Loren Moron has signed a new four-year deal with Real Betis just a few months after he came close to a move to Barcelona.

The 26-year-old forward, who was given his first-team debut by Barca coach Quique Setien, had been identified by the champions as a potential emergency signing in February when injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele left their striker options depleted.

Betis coach Rubi claimed Barca – who were granted special dispensation to sign a free agent or a player already in LaLiga – made an approach for Loren, who has nine goals in 26 league matches this term.

However, with the Blaugrana reportedly restricted to a modest budget at the time, they were unwilling to match Loren's hefty €50million release clause, instead moving for Martin Braithwaite of Leganes.

And now Loren has re-committed to Betis, signing on until 2024 – the news coming after fresh speculation linking the hard-working forward with Premier League clubs Tottenham and Crystal Palace.

A statement read: "Real Betis Balompie and Loren Moron have renewed the contract that unites them. In this regard, he will continue to be linked to the club until 2024."

Loren began the 2019-20 season in lethal form, scoring seven goals in his first eight league matches, though he has only added another two to that tally since.

Betis return to LaLiga action following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus on Thursday, as they go to local rivals Sevilla in the division's first post-suspension fixture.

Lionel Messi faces a race to be fit for Barcelona's first match since the coronavirus lockdown after it was confirmed he has a thigh muscle injury.

The Argentinian talisman, who is Barcelona's captain and LaLiga's all-time record goalscorer, trained away from the rest of the squad on Friday.

Barcelona described the problem as a "minor quadriceps injury", specifying the particular muscle region in Messi's thigh, and said he was "doing specific exercises to avoid unnecessary risks".

The LaLiga leaders are due to resume their interrupted campaign at Mallorca on Saturday, June 13.

Barcelona said Messi "should be able to re-join his team-mates in a few days' time".

That may give the 32-year-old time to prove his fitness to head coach Quique Setien in time for the trip to tackle the islanders on the first weekend back in action.

Barcelona said young forward Ansu Fati also trained individually on Friday.

Meanwhile, the first team will leave the training ground behind on Saturday for a rare session on the Camp Nou pitch.

Barcelona said on their website that the players would head to the stadium with the purpose of getting used to playing in front of empty stands, given games will be played behind closed doors when competitive football returns to Spain.

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann admitted it would be "very strange" to play behind closed doors.

The LaLiga leaders will resume their season with a trip to Mallorca on June 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the campaign being suspended in March.

Griezmann said there was no doubt it would be unusual to play with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19.

"The first game will be in Mallorca, but it will be very strange to play without an audience," he said during a conversation on Twitch on Thursday.

"It will be the first time I have experienced something like this."

With 11 games left to play in LaLiga, Barcelona hold a two-point lead over rivals Real Madrid.

Griezmann, who has scored 14 goals in 37 games this season, said he made the most of family time during the suspension of the campaign.

"I had never been so long stopped," he said.

"Yes, it is true that during these days I was able to enjoy my children."

Luis Suarez hopes he can go past Laszlo Kubala on the list of Barcelona's all-time top goalscorers to prove what an impact he has made at Camp Nou.

Suarez has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery in January but is in line to feature again when the season resumes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Liverpool forward will take to the field just three goals behind third-placed Kubala in Barca's record books.

Suarez has the opportunity to boost his tally of 191 Blaugrana goals, narrowly short of the great Hungarian's 194 haul, between now and the end of the campaign.

But with Barcelona locked in a tense title tussle with Real Madrid and still engaged in the Champions League, Suarez - while keen to overtake Kubala - is focused on securing silverware.

"I always say that records or landmarks come by themselves," he told Barca TV. "You just need to focus on helping the team as best you can.

"The chance to move past a legend like Kubala is very welcome. It means you left your mark at a great club like Barca."

Only clear leader Lionel Messi and second-placed Cesar, a star of the 1940s and 1950s, have scored more goals for Barcelona than Kubala.

Suarez anticipates challenges with the unorthodox end to the season, which follows a three-month break caused by the health crisis, adding: "I think it's a mix of everything.

"I think we are not used to playing in such heat in the middle of summer, but we are acclimatising ourselves to playing matches in the heat.

"As for the fans, it will be unusual to play in a stadium without a crowd, but we will adapt.

"I have done it before, so we will just try to focus on the football and doing well and winning matches in the league, which we all want so much to win."

The arrivals of Lautaro Martinez and Neymar at the end of the season had been the dream for Barcelona.

Forming the best attack in the world had been the idea, prising Inter's Martinez to Camp Nou and re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

But Barca have reportedly been priced out of a deal for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – PSG SET NEYMAR PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €175million in cash for Barcelona target Neymar, according to Sport.

Neymar left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222m transfer in 2017 but the Brazilian superstar continues to be linked with a Camp Nou comeback.

But Barca's hopes have been dealt a blow due to PSG's demands and coronavirus as they prioritise Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- RMC Sport claims Manchester City are interested in Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer. Pep Guardiola has reportedly talked to Bennacer about a move to the Premier League. City are also interested in Barca's Sergi Roberto, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Real Madrid are keen on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, AS says. The England international has been tipped to join United, while Chelsea and Liverpool have also been linked.

- Calciomercato claims Napoli are eyeing a move for Lille forward Victor Osimhen. It comes amid uncertainty over the futures of Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik has been heavily linked to Juventus, while the likes of Sevilla and Real Betis are reportedly interested in bringing former Madrid winger Callejon back to LaLiga.

Sevilla are prepared to wait until the end of the season for Barca's Ivan Rakitic, reports Mundo Deportivo. Barca are willing to sanction Rakitic's transfer and Spanish rivals Sevilla are looking to bring the Croatia international back to Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

- According to L'Equipe, injury-plagued Barca star Ousmane Dembele has no intention of leaving Camp Nou for Juve.

- ESPN says United need more cash to sign Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old has also been linked to Dortmund.

Fabian Ruiz is wanted by Spain's two biggest clubs – Barca and Madrid. But Mundo Deportivo says the Napoli star is moving further away from a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu due to Madrid not being able to meet the Italian club's valuation. Luka Jovic and James Rodriguez have been mentioned as possible makeweights but Napoli only want cash.

- Lille defender Gabriel has emerged as a possible replacement for Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Le10Sport says Napoli have identified Gabriel as well as Fiorentina pair German Pezzella and Nikola Milenkovic. Sky Sport Italia, meanwhile, says United are offering £71m (€80m) for Koulibaly but Napoli are holding out for at least £89m (€100m).

Pedro is a player in demand. The Chelsea forward is set to become a free agent and AS says Roma are the Spaniard's "priority". Juve, Sevilla, Betis and Valencia have also been credited with interest.

Lautaro Martinez's move to Barcelona is seemingly getting closer.

The star Inter forward has been linked to the LaLiga giants, although questions have been raised over whether Barca can find a deal to land the 22-year-old.

But the Argentina international could be nearing a switch to Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – LAUTARO, BARCELONA AGREE TO FIVE-YEAR DEAL

Martinez and Barcelona have reached an agreement on a five-year deal at about €12million per season plus bonuses, according to Sport.

The report says Inter have given up on the star forward, but are yet to reach an agreement with Barcelona.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games this season.

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have already decided not to purchase Philippe Coutinho, who has been linked with an extended stay on loan. However, Sport Bild reports there is no chance the playmaker stays in Munich.

- Timo Werner is reportedly a target for Liverpool, but another Premier League club could be making their move. The Telegraph claims Chelsea are plotting a move for the RB Leipzig forward.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal future remains uncertain. The Telegraph reports head coach Mikel Arteta is trying to persuade the striker to stay at the Premier League club, while The Sun says Arsenal will keep Aubameyang until the end of his contract in 2021 if they cannot get more than £20m for him this close season.

- Could Eric Garcia return to Barcelona? Sport reports the LaLiga giants are tracking the defender, who came through their youth system before joining Manchester City in 2018.

- Having impressed at Lyon, Houssem Aouar may be ready for a move. According to CalcioMercato, the attacker would prefer a switch to Juventus over Manchester City.

- After contract talks with Newcastle United broke down, Matty Longstaff could be heading abroad. The Times says the midfielder is set for a move to Serie A, with Udinese frontrunners to sign the 20-year-old.

Hernan Crespo labelled Lautaro Martinez a "complete player" and wants the forward to snub Barcelona and stay at Inter.

Martinez, 22, is heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga giants after an impressive season at Inter, scoring 16 goals in 31 games in 2019-20.

Former Inter and Argentina forward Crespo believes Martinez should stay at San Siro and establish himself further before moving on.

"I would like him to stay at Inter because this has been his first year as a starter," he told David de las Heras on YouTube, via Sport.

"I wish he had a bit more solid foundation before another change comes. Trains slow down at the best stations and Lautaro is one of them."

Crespo, now head coach of Defensa y Justicia, won three Serie A titles with Inter, where the former Chelsea forward spent four seasons.

The 44-year-old likes what he has seen from Martinez, who also has nine international goals in 17 appearances for Argentina.

"He is a very serious and focused boy. I really like that. He has a lot of personality," Crespo said.

"He is a complete player who can play in attack both alone and accompanying another striker."

Lionel Scaloni said playing alongside countryman Lionel Messi is better for Inter star Lautaro Martinez amid growing links to Barcelona.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for LaLiga champions Barca in the off-season following his exploits in Italy.

The Argentina international forward scored 16 goals in 31 matches across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As speculation grows over Martinez's future, Argentina head coach Scaloni discussed the 22-year-old.

"If he plays with Messi he is better, no doubt. Beyond that later he will have to fight for the position as he did in Inter," Scaloni told TyC Sports.

"We have to be calm. If he changes clubs, maybe he does not have to be the undisputed starter, and it will not affect us, as long as he has a number of minutes that allows him to be in force.

"He has a huge future but still has a lot to give."

With Martinez dominating headlines, Scaloni issued a reminder about Sergio Aguero's exploits for Argentina and Manchester City.

Aguero is City's all-time top scorer as he celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, while he is third on Argentina's overall goals list with 41.

"Talking so much about Lautaro, it is Sergio who is breaking all the records," added Scaloni. "That is why you have to go calmly and wait for the moment of each one."

Barcelona will activate a purchase option on Sao Paulo teenager Gustavo Maia this June, according to the player's agent.

Maia's performances in the Copa Sao Paulo – Brazil's most prestigious youth tournament – at the start of the year drew the eye of LaLiga's champions and led to them agreeing to part with €1million for the option to sign him before the end of this month.

The 19-year-old winger, who was nearly sent on loan to Flamengo last year, became a father in December and overcame personal issues to force his way into the starting line-up at the Copinha, where he scored three goals in seven games.

Barca are required to pay an additional €3.5m to sign Maia permanently and his representative Danilo Silva is confident it will happen.

"We are sure Barcelona will complete the purchase," he told Radio Transamerica in quotes reported by Globo Esporte.

"There was already a signal from the club and [on Monday] Maia started private Spanish lessons to get more prepared.

"Other clubs came to us in the last few months but he never had any doubt, he always wanted Barcelona."

Sao Paulo director Alexandre Passaro said they have not yet been notified that Barca wish to purchase Maia, however.

"Whether he will go to Barcelona or not, we can't be sure, because they have until June 30 to notify us and they still haven't," said Passaro.

"The last time I spoke to them they said everything is very uncertain.

"LaLiga set the restart of games for June 11. Who knows, they may give us a signal in the next 30 days to find out whether Maia is going or not."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen revealed talks over a new contract at Barcelona stopped when the coronavirus pandemic hit, but he reassured supporters there is no chance of him leaving.

German goalkeeper Ter Stegen joined Barca in 2014 from Borussia Monchengladbach, and despite being understudy to Claudio Bravo for two years in LaLiga, his potential was never in doubt.

Since becoming first choice for the 2016-17 campaign, Ter Stegen has barely been out of the team, proving a dependable and consistent performer.

His last contract extension in May 2017 saw him renew until 2022, and with little over two years remaining on that deal, some fans may have worried about the 28-year-old potentially moving on.

Although Ter Stegen acknowledged talks were shelved earlier this year, he is adamant that was the appropriate action given the sensitive situation regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking on the Kicker Meets DAZN podcast, Ter Stegen said: "It's not possible for me to leave this summer.

"There were already the first meetings between my agent and the club [regarding a contract extension], then the coronavirus issue came up and it was not time to discuss a contract.

"At a time when many people are concerned about their lives, we decided to postpone it. I feel good in Barcelona, ​​also because my family feels good."

LaLiga is set to resume behind closed doors next week and Barca will return to action with a two-point lead over Real Madrid at the summit. Both sides have 11 matches remaining.

Although LaLiga's hiatus is approaching the three-month mark, Ter Stegen believes Barca are in peak physical condition and he is fully aware Madrid will not let them coast to the title.

"Physically, we have rarely been at such a high level," he said. "And mentally we will be much more focused on the matches left. Despite being in a good position, Real Madrid will not give us anything.

"New football will, of course, be different, we do not have to fool ourselves, a game without an audience is not the most attractive thing, but the ball will roll and that is what pleases us."

Jean-Clair Todibo looks set to leave Schalke and return to Barcelona at the end of the season.

An option to make the French defender's loan stay a €25million permanent switch has expired, Schalke's head of sport Jochen Schneider announced.

Schalke have been out of sorts in 2020, with January recruit Todibo unable to prevent the team going 11 Bundesliga matches without a win.

Speaking about Todibo, Schneider told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday: "The deadline passed yesterday. We no longer have a purchase option.

"Contract extensions are currently not an issue for us. We should rather focus on performance."

Todibo, 20, has made four starts and four appearances as a substitute in the Bundesliga since moving from Camp Nou, playing 363 minutes in the German top flight.

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is attracting plenty of interest in Europe.

Milinkovic-Savic has been linked to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Real Madrid, though, are reportedly fighting to bring the Serbia international to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE REACHES OUT TO LAZIO STAR

Zinedine Zidane has approached Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic regarding a move to Real Madrid, according to Le10Sport.

Milinkovic-Savic is a player in demand, linked to Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Zidane is interested in bringing Milinkovic-Savic to the Spanish capital, however, the Serbian midfielder reportedly wants to team up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are eyeing Ajax and United States sensation Sergino Dest. PSG are also reportedly interested in the 19-year-old full-back as a replacement for Thomas Meunier.

- Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic is being chased by Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1 outfit Monaco, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Luka Modric to Milan? The Madrid veteran was reportedly poised to swap the Santiago Bernabeu for San Siro at season's end. However, Calciomercato says the move is off after Zvonimir Boban's Milan exit.

- After Mauro Icardi completed a permanent transfer to PSG, Calciomercato reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of Juve's list of targets.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Chelsea and Juve are set to hold talks over a deal that would see Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi swap clubs.

Madrid have been favourites to sign Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, but Le10Sport says PSG are preparing a sensational move for the 17-year-old.

- Could Raheem Sterling swap City for Manchester neighbours United? The Independent reports the Red Devils have placed Sterling high up in priority amid uncertainty over City's Champions League ban. Sterling, though, appears more likely to go to Madrid. RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly remain on United's list as they continue to target Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti said "you cannot hold someone who has the idea of being somewhere else" as Lautaro Martinez continues to be linked with Barcelona.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A's Inter for LaLiga champions Barca, who are determined to sign a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez.

Despite Barca's reported interest amid the coronavirus pandemic, Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio insisted Martinez will not be sold for anything less than his €111million buyout clause.

Asked about Argentina international Martinez, Moratti told Sportmediaset: "You can't hold someone who has the idea of ​​being somewhere else. 

"That would put him in a position to remain involuntarily or, in any case with a different impulse, in the same place."

While Martinez's future has dominated headlines, Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali has emerged as a target for Antonio Conte's Inter.

The 20-year-old midfielder – likened to Italian great Andrea Pirlo – has also been linked to the likes of Juventus, Barca and Manchester United.

"Right now here maybe we have to see how [Christian] Eriksen is doing, but otherwise he is a great midfielder," Moratti said. "Then you will need someone on the wings, certainly."

Lionel Messi's enthusiasm is contagious as LaLiga leaders Barcelona prepare to return following the coronavirus pandemic, according to team-mate Jordi Alba.

Suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

Barca, who were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 rounds at the time of postponement, will return with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13.

Captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has provided plenty of motivation ahead of the league's resumption, with left-back Alba telling TVE: "He's a vital player of us and we should enjoy having him all the time.

"Seeing Leo with the enthusiasm he's come back with is contagious for the rest of the group."

Messi had topped LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 19, ahead of Madrid forward Karim Benzema (14).

"I see the team as having a lot of enthusiasm," Spain international Alba added.

"Mentally and physically we players have come back really well I would say, even better than we were before."

Meanwhile, defending champions Barca continue to be linked with former star Neymar – who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

On a possible return, Alba said: "He's clearly a unique player and he gave us a lot. He chose and looked for other goals."

Lucas Vazquez relished a return to full training at Real Madrid and hopes they can win all their remaining LaLiga games to overthrow Barcelona.

LaLiga clubs were on Monday able to train without restrictions on group size for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic led to the season being suspended in March.

The season will get back under way on June 11, with Madrid sitting two points adrift of leaders Barca with 11 games remaining.

Madrid's first game after the restart is against Eibar and Vazquez hopes it can be the start of a winning streak that enables Zinedine Zidane's men to claim a first league title since 2017.

"Eibar is the starting point for the 11 finals we have left and hopefully we can record wins in every game until the end and win the title," Vazquez told Real Madrid TV.

He added: "We like to train with all our team-mates together, enjoying the football.

"It's what we all like, training sessions in which we can all enjoy the football together. We're training to try and get into our stride for the start of the season.

"Football is made up of several factors, such as the physical side, which is very important, and the mental side. That combination of the two means that we can go into the league in good shape."

According to Marca, Madrid president Florentino Perez has informed club members they will play their remaining LaLiga games at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano at their Valdebebas training ground to enable renovation work to begin on the Santiago Bernabeu.

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