Antoine Griezmann said he can do it. Quique Setien thinks Ousmane Dembele can do it. But is Ansu Fati best placed to fill in for Luis Suarez at Barcelona?

The 17-year-old was one of Ernesto Valverde's final plus points for the club, the former head coach handing a chance to the youngster that has allowed him to go from La Masia hopeful to Lionel Messi strike-partner in a matter of months.

With Suarez not expected to return until the season is pretty much over, Barca were expected to sign a number nine in the transfer window. The fact that they didn't is something the board will have to explain, but another time. Sunday's win over Levante was all about Ansu.

Griezmann might have been deployed as the centre-forward, but Fati was the most threatening player on the pitch. Records tend to fall every few weeks in this player's life: Barca's second-youngest LaLiga player, youngest league goalscorer, youngest Champions League player, youngest Champions League goalscorer, and youngest to score and assist in the same LaLiga match.

Now, he has another: at 17 years and 94 days old, he is the youngest player to score two goals in a single LaLiga match in the competition's history. More importantly for Barca, this was no fun-filled cameo with the team cruising to victory - this was a match-winning performance, a double to secure a 2-1 win that could have been more comfortable had others shown Fati's clinical touch.

Only Messi managed more shots (10) and more efforts on target (six) than Fati (five and two). Barca's captain was also the only player to better Fati for chances created (seven, compared to three). It should come as no surprise that Messi set up both goals, the first with a particularly sumptuous throughball.

Perhaps more impressively, no Barca player made more tackles than Fati (four), with Gerard Pique closest on two. That paints a picture of an attacking player not afraid to shirk responsibilities when it comes to pressing defenders and helping Barca sustain pressure in the opposition half.

Of course, no amount of hard work from a forward will excuse a failure to stick the ball between the white posts, but that is a quality Fati has never lacked. His first goal showcased his lightning pace but also a surprising level of strength, as he shoved away his marker before composedly slotting beneath goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez with his right foot. His second underlined what he makes him such a threat: unpredictability. Messi played the ball into feet this time, and Fati shifted to his left before drilling in a low shot through Aitor, who could have done better.

The ability to score with either foot with ease keeps defenders wary and makes it significantly harder for opposition teams to prepare containment plans. A determined work ethic lets centre-backs know they will never be given a moment's peace when this forward is on the pitch. A good understanding with Messi is a pretty useful bonus.

Suarez has all these qualities; it seems Fati does, too. Maybe Barca didn't need a new striker after all.

Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati led the way for Barcelona as Quique Setien's men did just enough to claim a 2-1 win over Levante at Camp Nou on Sunday, moving them back to within three points of leaders Real Madrid.

After a remarkable breakthrough at the start of the season, Fati had recently come in for criticism amid some underwhelming displays, but he showed just how effective he can be as Messi carved open the Levante defence.

Fati took his top-flight tally to four with a pair of strikes separated by just 102 seconds in the first half, profiting from the brilliance of Messi on both occasions to become the youngest player to score a LaLiga brace this century.

Levante offered a lot more from an attacking perspective after the break and deservedly pulled one back through Barca academy product Ruben Rochina in stoppage time, but Fati's efforts had put the game beyond the visitors, despite a hat-trick ultimately eluding the 17-year-old.

After easing their way into the contest, Barca crafted a flurry of chances after the 13th minute – Messi shooting agonisingly wide and then testing Aitor Fernandez, before Antoine Griezmann prodded just off target.

Levante were eventually breached after half an hour as Messi fed Fati with an exquisite throughball and the teenager clinically slotted home.

The same pair combined again less than two minutes later, Fati this time firing through the legs of the unconvincing Fernandez.

The lead should have been extended before half-time, but Nelson Semedo hit the crossbar and Griezmann inexplicably missed from inside the six-yard box.

Barca were fortunate to not concede early in the second half – Jose Luis Morales galloping through on goal and seeing his effort saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with Rochina hopelessly blazing the rebound over.

Fati was not far off getting a third in the 73rd minute when his overhead-kick went just past the left-hand post, while Levante finally got on the scoresheet soon after wasting two fine chances – Rochina's strike hitting Ter Stegen and going in.

 

What does it mean? A welcome win but defensive concerns remain

Barca were abysmal in their previous LaLiga match, the 2-0 defeat at Valencia that preceded the Copa del Rey demolition of Leganes.

In Mestalla they left a lot to be desired at the back and again they failed to keep a clean sheet on Sunday, with those concerns still prominent. Levante could – and arguably should – have had more than one goal to show for their efforts.

Fati gets a timely boost

It would be unfair to be too harsh on a teenager, particularly considering he is obviously talented, but Fati's impact of late had been minimal. On Sunday, however, he was lively, intelligent with his movement and a creative outlet, providing three key passes on top of his two goals.

Griezmann is no Suarez

Luis Suarez was always going to be tricky to replace, even for Griezmann. There were hints of promise in the first half as the Frenchman got into some good positions, but he wasted one particularly good opportunity. None of his three shots were on target and he did not create any chances either – Suarez is often productive on both fronts..

What's next?

Barca return to Copa del Rey action on Thursday at Athletic Bilbao, before heading to Seville to face Setien's former club Real Betis in LaLiga three days later. Levante host Leganes on Saturday.

Liverpool might be cruising towards the title but the runaway Premier League leaders could still face a crucial fight in the near future.

According to a new report, star centre-back Virgil van Dijk has become a top target for Italian giants Juventus.

Could a record-breaking transfer to Turin appeal to the Netherlands international?

 

TOP STORY – JUVE SET SIGHTS ON VAN DIJK

Maurizio Sarri's Juve have identified Reds defender Van Dijk as the man to help achieve their Champions League dream, according to The Sun.

The Bianconeri are said to be preparing a €178.5million (£150m) offer that could force Liverpool to consider parting company with the 28-year-old, who swapped Southampton for Merseyside in a £75m move in January 2018.

The report claims Van Dijk "may be open to a move abroad" if he wins the Premier League this term, which now appears a mere formality.

The proposed fee would eclipse the £80m that saw Harry Maguire leave Leicester City for Manchester United and again make Van Dijk the world's most expensive player in his position.

 

ROUND-UP 

- After signing Maguire, the Red Devils appear to be pining for another expensive defender. The Daily Star suggests the club will ramp up their attempts to capture Kalidou Koulibaly in the close season - although the Napoli centre-back could cost up to £90m.

- Arsenal rejected a deadline-day approach for Mesut Ozil from an unnamed Qatar club, the Mirror states. Ozil, 31, reportedly "would have been willing to listen" to an offer, but the contact came too late for the Gunners to arrange a replacement.

- LaLiga leaders Real Madrid considered signing teenage attacker Amine Gouiri and contacted Lyon before deciding against lodging a formal January bid, according to L'Equipe.

- Their title rivals Barcelona are close to agreeing a deal that will see Chelsea winger Willian arrive on a free at season's end, reports Marca.

- Gouiri is not the only Lyon youngster attracting interest. Milan, already planning for next season, are monitoring the Ligue 1 club's promising right-back Pierre Kalulu, claims CalcioMercato.

Quique Setien insists Barcelona's depleted squad has more than enough quality to compete on multiple fronts during the second half of the season.

Barca allowed four players to leave Camp Nou during the January transfer window, with Moussa Wague, Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Perez and Carles Alena departing on loan.

The Spanish champions did announce the signings of Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on deadline day, but they will not officially arrive until the end of the season.

Barca host Levante on Sunday and Setien is unconcerned at the number of players at his disposal as they look to retain their LaLiga title and win the Champions League for the first time since 2015.

He told a media conference: "We have fewer players now but we've got a B team behind us and those young players are ready. Some are already training with the first team and we're getting a chance to look at them. I'm sure they will help us out when we need them.

"You could think the team is weaker, but you never know that. Sometimes things can turn out differently. You can guess what might happen but I wouldn't waste your energy."

Asked if he prefers operating with a smaller squad, Setien said: "What hurts me, and always had done, is picking teams and having to leave players out. I like to have fewer players. That way, everyone is plugged into what you're doing.

"There is a risk attached to that sometimes but it's good to have a smaller squad. People have more chance of playing; they're ready and more motivated.

"Having 18 real players is better than having 25 or 26 not playing. That can cause more danger than having a smaller squad."

Barca resume their Champions League campaign later in the month with the first leg of their last-16 tie against Napoli.

Despite having fewer players to call on, Setien is sure his side will be in the mix during the latter stages of the competition.

"If I was one of the opponents, I wouldn't count Barca out," he said. "Yes, you can always have a bad day. Of the six, seven or eight candidates, only one can win; that's the reality.

"I'm convinced we will be in contention. We're excited about it. We have a chance, like all the other big teams do. No more or less than any of those."

Quique Setien declared Neymar's interest in a Camp Nou comeback to be good news as the Barcelona boss detailed his desire to keep Lionel Messi happy.

Brazil international Neymar attempted to engineer a return to his former employers last year and, though seemingly now fully committed to Paris Saint-Germain, his future could still lay in LaLiga.

Barca have been tipped to reignite negotiations further down the line and their new head coach would welcome the star forward's arrival.

"That's good," Setien told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Neymar's desire for a second Barca stint.

"I love to watch and have great footballers and if I can watch Neymar every day, just imagine."

Barca captain Messi was among those pushing hardest for his former team-mate's return, admitting he would have "loved" the transfer to go ahead.

The 32-year-old claimed "some people were against" moving for Neymar despite the boost he could have given in their pursuit of yet more trophies.

Setien is hopeful the mercurial Messi continues to feel enthusiastic about life in Catalonia, with his contract due to expire next year.

"I hope we make him so happy that he is looking forward to staying," the Blaugrana boss said in a separate interview with Sport. "He will be here in the future, I have no doubts.

"The talks have been very normal as with any other player. He is very convinced that we can win. He is perceived to be a winner and cares that things are done well.

"He takes interest in the talks. He knows he is an important part, one that can solve many games, but we have to rely on the team to be stronger."

Barca, second behind Real Madrid in LaLiga, host Levante on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti has insisted Everton have no plans to sell Richarlison in the close season.

The 22-year-old Brazil international was reportedly the subject of a €100million (£85m) bid from LaLiga giants Barcelona earlier this week, though both Everton and the Blaugrana have since dismissed the speculation.

Richarlison, signed for a reported £40m potentially rising to £50m from Watford in 2018, has become a key figure for Everton since his arrival at Goodison Park.

He scored 14 goals in all competitions in his first season and, despite Marco Silva's struggles and ultimate sacking, has found the net 10 times this campaign.

Everton boss Ancelotti sees Richarlison as a key player moving forward, with the striker having signed a long-term deal in December, shortly before Silva was sacked following a 5-2 defeat to Liverpool.

"I don't think it will be difficult to resist because it is enough to say no," Ancelotti told reporters when pressed on the possibility of selling Richarlison.

"There is no possibility because Richarlison is an important part of the future of Everton like the other young players we have – [Jordan] Pickford, [Mason] Holgate, [Moise] Kean, [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin.

"We have a lot of young players. This is the base from which the club has to build the future, and Richarlison is part of it.

"Everything can happen in football. If an offer arrives that you cannot refuse, and it is an offer that can improve the squad, then why not? But, now, I can say Richarlison is an important part.

"I was not here when he renewed [his contract] but the fact that he renewed made me happy because he's a fantastic player. He can play everywhere.

"Technically he can improve but his movement is really good, his heading is fantastic, I was surprised, and he has a lot of power in his legs. He is a really complete striker."

Ancelotti also confirmed Andre Gomes – who has been out since November after sustaining a serious ankle injury against Tottenham – could be in line to face Arsenal on February 23 after he returned to training.

The January transfer window is over, meaning the top clubs in Europe have to go with what they have got for the remainder of the season.

There have been some huge deals across the continent, with much of the major action was completed early on in the window.

Namely, Erling Haaland joined Borussia Dortmund, and the Norwegian sensation has already made a flying start in the Bundesliga.

Haaland's former Salzburg team-mate Takumi Minamino has joined runaway Premier League leaders, while there was also the small matter of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Milan.

Here, we take a look at the best deals that went through.

Erling Haaland: Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund (€22.5m)

Haaland was arguably the most sought-after player in the January transfer window, with Dortmund reportedly beating RB Leipzig, Juventus and Manchester United to his signature. It already looks like the striker will take the Bundesliga by storm, having scored five goals in two substitute appearances that have lasted a cumulative 59 minutes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: LA Galaxy to Milan (free transfer)

At 38, not many players would have their pick of clubs, but Ibrahimovic certainly did. He took his time in deciding his next move after leaving LA Galaxy but, amid links to Bologna and Napoli, the Swede plumped to join his former club Milan. His impact at San Siro has been instant, with Milan unbeaten since his return, winning five of their six games in all competitions.

Takumi Minamino: Salzburg to Liverpool (£7.25m)

Haaland may have been the Salzburg player who drew the most attention, but Japan international Minamino should prove to be a bargain for Liverpool. The European champions moved quickly to bring in the 25-year-old for a measly fee of £7.25m. Able to play anywhere in the front three or even as an attacking midfielder, Minamino scored nine goals for Salzburg in all competitions this season before getting his big move and is a great back-up for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Dani Olmo: Dinamo Zagreb to RB Leipzig (up to €35m)

A star of Spain’s triumphant side in the Under-21 European Championships, Olmo has carried on his sparkling form from last season to become one of the most in-demand youngsters in European football. Having scored five Champions League goals this term, the 21-year-old was linked with a return to Barcelona, but ultimately opted to join Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig – a team which would seem to be an ideal place for the playmaker to continue his development.

Raul de Tomas: Benfica to Espanyol (€20m)

Another club-record signing in LaLiga, De Tomas seems a gamble for such a fee, although one worth taking for an Espanyol side at serious risk of the drop. He might not have settled in Lisbon, but De Tomas was a persistent goalscorer at Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano and €20m will seem a snip if he keeps Espanyol in the top flight.

Paco Alcacer: Borussia Dortmund to Villarreal (€23m)

Ruthless in a Valencia shirt and too-often unused at Barcelona, Alcacer returns to LaLiga after scoring 23 goals in 37 Bundesliga appearances, despite problems with injury, after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Dortmund following Haaland's arrival. It might be a club-record purchase but, if he can fire Villarreal into top-four contention, it will be money well spent.

Julian Weigl: Borussia Dortmund to Benfica (€20m)

Weigl has had some of Europe's biggest clubs following his every move in recent seasons, with Manchester City said to be keen and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly prepared to pay up to €75m to reunite him with Thomas Tuchel. Having struggled for form and minutes under Lucien Favre, Weigl decided his best bet at this stage of his career was to pursue regular game time with Benfica. Still only 24, he will look an absolute bargain if he can recapture his early promise in Portugal.

Alvaro Odriozola: Real Madrid to Bayern Munich (loan)

It would be fair to say things have not quite worked out for Odriozola at Real Madrid, with the full-back having made just 18 LaLiga appearances in total for Los Blancos since his move from Real Sociedad. However, the 24-year-old has been handed the opportunity to prove he can cut it at the highest level at Bayern Munich, who were in desperate need of defensive reinforcements due to injuries to Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule.

Pablo Mari: Flamengo to Arsenal (loan with option to buy)

Mikel Arteta was desperate for a left-footed centre-back and in Mari he has found one that, after a string of loan spells away from Manchester City, made good on his potential at Flamengo, where he won the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores in the space of six months. He could be just what Arsenal needed and there is minimal risk involved in the deal.

Carles Perez: Barcelona to Roma (loan with option/obligation to buy)

After a bright start to the season, Perez found game time increasingly hard to come by at Camp Nou. The exciting winger will only cost an initial €11m if targets are met that turn Roma's option to buy into an obligation, which looks like it would be a snip. Given he is only 21, if Perez performs well there would be a good chance of significant profit further down the line.

Barcelona right-back Moussa Wague has joined Ligue 1 side Nice on loan until the end of the season with the view of a permanent move.

The 21-year-old made his LaLiga debut last April and was promoted to Barca's first-team squad ahead of the current campaign.

He has started a couple of league and Champions League matches in 2019-20, but Nice confirmed on Friday an agreement has been reached to sign the Senegal international.

Nice have the option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season for €10million, plus €500,000 in add-ons.

As part of the agreement, Barcelona have the right to trigger a €15m buy-back clause in Wague's contract up until June 2021.

Wague is the fourth player to leave Camp Nou on loan this month, along with Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Perez and Carles Alena.

Meanwhile, the Spanish champions announced the signings of Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on deadline day, with both players officially arriving at the end of the season.

 

Barcelona signed Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on transfer deadline day, but both players must wait for their chance to shine at Camp Nou.

Fernandes will join Quique Setien's squad from Palmeiras in July after a €10million package was agreed for the 21-year-old, who has played for the Brazil Under-20 team.

Braga accepted a €31m offer from Barca for 20-year-old forward Trincao, and he will also formally join the Catalan club's ranks at the end of the season.

Both players have agreed five-year contracts, the Blaugrana announced, with Fernandes' contract including a €300m buy-out clause and Trincao's deal showing a €500m clause.

Braga will take Barca's 18-year-old striker Abel Ruiz on loan until the end of the season and then make the deal permanent for €8m, with the LaLiga club having a buy-back option.

Barca were not the only Spanish club busy in the market though, with Celta Vigo signing striker Fyodor Smolov on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow until the end of the season.

Atletico Madrid re-signed Belgian winger Yannick Carrasco, almost two years after he left to join Chinese side Dalian Yifang. The 26-year-old joined until the end of the season on loan.
 

STAYING PUT

Deadline day was as notable for the deals that looked to have fallen through as those that were completed.

Paris Saint-Germain ruled out allowing Edinson Cavani to leave, as a host of clubs fancied taking the Uruguayan off their hands, while Chelsea refused to let France striker Olivier Giroud depart Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham were among the clubs keen on Giroud, but Jose Mourinho looked like missing out on the striker he wanted to strengthen a front-line depleted by the loss of injured England captain Harry Kane.

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said Gareth Bale would not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United remained linked with Bournemouth forward Joshua King, but time was running out for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to add new faces to his Old Trafford squad.

United made one signing, but it was a low-profile deal as England Under-20 goalkeeper Nathan Bishop arrived from third-tier Southend United.

Arsenal brought in defender Cedric Soares on loan from Southampton.

In Scotland, champions Celtic shipped out Scotland international Lewis Morgan to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, who are part-owned by David Beckham.

Belgian side Genk allowed attacking midfielder Ianis Hagi, son of Romanian great Gheorghe Hagi, to join Scottish giants Rangers on loan.
 

KOUAME, DUNCAN IN

Serie A transfer activity was dominated by Fiorentina, who signed Ivorian forward Christian Kouame from Genoa, initially on loan. The deal will be made permanent at the end of the season.

They also brought in Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan from Sassuolo in a similar deal, a loan with an obligation to buy.

Reports in Italy said Kevin-Prince Boateng was set to leave Fiorentina among the incomings, with Besiktas his destination. Turkish giants Besiktas also snapped up 18-year-old Croatian midfielder Ajdin Hasic from Dinamo Zagreb on permanent terms.

Atalanta agreed a loan deal with Nice, acquiring defender Adrien Tameze from the Ligue 1 outfit with a purchase option.

World Cup winner Steven Nzonzi cut short a season-long loan from Roma to Galatasaray, returning to his French homeland with Rennes on a six-month loan with an option for a further year.
 

HERTHA BUSY

In the Bundesliga, Emre Can left Juventus for Borussia Dortmund on Friday evening, initially on loan until the end of the campaign but with a €25m fee agreed for a potential permanent transfer.

Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin followed up Thursday's signing of Krzysztof Piatek by prising 20-year-old Brazilian winger Matheus Cunha from table-toppers RB Leipzig, for whom he scored nine goals in 52 games.

Hertha managing director Michael Preetz said on the club's website: "We wanted to increase the quantity and improve the quality up front, which we have been able to do with the Piatek and Cunha transfers."

Leipzig also offloaded Austrian midfielder Stefan Ilsanker to Eintracht Frankfurt. He spent four-and-a-half years at Leipzig, joining them in the second tier.

Werder Bremen signed striker Davie Selke on an 18-month loan from Hertha, the 25-year-old returning to the club where he began his professional career.

Barcelona and Real Madrid avoided each other in the draw for the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Friday.

Quique Setien's men were pitted against Athletic in the last eight, with the game taking place at San Mames next week.

Former Athletic defender Andoni Goikoetxea, the club's representative at the draw, feels home advantage could be key.

He said: "I like the draw. I wanted it to be at San Mames. It's a very difficult draw, we'll see what happens but it'll be a party.

"Athletic always has aspirations to reach the Copa final but you have to beat all the great teams to get there. Athletic can beat anyone and San Mames is a magical place."

Madrid will also fancy their chances at home to Real Sociedad, while defending champions Valencia go to Granada.

Giantkillers Mirandes, the only team from outside LaLiga remaining, were rewarded for their defeat of Sevilla with a home tie against Villarreal.

The matches will be played across February 4, 5 and 6.

Francisco Trincao will join Barcelona on July 1 after the club confirmed they had agreed a €31million deal with Braga to sign the Portuguese forward.

Trincao will sign a five-year contract at Camp Nou and his release clause has been set at an eye-watering €500m.

The 20-year-old was the joint top-scorer at the 2018 European Under-19 Championships as Portugal claimed victory.

He has featured in 21 games across all competitions for Braga this season, contributing three goals and six assists, after making his first-team debut for the club in December 2018.

A versatile player capable of operating across the forward line, he will provide a further attacking option for Barcelona once the 2020-21 season gets under way.

The club had been linked with Richarlison and Willian this week but on Thursday director Guillermo Amor ruled out any further incomings during the January transfer window.

Manchester United look set to continue scrambling for strikers throughout deadline day.

While Bruno Fernandes has finally arrived, the Red Devils were reportedly less successful in a surprise bid to bring Bournemouth forward Joshua King back to Old Trafford.

Now, with the countdown well and truly on, a Tottenham target appears to have been removed from United's radar.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED PASS ON WILLIAN JOSE

Though still without Marcus Rashford, United have rejected the chance to sign Willian Jose on loan, according to Sky Sports.

Real Sociedad reportedly failed to gain a bite after offering the Brazilian striker to the Champions League aspirants amid negotiations with another Premier League club in Tottenham.

Spurs earlier looked to be in pole position to sign the 28-year-old permanently, but may now have to settle for a temporary deal as discussions continue.

The prospect of a bolstering their attack following Rashford's injury would have appealed to United, who reportedly failed in an attempt to capture Cherries star King.

The Telegraph claims Eddie Howe's insistence on keeping the Norwegian denied Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the chance to reunite with the player he coached while in charge of United's reserve side.

 

ROUND-UP

- Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will keep Edinson Cavani unless LaLiga side Atletico Madrid improve from €15million to €20m, according to ESPN reporter Julien Laurens.

- Juventus midfielder Emre Can will join Borussia Dortmund on loan with an obligation for the Bundesliga club to buy for €30m, reports Goal.

- Manchester City are set to beat Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen to Coritiba's 17-year-old Brazilian right-back Yan Couto, claims Mundo Deportivo. 

- Ricardo Rodriguez is out the door and Milan might have settled on a shock replacement. Sky Sports suggests the Rossoneri have agreed an €11.9m (£10m) deal to take left-back Antonee Robinson from Championship outfit Wigan Athletic. The Serie A side are also said to be on the cusp of signing Anderlecht youngster Alexis Saelemaekers.

- Inter and Lazio are competing to secure Chelsea centre-forward Olivier Giroud before the transfer window shuts, claims Sky Sport Italia. 

Quique Setien has no concerns about Barcelona failing to sign a striker in the January transfer window because Ousmane Dembele will be "amazing" when he returns from injury.

Barca director Guillermo Amor confirmed before Thursday's 5-0 Copa del Rey last-16 victory over Leganes that no back-up to Luis Suarez – ruled out until May with a knee injury – will be signed, negotiations for Valencia attacker Rodrigo Moreno having broken down.

Lionel Messi scored twice and was involved in the other three goals as Setien's side enjoyed serene progress to the quarter-finals, with Antoine Griezmann, Clement Lenglet and Arthur hitting the target.

Setien acknowledged the lack of a new signing leaves Barca's attack in a precarious position, though Dembele has been eased back into full training since the weekend having been sidelined since November with a thigh injury.

Asked about the lack of a signing, Setien said: "I will be calm. There is a risk of injury and it cannot be controlled. I am used to working with what I have.

"It was not to be. The market did not give us anything, but we will also recover Dembele.

"He is a player who has specific attributes and I think he can give us a lot. He feels comfortable out wide and we will try to take advantage of that.

"I'm sure he will give us a lot with the potential he has and will demonstrate the great player he is. Dembele is going to be amazing."

Dembele signed from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in August 2017 but has frequently struggled with injuries.

Barca's victory over Leganes saw them emphatically bounce back from the first defeat of Setien's tenure, a 2-0 loss to Valencia on Saturday that saw them fall three points behind Real Madrid in LaLiga's title race.

"We did very well in the first 20 to 25 minutes. It's true they could have hurt us, but we did many things well. However, I am not entirely satisfied," Setien said of Thursday's display.

"We scored but we lost control of the game and gave them a lot of life when we had to control the game."

Lionel Messi has hit yet another milestone at Barcelona, having now featured in 500 wins for the club.

Messi scored twice and played a part in Barca's other three goals in a 5-0 rout of Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

It makes Messi the first player to reach the landmark, with Xavi having won 476 matches and Andres Iniesta reaching 459 victories before departing Camp Nou.

Espanyol were the first side to lose to a Barca team that included Messi, back in October 2004.

Meanwhile, UDA Gramenet are the only team to have faced Messi and managed to avoid defeat, having beaten Barca in the Copa del Rey last 64 in 2004-05.

In total, Messi has been on the winning side against 86 different teams, with Sevilla his favourite opponent.

Messi has won 29 times against the Andalusian club, while he has 24 victories over Atletico Madrid and 19 versus Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona bounced back from their first defeat under Quique Setien with a resounding 5-0 victory over Leganes in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

A 2-0 loss at Valencia on Saturday resulted in reigning LaLiga champions Barca falling three points adrift of rivals Real Madrid in the title race, but they appeared to get right back on track at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Setien named a strong starting line-up and Antoine Griezmann took less than four minutes to open the scoring, with Clement Lenglet nodding in the second before the half-hour mark.

Messi extended their advantage with a fortuitous finish in the 59th minute, and he doubled his tally after substitute Arthur found the back of the net to send Barca breezing into the quarter-finals.

After Nelson Semedo played a give-and-go with Messi, he cut the ball back to Griezmann, who fired between Chidozie Awaziem's legs and into the bottom-left corner to give Barca an early lead.

Setien's team dominated possession and had a second goal for Griezmann ruled out in the ninth minute, with Jordi Alba deemed to have been marginally offside in the build-up.

Griezmann saw a deflected shot tipped around the post by Ivan Cuellar, but Lenglet nodded the resulting corner from Messi over the Leganes goalkeeper and into the far corner to increase Barca's advantage in the 27th minute.

The visitors sporadically threatened on the counter-attack, yet their hopes of getting back into the game were extinguished when Messi raced away on the right and beat Cuellar with the help of a deflection off Rodrigo Tarin.

Leganes coach Javier Aguirre was shown a yellow card for dissent, and his mood would not have improved in the 77th minute, Arthur firing home after Cuellar denied Ansu Fati and Awaziem blocked Messi on the initial follow-up.

Messi rounded off a magnificent display with one minute remaining by latching onto Ivan Rakitic's throughball, rounding Cuellar and sending the ball into the roof of the net.

 

What does it mean? Barca could rue not getting another striker

With a move for Valencia attacker Rodrigo Moreno having broken down, Barca director Guillermo Amor said they were happy to finish the transfer window without signing attacking cover for Luis Suarez, who has been ruled until close to the end of the season with a knee injury.

This match would have been a good opportunity for Barca to grant Griezmann and Messi a rest, even though they proved pivotal to the result. They are now even more crucial in the run-in and no risks can be taken with the star pairing.

Magical Messi

It was not a spectacular display from Barcelona, but Messi was involved in all five goals. He released Semedo for the opener, assisted Lenglet for the second and got the third and fifth himself. Arthur would not have got on the scoreboard were it not for the Argentina star's initial rebound either.

Not so sterling Silva

It was never going to be an easy task for Jonathan Silva, but he struggled to provide any resistance on the left and lost possession 12 times before being replaced by Kevin Rodrigues in the 57th minute.

What's next?

Barcelona host Levante in LaLiga on Sunday, when Leganes entertain Real Sociedad.

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