Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says more signings are anticipated before the close of the LaLiga transfer window as speculation over a bid for Neymar continues.

The Spanish champions secured the arrival of Junior Firpo from Real Betis on Sunday in a deal that could be worth €30million.

Barca have spent upwards of €230m on new players in 2019, with Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Neto and Emerson among those to arrive in the close season.

They are reportedly in negotiations for the season-long loan of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, who is pushing to leave the Ligue 1 champions just two years on from his world-record €222m move from Barca.

Such a deal, that would likely include an option to buy in 2020, would help Barca balance their spending while negating the need to sell several first-team players before the window closes on September 2.

Bartomeu thinks more arrivals at Camp Nou are certainly possible in the coming weeks.

"We have a stronger squad, with more potential," he said.

"There are still several weeks left for the market to close and we could have more incomings.

"We have an ambitious and incredible squad, led by the best player in the world and in history, Leo Messi."

Neymar watched on as PSG beat Rennes 2-1 in Shenzhen to win the Trophee des Champions for the seventh year in a row.

The Brazil international was dragged into medal celebrations by Marco Verratti and appeared in good spirits, despite PSG sporting director Leonardo confirming last month the player wants to leave.

There was then a moment of controversy when Kylian Mbappe, who scored PSG's first goal, appeared to push Neymar out of the way as the team celebrated with the trophy in front of photographers on the pitch.

Barcelona have opened talks with Atletico Madrid in a bid to bring Antoine Griezmann to Camp Nou.

The discussions were confirmed by Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Friday.

Bartomeu held a press conference that was dominated by transfer talk, with the saga of whether Griezmann will be coming to Barcelona seemingly a significant step closer to being resolved.

He said: "There is interest in Griezmann. [On Thursday] our CEO, Oscar Grau, met with Miguel Angel Gil."

Gil is the chief executive at Atletico, who were rocked by France striker Griezmann's announcement in May that he intends to leave the club.

A complicating factor in 28-year-old Griezmann coming to Barcelona may be the possibility of Neymar returning to the club from Paris Saint-Germain, where he appears unsettled.

However, paying the reported €120million release clause for Griezmann would appear more straightforward than persuading the French champions to sell their Brazil superstar.

Bartomeu said: "We know that Neymar wants to leave PSG, but we also know that PSG do not want him to go."

According to Marca, Bartomeu said he considered Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele "better than Neymar", and dismissed any suggestion Lionel Messi had asked him to bring Neymar back to the club.

One man who looks like making a Barcelona comeback is the club's former long-serving goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who is primed for a possible coaching role.

Bartomeu said: "I have spoken with Victor Valdes. We would be delighted to have him return home, and in the coming days we will see what position we can offer him."

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 president Josep Maria Bartomeu was unwilling to discuss the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde after their Champions League semi-final defeat.

The LaLiga champions were crushed 4-0 by Liverpool in the second leg at Anfield on Tuesday, incredibly bowing out 4-3 on aggregate.

Valverde is sure to come under fire despite winning back-to-back LaLiga titles, having also seen his team give up a lead against Roma in the quarter-finals last season.

But Bartomeu said it was not the time to discuss Valverde's future, with Barca able to add another trophy this season when they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.

"We are now very hot because of the elimination," he told Movistar+.

"Now, we have to raise our spirits because there is a final of the Copa del Rey to play in.

"They will be difficult days for everyone, but we have to get up."

Braces from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum led Liverpool – without star forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino – to their win.

It came just over a year after Barca suffered a 3-0 loss in the second leg against Roma, giving up their 4-1 advantage.

"There will be time to reflect and explain," Bartomeu said. "There is a Copa del Rey to play in three weeks.

"Last year, in Rome, the same thing happened, difficult to explain. We will do it internally. Now, it's time to play the Copa del Rey, lift the mood and apologise to all fans of Barca."

Torino president Urbano Cairo branded proposed format changes to the Champions League "madness" and "a nefarious scandal" in a scathing tirade aimed at Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli.

Cairo underlined his staunch opposition to the introduction of promotion and relegation to the Champions League, which is set to be discussed at a meeting of the European Club Association (ECA) in June.

The ECA is chaired by Juve supremo Agnelli, who Cairo accused of putting his own interests above those of Italian and European football.

"Here is someone who, to increase their turnover, proposes killing Italian and European football," Cairo said of Agnelli to Tuttosport.

"They want to create a Champions League for a chosen few, formed by a group of teams who always play in the major European competition every year, regardless of the placement in the league - in practice, a closed circle, or as closed as possible.

"[This is] all to make the richest clubs richer and the less wealthy ever poorer.

"The national championships will be of less and less interest to the people and also to the media, if they do not give the possibility to many teams to qualify for Europe, as happens now.

"It is madness. It is a shame. It is a nefarious scandal, disrespectful to people and to the very concept of sport."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is among proponents of changes to the format of the Champions League, calling for more opportunities for Europe's top sides to play each other.

Bartomeu said he backed an "evolution" of the Champions League, but Cairo does not want to see it improved at the expense of other competitions.

"It is an absurd proposal because it is profoundly wrong," said Cairo.

"The Coppa Italia semi-finals just had a higher audience than the Champions League semi-final between [Lionel] Messi's Barcelona and Liverpool. This means that people love traditional football and want to cheer for their own teams, big or small, and want to be able to dream."

Barcelona supporters want more games against Europe's top sides, according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who outlined his vision for the "evolution" of the Champions League but ruled out the idea of a closed competition.

Bartomeu's term as president runs until 2021 and the 56-year-old promised to drive Europe's top competition forward during the remainder of his time in charge, saying: "We're going to change it for the better."

The European Club Association (ECA) is set to meet in June to discuss proposed changes to the Champions League, with promotion and relegation from the competition on the agenda set by chairman Andrea Agnelli.

On the morning after his side's 3-0 semi-final first-leg win over Liverpool, Bartomeu told the Guardian a major overhaul of the Champions League is not going to happen.

"When we played Manchester United [in the quarter-finals], it was the first time they'd been here in 11 years," said Bartomeu. "Last night against Liverpool was the first since 2006.

"It can't be that we play many games but not against teams like Liverpool and United.

"No one's talking about a closed league or a Super League. It will be an evolution, and attractive. It won't be a revolution."

Bartomeu continued his push for LaLiga matches taking place in the United States, despite the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) blocking plans for Barcelona's away fixture with Girona to take place in Miami earlier this season.

While admitting he would not want Barcelona's home matches to take place anywhere other than Camp Nou, Bartomeu claimed the presidents of other LaLiga clubs were positive about the proposals.

"We want to continue 'footballising' the United States," said Bartomeu.

"I want there to be three games abroad every year to promote La Liga – one in the US, one in the Middle East, one in Asia. They watch us on TV and it's a way of getting close to those fans."

Asked why other clubs should have their matches moved but not Barcelona, Bartomeu replied: "Ask the president of Girona.

"Other presidents rang me and said: 'Hey, why didn't you call me?'"

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes superstar captain Lionel Messi can play until he is 45 years old.

Messi scored his 600th goal for Barca on Wednesday as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's brace helped the club to a 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Liverpool.

The 31-year-old re-signed with Barca in 2017 – an extension that runs through to 2021 – and Bartomeu thinks retirement is still a long way off for Messi.

"The day that Messi retires — well, I won't be president because he'll outlast me," Bartomeu told the Daily Mail. "He has so much football still to give.

"I still think it's a long way off. Look at the power in that free-kick [he scored against Liverpool]. He's a long way out and that ball really flies. He's stronger than ever."

Bartomeu added: "I hope Leo plays on until he's 45!

"I don't know what he wants to do but it would be fantastic to have him in the team when we inaugurate the new stadium."

"Presidents from other teams, when they come to the Camp Nou the first thing they say is: 'Is Messi going to play today?' They support their teams but they love football and want to see him," he continued.

Messi has enjoyed another incredible campaign for Barcelona, scoring 48 goals in all competitions this season – including a LaLiga-best 34.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insists the LaLiga champions are already preparing for life after Lionel Messi, but he expects the star to play a few more years.

Messi, 31, delivered another masterclass as Barca beat Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

The star forward struck with an incredible free-kick to bring up 600 goals at Barcelona, the club he joined at 13.

While Bartomeu feels Messi will remain at Barca for several more years, he said they were slowly planning for the future.

"He might even play until he's 45, who knows? We know he'll play three, four, five years more, we don't know how many – as many as he wants," he said, via The Guardian.

"We're preparing. Players like [Ousmane] Dembele, [Clement] Lenglet, Arthur are there to build a team for when Messi stops playing, but I still see it as a long way off. I don't think that day is near. And we tell the players who play and train with him: 'Make the most of every minute'.

"We are talking to the family but it's very early to say. He's a footballer. So we talk football, but he will stay here with us. He's a club man.

"I talk always about Pele, who was always associated with Santos, the only place he played. Leo belongs to world football, but he has always lived at Barca. He will be a one-club man. Leo will never leave. He'll stop playing, but he'll always be with us."

Messi is a five-time Ballon d'Or winner among numerous other honours, having helped Barca claim 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues.

Bartomeu said that while Messi was incredible, he had made his feats seem normal.

"Leo is a genius and it's been so, so many seasons, so, so many games," he said. "We live an extraordinary era but for our fans, it feels normal."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann is not in the club's plans, though he refused to rule out a move for Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt.

Griezmann was linked with Barca prior to the 2018 World Cup before committing his future to Atletico, however, speculation of a Camp Nou switch has resurfaced.

However, LaLiga champions Barca are not looking to sign the 28-year-old – who is contracted until 2023 – according to Bartomeu.

"[Griezmann] is an Atletico Madrid player and he has a contract [with them]," the Barcelona president told TVE.

"I like that the great players are in Spain because he gives value to LaLiga Santander [which helps], for example, to get sponsors.

"If Griezmann wanted to come, he would have to talk to the coaches, but his name is not on the table.

"There is a lot of speculation in the press, but Griezmann is not on the table and he has not called Barcelona."

One player on Barca's radar is Ajax and Netherlands centre-back De Ligt, who continues to attract interest from Europe's biggest clubs.

Barca have already agreed to sign Ajax star Frenkie de Jong – who will join next season – and Bartomeu's club are reportedly ready to raid the Dutch giants again for De Ligt.

"The signing of De Jong we wanted to do in the summer, but there was a lot of pressure, other teams wanted him and we advanced it," Bartomeu said.

"With Ajax there is a very good relationship. With De Ligt, I do not know what will happen. It seems he will be on the market and when we talk to the coaches we will see if we're in for him or not.

"His way of playing fits us and I like it. Ajax are a training club that sells, but we have not had talks."

Ousmane Dembele is "much better" than former Barcelona star Neymar, according to president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Neymar left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million transfer in 2017 and Dembele arrived as his €105m replacement from Borussia Dortmund.

Dembele has scored 11 La Liga goals and 18 in all competitions since moving to Camp Nou and Bartomeu heaped praise on the 21-year-old France winger.

"It's not possible for Neymar to come to Barcelona as we have another sporting project with Dembele and [Philippe] Coutinho," Bartomeu told TVE ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Manchester United.

"We are happy with what we have, as Dembele is better than Neymar and he is a good professional player.

"He is a young guy who arrived at a huge club and that's not easy, but he has adapted and he is much better than Neymar."

Philippe Coutinho has been linked with a move away having struggled to cement a spot in Barca's starting line-up since his €160m switch from Liverpool In January 2018.

United and Chelsea have emerged as possible destinations but Bartomeu said: "Coutinho is an excellent player and he has the coach's confidence.

"He has contract with us and he will remain at the team, unless they meet his release clause."

There are also doubts over the futures of Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti at the club, with the pair reportedly attracting interest from the likes of Inter, Arsenal and United respectively.

Bartomeu added: "[Rakitic] has a contract and we are very happy [with him]. I had a conversation with him in the summer and I told him that we could talk to improve his contract.

"We have not talked because of the calendar and because it's not easy due to the balance of wages, but we will talk with him. He's an indisputable player and he becomes better every year.

"[As for Umtiti] we renewed him before the World Cup; he has four years left on his contract and there is no Umtiti issue. Now he has to recover from his injury as we want to have him in the best form possible. Having Umtiti and [Clement] Lenglet on the left [side of central defence] is a guarantee and I would like him to continue."

Ousmane Dembele is a better player than Neymar, according to Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Neymar became the most expensive player in the world in August 2017 when he left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain after the Ligue 1 side triggered his €222million release clause.

Barca invested the sum in the likes of Dembele, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105m, although his time at Camp Nou has been disrupted by injury and disciplinary issues.

But Dembele has made 23 LaLiga appearances so far this season, scoring eight goals to help Ernesto Valverde's side establish a seven-point lead over Atletico Madrid in the title race.

And although Barca have regularly been linked with pushing for Neymar to return, Bartomeu signalled he is happy with Dembele as the Brazilian's replacement.

"I won't say yes or no," Bartomeu told Cadena SER when asked if Barca could buy Neymar back. 

"I say that with their [PSG's] money, Barca made a sporting bet.

"With that money we went for players like Dembele and [Philippe] Coutinho.

"Dembele is better than Neymar. He's at Barca and he is better."

Barca have already sealed a deal worth a total €86m for Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who helped dump Real Madrid out of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Matthijs de Ligt has been linked with following his fellow Netherlands international to Camp Nou and Bartomeu appeared to confirm the Ajax captain is a transfer target.

"We have to talk about it from March," he added of the Golden Boy winner. "Which is when we take the decisions, but his name is on the table, of course."

Barcelona are beginning to plan for a future without Lionel Messi, although club president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes he will sign another contract.

The 31-year-old's current deal will expire after the 2020-21 campaign and the Barca captain has previously said he would like to return to his homeland with boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.

Messi started his career at Newell's but moved to Barcelona as a teenager, developing into an all-time great of the game with nine LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.

Bartomeu remains hopeful Messi can be persuaded to extend his time at the club even further but accepts Barca must have a plan for when the Argentina international moves on.

"We are already thinking about it, but it is a future still far away," Bartomeu said to Le Figaro. "He is a young player, he is 31-years-old, his performance is very good, he plays even better and better, I do not know how he does it!

"He has a contract for two seasons, but I think he will extend his career beyond 2021. But you have to think of young talent. When Messi no longer plays, no one can replace him. It's impossible.

"Behind Messi, there is nobody. Neither in Barca nor anywhere else. The coach of the day will have to think of how the team will play [but] the idea of Barca football will remain the same."

Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot, but Bartomeu denied there has been contact between the LaLiga leaders and the France international.

Rabiot is expected to leave PSG at the end of the season, when his deal expires, with the midfielder not in contention for selection by coach Thomas Tuchel due to the contract stand-off.

"The planning of the club for the next seasons is not yet launched, we will start in March," Bartomeu said of links to Rabiot.

"In addition, Barca always puts the priority on the players of our B team. If we do not find them, we will look for them outside.

"The only sure thing about Rabiot is that on June 30 he will be free."

One player who will be lining up for Barca next season is the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with the Netherlands international adding to Ernesto Valverde's midfield options after agreeing a move worth €86million.

"When a player arrives at Barca, he knows he will be competing. It's a challenge for them, some accept it, others do not," Bartomeu continued. "When we go looking for a talent outside, we are sometimes told: 'I want to play, not be on the bench.'

"He is a player who will mark a time of European football. He has an incredible talent and an understanding of football which is that of Barca... and the same as that of Ajax."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says multiple LaLiga matches each season should be played outside of Spain.

Girona's home game against Barcelona last month was initially planned to be played at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium as part of a new deal between the league and media company Relevent Sports.

But Barcelona withdrew from the proposal citing "a lack of consensus over this proposal", with the Royal Spanish Football Federation and FIFA both having come out against the plan.

Barca defender Gerard Pique also voiced his concerns while the Association of Spanish Footballers said the body was not consulted over the idea.

Bartomeu, though, has indicated Barcelona are open to playing future LaLiga matches abroad.

"If we want LaLiga to be strong, we are to play in these games," Bartomeu said to BBC Sport.

"At Barca we have sometimes been talking to LaLiga and have been telling them that if you want to promote LaLiga more and more, then we should have three games of the year outside - one in America, one in the Middle East and one in Asia.

"We have to go and be closer to the fans. We do the summer tours in July and August to go closer to the fans. It's us showing respect to them, going to Miami would have been respect to our fans in the USA."

LaLiga's chief communications officer Joris Evers confirmed plans to play league games outside of Spain are continuing despite the Miami plan failing.

"Of course, we strongly support any club's international ambitions as we certainly share the vision of bringing La Liga action closer to fans everywhere and making LaLiga a stronger international brand," he told BBC Sport.

"We continue to work towards playing a LaLiga match outside of Spain and want to do that as soon as possible. We are working with all stakeholders to make it happen. We see this as a logical next step in the growth of our league and as a clear benefit to everyone involved."

 

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu played down a possible return to the club for Neymar, saying he had not spoken to the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Neymar, 27, has been linked with a return to the LaLiga champions, the club he left for PSG in 2017.

But Bartomeu said he had not spoken to Neymar, or the Brazilian's father, as Barca prepare for next season.

"I have never spoken to them, nor have the father or player called me to return to Barca. They have not called," he told El Partidazo de COPE.

"We are preparing for next season and the name of Neymar is not on the table.

"We are talking about a PSG player and I do not think that PSG want to get rid of a player like him."

Sidelined with a foot injury, Neymar has scored 20 goals in 23 games this season.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed he would first speak to Real Madrid if the LaLiga champions were interested in making a move for out-of-favour midfielder Isco.

Isco has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu as he struggles for game time under head coach Santiago Solari.

The 26-year-old, who is contracted until 2022, has only made five league starts for Madrid this season, while coming off the bench 10 times.

He has been a regular in their Copa del Rey campaign, though, meaning he could come up against Barca on Wednesday.

Ahead of the semi-final first leg of the Copa Clasico, Bartomeu discussed how Barca would approach trying to sign the Spain international.

"If our coaches asked us for a player and they want to leave Madrid, of course we would sign them," he told El Partidazo de COPE.

"But it has not happened since I'm here.

"There are no non-aggression pacts. Each one tries to make their team more competitive.

"Isco? For the sake of Real Madrid I would speak with the president of Real Madrid [Florentino Perez]."

 

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