Robert Lewandowski accused Bayern Munich of making up "bulls***" about him in an attempt to keep the fan base onside ahead of his move to Barcelona. 

Barca paid an initial €45million to sign Lewandowski from Bayern, where he had one year left on his contract and had made his desire to leave clear after a breakdown in talks over an extension. 

Lewandowski denied wanting out because of the Bundesliga champions' reported interest in Erling Haaland, who ended up swapping Borussia Dortmund for Manchester City. 

While he was unwilling to give the full details, he hit out at his former club for painting what he feels was an inaccurate portrait of the situation. 

"No, that was nothing to do with Erling," he told ESPN FC. "I am the guy who even if something's not good for me, truth is more important.

"I don't want to speak about what happened exactly. But if the question is if the decision to move was because of him, no, I didn't see the problem if he joined Bayern Munich. 

"But some people don't tell me the truth, [they] say something different. And for me, it was always important to be clear, to stay true, and maybe for a few people that was the problem. 

"In the end, I know that something doesn't work well with my person... and I feel that maybe it's a good time to move out of Bayern Munich and join Barcelona. 

"I had a very good relationship with my team-mates, with the staff, with the coach, and these are all things I'm going to miss because I spent a beautiful time there. 

"We were not only friends from the pitch but also something more. But in the end this chapter is over, and I open a new chapter in my life and a new chapter in my career. 

"So I feel that I'm in the right position, right place. So everything that's happened in the last few weeks before I left Bayern Munich, that was also of course a lot of politics. 

"The club tried to find an argument [for] why they can sell me to another club because before it was difficult to explain maybe to the fans. I had to accept that, even though it was a lot of bulls***, a lot of s*** said about me. 

"[It was] not true, but in the end I knew that the fans, even in this period, still support me a lot." 

Frenkie de Jong has a "strong possibility" of staying at Barcelona despite intense interest from Manchester United, according to Joan Laporta. 

United have been chasing the Barca midfielder since hiring his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag as their new manager, but De Jong is understood not to be keen on missing out on Champions League football by making the switch. 

The Netherlands international is said to be owed €17million in deferred wages and being asked to sign a new contract with a salary reduction of around 40 per cent. 

Selling De Jong would significantly improve Barcelona's hopes of successfully registering new arrivals like Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde and making further moves in the market. 

However, Laporta suggested the most likely outcome is that De Jong will stay put – even if he cannot be tied down to a new contract on reduced terms. 

"The first thing to say is we want Frenkie to stay at Barcelona. We love the player and him as a human being. I want him to stay at Barcelona. He's a high-quality player and a good guy. I also know that he wants to stay," Laporta told CBS. 

"In football, you never know. I can't say categorically [he won't join United]. It all depends on the different parties. But in principle, I can say there is a strong possibility he stays, and I can say as president I will do my best for him to stay at Barcelona. 

"All we are doing with Frenkie is the same as the rest of the squad. The signings coming in have adjusted their salary to the new structure. But Frenkie has a contract and we respect that. We can't force him to take a pay cut. It's his decision. 

"We have explained the situation and are grateful to any players who can help us. It was the same with [Ousmane] Dembele, and I am very grateful to him. And after months of talks, he accepted a renegotiation of his salary and he can be proud of his decision." 

Asked what will happen if De Jong refuses a new deal and stays at Barca, Laporta replied: "Then he will continue. He has a contract. We will respect that decision. For us, he's a Barcelona player. We count on him." 

Barca sold off a percentage of their TV revenue for the next 25 years to help get them out of a financial hole, but their decision to use the funds raised to sign players instead of pay off deferred wages has come in for criticism. However, Laporta feels the approach is justified. 

"The club has a payroll that's 40 per cent higher than our competitors'. We have to reduce this, and it's not easy. But the players we are talking about – who have taken pay cuts – all love Barca.  

"To me, the players we have signed this summer are investments, not expenses. And our existing players understand this perfectly. The new signings adjust their salaries to the new structure that we have created and all we ask is the current squad, where possible, do the same. 

"People outside the club don't have all the information. We have to act this way or the club will probably disappear." 

Chelsea withdrew their offer to sign Jules Kounde, allowing Barcelona to pounce, according to Sevilla's director of football Monchi.

Barca confirmed on Thursday that they had struck a deal to sign France international Kounde from their LaLiga rivals.

The centre-back, who has been a standout performer since joining Sevilla in 2019, will reportedly cost up to €55million.

Yet only last week, the 23-year-old looked set to join Premier League club Chelsea, who agreed a fee with Sevilla.

Monchi, though, has claimed the Blues opted out of the arrangement after having "doubts".

"On Thursday [July 21] Kounde was 'sold' to Chelsea," Monchi told Sevilla's club media. "They began to have doubts and pulled out. Then Barcelona appeared. The first time [sporting director Mateu] Alemany got in contact was on Monday.

"We received an offer that was lower than what we had in mind, but we renegotiated with them and reached an agreement for a club-record sale."

Monchi added that Chelsea subsequently returned with another bid, but that did not match up to Barcelona's offer.

Kounde was previously linked with Manchester City in 2020, while Chelsea had an approach rebuffed last year, and Monchi explained that Sevilla believed it was the right time to let the player leave.

"This would have been the third time we'd have told him no," Monchi said. "He's a professional, but you have to consider the person as well."

Sevilla now head into the 2022-23 campaign having sold their regular starting centre-backs in Kounde and Diego Carlos, who has left for Aston Villa.

Julen Lopetegui's team looked capable of mounting a title challenge in LaLiga last season, but ultimately fell away and finished fourth as Real Madrid cruised to glory.

Bayern Munich's Julian Nagelsmann has no problem with being accused of "ignorance" by Joan Laporta as the Barcelona president "has to represent his club."

Nagelsmann questioned Barca's spending spree after they signed Robert Lewandowski from Bayern this month for a fee that could rise to €50million.

Barca had to let Lionel Messi leave a year ago due to their financial crisis, but they have also signed Raphinha and Jules Kounde for big fees ahead of the 2022-23 season, while bringing in Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie on free transfers.

Bayern head coach Nagelsmann stated that Barca are "the only club in the world that can buy players without money" after Lewandowski's switch to Spain.

Laporta responded by stating that Nagelsmann was being ignorant, adding that rival clubs should mind their own business.

Questioned about Laporta's comments ahead of Bayern's DFL-Supercup showdown with RB Leipzig, Nagelsmann told reporters: "It's good that he expresses himself, I would do that too.

"It was just a question from a fan point of view. I have no problem with Laporta speaking out, he has to represent his club."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte also recently suggested Nagelsmann had been "disrespectful" by expressing his admiration for Harry Kane amid reports the Bundesliga champions could make a move for the England captain.

Nagelsmann says he has a good relationship with Conte, however, as he defended himself for giving honest answers.

He said: "I'll always give my opinion in the future. I don't write down all my answers before the press conference.

"It's coming spontaneously, that's maybe not always the smartest thing. I don't have a problem with Conte or Laporta responding back, that's part of the game.

"It wasn't a dramatic statement, I have a good relationship with Conte."

 

Joan Laporta believes Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann showed "ignorance" by expressing his bemusement over Barcelona's spending spree.

Barca this month signed Bayern's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski for a fee that is said to rise up to €50million and also brought Raphinha to Camp Nou in a big-money move from Leeds United.

The Catalan giants have also agreed a deal to sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla for a reported €55m, while Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen arrived as free agents.

Barcelona could not afford to keep Lionel Messi a year ago due to a financial crisis at the club, but in recent months they have sold 25 per cent of the club's television rights for the next 25 years and secured a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify.

Nagelsmann stated that Barca are "the only club in the world that can buy players without money" after Lewandowski's departure.

Barca president Laporta, however, says Nagelsmann should get his facts right.

He told reporters: "What I would ask is that you look at your current account, they have received significant money from the transfer of Lewandowski. I respect everyone and do not interfere in the economy of other."

Laporta added: "I give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they thought we couldn't, but they hadn't gauged the strength of Barca and the drive of the new board.

"It is ignorance, lack of information from our club. It is true that we were in a terminal situation, but we left the hospital with the levers and these gentlemen have remained on a page that we have turned."

Laporta thinks rivals club are clearly worried that Barca will be a force again.

"If I don't get involved in what others do, they shouldn't get involved in what we do," he said.

"Perhaps they do it because they think that we will continue to act in the market and they see that we have surpassed them. Let them worry about their own.

He continued: "Barca is competitive again and will compete in all competitions. The weight and strength of a club with more than 122 years of history is very great, its assets are highly valued. 

"It is true that I would have liked not to sell the percentage of television rights, but the situation was complicated and required being brave and making decisions, because football does not wait and our fans, who are very well accustomed, deserve a club like Barca to compete. Our demands are greater than those of others."

Barcelona's infatuation with Lionel Messi has been underlined after president Joan Laporta raised the tantalising idea that the Argentina great could return to end his career with the club.

It is coming up to 12 months since Messi tearfully departed and joined Paris Saint-Germain, breaking a 21-year association with a struggling Barca who could not afford to keep him.

The forward won every trophy available with the Catalan giants and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals from 778 appearances. To give that some context, next on the goalscoring list is Cesar Rodriguez, who scored 232 goals for Barcelona.

Laporta spoke in New York on Thursday evening, as Barcelona's US tour neared its end, and addressed the prospect of Messi one day resuming his career with the Blaugrana.

"Leo's phase did not end as we all wanted. It ended up very conditioned by economic issues," said Laporta. "We owe him a moral debt in this regard. We would like the end of his career to be with the Barca shirt and being applauded in all stadiums.

"This is an aspiration. There is nothing spoken. I feel jointly responsible for this ending. I think it is a provisional end, I think we will make this aspiration a reality."

Barca's financial situation in August 2021 meant they could not agree fresh terms that adhered to LaLiga's salary cap rules.

Messi has another year to run on his PSG deal, which will take him through to the age of 36, though that contract also contains the option of a third season in Paris.

Laporta might be pushing the right buttons for those who dream of a Messi comeback in LaLiga, but whether his ambitions are realistic remains to be seen.

Barcelona have sold off a proportion of future TV rights revenue in order to bolster their financial resources, allowing them to embark on a signing spree ahead of the new LaLiga season. They are suddenly moving in a positive direction again, and Laporta will look to make it sustainable.

 

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when he scored 73 in all competitions and assisted a further 28.

That is in stark contrast to the 11 goals and 14 assists managed in 34 games during his first season with PSG.

Diminishing returns are setting in, as would only be expected of a player who reached staggering heights at the peak of his career.

Yet Laporta is determined to have Messi back on board, surely mindful of the commercial opportunities it could bring, and how such a coup would reflect on his presidency.

The more Laporta says it, the more he will be held to his word by a fanbase that was left stunned by the departure of the club's greatest player.

Jules Kounde will set himself "no limits" at Barcelona following his transfer from Sevilla, while revealing his famed goal celebration is a tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

The France international sealed a switch to Camp Nou on Thursday, having held out on a lengthy courtship from Chelsea, to become the latest big-name capture amid Xavi's squad revival.

Kounde joins the litany of players to arrive at the Catalan outfit this close season, following the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie through the door.

But despite the rarefied company the centre-back finds himself in, he intends to not allow himself to be limited in comparison and is determined to compete alongside the best to prove his place.

"I’m very proud, very thankful for this opportunity," he stated. "I’m very excited because I’m arriving at a great club with a great team.

"Sevilla is a great club but I think that Barca are the next step in my career at every level, personally and in terms of football, and I'm very excited about this.

"I want to compete in every competition to win, to try and win as much as possible in terms of trophies and games – that's why I'm here.

"I have objectives of course but I set myself no limits. I want to progress at a team level, and individually I want to grow and learn.

"This is a club with great players. Many of them have won trophies before, so I'm going to listen and learn and do the best I can."

Kounde also expanded upon his recognisable goal celebration, and revealed it stems from his love for basketball, in particular the late Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.

"That celebration is because I love basketball and especially Kobe Bryant," the Frenchman added. "It’s the 'black mamba' and it's a tribute to him."

Barcelona have announced they have reached an agreement to sign Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, with the Blaugrana seeing off competition from Chelsea.

Kounde, who has starred for Sevilla since arriving from Bordeaux in 2019, seemed set to join Chelsea after also being heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge throughout the 2021 transfer window.

However, despite Barcelona reportedly failing to match Chelsea's offer of £55million (€65m) for the 23-year-old, the Blaugrana had been touted as Kounde's preferred destination.

On Thursday, they announced a deal is now in place with Sevilla for the transfer of the France international, with the move subject to a medical.

 

Kounde ranked first in duels won (169), second in blocks (17) and second in headed clearances (56) among Sevilla players in LaLiga last season.

His arrival represents another major coup for Barca, who have already strengthened their backline by signing Andreas Christensen, as well as completing marquee deals for Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, after bringing in free agent Franck Kessie.

Meanwhile, missing out on Kounde's signature will be another source of frustration for Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, with the Blues struggling throughout a pre-season tour of the United States and also being turned down by Raphinha, who favoured a move to Camp Nou.

Chelsea defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso continue to be strongly linked with moves to Barca.

Sevilla sporting director Monchi has seemingly confirmed the imminent sale of Jules Kounde to Barcelona, saying the club "feel good" despite significant departures.

The LaLiga side have already sold Diego Carlos to Premier League side Aston Villa for £26million and Kounde is set to follow his former defensive partner in moving away from Andalusia.

Kounde was also highly touted for a move to Chelsea, but Barca have reportedly swooped in late to land the centre-back - and Monchi appears to have confirmed the exit of the France international.

"When the two best players leave a team, the challenge to replace them is not easy, but we feel good about this," he told the Daily Mail.

"We really trust [Julen] Lopetegui, our manager, because we sell players, but we are sure the players we sign will be better."

Barcelona's deal to sign Kounde is understood to be worth around €55m, giving Sevilla significant funds to land replacements - and they have already signed Brazilian Marcao from Galatasaray.

Sevilla's hunt for further additions will see them continue to utilise a data-led approach that has previously seen them recruit the likes of Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic and Jesus Navas but they have had to adapt their ways in recent years, with other clubs following their lead.

"Many years ago, we started to do things differently, but other teams started to do them, too. We wanted to do something different again and data gives us two main things. It reduces the error factor and the time for decision-making [in recruitment]," he explained.

"In the past, what we had to do was look at 300 players, but today with data, maybe that is reduced to 30 with the right characteristics and you can watch them all. You reduce the time and you reduce the error."

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Dietmar Hamann has declared Robert Lewandowski did the club a "huge favour" by making it clear he wanted to join Barcelona.

The Poland international this month completed a €50million move to the Catalan giants, bringing an end to his trophy-laden stint in Germany.

Bayern were initially adamant that Lewandowski would not be allowed to leave, despite being in the final year of his contract, but the prolific striker was determined to move to Barca.

The 34-year-old eventually got his wish and Hamann believes Lewandowski helped the Bundesliga champions get a great deal when they sold him due to the way he went about his business with a "distasteful" approach.

"I think they are happy that he has gone. This whirlwind of signings began and he made some statements," he told Sky Germany.

"It has to be said that Bayern behaved very well and very professionally. Lewandowski did [Bayern] a huge favour with his statements.

"Without them, [Bayern] probably never would have been able to get the price that they obtained. As distasteful as his exit was, Lewandowski did Bayern a huge favour."

Lewandowski this week made his Barca debut in a pre-season victory over Real Madrid in Las Vegas.

Xavi's side begin the new LaLiga season at home to Rayo Vallecano on August 13.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas declared Barcelona are "on the right track" to register their new signings before the season begins – but made it clear they cannot pressure Frenkie de Jong to take a pay cut.

The Catalan club's financial issues have been well documented in recent years, but coach Xavi has still been able to make considerable additions, landing Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski while Jules Kounde looks set to follow from Sevilla.

That activity has raised eyebrows across Europe regarding how Barcelona can afford to land new recruits, with it clear that departures will be on the cards in the latter stages of the transfer window to balance the books.

Tebas admitted that was indeed the case, with Barcelona having a "little work" still to complete, but that the situation does not look to be a cause for concern.

The club have raised funds by selling off chunks of future TV rights income, giving them an immediate financial boost.

"We follow all the movements of Barca very closely, but when the documentation of the levers and reduction of players that they have to do arrives, we will see if they register everyone," Tebas said.

"They know what they have to do. They still have a little work to do to be able to register everything they have signed and intend to sign. I think for now they are on the right track."

Regarding outgoings, Manchester United's pursuit of Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong has been well documented. Despite Barcelona being reportedly open to a sale, the player seems unconvinced.

It has been floated that Barcelona would insist on De Jong taking a pay cut in order to remain at the club, but Tebas has made it clear that would not be allowed.

"LaLiga is going to enforce the legislation. Players cannot be pressured or pushed aside, it is what marks the collective agreement, the law, reason and ethics," Tebas said.

Xavi has already admitted the financial situation may take a decision on De Jong's future out of his hands, despite stating he is important for Barcelona.

"He's a key player, but then there’s the economic situation and financial fair play. I like him a lot as a player," Xavi said after the 1-0 pre-season win against Real Madrid.

Juventus have been targeting a deal for Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, hoping he can be acquired for around £20million.

Firmino, 30, has spent the past seven seasons with Liverpool, playing a major role in winning the 2019-20 Premier League and 2018-19 Champions League, but in the past season a series of injuries limited him to his fewest league appearances (20) and league goals (five) since arriving at Anfield.

Corriere dello Sport claims the Brazilian was not Juventus' first choice when weighing up the striker market, but interest grew as it became increasingly unlikely they would be able to bring Alvaro Morata back to the club from Atletico Madrid.


TOP STORY – WITH MORATA UNLIKELY TO RETURN, JUVENTUS PIVOT TO FIRMINO

Darwin Nunez's arrival has given Liverpool an abundance of options up front, and instead of letting Firmino operate as a back-up as his value continues to diminish, the club could elect to cash in, if the price is right.

The report from Italy claims Juventus have also been investigating the possibility of acquiring Chelsea's Timo Werner or Manchester United's Anthony Martial, but securing Firmino would put an end to those pursuits.

Reports from England have indicated Liverpool are not interested in selling for the fee Juventus have so far proposed.

Meanwhile, Marca is reporting that Juventus are also in the hunt for Benfica left-back Alejandro Grimaldo, with Manchester City and Newcastle United their main competition.


ROUND-UP

– Spanish publication Cadena Ser claims Frenkie de Jong has told team-mates he has no plans to leave Barcelona in the current transfer period, despite strong interest from Manchester United.

– Cadena Ser is also reporting that Barcelona will look to sell highly paid goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for financial relief if they can not convince De Jong to leave.

– According to The Athletic, Bournemouth are set to sign 23-year-old Middlesbrough winger Marcus Tavernier for £10million.

Roma are reportedly in the final stages of securing Georginio Wijnaldum on a loan deal from Paris Saint-Germain, with negotiations said to be continuing about the percentage of salary the French club will cover during his stay in Italy.

– The Daily Mail is reporting that Ajax have raised their asking price for Manchester United target Antony to £84million, likely indicating they have no intention of parting ways with the 22-year-old Brazil international.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri hailed Angel Di Maria as "extraordinary" after the new arrival impressed in the Bianconeri's 2-2 friendly draw with Barcelona.

Allegri also warned the Blaugrana are "back" and ready to compete for silverware after rebuilding their side during a busy transfer window under Xavi.

A brace each for Ousmane Dembele and Moise Kean saw Barca and Juve share an entertaining draw in Dallas, with Di Maria impressing, particularly in the first half.

After the match, Allegri said the Argentine – who won five Ligue 1 titles during a seven-year spell with Paris Saint-Germain before heading to Turin on a free transfer earlier this month – was a top signing for Juve.

"Di Maria is an extraordinary player. He is a champion, and it is a pleasure to see him play," Allegri said. 

"For us, it was a great acquisition."

Juventus were subjected to a tough test against Barcelona, who handed starts to new signings Robert Lewandowski, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen, as Xavi's team recorded 20 attempts and enjoyed 58 per cent of the possession in Texas.

And Allegri was pleased with how his side coped against elite opposition as he warned Barcelona will be back in contention for major honours after their recent spending spree.

"Tonight we had a good match against an important team," Allegri added.

"Without a doubt we could have done better on the two goals we conceded, but we had many scoring chances, I'm happy with how it went. We are working very well and tonight was a good test. 

"Attention, Barcelona are back... they have built an important team to return to win. This draw is worth a lot."

Juventus wrap up their tour of the United States against Real Madrid in Los Angeles on Sunday, before travelling to Israel to face Atletico Madrid in their final outing of pre-season.

Barcelona have confirmed former player Javier Saviola will return to the club as the new assistant manager of their under-19 side.

The Argentine spent a six-year spell at Camp Nou - albeit with two terms on loan at Monaco and Sevilla - between 2001 and 2007, before moving to Real Madrid, where he became a LaLiga winner.

It is with the Blaugrana he is most fondly associated, however, and he follows another former Barca star, Rafael Marquez, through the door to join their coaching roster.

Saviola will be assistant to former team-mate Oscar Gomez at the helm of the Juvenil as they seek a fourth consecutive Division de Honor Group 3 title this term.

During his playing days, the forward - the then-youngest player named in Pele's legendary FIFA 100 list - started out at River Plate, where he also finished his career in 2015 as a member of their Copa Libertadores-winning squad.

He played 39 times for Argentina and was a member of Marcelo Bielsa's squad when they won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004.

The tense Frenkie de Jong transfer saga continues with uncertainty on his Barcelona future.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has two years to run on his Barcelona contract, having postponed part of his deal during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Jong is unwilling to accept another pay cut to remain at Camp Nou, though, amid the club's hefty off-season transfer spending.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG DECISION OVER ENGLISH SUITORS

Decisions will be made on Frenkie de Jong's future at Barcelona after their United States tour, with interest from Chelsea alongside Manchester United, reports Sport.

De Jong is reluctant to leave Camp Nou, particularly for a move to Old Trafford, despite ending last season out of favour.

However, the Dutchman is more open to Chelsea's advances, but the Blues are unwilling to pay as much as United, leaving the Blaugrana in a bind.

 

ROUND-UP

– Leicester City have placed a £70million asking price on Wesley Fofana, who is being courted by Chelsea, reports CBS Sports.

Newcastle United are considering a move for Chelsea's Germany international forward Timo Werner, claims Bild. Juventus are also interested in Werner according to Sky Sports.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar is pushing for a move from Shanghai SIPG to Flamengo, with talks ongoing.

– L'Equipe believes that Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has agreed to a deal with Ligue 1 club Nice, although Leicester City are yet to approve the move.

– Arsenal and Fulham are in talks over an £8m deal for goalkeeper Bernd Leno, claims Sky Sports.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is trying to woo Manchester United defender Eric Bailly to the Italian capital, reports The Daily Mail.

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