Napoli have bolstered their midfield options with the reported €24million signing of Stanislav Lobotka from Celta Vigo.

The length of the 25-year-old's contract is yet to be confirmed by the club, but he is said to have signed until 2024 and becomes Napoli's second signing of the month following Diego Demme's switch from RB Leipzig.

Napoli are reported to have paid an initial €20m, with another €4m in variables and clauses.

Lobotka joined Celta in 2017 from Danish side Nordsjaelland and the Slovakia international quickly established himself in Juan Carlos Unzue's team, playing every match in the 2017-18 campaign and starting 34 of them.

He remained a key player until his departure, often earning rave reviews with his enterprising blend of technical quality and combativeness.

The last Slovakian player to represent Napoli was Marek Hamsik, who went on to become a club icon after spending almost 12 years in Naples until last February.

Lobotka leaves a significant hole to fill for Celta, who are languishing just above the relegation zone in LaLiga, with goal difference the only metric keeping them out of the bottom three.

Some of Europe's top clubs are already making signings ahead of the January transfer window, but Real Madrid's focus, at least for now, looks to be on securing the services of a current player.

Karim Benzema remains one of Madrid's key men, with 12 goals in 17 LaLiga matches this term.

Los Blancos will reportedly reward the striker's fine form with a contract renewal in the coming months, keeping him at the Santiago Bernabeu for another two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – BENZEMA TO STAY UNTIL 2022

Karim Benzema has agreed to sign a new contract with LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Benzema's current deal had been set to expire in 2021, but an extension is imminent. The newspaper reports the Frenchman will be rewarded improved terms on a new contract to run until 2022 due to his outstanding form.

With Madrid enjoying a midseason break, they are said to have agreed a deal with Benzema that will be made formal at the end of the campaign.

Benzema's future is apparently a priority for Madrid, with the report suggesting the deal was only capped at an additional year as the player is determined not to outstay his welcome, leaving before his outstanding career wanes.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United reportedly have an interest in Benfica star Gedson Fernandes. Sky Sports say the 20-year-old midfielder, who has fallen out of favour with his club, could be available for £34million (€39.8m) following a loan, rather than for a loftier release clause of £102m. United are desperate to bolster their midfield, with Nemanja Matic tipped to join Inter, Milan or Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Suns says United are eyeing £50m-rated Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after Erling Haaland signed for Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will leave Emirates Stadium at the end of the season in pursuit of silverware. Aubameyang has 18 months remaining on his contract.

Chelsea have made enquiries about the release clause in RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner's contract, says The Telegraph. Werner has been linked to Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich.

- El Desmarque says Everton are leading the race to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti worked with James during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Serie A champions Juventus lead the race to sign Dejan Kulusevski, according to Sky Sport Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 19-year-old, on loan at Parma from Atalanta, has been linked to United, Arsenal, Napoli, Inter and Liverpool. But Juve are reportedly poised to pay Atalanta €40-50m, while allowing Kulusevski to remain on loan at Parma until the end of the season.

- Calciomercato.com reports Jean-Clair Todibo has an offer from Milan. A deal is said to be done for the Barcelona defender - an initial loan, followed by a €20m fee with no buyback option - but he has not yet agreed to the transfer.

- Having already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan must move on others in the next month. However, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Rossoneri are only interested in selling Ricardo Rodriguez and Suso, rather than accommodating loan deals that would suit Watford and Sevilla, respectively.

Napoli are set to announce the signing of Stanislav Lobotka for an initial €16m, according to Calciomercato.com. The midfielder will leave Celta Vigo and sign a contract with the Partenopei until 2024.

Lionel Messi proves he is the best player in the world day after day at Barcelona and "everyone knows" it to be true, says Luis Suarez.

Uruguayan striker Suarez last month celebrated the fifth anniversary of his debut for the Camp Nou giants, and since his switch from Liverpool to LaLiga he has forged a devastating partnership with Messi.

This season is proving no different, with the duo contributing 14 LaLiga goals between them despite Messi having missed early games of the season with injury.

The debate as to who is the greatest player in the world between Messi and former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus, has rumbled on for over a decade.

But for Suarez, there is simply nobody better than Argentinian Messi.

"Messi has helped me a lot in my personal growth. We had an affinity from the beginning. From coexistence came friendship, and the moments I spent with him also helped on the pitch," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

"Everyone knows that he is the best in the world. He has proven it and continues to prove it day after day.

"He has shown me his companionship a thousand times. He helped me when I was fighting for the Golden Boot. The other day, at Eibar, he gave me a goal."

Despite heading into the international break at the top of LaLiga, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has found himself under pressure having seen his side drop 11 points from 12 matches this term.

Barca have a tricky period over the coming month, with Champions League fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, a trip to Atletico Madrid and the rescheduled Clasico with Madrid on December 18.

Suarez, though, is relishing what is to come.

He said: "A very nice month is ahead. We like those, both as footballers and also people. There will be a Clasico too.

"You have to be mentally and physically prepared. Maybe we won't win every game or have it easy, but we hope to do our best with the support of the fans.

"We have not had a simple league start. We gave away points that in other years we hadn't lost, but we know that other teams are also competing well."

Ernesto Valverde admitted Barcelona cannot help but depend on Lionel Messi after the talismanic forward scored a hat-trick to inspire a 4-1 LaLiga victory over Celta Vigo.

Messi's treble came at the end of a week that began with a 3-1 defeat at Levante and was not helped by a goalless draw at home against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.

Barcelona were short of their best against struggling Celta at Camp Nou but Messi, who had scored six goals in his previous six games, converted a penalty and two free-kicks to all but carry his side to victory on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the game, head coach Valverde underlined the Argentina international's importance, telling reporters: "It's impossible not to depend on Messi. That's how it works. He lights up everything.

"Today we were fluent and he scored three times. It is an advantage that we have, that our opponents fear and that is fine.

"When we win, we all win. Those who play are many, besides Leo.

"Everyone does their job."

Valverde admitted the defeat at Levante created an unsettled atmosphere at Camp Nou, saying: "When you do not win, there is uncertainty surrounding your environment.

"It's good that it happens because you have to react. Because when you are used to a regular feeling, it forces you to improve."

Valverde said he hoped the forthcoming international break would benefit his players ahead of a tricky run of fixtures.

The Blaugrana are top of LaLiga on goal difference after 12 games, and will travel to Leganes on November 23 before meeting Borussia Dortmund at home in the Champions League.

"We will take the opportunity to rest," said Valverde. "Some players leave, others stay, but after this break come very strong matches in which we play a lot."

Lionel Messi scored a scintillating hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo as he dug Barcelona out of a rut almost single-handedly at Camp Nou.

It had been a torrid week for the Blaugrana, who lost 3-1 at Levante before being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague, but Messi scored a penalty and two superb free-kicks as his side returned to the top of LaLiga.

The Argentina international delivered much more than just goals on a night when only a win would be acceptable for the Spanish champions, frequently dropping deep and driving an otherwise sleepy Barcelona side into attack.

Messi's goals took his tally to nine in his last seven games in all competitions and drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most LaLiga hat-tricks, having netted 34, and Sergio Busquets scored his first league goal of the season late in the game.

The defeat was Celta's fifth in a row and newly appointed head coach Oscar Garcia will have his work cut out as he tries to lift them out of the bottom three.

Ernesto Valverde's out-of-sorts side took the lead when Junior Firpo's cross hit Joseph Aidoo's arm as the full-back slid in to block it and Messi nonchalantly rolled a side-footed penalty into the corner of the net, sending Ruben Blanco the wrong way.

But five minutes before the interval, Pape Cheikh sprinted through Barcelona's midfield only to be fouled by Messi 20 yards from goal and Lucas Olaza bent a superb free-kick into the corner of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net.

Not to be outdone, Messi restored Barcelona's lead with a glorious strike after Fran Beltran fouled Arthur, the club's all-time leading scorer curling a picture-book goal into the top corner from 25 yards.

Ousmane Dembele came off the bench and sent a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar after a jinking solo run early in the second half.

Moments later Messi struck again, stepping up after Frenkie de Jong was fouled and sending a carbon copy of his first-half free-kick looping beyond the diving Blanco to complete his hat-trick.

Pione Sisto tested Ter Stegen from a tight angle as Celta probed for a way back into the game but the hosts continued to dominate and Antoine Griezmann should have put the result beyond doubt when he fired straight at Blanco from close range.

Griezmann trudged off as Valverde sent Luis Suarez on for the last 17 minutes but it was fellow substitute Busquets who stole a slice of Messi's glory when he collected a poor defensive header and drilled a low shot into the net to make sure of the victory five minutes from time.


What does it mean? Valverde can breathe again

Any kind of blip can lead to an unsettled mood around Camp Nou but Valverde's job looks safe again after Messi demonstrated the kind of swagger that is expected at Barcelona.

No stopping Messi's magic

The way Messi scored an unforgettable free-kick just before half-time and then casually repeated the feat three minutes after the break provided a reminder - if it were needed - that he operates on a level above any of his peers.

Griezmann shrinks in the shadow of greatness

One goal in six LaLiga matches is a poor return from Griezmann, who missed a gilt-edged chance and offered very little throughout the game.

What's next?

Barcelona head to Leganes when LaLiga resumes after the international break, while Celta face a trip to Villarreal.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde insists he is not worried about his future at the club.

A 3-1 LaLiga defeat at Levante last Saturday was followed by a 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague at Camp Nou in the Champions League, in which home fans made their frustrations clear with whistles from the stands.

Barca sit top of LaLiga after 11 matches but criticism is nonetheless mounting on Valverde, who appeared close to the sack at the end of last season but was given support by president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Valverde says he still feels he has the backing of the board and that he is not concerned about his position, especially since Barca had previously been on a seven-game winning run in all competitions.

"I'm not worried about my future," he told reporters on Friday. "The other day I had dinner [with Bartomeu]. I feel supported and respected.

"Whether you understand [the criticism] or not, it's how it is. I don't have much to say.

"If we'd scored a goal [against Slavia], everyone would be more calm. It's how it is. You have to accept things as they come.

"A week ago, we were on the highway, we had seven wins in a row. Now, we'll see."

Barca host Celta Vigo on Saturday in their final match before the international break.

Oscar Garcia's side are on a poor run of their own, having lost five of their past six league games, with just two goals scored in that run.

Despite a relative lack of preparation time for the match at Camp Nou, Valverde is determined to get his team back to winning ways.

"We need a win," Valverde admits. "We lost a game in six minutes [at Levante]. We need to get back on the path of taking three points because we need them and because we know what it means for this team to lose.

"We're motivated and we know how difficult a game it will be.

"We prepared for Slavia in two training sessions because we didn't have any more. It's normally like that for the whole season. There are two game days, four to prepare for the games – that seems normal to me."

Celta Vigo have appointed Oscar Garcia as their new head coach until the end of the 2019-20 season.

LaLiga strugglers Celta - 18th in the table on nine points after four straight defeats - have turned to the former Barcelona player after sacking Fran Escriba following a 1-0 loss to Getafe on Sunday.

Garcia's coaching career has seen him work in various leagues across Europe, including a spell with Maccabi Tel Aviv where he won the title in Israel.

He was also crowned champion twice in Austria while in charge of Salzburg and was most recently at Olympiacos, leaving his role at the Greek club last April.

Garcia also had stints in England with Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford, though he was only at the Hornets for 27 days in 2014 before stepping down for health reasons.

His first game in charge of Celta will see him return to Camp Nou, as his new employers travel to table-topping Barca on Saturday prior to November's international break.

LaLiga strugglers Celta Vigo have sacked head coach Fran Escriba following their loss to Getafe.

Celta made the announcement after Sunday's 1-0 defeat at home to Getafe – their fourth consecutive loss.

The result left Celta in the relegation zone and two points adrift of safety following 12 rounds in LaLiga.

"Fran Escriba will not continue in charge of Celta. The club would like to thank him and his coaching staff for their efforts and commitment and wish them success in the future," Celta said in a statement.

Former Elche, Getafe and Villarreal boss Escriba was appointed by Celta in March – becoming the club's third coach of the 2018-19 campaign.

Escriba helped Celta avoid relegation last term, however, the 54-year-old only oversaw two wins this season.

 

 

Maxi Gomez insists there is a strong spirit within the Valencia squad despite a turbulent few weeks at Mestalla.

The positivity of last season, when Valencia secured a Champions League spot before beating Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, has mostly evaporated in the early weeks of 2019-20.

Head coach Marcelino was sacked last month and replaced by Albert Celades, who lost his first match in charge 5-2 away to Barca in LaLiga.

Marcelino suggested he lost his job partly because he won the Copa, a competition he claimed the club's hierarchy considered a distraction from fighting for a Champions League place.

Valencia started their European campaign with a 1-0 win at Chelsea but were dispatched 3-0 at home to Ajax this week on matchday two, meaning they have now won just one of their most recent four games in all competitions.

But Gomez, who joined from Celta Vigo in July, says there are positive feelings in the first-team camp.

"The truth is that it's something special coming to a club as big as Valencia," said Gomez, courtesy of LaLiga. "With the fans, with the people, with the squad and with the atmosphere here, there's nothing like it and, for my part, I'll try to give my all for the group.

"That's the main thing. To be able to score lots of goals, to compete, to have that fighting spirit we Uruguayans have and show it out on the pitch, give my all and use all my strength and to be able to score lots of goals. The truth is I'm very happy and hopefully all that comes to pass.

"We're playing in the Champions League. I always dreamed of playing in the Champions League. I only ever did in video games, and now being able to live this dream of being able to play in the Champions League and being able to give my all for the squad is the main thing and being able to do it in every game is the best of all.

"The truth is we're very happy. We're working as a group to compete in all four competitions that Valencia are involved in. Taking it step by step, not getting carried away thinking about winning the Champions League or the title. We'd rather take it step by step. Every weekend is like a cup final, and we're going to go out and try to win them any way we can."

Gomez scored 30 league goals across his two seasons with Celta Vigo after moving from Defensor Sporting and was linked with Premier League side West Ham before moving to Valencia.

The 23-year-old forward says his career to date has been beyond anything he could have hoped for.

"The truth is I never expected it," he said. "I think it's very hard for a player from Uruguay to come and play football in Spain. I think that Uruguayan football is a lot different to Spanish football.

"When I had the chance to come to Celta, I was very grateful to Celta because they were the ones who opened the doors for me. I was very happy and thank God everything worked out and I was able to come here."

Gomez has fond memories of Celta, specifically goals scored against Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"Against Real Madrid it was a cross from [Daniel] Wass, with an intricate move where we moved the ball out wide and he crossed it in for me, I got my head on it and thank God I managed to put it inside the near post. To be honest, it was a wonderful goal," he said.

"Against Barcelona, I made it 2-2 at Camp Nou, and the truth is that drawing against Barcelona on their own turf is not easy. The goal was a move from Iago Aspas, who really is a fantastic player. He takes on [Samuel] Umtiti, who pulls up with a hamstring problem, Aspas goes it alone and cuts it back to me and I put it in at the far post. It was also a really nice goal and I'm very grateful."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone will continue to put his faith in Diego Costa despite the striker's LaLiga goal drought continuing against Celta Vigo.

Simeone's side endured a frustrating time in front of goal at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw.

Costa, 30, was booked after the final whistle for his part in an ugly fracas with the Celta Vigo players.

When asked a question about Costa's attitude for his role in the aftermath, Simeone claimed he "didn't see" the incident.

However, the Argentinian has backed Costa to come good even though the ex-Chelsea forward has not found the net in a competitive match since he scored against Alaves in March.

"The numbers are what you say, it's the reality, but I trust Costa," Simeone said.

"I know he'll be fit again and it's a challenge for him. The championship is long and the team needs him."

Simeone called on Costa and the club's other strikers to become more ruthless after Atletico's return of just seven goals in five LaLiga matches in this season so far.

"I think we started the pre-season at a great level, especially for strikers," added Simeone.

"The team looked good and it gives me the feeling that it is normal, when the season starts there are spikes and immediately the goals appear and in others they disappear.

"Hopefully we can get the focus to play back because the situations are there.

"If we do not, we must try to increase the offensive intensity because the goal comes from the rage of wanting to make a goal."

Atletico Madrid failed to win for a third successive game in all competitions as an inspired performance from Ruben Blanco secured Celta Vigo an unexpected 0-0 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's side saw their 100 per cent LaLiga record come to an emphatic end against Real Sociedad last weekend, while they rallied on Wednesday to secure a 2-2 Champions League draw with Juventus.

However, their efforts in clawing back a two-goal deficit against the Serie A champions appeared to have taken a toll judging by their performance against Celta, with a sluggish Atletico failing to score at home in league action for the first time since May 2018.

Hector Herrera was rewarded for his equaliser off the bench in midweek with a first LaLiga start, while Simeone also selected Angel Correa in an attack-minded starting XI.

Yet for all their exerted efforts going forward, Atletico were unable to find a way to beat the outstanding Blanco.

He kept the home team at bay with a trio of fine saves in the first half, starting with an acrobatic effort to turn away Felipe's header from Kieran Trippier's inswinging free-kick.

The visiting goalkeeper also tipped over a rising long-range drive from Renan Lodi, with Blanco then denying Joao Felix's on-target prod from the resulting corner.

Koke tested the 24-year-old reflexes again from distance early in a second half where Atletico became increasingly frustrated with each passing minute.

Lodi's decision to go for goal from a tight angle rather than cross for the waiting Alvaro Morata summed up a below-par performance, while they were grateful substitute Pione Sisto failed to do better with a back-post opportunity in the closing minutes of a quickly forgettable encounter.

 

What does it mean? Sluggish Atleti come up short

After two tough fixtures, it is perhaps understandable Atleti were a little flat, despite the best efforts of a raucous home crowd to inspire their team.

Worryingly for Simeone, they have now managed just five goals in as many LaLiga outings in 2019-20, despite having 20 attempts on Saturday.

Blanco makes a point for Celta

The away team were resilient in defence but still relied on their goalkeeper to pick up a point on their travels. Blanco made five saves in total, the best of them his early denial of Felipe's close-range header.

Joao Felix fails to fire before departure

The Portugal international has still managed just the one goal for the Spanish club since his big-money arrival from Benfica. As was also the case against La Real, the teenager was withdrawn when his side were searching for a way to find a breakthrough in attack.

What's next?

With a midweek round of fixtures in Spain, Atletico Madrid travel to Real Mallorca on Wednesday. Celta, meanwhile, are in action the following day, as they host Espanyol.

Diego Simeone dodged questions relating to Antoine Griezmann on Friday after reports claimed the France international negotiated a €14million signing-on fee with Barcelona while still an Atletico Madrid player.

Griezmann joined Barca in July when the Catalan club deposited the €120m to activate his release clause, which had dropped from €200m at the start of that month.

It brought an end to prolonged speculation about the attacker's future, though Atletico were adamant Barca and the player had struck some form of deal before July, meaning they felt they were owed a further €80m.

Barca insisted they only began negotiations in July, but Spanish newspaper El Mundo claimed on Thursday they had obtained evidence suggesting Griezmann discussed a commission in March.

Simeone was unwilling to address the matter in his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of Celta Vigo, however.

"I'm thinking about Celta, I'm not interested in anything else," he told reporters.

"With all due respect to you, I understand the questions, but honestly, after playing on Wednesday we use the time to think about Celta.

"They have a reinforced team, the talent they have, the arrival of Rafinha, the presence of [Santi] Mina that creates an important attack. We are more focused on that.

"I understand your objective, but I've got mine."

New Atletico signing Renan Lodi received his first senior Brazil call-up on Friday, with the left-back having caught the eye during his early days at the club.

Although he was shown a red card on his LaLiga debut, he appears to have made the spot on the left of defence his own and Simeone is pleased with the 21-year-old's impact.

"He has been doing a great job since the first day he arrived," Simeone said. "He has extraordinary attributes that will grow with work.

"Hopefully he can maintain this situation of wanting to improve and I'm happy he's been selected by the national team."

Mauro Icardi's Inter saga could be at an end after Paris Saint-Germain made the headline-grabbing move of transfer deadline day.

Frozen out by Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte, Argentina striker Icardi was facing a bleak few months until PSG came in and managed to complete an initial loan move.

PSG reportedly have an option to buy the 26-year-old for €70million, while the Ligue 1 champions also signed three-times Champions League winner Keylor Navas from Real Madrid in a deal that saw another goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola, move in the other direction on loan.

Serie A was a hive of activity on Monday, while plenty of Premier League players took the opportunity to move elsewhere – the window for incomings having closed in England's top flight last month.

Roman holiday for Mkhitaryan as Fiorentina aim for renaissance

Roma completed loan moves for Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Atletico Madrid striker Nikola Kalinic, but there was a youthful edge to Fiorentina's late spree.

Wantaway Liverpool teenager Bobby Duncan will now ply his trade at the Stadio Artemio Franchi alongside Algeria winger Rachid Ghezzal – a loan signing from Leicester City.

The Viola also paid Fluminense in the region of €14m for Pedro, another player to replenish Vincenzo Montella's squad after Giovanni Simeone joined Cagliari on loan with an obligation to buy over the weekend.

Simone Verdi has joined Torino in similar fashion, ending an unhappy spell at Napoli – where free transfer Fernando Llorente bolsters Carlo Ancelotti's options at centre forward.

Napoli are joined in the Champions League by Atalanta this season and Simon Kjaer will be on hand to bolster their defence following a loan from Sevilla, although Martin Skrtel's swiftly terminated contract preceded him leaving Bergamo for a one-year deal with Istanbul Basaksehir.

Matteo Darmian was the latest member of Manchester United's defensive surplus to switch to Serie A, the Italy international joining Parma on a four-year deal after Chris Smalling was loaned to Roma. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made the considerably shorter trip to League One side Tranmere Rovers.

The road from Watford to Udinese is incredibly well travelled and striker Stefano Okaka is back after a loan at the Stadio Friuli last season.

 

Italian flavour to Bundesliga business

AC Milan secured Croatia winger Ante Rebic on a two-year loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, for whom Andre Silva will seek to reignite his career and serve as a suitable replacement for Luka Jovic over the same period.

Bundesliga pacesetters RB Leipzig also have a talented attacker seeking a kickstart after Patrik Schick joined on an initial loan from Roma.

Vincenzo Grifo returned to Freiburg on a four-year deal from Hoffenheim, who also loaned Leonardo Bittencourt to Werder Bremen.

Marius Wolf left Borussia Dortmund for Hertha Berlin on a season-long loan and BVB's rivals Schalke sold Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Rafinha on the move again as Hernandez and Bono conclude Sevilla's transfer frenzy

Had events panned out differently, this might have been the day Barcelona triumphantly welcomed Neymar back to Camp Nou.

As it was, a Brazilian left – Rafinha moving to Celta Vigo on loan after signing a contract extension with his parent club.

Barca have also agreed to sign 16-year-old midfielder Pedri from Las Palmas, who welcome back club stalwart Jonathan Viera on loan from Beijing Guoan for their Segunda promotion push.

Mexico striker Javier Hernandez and Morocco goalkeeper Bono were arrivals 12 and 13 of the window at Sevilla.

Maxime Gonalons was a loanee at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last season and has joined Granada on a temporary basis from Roma.

Almeria were another hive of activity, with Nottingham Forest's Arvin Appiah and Joan Munoz concluding their incomings.

Real Sociedad signed Monaco's Spain Under-17 international Robert Navarro and loaned Kevin Rodriguez to Leganes.

Chelsea duo Baba Rahman and Kenedy were loaned to Real Mallorca and Getafe respectively.

Galatasaray's deadline-day delight

Radamel Falcao followed a rapturous reception following his arrival in Istanbul by signing a three-year contract with Galatasaray, who also secured Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina and Brighton and Hove Albion forward Florin Andone on loan.

Gala's rivals Fenerbahce were not to be outdone entirely as they brought in Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo from Marseille on a four-year deal.

Sporting CP were already buoyed by keeping hold of the highly rated Bruno Fernandes, who will look to supply an attack reinforced by the loan arrivals of Jese from PSG and Yannick Bolasie from Everton.

Royal Antwerp snapped up Steven Defour after the playmaker's release by Burnley and also added Wesley Hoedt on a season-long loan from Southampton.

In Scotland, Celtic signed Kilmarnock left-back Greg Taylor, Manchester City teenager Jeremie Frimpong and Manchester United youngster Lee O'Connor – all on four-year deals. Rivals Rangers bought Ryan Kent from Liverpool for a fee that could reportedly rise to £7.5m.

Fellow Europa League contestants Qarabag secured former Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on loan from Bournemouth.

Rafinha has joined Celta Vigo on a season-long loan after signing a new deal at Barcelona.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder is now contracted to his parent club until the end of the 2020-21 campaign but will spend another spell away from Camp Nou.

In January 2018, Rafinha joined Inter for the second half of that season before re-joining Ernesto Valverde's squad for 2018-19.

A painful theme of his career recurred when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Atletico Madrid last November – the third serious knee setback to befall Rafinha since 2015.

The Brazil international has featured in all three of Barca's LaLiga games so far this season, with Valverde short of wide attacking options as the likes of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele work their way back to fitness.

Celta will cover the player's salary and are liable for up to €1.5million of performance-related add-ons.

Rafinha has scored 12 goals over the course of 91 appearances for Barcelona in all competitions.

Having started on the right, Gareth Bale drifted to the lift, cavorted into space and set up Karim Benzema. One-nil to Real Madrid.

Football seems a simple game at times.

It would be doing a disservice to Bale to dismiss his role in this goal as entirely straightforward. The pace he used to reach Marcelo's throughball, the speed of close control that left David Costas spinning on the spot, the weight of cross to give Benzema an easy finish – it was all of the highest quality.

It also showed why Zinedine Zidane was correct to put faith in Bale to deliver in this LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo, despite the prolonged, exasperating uncertainty over his future. From benchwarmer at the end of last season, to Zidane telling everyone it would be better for Bale to leave in July, to a transfer to Jiangsu Suning that never happened, to a place back in the starting line-up for the first game of the new season – it's been a chaotic three months.

That's the issue with Bale, of course: everything about him seems to get more complicated – and more dramatic – in the inexorable scrutiny in which he lives his life.

Coaches everywhere have specific ideas that mean certain players become surplus to requirements, but Zidane versus Bale has sometimes been billed as a spat so venomous it's left poison dripping from the dressing-room walls. Footballers like to do things in their spare time apart from play football, like have a game of golf; when Bale picks up his irons, it's considered tantamount to a betrayal of professional decency. That's how it can feel from the outside, which maybe gives you an indication of why Bale so rarely bothers speaking out in public. Those waters can't get much muddier.

The truth of Bale's position at Madrid is probably less complicated than some think – and that is a good summary of what makes Bale the footballer so effective. It's why he was fleetingly impressive at Balaidos on Saturday in a battling 3-1 win, even if Madrid as a collective sometimes looked little better than the ragged bunch who shipped seven goals to Atletico Madrid last month.

Bale's assist was borne of him being as direct as possible: running behind the full-back, using a step-over and twist of the body to shake off the marker with the ball still in motion, and crossing into a dangerous zone with that precise left foot. Later in the half, he overtook Lucas Olaza when chasing a long ball despite the defender having close to a three-metre head start. It was an awesome display of speed and fitness from a man who has not exactly had a busy pre-season.

Moments after Madrid's opener, he was blocking a cross in his own box after racing back to protect the nervy Alvaro Odriozola. That's something he isn't so used to doing, but it came from the same sort of focused approach that makes him so clinical at the other end. You watch, you run, you act – shoot, cross, or, in this case, tackle. This is what Bale offers; it's what he has always offered.

The issue of his future isn't likely to get any clearer until the transfer window closes on September 2, but this game at least showed what a tremendous asset Bale can be when he is deployed with simple precision. For a coach like Zidane, who freely admits he is not the most pedantic of tacticians, that makes Bale valuable – especially in a Madrid team as muddled as this one.

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