Ronald Araujo insists he will welcome competition for places at Barcelona amid continued speculation Jules Kounde will join the Blaugrana.

Barca have already signed Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie and Raphinha despite financial difficulties for the LaLiga side.

Xavi's side have also struck an agreement to bring Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski to Camp Nou for a reported €50million, including add-ons.

Ousmane Dembele has penned a contract extension with Barca as well, but the Blaugrana's spending looks set to continue with the Catalan giants reportedly on the brink of purchasing Kounde from Sevilla.

Chelsea and Manchester City have also been linked with the in-demand France centre-back, who Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui appears resigned to losing.

With Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Christensen and potentially Kounde as competition, Araujo suggested he wants the best for Barca to compete, and will welcome any addition to Xavi's squad.

Asked about Kounde after training on Barca's pre-season tour of the United States, the Uruguay international responded: "He is a great player; the best players being at Barca is good for the group.

"They know what I can contribute, my characteristics; what I want is for us to have the best possible team.

"Competition is always good in football because it makes you get the best of you, and players arrive who can contribute. I always say that I want the best for Barca, and that they add to the team."

As for Dembele's extension and the new arrivals, Araujo was quick to express his delight as Barca prepare to challenge Real Madrid for the LaLiga title.

"We all wanted Ousmane to continue in the team," he added. "We know [Lewandowski's] quality; it is tremendous that he is with us. 

"Raphinha, Christensen, Kessie also arrived. It's important that good players arrive to continue growing as a team."

Barcelona face friendlies against Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls before their LaLiga opener against Rayo Vallecano on August 13, and Araujo stressed the importance of pre-season.

"It is important to have a good pre-season, at a tactical and physical level. I think it's going to be a nice season," he continued. "It's important to win titles for the group, but you have to go step by step."

Robert Lewandowski believes the scheming that has pushed him to the brink of joining Barcelona will be worth any upset it has caused.

After hitting 50 goals across all competitions for Bayern Munich last season, Lewandowski is on the brink of ending his eight-year spell with the Bundesliga champions.

It emerged that Lewandowski wanted to leave as Bayern wrapped up their 10th consecutive German league title.

The 33-year-old Poland international spoke of his clear desire to move on, a year before the end of his contract, and such straight talking left no doubt that he considered his time in Bavaria to be over.

It left Bayern needing to negotiate the best possible deal with Barcelona, and it was confirmed on Saturday that a fee has been agreed, reported to be around the €50million mark.

Bayern had denied they wanted to sell Lewandowski, and in doing so managed to drive up the offer to a level that suited them.

Speaking to German newspaper Bild, Lewandowski outlined his feelings now that he is set for the switch to LaLiga.

"I said that both sides did things that were unnecessary," Lewandowski said. "But maybe certain things had to happen so that the transfer was possible in the end.

"I think both sides are happy now. Bayern get a lot of money, I can go to Barcelona. It was a long, difficult road, but I think that in the end everyone can look each other in the eye."

In the 2020-21 campaign, Lewandowski broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record by scoring 41 goals in a single season, while his 43 league goals in 2021 serve as the record for a calendar year in Germany's top tier.

Lewandowski's total of 312 Bundesliga goals is the second-most scored by any player in the history of the competition, behind Muller (365), while he leaves Bayern having accumulated 344 goals and 57 assists across 375 appearances in all competitions.

"I wanted to play in a league other than the Bundesliga, I had made that decision a long time ago," Lewandowski said. "But I have to emphasise that it was the most difficult decision of my life."

The former Borussia Dortmund striker said he needed to make a decision due to his daughter, Klara, being about to start school.

"If not now, it would probably never have been possible," he said. "It was a unique opportunity."

Sebastian Haller says he does not want to be labelled as "someone's successor" after replacing Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during his two-and-a-half-year spell at Dortmund before making a big-money move to Manchester City last month.

That tally was bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 games) and Kylian Mbappe (93 in 111 games) of players from Europe's top five leagues during that period.

Dortmund swiftly acted to replace the Norway international, signing Haller from Ajax for a reported €36million and exciting forward Karim Adeyemi from RB Salzburg.

Haller caught the eye with Ajax during a talismanic 18-month spell that included 11 goals in just eight Champions League appearances in the 2021-22 season.

But the Ivory Coast striker was quick to dismiss comparisons with Haaland, insisting he did not want to be viewed as a replacement for the prolific striker.

"I'm not coming to Borussia Dortmund as someone's successor, but because the club needs my quality," he told reporters on Sunday at Dortmund's Bad Ragaz training camp in Switzerland. 

"So I'll do my best to give back the confidence. I knew that BVB had been interested for a long time, by that I mean during the last season.

"But there is a big difference between interest and the transfer fee. When it became concrete, I felt that Dortmund had a very good option for me. In the end, it certainly wasn't a bad deal for Ajax either."

 

Barcelona struck a deal with Bayern Munich on Saturday to bring Lewandowski to the Blaugrana for a reported €50m, including add-ons.

The Poland captain scored 50 goals last season in all competitions, more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues, but Haller refused to suggest Bayern would be weaker without Lewandowski.

"Time will tell. I'm here now to play for Borussia Dortmund and do my best. Not to talk about the situation at other clubs," he added.

"It doesn't matter to me whether he still played at Bayern or not. I want to win games with my team. I don't focus on other teams.

"First of all, to be able to achieve anything, we have to win our games. If we're not successful, then we don't need to look at others anyway.

"I focus on the way we play, on our team, and I want to adapt quickly instead of worrying about our opponents getting weaker. It's like this: If you want to win titles, you have to focus on yourself."

Dortmund start their new campaign with a DFB-Pokal tie against 1860 Munich on July 26, with their Bundesliga season starting at home to Bayer Leverkusen on August 6.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann is "not worried" despite losing star striker Robert Lewandowski.

The 33-year-old scored 50 goals last season – the most of all players in Europe's top five leagues – but pushed for a transfer away from the Allianz Arena with one year remaining on his deal and finally got his wish on Saturday as Barcelona secured his signature.

The total fee will reportedly be €50million including add-ons, but Nagelsmann is not concerned about being able to replace the potent talisman.

"Robert Lewandowski had an outstanding eight years at Bayern. It's a big challenge to replace him," he told BR24. 

"I'm not worried right now, we are very well-equipped offensively and I'm still spoiled for choice.We have a possibility of building FC Bayern without a striker that can reliably score 40 goals.

"It's an interesting task for me and my coaching staff, as well as for [sporting director] Hasan Salihamidzic and [CEO] Oliver Kahn."

Bayern have already signed Sadio Mane from Liverpool, while midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and right-back Noussair Mazraoui have also recently joined from Ajax.

After Serge Gnabry signed a new deal with the Bundesliga champions on Saturday, Nagelsmann still has a number of forward options at his disposal.

Newcomer Mane played a number of games through the middle of the attack for Liverpool last season, while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joshua Zirkzee, who scored 18 goals in 47 games on loan at Anderlecht last season, also remain at the club.

"With Sadio Mane, we signed a player who played a lot as centre-forward for Liverpool last season, who is a different type of player to Lewy, not a classic striker," Nagelsmann added. 

"But we also have a lot of personnel to play with two centre-forwards."

The dissonance of winning the Premier League and another Champions League knockout exit has prompted more spending for Manchester City this close season.

While Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips make for high-profile signings, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have headed for the exit.

According to reports, however, City are not willing to let one particular player go despite interest from abroad.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY TO FIGHT FOR BERNARDO SILVA

Manchester City have no intention of selling Bernardo Silva to Barcelona this window, despite reports in Spain suggesting otherwise.

Pep Guardiola was prepared to let the talented midfielder move to Spain last year for personal reasons, but Barcelona failed to come up with the necessary funds to make a deal happen.

In the meantime, the Portugal international has become a pivotal piece in City's midfield, with Guardiola now viewing him as an important part of his plan's for this upcoming season.

Despite suggestions from Spain that City have given Silva's agent Jorge Mendes the clearance to finalise a deal, the Premier League champions are reportedly looking to keep their star.

 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, City appear set to sell Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal for £30million, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Chelsea will make a move for Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde after failing to secure Nathan Ake's signature, per The Times

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has informed the club's hierarchy to persist for Frenkie de Jong's signature, even if he has not joined them by the start of the Premier League season, The Guardian is reporting.

Juventus are in contact with Atletico Madrid to bring back Alvaro Morata after his two-year loan spell at the club ended at the end of last season, Calciomercato reports.

Robert Lewandowski posted his farewell to Bayern Munich fans on Saturday, amid confirmation of his high-profile transfer to Barcelona.

The Poland international is set to sign a four-year contract with Barcelona, ending months of speculation over his future at Sabener Strasse.

The two-time European Golden Shoe winner had been adamant on his desire to leave Bayern following protracted negotiations to extend his contract past the end of the upcoming season.

With the 33-year-old set to join the Barcelona squad on their tour in the United States, he extended his gratitude to Bayern, where he won the Bundesliga title in each of his eight seasons, along with a Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.  

"I would like to thank my teammates, staff members, club management and everyone who has always supported me and made it possible for us to win trophies for FC Bayern," Lewandowski posted on Instagram.

"I am proud of what we have achieved together. Above all, I would like to thank the fans because it is you who make FC Bayern the special club that it is. I'm privileged to have spent eight wonderful years with this club and its fans and it will remain in my heart forever."

Scoring 344 goals for Bayern in 375 matches across all competitions, Lewandowski is Barcelona's fourth off-season signing despite the club's much-publicised financial difficulties, joining Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha.

Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of Reims attacker Hugo Ekitike on loan until the end of the 2022-23 season, with an option to buy.

Reports suggest the eventual fee, should the deal be made permanent, will see the Ligue 1 champions pay around €35million for the 20-year-old.

Newcastle United had been linked with Ekitike, with reports suggesting he had turned down a move to the Premier League side in January.

Reims coach Oscar Garcia then quelled fears the forward would leave, suggesting Ekitike wanted to stay unless Real Madrid or Barcelona made an offer.

However, PSG have now swooped in to sign the striker on an initial loan deal as new head coach Christophe Galtier attempts to build a squad capable of competing domestically and in the Champions League.

 

Ekitike emerged as one of the hottest prospects in Europe's top five leagues after a fine 2021-22 Ligue 1 campaign, in which he scored 10 goals and assisted three more.

He contributed a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average and his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, comfortably exceeding his expected goals total of 7.0.

While PSG have acquired a young talent to support Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, Galtier's side are also reportedly interested in Sassuolo forward Gianluca Scamacca.

Robert Lewandowski's time at Bayern Munich has come to an end.

Barcelona have struck a deal in principle with the Bundesliga champions to sign the star forward, who expressed his desire to leave Munich at the end of last season.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign, continuing his remarkable form across his eight-year spell in Bavaria.

Before his move to Bayern in 2014, Lewandowski was brilliant for Borussia Dortmund, and he leaves Germany as one of the Bundesliga's greatest performers, having scored 344 goals and contributing 57 assists.

Here are the 33-year-old's best figures and records from his stint in Germany's top tier.
 

Bossing the Bundesliga

312 - Lewandowski has scored 312 Bundesliga goals, the second most scored by any player in the history of the competition behind the great Gerd Muller's tally of 365.

128 - Of those 312 goals, 128 have come on the road, which is the most by any Bundesliga player.

 

7 - Lewandowski finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer in seven different seasons, equalling the record set by Bayern legend Muller.

41 - He also broke Muller's long-standing record of scoring 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season when he netted 41 in the 2020-21 campaign.

5 - The Poland forward has finished as the league's top scorer in the last five seasons, with no other player managing such a long streak in the competition's history.
 

A king in Europe

86 - Lewandowski has scored 86 Champions League goals, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (140) and Lionel Messi (125) having scored more, while his tally is matched by Real Madrid star Karim Benzema.

106 -Yet no other player has needed fewer Champions League appearances to reach 86 goals (Lewandowski 106, Messi 107, Ronaldo 121, Benzema 141).

 

23 - In the 2021-22 season, Lewandowski scored three goals within the first 23 minutes against RB Salzburg in the last 16. That is the quickest hat-trick in Champions League history.

5 - Lewandowski has scored three or more goals in a Champions League game on five occasions, with only Ronaldo and Messi (both eight) doing so more times.

1 - He is the only player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final tie, having done so for Dortmund against Madrid in 2013.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich have struck a deal for the transfer of Robert Lewandowski in one of the biggest moves of the window so far.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals across all competitions last season but announced at the end of the campaign that he wished to leave Bayern and would not be signing a new contract with the Bundesliga champions.

With Bayern facing the prospect of keeping an unhappy player and then losing the Poland captain on a free transfer next year, they have elected to cash in and grant Lewandowski's wish to join Barca.

Lewandowski returned to Munich for pre-season training on July 12 but all parties were said to want an agreement to have been made prior to Bayern's tour of the United States.

The Catalan club have been hampered by financial difficulties but managed to put together a bid reportedly worth €50million which has been enough to convince Bayern to part company with the 33-year-old.

Barcelona announced on Saturday an agreement in principle had been reached for Lewandowski, with completion of the deal contingent on him passing a medical on contracts being signed.  

Lewandowski joined Bayern from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer in 2014 and went on to become one of the world's most prolific goalscorers.

 

In the 2020-21 campaign, Lewandowski broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record by scoring 41 goals in a single season, while his 43 league goals in 2021 serve as the record for a calendar year in Germany's top tier.

Lewandowski's 312 Bundesliga goals are the second-most scored by any player in the history of the competition, behind Muller (365), while he leaves Bayern having accumulated 344 goals and 57 assists across 375 appearances in all competitions.

The forward will become Barca's fourth signing of the transfer window, following on from Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen, while the Blaugrana have also tied Ousmane Dembele down to a new contract.

Bayern, meanwhile, brought in Sadio Mane from Liverpool earlier in the window, in essence replacing Lewandowski already, while they are expected to sign defender Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus.

Xavi was unable to travel to the United States with Barcelona on Saturday as red tape prevented the Spanish coach making the trip.

Widespread reports in Spain said the 42-year-old had been refused the right to enter the US alongside his players because of previous visits to Iran.

Xavi visited the country on AFC Champions League duty during his time with Qatari club Al Sadd, and Mundo Deportivo reported he was not immediately given permission to enter the US as a result.

The United States and Iran have no formal diplomatic relations, and those who have been to Iran may not be immediately eligible to travel to America.

Xavi is expected to be granted permission to travel early next week, reports said.

Barcelona confirmed their 28-player squad left El Prat airport at 14:30 local time on Saturday (13:30 BST), heading for Miami.

They are due to return on July 31 after pre-season games against Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls.

Officials including club president Joan Laporta also made the trip, but Barcelona said in a statement: "Coach Xavi Hernandez will not be taking today's flight for administrative reasons associated to his passport reasons.

"He is expected to join the rest of the squad in Miami in the next few days."

Bayern Munich have verbally agreed terms with Barcelona for the sale of superstar striker Robert Lewandowski.

The 33-year-old scored 50 goals last season – the most of all players in Europe's top five leagues – but has since been pushing for a transfer away from the Allianz Arena.

A deal between Bayern and Barca was finally reported on Friday, with a total fee of €50million set to allow Lewandowski to leave.

And Bayern published an update on their official Twitter page on Saturday, carrying a quote from club president Herbert Hainer.

"We have come to a verbal agreement with Barcelona," he said. "It's good to have clarity for all parties.

"Robert is an incredible player, and he won everything with us. We are incredibly grateful to him."

Lewandowski was pictured saying goodbye to his Bayern team-mates at their training ground early on Saturday morning.

Robert Lewandowski said his eight years at Bayern Munich had been "special" as he bid goodbye to players and staff from the German giants on Saturday.

The Poland striker is poised to seal a move to Barcelona after Bayern reportedly accepted a €50million offer from the LaLiga club.

Barcelona are said to be paying an initial €45million, plus €5million in performance-related add-ons, to secure the player who scored 50 goals for Bayern across all competitions last season.

Lewandowski was spotted at Sabener Strasse on Saturday morning taking part in training, before hugging team-mates and coaching staff at the end of the session.

The 33-year-old joined Bayern from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, and speaking to Germany's Sky Sport News, Lewandowski said: "I will come back and say goodbye to all the employees properly. I didn't have much time to prepare for it now.

"These eight years were special and you don't forget that. I had a great time in Munich. I will fly soon. But after the training camp I will come again and say goodbye properly and organise a few things.

"I said goodbye to the guys on the pitch today. I wasn't worried about an injury in training. Something can happen to me at home. I wanted to keep fit and so I trained with the boys again."

Bayern have already moved to limit the impact of Lewandowski's departure with the signing of Sadio Mane from Liverpool, while midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and right-back Noussair Mazraoui have also recently joined from Ajax.

According to Christian Falk of BILD Sport, Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn also confirmed that an agreement had been reached with Barca for Lewandowski, with Kahn quoted as saying: "We have now reached an agreement with FC Barcelona. So far, however, only verbally. The contract is still pending."

Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong was named in Barcelona's squad for their pre-season tour of the United States as Xavi's players prepared to depart on Saturday.

New signings Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha were also included by head coach Xavi, whose side will play four matches as they step up preparations for the LaLiga campaign.

The Blaugrana will play Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls on their jaunt to America, where De Jong is also set to feature despite question marks over his future.

United and Barcelona reportedly agreed a deal worth £63million (€75million) for the Netherlands international earlier this week, with a further £8.5million (€10million) in add-ons.

However, the midfielder, who would link up with former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford, is widely reported to be eager to remain at Camp Nou.

Despite a busy transfer window, Barcelona are reportedly unable to register their signings as they contend with financial fair play regulations, and it had been suggested the LaLiga club must cash in on assets to ease those issues.

President Joan Laporta appeared to reject that theory on Friday when he insisted the club do not need to sell De Jong.

Robert Lewandowski is poised to seal a move to Barcelona after Bayern Munich reportedly accepted a €50million offer from the LaLiga giants.

Rather than appear at Bayern's team presentation event at the Allianz Arena on Saturday, Lewandowski is expected to travel to Spain to put the finishing touches to his transfer.

It will mark the end of a saga that began in May, when it emerged there was a mutual attraction between Lewandowski and Barcelona.

Reports indicate Barcelona will pay an initial €45m, plus €5m in performance-related add-ons, to secure the player who hit 50 goals for Bayern across all competitions last season.

That made him the leading scorer from Europe's top five leagues, and it came as a jolt to the Bundesliga champions when the 33-year-old Polish striker made clear his desire to leave.

Barcelona have been pulling together funds to allow the deal to proceed, and the arrival of Lewandowski will follow the signing of Brazilian winger Raphinha from Leeds United as Xavi pieces together a team he hopes can compete for honours with Real Madrid.

According to Bild journalist Heiko Niedderer, Lewandowski arrived at Bayern's Sabener Strasse training headquarters shortly before 08:30 local time (06:30 GMT) to collect his possessions and say his goodbyes.

Later in the day, the presentation of the team at Bayern's stadium was due to see the first team and new recruits paraded in front of supporters. That had promised to be awkward if Lewandowski's future had remained unresolved.

As he departs, having won eight consecutive Bundesliga titles since arriving in 2014 from Borussia Dortmund, Bayern are expected to step up their efforts to bring in Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus.

Barcelona are due to fly to the United States for a pre-season tour on Saturday, with games scheduled against Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and the New York Red Bulls.

Lewandowski is not anticipated to be on the team flight but will hope his transfer can be completed to allow him to join his new team-mates within days.

Bayern are also heading to the US in the coming week to step up their own pre-season work.

Chelsea have marked Sevilla's Jules Kounde as their centre-back of the future after a deal for Manchester City's Nathan Ake fell apart.

An agreement had been taking shape to bring 27-year-old Ake back to Stamford Bridge – where he began his Premier League career – before City decided to retain the services of the Netherlands international.

Instead, 23-year-old Kounde is now in Chelsea's sights, likely as a long-term solution after also securing 31-year-old centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for a fee reportedly just shy of £34million.


TOP STORY – CHELSEA ENTER THE KOUNDE RACE

Kounde has already racked up 150 games of top league experience between his time with Bordeaux in Ligue 1 and Sevilla in LaLiga, and is expected to cost in the range of £56million, according to ESPN.

The France international, with 11 senior caps for his country, also has an impeccable injury history, tallying 184 appearances in all club competitions in just the past four seasons, with no significant injuries.

Chelsea will be mainly competing against Barcelona, with the Spanish giants reportedly already agreeing to personal terms with Kounde, and reports claim they are willing to exchange Memphis Depay or Sergino Dest to get a deal done.

Barcelona may be unable to afford the move unless Sevilla are willing to take back a player, as their £65m deal for Raphinha and their chase of Robert Lewandowski could restrict their financial flexibility

ROUND-UP

Aston Villa have placed a £20million price tag on 18-year-old midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka to try to fend off interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Newcastle United, according to Talksport.

– The Athletic is reporting that 29-year-old Jesse Lingard is considering a highly paid move to Saudi Arabia.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Arsenal are set to agree to personal terms with Manchester City's Oleksandr Zinchenko.

– Sky Sport in Germany claims Bayern Munich are close to securing Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt for around €80million.

– The Independent is reporting that William Saliba will try to push his way out of Arsenal if he is not guaranteed a place in Mikel Arteta's starting line-up, with Marseille and Atletico Madrid named as interested parties.

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