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.

Dani Ceballos knows only too well why Martin Odegaard has become frustrated at Real Madrid, insisting ambitious young players "need to play regularly" to further their development.

Odegaard impressed last season during a loan spell at LaLiga rivals Real Sociedad, yet he has struggled for minutes this term having returned to Madrid.

The Norway international has started just five games in all competitions and clocked up a mere 233 league minutes, leading to reports in Spain that he wants to leave in the January transfer window.

Ceballos himself is spending a second season on loan at Arsenal, a decision taken to make sure he had a greater opportunity for first-team action.

"I don't know exactly what happens with Martin, but it is obvious that any player who wants to succeed at Madrid is going to grab the opportunity he has," Ceballos said in an interview with Efe.

"I don't know what Martin thinks, but I know I think that when you're young and you have goals and objectives, what you need is to play regularly.

"If you don't, it's like something is missing. I guess that's what's happening to Martin."

Odegaard has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances for Madrid this season, having contributed seven goals and nine assists in 2019-20 while away on loan.

The 22-year-old has been linked with a return to Sociedad, potentially in a loan deal that includes an option to buy.

Ceballos, meanwhile, has not given up hope of forcing his way in at Madrid, though will need assurances over his future role if he is to remain in the Spanish capital next season.

"They don't have to tell me anything," the midfielder - who has won 11 caps for Spain - said of his own future. 

"It would be to have a talk with the coach and the coaching staff that is in at that moment and know that I will have equal opportunities with him.

"From there, you have to earn it on the field."

Ceballos has played in 24 games for Arsenal this term under Mikel Arteta, his most recent start coming in the 0-0 home draw with Crystal Palace on January 14.

Diego Simeone insists he is having no problem getting his message across to new signing Moussa Dembele thanks to the French language speakers already at Atletico Madrid.

Dembele joined Atletico on loan from Lyon last week until the end of the season, at which point LaLiga's leaders will have the option to buy him permanently for €33.5m.

The former Celtic striker has scored just once in 16 Ligue 1 appearances this season but comes in to bolster Atlei's forward line following the departure of Diego Costa.

Simeone has been impressed by Dembele's initial efforts in training, something he conceded has been made easier by the presence of Thomas Lemar, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Yannick Carrasco.

"Dembele just arrived a few days ago and he is trying to settle into the group," Simeone said ahead of Thursday's trip to Eibar, one of Atletico's games in hand on Real Madrid that could see them extend their advantage at the summit to seven points.

"Thankfully he has team-mates like Kondogbia, Carrasco and Lemar who are close to him and doing translations in order to make the communication quicker.

"We will have time to let him know what we want from him exactly, in the meantime we let him to settle in the best way with his  team-mates.

"I see him excited and happy. He is a number nine and we expect from him all the good we saw in him to bring him to Atletico Madrid."

Dembele's presence could further hinder Joao Felix's chances of getting back into Simeone's starting XI.

The record signing was a substitute in each of Atleti's past two LaLiga encounters and has not found the net since the 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on December 1.

Nevertheless, Simeone remains satisfied with the Portugal international's contributions.

"I ask Joao the same as always - to be involved in the group, as he is. Being competitive, as he has been in the last games," he added.

"He didn’t start the game, but he was important for the team from other positions. When he got in, he showed all his talent and quality. The team needs his skills."

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."

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."

Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Adi Hutter hailed the "greatness" of Luka Jovic following his stunning start to life back in the Bundesliga.

Jovic scored two goals in his return for Eintracht last week after re-joining the German club on loan until the end of the season, having endured a difficult period at LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The Serbia international only scored twice in 32 appearances under Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the Spanish capital, where he arrived for €60million in 2019.

But Jovic came off the bench and scored twice in 28 minutes as Eintracht defeated Schalke 3-1 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Jovic matched his Madrid tally in the stunning cameo for Eintracht, where the 23-year-old netted 27 goals in 2018-19 before making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Previewing Wednesday's showdown with Freiburg, Hutter discussed Jovic and his partnership with Eintracht star Andre Silva.

"Strikers are always a bit egotistical, but when it is about the team or Eintracht Frankfurt, everyone puts their ego aside," Hutter told reporters.

"Luka [Jovic] does that sovereignly. When you bring back someone who had his best time here and scored 27 goals in a year, then gets loaned out and scores two goals in 32 games, and then comes back and scores two goals in about 25 minutes, it's logical that the attention is more on that than on Andre Silva's 12th goal of the season.

"But when you hear Luka's statements that it is an honour for him to play in a team with Andre, it shows the greatness and character of Luka and it shows the respect he has for Andre Silva. I have spoken to Andre before and he said that competition is very important for him and that quality in the team is important. That doesn't bother him at all.

"I also can't imagine that Andre Silva, who has previously played for Milan and Sevilla, can't handle competition. I think he has also seen that Luka is another striker with whom he can harmonise.

"As always, I'm keeping a low profile. He [Luka Jovic] has shown in this short season that he is an absolute world-class striker with a high calibre. We'll leave it open as to whether he'll play from the start [against Freiburg]."

Silva's goal to open the scoring against Schalke was his 12th of the season, taking him level with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland – only Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski (21) has more in 2020-21.

Eintracht – eighth in the standings – are the only team to win all three of their Bundesliga games in 2021 and have now won four on the bounce in the league for the first time since early 2019.

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.

Hansi Flick insists he has heard nothing from David Alaba about a transfer to Real Madrid amid reports the defender has agreed to join the LaLiga champions.

Alaba will be out of contract at Bayern at the end of the season and Spanish sports newspaper Marca claimed on Monday that agreement on a four-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu had been reached.

However, Alaba's father and advisor denied that is the case while Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane refused to discuss the issue in his media conference on Tuesday.

Despite the reports, Flick appears to still be hopeful Alaba could remain with Bayern, though he accepts matters appear to be trending in a different direction.

Bayern head coach Flick told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's clash with Augsburg: "Those are things that are always possible when there is a transfer window and contracts are expiring.

"At the moment I have to admit that I have not heard anything from him regarding this topic. Hope dies last.

"However, I know that things are moving towards a direction which means change for the team.

"David Alaba showed a good performance against Freiburg and it is important for him to stay focused. That is how I experience him, as does the whole team.

"We have to continue. We know things like this are possible in football and that there are always changes at the end of a season.

"Change also has the potential to develop the team. We'll have to wait and see what happens. There's nothing more we can do at the moment."

Flick indicated that if Alaba does depart at the end of the season, Bayern will move quickly to find a replacement for the Austria international.

"Obviously, David Alaba is a player who is not only valuable for the team on the pitch, but also in the locker room and elsewhere," Flick added.

"But these kind of things [transfers] happen. Where the road takes him, we don't know. We have to wait and see what happens. I'm not having any thoughts around that at the moment.

"It is clear though that if a player of his calibre leaves the club, the club has to react and get another player. The future will tell what happens.

"Currently, this is not a topic for me because we will have this squad until the end of the season, so the focus is on this team and all the players we have available.

"What happens after that is a new chapter for the club and the team, and one has to make the best of it then."

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.

 

Zinedine Zidane has responded to reports linking Real Madrid with moves for Bayern Munich's David Alaba and Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain.

Alaba will be out of contract at Bayern at the end of the season and on Monday Spanish sports newspaper Marca claimed an agreement on a four-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu had been reached.

The versatile defender's father, who also acts as an advisor, has since denied anything has been signed with LaLiga champions Madrid.

Asked about the rumours on Tuesday during a news conference to preview a Copa del Rey clash with Alcoyano, Zidane was unwilling to get into specifics.

"I understand you want to ask this question on a player that isn't part of our club, but I'm here to focus on Wednesday's game," he said.

"I understand there are topics worth discussing but I'm not going to comment now on outside events. My staff and I are focusing on the game."

The Madrid boss offered a similar response when asked if he would like to have Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe at the club.

He said: "I'm sorry, I already said the same with Alaba. I'm sorry. We're focused on tomorrow's game."

France international Mbappe will be out of contract at PSG at the end of next season and has never hidden his admiration of his fellow World Cup winner and compatriot Zidane.

Asked if the best players in the world ultimate choose where they want to play, Zidane responded: "In the end, yes. But everyone has a contract and it's not good to get involved in the things of players who are not yours."

Since his debut for PSG on August 4, 2017, Mbappe has had a hand in 101 goals in Ligue 1 (76 scored and 25 assisted).

Across the top five European Leagues, only Mohamed Salah (117 – 86 and 31), Ciro Immobile (118 – 92 and 26), Robert Lewandowski (124 – 106 and 18) and Lionel Messi (154 – 106 and 48) have had a hand in more during the same time frame.

He has averaged two key passes per 90 minutes, fewer only than Messi (2.7) and Neymar (3.0) among players to have scored at least 50 goals.

Bayern Munich defender David Alaba has not signed any agreement with Real Madrid, according to his father and advisor.

Spanish publication Marca, which is known for its links to Madrid, claimed on Monday that a deal had been agreed between the club and player for a move at the end of the season.

Alaba's contract expires in June and is therefore free to discuss terms with other clubs, Bayern having seemingly exhausted all chances of a renewal.

The Austria international's future has been a source of speculation for much of the last year, but Bayern insisted throughout that they would not be held to ransom and a departure now looks the likeliest option.

But Alaba's father, who also acts as an advisor, has given hope to other interested parties, adamant nothing has been signed with the defending Spanish champions.

"A decision has not yet been made, and David has not yet signed with Madrid," George Alaba told Sport1.

"Besides Madrid, there are other clubs that are interested in him. What matters for him is still that he wants to concentrate fully on Bayern and his achievements."

Alaba has been at Bayern since joining from Austria Vienna in 2008 and gone on to establish himself as a club great in the modern era.

His 264 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern see him rank 18th in the club's all-time list, though he would expect to climb past a few more by the end of the season.

Remarkably, 200 of those 264 games have been victories, which is the 12th highest of all players to have represented Bayern in the Bundesliga.

Alaba has won every trophy possible during his time at Bayern, including nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions League crowns, the latest of which was claimed last year.

In the past couple of years he has been successfully remoulded as a centre-back and looks set to be a shrewd free signing for whichever club manages to prise him away from Bayern. 

While Madrid appear well-positioned, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked as suitors.

Real Madrid have reportedly agreed a deal with Bayern Munich defender David Alaba.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Alaba, 28, has been linked with Europe's biggest clubs.

And the Austria international looks set for the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – ALABA AGREES FOUR-YEAR DEAL WITH MADRID

Alaba has agreed a four-year deal with Real Madrid, according to Marca.

The Bayern defender will make the move to the LaLiga giants ahead of 2021-22, the report says.

Alaba was also linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Real Madrid and the news is not so good when it comes to Lucas Vazquez. AS reports the midfielder has rejected the club's first contract offer, with his current deal expiring at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli is wanted by Paris Saint-Germain. The Sun reports the Tottenham midfielder is confident of getting a loan move to the Ligue 1 giants in January.

- Jesse Lingard's future at Manchester United is uncertain. ESPN reports the midfielder wants regular game time but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is eager to keep him at the Premier League club. Lingard has made just three appearances in all competitions this season.

- After leaving the club in 2017, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar looks set to return to Schalke. SPORT1 reports the Ajax striker has undergone a medical ahead of a return to Schalke, who are bidding to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga.

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.

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