Quique Setien has been sacked as head coach of Barcelona after their astonishing Champions League thrashing by Bayern Munich.

 

With all eyes on Barcelona, Lionel Messi's future is again a talking point.

The Catalans capitulated in the Champions League on Friday, thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals in an embarrassing defeat.

Quique Setien appears set to be sacked as coach, while Messi's future has become unclear.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY TARGET MESSI AMID BARCELONA CHAOS

Manchester City think they are in pole position to sign Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to the Mirror.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until next year and is reportedly prepared to walk away from the club amid the chaos.

City have been linked with the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner previously, while Inter are another reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Changes are expected at Barcelona. AS reports Messi will be free to decide his future in January, while it says Setien and technical secretary Eric Abidal are on their way out.

- The focus otherwise in Spain is on Setien's replacement at Barcelona. Mundo Deportivo reports Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman is a candidate to take over at Camp Nou with Mauricio Pochettino and Al Sadd boss Xavi losing steam. Marca says Pochettino and Koeman are favourites, while Sport reports the former Tottenham manager is the frontrunner. It says Koeman, Massimiliano Allegri, Thierry Henry and Garcia Pimienta are also candidates.

- Elsewhere, Chelsea's apparent search for a defender continues. The Sun reports they are closing in on a £40million move for Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Lewis Dunk, who is also reportedly a target for Tottenham.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are also linked with goalkeepers to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Sun says Chelsea and Everton are targeting Watford's 37-year-old shot-stopper Ben Foster.

- After an impressive loan spell at Roma, Chris Smalling is attracting plenty of interest. Sky Sports reports Newcastle United are keen on the Manchester United defender.

Goodbye Quique Setien?

Barcelona's Champions League horror show against Bayern Munich is reportedly the final straw for the club's hierarchy.

Who will replace the former Real Betis boss at Camp Nou?

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TO SACK SETIEN

Barcelona have decided to sack head coach Quique Setien, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

LaLiga giants Barca were humiliated in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday following an 8-2 defeat to Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich.

Barca have already decided Setien – who replaced Ernesto Valverde in January – will not continue in 2020-21, and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has already been linked, while club great Xavi and Massimiliano Allegri are other possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Star reports Manchester United are eyeing Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez. United have been linked to the Spain international previously and are believed to be ready to revive their interest.

- Staying at Old Trafford and the Evening Standard says United remain in talks with Borussia Dortmund regarding Jadon Sancho. Dortmund insist Sancho will not leave the Bundesliga side, though United are reportedly still in negotiations for the England international. Meanwhile, Outlet Republika in Serbia claims United have agreed to sign teenage sensation Filip Stevanovic from Partizan Belgrade before loaning him back to the capital club.

- Hella Verona defender Marash Kumbulla wants to join Inter, Sky Sport Italia claims. Kumbulla has been linked to Napoli, Lazio and Juventus.

Bayern Munich want to keep loanee Ivan Perisic, according to Sky Sport Italia. Perisic has spent the season on loan from Inter and Bayern are hoping to negotiate a permanent deal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to remain at Milan and could soon sign a new contract with the Rossoneri, reports Calciomercato.

- Foot Mercato claims Barca could consider re-signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern. Thiago, who left Barca in 2013, has been tipped to join Liverpool, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have emerged as possible destinations.

Arsenal are planning to sign Thomas Partey from Atletico following the arrival of William, reports The Daily Star.

Xavi knows the time is not yet right for him to coach Barcelona, but if the day does come, he wants a 'dream team' around him.

Barca icon Xavi – currently the coach of Al Sadd – was heavily linked with taking over at Camp Nou following Ernesto Valverde's departure, but the 40-year-old claimed to have turned down his former club.

Quique Setien subsequently took charge, with the ex-Real Betis coach leading Barca to a second-placed finish in LaLiga, though they have progressed into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Xavi reiterated he is not yet ready for such a huge job, but should he take over eventually, he wants to be surrounded by a so-called 'dream team' of assistants.

"I don't think it's now, no. In January I told them that it was not the time, and now they have not contacted me," Xavi told El Pais.

"I wish them the best. I respect Quique Setien a lot, he has a game manual very similar to what Barca needs, which is 'Cruyffismo'. Another thing is that the results have to accompany it.

"I am delighted to continue gaining experience, challenging myself, and of course it would be a privilege for me to train Barca one day with a dream team – with Jordi Cruyff, Carles Puyol and some current players.

"I would like to make a team with valid people who know the club, people who I trust and who belong to me."

Xavi has recovered from coronavirus and is back at work with Al Sadd, the former Barcelona star has announced.

The 40-year-old confirmed on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was spending time away from his Qatari club.

It meant he missed out on coaching the team in their Stars League clash with Al Khor, but Xavi is well again, he declared on Instagram.

The former Spain midfielder, who has been frequently linked with a Camp Nou return as a potential successor to head coach Quique Setien, posted pictures of himself both back at work and at home with his children.

In a post published on Wednesday, Xavi thanked followers for their "caring messages" since announcing he had coronavirus, adding: "I want to share with you that I'm recovered and back home with my family and the @alsaddsc team".

In a separate Instagram post, Al Sadd also showed Xavi on club duty, wearing a face mask as he welcomed new signing Rodrigo Tabata to the club.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits it is a mystery to him what Lionel Messi and Quique Setien said to each other in their training-ground huddle.

Coach Setien has come under pressure after Barcelona's form fell away during the closing weeks of the season, allowing Real Madrid to clinch a 34th LaLiga title.

Should Barcelona also fall short of expectations in the Champions League, when that competitions resumes in August, the finger of blame is again likely to point to the former Real Betis boss.

Xavi, currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd, is seen as the likely next head coach at Camp Nou, and Bartomeu does not hide the fact he remains close to the 40-year-old former Barcelona midfielder.

For now Setien is the man in position, and his long conversation with Messi ahead of last Sunday's 5-0 win at Deportivo Alaves has been hailed as the moment that helped to ease tension in the ranks.

Bartomeu was not privy to the discussion, and when asked whether there were problems between star man Messi and his coach, the president said: "That should be asked of them.

"They held the meeting in the training camp in full view but neither Setien nor Messi have explained the content of the talk to me and it was private to them."

The demolition of Alaves suggested the talks had the desired effect, and Bartomeu said: "It is great. Coaches must communicate with their players, exchange opinions and reflections and this unites the squad. In addition, Messi is the captain and represents the entire squad."

Asked in an interview with Mundo Deportivo whether Xavi had been ruled out as a coaching option for next season, Bartomeu gave Setien his backing for now.

"I have an excellent relationship with Xavi and we talk with him about many topics," Bartomeu said. "But next year Quique Setien has a contract and he is the one we have hired. I trust him and his team.

"He is very clear about the game model and the style of Barca. He is a veteran with experience and good psychology and the fact that they have self-criticised reaffirms what I think of him, that he can win the Champions League and move forward next season."

Anything less than the European trophy might be considered another failure and Barcelona can ill afford to go through a sustained rocky spell at a time when they have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bartomeu suggested Barcelona have been Europe's worst-affected club, saying they expect to take a 30 per cent hit on previously anticipated income of 1.1billion euros.

"The pandemic affects the big European clubs and Barca, which is the European club that makes the most money, is the one that is most affected," Bartomeu said.

He sees no imminent end in sight to the financial impact, saying: "This pandemic will have effects for two or three seasons. Let no one think that the next campaign will be fixed.

"The great financial gurus talk about four years, but I think football will go faster."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted superstar Lionel Messi will sign a new contract with the LaLiga giants.

Messi, 33, has been linked with an exit amid reports the Barca captain is ready to quit Camp Nou once his contract expires in 2021.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has reportedly halted contract negotiations due to his frustrations with Barca – who are on track to be dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid in LaLiga this season.

But Bartomeu is confident all-time leading goalscorer Messi will retire at the club after making his debut in 2004.

"We have talked, we are talking and we will talk to Messi," Bartomeu told TV3.

"He wants to finish his career here. We will renew it [contract] for sure, I have no doubt that he will continue here."

Messi set up Arturo Vidal for the match-winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 victory at Real Valladolid.

It was Messi's 20th assist of the LaLiga season as he reached a notable double in the league, becoming the first player since Thierry Henry in 2002-03 to score and create 20-plus goals in a single campaign across Europe's top five leagues.

The victory kept Barca's slim title hopes alive amid doubts over the future of head coach Quique Setien.

Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde in January but the former Real Betis boss has struggled to convince, with Barca one point behind leaders Madrid – who can restore their four-point lead atop the table against Getafe on Monday.

Barca are also preparing for next month's Champions League last-16 second leg against Napoli following the coronavirus-enforced break. The first leg ended 1-1.

Asked about Setien, Bartomeu said: "Quique Setien will be on the team for the Champions League. The will is for him to be the coach next season, our intention is to fulfil the contracts."

Barca great Xavi had been linked to the hot seat prior to Setien's appointment and before signing a new contract with Qatari outfit Al-Sadd.

"Xavi will be a coach for Barca sooner or later but now we are not looking for a coach, we are with Quique," Bartomeu added.

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him reach a notable double in LaLiga.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain in the 21st century, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him make LaLiga history.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

Josep Maria Bartomeu believes Xavi will become Barcelona boss one day, though he has given his support to current coach Quique Setien.

Xavi, who holds the record for the most Barca appearances of all time, has long been linked with the top job at Camp Nou, where he spent 17 trophy-laden years as a player.

He was considered one of the front-runners to take the post when Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January only to suggest he was not ready, which led Barca to turn to Setien.

Xavi has since said he wants to be Barcelona coach and has been tipped to succeed the under-fire Setien, but on Sunday the ex-Barcelona midfielder signed a contract extension as coach of Qatari club Al-Sadd.

And though the jury remains out on Setien given his side have fallen four points behind Real Madrid in LaLiga, Bartomeu has given him his backing.

"Setien will continue, obviously," he told RAC1.

"I do not regret Valverde's change. The team needed a boost. Setien knows our DNA, the model and has brought new airs and new ideas.

"The coaches are obviously subject to the results, but I am happy with the evolution of the team."

On Xavi's coaching credentials, Bartomeu added: "[Xavi is] a great coach who I am sure will one day come to Barca."

Barca's poor form and infighting behind the scenes has again led to speculation that Lionel Messi could do the unthinkable and actually depart the club when his contract expires in 2021.

Bartomeu has remained steadfast in his belief that the 33-year-old will retire with the Blaugrana and said the club will do all they can to extend his deal.

"He has a contract until 2021 – normally we do not explain the conversations with the players but it is evident that we have an obligation to renew him," he said.

"Messi is the best player in the world."

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly agreed to let Neymar return to Barcelona, while Borussia Dortmund have set their asking price for Jadon Sancho.

Neymar, 28, has regularly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, and that could be getting a step closer.

But can the LaLiga giants make it happen?

 

TOP STORY – PSG AGREE TO LET NEYMAR RETURN TO BARCELONA

Neymar has reached an agreement with PSG to return to Barcelona ahead of next season, according to AS.

However, the report says Barcelona must still find the means to make it happen.

Neymar starred across four seasons at the LaLiga club before joining PSG in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

ROUND-UP

- If Manchester United want Sancho, it seems they know what they need to pay. Ruhr Nachrichten reports Dortmund want £108.3m (€120m) for the star attacker and the deal must be completed before August 10.

- Amid links to Barcelona, Xavi signed a new contract with Al-Sadd until 2021. However, Mundo Deportivo says the club's former midfielder has a release clause in his new contract to be able to sign to take over at Camp Nou before his deal ends. Staying at Barcelona and the club have agreed to lower Ivan Rakitic's price, according to Sport, with the midfielder linked with a Sevilla return.

- Nemanja Matic has found form at Manchester United. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, the 31-year-old midfielder – whose contract was expiring next year – has signed a new deal with the Premier League club until 2023.

- While Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, his future is somewhat uncertain. The Daily Express reports Paris Saint-Germain are keeping tabs on the Spaniard.

- As they near promotion to the Premier League, Leeds United could be ready to strengthen. The Sun reports Leeds are prepared to sign Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard – who has been linked to Manchester United and Arsenal – if they return to the top flight.

- Valencia are searching for a new head coach after the sacking of Albert Celades. L'Equipe reports former PSG boss Laurent Blanc is on the LaLiga club's list of possible successors.

Lionel Messi's future is often a topic of discussion.

Messi has an early break clause in his Barcelona contract.

As Barca look to re-sign Messi, the 33-year-old superstar is reportedly ready to walk away next year.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTS BARCA EXIT

Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of 2020-21, according to Cadena SER.

Barca captain Messi – previously linked to Inter and Manchester City – has reportedly been in talks over a new two-year deal at Camp Nou.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner and Barca's all-time leading scorer is reportedly tired of being blamed for issues at the club, with the LaLiga champions set to be dethroned by Real Madrid.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Camp Nou and club legend Xavi has agreed to become Barcelona head coach next season. Mundo Deportivo journalist Francesc Aguilar says the Al-Sadd boss has agreed a €6million salary to replace under-fire coach Quique Setien.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Manchester United and neighbours City have asked Barca about the availability of out-of-favour forward Antoine Griezmann. A big-money signing from Atletico Madrid at the start of the season, Griezmann has struggled and found himself on the bench in recent weeks. However, the report claims Barca are not considering a transfer.

Liverpool are poised to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, says Sport. Thiago is out of contract at the end of 2020-21 and the Spaniard is not willing to re-sign. Now, Liverpool are believed to be in advanced negotiations as Bayern seek £31m (€35m) for Thiago.

- Everton full-back Lucas Digne has emerged as a target for City and Chelsea if they fail to land Leicester City star Ben Chilwell, according to ESPN.

Borussia Dortmund have completed the signing of Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham, reports Bild. United were also chasing the 17-year-old sensation.

- After signing Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid, Sky journalist Fabrizio Romano claims Inter have opened talks with Chelsea for Italian full-back Emerson Palmieri.

Juventus are hoping to settle Paulo Dybala's new contract between July and August, says Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports Chelsea are ready to step up their pursuit of Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz after Saturday's DFB-Pokal final against Bayern. Havertz has been linked to Bayern, Madrid, United, Liverpool and Barca.

- Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga could be shipped out on loan to Sevilla, claims The Sun. The world's most expensive keeper has been criticised for his performances this season.

Barcelona great Xavi bade farewell in style on this day five years ago as he claimed a fourth Champions League title.

Elsewhere on June 6, Brian Lara set the cricket record books alight in the midst of a phenomenal 1994 purple patch, while an icon of the tennis world has great memories of this day in 1999.

Here we look back on those and some other landmark sporting moments.

 

1994 - Lara racks up 501

West Indies batsman Lara apparently did not satisfy his unquenchable thirst for runs when scoring a Test record 375 against England in Antigua.

On English soil two months later, he scored 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham, surpassing Hanif Mohammad's 499.

It could have been very different as Lara made an uncertain start – bowled off a no ball on 12 and then dropped by wicketkeeper Chris Scott.

The Durham gloveman's error proved unfathomably costly as Lara smashed 62 fours and 10 sixes to reach his still unsurpassed milestone from 427 deliveries. Starting with the 375, it was his seventh century in eight first-class innings.

 

1997 - Rose finally blooms

Considering his breakout performance as a teenager at the Open Championship came in 1998, Justin Rose had to bide his time when it came to waiting for first PGA Tour title.

However, he took the opportunity in style when his moment came at the 2010 Memorial Tournament.

Four strokes off the lead at the start of the final day, Rose shot an imperious 66 to finish on 18 under and win by three strokes from Rickie Fowler.

In 2013, the Englishman claimed his maiden major triumph at the U.S. Open.

 

1999 - Agassi completes career Grand Slam

Andre Agassi's designs on completing tennis' career Grand Slam appeared to be slipping through his fingers when he fell two sets behind to Ukraine's Andrei Medvedev in the final of the 1999 French Open.

But he stormed back to complete a 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 triumph, converting a fourth match point in the decider. It made Agassi the first man in 30 years to win all four grand slams.

"It's been a lot of years since I've had this opportunity and I never thought I would see this day," he said, having won Wimbledon in 1992, the 1994 US Open and the 1995 Australian Open.

That Roland Garros triumph sparked a late career surge from Agassi, who lost the Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras and won a second US Open later that year, preceding a trio of Australian crowns in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

 

2001 - Iverson steps over Lee

In 2001, Iverson produced one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history.

With less than a minute of overtime remaining, Philadelphia 76ers star Iverson made a 16-foot jump shot that Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Lakers leant in to contest.

As the ball dropped through the hoop, Lue lost his footing and Iverson mockingly stepped over him in celebration – an iconic image that sits uneasily with its main protagonist.

“I don’t like it [people making fun of Lue] because I love him," Iverson told ESPN in 2016. "I don’t like people joking on him and all that, because that’s my man."

The Lakers collectively had the last laugh, storming back from their opening night reverse to take the series 4-1. Iverson top scored for the 76ers in each game and ended the Finals with 178 points – a record for a five-game series.

 

2015 - Barca complete 'MSN' treble

Luis Enrique's fabulous Barcelona side – inspired by the MSN forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – completed their 2014-15 treble with a 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in Berlin.

Ivan Rakitic gave the Catalan club an early lead but Alvaro Morata levelled for Juve 10 minutes after the interval.

Suarez restored the advantage midway through the second half before Neymar made sure of victory deep into stoppage time.

For Xavi, it amounted to the perfect farewell at his boyhood club, having also lifted the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

Lionel Messi could play until he is almost 40, according to long-time Barcelona team-mate Xavi.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner, 32, was in typically stellar form for Barca this season, scoring 24 goals in all competitions before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to proceedings.

Messi has arguably never been so important to the Blaugrana's overall chances of success and Xavi feels the Argentina superstar has plenty left in the tank – both at club and international level.

"He's still got five or seven very good years left in him," Xavi said of Messi during an Instagram chat with another ex-Barca forward in Samuel Eto'o.

"He takes good care of himself and he can keep playing until he's 37, 38 or 39.

"He'll play at the Qatar World Cup, I'm sure."

If Messi reaches those levels of longevity, Xavi will seemingly hope to have taken charge of him as head coach.

The Al Sadd boss held talks with his former employers earlier this year before Quique Setien was appointed as Ernesto Valverde's successor.

"In January, it wasn't the right moment," Xavi said, echoing comments made on the matter earlier this year.

"I had conversations with Eric Abidal [Barcelona's sporting director] and Oscar Grau [Barcelona chief executive] and a big offer, but it wasn't the right moment.

"I need a bit more experience. Coaching Barcelona is my dream. I'd like to do it one day. I've said that many times."

Ideally, Xavi would also see Neymar return from Paris Saint-Germain and be part of any prospective squad of his.

The Brazil forward has frequently been linked with a move back to Camp Nou since his record transfer to the French capital in 2017.

"Footballing wise, he's in the top three or five players in the world, no doubt," Xavi added. "He can make the difference.

"Let's hope he returns to Barcelona. I'm a Barcelona fan and I want the best players there."

Rising Chelsea star Billy Gilmour says Barcelona midfield greats Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have helped to shape his development.

Gilmour, 18, has caught the eye this season with impressive displays for the Blues, particularly against Liverpool in the FA Cup and on his full Premier League debut against Everton.

The midfielder, who was named man of the match in that 4-0 victory over the Toffees, says he has always been inspired by watching the style of play of some of Barca's finest footballers.

"When I was young, I used to watch Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – everyone did," he told Sky Sports. "But when I started to analyse my game and think about who I would like to progress to be like, it was more like Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas – it was those players.

"It was something about how they passed the ball, receiving the ball, everything was sharp. Sergio Busquets too; when you watch Barcelona and you watch Busquets individually, everything happens around him.

"Those are the kind of players I looked up to, getting on the ball and making things happen."

Gilmour left Rangers for Chelsea in 2017 and admits it was the Premier League club's long-term planning that convinced him it was the right move.

"At the time [of moving], I didn't really know what was going to happen," he said. "But when I went down, saw everything and they had a plan, it was unbelievable. It was a dream. I always wanted to go and play in the Premier League to test myself and see what my limit is.

"When I first came, I'd say I was more of an attacking midfielder, and then [assistant coach] Jody Morris turned me into a deeper player. To get on the ball and start play is best for me, but I am happy playing anywhere."

Speaking of his standout performance in the 2-0 win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, he added: "There were parts that I felt were difficult, but when I got on the ball I felt good. I had players running off, so it was making it easy for me.

"It was a great, great game so I was happy to play well. And then receiving the man of the match, it was amazing. I never thought of it, I just wanted to play the game well, not muck up anything, and play the game right.

"To get first-team experience against Liverpool, the best team in the world right now, felt good."

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