Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has defended the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng, telling the media they have been critical of "all" signings during his tenure as coach.

Boateng completed an unlikely loan switch from Sassuolo on Monday, with Barca also having the right to purchase him for €8million during his stay.

The signing raised eyebrows throughout world football, with many surprised by Barca opting to sign the journeyman midfielder, whose three most recent clubs were Sassuolo, Eintracht Frankfurt and Las Palmas.

But Valverde pointed out media coverage of Barca's signings during his time at the club has generally been negative, yet few have been deemed failures.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at Sevilla, Valverde said: "Since I've been here, all of them are controversial signings, and then...?

"[About] Arturo Vidal, Paulinho, you talked a lot, with Arthur also, then he also gives us a great performance. Things always end up going well.

"The departure of Munir [El Haddadi] is a matter of the club, and we would like to have strikers in the team who score 15 goals, but that's not been the case. Boateng arrives for a few months.

"He knows the trade, a player who, having made a career in other positions, now plays as a number nine, he knows LaLiga and the role he is playing in.

"He was available, Munir left, the club thought he was the best option and I hope he helps us a lot."

Boateng has on occasion been accused of having problems with his attitude, but Valverde insists the former Ghana international has a clean slate at Camp Nou.

"We trust in the presumption of innocence," Valverde said. "We do not want to fight with him, but want him to help us and to score goals. In Las Palmas he had a great year."

One player linked with a move away from Barca is Brazilian winger Malcom, who is said to be interesting Tottenham, among other clubs.

Valverde accepts the former Bordeaux talent could depart, though he feels Malcom has the talent to play for Barca if he commits himself.

"Until January 31, everything can happen," Valverde said. "But we cannot run out of players.

"There are players who play more and others less. Malcom must fight to play more, because he has the qualities to do so. We expect a lot from him."

New Barcelona signing Kevin-Prince Boateng dismissed suggestions of a past allegiance to Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo by lauding Lionel Messi as the best player "in this world and every world" during his official presentation.

Boateng completed a shock move to Barca on Monday, with the Catalan club bringing him in from Sassuolo on a loan deal until the end of the season which includes an €8million purchase option.

Despite being undoubtedly talented, the 31-year-old represents a left-field option for Barca, considering the level Boateng has been operating at for the last two years.

Before Sassuolo, Boateng played for Las Palmas and then Eintracht Frankfurt, never quite living up to the early expectations of him after impressing as a teenager with Hertha Berlin.

After rumours of his move began to circulate, past quotes from Boateng declaring himself a Madrid fan and praising Ronaldo as the world's best player began to resurface, but he had a concise response on Tuesday.

"I am a Barcelona player and Lionel Messi is the best player in this world and every world," the Germany-born former Ghana international told reporters.

"Why are you laughing? That's the truth, he has shown that with all that he has won in the last 10 years.

"It's a great honour [to be at Barcelona] because Messi is the best player in the world, and Luis Suarez the best striker in the world.

"They play amazingly and being able to play by their side is a great gift."

Boateng is fully aware that he has not been brought in to slot straight into the starting XI, but believes his versatility will serve him well, as he is able to play in midfield and further forward.

"At my age, the number nine role is perfect for me, but for a coach, I think a player like me is a plus because I can play in different positions, but I feel very good as a number nine," the former AC Milan man said.

"I have not talked to the coach [Ernesto Valverde], but I know I have not come to play in the starting line because there are incredible players in this team.

"I'm here because of my experience and to help. I'm here to play well and sign on for more years here, that's my goal."

Xabi Alonso insists he will fight to the end to clear his name after being accused of tax fraud by Spanish prosecutors.

The former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder is alleged to have committed three tax offences between 2010 and 2012, while he was a player in LaLiga.

Alonso attended court in Madrid on Tuesday, where he learned that his case will be postponed until further notice.

Speaking to reporters, former Spain international Alonso said: "The court has assessed whether or not they are competent to start the case. I have to wait for their assessment, and respect and continue to trust in what justice will decide.

"Now, we have to wait. I'm still confident, as the previous court acquitted me and here I'm continuing to defend my innocence and trust in justice."

Alonso appeared in court on the same day that former Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo was handed a 23-month prison sentence and €18.8million fine after accepting charges of tax fraud.

However, when asked if he could strike a similar deal with prosecutors to that which Ronaldo accepted, Alonso replied: "No, because I have the conviction and confidence of having done everything right, collaborating from the start without hiding anything.

"I've come here and I'm going to keep going until the end because I have confidence in justice. I've done everything okay.

"I would be worried if I had something to hide or I had not done something right. They're studying and evaluating my case and we have to wait."

Alonso, 37, joined Madrid from Liverpool in 2009 and spent five years at the club before leaving for Bayern.

He retired at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Wesley Hoedt has joined Celta Vigo from Southampton on loan for the rest of the season.

The LaLiga club have the option to sign the centre-back on a permanent deal in the post-season transfer window.

Hoedt, 24, joins Sofiane Boufal in leaving the Premier League for Balaidos this term.

"Hoedt's move will allow him to gain additional playing time between now and the end of the season, while also further helping [Ralph] Hasenhuttl to achieve his aim of trimming the first-team squad this month," Southampton said in a statement.

"The club would like to wish Wesley good luck for the rest of the season."

Hoedt joined Saints in August 2017 from AZ for a reported fee of £15million, signing a five-year deal.

The Netherlands international made 28 league appearances last season and managed 13 starts this term, but was left out of the side by new boss Hasenhuttl.

Eden Hazard admits he would still like to join Real Madrid but could yet be persuaded to stay at Chelsea.

The Belgium international has been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu for some time and has previously expressed an interest in a switch to LaLiga.

Hazard says the departure of childhood idol Zinedine Zidane as head coach at the end of last season would not necessarily influence his plans, but has suggested he could still commit his future to Stamford Bridge.

"Would I like to sign for Real Madrid? Why not?" he told France Football. "I have never heard from Zidane and if he goes to Manchester United tomorrow, for example, I would not be there.

"Real Madrid without Zidane is different, but it is still Real Madrid. 

"I've won everything in England, except the Community Shield, but that doesn't mean I'm going to leave. I've always said that I want to try something different after England, but there are things that might make me stay."

Hazard was initially tipped to leave Chelsea last season amid suggestions of a poor relationship with head coach Antonio Conte, who was replaced by Maurizio Sarri prior to the start of 2018-19.

The 28-year-old has been in impressive form this term, with 10 goals and 10 assists in 22 appearances in the Premier League, despite being used recently in a false nine role, one which he disliked playing under Conte.

Hazard claims he has always been a source of frustration for his managers, however, and sees no reason why that will change regardless of the standard of his displays.

"I didn't only frustrate Conte," he said. "In my career, I've frustrated all my coaches. And here, Sarri, I still frustrate him. [Jose] Mourinho, I frustrated him.

"They think I need to score more, to do more here, more of that. The next one I have, I'll frustrate him, too."

Indeed, Hazard believes he may be different to the rest of the world's elite players as he is not obsessed with goals and silverware.

"I may be apart from the best players in the world. The best think goals, passes, trophies. I've never been like that. So, yes, maybe," he said.

"In professional football, there are a lot of players like me, who want to have fun."

However, the former Lille star still believes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo must be considered a cut above the rest given their success over the last decade.

"I've been at their table for a long time!" he added. "Even if it's only been six months, I've had good form since the World Cup. I feel like that, even in the eyes of the fans.

"Before, in their eyes, it was: 'Yes, he's a very good player, but can he be among the greatest?'. But there is a moment where you have to keep your feet on the ground. For what they have done in the last 10 years, you can't be compared to them, it's impossible."

Kevin-Prince Boateng described his move to Barcelona as a "dream" after the midfielder's shock loan switch was confirmed on Monday.

Boateng, 31, joined the LaLiga giants on loan from Serie A side Sassuolo for the rest of the season, with an €8million purchase option included.

The former AC Milan and Tottenham midfielder said it was a dream to get an opportunity to play for Barca.

"I'm very happy. It's a big honour to be here and have the possibility to play for this great club," Boateng told Barca TV.

"For every kid who starts to play football I think it is a dream to play for a club like Barcelona, so for every player and especially for me it's a big dream come true."

Boateng only arrived at Sassuolo from Eintracht Frankfurt in July last year, making 15 appearances for the club.

Levante will take their appeal against Copa del Rey elimination to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after their initial move was rejected.

The LaLiga club alleged Barcelona used an ineligible player in the first leg of the last-16 tie, but their appeal was rejected by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

Levante beat Barca 2-1 at home in the first part of their two-legged clash, as Ernesto Valverde shuffled his pack, giving games to fringe players and youngsters.

Among the unfamiliar names in the starting XI was defender Chumi, who Levante believed to have been suspended for the match after accumulating five yellow cards for Barca's 'B' team in the third tier.

Barca were convinced Chumi was eligible, with Valverde suggesting the defender's suspension was active for Sunday's win over Eibar, while the club understood a rule change in November meant a reserve player can feature for the first team in another competition as long as the suspension is less than a two-match ban.

However, the RFEF ultimately rejected Levante's appeal due to their complaint being lodged too late.

But Levante announced on Monday they would take their appeal to the CAS.

"Levante will file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport," the club wrote on Twitter.

The draw for the quarter-finals has already been made, with Barcelona set to play Sevilla in the first leg of their tie on Wednesday.

Barcelona have completed a surprise move for former AC Milan attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, signing him on an initial loan deal until the end of the season.

Barcelona have completed a surprise move for former AC Milan attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, signing him on an initial loan deal until the end of the season.

Kevin-Prince Boateng confirmed his shock move from Sassuolo to Barcelona is close, calling his impending switch to Camp Nou a "huge opportunity".

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde had been hoping for attacking reinforcements in January, particularly after seeing Paco Alcacer depart for Borussia Dortmund in the previous transfer window and then Munir El Haddadi join Sevilla this month.

But Boateng is an arrival few had predicted, with the former Ghana international – who has played for Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Schalke, among others – reportedly joining on loan with an €8million purchase option.

Now 31, Boateng is viewed by many as a player who has never really lived up to expectations after initially impressing as a teenager at Hertha Berlin, but he is on the verge of the move of his career and can hardly believe it.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Boateng said: "It's a bit of a sad day, because I leave a fantastic group and a club like Sassuolo that gave me so much.

"Barcelona is a huge opportunity and the emotion is unique. I was very stressed today [Monday], but I wanted to respect Sassuolo."

With media speculation regarding Boateng and Barca going into overdrive on Monday, things from the past were swift to resurface.

One particular interview from 2017 revealed Boateng had regarded himself as a Real Madrid fan since he was a child, but he dismissed that ahead of joining Barca and is eager to score against Los Blancos in the next Clasico on March 2.

"Those are old things, I think only of Barca," he said. "I hope to score in the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu."

Barcelona are understood to be on the verge of signing former Tottenham, AC Milan and Schalke attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng from Serie A side Sassuolo.

A report by Sky in Italy claims the 31-year-old will travel to Barcelona on Monday to conclude a loan switch until the end of the season, with an €8million option to make the move permanent.

Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde has been looking for attacking reinforcements as cover for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele – the latter now facing two weeks on the sidelines with a sprained left ankle.

Munir El Haddadi joined Sevilla this month, while Paco Alcacer left for Borussia Dortmund during the previous transfer window, leaving the reigning LaLiga champions light up front.

Valverde batted back questions over a purported interest in LAFC's Carlos Vela over the weekend, while Mundo Deportivo touted veteran Monaco striker Radamel Falcao as an option.

Boateng would represent an even more leftfield move than those two, although he did enjoy a successful season in LaLiga with Las Palmas in 2016-17 on the back of his second stint at Milan – scoring 10 times in 28 matches.

A campaign with Eintracht Frankfurt, Boateng's fourth Bundesliga club, followed before he joined Sassuolo.

Boateng has been deployed as a false nine by Sassuolo and completed 90 minutes in Saturday's 0-0 draw against Inter at San Siro. He has four goals in 13 games this term.

Moussa Wague has said he was subjected to "numerous and repeated racist insults and songs that should never have to be tolerated on a football pitch" when playing for Barcelona B against SD Ejea.

Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele will spend two weeks on the sidelines after suffering a sprained left ankle during the 3-1 LaLiga win over Leganes.

Roberto Bautista Agut is in the midst of his best run at a grand slam, reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals.

But, it could have been so much different had the world number 24 and nine-time ATP Tour winner from sunny Spain pursued his other love – football.

Born in Castellon de la Plana in the east of the Iberian Peninsula, Bautista Agut impressed with his football skills for hometown club CD Castellon, who boast past players such as Vicente del Bosque and Gaizka Mendieta.

Bautista Agut caught the attention of LaLiga side Villarreal and it is there where the Spaniard played until the age of 14, before turning to tennis.

"When I was a kid I went to Madrigal Stadium to watch Villarreal, I dreamed of becoming a footballer," Bautista Agut told LaLiga via Twitter in 2017.

"Until juniors, I was playing at Villarreal. I played the Brunete tournament. I was less technical, but I was scoring goals even with my ears."

Bautista Agut added: "I would have liked to play football well but could not do both things…  I left the football shoes and I took the racquet forever."

Now, Bautista Agut is enjoying one of his best runs on the ATP circuit.

Buoyed by his upset over Novak Djokovic en route to glory in Doha earlier this month, Bautista Agut was the villain when he potentially sent three-time slam champion Andy Murray into retirement at Melbourne Park on day one.

He then upstaged 10th seed Karen Khachanov before outlasting 2018 Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic in five sets for a spot in the last eight of a slam after 25 main-draw attempts and nine prior fourth-round losses.

"I've been playing very good tennis. I won really good matches," Bautista Agut told reporters following his 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 victory against Cilic. "I had to fight so hard to stay very focused. It's been a great month for me and for my tennis."

As the 30-year-old prepares for a mouth-watering clash with Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut's decision to drop football for tennis appears to be the right one.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar insists transfer speculation linking him with Real Madrid and Barcelona is not "concrete".

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