Barcelona's medical team have given midfielder Rafinha the all-clear after he completed his recovery from a knee injury that kept him out for almost seven months.

The Brazilian playmaker ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in November 2018 and he had surgery to address the problem.

A statement on Barcelona's official website confirmed the 26-year-old has been given the green light to return to full training, but it remains to be seen whether he can force his way back into the first team at Camp Nou.

Rafinha's Barcelona career was stuttering when he sustained the injury and he made just five LaLiga appearances for the club in the first four months of the 2018-19 season, having spent the previous campaign on loan at Inter.

Born in Sao Paulo, Rafinha came up through Barcelona's youth ranks before enjoying a strong season on loan at Celta de Vigo in 2013-14 that led to him breaking into the Barca first team the following year.

His future at the club could hinge on whether under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde keeps his job.

Rafinha's father, former Brazil international Mazinho, expressed his frustration with the limited first-team opportunities afforded to his son before the injury struck, saying he would be seeking a transfer if nothing changed.

Manchester United know what they want for star midfielder Paul Pogba, according to reports.

Pogba, 26, has been heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Real Madrid reported to be his most likely destination.

With Zinedine Zidane starting a rebuild at the Santiago Bernabeu – Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy have all just been signed – perhaps Pogba could be next.

But, unsurprisingly, there will be work to do between United and Madrid to make the move happen.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SET POGBA PRICE

Manchester United want at least £150million for Pogba, according to the Mirror.

That would top the then-world record £89m United paid to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, an indicator of the state of the market rather than the France international's performances.

However, Eduardo Inda reports Real Madrid have offered €120m (around £107m) plus bonuses, leaving a rather big gap between the teams' valuations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Atletico Madrid's chief executive claimed on Wednesday he has known since March that Antoine Griezmann will join Barcelona. But it seems Manchester United still have hope, The Sun reporting the Premier League giants are ready to offer £95m for the forward.

- While Manchester United are looking to strengthen their attack, perhaps they have little interest in Real Madrid attacker Gareth Bale. ESPN report that United have rejected the chance to talk to Madrid about the possibility of signing the Wales international.

- Benfica teenager Joao Felix is sought-after. Goal report that Atletico Madrid also want the attacker, hoping to convince the Portugal international he will get more first-team chances with them than possibly Manchester City. According to Estadio Deportivo, Atletico have also put in a bid – close to €55m – for reported Tottenham target and Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso.

- Bayern Munich may want Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane, but they have other options. Bild report the Bundesliga champions will target Yannick Carrasco, who is at Dalian Yifang but wants a return to Europe, if they cannot land Sane.

- Barcelona are seemingly ready to head into next season with Ernesto Valverde as coach. Sport report that Valverde met with president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Tuesday to discuss possible transfers.

- Dejan Lovren has fallen down the pecking order at Liverpool, but the European champions will not let the defender go cheaply. Lovren is linked to AC Milan and the Mirror report Liverpool want around £25m for the Croatia international.

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman says the time is not right for him to consider becoming the new boss of former club Barcelona.

Koeman emerged as a leading candidate to take charge of the Blaugrana following reports that Ernesto Valverde was on the brink of his losing job.

Speculation surrounding the Spaniard's position has since gone quiet, with Valverde seemingly set to be granted a reprieve despite presiding over a second successive Champions League failure.

It is not the first time Koeman, who spent six seasons at Barca as a player, has been linked with a return to Camp Nou.

But having only been in his current role since February 2018, the former Everton and Southampton manager is not prepared to think about a change.

"If it's been a year and you only have only one season to go until the European Championships, then it isn't the right time," Koeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

"There will always be people who say 'if [Barcelona] come, he will leave anyway'.

"The media will run those stories and that is their right. I know what I've agreed with the KNVB. That seems sufficient to me."

Asked whether the speculation should now stop, Koeman responded: "Yes, as far as I'm concerned."

Netherlands are preparing to meet England in the last four of the Nations League Finals on June 6.

The winner will advance to face either Switzerland or hosts Portugal for the right to be crowned the competition's inaugural champions.

Luis Garcia hopes Antoine Griezmann leaves Atletico Madrid for either Liverpool or Barcelona.

Griezmann announced his intention to leave Atleti earlier this month, with Barca reportedly in pole position to sign the forward.

The LaLiga champions were said to be close to signing the player last year only for the France international to announce he was staying at Atletico in a television documentary.

Ernesto Valverde has refused to confirm whether or not Griezmann is a target for Barcelona again, with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain also reportedly interested.

Luis Garcia played for both Liverpool and Barcelona during his career and he feels the World Cup winner would be a good signing for either club.

"I can't wait to see where it's going to end. It's true that we know he’s leaving Atletico Madrid but we don't know anything else," Luis Garcia told Omnisport. 

"So, is it going to be Barcelona or is it going to be United, or Italy? Looking forward, I think it was the moment for him.

"He's been waiting for Atletico Madrid because he knew how important he was for their supporters but he decided to make the step, and now just looking forward to seeing where he's going to be playing next year.

"Me? Of course, I'm a Barcelona supporter, Liverpool supporter, I would love to have him in my squad. So, any of those teams, I'd be happy to see him in."

Barcelona look set to stick with head coach Ernesto Valverde despite their shock loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, which followed their stunning Champions League exit to Liverpool.

"I'm happy for that to be honest. I think you have to give credit to Barcelona," added Luis Garcia, who left Barca to move to Anfield in 2004.

"It's true that they didn't win the cup, they couldn't manage to get to the Champions League final, but it’s not easy what Valverde is doing, winning LaLiga. Being in [Europe] until the end.

"At the end, only one team can win the Champions League final, it's very difficult to manage all those kinds of situations. So I'm happy and looking forward to seeing how he's going to manage for next year.

"What kind of player he’s going to bring or he's going to let go out. So, looking forward and quite excited."

Ernesto Valverde seemingly has no plans to quit as Barcelona coach despite growing fan unrest and Saturday's Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia.

Marcelino's side ran out 2-1 winners at the Benito Villamarin in Seville, with Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno netting in the first half to render Lionel Messi's tap-in after the break immaterial.

Defeat means Barca end the season with only the league title to their name, despite appearing to have a strong chance of winning the treble just a few weeks ago.

A shock Champions League elimination at the hands of Liverpool, a tie in which they won the first leg 3-0, saw the discontent from fans towards Valverde increase significantly and that situation is unlikely to improve after Barca failed to clinch an unprecedented fifth successive Copa del Rey crown.

Nevertheless, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu indicating Valverde is safe from the axe, the coach appears relaxed about his future.

"I feel good, but when you win, you are happier," Valverde said. "The reading of the game is different from the one we played 15 days ago, but the reality is that we have lost again.

"We have not fulfilled the expectations created. We thought about the treble and we lost ourselves on the road at the decisive moment. It is evident that we are here to win titles.

"I'm fine, what we – the coaches – want is a rematch, to fight to have a challenge ahead.

"I know that losing is hard, something has failed. This responsibility is difficult and it has to be assumed."

Barcelona's Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia on Saturday was not the fault of under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde, according to the club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

A 2-1 defeat at Real Betis' Benito Villamarin in Seville left Barca feeling as though the 2018-19 season has been something of an underachievement despite retaining their LaLiga crown.

Just a few weeks ago, after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg, Barca looked entirely capable of winning the treble.

But they were humiliatingly beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in the return leg and Saturday's loss robbed them of a domestic double, with Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno putting the game beyond Barca despite Lionel Messi pulling one back.

Valverde's suitability has been called into question by many supporters since the humbling Liverpool loss, but Bartomeu backed the head coach.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Bartomeu said: "We have always said that Ernesto has a contract for next season.

"I do not think he's the culprit. We had many opportunities, but they did not find the net. But count the goals and Valencia scored one more than us.

"It is not a season of excellence, but [nor is it one] of failure. We have reached the final of the Copa, the semi-finals of Champions League.

"In the end, we lost two games, but we are out of the Champions League and we are Copa runners-up."

Barcelona were denied an unprecedented fifth successive Copa del Rey crown as they lost 2-1 to Valencia in Saturday's final, heaping the pressure on under-fire coach Ernesto Valverde.

Having had a realistic chance at a treble just a few weeks ago, Barca finish the season with only the league title to show for their efforts, a situation likely to increase Valverde's unpopularity among supporters.

Barca were way off their best in the first half at the Benito Villamarin and deservedly found themselves trailing 2-0 at the break, as Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno clinically punished the defending champions.

Valverde's men pushed forward desperately after the break and Lionel Messi pulled one back shortly after being denied by the post, but their dominance proved futile as Valencia held on to win the Copa for the first time since 2008.

The warning signs were there for Barca after just five minutes, as Gameiro pressured Clement Lenglet into a wayward pass at the back and Rodrigo pounced, skipping past Jasper Cillessen and seeing his effort blocked on the line by Gerard Pique.

Neither Cillessen nor Pique could spare Barca 16 minutes later, however, as Jose Gaya charged forward on the break and picked out Gameiro, who shook off Jordi Alba and blasted home.

Rodrigo doubled the lead just past the half-hour mark, heading in Carlos Soler's inch-perfect cross from close range.

Malcom and Arturo Vidal were introduced for Nelson Semedo and Arthur at half-time, as Barca pushed for a comeback.

Messi remained the one to watch, though, hitting the left-hand post with a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot effort just before the hour after a one-two with Malcom.

But he was not to be denied in the 73rd minute, as Messi tapped in after Lenglet's header came back off the upright.

Valencia squandered two chances to finish Barca off on the break deep into stoppage time, as Goncalo Guedes put wide when one-on-one and also missed an open goal from distance, but they held on to consign Barca to a disappointing end of the season.


What does it mean? Valverde's future surely in doubt

If Valverde's popularity was not already a matter for debate, it certainly is now. With a LaLiga and Copa double, you could justifiably see him hanging on to the job for another season, but now things look a little cloudier, particularly given the increasing fan criticism of his leadership.

Arguably the only thing saving him at the moment is Messi's apparent backing.

Rodrigo and Gameiro lead by example

They got the goals, but Rodrigo and Gameiro did so much more as well. The pair led the line brilliantly, never giving Barca's defence a moment's rest, while their link-up play – with each other and the rest of the team – was exceptional.

Clement's long day

It started poorly for Lenglet, as the Frenchman made an awful error after just five minutes from which Valencia should have scored. He rarely looked comfortable thereafter, with Gameiro and Rodrigo giving him the runaround.

What's next?

Given they finished the season with just one trophy, a big close-season awaits Barca. There are doubts about Valverde's suitability, while their squad is short in a number of areas, such as centre-forward and full-back. As for Valencia, if they can keep hold of their star players and bolster their squad for the Champions League, they will be confident of another promising campaign next term.

Ernesto Valverde insisted there has been enough talk about his future ahead of Barcelona's Copa del Rey final against Valencia.

Barca can complete a second consecutive double under Valverde by defeating Valencia in Seville on Saturday, but pressure has built on the head coach since their latest Champions League collapse away at Liverpool.

Having let a 4-1 first-leg lead slip in the quarter-finals against Roma last year, the Blaugrana saw a 3-0 advantage overturned by Jurgen Klopp's side in the last four this season.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu has offered Valverde his backing, though, while captain Lionel Messi also spoke out in support of the coach on Friday.

Valverde concedes he must accept some responsibility for a defeat that has overshadowed their success this season, but he is keen to set the topic aside until after the final.

"I do not think too much about my future," he told a news conference. "The only thing that worries me is to win [against Valencia]. Every day is a battle.

"If you look around the coaches in LaLiga, we are part of the show. We all get ups and downs. You only have to see what happened to [Valencia coach] Marcelino, who had a moment, or [Real] Madrid changing coach.

"I do not know about Leo Messi defending me. We are all aware that, when there is an elimination, we must all take responsibility, the players, the coaches, all of us. We are hurt, but we have to look forwards and face the consequences again.

"I do not feel any more pressure. Why would I? I've always said that the club respects my work and it's always been like that. I have no complaints from the president or the board."

Pushed further on the issue, Valverde told reporters he had provided all the answers required on his future.

Meanwhile, the coach was expecting Nelson Semedo and Arthur to train ahead of the final and was hopeful on the fitness of Philippe Coutinho.

Valverde insisted he knew nothing in relation to the report the final will be Jasper Cillessen's last match for the club amid reported interest from Benfica.

Barcelona could still win the domestic double again this season, but former Blaugrana midfielder Deco feels Ernesto Valverde is still under pressure because of the humiliating Champions League exit to Liverpool.

Valverde won LaLiga and the Copa del Rey in his first campaign last season and, after retaining the domestic title, his side will achieve a double-double if they beat Valencia in Saturday's cup final.

Yet the Barca boss' position still appears perilous because of the embarrassing way in which the club exited this year's Champions League.

Despite holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg against Liverpool, Barca were thrashed 4-0 in the return fixture of the semi-final at Anfield, leaving Deco uncertain over Valverde's long-term future.

"I don't know the future because [at] Barcelona there's a lot of pressure," said Deco, who was speaking to Omnisport courtesy of the UEFA Europa League Trophy Tour - Driven by Kia.

"When the competition starts one of my favourites to win was Liverpool because I knew they were strong, stronger than last season.

"But they had problems in the beginning, the group phase, and then it's getting better in the competition.

"Of course, after 3-0 in Camp Nou, no one could expect without two of the important players – [Mohamed] Salah and [Roberto] Firmino – that Liverpool could do that.

"It was difficult for Barcelona because it was a very tough defeat – a loss against Liverpool, 4-0, is not normal."

Deco played for Barca between 2004 and 2008, winning two LaLiga titles and the Champions League in 2005-06.

He believes that the manner of the defeat to Liverpool would result in added scrutiny for any manager.

"I know in Barcelona there's a lot of pressure, every year they need to win," he added.

"I don't know what's happened. It's difficult, not just for Valverde but every coach who would be there in that moment."

Antoine Griezmann's decision to turn down a move to Barcelona last year "hurt" the club, according to Xavi.

Griezmann was strongly linked with signing for Barca after the 2017-18 season but he eventually announced in a televised documentary he would stay at Atletico Madrid.

However, after Barca held off Atleti to defend their LaLiga crown, France forward Griezmann confirmed his intention to leave the Madrid club after five years.

Barca are reportedly again front-runners for his signature, though head coach Ernesto Valverde has refused to discuss how Griezmann could fit into a forward line with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

And Xavi, who won eight LaLiga titles at Barca and made his last professional appearance for Al-Sadd before hanging up his boots this week, hinted there may be leftover bad feeling at Camp Nou over Griezmann's previous rejection of a move.

"I understand it hurt what he did last summer," Xavi said to Sport. "If the reason for the rejection [from Barca players] was only a footballing issue, I'd speak with the dressing room to make them see he's a player who can bring something.

"We have to see, however, who is signing him? The sporting director? Valverde? The president? If I came to Barca I would ask for the signings, and if the dressing room doesn't agree with any of them I'd speak with them, but in the end I decide. Be it Griezmann or whoever.

"Another thing would be if the coach doesn't want him either. Then we have a problem."

Barca have given Valverde their backing despite their latest Champions League disappointment, with Xavi making his ambitions to coach at Camp Nou clear.

"If one day I come back to Barcelona it's all a consequence of knowing that I will be judged," he added.

"Everyone wants to be at a big team. It would be more comfortable to go to a second division club but I'm competitive and I like big challenges.

"I know what will come, I will go bald or my hair will turn white, but it is what it is."

Messi made it clear the Champions League was Barca's top priority in 2018-19 but he was unable to add to the four European titles he has won at the club.

"That's more than a few, we only had one before," Messi's former team-mate Xavi said. "We were able to win more but it's hard to win the Champions League.

"[Pep] Guardiola's Barca were better than the rest of the teams and we only won two of four. Chelsea and Inter knocked us out. But be calm, Messi's not finished yet.

"We always talk about the post-Messi era, but Leo has three or four good years left. At the top level, like now, because he looks after himself, he's incredibly professional, he's physically strong, a beast mentally. He's the number one at everything."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is not optimistic about having Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele available for the Copa del Rey final.

LaLiga champions Barca face Valencia in the May 25 showpiece, hoping to end the season with a domestic double.

But Coutinho and Dembele appear to be in serious danger of missing the game, having sat out Sunday's 2-2 draw away to Eibar in Barca's final league fixture of the season.

Coutinho suffered a hamstring strain in the 2-0 win over Getafe on May 12, while Dembele sustained a similar issue at the start of the month.

They may now miss the Copa final, though Valverde does expect to have goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen back after a minor knee injury.

"We've got a few issues in certain positions and we're going to see if we can get a few players back," the coach told reporters in his post-match news conference.

"Ter Stegen will certainly be available. Coutinho, I don't know and Dembele is looking unlikely. Let's see about Arthur.

"He's had a problem for two to three months and he needed a break. It could have happened a month or so ago, but it's happened now. I don't know if he'll be available."

Barca lost Nelson Semedo to a head injury at Ipurua and the Portuguese full-back was taken to hospital, but Valverde is hopeful he will be completely fine.

"I don't have any news about Nelson," Valverde added. "We hope it's only a precaution for the knock."

Ernesto Valverde described Antoine Griezmann as "a great player" but was unable to confirm whether he would be joining Barcelona, despite Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain distancing themselves from the World Cup-winning forward.

Griezmann announced his decision to leave Atletico Madrid in a video posted on his social media accounts on Tuesday, thanking the club's supporters for "five incredible years".

He has been linked with a transfer to Camp Nou for over a year, opting to sign a new five-year contract at the Wanda Metropolitano before the start of the 2018-19 season rather than pursue a move at that time.

With the 28-year-old set to switch allegiances, and both City's Pep Guardiola and PSG's Thomas Tuchel saying they would not be signing him, Valverde was asked whether he would be looking to add Griezmann to his squad for next season.

"We always say the same – he's a player at a different club," Valverde told a news conference.

"Who knows? He's a great player, I've never denied that. Are you going to ask every coach in football if they want him? Is that your plan?"

When asked what role Griezmann might play in his Blaugrana team, Valverde responded: "If he came you would see.

"We're talking about an assumption, a player who might come, who could be here. I'm not going to talk about his position."

Barcelona clinched the LaLiga title with three games to spare and their clash with Eibar on Sunday is of relatively low significance to both sides.

But Valverde insisted he will name a strong side to ensure his players' match fitness does not wane ahead of the Copa del Rey final against Valencia six days later and deflected further questions about transfer targets, preferring to focus on his aim of winning the double.

Asked if he had new players in his sights, he replied: "I don't know, that's an internal club matter. There are other parties involved who might have an opinion.

"The club's idea is to make the best team we can, taking into account our strengths and weaknesses. Right now we've got a final to think about. We could win the double this year.

"It has been an extraordinary season – things were broken a lot by the way we went out of the Champions League, but we won the Super Cup, the league with three games in hand. We've got the cup final to come."

He added a word of reassurance over Lionel Messi, who was short of his best in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Getafe five days after their Champions League elimination at the hands of Liverpool, who overturned a 3-0 first leg deficit on a dramatic night at Anfield.

"When you lose a game the way we did [in Liverpool] that does hit you very hard," admitted Valverde.

"Leo [Messi] is fine, better every day. The days after going out of the Champions League you find it difficult – they are not a team that is used to losing.

"But they are looking forward to the cup final, Leo as much as anyone else."

Ernesto Valverde will remain Barcelona's head coach for 2019-20, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed.

Valverde will lead Barca to a second consecutive domestic double if his side beat Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey, having already clinched the LaLiga title.

But despite extending his contract until the end of next season in February, Valverde's future has been questioned after Barca's Champions League exit.

They beat Liverpool 3-0 at home in the first leg of the semi-final but spectacularly collapsed at Anfield, losing 4-0.

Valverde's Barca crashed out in similar circumstances last year with a 3-0 defeat to Roma in the quarter-final second leg.

Although former player Ronald Koeman and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag have been linked to the club, Bartomeu is backing Valverde.

"The planning for next season is already underway, and has been for some time," he told reporters on Thursday.

"Some players have already signed, and we'll keep having talks after the [Copa] final.

"Valverde said the other day that he has the support of the president and the board. He's the coach we want. We're halfway through a large project.

"He has a contract and we're very happy with him. Now it's about how the players recover from the enormous setback."

Bartomeu insisted Valverde's position will not be under threat if Barca lose to Valencia in Seville on May 25.

"It [the final] isn't the deciding factor," Bartomeu said. "The main objective is the league and then we want the Copa or the Champions League. It's been a magnificent season; we've won LaLiga with games to spare. We all want more.

"Now we've got the Copa final and we're coming off the back of a damaging defeat. Now it's about recuperating the support, the excitement, the will to compete and we've still got a week of training left."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says he can learn from Pep Guardiola after Manchester City retained the Premier League title.

City's 4-1 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, their 14th straight league victory, held off the challenge from Liverpool by a single point.

Guardiola's side therefore became the first in a decade to successfully defend their crown, while they can complete a domestic clean sweep – never previously achieved in English football – if they beat Watford at Wembley in Saturday's FA Cup final.

City and Barcelona both suffered Champions League disappointment this season, with Valverde's side humiliated at the hands of Liverpool after taking a 3-0 lead in the semi-final.

And although Valverde can win a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double for the second season running, he feels former Barca boss Guardiola is an example to follow.

"He has done something amazing, not just because of what he is doing and winning the Premier League, but what he has been doing for so long," Valverde said after Barca beat Champions League hopefuls Getafe on Sunday.

"For me, and I said it back in the day, he's the best manager in the world and you can learn things from him every single day.

"He has all my congratulations and he still has the possibility of winning another title with his team. We all like him here."

Barca go into the final weekend of the season 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid, but their latest Champions League exit will cloud the campaign.

Ivan Rakitic was criticised in the wake of their 4-0 Anfield loss after he was pictured at a festival in Seville with his family following the semi-final second leg.

"I have no problem asking for forgiveness," said Rakitic. "I'm a father and husband and the family is the most important thing.

"I went to Seville to see my family. I'm very open and they asked me for a photo, but on the pitch I give 100 per cent and I want the best for the club."

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insisted he had not considered resigning in the wake of his side's Champions League exit.

The LaLiga champions were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday to make a semi-final exit 4-3 on aggregate.

The humiliating defeat led to scrutiny over Valverde's position, despite Barca winning LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana this season while also reaching the Copa del Rey final, where Valencia await on May 25.

Asked after Barca's 2-0 win over Getafe on Sunday if he had thought about resigning, Valverde said: "Well, no."

Barca fans targeted their players at Camp Nou, with Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets among those subjected to whistles.

Valverde, who agreed to a contract extension until the end of 2019-20 in February, was unsurprised by the crowd's response and said it was only natural after their Champions League exit.

"I expected that at the beginning they would whistle. How are they not going to whistle us? It is normal," he said.

"But I knew that they would then position themselves with us.

"And there seems to be noise but people are from your team and I'm grateful."

Barca wrap up their LaLiga campaign at Eibar on Sunday before taking on Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

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