Barcelona will sign Eric Garcia for free after the end of the season, presidential candidate Toni Freixa says.

The centre-back has been tipped to return to Camp Nou, where he was a youth player until 2017, since telling City last year he would not be signing a new contract.

It has been suggested Barca could look to bring in Garcia this month to bolster their defence, but Freixa suggested January incomings are highly unlikely due to their financial problems.

Instead, the 20-year-old Spain international is expected to join after his contract expires this year.

Speaking after a meeting with the interim Barca board and other presidential candidates, Freixa was quoted by Sport as saying: "We've valued the signing of Eric Garcia, but he will arrive in the summer when the season ends and he's available for free."

Freixa, who is running for president against favourite Joan Laporta and Victor Font, says head coach Ronald Koeman has not made any demands for the present transfer window.

Indeed, spending is highly unlikely given the major impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the club's finances.

Barca posted pre-tax losses of €100million last season, with debt more than doubling to €488m, as a 24-per-cent reduction in matchday revenues and a drop in merchandise sales took a huge toll.

The senior players agreed to a wage cut to help reduce costs and prevent club staff being made redundant, which helped to save €74m, but investment in the squad this year remains difficult.

"Koeman has not demanded anything," said Freixa. "He's only stated what is needed. We talked about what to do, and in the current situation, we cannot spend.

"The situation of the club is what it is. What we all know is that it's a critical situation as a result of the stadium being closed and we can't generate income as we normally did.

"But it's not an alarming situation that requires us to take an extraordinary decision."

Freixa added that the elections are due to be held on March 7, having been postponed this month to avoid the risk of members travelling to polling stations amid rising coronavirus cases across Spain.

"They've explained to us that the implementation of postal voting won't allow for the voting date to be earlier than March 7. Therefore, it's set for that date," he said.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has dismissed comments by Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo confirming they would be interested in signing Lionel Messi.

Leonardo said on Monday PSG have a seat "reserved" at the table of clubs who are "following closely" the developments around Messi's future.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is in the final six months of his Barca contract and could leave on a free transfer after this season.

Koeman, though, thinks it is normal for top players to be coveted by other clubs, saying he could never claim to have no interest in having PSG's star forwards at his disposal.

"If you ask me if I'm interested in Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe, I'd say yes," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I don't know what will happen in the future; I can't give an opinion on those. We try to have the best squad possible."

Messi is serving a two-match ban for his red card in Barca's Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Athletic Bilbao, although the club are appealing against the punishment.

"The club told me it's two games, the club doesn't agree [with the sanction] and we'll see," said Koeman. "There are things that can be defended and hopefully they reduce the sanction. If not, we play two games without Leo.

"We've trained, Leo has trained with a lot of eagerness and I haven't seen anything odd. Everyone is sad for the Supercopa result, but we're on the road to better things, above all defensively. Leo is right in the middle of this."

Barca face a Copa del Rey clash at Cornella, the team that shocked LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid in the previous round, on Thursday.

Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto are sidelined with minor injury problems and Koeman says further first-team regulars will be rested given both Barca games at the Supercopa went to extra time.

"For them, it's the game of the year and for us it's the next one to be ready for. We have to go through because we're Barcelona. It depends a lot on mentality," he said.

"We're angry, it's normal. We have to be like that because we had the Supercopa close and they equalised in the last minute.

"I think we're on a good path - I think so, at least. And we have to keep moving forward. There are players with knocks but it's normal after two matches in extra time and two flights.

"We're going to make changes. We'll see tomorrow [how many]. We want to put out a strong team and, above all, a team that's strong mentally."

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are three of the superstars who have been voted into UEFA's Men's Team of the Year by fans, with Virgil van Dijk also included despite missing a chunk of 2020 through injury.

Fans had from November 30 to January 6 to cast their votes, and a host of predictable names made the cut, though Champions League winners Bayern Munich dominate.

There are five players from Bayern's treble-winning 2019-20 in the team, including Robert Lewandowski – winner of The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award – and Thiago Alcantara, who has since joined Liverpool.

The other Reds player in the side is Van Dijk even though the Dutch centre-back has only played five Premier League games this season due to a serious knee injury.

However, earlier in the year he inspired Liverpool to their first league title since 1990.

Ronaldo was named in the side for a 15th time after helping Juventus to another Scudetto.

Messi earned his 12th inclusion despite failing to help Barcelona to LaLiga success in what was a largely difficult year for the Blaugrana and their captain.

UEFA confirmed the final selection for the women's team as well, with six players from Lyon's Women's Champions League-winning squad in the side.

 

Men's Team of the Year:

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany); Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich and Germany), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich and Canada); Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich/Liverpool and Spain), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium); Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil).

Women's Team of the Year:

Sarah Bouhaddi (Lyon and France); Lucy Bronze (Lyon/Manchester City and England), Kadeisha Buchanan (Lyon and Canada), Wendie Renard (Lyon and France), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea and Sweden); Kheira Hamraoui (Barcelona and France), Amandine Henry (Lyon and France), Delphine Cascarino (Lyon and France), Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (Wolfsburg/Lyon and Iceland); Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal and Netherlands), Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg/Chelsea and Denmark).

Could Harry Kane land in Paris?

With Kylian Mbappe tipped to join Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly eyeing replacements.

Mauricio Pochettino has a familiar face in mind…

 

TOP STORY – POCH WANTS KANE IF MBAPPE LEAVES

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino wants to sign Tottenham striker Harry Kane, according to El Chiringuito de Jugones.

That is if PSG star Kylian Mbappe leaves the Ligue 1 champions for LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

Pochettino coached Kane for five years at Tottenham before he was sacked by Spurs in November 2019.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sport Germany claims Bayern Munich star David Alaba will not decide on his future until he has spoken to Barcelona. Marca reported that Madrid had struck a deal to sign Alaba on a free transfer at the end of the season. However, Alaba is reportedly holding out for Barca as the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and PSG try to lure the Austria international.

Martin Odegaard has asked to leave Madrid on loan due to his lack of game time, reports Marca and Diario AS.

Romelu Lukaku has no intention of leaving Inter for City, says Express Sport. Lukaku spent two years at United before moving to Italy in 2019. Pep Guardiola's City have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland amid doubts over Sergio Aguero's future.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Manchester City defender Eric Garcia could join Barca this month or at the end of the season.

Milan are eyeing Barca's Junior Firpo on loan, while Serie A rivals Napoli are also interested, according to Calciomercato.

- Eurosport reports Tottenham are looking to prise Danny Ings away from Southampton. Ings is reportedly stalling on a new contract as he eyes a Champions League club.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on Kylian Mbappe amid doubts over his future with the Ligue 1 champions, though he was reluctant to discuss Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Mbappe has been tipped to join LaLiga champions Real Madrid, but PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the star forward – who is out of contract in 2022.

The 22-year-old has gone four matches without a goal, while he has managed just two goals in his last eight appearances for league leaders PSG.

Pochettino was asked about the possible renewal of World Cup winner Mbappe, who has scored 12 goals in 16 Ligue 1 appearances this term and 14 across all competitions.

"The club are working on retaining the best and he has a huge future ahead of him," Pochettino – who was absent from the win over Angers due to coronavirus – told Cadena SER's El Larguero programme. 

"What coach wouldn't want to work with Mbappe?".

Asked about Mbappe and Neymar after replacing Thomas Tuchel at the start of January, former Tottenham boss Pochettino added: "They've both welcomed me and are open to a new footballing proposition and I can only thank them for the warm reception."

Barca captain Messi has been heavily linked with a move to PSG as he prepares to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Messi has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou and PSG sporting director Leonardo admitted the club are keeping a close eye on the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Premier League giants Manchester City have also emerged as a destination for Messi, while Serie A side Inter are believed to be interested.

But Pochettino refused to give much away when quizzed on Messi, saying: "To be honest, I haven't had time to sit with the president and talk about the transfer market as we're just focused on the present. So many times, a throwaway phrase can be twisted and used out of context."

When it was put to him that PSG are monitoring Messi, Pochettino replied: "No comment. When I was at Espanyol or Southampton, my dream was to have the best players at the club and Messi came close to being loaned out to Espanyol… The deal was well advanced but he delivered a great display in pre-season and that was the end of that.

"We've met over the years in places such as London or in Italy. We both share the love for Newell's, as we both came through their academy and that is our common bond."

"I'm aware of all that is going on. I've been watching everyone from West Ham to Valladolid and these days you need to keep your eyes on every team," Pochettino added ahead of PSG's clash with Montpellier on Friday. "I really don't want to talk about Messi as everything then gets blown out of proportion."

Lionel Messi is free to negotiate a move to clubs outside LaLiga and Juan Sebastian Veron thinks Javier Zanetti will be key to Inter's hopes of signing the Barcelona superstar.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is in the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou, having failed to engineer a move away during the close season.

The 33-year-old has long been linked with a switch to Serie A giants Inter, where his former Argentina team-mate Zanetti – the Albiceleste's most-capped player of all time – is vice-president.

Former Nerazzurri and Argentina midfielder Veron does not expect Messi to be at Inter next season, but believes it will be down to Zanetti if he does complete a move to San Siro.

"I don't think he can go to Italy. If he will, it is because of Javier Zanetti, who knows him and will try to talk to him, making him feel important again and to explaining the future projects of the club," Veron told Stats Perform News.

"At the end of the day it is purely Messi's decision. But if Inter want to make an attempt, they have to use seduction and get to his heart to draw him near. 

"I don't know how many more years Messi wants to play at this level, but if you want to sign him, Inter have to make Messi their flagship and make clear they want to be at the top level."

After a 2-0 victory over Juventus on Sunday, Inter sit second in Serie A three points behind leaders Milan.

Antonio Conte's side have not been lacking in attack this term, though, with Romelu Lukaku (12 goals, three assists) and Lautaro Martinez (nine goals, three assists) developing a potent partnership in the league.

No forward in Serie A to have played at least 10 games this season has had more Opta-defined 'big chances' than Lukaku, whose tally of 20 is only matched by Edin Dzeko and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Belgium international has the best conversion rate of the trio, scoring from 12 such openings for a 60 per cent success ratio. Ronaldo is second on 55 per cent, while Dzeko is third on 35 per cent.

Messi has scored 11 goals and assisted two more in LaLiga this term, while converting 58.3 per cent (seven out of 12) of his big chances.

The Barca captain's 35 key passes are only bettered by Iago Aspas (37), and his 100 attempts on goal in the Spanish top flight this season are almost twice as many as Karim Benzema (51) in second.

Lionel Messi's two-match ban is to be appealed by Barcelona, the club confirmed.

Messi was dismissed in the 121st minute of Sunday's Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao as he took a swing at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by the VAR.

It was the first time he had been sent off for the club and only the third red in his entire 17-year career for Barca and Argentina.

Barca lost the match 3-2 in Seville and a ruling by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) competition committee on Tuesday deemed Messi's offence serious enough to warrant a two-match suspension.

That will rule him out of the Copa del Rey match against Cornella on Thursday and Sunday's LaLiga trip to Elche, before returning for another tussle with Villalibre and Athletic on January 31.

But Barca seemingly deemed the punishment too sever and announced plans to appeal soon after the RFEF's initial decision.

Barca's statement read: "Barcelona is to appeal the suspension issued to Leo Messi. The competition committee announced on Tuesday that the Argentinian's red card in the final minutes of the Supercopa de Espana final against Athletic Club shall incur a two-match ban."

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has been banned for two domestic matches following his red card in the Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Messi was dismissed in the 119th minute of Sunday's game as he took a swing at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by the VAR, and referee Jesus Gil Manzano subsequently showed him the red.

It was the first time he has been sent off for the club and only the third red card in his entire 17-year career for Barca and Argentina.

Reports in Spain had suggested an extended ban could be imposed on Messi, and a statement by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Tuesday that he will be suspended for Barca's next two games.

Therefore, he will miss the Copa del Rey game against Cornella and the league trip to Elche – he will return in time for another tussle with Villalibre and Athletic on January 31.

 

Eder Sarabia, the assistant to Quique Setien during his Barcelona tenure, has been appointed head coach of the Gerard Pique-owned FC Andorra.

After working under Setien at LaLiga clubs Las Palmas, Real Betis and Barca, Sarabia has taken his first head coaching job with the Segunda B side.

His appointment came just hours after Nacho Castro was relieved of his duties, with Andorra sitting second in Segunda B3 and having won 2-0 against Llagostera on Sunday.

Sarabia has been backed by Pique despite being involved in reports of unrest during Setien's turbulent Barca stint, which ended last August.

His touchline manner during a Clasico against Real Madrid last March reportedly drew the ire of the Barca players, while in June he was involved in further controversy when footage purportedly showing Lionel Messi ignoring his instructions was shared on social media.

Paris Saint-Germain are keeping a close watch on the future of Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, according to the club's sporting director Leonardo. 

Messi has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou and could make a sensational free transfer once his deal expires after this season. 

PSG and Manchester City have been tipped as the most likely clubs to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, who was sent off in the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana loss to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, if he chooses not to extend his contract with Barca. 

While he says now is not the time to say anything concrete about a possible agreement, Leonardo suggests the Ligue 1 champions will be ready to make their move should Messi wish to seek a new challenge. 

"Great players like Messi will always be on PSG's list," he told France Football. "But this is of course not the time to talk about it, or to dream about it. 

"But we are sitting at the big table of those who are following the case closely. In fact, no, we're not yet sitting there, but our chair is reserved, just in case... 

"Four months is an eternity in football, especially at this time." 

It has been reported in France that PSG's priority for now is to extend the contracts of star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. 

The world's most expensive two players see their present deals at Parc des Princes expire at the end of next season. 

Leonardo maintains PSG will not be forced into any special concessions in order to keep them at the club, but he has a positive feeling they can reach agreements. 

"I hope they're convinced PSG is a good place right now for an ambitious and very high-level footballer," he said. 

"We just have to find an agreement between their desires, their requirements, our expectations and our means. 

"We don't have to beg them 'please stay'. Those who really want to stay will stay. We talk regularly and I have good feelings on these two cases."

Pep Guardiola is 50 and who would begrudge Manchester City's remarkable manager a quiet celebration?

The likelihood is that Guardiola will instead be picking the pieces out of Sunday's clash with Crystal Palace and planning for Wednesday's game against Aston Villa.

Guardiola the player was a diligent servant as a defensive midfielder for Barcelona and Spain, albeit rarely the player who would light up a match.

Yet as a coach his teams have had maverick tendencies, as well as being clinical and merciless at times, as his medal collection shows.

To mark Guardiola's 'big 5-0', now is a timely moment to revisit some of the finest 5-0 wins from his coaching career.

Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (November 29, 2010)

Barca's 8-0 win at Almeria nine days earlier had contained a Lionel Messi hat-trick, but the Argentinian could not find the target when Jose Mourinho brought Madrid to Camp Nou.

Not to worry, for he was outstanding in a mesmerising Barcelona display, an iconic moment of the Guardiola era.

Messi ran Madrid ragged but left the scoring to others, setting up David Villa for the third and fourth goals, with Xavi, Pedro and the little-remembered Jeffren condemning Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and co to a ruthless assailing in Catalonia.

"We are proud," said Guardiola, on the way to a LaLiga and Champions League double, "because the world has seen us play the way we like to play."

Barcelona 5-0 Atletico Madrid (September 24, 2011)

Guardiola's last season with Barca ultimately ended without LaLiga glory but it was a campaign that produced a statement victory over an Atletico Madrid team containing Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godin and Radamel Falcao.

Barca were rampant at Camp Nou, with a David Villa strike and Miranda's own goal putting them two up inside 15 minutes before Messi scored a quite magnificent hat-trick, all three goals containing fine dribbles and sublime link-up play.

Perhaps most significantly for the Spanish football landscape, the result hurried along the sacking of Atletico boss Gregorio Manzano, who, under three months later, would be replaced by a certain Diego Simeone.

Bayern 5-0 Eintracht Frankfurt (February 2, 2014)

Bayern Munich stormed to the Bundesliga title in Guardiola's first season, losing just twice and seeing off nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund by an astonishing 19 points.

They romped to four separate 5-0 wins over the course of that season, including a magnificent success against Eintracht Frankfurt in February, by which point the title was all but won.

Mario Gotze swept in with a wonderful strike after 12 minutes to set the tone, with further goals coming from Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Dante and Mario Mandzukic.

They thrashed Hamburg 5-0 just 10 days later en route to the second of eight consecutive league titles, a run which remains active.

Steaua Bucharest 0-5 Manchester City (August 16, 2016)

The Guardiola era had begun sketchily with a 2-1 home win over Sunderland three days earlier, City needing a late Paddy McNair own goal to snatch the Premier League points.

But by goodness, this was more like the fare that was expected under the new boss, City rampant in a Champions League play-off in Romania as Sergio Aguero scored his eighth hat-trick for the club, as well as missing two penalties, with David Silva and Nolito also on target.

They had 24 shots and 70.5 per cent of possession in a frightening tease of what was to come.

Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool (September 9, 2017)

Guardiola had finished his first season at City empty-handed, but this devastating performance signalled it would be a different story in 2017-18.

New recruits Ederson, Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy all started, and City emphatically showed they were better set up for a title push than the Liverpool team Jurgen Klopp was steadily shaping into something special.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane was sent off before half-time for a high challenge that injured goalkeeper Ederson, with City already ahead by that stage thanks to Aguero.

Gabriel Jesus then scored twice, as did Leroy Sane, and City put on a show early in their record-setting 100-point campaign. Liverpool would have their revenge with a 4-3 Anfield win in January, but the title was all but wrapped up by then.

Manchester City 5-0 Burnley (all the time)

Every day must feel like a birthday when Burnley come to town, given Guardiola's team have torched the Clarets 5-0 in their last four meetings at the Etihad Stadium.

Of course it was not always this way: City grafted for a 2-1 home win over Burnley when Fernandinho was sent off when the teams first met at Eastlands in Guardiola's debut season in England.

But lately it has been customary for Burnley to be rolled over, and Riyad Mahrez helped himself to a hat-trick in the most recent encounter, in November.

Guardiola said afterwards that such goal gluts are "not important; the important thing is winning games". You suspect, however, he rather enjoys such days. Burnley, rather less so.

Ronald Koeman empathised with Lionel Messi's frustration after the superstar captain was sent off in Barcelona's Supercopa de Espana final loss against Athletic Bilbao.

Messi saw red for the first time in his illustrious club career as embattled LaLiga giants Barca were upstaged 3-2 by Athletic after extra time in Seville on Sunday.

After Athletic star Inaki Williams struck in the third minute of extra time, Messi swung at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by VAR and referee Jesus Gil Manzano brandished a red card.

Messi – who has been tipped to leave Camp Nou amid links with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – is facing a lengthy suspension, but Barca head coach Koeman defended the 33-year-old.

"I can understand what Messi did," Koeman said afterwards.

"I don't know how many times they fouled him, and it's normal to react when they keep trying to foul you as a player who is looking to dribble with the ball, but I need to see it again properly."

Messi, who was fouled eight times against Athletic, recovered from a minor injury to return to Barcelona's line-up in his 753rd appearance for the Catalan club.

"Leo, after so many years in the elite of football, knows perfectly if he is in condition or not," Koeman said.

"We spoke before, he said he was in condition to play the game, he has given his maximum and nothing else."

Antoine Griezmann scored twice for Barca, including the 40th-minute opener, but his goals were cancelled out on both occasions at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Athletic's Oscar de Marcos equalised in the 42nd minute before substitute team-mate Villalibre forced extra time at the death, after Griezmann had restored Barca's lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Williams stepped up with a sublime goal as Barca – third in LaLiga and seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid – missed out on their first title under Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

"We are sad, disappointed by the result," Koeman added. "We played the final to win and not to lose that, yes. But there is no time to get off. We'll be playing soon, there's a cup and a league, there's no time for regrets.

"We have done positive things, we have improved. We have failed in the goals received. We have to be more forceful in defence. We must defend better in the area and not let the opponents think, they cannot control, turn and shoot easily. We can improve.

"My work ... I give the maximum I can. My work is not very good if we had won, nor very bad for losing. We are on the way, there are positive things, although losing today is very hard."

Inaki Williams was proud of his match-winning strike against Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana final, labelling it the best goal of his career.

Williams was the hero for Athletic, who upstaged Barca 3-2 after extra time thanks to his 93rd-minute goal in Seville on Sunday.

Barca star Antoine Griezmann had opened the scoring in the 40th minute, but Williams teed up Oscar de Marcos for the equaliser two minutes later at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Griezmann struck again with 13 minutes remaining before Athletic substitute Asier Villalibre forced extra time at the death, and Williams completed the shock result in the 93rd minute as Barca captain Lionel Messi saw red.

It secured a third Supercopa crown for Athletic – who shocked Real Madrid in the semi-final – and their first since routing Barca 5-1 across two legs in 2015, and Williams basked in his decisive goal after curling a shot away from Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the top-right corner.

"For what it means, it's the best [goal of my career]," Williams told Movistar after becoming the only player this season to score and assist in a game against Barca across all competitions.

"We played good football, [a symptom of what] the coach wants from us.

"We fought, with passion, that's what Athletic is. I think we're fair winners. It's everyone's doing, including the previous technical team.

"We can dream of achieving big things."

Williams added: "No words needed. We all know how hard is to compete versus Barcelona because of their potential and the signing market they have whilst we have a limitation on it.

"In the previous days I have kept reading this Bible quote: David can beat Goliath. Today it was just like that. When you play with heart and faith, impossible is nothing. Today we worked and fought like animals and our effort was rewarded. Sometimes you don't get a reward but thank God it was all good today and we fully deserve this Supercopa."

Marcelino also lifted the trophy, having replaced Gaizka Garitano as Athletic head coach earlier this month.

Per Opta, Marcelino is the first head coach in history to win two one-legged finals in a row against Barcelona in all competitions, triumphing with two different teams after Valencia's 2019 Copa del Rey success.

"I've been in Bilbao for only a short time, but the truth is that it's been productive," Marcelino said via Marca.

"The credit goes to the players who, with the work they put in last year, deserve to be here. And they won two games to be champions against Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"I'd also like to remember Aritz Aduriz, Mikel San Jose and Benat Etxebarria, players here last season, as well as the coaching staff, of course.

"We came with all the humility in the world to work – taking advantage of what was done before while trying to install concepts that we want to add.

"[The players] are like sponges, and it's incredible how they fight and work. [Us as a coaching staff] are very proud and enjoy working with them because they make it so easy for us."

Barcelona star Antoine Griezmann said the LaLiga giants are "screwed, angry, upset" after being upstaged by Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana final.

Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time in his Barca career as the Catalan club lost 3-2 to Athletic following extra time in Seville on Sunday.

Griezmann scored twice, including the 40th-minute opener, but his goals were cancelled out on both occasions at Estadio de La Cartuja.

Athletic's Oscar de Marcos equalised in the 42nd minute before substitute team-mate Asier Villalibre forced extra time at the death, after Griezmann had restored Barca's lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Inaki Williams then scored a sublime goal in the third minute of extra time to secure Athletic's third Supercopa crown and first since 2015, with Messi's red card for lashing out at Villalibre adding to Barca's woes in the dying moments.

"How do you think we are?" Griezmann replied when asked how Barca felt post-game.

"We're screwed, angry, upset. When you lose a final, these are all the bad feelings you have.

"Athletic pressed very well. They gave everything until the last minute, and then what happened, happened. We have made mistakes in our strategy and we'll have to work on it during the week.

"We didn't defend well, we didn't communicate. When the ball comes out someone needs to shout."

France star Griezmann has scored five goals in his past four finals in all competitions for club and country.

He has also been directly involved in seven goals in his past four appearances for Barca across all competitions, after failing to score or assist a goal in any of his previous seven matches.

In LaLiga, Ronald Koeman's Barca are third and seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand.

Lionel Messi's Barcelona career has had just about everything - but until Sunday night the Argentine superstar had not been red-carded for the Camp Nou giants.

That changed when Messi was sent off for the first time in his club career after dramatically losing his cool late on in the 3-2 Supercopa de Espana final loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Messi, who recovered from a minor injury to take a place in Barca's starting line-up, saw red in what was his 753rd appearance for the club.

With 119 minutes of the match played, Messi swung at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by VAR and referee Jesus Gil Manzano reached into his back pocket.

The 33-year-old is now facing a possible extended ban that will carry over into LaLiga, with the disciplinary committee of the Spanish FA (RFEF) to have the final say on the length of the suspension.

It was the third red card of Messi's 17-year career overall, having also previously been dismissed twice for Argentina.

He was given his marching orders following a clash with Gary Medel in a Copa America third-place play-off in July 2019 and was famously sent off on his international debut against Hungary in 2005.

Messi failed to find the target from any of his three attempts in the loss to Athletic, who twice came from behind to win the competition for just a third time.

Antoine Griezmann scored twice, either side of Oscar De Marcos' equaliser, but Villalibre levelled up in the 90th minute and Inaki Williams scored a sublime winner three minutes into extra time.

Reflecting on the defeat, Barca boss Ronald Koeman - denied a first piece of silverware since succeeding Quique Setien at Camp Nou in August - said: "It was a difficult game. 

"We were really close to the victory. It is always difficult to concede just before half-time, and then again at the end. It's really difficult to handle."

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