Rennes coach Bruno Genesio has not played down reports suggesting a move for Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti, adding the star is a "high-level player".

The Ligue 1 outfit have been linked for a move for the France international, who endured a torrid 2021-22 campaign at Camp Nou rocked by injury.

A Europa League qualifying finish for Rennes has left Genesio seeking "sports guarantees" in regard to his transfer aims, and the World Cup winner - whom he previously coached at Lyon - would fit the bill.

"Sam is a player I know perfectly well," he stated. "I trained him as a youth player and then in the Lyon first team. That creates a bond.

"You all know his history, his qualities [and] the setbacks he had last year. But he is still a high-level player, and we are interested in high-level players," 

Genesio touched on his desire to reinforce Rennes' squad too, adding that he needs an influx of fresh talent to replicate their 2021-22 feats.

"I want to have sports guarantees," he stated. "We just had a very good season. To continue, we need a quality group.

"I needed to have a lot of answers in the backbone of the team that we were going to be able to maintain and what we were able to do in terms of reinforcements."

Rafael Marquez is set to return to Barcelona as head coach of the Blaugrana's B team, club president Joan Laporta has confirmed.

The former defender, widely considered one of Mexico's greatest ever players, won La Liga four times and lifted the Champions League trophy twice with Barcelona between 2003 and 2010. 

He also won 147 caps for his country and appeared at five consecutive World Cups between 2002 and 2018, making his final professional appearance in El Tri's round-of-16 loss to Brazil in Russia four years ago.

The 43-year-old is now set to follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique by coaching Barcelona B, who play in the third tier of the Spanish league system.

Speaking at an event in S'Agaro, Laporta said: "Rafa in principle had [agreed] to be the coach of Barca Atletic last year, [but] he had a situation that prevented him from doing so.

"Now this has already been resolved and Rafa will be the coach of Barca Atletic next season. 

"I am especially happy because I had Rafa as a player, he is a person with a great personality, captain of the Mexican team, and who was part of one of the best Barca [teams] in history."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists the club have "no intention" of selling Manchester United target Frenkie De Jong, but says the midfielder may have to accept a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

De Jong, who emerged as one of European football's hottest properties under Erik ten Hag at Ajax before joining Barca in 2019, has been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford since his former boss took over at United.

The Netherlands international said in May that his preference would be to remain at Camp Nou, which he labelled his "dream club", but the Blaugrana's financial difficulties have given rise to speculation he could depart.

Barcelona's desire to recruit wantaway Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has only amplified such rumours, but Laporta believes De Jong is happy at the club and could stay – if an agreement over his salary can be reached.

"Frenkie de Jong is a Barca player and is recognised as one of the best players in the world," Laporta told reporters.

"We know of clubs that want him, not only United, and we have no intention of selling him. The player, I get the impression, wants to stay. 

"He is comfortable at Barca and I will do what is in my power so that Frenkie stays here, but it is also a salary issue and it would have to be adjusted.

"What is certain is that the salary levels of some players are not in line with the salary levels that the board of directors that I have the privilege of presiding over have set."

 

De Jong made 47 appearances for Barcelona during the 2021-22 season, scoring four goals and boasting the best passing accuracy (91.18 per cent) of any of the club's midfielders to play at least 20 games in all competitions.

Laporta refused to be drawn on Barcelona's interest in Lewandowski, however, only affirming his respect for the Poland international's current club. 

"He is a Bayern player," he said of the striker, who plundered 50 goals for the Bundesliga champions last season. 

"Everyone knows that he is a great player, but I would prefer to be reserved because he is a Bayern player. 

"We know that he has publicly stated that he wants to come to Barca and we are very flattered, but we have respect for Bayern Munich, which is one of the best clubs in the world. Between clubs, we respect each other."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has confirmed the club have been in talks with Leeds United regarding Raphinha, who "wants to come" to Camp Nou.

The 25-year-old looks poised to leave Leeds amid a fierce battle for his services, with Chelsea widely reported to have had a bid accepted, while Arsenal have also been attributed with an interest.

Barcelona have long been seen as the favourites, however, though there have been questions as to whether the club could afford the winger due their financial problems – though they were boosted by a TV agreement this week.

Laporta has now confirmed that Raphinha does indeed want to move to Barcelona.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended. We have communication and we have spoken personally," he told reporters on Saturday.

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and are making their proposals. He wants to come."

Laporta also confirmed that two deals are set to be made official this week, with Barcelona landing Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on free transfers following the expiration of their deals with Milan and Chelsea respectively.

He added: "We will present Kessie on Wednesday and Christensen on Thursday."

The club are also expected to announce a new contract for Ousmane Dembele, who is reportedly ready to accept a wage reduction in order to remain with Xavi's side.

Luuk de Jong has brought an end to his three-year spell in LaLiga with Sevilla and Barcelona by returning to PSV.

The 31-year-old joined Sevilla from PSV in 2019 and scored 19 goals in 94 appearances, including a brace in the club's 3-2 win over Inter in the 2020 Europa League final.

He joined Barcelona on loan last season and featured 29 times, but the seven goals netted were not enough to persuade Xavi's side of making a permanent move for the striker.

Rather than return to Sevilla for the 2022-23 campaign, the Netherlands international has instead re-joined Eredivisie side PSV on a three-year deal.

PSV and Sevilla both confirmed the transfer on their official websites on Saturday, with reports from Spain valuing the transfer in the region of €4million.

De Jong scored more than 100 goals for PSV in his previous five-year stint at the Philips Stadion, helping his side to three league titles, and is excited to be back in Eindhoven.

"I'm home again. That's how it really feels," De Jong said. "I can't wait to score goals for PSV again and hope to see the whole stadium jump again after that. 

"Great things can happen this season together. In all the years I played here, we went for the title. It seems logical to me that I want to do that again. 

"In addition, I want to enter the Champions League with PSV. It is fantastic to be able to play football on that podium."

De Jong, who had been linked with numerous other clubs, added: "It gives a great feeling to return. In recent weeks I read that many fans were hoping for it.

"This choice was not very difficult for me to make. The club is building something very beautiful and I want to be part of that. It feels like something great is about to happen here."

De Jong, capped 38 times by the Netherlands, has also previously won the Eredivisie and Dutch Cup with Twente.

He joins the likes of Xavi Simons, Walter Benitez and Ki-Jana Hoever in joining PSV, who are now managed by Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Hugo Ekitike may end up staying at Reims in this transfer window as he waits on a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Newcastle United have long since agreed a deal with Reims for the forward, but the transfer has not progressed further.

Reports have suggested the demands of Ekitike's agent have put off Newcastle, while the 20-year-old has continued to be linked to other clubs.

And Oscar Garcia, the Reims coach, revealed on Friday the player is in no hurry to leave.

Wantaway Reims stars are said to have a July 10 deadline to secure moves, and with purported interest from Madrid subsequently dismissed, Ekitike's short-term future could still be in Ligue 1.

Garcia told a news conference: "He told me that he wanted to stay, but if Real Madrid or Barcelona arrive...

"I feel Hugo is calm. I spoke with him. He will have no problem staying at the club – and neither will I."

 

Ekitike scored 10 goals and assisted three more in the league last season, contributing a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average.

Attempting only 31 shots, his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, far outperforming his expected goals total of 7.0.

As well as Newcastle and Madrid, Ekitike has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Spain's triumph at Euro 2012 proved to be the final flourish for one of the greatest ever international sides, with La Roja winning three consecutive international tournaments.

Prior to victory in Euro 2008, Spain had not won an international competition since 1964 and had been perennial underachievers. 

But that swiftly changed with the Euros win followed up by World Cup success in South Africa in 2010 before the successful defence of their continental crown.

The triumph in 2012 was the end of an era, however, with Spain eliminated in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, bowing out at in the last 16 at Euro 2016 and then losing to hosts Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup.

However, a turn in fortunes was shown at Euro 2020, played in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, when Spain reached the semi-finals of the competition, narrowly losing to eventual champions Italy.

Now, all eyes are focused on Qatar this year. With Spain in a tough group alongside Germany, Japan and Costa Rica, a new dawn of young talents will be decisive to the hopes of the nation.
 

Pedri

Pedri's international debut came in Spain's second World Cup qualifying match against Georgia and he soon established himself as a core part of the squad for Euro 2020, where he played all but a single minute and was named Young Player of the Tournament.

In the semi-final against Italy, Pedri shone as he completed 65 of 67 passing attempts and overall at the tournament, he failed to complete just 40 of 461 attempts, resulting in a passing accuracy of 91 per cent.

Understandably, this has led to the general consensus that Pedri is the heir apparent to Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who were vital for Spain's glory years a decade ago, and under the stewardship of the former at Barcelona, expectations are high.

Still a teenager and only turning 20 in the days after what is expected to be his World Cup debut against Costa Rica on November 23, his calm and composed demeanour will help to keep Spain ticking through midfield in Qatar.

Gavi

The other half of Barcelona's exciting midfield duo, Gavi too has settled into Spain's international fold since his debut appearance in the semi-finals of the Nations League against Italy – where he became the youngest-ever player to represent Spain's senior squad.

A further record would tumble last month in the Nations League clash against the Czech Republic, where he became his country's youngest-ever scorer, and he has accumulated 10 appearances for his national side in less than a year.

Gavi's creativity has proven to be a stellar asset for his national side and his movement across the field, shown by his touches during his international career, is extremely difficult to track – and noticeably touches inside the box are few and far between.

Just 14 of 321 touches have come inside the 18-yard box, with his work tending to orientate from a deeper role. That is reflected by his passes – with just eight passing attempts inside the box and the remaining 234 coming outside.

Ansu Fati

Earning an international debut in September 2020 against Germany, then scoring a few days later against Ukraine, Ansu Fati notched up four caps for Spain before the close of that year but injury problems derailed his progress for club and country.

A nine-month absence began in November 2020, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season, and a further injury setback occurred in January this year which saw him miss three months of the campaign before his return in May.

While his international football has been limited ahead of the World Cup, expectations remain high at Barcelona where he has netted 19 goals during his career – with 15 of those strikes coming from inside the box.

That results in a significant asset for Spain, as Pedri and Gavi often provide the sort of passes that Fati thrives on.

Fati could prove particularly important given La Roja are limited with central options in the attacking third.

Eric Garcia

While not commanding as many headlines as other young talents within the Spain squad, Eric Garcia's role in the years ahead is vital given the ageing defensive line La Roja have at their disposal.

In the most recent call-ups in June, Garcia was the only defender under the age of 25 and one of only three beneath 30, alongside Pau Torres and Diego Llorente, which shows a clear changing of the guard lying ahead.

Garcia is likely to be one of the first names on Spain's teamsheet in the heart of defence, with 17 caps since making his international debut in 2020 and having started five of Spain's World Cup qualifying matches.

In true Spain style, one of his greatest assets is his ability on the ball and he showcased that last month in Spain's 2-0 Nations League against the Czech Republic, where Garcia completed 110 of 115 pass attempts.

Pedri has been hailed as "the Iniesta, the Xavi" of the Spain team that will go after World Cup glory in Qatar.

The praise came from former Liverpool and Newcastle United left-back Jose Enrique, a player who was crowded out of the Spain squad by the country's last golden generation.

Jose Enrique's peak playing years coincided with Spain's most dominant period in international football, and although he does not consider Luis Enrique's squad quite at that same level, the likes of Barcelona youngster Pedri make him optimistic for the World Cup.

Spain won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in a sensational period of dominance. They have not won a major tournament since, but a burgeoning group of young talent is emerging once again, with 19-year-old midfielder Pedri among the most exciting talents in the world game.

"To me, the player that has more projection in terms of image on that team is Pedri, he won't be out of the team," said Jose Enrique.

"You also have Ferran Torres doing well for Barcelona and Pau [Torres], the central defender of Villarreal; I think he will be key for the team as well."

Speaking to Stats Perform, Jose Enrique said Spain's final squad for the finals would be "difficult to predict" due to head coach Luis Enrique often filtering players in and out of his squad.

"But to choose one who will make the difference 100 per cent, and that already did in the past, it is Pedri," Jose Enrique said.

"For me, he is the star of the national team, the Iniesta, the Xavi. Back in that day it was different because there were many and that is why Spain won everything. But if you mention Spain now, the first player that comes to my mind is Pedri."

Pedri endured an injury-disrupted 2021-22 season with Barcelona, scoring five goals and having one assist in 22 games across all competitions. Only five Barcelona players created more chances than the 31 he carved out.

In the previous season, he played a team-high 52 matches, going on to win Tuttosport's prized Golden Boy award as Europe's top young talent. He will be expected to continue to grow into his responsible role in coach Xavi's Barcelona team in the new season.

Barcelona greats Xavi and Iniesta were at the heart of Spain's indomitable midfield for their three successive big tournament triumphs.

Jose Enrique was starring in the Premier League at the time but got no further than the Spain Under-21 team, such was the strength throughout the national squad.

He says the current group of players and the pool that brought glory to Spain during a dazzling four-year period cannot be compared, but stressed that does not mean the new breed cannot be successful.

A run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals was a step in the right direction for Spain, after a run of disappointing big-stage performances, fuelling Jose Enrique's belief they will be a threat when Qatar hosts in November and December.

Spain must navigate a challenging group that will see them face Germany, Japan and Costa Rica.

"Spain will always be one of the favourites because I believe that Spain always is," Jose Enrique said. "But to win a World Cup isn't easy and Spain did it: Euro-World Cup-Euro when they had a brutal selection of players, and now it is completely different.

"It has a magnificent coach and a squad that changes depending on the players' performances and I love this about Luis Enrique, but it is true that we cannot compare.

"We now have a young squad with few veterans, and they could win the World Cup because anything can happen in football. England had a very young squad and made it to the [2018 World Cup] semi-finals.

"Youngsters have more support than before and Spain can be a surprise because Luis Enrique knows very well how to play. He has young players but full of desire and hunger. The most important thing for me is to start well. If they do, they are capable to win against any team, and why not Germany."

Barcelona have given themselves a major financial boost that should see their salary cap increase significantly after selling 10 per cent of their LaLiga TV rights for the next 25 years to an investment firm.

Last week, club president Joan Laporta promised to activate the "levers" that would ease Barcelona's financial concerns, and Thursday's announcement is the first such step.

The deal sees Barcelona generate capital gains totalling €267million, with Sixth Street Partners making an initial investment of €207.5million.

The investment group will subsequently receive 10 per cent of Barca's domestic TV rights revenue until 2047.

Barca's need for a financial injection was urgent due to their financial year ending on June 30 – their accounts at the end of Thursday would have impacted the salary cap for the upcoming season.

 

Last year, Barca's financial woes saw their salary cap slashed by €280m to just €97m for the 2021-22 campaign – to put that into context, six clubs had larger wage limits. Real Madrid were top of the pile with a cap of €739m.

That was ultimately the reason they could not sign Lionel Messi to a new contract, but the capital injection on Thursday will allow Barca to end this financial year with a profit, thus ensuring a salary cap increase that should be significant.

The club are also expected to sell almost 50 per cent of the Barca Licensing and Merchandising (BLM) part of the business, but that is now less urgent.

Speaking after the TV rights deal was announced, Laporta said: "We are activating economic levers and executing on our patient, sustainable, and efficient strategy to strengthen the club's financial footing.

"Sixth Street is a proven supporter of football, an experienced investor across global sports and media, and a partner that will contribute significant knowledge and resources while allowing us to independently manage our operations."

Barca are still yet to confirm the arrivals on free transfers of Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie, who have been strongly tipped to join.

The club are also keen on signing Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde are reportedly key targets.

Thursday's news should allow the club greater room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is eager to bring in two attacking players this off-season following their third-place Premier League finish last term.

The club's new owners are set to back Tuchel's plans, with the Blues linked to Raheem Sterling, Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele and Everton's Richarlison.

However, Chelsea could be set for their first splash of the window by signing a superstar from Elland Road.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO WIN RAPHINHA RACE

Chelsea are set to win the race to sign Leeds United's Brazilian forward Raphinha claims The Guardian.

Raphinha is being pursued by Arsenal and Barcelona along with the Blues, who are set to complete a £55million deal for the 25-year-old.

The winger is contracted with Leeds until 2024 and may follow Kalvin Phillips out of Elland Road with the England midfielder set to complete his move to Manchester City.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mail reports Chelsea are also interested in a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe claims that PSG's initial offer for the Slovakian was worth €50m.

- Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches is eager to join PSG from Lille according to Le Parisien, with a €10m offer on the table. Sanches has one year remaining on his contract.

- Univision reports that LAFC are not pursuing Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez amid speculation linking the Uruguayan with the MLS club after they recently landed Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini.

- Milan are looking into swooping to sign Juventus' Paulo Dybala who has been heavily linked with Inter, claims RadioRadio.

- Liverpool's Divock Origi is set to join Milan on a four-year deal pending a medical as widely reported by the Italian media.

- Argentinean outlet Relevo reports that Angel Di Maria is set to sign a deal with Juventus on Wednesday, having left PSG as a free agent.

Patrick Kluivert hopes Barcelona will retain his compatriot Frenkie de Jong, amid reported interest from Manchester United.

Despite his own reported intentions to stay in LaLiga, De Jong has been linked to a reunion with Erik ten Hag - his former boss at Ajax – with Barcelona attempting to break even on an €85million package.

The 25-year-old has struggled to find a role that best suits him since arriving at Camp Nou in 2019, with Sergio Busquets still starting as Barcelona's deepest midfielder.

Kluivert believes De Jong would flourish in Busquets' role but it would be hard to supplant the veteran, but despite this and Barcelona's recent financial troubles, they should try to keep him.

"I hope that they will keep him," Kluivert told Cadena Ser. "If they sell him it is clear that the club would receive a lot of money, but it is a long season and Frenkie is not just any player. I wouldn't sell him.

"Busquets is there, who has had an impressive year and it is difficult to remove him but Frenkie can play in various positions. For me, the best is the 6, but Busi's there."

The 45-year-old scored 91 times in 192 LaLiga appearances for Barcelona, while he remains an ambassador for the club and his son Shane plays in the youth setup.

Kluivert added that with the likes of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi, Barcelona's future can be bright under Xavi, who he believes needs time after replacing Ronald Koeman during last season.

"They are fantastic, I know them very well, they have grown up in the club and they know the values," he said. "Ansu is a pity, for injuries this year but he scores important goals for the club. If he is at 100 per cent we are going to enjoy him at Barça. Pedri has not grown in the club but he is a player of another level.

"Xavi, he is the ideal, but you have to give him a little time. Entering how he has entered in a difficult situation, he did very well.

"I don't know if they were fair to Koeman, but they are situations that happen, and I don't know everything that happened, I can't comment. I didn't speak to Koeman when he came out."

While criticising Joan Laporta's management, Ronald Koeman has claimed Barcelona are caught up in their own history as football evolves beyond their identity on the pitch.

The former Barcelona head coach claims Laporta placed unnecessary pressure on him before his dismissal in October last year.

Xavi taking over from the 59-year-old formed part of a narrative that the financially embattled club would return to their roots both on and off the pitch, as part of Laporta's second stint as club president.

In an interview with Esport3, Koeman suggested such a sentiment is ultimately impractical and ignorant of football's evolution, while defending his own tactical choices in charge of the Blaugrana.

"I am in favour of dominating the game," he said. "If you play with three central defenders, you cannot say that it is a defensive system. With this system for three or four months, we played the best games in recent years.

"The clearest example was the [2021 Copa del Rey] final against Athletic. Barcelona lives in the past, from 4-3-3, to Tiki-taka. Football has changed. Now it's faster, more physical.

"You can't live in the past. If you have Xavi, Iniesta... and Messi, who by the way, they took from me. This was a very hard one to take."

Koeman also hinted to the weight lifted off his shoulders after his dismissal, especially within the context of leaving the Netherlands national team to take Barcelona over during a period of significant financial and political upheaval at the club.

Laporta was elected as Barcelona president three months after Koeman's replacement of Quique Setien in 2020.

Set to take over the Netherlands from Louis van Gaal after this year's World Cup, Koeman insists life has become less complicated since leaving, but harbours no regrets about his return to the club he won a Champions League with as a player.

"Leaving was a bit of a liberation," he said. "It was a difficult time for the club, without a president, with Laporta's doubts about the coach.

"You want to be a coach and you know that if you don't win you have problems. I made an effort, I left the national team and if it happened again, I would do it again. I don't regret it.

"As president, you can always have doubts but if you say them to the public, everyone doubts. It was a big mistake on his part."

Barcelona are studying the possibility of taking legal action against Roma after the Italian club announced they will no longer take part in the Joan Gamper Trophy. 

The two clubs were set to meet at Camp Nou on August 6, with their respective women's sides also facing off, in a fixture that acts as an annual curtain-raiser for Barca's season.

However, just 12 days after the friendly was announced, Roma confirmed on Monday that they have withdrawn from the match.

Roma said in a statement the decision was taken as a result of modifying their pre-season plans to best suit both their men's and women's sides.

In a strong statement of their own released shortly thereafter, Barcelona hit out at the Europa Conference League winners, who are managed by their former coach Jose Mourinho.

"Roma have decided to unilaterally, without reason, withdraw from the agreed contract for both parties for the Joan Gamper Trophy," the statement read.

"The club is working on a finding a new opponent for this year's edition. In the next 24 hours the return of money already spent on tickets will begin.

"The club wants to make it clear that the suspension of the games has been due to circumstances outside the control of FC Barcelona, the express wish of AS Roma. 

"The club's legal department is studying possible action against the Italian club for damages caused to Barcelona and its fans due to this unexpected and unjustified decision."

Barcelona are scheduled to face UE Olot, Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus, New York Red Bulls and Manchester City ahead of the start of the 2022-23 LaLiga season.

 

LaLiga president Javier Tebas says he hopes Barcelona are able to complete the signing of wantaway Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

With just one year remaining on his contract with the Bundesliga champions, Lewandowski has repeatedly expressed his desire to join Barca, saying "something has died" within him and insisting his time in Munich is "over".

While Bayern remain steadfast in their desire to keep the striker, who scored 50 goals and added six assists in all competitions last season, Barcelona have made no secret of their interest in the 33-year-old.

Their attempts to sign him, however, appear to be subject to raising funds from player sales and salary cuts, with Tebas saying last month the Blaugrana must part with prized assets to complete the deal, declaring "they know what they have to do: sell assets".

Barca president Joan Laporta reacted angrily to that suggestion, accusing Tebas of wishing to harm the club's interests, but LaLiga's chief now appears more open to the prospect of the Poland international moving to Camp Nou.

Speaking at an event in Madrid, Tebas said: "I hope Lewandowski plays for Barcelona and has a good campaign.

 

"I hope that the [economic] levers Laporta has activated will allow the player to make it to Barcelona, because he is a legend of Bayern Munich and European football.

"If they execute what they approved in the assemblies, he will be able to play for Barcelona.

"There is interest and if they execute those levers then they will be able to sign him."

Among players in the top five European leagues, only Kylian Mbappe (60) and Karim Benzema (59) recorded more direct goal involvements than Lewandowski (56) last term, while no player to score at least 15 goals averaged fewer minutes per strike than the the Pole's 80.1 minutes.

Andreas Christensen admits he struggled when making the 'tough' decision to leave Chelsea, with the Denmark international expected to join Barcelona on a free transfer.

Chelsea confirmed earlier this month that Christensen was to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract, having contributed to 14 clean sheets in 34 appearances for Thomas Tuchel's men in the 2021-22 season.

The writing had looked to be on the wall for Christensen when Tuchel revealed the defender opted out of featuring in last month's FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool for "private" reasons, with Barca strongly linked with a move for the 26-year-old. 

Christensen joined the London club as a youth player when leaving Brondby in 2012, going on to win the Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with the Blues.

He has now opened up on the difficulties he faced in deciding to seek pastures new, writing on Instagram: "I had a tough decision to make at the age of 16 to leave Denmark. There was only ever one choice for me and that was Chelsea. From the moment I arrived they made me feel at home.

"Some of my proudest moments at the club were when we won FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League. Those were a special group of young players that I was proud to have as team-mates.

"Last year was my proudest achievement as a player and team when we lifted the Champions League in Porto.

"I was a young boy at Chelsea with all the hopes and fears of a player starting his career, I'm grateful to the whole club for making my dream come true.

"Having spent 10 amazing years at this club, I felt now was the right time for a new beginning for me and my family. Mentally the last few months have been tough as it's not been an easy decision to leave this club and the fans.

"I'm not the most talkative person so sometimes people don't understand how much the club and the fans mean to me. I will miss the players, staff and everyone here. I wish the best for the club and the fans in the future."

Christensen made 93 Premier League appearances for Chelsea and spent two seasons on loan at Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach between 2015 and 2017.

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