Martin Braithwaite is hoping to answer Barcelona's SOS with goals that carry Quique Setien's team all the way to trophy glory after opening his account.

The Danish striker played his first full 90 minutes in LaLiga since joining from Leganes as an emergency signing in February, as Barcelona thrashed Real Mallorca 4-0 on Saturday night.

It was his fourth appearance and second start in the league since swapping a relegation battle for the title race.

And the man Barca bought to ease their injury problems intends to show how much he can contribute over the remaining weeks of the coronavirus-disrupted season.

He may have his work cut out to secure a regular start, given Luis Suarez returned from knee surgery as a substitute at Mallorca.

But Braithwaite wants to play a part and said of his maiden Barca strike: "I've been waiting for it for a long time, so it's amazing to score my first goal.

"It was most important to start like we did [on Saturday], so we are happy and we have to continue like this.

"As an offensive player you want to score goals and I've been working a lot in this break, and I've been really looking forward to playing this game and hopefully getting a goal and I'm happy, I'm really happy."

Suarez's season looked to be over when he had an operation in January, but the three-month suspension of the league has allowed him to recover fitness, and now coach Setien has options up front for the title push.

The Uruguayan had a 33-minute run-out at Son Moix, and Braithwaite can expect to come under pressure for a regular start.

Barcelona's win in their first match back after lockdown restrictions were eased ensured they would remain top of the table.

Braithwaite said of the successful trip, speaking to Barca TV: "It's really important because we have to start with confidence, and to score four goals and not concede any goals is really important for us.

"We started good and just built our confidence and we need that to continue pursuing what we want."

After Arturo Vidal's early opener, Lionel Messi set up Braithwaite and Jordi Alba before sealing Barca's victory in additional time.

Barcelona have 10 games left in the LaLiga season as they attempt to fend off Real Madrid and wrap up what would be a 27th league title.

Arturo Vidal, Martin Braithwaite, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi were all on target as Barcelona beat Real Mallorca 4-0 to make a winning return in LaLiga.

It had been three months since the leaders last played because of the coronavirus-enforced break, but they needed less than two minutes to go ahead through Vidal's header.

Braithwaite then fired in a second eight minutes before the break in a game that also saw the return of Luis Suarez from injury.

Alba struck11 minutes from time before Messi wrapped up victory in injury time as Barca went five points clear of Real Madrid ahead of Los Blancos' return to action on Sunday.

There was no sign of any rust in Quique Setien's ranks as Barca went ahead after just 65 seconds.

Frenkie de Jong robbed Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo in midfield and the ball was delivered into the box by Alba, with Vidal running onto the cross and directing his header into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Barca threatened to put the game to bed early on as Braithwaite and Messi both came close before Mallorca finally woke up.

Kubo looked intent on making amends as he forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a good save from the edge of the box before being denied again with a low free-kick.

Yet the leaders doubled their lead before the interval, Braithwaite clinically dispatching his first goal for the club after a scrappy build-up that included headed flick-ons from De Jong and Messi.

Mallorca nearly found a way back into the match shortly after the restart, but Ante Budimir's first-time effort was always bending away from Ter Stegen as it flew wide.

Setien brought on Suarez – out since January because of a knee injury – and that seemed to galvanise Messi, who set up Braithwaite and Ronald Araujo for efforts that were stopped by Manolo Reina and the post respectively.

Messi would not be denied a second assist, though, as he cleverly flicked the ball over the top for Alba, who just managed to stay onside and finish at the near post.

There was time enough for Messi to get on the scoresheet as he kept his balance in the box before working space and firing right-footed high into the net.

 

What does it mean? No away day blues for Setien's side

Barca's away form has been a problem this term and they arrived at Son Moix having won just one of their previous five LaLiga games on their travels, conceding 10 times across those games.

However, with centre-back Araujo making his first start, the Blaugrana recorded their first away clean sheet of 2020 and extend their lead at the top.

Alba delivers the goods

Coming into this game, Ter Stegen had more LaLiga assists this season than Alba but the left-back pulled level with his early cross for Vidal's goal.

The 31-year-old was involved in the second goal too, while he regained possession a team-high six times and had three clearances to boot.

Anonymous Antoine

The return of Suarez – and the continued transfer talk surrounding Inter's Lautaro Martinez over the break – should have jolted Antoine Griezmann into delivering a better performance.

However, in the 57 minutes the Frenchman was on the pitch, he failed to have a single shot and Braithwaite's goal means Griezmann is in danger of falling further down the pecking order.

What's next?

Barcelona host Leganes on Tuesday before travelling to Sevilla three days later as the fixtures come thick and fast in LaLiga. Mallorca, who have a crucial clash with Leganes next Friday, travel to Villarreal next.

Adama Traore has been linked with a move to Liverpool but his former manager Tony Pulis thinks he should "settle down" at Wolves and aim for the Spain squad.

Barcelona youth product Traore has enjoyed a fantastic 2019-20 at Wolves, where he has scored four goals and supplied seven assists in the Premier League while playing primarily as a wing-back under Nuno Espirito Santo.

The 24-year-old, with whom Pulis retains a good relationship following their time together at Middlesbrough, is reportedly wanted by league leaders Liverpool, plus Manchester City and Manchester United.

Former Stoke City boss Pulis believes Traore should be looking to lay down roots at Molineux and focus on breaking into the Spain set-up ahead of Euro 2020, which will be held next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pulis told Stats Perform News: "I think Adama always had the ability to play. The big thing was his confidence. I think I probably caught him at the right time. He had gone and worked for a few managers who weren't enamoured enough to play him on a regular basis.

"I obviously knew him as a West Brom manager watching [Aston] Villa, watched him in the reserves a few times. His pace and balance was just extraordinary.

"Going to Middlesbrough, he wasn't in the team when I got there but I wanted to make him a focal point of the team. We did that and the biggest thing with him is that he grew in confidence and he started to believe in himself.

"I made him my best friend. He used to come in and make me a cup of coffee after lunch and we would sit down and watch videos. He became a friend and he knew he'd be first pick on the team sheet. And the team understood what we could get from him and what we couldn't. Having said that, as the season progressed, he learned the other side of the game [defensive] well as well.

"You meet people in life who are really, really good people, and Adama is a really good person. You hope and pray those people get everything out of life that they possibly can.

"He's gone to Wolves - we didn't want to get rid of him at Middlesbrough, but the only problem was the finances… He went to the right club, stepped up and has murdered it.

"I think he can only get better. His temperament and personality is first class. His next step, I speak to him now and then, his next step is to get a place in the Spanish side.

"I'll be quite content for him, and I said this to him, to settle down. He seems happy at Wolves. He's playing under a manager that's confident with him and gives the respect Adama needs.

"But Adama's big challenge is seeing if he can get a place in the Spanish team and keep it."

During his time at the Riverside, Pulis did not enjoy the same sort of relationship with striker Martin Braithwaite, whom he is surprised to see now playing at LaLiga champions Barcelona.

"He was completely different to Adama in personality. Different traits as a player. I never thought Braithwaite wanted to be at Middlesbrough although he signed a contract," said Pulis.

"He spent more time telling me that he wanted to leave than be at the club. In the end I hope and pray that the club got a good price for him because they paid a lot for him. They certainly paid him an enormous amount of money wages-wise, it was just extraordinary.

"Am I surprised he's gone to Barcelona? Yes. Is he playing every week? I don't know. Is he going to play every week? I don't know. Was he my cup of tea? Adama was. Braithwaite wasn't."

Lionel Messi inspires his team-mates and has personally helped Martin Braithwaite, who is also thrilled at the prospect of playing with Luis Suarez even if it means first-team opportunities are harder to come by.

Braithwaite joined Barca in February after the club were granted special dispensation to sign a player outside of the transfer window, as Suarez and Ousmane Dembele had suffered long-term injuries.

Although many questioned why Barca were allowed to make such a signing given they had let two young forwards depart in January, Braithwaite joined and made a positive start prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

The three-month pause, which will stop this week when LaLiga resumes, has allowed for Suarez to recover from his knee injury and be declared fit.

And although Suarez's presence will likely impact on Braithwaite's match time, the Denmark international is relishing learning from him, as he has from Messi.

Speaking to Goal about how his opinion of Messi had been altered after playing with him, the former Leganes forward said: "It changes a lot, of course.

"He gives so much confidence to the team because he can make the difference and also helped me personally to be a better player with his advice and how he sees football.

"He is really an inspiration."

With respect to Suarez's return potentially restricting his own time on the pitch, Braithwaite added: "Honestly, I don't think in that kind of way.

"I am so happy that Luis is back because when I came here he was injured and I haven't played with him.

"I want to learn from him, he is one of the best strikers in the world and I am happy he is back."

Barca, who are two points clear of Real Madrid ahead of the resumption, get their season back under way on Saturday away to Real Mallorca.

Barcelona striker Martin Braithwaite believes he will be one of LaLiga's top goalscorers when football returns as "nobody trains like I do".

The Denmark international was signed from Leganes for €18million in February after Quique Setien's side were granted special dispensation to bring in cover for the injured Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

Braithwaite played three league games for Barca without scoring before Spanish football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the limitations of strict lockdown measures in Spain, Braithwaite says he has been keeping in good shape by supplementing the club's training plan for players with his own programme.

The 28-year-old hopes to be in prime condition when football resumes and expects to have plenty of chances to build on the six league goals he scored for Leganes this term.

"[Barcelona's plan] only makes up a third of my training," Braithwaite told DR. "That's because I've added a lot more to it.

"I exercise my speed and my stamina. I train in much more detail now than before, so I'll be back in much better physical shape.

"I know that there is no one who trains and works like I do. When I come back, I will be ready physically and mentally.

"When you play for Barcelona, you have so many chances. I see myself scoring a lot of goals and being one of the top scorers in the team and in the league."

LaLiga teams have been given the go-ahead to return to training, possibly as early as next month, provided they abide by government regulations on social distancing.

That followed a meeting between Spain's National Sports Council (CSD), LaLiga and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

There are reports clubs and league officials are targeting a return to league matches in early June, but health minister Salvador Illa refused to offer any guarantees when speaking at the weekend.

"I cannot say if football is going to be able to restart its activity before summer. It would be imprudent of me to offer a definitive view," he said.

Martin Braithwaite is eager for a long stay at Barcelona amid reports the LaLiga club are already looking to sell the forward.

Braithwaite, 28, arrived at Barca from Leganes in February in a controversial move after his €18million release clause was triggered as an emergency signing.

While recent reports have suggested Barcelona may already be considering selling Braithwaite, the Denmark international – who signed a contract until 2024 – is still keen to make his mark at Camp Nou.

"I am sure I am going to stay even more than four and a half years. That's how I see it in my head," Braithwaite told ESPN.

"Right now, I just want to go and play and enjoy and win titles with this team because that's what I am here to do."

Braithwaite had made just three appearances for Barcelona before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Middlesbrough forward has set himself high goals with the Spanish giants, who were top of LaLiga when the campaign was stopped.

"For me, at Barcelona, I am looking at all these legendary players that played here, and all the periods where they had some of the best teams, and for me one of the goals is to be able to say I played in one of the best Barca teams in a generation," Braithwaite said.

"I want people to be able to look back at the team I played in and say, 'Yeah, that was one of the best teams there have been in Barca's history'. That's a huge motivation for me and it comes with a lot of hard work, but I am willing to put in the work. I am just excited."

Juventus may be able to bring Paul Pogba back to Turin, but it could cost them a star.

Pogba, 27, has been linked with a move away from Manchester United, having returned to Old Trafford in 2016.

But the Serie A champions could be ready to give up a leading player in their bid to bring the France international back.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA TO JUVENTUS, DYBALA OR PJANIC TO MAN UTD

Manchester United midfielder Pogba could return to Juventus for money plus Paulo Dybala or Miralem Pjanic, according to Tuttosport.

Dybala almost headed to Old Trafford during the close season but is reportedly close to signing a contract extension with Juventus.

Pjanic, meanwhile, has made 32 appearances in all competitions this season, having arrived at Juve from domestic rivals Roma in 2016.

 

ROUND-UP

- The talk around Lautaro Martinez possibly leaving Inter to join Barcelona continues. Sport reports Barca are advancing in their bid to convince Martinez, with their project and potentially playing with Lionel Messi at club level their key points.

- With his Real Madrid future uncertain, Marcelo could be set for a move. Juventus are again interested in the left-back, according to Marca.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu - Lucas Vazquez could also be heading for a Real Madrid exit. AS reports there have been no discussions over a potential contract extension with the forward, whose deal expires next year.

- Martin Braithwaite only arrived at Barcelona in February, but the LaLiga giants are already considering their options. Sport says Barca will not sell Braithwaite for less than €18million, which is what they paid to land the forward. Everton and West Ham are reportedly interested in the Denmark international.

- Arsenal are seemingly considering a move for Nabil Fekir again. The Premier League club were linked with the forward last year, but the Daily Star reports the Real Betis man is back on their radar as a potential replacement for Dani Ceballos, whose loan from Real Madrid ends at the conclusion of the season.

Martin Braithwaite enjoyed a strong second-half cameo on his Barcelona debut following a controversial transfer - and he vowed to not wash his jersey after receiving a hug from Lionel Messi.

After a difficult week for the club, Barca demolished struggling Eibar 5-0 at Camp Nou, with four-goal Messi in inspirational form as he netted a first-half hat-trick.

Before the match many Barca supporters waved white handkerchiefs towards president Josep Maria Bartomeu and chanted for his resignation after he was forced to deny allegations earlier in the week that the club had hired a firm to "damage the image" of players past and present, including Messi.

Then there was the controversial signing of Braithwaite, who arrived from Leganes as an "emergency" purchase to cover the absence of Ousmane Dembele and seen as an underwhelming acquisition.

But the Denmark international made an immediate impact, having a hand in Messi's fourth before getting involved in Arthur's goal that rounded out the scoring.

When asked about what Messi said after helping him score, Braithwaite told reporters: "He congratulated me, he's a great guy.

"He tried to make me comfortable [after being brought on], he looked for me with his passes. I won't wash my clothes after the hug he gave me," he quipped.

"Honestly, I'm very happy to have been able to give him assistance. I felt very well here, surrounded by fantastic players.

"I tried to run and move, which is what I have to do, and the team-mates have found me, so it has been amazing. I am very happy."

Barca coach Quique Setien was pleasantly surprised by Braithwaite, accepting the forward had more of an impact than anticipated.

"Braithwaite did more than I expected, much more," he said. "Honestly, he was very good and I think we have got an extraordinary signing.

"He'll adapt perfectly to what we do, he was involved in two goals and he understands the game so well. He's powerful and technically very proficient – he's a worker and has many things that will help us."

Barca are in action again on Tuesday in the Champions League against Napoli, before returning to LaLiga action against Real Madrid next Sunday.

Head coach Quique Setien does not expect Barcelona's focus to waver over a key run of games despite a series of off-field controversies.

Barca face Eibar on Saturday before visiting Napoli in their Champions League last-16 first leg in midweek and then taking on LaLiga title rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico on March 1.

The forthcoming schedule represents a make-or-break stretch in the season for Setien's side, who are a point behind Madrid in the table.

Yet a number of incidents away from the pitch have overshadowed the early weeks of Setien's tenure.

Director of football Eric Abidal suggested the players had not been working for previous coach Ernesto Valverde prior to his January dismissal, prompting a strong response from captain Lionel Messi.

Barca then denied allegations made by Spanish radio network Cadena SER this week that they hired a company to damage the image of key figures associated with the club, including Messi, by spreading negative messages on social media platforms.

But Setien is not distracted said ahead of the Eibar game: "You'd think it might affect us, but the reality is it's not like that.

"We're very focused on what we need to focus on. We're focused on football matters, we have a lot to focus on. We know what goes on, but I can assure you it doesn't influence anything.

"We're focused on our objective, which is to win games, play well and allow the fans to enjoy themselves. Anything other than that really doesn't affect us."

And Setien confirmed president Josep Maria Bartomeu had discussed the latest issue with senior players.

"Everything the president says is accepted. He told us exactly the same as what he said everywhere," he said. "I'm not thinking about that anymore."

Setien was reluctant to discuss the clash with Napoli but was asked about Messi's suggestion in a wide-ranging Mundo Deportivo interview that Barca were not ready to compete for the Champions League this season.

"There are things that I agree with and things that I'm not in agreement with," Setien said. "In the past 20 years, we have won a lot of Champions Leagues.

"We've got the same chance of winning as other teams have. There's no room for error. There are things we need to try to improve and that we need to do well. That's clear.

"We're not happy with everything, but I think we're growing gradually and reaching a level that will allow us to compete, definitely, with every team."

Barca controversially signed Martin Braithwaite from Leganes this week, following long-term injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, and the new man has gone straight into the squad for the Eibar game.

"He's come here with a lot of excitement and a lot of desire," Setien said of Braithwaite. "We hope that he can help us a lot."

Also in with the chance of a first-team debut is Barcelona B left-back Sergio Akieme, who joined the club from Rayo Vallecano in September.

The 22-year-old has been called up to provide cover for Junior Firpo after Jordi Alba injured his right adductor last weekend, potentially making the Spain international a doubt to face Madrid.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has defended the club's decision to sign Martin Braithwaite but admits Leganes have every right to feel aggrieved by the transfer.

The LaLiga champions confirmed on Thursday they had signed the striker after triggering an €18million release clause in his contract.

Barca were granted special dispensation to sign Braithwaite outside of the transfer window after losing Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele to long-term injuries.

LaLiga strugglers Leganes have been blocked from bringing in a replacement forward, however, much to the frustration of the club's general director Martin Ortega.

Ortega accused the league and the Royal Spanish Football Federation of causing Leganes "irreparable damage" and has asked for the rule to be amended.

Speaking at Braithwaite's introductory news conference on Thursday, Bartomeu agreed the loophole needs to be looked at.

"We have paid the clause following the regulations, although we believe that it should be revised because it is not fair that Leganes cannot now sign anyone," he told reporters.

Barcelona's decision to sign Braithwaite has raised eyebrows, but Bartomeu believes the former Middlesbrough forward can be a big asset for the club this season and beyond.

"After analysing different players, we chose Martin. We believe it will help us win the two remaining titles," he added.

"I am very excited about the arrival of a new player and we hope he will help us in a league that we want to win and that is very open. He will give us strength.

"We had a long-term injured player like Dembele, in addition to Luis Suarez. The technical team has studied players and we hope Braithwaite can debut quickly.

"He has signed for the next four and a half years and comes to help now and for the future."

Braithwaite could make his debut when Eibar visit Camp Nou on Saturday, and Barca director Eric Abidal is happy with the new arrival.

"Martin is a Denmark international, with experience different from those players we have," said Abidal, who dodged questions regarding his recent row with Lionel Messi.

"He has character, strength, speed and great potential. I have had the opportunity to speak with coaches he has had. He will contribute a lot and be decisive. 

"Hopefully, we can compete with him at the highest level."

New Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite believes his studious approach to football will make him a shrewd addition for the LaLiga champions.

The striker completed a move to Camp Nou on Thursday after Barca activated his €18million release clause at Leganes.

The Catalans had been granted special dispensation to sign a forward due to long-term injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, who may not return to action this season.

Braithwaite scored six times in 24 appearances for Leganes this season to help their fight against relegation but has only twice reached double figures for goals in a single league campaign, back when he was with Toulouse in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

However, the 28-year-old sees himself as a student of the game and one whose attributes will make him useful to head coach Quique Setien.

"I'm really excited. It's a childhood dream come true," he told Barca TV. "Everyone who plays football dreams of playing at Barcelona. Here I am, and I'm really excited to win titles.

"It's a club with a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, and I'm here to go and try to win everything possible.

"I'm a technical player, always physical in that I'm really fast, really strong. I'd say my best attribute is my intelligence. I move really intelligently. I study the game. I call myself a football student. I always try to improve my football every day.

"I think, the way we play here, my movement will help the team a lot. And, of course, I'm a goalscorer so I'm here to score goals."

Braithwaite is looking forward to the chance to call Lionel Messi a team-mate, hailing the Barca captain as arguably the greatest player in history.

"He's maybe the best player ever, so of course it's a big moment for me to be able to play with this guy and to say that I've played with him, so I'm really excited," said the Denmark international.

Braithwaite could make his debut when Eibar visit Camp Nou on Saturday.

Barca then face Napoli at the San Paolo in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie before they take on Real Madrid in El Clasico on March 1.

It is fair to say Barcelona's signing of Martin Braithwaite has raised a few eyebrows.

After being granted special dispensation to complete a deal for the Leganes forward outside of the transfer window, Barca announced the arrival of Braithwaite on Thursday.

Braithwaite moves to Camp Nou with a modest return of 10 goals in 43 LaLiga appearances and having had uninspiring spells at Middlesbrough and Bordeaux prior to moving to Spain.

Yet, this is hardly the first time a Barcelona signing has seemed puzzling to those on the outside.

Here, we take a look at some of the strangest, not necessarily the worst, signings Barca have made in recent history.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

This feels like the caveat of surprising not worst needs re-emphasising. Ibrahimovic's standing as a world-class talent is not in question. But it was a signing that seemed out of place with Barca's style of play under Pep Guardiola, and a deal made even more perplexing by the club's decision to sanction Inter's signing of Samuel Eto'o, who was part of a devastating triumvirate with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. While Eto'o went on to win the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10, Ibrahimovic – while still managing a solid return of 16 goals in 29 LaLiga outings – never really fit the mould at Camp Nou and reports of discord with Guardiola were always bubbling under the surface. He was shipped out to Milan a year later with a LaLiga and Club World Cup medal to show for his efforts.

ALEX SONG

Cameroon midfielder Song made over 200 appearances for Arsenal but not many truly thought he was a player with the calibre to shine at Barcelona. With Barca's midfield boasting the talents of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Javier Mascherano, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets when he joined in 2012 it was hard to see where Song fit in. And so it proved, with Song twice being sent out on loan to West Ham before a permanent move to Rubin Kazan was agreed in July 2016.

JEREMY MATHIEU

David Luiz, Marquinhos and Mats Hummels were all tipped as potential additions for a Barca side seeking a central defender in July 2014. For one reason or another none made the move and so Barca paid the €20million release clause to Valencia to make Mathieu the most expensive defender over the age of 30. Having only really played one full season as a centre-back it was not a deal that exactly screamed value. But, to his credit, Mathieu proved a useful squad player and he left Camp Nou with two LaLiga medals, three Copas del Rey and a Champions League win to his name.

PAULINHO

This one definitely falls under the category of surprising rather than worst. Paulinho was widely regarded as a £17million flop during a two-season stay with Tottenham so not many could have foreseen Barcelona forking out a reported €40million fee to sign the Brazil midfielder from Guangzhou Evergrande. But Paulinho was a solid squad man at Barca and his one-season stay – he would re-join Guangzhou in July 2018 – saw him make 34 league appearances, as well as returning a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double.

ARTURO VIDAL

Much like Ibrahimovic, it was not a question of Vidal's talent or achievements, more if he could fit the stereotype of a Barca player. The Chile midfielder, who has won top-flight titles in Italy and Germany with Juventus and Bayern Munich, has proven a useful player for Barca, helping the club to LaLiga glory last term, but has made just six league starts this term. The 32-year-old was the subject of reported interest from Inter in January.

KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG

A player certainly not devoid of talent but Boateng is the sort of player who in years to come many will say out loud "I didn't know he'd played for them!" A nomadic career has seen him take in spells with the likes of Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, Milan and Schalke but few would have imagined Barca would come calling in January 2019. However, with Ernesto Valverde on the lookout for back-up to Luis Suarez and Boateng having had experience of playing as a centre-forward in LaLiga with Las Palmas, a loan deal with Sassuolo was agreed. He made just four appearances and is now enjoying a temporary spell at Besiktas from Fiorentina.

JEISON MURILLO

Much like Boateng, Murillo arrived on a short-term loan in the 2019 January window as a short-term option. With injuries to Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen leaving Barca short at centre-back it was not particularly a surprise to see them enter the market, more that they moved for Murillo who had made just one LaLiga appearance for Valencia since joining on a full-time deal from Inter. Opportunities, as you may expect, proved scarce and Murillo played just four times for Barca.

Barcelona have completed the controversial signing of Martin Braithwaite from Leganes after the club were granted special dispensation to complete the deal outside of the transfer window.

LaLiga's champions were given permission to sign a forward after injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele left them short of striking options.

Barca on Thursday confirmed they have met an €18million release clause to bring in the 28-year-old until June 2024, with a buyout clause set at €300million.

Braithwaite has scored six goals in 24 LaLiga appearances for relegation-threatened Leganes this season.

Reports that Barca were poised to seal the contentious move raised questions over how the Catalan giants are able to draft in reinforcements with the window closed.

Leganes, who are 19th in LaLiga and two points from safety, reportedly had an appeal to complete a transfer of their own turned down as signing a replacement for a departing player does not comply with the rules in Spain.

Struggling Leganes also saw fellow striker Youssef En-Nesyri join Sevilla in a €20million deal in January.

Braithwaite arrived at Leganes in January 2019 after an uninspiring spell at Middlesbrough, while he also spent time on loan in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux.

Barca are second in LaLiga, just a point adrift of Clasico rivals Real Madrid.

Inter Miami have their sights set on a big-name signing, with Lionel Messi reportedly among the possibilities.

With David Beckham among their owners, Inter Miami are preparing for their debut MLS season beginning next month.

Messi has been linked with the MLS club previously and those rumours are persisting.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI STILL A TARGET FOR INTER MIAMI

Barcelona great Messi is among the stars who could sign for Inter Miami, according to OKdiario.

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani are also possibilities, the report says.

Messi reportedly bought an apartment in Miami in December, while he can leave Barcelona for free at season's end despite being contracted until 2021.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus have other plans should Paul Pogba not return to the club from Manchester United in the close season. Sport reports the Serie A giants are considering a move for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, whose contract expires next year.

- Barcelona will announce Leganes striker Martin Braithwaite as their latest signing on Thursday, according to AS, which reports the LaLiga club are set to pay €18million for the Denmark international.

- Linked with RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Liverpool are seemingly considering their options. Bild reports the European champions are tracking Milot Rashica, the 23-year-old who has scored 10 goals in 21 games for struggling Werder Bremen this season.

- Hansi Flick's future is unclear. Bayern Munich will wait until May to make a decision on the head coach, who has attracted interest from other clubs, according to Bild.

- Could Adam Lallana be set for a reunion with Brendan Rodgers? Sky Sports reports Leicester City have approached the Liverpool midfielder's representatives about a move at season's end. Lallana and Rodgers worked together at Anfield and the 31-year-old is coming out of contract.

- After an initial move for Marcos Alonso in January failed, Inter are still considering the Chelsea left-back, according to CalcioMercato. However, the report says the Serie A giants are unwilling to pay Chelsea's asking price of €30m (£25.1m).

Barcelona have contacted Leganes regarding the potential signing of striker Martin Braithwaite and the Madrid club are worried losing him will doom them to relegation, according to majority shareholder Felipe Moreno.

After having Ousmane Dembele ruled out for six months last week, Barca are reported to have been granted special dispensation to sign a new player despite the transfer window being closed.

The regulations in place stipulate the player they sign must either be registered with another Spanish club already or a free agent.

Angel Rodriguez, Willian Jose, Lucas Perez and Loren Moron were said to be the initial candidates, but in the past few days Leganes' Denmark international Braithwaite has seemingly emerged as the most likely option.

Leganes confirmed Barca made contact with them on Monday but insist Braithwaite will only leave if his reported €20million release clause is triggered, with Moreno expressing concern after the relegation-threatened side lost another striker in Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month.

"Yesterday [Monday] afternoon they called and contemplated this situation," Moreno told reporters on Tuesday. "They only made contact once.

"The truth is that we are very worried. After what happened to us with En-Nesyri, now what happens with Braithwaite ... staying in LaLiga gets more complicated every day. In these next hours we will know what happens, yes or no.

"I don't know if anyone will come from Barcelona today. The player has a day off and we have not talked to him.

"I understand why Braithwaite would go to Barca, I would too. But of course, we are not going to negotiate anything. They pay his clause, or he stays at Leganes.

"I can understand that Barca do this if the law allows them to, but I thought that they couldn't sign an active player, only one free agent. I was surprised."

After 24 LaLiga matches this season, Leganes are second-bottom of the table, only ahead of Espanyol on goal difference and two points adrift of Celta Vigo in 17th.

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