Middlesbrough, while he also spent time on loan in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux.

Barca are second in LaLiga, just a point adrift of Clasico rivals Real Madrid.

Lucas Passerini and Jonathan Rodriguez each scored in second-half stoppage time to earn Cruz Azul a dramatic 2-1 victory at Portmore United in the first leg of their 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round-of-16 tie on Tuesday night at Independence Park in Kingston, Jamaica.

Reggae Boyz team manager, Roy Simpson, has pledged support for Darren Mattocks and said no decision would be taken regarding his position with the national team until a verdict in the case has been arrived at.

Mattocks will formally be advised of the charges against him on February 27, though reports have already circulated that he has been charged with one count of making a false, fraudulent or incomplete insurance claim, and another count of theft by deception in Carroll Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

“When I spoke with him, he was quite private with it. I didn’t press him about it. I just reached out to him to let him understand that the entire nation is aware of what has happened and that if he needs our support in any way, shape or form that he thinks we are capable of executing, we will assist,” Simpson explained on Jamaican radio station Hitz 92 FM during its programme, Sports Grill, earlier this week.

According to reports, the charges stem from a single-car accident on January 20 last year.

The reports, alleged to have come from the Attorney General’s office, said Mattocks and a passenger were aboard a BMW X6 from New York City to Cincinnati on State Route 70, near Monongahela, Pennsylvania, when the Reggae Boy lost control of the vehicle and crashed.

According to those same reports, the insurance on the vehicle had lapsed at the time of the accident and Mattocks is alleged to have taken out a new policy hours after the accident before making a claim.

Still, Simpson does not want to make too many waves until the case is complete.

“I wouldn’t want to pre-empt a verdict because you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you defend a situation and it goes the other way, so everybody is awaiting the outcome,” said Simpson.

The team manager also indicated that Mattocks was confident he would be vindicated when all was said and done.

“When I spoke to him he was quite confident that he would be vindicated so we await,” said Simpson.

The court case may have a very deleterious impact on Mattocks career in the MLS where he plays for FC Cincinnati.

Other reports had suggested that Mattocks, who has scored just three goals in 21 appearances for Cincinnati, was at odds with the coach and, in essence, the franchise.

“He also pointed out and we were aware that the relationship between himself and FC Cincinnati had been strained prior to this situation,” said Simpson, responding to reports that former Cincinnati coach, Ron Jans had said Mattocks was not in the team’s plans this season.

“It is a fact that he had asked to be traded and this situation has put a hurdle in his way. Hopefully, he can get through it and then start playing again,” said Simpson.

Mattocks is being represented by David J Shrager, who has pointed to Mattocks record of being a law-abiding citizen as part proof that the situation is just a misunderstanding.

Mattocks is a veteran of eight years in the MLS, playing in 207 league games and scoring 40 goals for Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, and DC United, before his move to Cincinnati.

Mattocks has also turned out for the Reggae Boyz 45 times, scoring 15 goals along the way.

“My client respects both the laws of both his native country [Jamaica] and the United States. He has never been in any kind of criminal trouble whatsoever in his life, and this matter is merely a misunderstanding regarding insurance laws here in Pennsylvania. We look forward to clearing up this matter. We have been cooperating with the courts and continue to do so. We look forward to resolving this matter expeditiously,” read a statement from Shrager’s office.

LaLiga champions Barcelona are a club in crisis.

From public rows to allegations that say the current board were involved in hiring a PR firm to spread negative narratives about Barca legends, a claim the club have denied.

It has been a turbulent time at Camp Nou and MLS powerhouse LA Galaxy have looked to capitalise.

 

TOP STORY – GALAXY ENQUIRE ABOUT MESSI

LA Galaxy enquired about Barcelona captain Lionel Messi's interest in moving to the United States, according to Radio Continental.

Messi was involved in a public row with director of football Eric Abidal, raising doubts over his Barca future amid links to Manchester United, Manchester City, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Galaxy head coach and former Boca Juniors boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto reportedly reached out to Messi's father to see if the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was open to swapping Barcelona for Los Angeles.

ROUND-UP

Paul Pogba is confident he will finally be granted an exit by Manchester United, reports the Evening Standard. Pogba – still recovering from an ankle injury – has been linked with a return to former club Juventus as well as LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Independent claims United are in advanced negotiations with former PSG technical director Antero Henrique. Ralf Rangnick is also reportedly being considered.

- RB Leipzig's head of sport Rangnick is still being targeted by Milan for the role as head coach, reports Calciomercato. However, the Italian club are split as Stefano Pioli leads a resurgence.

- According to Tuttosport, Serie A champions Juventus are interested in bringing Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus to Turin.

- France Football says Barca are eyeing Galatasaray's teenage sensation Mustafa Kapi. The 17-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

Chelsea have entered the race to sign in-demand Hellas Verona centre-back Marash Kumbulla, says Calciomercato. The 20-year-old Albania international is also wanted by Inter, Napoli, Liverpool, United and City.

Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi said he wants to play and continue growing as his loan deal with Borussia Dortmund expires at the end of the season.

Achraf has starred for Bundesliga side Dortmund since arriving from LaLiga giants Madrid on a two-season loan contract in 2018.

The 21-year-old produced another solid performance as Dortmund defeated Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

Achraf is set to return to Madrid at season's end but the Morocco international said anything is possible as he looks to further his development.

"That's what people say and the contract I have signed," Achraf said when asked about his loan spell ending in June. "Everything can happen in June, but we'll see what the summer holds.

"In my head is that I want to play and I want to continue growing. Here in Germany they are giving me the opportunity."

Erling Haaland scored a quick-fire second-half brace to lead Dortmund past visiting French champions PSG on Tuesday.

Haaland has been a revelation since swapping Salzburg for Dortmund in January, scoring 11 goals in all competitions and Achraf hailed his team-mate post-game.

"We have prepared the game quite well and it worked out well," Achraf added. "Haaland has helped us a lot and we hope it stays that way.

"He [Haaland] has been smart. He is still young and knows he has to play."

Spain, Real Madrid and Porto great Iker Casillas is set to retire after announcing his bid for the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) presidency, according to the Portuguese club's president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa.

Casillas suffered a heart attack in training with Porto last May and, although he has not played since, the 38-year-old never announced his retirement despite being added to the team's backroom staff in July.

He was then included in Porto's squad for the 2019-20 season, but Monday's announcement of his leadership bid in Spain led to strong suggestions retirement confirmation was imminent.

Although the goalkeeper has not spoken publicly on the matter himself, Pinto da Costa claims Casillas told him his playing days are over, as he looks set to rival incumbent RFEF chief Luis Rubiales.

"I was very happy. Casillas had an attitude that touched me a lot, because before announcing the candidacy he made a point of coming to Porto to have lunch with me to communicate that he would make that decision and end his career," Pinto da Costa told reporters on Tuesday.

"He has a great career, in which he has only been in two clubs and we know he has both at heart."

Casillas made 167 appearances for Spain and captained his country to success at the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships of 2008 and 2012.

He is also regarded as an all-time great of Madrid, his boyhood club whom he solely represented before joining Porto in 2015.

A date for the latest RFEF election, which would appear to see Casillas take on Rubiales, is yet to be confirmed.

Virgil van Dijk put Liverpool's 1-0 Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid down to bad luck and warned the Spanish club there is still another 90 minutes of the last-16 tie to play.

Saul Niguez's early strike in Tuesday's Champions League clash gave Atletico a slender lead to take into the return fixture against holders Liverpool at Anfield on March 11.

Saul poked home from close range with four minutes played after a corner fell kindly into his path and Diego Simeone's Atletico kept their advantage intact in Madrid.

Reigning champions Liverpool dominated possession in the Spanish capital but failed to register a single attempt on target, with Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson squandering their best chances.

Despite the defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano, however, defender Van Dijk is remaining upbeat ahead of the second leg in a little over three weeks' time.

"We conceded the goal from the corner, first chance for them, not even a chance. Bit of luck," he told BT Sport.

"The message at half-time was to keep playing. We had the ball most of the game but unfortunately could not create massive opportunities. We still have another 90 minutes to set it right.

"It is the way they play. It is a bit of the Spanish football as well and you have to adapt but we knew it and I feel we handled it pretty well."

Echoing his team-mate's views, full-back Andy Robertson felt the wild celebrations in the stands at full-time were premature given Liverpool's impressive home record.

"We put in a decent performance and we know we can be better. We've got a second leg to put it right," Robertson said.

"They celebrated as if they won the tie after the game. They are coming to Anfield and we know our fans will be there.

"We gave them the best possible start and that get the fans behind them and then they start falling over and getting under the skin a bit."

Erling Haaland became the fastest player to score 10 goals in Champions League history as the Borussia Dortmund sensation shattered records on Tuesday.

Haaland – making his Champions League bow for Dortmund following a January switch from Salzburg – scored twice in the second half of the team's 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the opening leg of the last-16 tie.

The striker took his tally to 10 goals in just seven Champions League appearances this season with a stunning eight-minute brace, reaching the mark four games quicker than any other player in the competition's history.

At 19 years and 212 days, Haaland is the second youngest player to reach 10 goals in the Champions League, behind PSG star Kylian Mbappe, who did so at the age of 18 years and 360 days.

Haaland, who turned down a January move to Premier League giants Manchester United, has scored 11 goals in his first seven games in all competitions for Dortmund – no other player from a Bundesliga side has ever achieved that feat.

The Norway international also became the first Dortmund player to score on his debut in the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal, as his remarkable season continued.

He scored a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Salzburg against Genk on September 17, becoming the first teenager to score more than once on his maiden appearance in the competition since Wayne Rooney in 2004, but he was not finished there.

Further goals against Liverpool and Napoli took his tally to seven – a record haul for a teenager in a Champions League campaign – from just four games, swiftly surpassing the previous benchmark of six set by Raul and Mbappe.

Haaland went on to become only the third player, after Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Costa, to score in his first five matches in the competition when he grabbed another goal against Genk on November 27. 

Emre Can will join Borussia Dortmund permanently from Juventus in July on a deal that runs until 2024, the Bundesliga club have announced.

The 26-year-old Germany international initially moved to Dortmund in January on a loan deal that runs until the end of this campaign.

He scored on his first Bundesliga appearance in a 4-3 loss to Bayer Leverkusen and started last week's 4-0 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt.

As part of the loan deal, Dortmund were obliged to buy Can for €25million if "sport results" were achieved and the club have acted swiftly to reach an agreement for that fee just 18 days after the initial move.

"Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund have reached an agreement with Italian record champions Juventus over the permanent transfer of Germany international Emre Can," read a statement on Dortmund's website.

"The 26-year-old's loan deal ends in June. As of 1 July, a valid contract between Borussia Dortmund and Can will enter into force and run until 30 June 2024."

Former Bayern Munich and Leverkusen midfielder Can is back playing in Germany for the first time in six years after stints with Liverpool and Juve.

He joined Serie A champions Juve on a four-year deal in July 2018 and made 29 appearances in his debut season under Massimiliano Allegri.

However, Can fell out of favour in Turin under Maurizio Sarri and slipped down the pecking order following the arrivals of Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey.

The writing appeared on the wall when Can was left out of Juve's Champions League squad and he has now sealed a permanent departure.

Emre Can will join Borussia Dortmund permanently from Juventus in July on a deal that runs until 2024, the Bundesliga club have announced.

New Real Madrid signing Reiner became emotional as he pondered the impact of his family in making his dream of joining Los Blancos a reality.

Following considerable transfer speculation, Madrid eventually completed the signing of Reinier in January from Flamengo in a deal reportedly worth a potential €35million.

Due to Reinier's involvement with Brazil in CONMEBOL's Pre-Olympic Tournament, in which the Selecao finished second to confirm their place at the 2020 Olympic Games, the 18-year-old was unable to join up with Madrid straight away.

But the attacking midfielder, who has been compared to former Madrid attacker Kaka, was presented to the Spanish media at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday as he prepares to make his official bow for the club's Castilla team.

"Everything that I experienced in childhood crossed my mind [when signing], since I left home with my father, I arrived in Rio alone, without my mother, without my sister," a visibly emotional Reinier told reporters before being encouraged to take a brief break by club director Emilio Butragueno.

"When I talk about my family I get very emotional because I am sure it was all thanks to them [that I'm here]. I thank them, also those [family members] in Brazil, like my grandmother. Since I was a child they helped me achieve my dream.

"This is a very happy day for me. I am fulfilling a childhood dream. We always talked about how amazing it would be to get here. I want to be part of the history of this great club.

"It is the realisation of a dream. Playing in Madrid was the dream of my father, my sister, my mother."

Reinier will initially link up with Castilla for the rest of the season, as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo did before him.

And while playing for third-tier Castilla may represent something of a culture shock compared to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo, regarded as the most-popular club in Brazil, Reinier is relishing playing under the guidance of Madrid icon Raul.

"Flamengo is the biggest team in South America, but I am happy," Reinier added. "I have already trained with Castilla, they are great people, I have already met Raul.

"He's one of my idols and he welcomed me. I'm very happy with our talk. He wished me luck, and I'm sure I will do my best. As we say in my country, I will give my life for Madrid.

"Tomorrow [Wednesday] we will be very well together again and I will be ready for Sunday."

Reinier could make his debut at home to Segunda B1's bottom side San Sebastian de los Reyes on Sunday, with Castilla – who are eighth – hoping to close in on the play-off spots.

FC Cincinnati head coach Ron Jans has quit the club after it was alleged he used a racial slur.

Dutchman Jans initially "stepped away" from his duties on Friday as an independent investigation looked into the claims made against him.

Now the 61-year-old has had his resignation accepted by Cincinnati, who said his departure was "the best course of action for everyone involved" with the club.

The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) said on Friday it had been "made aware of extremely inappropriate comments" made by Jans and called for an "immediate and thorough league investigation".

That has led to Jans, appointed last August, cutting his ties with the team with immediate effect.

The Athletic alleged Jans used the 'N-word' in the company of a number of players earlier in pre-season, and reported that members of the team met with an attorney regarding the incident.

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding said in a club statement: "As Major League Soccer's investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati.

"We place the utmost importance on a strong culture within our club, beginning in our locker room, and that every person connected with FC Cincinnati feels valued, respected and trusted.

"Racial and cultural diversity is a major part of what makes the game of soccer so special, and we place the highest priority on respecting every person involved in our game.

"This includes absolutely everyone associated with our club, from our locker room and front office, all the way through to our fans."

Jans has yet to make a public comment on the accusation.

The dramatic development comes just 12 days before Cincinnati begin their MLS season against New York Red Bulls.

Frenchman Yoann Damet, who has been at Cincinnati for three years, takes over as interim head coach.

The club said general manager Gerard Nijkamp was beginning the search for a permanent new first-team boss.

Barcelona have contacted Leganes regarding the potential signing of striker Martin Braithwaite and the Madrid club are worried losing him will doom them to relegation, according to majority shareholder Felipe Moreno.

After having Ousmane Dembele ruled out for six months last week, Barca are reported to have been granted special dispensation to sign a new player despite the transfer window being closed.

The regulations in place stipulate the player they sign must either be registered with another Spanish club already or a free agent.

Angel Rodriguez, Willian Jose, Lucas Perez and Loren Moron were said to be the initial candidates, but in the past few days Leganes' Denmark international Braithwaite has seemingly emerged as the most likely option.

Leganes confirmed Barca made contact with them on Monday but insist Braithwaite will only leave if his reported €20million release clause is triggered, with Moreno expressing concern after the relegation-threatened side lost another striker in Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month.

"Yesterday [Monday] afternoon they called and contemplated this situation," Moreno told reporters on Tuesday. "They only made contact once.

"The truth is that we are very worried. After what happened to us with En-Nesyri, now what happens with Braithwaite ... staying in LaLiga gets more complicated every day. In these next hours we will know what happens, yes or no.

"I don't know if anyone will come from Barcelona today. The player has a day off and we have not talked to him.

"I understand why Braithwaite would go to Barca, I would too. But of course, we are not going to negotiate anything. They pay his clause, or he stays at Leganes.

"I can understand that Barca do this if the law allows them to, but I thought that they couldn't sign an active player, only one free agent. I was surprised."

After 24 LaLiga matches this season, Leganes are second-bottom of the table, only ahead of Espanyol on goal difference and two points adrift of Celta Vigo in 17th.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied the club hired a social media contractor in order to discredit the likes of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Pep Guardiola.

Spanish radio network Cadena SER reported on Monday that an independent social media company was contracted by Barca to boost the public profile of the current board of directors.

The reports also stated the company was tasked with undermining individuals with strong links to the club, including current stars Messi and Pique, former coach Guardiola and midfield icon Xavi.

Following a strong statement of denial on Monday, Bartomeu, while acknowledging Barca had hired I3 Ventures – the company in question – has reiterated the club's stance.

"I want to make clear, for the [Barca] members, and everyone, because I have heard different versions," Bartomeu said at the XIV Vazquez Montalban International Journalism Awards.

"First of all, I have to say that Barcelona haven't hired any service to discredit anyone. Neither players, nor the executives, ex-presidents. That is totally false.

"So we will defend ourselves where necessary regarding this subject, by all means, and in front of anyone who accuses us of doing this. I repeat again, it is false that Barcelona, in any case, has hired no one to discredit anyone."

However, with I3 Ventures connected to one of the accounts named in the reports – Respeto y Deporte (Respect and Sport) – Bartomeu confirmed Barca have ended their relationship with the contractor.

"It is true that at the end of 2017, Barcelona hired a service to monitor different areas of the club in the social media, as the major of the clubs have," he added.

"After the confirmation that one of the accounts linked to one of this company's suppliers have made inappropriate commentaries about people related to our organisation, I have given instructions personally to terminate the contract with this company.

"I want to make something clear. Regarding to the question that "if we have ordered anyone to monitor the social media", the answer is yes and we will still do it. 

"It is the responsibility of this club to know what is going on and what it is being said around the world, always to preserve Barcelona.

"Regarding to the question "If we have ordered to discredit people or institutions through social media" the answer is no and we will persecute everyone who accuses us of it."

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