Ed Woodward believes the next transfer window will be an "important opportunity" for Manchester United as he accepts the club are "not yet where we want to be".

United have undergone an extensive resetting of the playing squad and transfer strategy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who admitted this month he had to "tear the house down" after inheriting a disjointed and unhappy dressing room.

Solskjaer has focused on encouraging more opportunities for United academy players while prioritising the signings of younger, hungrier talent, as highlighted by last year's arrivals of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, now club captain.

United also spent an initial fee of roughly £47million to sign Bruno Fernandes in January, and brought in Odion Ighalo on loan, to strengthen the squad ahead of the final months of the season.

However, United and Woodward have still come in for heavy criticism, with Solskjaer's side underwhelming on the pitch and facing a battle to qualify for the Champions League.

The Red Devils are eighth in the Premier League and could be nine points off the top four if they lose to Chelsea on February 17.

Woodward insists they can still have a positive season, though, as he looks ahead to a potentially vital next stage of their rebuild.

The United executive vice-chairman told a fans forum: "The signing this week of Bruno Fernandes and return of key players from injury will be a boost to Ole and the squad as we head into the second half of the season. We remain in contention in the Europa League and the FA Cup, as well as for Champions League qualification, so there is still lots to play for.

"However, as a club and a board, we do recognise that we are not yet where we want to be. It is the overwhelming priority of everyone at the club to get us back to regularly challenging for Premier League and Champions League titles. Although progress may not always be smooth, everyone across the club is focused and committed on playing their part in helping achieve those aims.

"Significant work has already been done – and investments made – to strengthen the academy and we're pleased with the progress being made behind the scenes to ensure we have the right players, the right infrastructure, and the right culture to sustain long-term success.

"Similarly, there has been extensive work on our recruitment process, with considerable investment in scouting, data and analytics. The recruitment department is working to a clear plan and philosophy, along with Ole and his coaching staff. Our focus is on bringing in a combination of experience and the best young players with potential to develop further, fusing graduates from our academy with high-quality acquisitions.

"Our recruitment process focuses on analysis and selection of players over the course of a season, with a view to the following summer transfer window. As part of the rebuild, we see this coming summer as an important opportunity."

Woodward appeared keen to point out that Solskjaer has been backed substantially in the transfer market, despite some suggestions the United board have not made enough funds available.

"We had consistently taken the view that – because January is not an optimal time in terms of availability of players – we would only buy in January if players we had already targeted for the summer became available and we were pleased that this strategy played out with the signing of Bruno Fernandes this week," Woodward said.

"Bruno Fernandes and the players we brought last summer are evidence that our process is the right one. There has been no shortage of investment in players over the past few years, with over £200million spent since Ole became manager; our aim is to ensure that we continue to achieve consistency in quality of recruitment.

"Off the pitch, it is important to note that the commercial elements of the club are geared to ensuring we have a self-sustaining model, which supports investment in the playing side.

"Meanwhile we continuously look for ways to improve the experience of fans - from the £11million investment to transform facilities for disabled supporters at Old Trafford, improvements in security, engagement with fan groups around stadium atmosphere or a potential rail seating trial, to ongoing reviews of match-day catering and beverage provision."

Joshua King conceded it would have been "a dream come true" had his proposed move from Bournemouth to Manchester United gone through on transfer deadline day.

The Norway striker was linked with a return to United on the last day of the January transfer window, but talks broke down after Bournemouth reportedly put a £40million price-tag on the 28-year-old.

Cherries boss Eddie Howe explained King had endured a trying couple of days as the possibility of re-joining his former club emerged.

And while King has returned his focus to helping Bournemouth avoid relegation from the Premier League, he did not hide how much he would have loved to go back to Old Trafford.

"How close it was I have no complete answer to," King told reporters. "I have to watch what I say.

"I had some faith that it was going to happen and it was a bit sensitive for me considering that I moved to England as a 16-year-old to achieve my dream and wanted to reach that goal at Manchester United.

"When you hear that you are connected to United and a bid comes in, then the feelings you had as a 16-year-old come back to you.

"But why it did not happen, I do not know. I'm a Bournemouth player and I really enjoy it here. But it had been a dream come true, I will not lie.

"That didn't happen and I'm going to give everything to Bournemouth as long as I’m in this club."

King, who scored the winner against United in a November Premier League clash, was grateful to the support shown to him by Howe.

"The coach was absolutely fantastic with me during those days," he added.

"He was very helpful with me. I have respect for how he behaved with me during the little episode."

United ultimately signed former Watford striker Odion Ighalo on loan from Shanghai Shenhua.

Barcelona are prepared to take a loss on Philippe Coutinho, sparking apparent interest from the Premier League.

Coutinho is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona, and the Bundesliga giants hold an option to buy the Brazil playmaker.

If Bayern opt against purchasing Coutinho, Barca may be willing to sell the 27-year-old and accept a loss.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA READY TO SELL COUTINHO FOR £77M AMID PREMIER LEAGUE INTEREST

Coutinho has been told he can leave Barcelona for £77million (€90.7m) at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

Barcelona paid Liverpool €120m (£105m) for Coutinho in 2018, but are preparing for change under Quique Setien.

The report says Coutinho has already attracted interest from Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Bayern hold an option to buy Coutinho for a reported €120m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could it be one Brazilian in and another out at Liverpool? The Sun reports Bayern Munich want Roberto Firmino to leave the Premier League giants and join the Bundesliga outfit at the end of the season.

- Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz is Liverpool's top midfield target ahead of 2020-21.

- With James Maddison reportedly ready to extend his contract at Leicester City, Manchester United's interest in the attacker has cooled significantly, according to the Daily Express.

- Thiago Silva wants to stay in Paris. Paris United reports the Paris Saint-Germain captain could discuss a new contract with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi amid uncertainty over his future, with his deal expiring at the end of the season.

- Manchester United have angered Roma. The Daily Express says the Premier League club have increased their asking price for Chris Smalling from €14.1m (£12m) to €20m (£17m), with the defender having impressed during his loan spell with the Serie A outfit.

Quique Setien praised Barcelona's resilience in Sunday's 3-2 win over Real Betis but said there is still room for improvement from the LaLiga champions.

Sergio Canales' early penalty for Betis was cancelled out by a wonderful goal from Frenkie de Jong, the Barcelona midfielder clinically dispatching Lionel Messi's sublime pass.

Nabil Fekir restored Betis' advantage with a fine finish, before Sergio Busquets scored a second equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Clement Lenglet then headed home Messi's free-kick 18 minutes from time to seal all three points, although the Frenchman blotted his copybook by picking up a second yellow card soon after Fekir was also dismissed for Betis.

"I really liked the team," Barca head coach Setien said of his side, who are three points behind leaders Real Madrid. "There are things we could have done better, but I'm happy. We have come from behind twice.

"The team is improving in many things and I am very happy with the performance, the result and everything. We are still missing things, though.

"You have to enjoy the win because Betis are a great team, who were playing at home."

Barca looked far from solid at the back in the first half but looked significantly more resilient after the break, much to Setien's pleasure.

"We have improved a lot [in defence]," he added. "There are always some imbalances in the way we play, but I am quite happy with the defensive attitude of the team.

"In the second half, I don't think we granted them a chance on goal."

Betis president Angel Haro, meanwhile, insisted Barca have not made an approach for Loren Moron.

The striker, who came on as a second-half substitute on Sunday, has been linked with a move to Camp Nou as the LaLiga champions look to replace injured duo Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

Barca are said to be confident of securing special dispensation from authorities to bring in a Spain-based reinforcement outside of the transfer window, but Haro said they have not made a move for 26-year-old Moron.

"They have been linked, but they haven't enquired or made a formal offer for him," he told Movistar.

"There is talk of the player, but not in a serious way. It would be if we had an offer for the player, which we don't."

Manuel Neuer has reiterated his intention to remain at Bayern Munich but confirmed there is not yet anything to announce regarding a contract extension.

Neuer's current deal with the Bundesliga champions – who drew 0-0 with title rivals RB Leipzig on Sunday – expires at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Bayern have already moved to bring in what would appear to be Neuer's long-term replacement, securing Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel on a free transfer, with the 23-year-old to join at the end of the campaign.

However, Neuer – who said in January that Nubel's arrival would have little impact on his position – repeated his stance following the clash with Leipzig.

"My plan is that I continue to play football for Bayern, and Alex Nubel will be there from summer, then it will continue," Neuer told Sky Sport.

"There is nothing we can announce at the moment."

While talks over a new contract continue, Neuer remains fully focused on helping Bayern see off the challenge of Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach in order to retain their Bundesliga crown.

"We are one point ahead," the goalkeeper said. "You cannot take this one game to judge whether there is a clearly better team."

Kaka believes Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona and warned it is important there is no messy divorce if the Argentina star moves on from Camp Nou.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was incensed by recent comments from sporting director Eric Abidal, who questioned whether some players showed full commitment under former head coach Ernesto Valverde.

A scathing response from Messi bypassed official club channels as he took Abidal to task on Instagram, and that raised the question of whether the record-breaking forward remains happy at Barcelona.

He has spent his entire professional career with the Catalan giants and is by a long distance their all-time leading goalscorer and closing in on Xavi's appearances records.

Yet Kaka, who starred for Milan, Real Madrid and Brazil and also won the 2007 Ballon d'Or, says the day could come when Messi seeks to move on.

It would then behove both parties to ensure the split is conducted in a dignified way, Kaka explained.

Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free transfer at the end of each season.

"I think it's not going to be a problem for him to play in the Premier League, or [to play] at a top club at the top three leagues in the world would be good for him," Kaka told Sky Sports News.

"But of course it depends on what he wants for his career. It's hard to see him playing for another club, but it's just ... [he may feel,] 'It's okay, it's time for me to change and I'll go to have another experience and I'll be the best football player in the world for another team.'

"I think the most important thing is not the broken part but the way this is going to be broken.

"When [Cristiano] Ronaldo left Madrid we were sad that Ronaldo left the club and of course a lot of them regret Ronaldo's left Real Madrid.

"But I think everybody at the time understood that, okay, for him it's another challenge, he needs another challenge, he needs to move, it's okay, we are one of the best clubs in the world and we'll keep going, Real Madrid needs to rebuild.

"It's more the way, if it's going to happen, it's the way that it's going to happen."

Kaka is hoping to move into a football director's role and explained he was fascinated by the Messi saga.

"I'm in this position right now to understand the clubs, the sports director, how to manage a club, how to build a team, and it's a very good situation for me to understand how they're going to handle this, because right now everything's so hot," Kaka said.

"We're going to hear a lot about that, but I'm looking forward to seeing the next step - Messi, [whether] he's going to leave, Abidal, or the club, Barcelona, how they're going to manage this situation will be really nice.

"From outside it's really hard to say something. I don't know if Messi wants to leave or he just wants to protect his players - [and is thinking,] 'As a captain I need to protect my team.'"

Paris Saint-Germain reportedly have no interest in listening to offers for star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, 21, has repeatedly been linked to Real Madrid, rumours which only intensified after the forward was involved in a bust-up with coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG are prepared to make the France international see out his contract, rather than lose one of their star players.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STANDING FIRM OVER MBAPPE AMID MADRID LINKS

PSG will not listen to offers for Mbappe amid links to Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Mbappe is contracted in Paris until 2022 and the Ligue 1 giants are willing to make him see out his deal.

PSG have also tried to extend Mbappe's contract, moves which are set to continue despite his seeming unhappiness at the club.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under some pressure at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on becoming Manchester United manager ahead of next season, according to the Mirror.

- While Pochettino may arrive, Paul Pogba seems likely to leave United. Tuttosport reports the midfielder and Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala dream of playing together again, with Pogba perhaps set for a return to Turin. Dybala is in contract talks with Juventus with his deal expiring in 2022.

- Jack Grealish seems to know where he wants to be. Goal reports the midfielder is ready to join Manchester United from Aston Villa, although no formal talks have taken place. The Sun says Grealish prefers Manchester United over other clubs, while the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the race for the Englishman.

- With Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to injury, Barcelona are eyeing a move for … Luis Suarez. El Larguero reports Barcelona have made contact with Real Zaragoza over the forward, who is on loan from Watford. Suarez has scored 14 goals in the Segunda Division this season.

- On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham, Danny Rose will be watched by Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a possible move at the end of the season, according to The Sun.

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici confirmed the Serie A giants had started contract talks with attacker Paulo Dybala.

Dybala, 26, is enjoying a good season for Juve despite being linked with a move away from Turin, scoring 11 goals in 29 games in all competitions.

The Argentina international is contracted until 2022, and Paratici said Juve had already started talks regarding a new deal for Dybala.

"He's the Juventus number 10. He is fundamental. We know what value he has and what he represents," Paratici told DAZN before Juve's 2-1 loss to Hellas Verona in Serie A on Saturday.

"In the coming months, we will talk to him.

"We have already had some initial discussions before January and agreed to talk nearer to the end of the season."

Juventus are top of the table and three points clear of Inter, who face Milan in a derby clash on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola insisted his contract situation at Manchester City would not impact potential signings in the close-season.

Guardiola has said he intends to honour his deal, which runs until 2021, with the Premier League giants and that would take him into a fifth season at City.

But with City likely needing to strengthen at season's end, Guardiola feels his future will have no affect on possible arrivals.

"That's the not only reason they come here, because I am here. I'd say we have been in contact with others who didn't come when I was here," he told UK newspapers.

"I think the club is big enough and good enough to be attractive for players who want to play in the way we do, or they watch TV and see us and we have played against them.

"They will still want to come because of economic reasons, or because just they want to play for City. I think Man City is not a bad solution for players."

Ahead of hosting West Ham on Sunday, City are 22 points behind leaders Liverpool, but are alive in the Champions League and FA Cup and in the EFL Cup final.

Guardiola remains focused on this season, although he hinted at multiple arrivals before 2020-21.

"I have an idea but I am not ready to think about that while the season is still progressing," he said.

"We have to do something because David Silva is leaving and in some positions we need to strengthen but I don't know how many or how much because the market is always difficult and there are still two or three months to go.

"A lot can change in that time. Look at Vincent Kompany last season. For most of the season he hardly played because of injuries, then he came in for the last couple of months and looked like the best defender in the world, so anything can still happen.

"There is still a lot for us to fight for even if we are too far behind in the league.

"We are in a final in a few weeks, we have the FA Cup, there is second place to aim for to secure qualification for the Champions League next season and two big games coming up against Real Madrid."

Neymar's return would hand Barcelona a huge boost, according to sporting director Eric Abidal.

The Brazil superstar left Camp Nou for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in August 2017 but has been persistently linked with a move back to Barca.

Head coach Quique Setien said last week he would relish the chance to coach the Neymar and Abidal believes such a deal might be possible.

Asked for his opinion on Neymar coming back to the Catalan giants, Abidal told Mundo Deportivo: "I totally agree.

"Quique would be proud to be able to coach a player like Neymar and the others here who are of such a high level."

Barca have been left short in attack by serious injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, though Ansu Fati impressed with a double in a 2-1 victory over Levante last weekend.

On the effect signing Neymar could have on Fati, Abidal said: "That's why planning is not so easy. We may wish to have all the best players, but we can't make a mistake in the development of players.

"Since Ansu broke into the first team, he's contributed a lot. In the last [LaLiga] game, he showed his talent again. He's a player who can play in many positions and you have to take that into account.

"I think the player is 100 per cent with us, with the first team, and has the goal of staying here for many years."

Barca could help fund a move for Neymar by letting Philippe Coutinho make his loan at Bayern permanent, which the Bundesliga giants can achieve by activating a €120m option.

However, it has been reported this week that Barca would be willing to consider an offer at €80m.

"The information we have is that Bayern are very happy with Philippe and Philippe is also very happy there," said Abidal.

"It's true they have an option [to buy him], but we have to plan perfectly with those who are in house and on loan, and then we'll see."

Another player who could be heading for the exit at Camp Nou is Ivan Rakitic, who accused the club of a lack of respect and was disappointed by the treatment of former coach Ernesto Valverde.

"I don't know in what sense of respect he spoke about," said Abidal, who believes Rakitic remains content at Barca.

"For a player, the most important thing is to have minutes. He's gone through a difficult moment with Valverde, now we have changed coach. It's something for the coach, because I can't manage playing minutes for a player.

"We have respect because we haven't spoken with anybody, and neither has he, it seems. He said he planned to leave but in the end he decided to stay at Barca and if he did that, it's because there is a percentage of satisfaction."

Premier League clubs are queuing up to sign Jadon Sancho.

But, Borussia Dortmund will not be rushed in parting with the England teenager.

Dortmund are reportedly determined to make the most of a strong Euro 2020 for the 19-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND WON'T RUSH SANCHO SALE

Borussia Dortmund will take their time over selling in-demand star Jadon Sancho amid links to Manchester United and Chelsea, reports 90min.

Sancho is a player in demand, with Premier League giants United and Chelsea interested in luring the 19-year-old back to England.

Bundesliga outfit Dortmund, however, are keen to maximise Sancho's transfer value after Euro 2020.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona captain Lionel Messi wants to stay at Camp Nu despite his public row with sporting director Eric Abidal, according to Sky Sports News. Amid uncertainty over Messi's future with his contract due to expire in 2021, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been linked to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Inter and United.

- Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is unhappy with Gareth Bale's training, reports Marca. Bale – who was linked with a return to former club Tottenham during the January transfer window – and his intensity at training has reportedly angered Zidane.

- Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose is Barcelona's main target, says Marca. With Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele injured, LaLiga champions Barca are hoping to be granted permission to sign a Spain-based player to fill the void.

- Il Mattino claims United are at the front of the que to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. The defender has also been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and City.

Juventus are rushing to make a move for United star Paul Pogba, says Tuttosport. United are reportedly resigned to Pogba leaving and former club Juve are keen to bring the Frenchman back to Turin as Madrid also circle.

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is set to join Chile team-mate Alexis Sanchez at Inter next season, claims former Nerazzurri striker Ivan Zamorano.

Vidal was heavily linked to Antonio Conte's Inter before the January transfer window closed, but a move did not materialise.

Sanchez is on loan at Inter from Manchester United until the end of the season and while the Red Devils plan to bring him back to Old Trafford, Zamorano is optimistic two Chileans will be playing for the Serie A club in 2020-21.

"He [Sanchez] has a contract with Manchester United, but we'll see where he wants to continue playing and where he feels happy," Chilean great Zamorano, who won the 1997-98 UEFA Cup with Inter, told Radio Cooperativa.

"The most important thing is that Alexis enjoy his football, because when he was finding form, he got injured. He didn't play much at Manchester and that meant he arrived not fully fit.

"I would like Sanchez to remain in Milan, especially as in June he'll get the chance to play alongside another Chilean, who will very probably come to the club.

"Let's just say I am optimistic we'll see two Chileans at Inter next season and I have some privileged information on that score.

"We all know what Vidal means for Antonio Conte and I am sure in June the club will intensify its efforts to sign him from Barcelona. Inter fans would be very happy to have Arturo."

 

Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay said there has been no approach for Willian Jose but added "we all know Barcelona are looking for a striker".

Barca are looking to bolster their attack with Luis Suarez sidelined and Ousmane Dembele set to undergo hamstring surgery on Tuesday.

The LaLiga champions are said to be confident of securing special dispensation from authorities to bring in reinforcements outside of the transfer window following this latest setback.

Sociedad striker Willian Jose – linked to Tottenham and Manchester United during the January transfer window – is reportedly Barca's main target.

"We haven't had any conversation with anyone," Aperribay told Radio MARCA. "I don't know what will happen.

"I have read about it, but it is true that the market has closed. I can't comment much.

"Willian Jose is a player who has attracted interest from several teams in the winter [transfer window] and we all know that Barcelona are looking for a striker.

"I don't know if they'll call us, but they haven't done it yet. He is an important player for us and we would definitely miss him.

"We have many games left and we need everyone."

Willian Jose has scored eight goals in 21 LaLiga appearances for Sociedad this season.

Sociedad are eighth in the league as they prepare for Sunday's Basque derby against Athletic Bilbao, while Barca travel to Real Betis.

Bournemouth striker Joshua King endured a "difficult couple of days" after a potential return to Manchester United failing to materialise, according to Eddie Howe.

United were rumoured to be interested in bringing King back to Old Trafford towards the end of the January transfer window, the club sinking cover for the injured Marcus Rashford.

King, 28, was said to be particularly eager to join United, having made two senior appearances for as a youngster and featured prominently under current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the club's reserves.

Bournemouth were reported to have rejected United's advances and they signed former Watford striker Odion Ighalo instead, with King apparently left feeling "used", according to the Athletic.

Howe accepts King had a tough time coming to terms with the outcome but has urged the Norwegian to take it as a compliment and not dwell on personal matters as Bournemouth face a relegation tussle.

"That was a difficult couple of days for him," Howe told reporters. "But it's a huge compliment and a huge moment for him, to have Manchester United come in and express an interest in him.

"But he's very focused on our current position and this club. He knows we're in a relegation fight; it's no time for him to focus on himself, he knows that, and he's very much a team player.

"So, he's looking forward to being fit and contributing to our battle."

Bournemouth travel to Sheffield United on Sunday sitting just two points above the bottom three, though they go into the contest on the back of successive Premier League wins.

A return to Barcelona could be on the cards for Adama Traore.

Wolves star Traore has taken the Premier League and Europe by storm with his performances this season.

Barcelona's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID EYE TRAORE

Barcelona are plotting a move to bring Wolves star Adama Traore back to Camp Nou, according to the Daily Mail.

LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also interested in Spanish winger Traore, who left Barca in 2015.

Wolves are set to command a big transfer fee for Traore amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, having signed the 24-year-old from Middlesbrough two years ago.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Manchester United are interested in trying to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona. There are doubts over Messi's future following his row with sporting director Eric Abidal. City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been mentioned as possible destinations for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

United have given the green light to sell Paul Pogba, says The Sun. Linked to Madrid and Juventus, the Red Devils are ready to part with Pogba for £150million.

Juventus and Paulo Dybala are working on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Tied to Juve until 2022, the Serie A champions want to keep the in-form attacker until 2025.

- L'Equipe reports Thiago Silva wants to stay at PSG but the Ligue 1 champions want to offload the 35-year-old defender in an attempt to free up some of the wage budget.

United have been turned off by Lautaro Martinez's £94m (€110.7m) release clause, according to The Times. The Inter striker has been heavily linked to Barca as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

- The Telegraph says Leicester City are leading the race to sign Liverpool's Adam Lallana, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham have also reportedly been tracking the England midfielder.

- According to Fotomac, Galatasaray striker Radamel Falcao is wanted by Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal. Falcao only moved to Istanbul at the start of the season.

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