Nabil Fekir claims lies told about his knee gave Liverpool an excuse to abort his expected transfer from Lyon last year.

France international Fekir appeared certain to join the Premier League club ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

The attacker underwent a medical but Liverpool backed out at the last moment, reportedly due to concerns over knee problems dating back to 2015.

Fekir's former agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes, described the knee issue as "part" of the reason the move collapsed.

The pair ended their professional relationship in April.

"Lots of lies were told and that affected me," Fekir told L'Equipe.

"Especially those claimed about my family. It hurt both them and me. Especially when you know that what's being said is false.

"When you are a good person in life you always end up being happy and at peace, and today I am happy and at peace. Others are not, but let's not go into detail.

"My knee is good. I had a quick medical check at Clairefontaine, my knee wasn't even mentioned.

"If my knee had been in such a bad state, why would [Lyon president Jean-Michel] Aulas have made an offer [of a new contract]?"

Fekir continued: "You want the truth? Even I don't know, I assure you!

"I did my medical and then [Liverpool] decided not to sign me. At some point they wanted to have me believe it was because of my knee, but an excuse needed to be found because the medical tests that I did at Clairefontaine were very clear.

"My knee is perfectly fine and I feel fine. There are no issues at all with my knee."

Fekir spent the 2018-19 season at Lyon before leaving for LaLiga side Real Betis, for whom he has scored two goals in three games.

Antoine Griezmann says he copied team-mate Lionel Messi and NBA superstar LeBron James as he scored his first Barcelona goals in Sunday's win over Real Betis.

The France star, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid, struck twice as the champions secured a 5-2 victory at Camp Nou.

Griezmann got his first by prodding in Sergi Roberto's cross before bending home a fine strike from the edge of the area in the second half.

Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal completed Barca's scoring, with Betis' goals coming through Nabil Fekir and Loren Moron.

Griezmann celebrated his second by throwing confetti into the air and standing with arms outstretched, mimicking James' famous 'chalk toss' warm-up routine.

The forward also revealed how that goal came from watching Messi - who was in attendance but sidelined due to injury - do the same in training.

"I saw Leo do that in training and I copied him," Griezmann told Movistar.

He added of his celebration: "I like the ritual that LeBron James does before the games and I tried to copy him. I hope I can keep copying him for many more games - that would be the best signal."

After the game, Griezmann took to Twitter to say: "How beautiful it is to score at Camp Nou! Thank you for your support, may our colours shine!"

Barca's win was the first of the new season, Ernesto Valverde's side having lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao in their opening fixture.

They face Osasuna on Saturday in their final match before the international break.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde praised Antoine Griezmann for stepping up in a LaLiga win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Griezmann scored his first goals for Barca with a brace in a 5-2 victory over Betis at Camp Nou.

With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele sidelined due to injuries, the forward led the club to their first win of the LaLiga campaign.

Valverde hailed Griezmann, who also had an assist, for delivering when Barca needed.

"I have to recognise that it was an important day for him due to the injuries we had. He reacted perfectly," he told a news conference, via Marca.

"He dropped into the midfield to help and he made an impact. We know that if attacking players track back, we have a better chance of winning."

Messi has been working his way back from a calf injury, but the superstar forward missed the meeting with Betis.

Valverde was unwilling to risk the 32-year-old and said: "There wasn't a positive feeling. He hasn't had a relapse of the injury.

"We already said that we wouldn't rush any player. What we wanted to avoid was a relapse."

Barcelona secured their first LaLiga win of the season on Sunday, running out 5-2 winners over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Antoine Griezmann grabbed the headlines after scoring his first goals for the club, but there was an introduction from the bench in the 78th minute that gave a tantalising glimpse into the club's future.

Ansu Fati, just 16, was brought on to replace Carles Perez and became the second youngest player to feature in LaLiga in the club's history behind Vicente Martinez, who was 18 days younger when he played against Real Madrid in October 1941.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Ansu arrived at Barca in 2013 at the age of 10 and has impressed at every level since then, recently signing a deal that will keep him at the club until June 2022.

Playing for the club's Juvenil A under-18 side, Ansu was not expected to feature for the first team for some time. However, injuries to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele saw him drafted into Ernesto Valverde's side for the home clash with Betis.

He did not look out of his depth during the final 12 minutes and was congratulated after the game by Messi, who, alongside an image of him hugging Ansu, wrote on Instagram: "Very happy to see the boys fulfilling their dreams of reaching the first team and playing at Camp Nou in an official match."

Speaking to RAC1 after the game, Ansu's father said: "I have seen him make his debut for Barca; I can die quietly. It will not be the first time, there will be many more appearances."

After such a composed debut, you would not bet against it.

Antoine Griezmann felt Barcelona stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to get their first LaLiga win of the season against Real Betis on Sunday.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid got off the mark for his new club in the 41st minute to cancel out Nabil Fekir's opener, before adding a wonderful second to put Ernesto Valverde's side ahead five minutes after the interval.

The hosts went on to win 5-2 and banish the disappointment of last week's opening defeat to Athletic Bilbao, and Griezmann, while admitting there is still plenty of work to be done, says he was impressed by how Barca coped without injured duo Messi and Suarez.

"We have improved a lot and we still have details to improve, although this is going in the right direction," he told Movistar.

"In the end, when many important people are missing, everyone takes a step forward and today it has been like that.

"After a defeat there are many comments and we had to work hard this week and in the end we played a great game. We have enjoyed it."

Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arutro Vidal were also on target for Barca before Loren Moron added a superb consolation late on for the visitors.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first Barcelona goals as Ernesto Valverde's side recorded a thumping 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Griezmann endured a disappointing debut in last weekend's surprise 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao, but the €120million signing from Atletico Madrid – leading the line in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – announced himself to the Camp Nou faithful in style.

Nabil Fekir had given Betis a shock 15th-minute lead before Griezmann turned the game on its head either side of half-time with two fine finishes.

Barcelona did not look back after his second, adding further goals through Carles Perez – his first for the club – Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal before Loren Moron's wonderful late consolation for the visitors.

Barca started sharply, going close through Sergi Roberto and Griezmann, but it was the visitors who struck first.

The hosts lost possession cheaply in the middle of the pitch, allowing Loren Moron to feed the marauding Fekir. The former Lyon man pulled away from Alba and dispatched a clinical left-footed strike from 16 yards into Marc-Andre ter Stegen's bottom-left corner.

Barca came agonisingly close to restoring parity 10 minutes before the interval when Rafinha's close-range effort was diverted narrowly past the post by the outstretched leg of Sidnei.

They did pull level in the 41st minute, however, Griezmann stretching superbly to meet Roberto's clipped ball over the top and volley past Dani Martin.

Roberto was the provider again for Griezmann's second in the 50th minute, the France international whipping a glorious left-footed strike past Martin from 18 yards.

Barcelona were well and truly in the mood and scored a third six minutes later when Perez skipped past his marker and coolly slotted past a helpless Martin from just inside the area.

The Betis goalkeeper picked the ball out his net again just four minutes later, this time from Alba. The left-back surged into the penalty area, collected Sergio Busquets' pass and slid past the beleaguered Martin.

Barca eased off in the final 30 minutes, but they did add a fifth in the 77th minute when substitute Vidal expertly steered into the roof of the net from 10 yards after being picked out by Griezmann.

The final goal was one from Betis, with Moron firing a wonderful strike into the top corner from 25 yards in the 79th minute, although it did little to detract from a fine Barca win.

What does it mean? Barca's attack in rude health

It was not all plain sailing for Barcelona – they were badly exposed at the back for Fekir's opener – but there was enough on show to suggest the Catalan giants will once again be the side to beat in LaLiga this season. The thought of Messi and Suarez joining Griezmann in attack is sure to give defenders across Spain sleepless nights.

Griezmann introduces himself in style

The World Cup winner took full advantage of Messi and Suarez's absences, leading the line superbly and opening his account with two typically efficient finishes.

Pique endures landmark game to forget

Across 500 games for Barcelona, Gerard Pique has firmly cemented his place as one of this generation's finest defenders. Little of his legendary composure was on show against Betis, however, with the 32-year-old looking surprisingly shaky against Fekir and friends.

What's next?

Barca will hope to make it back-to-back wins when they visit Osasuna on Saturday, while Betis host Leganes on the same day.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for Barcelona since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid against Real Betis on Sunday.

The France international endured a difficult debut in a surprise 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao last week, but he opened his account for the club in the LaLiga clash with Betis at Camp Nou.

Griezmann – leading the line in the absence of injured duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – stretched superbly to meet Sergi Roberto's clipped pass and divert a volley through goalkeeper Dani Martin in the 41st minute.

The goal drew Barca level after they had surprisingly fallen behind to Nabil Fekir's 15th-minute strike.

Lionel Messi is once again absent from the Barcelona squad for Sunday's LaLiga clash with Real Betis.

Messi returned to training this week following a calf problem, with the 32-year-old missing Barca's entire programme of pre-season friendlies due to Copa America commitments and his injury.

Although he got several days of training under his belt and appeared to be in fine form in video footage that came out of the sessions, it was reported Messi felt "discomfort" on Friday.

Coach Ernesto Valverde also urged fans to be patient in his pre-match news conference a day later, adamant Messi will not be risked if he is anything other than 100 per cent ready to feature.

As such, Messi has been left out of the squad for the visit of Betis, who left Camp Nou with a stunning 4-3 win last season.

There is a place in the selection for Ansu Fati, a 16-year-old winger who impressed in the UEFA Youth League in 2018-19.

Barca will be aiming to bounce back from their 1-0 opening-day defeat at Athletic Bilbao.

 

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says Lionel Messi has to be 100 per cent fit if he is to feature against Real Betis on Sunday.

The 32-year-old missed the whole of Barca's pre-season programme with a calf injury and was not part of their squad for their opening LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Messi – whose last competitive outing was for Argentina in the Copa America third-place play-off victory over Chile, a match in which he was controversially sent off – returned to training on Wednesday, but Valverde is unsure whether he will be fit for the visit of Betis.

Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Valverde said: "If he is not 100 per cent, he will not play."

If Messi does feature, he will likely line up alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid struggled to make an impact in last weekend's disappointing defeat, with Luis Suarez's first-half injury leaving him isolated up front.

Valverde says he is improving all the time and expects the France forward to start firing soon if he is given the right service.

"He is better every day," the Barca boss said. "He has to participate a lot and last week he did not participate as we would have liked. 

"If he participates, he can be decisive, but we must help him."

Betis also opened their LaLiga campaign with a defeat last weekend – a 2-1 reverse to Real Valladolid – but Valverde is expecting a tough game at Camp Nou.

He added: "Betis are a team that have many options to allow them to be towards the top of the standings, but it is mandatory that we get all three points after losing last weekend."

Real Betis have signed Borja Iglesias from Espanyol after paying his €28.14m release clause.

The striker spent a single season in Barcelona after joining from Real Zaragoza last year, scoring 17 LaLiga goals and a further six in cup competitions as they finished seventh in the table.

Espanyol head coach Rubi was subsequently appointed by Betis as the successor to the sacked Quique Setien and he has brought the 26-year-old Iglesias to Seville on a five-year deal.

The arrival of the former Celta Vigo forward was announced by Betis on social media with a video referencing his unusual nickname - Panda.

"From the first day he arrived, Borja Iglesias has had exemplary attitude and behaviour," Espanyol said in a statement.

"Espanyol wishes to thank the player for his application, professionalism and commitment in white-and-blue colours and wishes him luck in his future."

Iglesias struck the opening goal in nine LaLiga matches last season, the joint-most of anyone in the division, level with Girona's Cristhian Stuani.

He is the fifth new signing for Betis ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, joining players including former Lyon captain Nabil Fekir, although Giovani Lo Celso has left for Tottenham.

Champions Barcelona play Athletic Bilbao when the 2019-20 LaLiga campaign begins on Friday.

Barcelona have won the title in the last two seasons and head into the new campaign as favourites again, having bolstered their squad with the additions of Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo and Frenkie de Jong.

Real Madrid have spent heavily during the close season in an attempt to close the gap on their bitter rivals, with Eden Hazard among those to arrive, and last term's runners-up Atletico Madrid also broke their transfer record by bringing in Joao Felix from Benfica.

There has been smart business right the way down the division, setting up what should be another thrilling year of Spanish top-flight action.

The transfer window does not shut until September 2 but, ahead of the opening round of fixtures, we look at the five best signings made by LaLiga clubs.

#LaLigaSantander is back this week! pic.twitter.com/kW0MWRSne0

— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) August 12, 2019

5. Marc Cucurella (Getafe)

Young Cucurella was one of the best left-sided players in LaLiga last season at Eibar and looked entirely capable of being an asset to Barcelona's first-team squad.

However, after triggering their buy-back option on him, Barcelona have since sent him out on loan to Getafe, who can make the deal permanent for €6million.

Given his impact in 2018-19, it looks immensely shrewd business by Los Azulones.

4. Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)

Isak has had to live with comparisons to another Swedish scoring sensation in Zlatan Ibrahimovic since breaking through at AIK three years ago.

Borussia Dortmund saw enough potential to snap him up in 2017 and, after a handful of Bundesliga appearances, he was sent on loan to Willem II last term and blossomed when used regularly.

Thirteen goals in 16 Eredivisie appearances, followed up by one for Sweden 11 minutes after being brought on in June's Euro 2020 qualifier against Malta, led to reported interest from the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Sociedad, somewhat surprisingly, won the race for his signature and the €7m fee will be considered a bargain should Isak provide goals for one of last season's lowest-scoring sides in LaLiga.

 

¡Doblete de @alex_isak !  #RealSociedad #AurreraReala pic.twitter.com/sBhAasI2Yw

— Real Sociedad Fútbol (@RealSociedad) July 27, 2019

3. Hector Herrera (Atletico Madrid)

The loss of Rodri to Manchester City leaves a void to be filled at Atletico this season, but in Herrera they have a player capable of thriving under Diego Simeone, albeit in a slightly different role.

Herrera, signed on a free after his contract at Porto expired, will be expected to offer more of a goal threat, having scored 26 times in his six seasons at Estadio do Dragao.

A Primeira Liga title winner and a player boasting plenty of Champions League experience, Simeone will hope the tenacious 29-year-old's best years are still to come.

2. Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)

Fekir was on the brink of joining Liverpool in a £52m deal last year, only for the move to collapse late on, reportedly due to concerns flagged by his medical.

Liverpool's loss is now Betis' gain, with the Andalusian side reaching an agreement with Lyon for an initial €19.75m.

The France international's goal tally may have halved last term - dropping from 18 in 2017-18 to nine in 2018-19 - but he could thrive as the focal point in Rubi's attack.

 

1. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Barcelona agreed the €75million signing of De Jong in January, seeing off competition from a number of rivals to ensure one of the hottest properties in world football would join them this summer.

Griezmann may add to Ernesto Valverde's attacking options and Firpo will provide long-term cover for Jordi Alba at left-back, but De Jong - allowed to stay on at Ajax for the second half of last season - looks like the most exciting of the Spanish champions' new recruits so far.

After starring for the Dutch champions in their run to the Champions League semi-finals, knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus along the way, there is no reason the versatile midfielder cannot make a similar impact in his new Camp Nou surroundings.

Spain's football season is almost upon us, with another thrilling campaign in store in LaLiga.

But while many will focus on Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and the revolution at Atletico Madrid, some younger talents could establish themselves as LaLiga stars in the coming season.

There are several players up and down the league who will be desperate for their big opportunity.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at five prospects who debuted in the competition last term and will hope for breakout seasons.

 

Diego Lainez (Real Betis)

Winger Lainez only turned 19 in June, but he already has four caps for Mexico, having established himself as a top prospect at Club America after debuting at 16.

Although Lainez did not make an immediate impact at Betis after a €14million January move, starting just three LaLiga games, he scored a last-gasp equaliser against Rennes in the Europa League in February and is being tipped for a big season.

Bryan Gil (Sevilla)

Across the city at Sevilla, Bryan is getting fans excited. He became the first player born in the 21st century to score in the competition when he netted against Rayo Vallecano in April.

Bryan failed to start a league match last season, making more appearances (11) off the bench without lining up than any other player in LaLiga, while he also has the unenviable task of usurping Lucas Ocampos this season.

But under Julen Lopetegui – a coach renowned for trust in youth – he is expected to feature fairly regularly, having helped Spain to European Under-19 Championship success in the close season.

 

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

The most established name on this list, Chukwueze played a crucial role in Villarreal's survival last season, with his winner at Girona in April kickstarting a run that returned 13 points from the final six matches of the campaign.

Of the youngest 20 players to feature in LaLiga in 2018-19, no player managed more appearances (26) or goals (five) than Chukwueze. He got eight in all competitions and ended the season in the Nigeria team at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Waldo Rubio (Real Valladolid)

Rubio may turn 24 on Saturday, but he only got his first taste of LaLiga football in April after being promoted from the club's B team. As with Chukwueze at Villarreal, he was central to Valladolid staying up.

The attacker played eight games from his debut until the end of the season, starting five, and netted a crucial winner against Athletic Bilbao in his side's penultimate home league match of the campaign.

 

Adria Pedrosa (Espanyol)

In theory, left-back Pedrosa might find it tougher to catch the eye than the attacking talents elsewhere in this list, but that was not the case last term.

Pedrosa started 12 games in all competitions in 2018-19, establishing himself as a starter towards the end of the season and putting his blistering pace to good use with a goal against Deportivo Alaves and an assist for Diego Godin's own goal against Atletico Madrid.

The 21-year-old has already scored a fine goal in Europa League qualifying this season, too.

Tottenham have reached an agreement for the loan signing of Giovani Lo Celso, with the club retaining an option to make his move from Real Betis permanent.

Lo Celso becomes Spurs' third acquisition of the window, following the signings of Tanguy Ndombele – who completed a £55million move in July – and Jack Clarke, who was immediately loaned back to Leeds United.

Fulham's versatile left-sided teenager Ryan Sessegnon is also thought to have completed his move to White Hart Lane for a reported £30m fee, although that transfer had yet to be officially confirmed.

"We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement for the season-long loan signing of Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis with an option to make the transfer permanent," Spurs said in a statement.

"The attacking midfielder will wear the number 18 shirt this season."

Lo Celso, 23, made the jump to European football in 2016 when he joined Paris Saint-Germain from Rosario Central in his native Argentina, making his debut in French football in April 2017.

He went on to feature 33 times in his first full Ligue 1 campaign and showed flashes of quality, but PSG sent him on loan to Betis last term and allowed them a purchase option in the deal.

Lo Celso enjoyed a stellar season in LaLiga, scoring nine goals and supplying four assists in 32 outings.

Betis unsurprisingly triggered their reported €22m option in April and signed Lo Celso to a four-year contract.

The transfer window slams shut in England on Thursday and Romelu Lukaku is finally set to get his move.

Linked to Inter and Juventus throughout the off-season, Manchester United striker Lukaku is poised to swap Old Trafford for San Siro in Milan.

Lukaku's exit could trigger United to make a late dash for his replacement.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU TO SWAP UNITED FOR INTER

After months of speculation, Lukaku will swap Manchester United for Serie A side Inter according to widespread reports.

Lukaku landed in Milan in the early hours of Thursday morning ahead of his €75million (£70m) move to Inter.

Inter will reportedly pay a €65m fixed fee and €10m in add-ons, with the deal also including a five per cent cut of any future sale.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Lukaku leaving Old Trafford, United are willing to pay the £81m (€88m) release clause to lure Inaki Williams from Athletic Bilbao, reports El Chiringuito TV. The Red Devils are also continuing to be linked to Juventus' Mario Mandzukic and former Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente, who is a free agent.

Tottenham are set to complete deadline-day deals for Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso and Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon, reports the Telegraph. Spurs are hopeful of clinching a transfer for Lo Celso at £55m (€59.7m), while Sessegnon could cost £20m.

- According to Sport, Real Madrid have offered €120m plus Luka Modric for wantaway Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar. Barcelona have been linked with their former forward but the LaLiga champions must raise funds before trying to re-sign the Brazil international. Barca could free up space by selling Philippe Coutinho, who has reportedly attracted interest from Premier League trio United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Arsenal are set for a busy deadline day. The Sun reports the Gunners could land Chelsea defender David Luiz in a £12m deal, while Unai Emery's side have agreed a Scottish transfer record fee of £25m for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney, according to the BBC.

- Tottenham have agreed to sign Juventus star Paulo Dybala but the player's image rights are holding up the deal, says the Independent. Dybala has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain after turning down a move to Manchester United.

- Sportitalia says Wolves have agreed a £23m (€25m) fee to sign AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who reportedly wants a wage increase. Wolves have already signed Patrick Cutrone from Milan.

- According to Sky Sports, Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has handed in a transfer request as Everton look to sign the former Manchester United forward.

Mario Balotelli is on the verge of joining Brazilian side Flamengo until December 2021. That is according to La Gazzetta dello Sport and Sky Sport Italia. Balotelli is a free agent following his Marseille exit.

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.

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