Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic said he would like to play with Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as doubts remain over his future at Camp Nou.

Rakitic was heavily linked to Serie A duo Juventus and Inter before the transfer window closed, while Premier League giants Manchester United were also reportedly interested.

It came as Rakitic was reportedly offered to Ligue 1's Paris Saint-Germain as part of a deal to prise Neymar back to Camp Nou at the start of the season.

Rakitic continues to be linked with Italian champions Juve and when asked if he would like to play alongside five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, the 31-year-old told Bleacher Report Football: "Of course I would.

"He is also one of the greatest players in history.

"You enjoy watching him play and he's doing well at Juventus."

Rakitic is currently team-mates with Barca captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi and he said: "It's amazing to play with him - he's special. There have been great players in every era, but I'm sure he's been the best in the last 15 years.

"In my opinion, I think he's the best of all time. Being with him for six years has been incredible."

Rakitic previously vented his frustration with how head coach Ernesto Valverde and his staff were treated upon their sacking in January, admitting he considered leaving Barcelona.

"It's a part of football," Rakitic said. "You have to understand that and be ready [to potentially leave] in January.

"You have to be happy, you have to think about your family, and if I play for Barcelona I am happy."

Former Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he would prefer working in Australia rather than the Premier League.

Valverde was sacked by Barca in January, despite leading the Spanish giants to back-to-back LaLiga titles and Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana success.

Contemplating his next move as Valverde enjoys a break from football, a shock A-League gig is high on the 56-year-old's list.

"People ask me sometimes 'How about the Premier League?' and I say 'Well actually I'd like to go to Australia'," Valverde said.

"A career in football does not last forever and sometimes you think you have to take the opportunity to live in strange places."

Valverde referenced former Barca captain Andres Iniesta, who left Camp Nou for Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018.

"I applauded Andres when he told me he's going to Japan," added Valverde. I thought 'Wow, he gets to understand a different culture and different people', and I am also very interested in Japan.

"You can take great photos in Japan. There are many places I'd like to go to. We'll see what I end up doing, I haven't been out of work for very long so I don't have to decide anything yet, I haven't got a very clear idea at the moment.

"It's possible I'd go somewhere abroad. The truth is I like to do strange things so I wouldn't rule it out."

Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is currently in charge of A-League outfit Brisbane Roar, while former Reds and Bayern Munich star Markus Babbel was working in Australia until he was sacked by Western Sydney Wanderers last month.

Ernesto Valverde is reluctant to consider whether he was harshly treated at Barcelona following his Camp Nou sacking in January.

The former Athletic Bilbao coach had been in charge of Barca since May 2017, winning LaLiga in each of his two full seasons, also claiming the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana in 2018.

But the Blaugrana's Champions League humblings at the hands of Roma and Liverpool in consecutive campaigns, collapsing from healthy first-leg leads on both occasions, increased pressure on Valverde.

A Supercopa semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid ultimately spelled the end for Valverde, yet he is choosing not to spend too much time reflecting on his departure.

"I don't think about that," Valverde said at the Bilbao International Football Summit. "If I have been unfairly treated, I have to avoid it.

"It's about turning the page. In the end, we are thinking about what has happened and why. We're going to look forward, I don't have to look back."

Sporting director Eric Abidal sparked a row with Lionel Messi and chaos at Camp Nou last week as he suggested Barcelona players were not working hard enough for Valverde before the head coach's exit.

But Valverde would not speculate on the matter, adding: "Why did I leave? It is not a question for me.

"This is a part of our trade that you have to accept. Would I like it to be different? Yes, of course."

Valverde, who also represented Barcelona as a player, acknowledged he was well aware of the scrutiny he would face at the Catalan club upon his arrival.

"I was incredibly fortunate to coach Barca," he said. "I have been there as a player. I know what it means when you go to a club of this calibre. I am delighted to have been there.

"When you sign the contract, you know that you are important at the club and, from there, decide the results. We know that the coach is responsible for the players' performances."

Barcelona are three points behind rivals and LaLiga leaders Real Madrid under new coach Quique Setien, while they face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League later this month.

Jadon Sancho is a player in demand.

The former Manchester City youth player is a man in demand due to exploits with Borussia Dortmund.

The Premier League's elite are circling…

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL WANT SANCHO AMID UNITED LINKS

Liverpool want to sign Borussia Dortmund star and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Mail.

United are reportedly confident of luring the 19-year-old England international to Old Trafford, ahead of Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, a fresh report claims Premier League leaders Liverpool have joined the race for the teenager as Jurgen Klopp hopes to take advantage of the relationship with former club Dortmund. Sky Germany also says Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are preparing to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, reports El Confidencial. Neymar, who left Barca for a world-record €222m fee in 2017, has been heavily linked with a return to Camp Nou. After missing out on an off-season move, Neymar could be on his way back to the LaLiga giants – who are reportedly willing to sell one or two players to finance the blockbuster transfer.

- According to The Sun, Chelsea are battling United for the signature of 16-year-old Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham, who could cost up to £50million. The teenager has also attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

- United recruit Odion Ighalo has been barred from the club's training ground due to ongoing coronavirus precautions, says The Mirror. Ighalo arrived from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, moving to United on loan until the end of the season. The Nigeria international, however, has not been allowed to train at Carrington.

Barca have ruled out signing Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose, reports Marca. With Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez sidelined, Barca are set to receive permission to sign an emergency forward within Spain. Real Betis' Loren Moron now reportedly tops the list of targets.

- Sandro Tonali has been valued at €55m and €60m by Brescia amid interest from Serie A champions Juventus and Inter, according to Calciomercato.

- Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich are eyeing Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka, reports the Daily Mail.

- AS claims Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu is at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war between Madrid, United and Atletico Madrid.

Manchester United or Chelsea?

The two Premier League giants are reportedly going head-to-head in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund teenager and England international Jadon Sancho.

And the Manchester club feel they can prise the 19-year-old to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BELIEVE THEY CAN PIP CHELSEA TO SANCHO

Manchester United are confident they will beat rivals Chelsea to the signing of in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, claims The Mirror.

Sancho is reportedly keen on returning to England, where the 19-year-old played for Manchester City's youth team before joining Bundesliga outfit Dortmund in 2017.

Dortmund are apparently willing to offload Sancho at the right price and Premier League giants United believe they can prise the England international to Old Trafford in a deal worth £120million (€142.5m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Will Mauricio Pochettino land at Old Trafford? According to journalist Duncan Castles, the former Tottenham manager is determined to take charge of United . His representatives are reportedly confident of convincing United's hierarchy that Pochettino is the right man for the job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles, with the Red Devils eighth in the Premier League.

- The Sun reports United are set for a double swoop to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish and Leicester City attacker James Maddison . Grealish has reportedly given the go-ahead for a move to Old Trafford, while Maddison has apparently been in talks over a contract extension with Leicester.

Marcelo Brozovic to Real Madrid? Mundo Deportivo says the Inter and Croatia international midfielder is wanted by the LaLiga giants. Madrid have also been linked to United's Paul Pogba and Ajax star Donny van de Beek

Barcelona have been told it will take €35m to sign Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, reports Marca. Barca are looking to strengthen their attack following long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

- According to The Express, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is plotting a £120m transfer spree at the end of the season. Benfica defender Ruben Dias is a target, as well as Norwich City's Max Aarons, Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake and Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

Stefano Pioli is contracted to Milan until 2021 but the head coach – who replaced Marco Giampaolo at the start of the campaign – is no certainty to continue beyond this season. According to Calciomercato, Elliott Management want Ralf Rangnick but Paolo Maldini is reportedly pushing for former Milan striker and current Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko.

- Football Insider claims Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new £50m deal amid reported interest from Serie A champions Juventus.

Former Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre said Neymar can forget about birthday parties in Brazil if the Paris Saint-Germain star returns to Camp Nou.

Neymar has been heavily linked with a Barca reunion after leaving the LaLiga champions for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

The Brazil forward wanted a Barca return in the off-season, but a move away from the Ligue 1 giants did not materialise.

Asked about Neymar, Mestre – who resigned in July – told Mundo Deportivo: "The players asked for him, but didn't pressurise the club. I came off badly in that.

"If he had come back and the club had benefitted because of it, I wouldn't have a problem with that. I'm not that proud.

"On sporting terms he could come back but on a series of conditions. Firstly, PSG have to agree, then he would have to withdraw his lawsuit and acknowledge that he was in the wrong and after that, all the birthday parties in Brazil would have to stop.

"There were players from the first team squad who were at a wedding with him but had no idea that he wanted to leave."

On his own exit from Barca, Mestre said: "I felt I'd been fighting an uphill battle for some time. I had a different ideas about things to other board members but it wasn't important.

"I realised that I was the only one who thought in a certain way. The football committee which comprised [Josep Maria] Bartomeu, [Javier] Bordas, [Jaume] Elias and [Xavier] Vilajoana were not in agreement with me or with Pep Segura in his role as general manager. I was the only one who defended him and I felt alone."

It has been a turbulent period for Barca – who are three points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid – after head coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked, while superstar captain Lionel Messi was involved in a public row with director of football Eric Abidal.

"You have to recognise the merits of everything they have achieved in recent years," Mestre said. "The least they deserve is some respect and gratitude but you also have to be aware that nothing lasts forever. We are going through a transition and so you have to give people time and be patient."

Philippe Coutinho is not surprised to see former club Liverpool dominate the Premier League but insists he does not "look back" despite enduring a difficult time since leaving Anfield.

Coutinho left Liverpool for Barcelona in January 2018 in a move potentially worth €160million (£142m), but, after initially impressing at Camp Nou, he failed to convince in his first full LaLiga season and was allowed to leave on loan for Bayern Munich, who also have a purchase option.

He has been similarly underwhelming in the Bundesliga, however, making just 12 league starts out of a possible 21.

Bayern have supposedly already decided they will not trigger their buy option, which is reportedly set at €120m.

While Coutinho has struggled after leaving Liverpool, the Reds have gone from strength to strength and look destined to add Premier League success to last season's Champions League crown – but the Brazilian insists he has only happy thoughts for his former club.

"Liverpool is flying, and it doesn't surprise me," Coutinho told Sports Illustrated. "We've seen it already last year when they won the Champions League, but I'm also not surprised because of their fantastic squad and manager.

"I am so happy for them, because I have so many friends there, former team-mates, so I'm just so happy for them. But that's it. I don't look back.

"I took another path, and now I am on another journey, much like everyone else. I'm focused entirely – just like them – on reaching my dreams.

"I'm happy with what I did in the past, and now I can only look forward."

Despite Coutinho's occasional issues at Bayern, Hansi Flick – who is in charge at least until the end of the season – recently offered words of encouragement for him, and the Brazil international has been impressed by the former assistant of Niko Kovac.

"He [Flick] is working so hard, and thanks to him the team is playing well and that's what's most important," he added.

"It can't be easy to manage a team like Bayern Munich, and I think he came in and has been doing a great job."

Following Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to RB Leipzig, Bayern remain one point clear of Julian Nagelsmann's side at the Bundesliga summit.

Barcelona expect Ousmane Dembele to be sidelined for six months, meaning a new signing could be imminent at Camp Nou.

Under LaLiga regulations, teams can look to the transfer market outside the window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

However, they can only sign individuals from the top two tiers in Spain, or those who are available as free agents.

With Luis Suarez also ruled out until May, we look at the options Barca could go for in order to bolster their attack.

 

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

The former Real Madrid striker was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham during the January transfer window but a move did not come to fruition. However, Barca reportedly only have a budget of €12million, which could prove to be insufficient to sign Willian Jose, who has fallen behind Alexander Isak in the pecking order at the Reale Arena.

Angel Rodriguez (Getafe)

A more realistic option appears to be Getafe's Rodriguez, who is believed to have €10m release clause. The 32-year-old has scored nine LaLiga goals for Jose Bordalas' Champions League-chasing side this season but has started just six top-flight matches.

Lucas Perez

After failing to make his mark in the Premier League at Arsenal and West Ham, at Deportivo Alaves Perez has rediscovered the sort of form that encouraged the Gunners to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016. He has scored nine LaLiga goals and laid on four more for Alaves this season and strike partner Joselu, formerly of Real Madrid, this week revealed he has urged Perez not to join Barca.

Loren Moron

Head coach Quique Setien coached Moron for two seasons at Real Betis and he is the club's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season, finding the net eight times and supplying two assists. Betis president Angel Haro said at the weekend there has been no official contact from Barca, and Moron's release clause is understood to stand at €40m.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

The injury-plagued Frenchman will miss the rest of the season and is unlikely to return in time for France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins in June.

Barca confirmed on February 6 that Dembele was due to go under the knife in Finland, with the winger having suffered a ruptured tendon in his proximal hamstring in his right thigh.

Following the procedure on Tuesday, Barca expect the former Borussia Dortmund talent to be out until August.

Dembele has endured an injury nightmare at Barca, suffering several serious problems since arriving at Camp Nou for an initial €105million in August 2017.

This term he has been limited to just nine appearances across all competitions, the last coming against former club Dortmund on November 27.

Barca are expected to be granted special dispensation to sign a replacement for Dembele, though regulations will limit them to a free agent or a domestic player.

The injury is also sure to impact France's preparations for Euro 2020.

Dembele has been a regular for the world champions ever since making his debut in 2016, but he will now likely play no part in the European Championship.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

Juventus are reportedly lining up an incredible move for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola has been in charge of City since 2016 and is contracted to remain at the helm of the Premier League champions until the end of next season.

However, Juve seemingly have other ideas.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS PLAN TO MAKE MOVE FOR GUARDIOLA

Juventus will give Guardiola whatever it takes to join them ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, according to The Sun.

The Serie A giants were linked with a stunning move for the Spaniard last year, but did not get their man.

Guardiola apparently intends to honour his contract at City, but Juve are prepared to give him whatever he wants.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho has no plans to return to Barcelona and wants to make his move to Bayern Munich permanent, according to Catalunya Radio. The Bundesliga club hold an option to buy the attacker, but are reportedly yet to make a decision over whether they will make the move permanent.

- Barcelona are not yet giving up on signing Willian Jose from Real Sociedad. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are still considering the attacker amid a negotiable price despite Willian Jose's buyout clause being set at €70million.

- Jose Mourinho is planning for next season at Tottenham. The Daily Express reports the Spurs head coach is looking to spend £120m on defenders ahead of 2020-21, with Benfica's Ruben Dias and Bournemouth's Nathan Ake leading the list of targets.

- Liverpool tried to sign Villarreal attacker Samuel Chukwueze during January, according to France Football, which reports the European champions offered £29.6m (€35m) for the Nigeria international. Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express says Liverpool are set to offer 18-year-old full-back Neco Williams a new contract.

- Amid surprise reports Barcelona tried to bring Andres Iniesta back to Camp Nou in January, Marca says the LaLiga club's sporting management never considered a return to the club for the Vissel Kobe midfielder.

- Inter are set to decide in the next 48 hours whether to sign goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano after the 34-year-old completed medicals at the Serie A high-flyers, according to CalcioMercato. Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic suffered a finger injury last week.

Aritz Aduriz hopes to end his Athletic Bilbao career by winning the Copa del Rey, admitting he had grown tired of watching Barcelona and Real Madrid "win everything".

Athletic knocked Barca out of the competition at the quarter-final stage last week thanks to a stoppage-time own goal from Sergio Busquets.

Madrid had earlier been defeated 4-3 at home by Athletic's Basque rivals Real Sociedad, marking the first time in 65 years that Spain's grandest two clubs had been eliminated from the Copa on the same day.

The semi-finals will see Athletic face Granada and Sociedad take on Mirandes, with the decision to reformat the competition by removing two-legged ties prior to the last four paying dividends for some of Spain's lesser lights.

Aduriz was part of the team beaten by Barca in the 2015 final, during the Catalans' run of winning the trophy in four consecutive years.

Indeed, Athletic have lost three Copa finals to Barca since 2009, and Aduriz is now eager to end his career by making the most of a more level playing field.

"[The new format] is not discredited; on the contrary, it has more value," said the striker at the Panenka magazine gala. "We are a little tired of seeing Barcelona and Real Madrid win everything.

"But it is nice to see competitions with more dynamism. You can see it in England, [where] it's enriching. It's a format that people like.

"I have been fantasising about [winning the cup] for a long time. At the beginning, it was a fantasy, and it may be closer now, although it is very difficult.

"Imagine retiring from football this season and winning a title. It's anyone's dream."

Aduriz also made it clear he is in favour of VAR, despite persistent criticism of the technology from across Europe's top leagues.

VAR has been criticised since its introduction, but Aduriz stressed he is in favour of the new technology.

"I love VAR," he said. "It is clear that we have to improve. It is new and it will evolve, but there is more success than the opposite.

"It makes me calmer on the pitch."

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.

Frenkie de Jong said it is easy playing alongside Barcelona captain Lionel Messi after he guided the LaLiga champions past Real Betis.

Messi was instrumental with a hat-trick of assists as Barca twice came from behind to beat Betis 3-2 on Sunday.

After a turbulent week following a public row with director of football Eric Abidal, Messi was back doing what he does best – leading Barca to victory.

Messi teed up De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Clement Lenglet, who scored the 72nd-minute winner before he was sent off along with Betis star Nabil Fekir.

On six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, Barca midfielder De Jong said: "It's easy to play by his side because he gives you balls into space, it's not that I have a special connection, but he gives you good balls in space."

It was the perfect response for Barca, who bounced back from their shock 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Thursday.

Barca's victory away to Betis kept the defending champions within three points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid.

"It was very important to win the game and that was not easy, although in the end we could have won by more goals, for the penalty they didn't give Messi. It was clear, he caught him and pushed him," De Jong said.

"It was hard to lose in the [Copa del Rey] because it was in the last minute and we had a good game. I think we deserved more but we have to look forward."

On his own performance, Netherlands international De Jong – who arrived from Eredivisie champions Ajax in the off-season – added: "I think that was one of my best games after suffering a bit in the last few. But it wasn't brilliant either."

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."

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