Marcos Alonso looks to be on his way to Barcelona after he was left out of Chelsea's squad to face Everton.

The Spain full-back reportedly said his goodbyes at the London club this week as he nears a return to his homeland.

Alonso did not travel to Goodison Park for the Blues' opening match of the Premier League season and is expected to become big-spending Barca's next recruit.

Chelsea splashed out to sign Marc Cucurella from Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday, while Ben Chilwell has returned after a long spell on the sidelines due to injury.

Thomas Tuchel also omitted Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi from his squad for the trip to Merseyside amid reports they could leave the club.

Barca president Joan Laporta on Friday said he was confident the Catalan giants would be able to register all of their new players despite claims LaLiga will require them to generate more funds.

Chelsea's rather scatter-gun approach to the transfer window since their takeover went through has been one of the talking points of pre-season.

New owner Todd Boehly has been a busy man but missed out on a host of players who were apparently key targets.

Jules Kounde, Raphinha and Matthijs de Ligt all went to other clubs; Ousmane Dembele opted to sign a new contract with Barcelona; and the Blues were unsuccessful in reported pursuits of Presnel Kimpembe and Nathan Ake. On top of that, Chelsea saw Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leave on free transfers.

Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has likened Boehly's activity to someone playing on the computer game Football Manager.

But for all their failed dealings, Chelsea have brought in Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and now Marc Cucurella.

The deal for the latter, however, certainly hasn't been completed without criticism. First of all, Chelsea could end up paying £62million to Brighton and Hove Albion for the Spaniard, which would be a world-record fee for a left-back.

Manchester City were apparently unwilling to pay more than £30m for him, so why are Chelsea so convinced by him?


MAKING HIS MARC OUTSIDE OF SPAIN

A graduate of Barcelona's La Masia academy, Cucurella has always looked extremely promising.

As such, it was a surprise Barca ever let him go on loan to Eibar with a purchase option in the first place four years ago. It was even more bizarre 12 months later when the Blaugrana exercised their buy-back clause just 16 days after officially selling him, only to loan him again to Getafe with a €6million option – and reportedly 40 per cent of any future transfer fee – about 48 hours later.

His form at Eibar and Getafe regularly suggested Barca were being short-sighted, although neither club nor Brighton would be considered especially fashionable, which is perhaps why he's still only played once for Spain.

One might even say Cucurella's only season at Brighton went under the radar until City's interest surfaced a few weeks ago – but make no mistake, he took to the Premier League impressively, his development in the physically intense teams of Jose Luis Mendilibar and Jose Bordalas clearly coming in useful.

The 24-year-old was used predominantly in his favoured left-back position last term, while also filling in as a left wing-back and as a left-sided centre-back at a time of need for Brighton, despite previous doubts over his ability to defend.

"There were people who said I couldn't play as a full-back because I couldn't defend, but now I'm proving I can even play as a centre-back in a back three," Cucurella told Spanish outlet Marca earlier this year.

"What I was looking for was to play as a full-back, which is what I have done all my life. I had never played left centre-back before, but [Brighton head coach Graham Potter] has given me the confidence to feel very comfortable there."

Thrown in at the deep end as Brighton dealt with an injury crisis midway through the 2021-22 season – his first outside his native Spain – Cucurella more than passed the test and added further strings to his bow.

CUCURELLA THE ALL-ROUNDER

Whether operating at full-back, wing-back or centre-back, Cucurella helped Brighton keep 11 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, a tally that only six other clubs could better.

Far from being someone who is unable to defend, he led the way among players who played predominantly as full-backs in the English top flight last season in terms of winning back possession, doing so 247 times.

He also ranked behind only Tyrick Mitchell for tackles – 93 compared to the Crystal Palace youngster's 104 – showing he is happy to get stuck in when required.

The one-cap Spain international also proved he is capable of attacking, with his 40 open-play chances created placing him behind only new team-mate Reece James (42) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (51), who many would consider to be two of the finest attacking full-backs around.

Granted, those key passes only translated to one assist – for context, James recorded nine last season – but some of that can be put down to the finishing of Brighton's attacking players, rather than Cucurella alone failing to deliver from wide.

Indeed, his expected assists (xA) return of 2.8 last term was still the 14th-highest of any full-back. While that may not sound outstanding, it's worth bearing in mind the only players to exceed 4.0 xA were James (4.7), Andrew Robertson (5.5), Joao Cancelo (6.6) and Alexander Arnold (13), all of whom obviously play at clubs who dominate most of their games.

Furthermore, given his near decade spent in the Barca youth set-up and then on the fringes of the first team, it comes as no surprise to see Cucurella is very comfortable with the ball at his feet.

The 1,558 passes he completed last season were bettered – again among those who can be considered full-backs by trade – by only Robertson (1,642), Alexander-Arnold (1,684) and Cancelo (2,516).

Cucurella is clearly a feisty competitor who can also play, a combination that in itself is an asset.

A GAMBLE WORTH TAKING?

On the basis of those numbers and the importance Thomas Tuchel places on his wing-backs, bringing in Cucurella in this window does make some sense for Chelsea. But one problem, of course, is the mammoth transfer fee.

Of course, as Graham Potter said on Friday, Brighton didn't need to sell, and Cucurella still had four years left to run on his contract, so the Seagulls were in a position of absolute strength.

From Chelsea's perspective, that leads us to a key question: was Cucurella a necessity? Right now, arguably not, and the fee does look remarkable given he only cost Brighton £16m a year ago.

There remains the likely scenario that Marcos Alonso leaves the club, in which case Cucurella and Ben Chilwell will be left to fight over that spot on the left flank, but again, does a club need two players of such expense for one position?

Sure, Cucurella's greater versatility means the pair could potentially play together, although clearly one or the other would be playing at least slightly out of their natural position in such a scenario.

It's difficult to escape the feeling Chelsea might've been better served signing another natural centre-back or perhaps a striker.

But in fairness to Cucurella, the noise around his transfer has nothing to do with him. All he can do is concentrate on the obstacles in front of him, and he's done a pretty good job of adapting to his surroundings at each of his past three clubs.

As a player with Barcelona pedigree, who has proved himself in numerous roles during his short time in England and is still young enough to further improve, don't bet against Cucurella being a hit at Stamford Bridge, even if his signing has left plenty puzzled.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag would rather develop the players he has than sign the wrong man if the club fail in their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong.

United have been strongly linked with Barcelona midfielder De Jong for months, with reports of their interest emerging even before Ten Hag was officially appointed in April.

De Jong enjoyed his Ajax breakthrough under Ten Hag, playing a key role in the team that almost reached the 2018-19 Champions League final.

He moved to Barca in 2019 but arguably has not reached the level many expected of him initially upon his transfer to Camp Nou.

Ten Hag apparently saw De Jong's acquisition as vital for the way he wants United to play, and media reports have indicated the club agreed a fee with Barca last month.

However, it is claimed Barca owe De Jong millions of euros in deferred wages, and he is apparently refusing to leave the club – who need a big sale in order to ease their financial issues – until a settlement is reached.

While some fans may be urging United to move on and sign an alternative, Ten Hag suggested that is not an option.

"We want Frenkie? I didn't know," he told reporters with a smile on Friday. "We want the right players, but I cannot comment on players contracted to other clubs.

"When we have news, we will bring it."

He added: "You work with the current squad, you develop players who are in your current squad. In this moment, the players in that position have performed really well [in pre-season]."

While the De Jong saga shows no sign of ending, United have been able to add promising left-back Tyrell Malacia, versatile Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen to the squad.

Given United looked short of quality last season and eight first-team players have since left, many were expecting the club to be far busier on the transfer front.

Ralf Rangnick, who was interim manager for the second half of last season, suggested during his spell in charge that the squad needed as many as 10 new players, yet they have not brought in even half of that figure.

De Jong aside, United are rumoured to be keen on signing another striker, a right-sided winger and potentially a right-back, but again Ten Hag insisted panic buys will not satisfy him.

Asked if he is frustrated they have not strengthened all the areas he wanted to, Ten Hag said: "It would be good situation, but I am happy with the current squad, they make good progress.

"I'm happy with the signings until now. You don't just need any players, you need the right players. That's the point, and we're working together."

It was then asked of Ten Hag is he would rather go without any signings if they are not exactly who he wants, and his response was unequivocal.

"If it's not the right player, no, I'm happy with the current squad," he replied. "We need the right players."

Joan Laporta is confident Barcelona will be able to register all of their new signings after they "complied with everything" required by LaLiga.

Robert Lewandowski was presented as a Barca player at Camp Nou on Friday after the Poland captain was signed from Bayern Munich for a fee that could reportedly rise to €50million.

The Catalan giants have also splashed out on Raphinha and Jules Kounde, while Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen arrived as free agents and Ousmane Dembele signed a new deal.

Barca were in dire straits a year ago, with Lionel Messi leaving the club as they could not afford to keep the legendary Argentina skipper due to a financial crisis at Camp Nou.

There has been talk that LaLiga may not give the green light to register Barca's new recruits due to limits on spending.

Blaugrana president Laporta does not envisage any issues after the club signed up to a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify, and sold a percentage of LaLiga broadcast rights, merchandising rights and a stake in Barca Studios.

Laporta said in a media conference after Lewandowski was paraded on the pitch: "We have worked to be able to register all the players that we have incorporated.

"We have worked hard and well to meet the requirements that are needed for the registrations. If any further operation is needed, we will do it, but the documentation has been presented. It's a decision that LaLiga must make. We have complied with everything they require and we are confident that they will be able to sign up."

He added: "The second sale of Barca Studios was approved because we had foreseen it. As a precaution and in anticipation of divergence in some interpretations, we have done it. To have the foresight.

"We had already planned to do the fourth lever, if it also serves to consolidate registrations better. Barca has entered these two months and operations worth 868million euros. We have positive funds, a healthy balance sheet and results also because we have made profits.

"We have made a great effort, we have had to carry out operations to sell some assets, always in a controlled manner."

Laporta revealed that Lewandowski had to be assured his move to Barcelona would not collapse.

"When an agreement was reached with Bayern, we had a series of talks," he said.

"Robert and his agent were concerned about whether we could register him, but I gave them comfort and told them that if we had to register one Robert would be the first. There were other clubs that offered more money and more salary to the player."

Prolific striker Lewandowski has taken the number nine shirt that Memphis Depay wore last year, but Laporta does not feel Barca have been disrespectful to the Netherlands international.

He said: "The number nine thing was a club decision. For reasons that interest the club, for image and publicity reasons. We have considered an appropriate decision and we have made it with all respect for Memphis."

Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani felt "ashamed" to pull the plug on a "done deal" for Raphinha to join Chelsea and says only time will tell if Barcelona will pay up for the winger.

Raphinha left Elland Road to join Barca for a reported fee of €67million (£57m) last month.

Chelsea thought the Brazil international was on his way to Stamford Bridge after reaching an agreement with their Premier League rivals.

Radrizzani was embarrassed to inform Blues owner Todd Boehly that the deal was off, but says he had no choice.

He told The Athletic: "For me, it was done, the deal with Chelsea. When I have a deal, my word is my word and I felt ashamed to go back to Todd Boehly, the owner of Chelsea, and change the position.

"It was really for me, disrespectful and not the right thing to do, but I didn't have a choice.

"If I could decide to not sell the player, I would have preferred that. But I didn't have a choice because for us it was more important to buy six players than keep Raphinha."

 

Radrizzani confirmed London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal also wanted Raphinha.

He added: "Obviously we had interest from Tottenham, from Arsenal, from Chelsea and from Barcelona. So all of  these clubs and the best deal we agreed was with Chelsea.

"Then at the end the deal that came up with Barcelona is pretty much the same for the way we structured it at the very end, but it took time, it was hard. We had to manage well and as I said, I'd rather not sell him, but I didn't have a choice because we had to buy six players."

Eyebrows have been raised over Barca's spending in this transfer window given they had to let Lionel Messi leave 12 months ago due to a financial crisis.

Radrizzani says only time will tell if the LaLiga giants stump up the cash they have agreed to pay Leeds for Raphinha and vowed to take action if they do not.

Asked if he is confident Leeds will get the money from Barca, the Italian replied: "Look, I'll tell you on the 2nd of September. If not we will have a global case on all media in the world about Barcelona. So I don't know."

Pep Guardiola sees Bernardo Silva's future at Manchester City but accepts that could all change if the player sets his heart on a move to Barcelona.

The LaLiga giants are thought to be keen on City's Portuguese midfield star and could be preparing a bid to take him to Camp Nou.

Silva has spent five fruitful years with City, winning four Premier League titles in that time, and at the age of 27 can be reasonably considered to be still in his prime years.

Guardiola is aware of the Barca speculation but says he sees Silva as being settled, pointing to his fiancee and his dog as reasons for him to be happy with his life.

But after selling Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus during the off-season, it is clear that City are a club willing to do deals if the timing and the terms are right.

"I was comfortable working with Oleks, Gabriel and Raheem. They were three figures with incredible characters who helped us achieve a lot," said Guardiola.

"Sometimes players have to depart our path. The desire of the players is the most important thing. I want people happy here, to be here and to try to do it together.

"Of course I'd love if Bernardo could continue here. He's been a special player here, for the locker room. I don't know what is going to happen.

"If he stays, it's perfect, and if he has to leave it's because football is like this, and the clubs have an agreement and the player has desires. When you're a football player [the career] is so short. When the club decides, for me it is okay.

"I want Bernardo to stay, definitely. To find players is difficult. I want 100 per cent Bernardo to stay here, but in the same time if you want to leave and have an offer and the clubs have an agreement, it's common sense what I said.

"This is the reality. He's an important player for me, Bernardo is special, but I don't know what's going to happen. Man City, as far as I know, didn't get any offer. Bernardo's training and doing really well, ready for Sunday."

City start their Premier League title defence at West Ham on Sunday, with Erling Haaland expected to make his debut in the competition.

Unless there is a dramatic intervention from Barcelona, Silva also looks set to feature at London Stadium.

The City star had his best season for Premier League goals last season, netting eight times in 35 games, having managed to score just twice in the previous campaign.

He and girlfriend Ines Degener Tomaz, who share a home with dog John, then became engaged at the end of the campaign.

"I talk a lot with Bernardo," said Guardiola. "But also with all of them, maybe because I'm getting old and we know each other quite well.

"Now the relationship is completely different to three or four years ago. I know the feelings they have, the good moments and the bad moments.

"I talk with them, but not especially with this situation. If he has to tell me something, he will tell me. I don't have doubts about that, but we don't talk about this situation.

"He's our player. I know he's happy: he's engaged, he has a beautiful dog, so he's happy here, I know that, and what's going to happen is going to happen."

Chelsea's ongoing negotiations with Barcelona could produce more than just midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with new reports that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also on the table for a transfer.

The two powerhouse clubs have been in seemingly constant discussion over the past month, with Barcelona openly looking to add Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta after swooping in to claim Blues target Jules Kounde.

Chelsea recently took Azpilicueta out of the equation by signing him to a two-year extension, but the two clubs re-opened their negotiations when the Stamford Bridge outfit decided to put in a bid for De Jong, and in the process they may have found the answer to their striker situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WILLING TO INCLUDE AUBAMEYANG IN CHELSEA TRANSFER DISCUSSIONS

After expensive moves for Leeds United winger Raphinha, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Sevilla centre-back Kounde, the Mirror is reporting Barcelona are "desperate to balance their books" and 33-year-old Aubameyang appears to be the most likely option to be moved on.

The report mentions both De Jong and Aubameyang are seen as surplus to requirements, and with Chelsea yet to bring in a replacement for Romelu Lukaku after he was loaned out to Inter, it could be a perfect match.

No potential asking price is mentioned for the striker who collected 20 goals in 38 club appearances this past season, including 11 goals in 17 LaLiga fixtures.

Meanwhile, ESPN adds that Chelsea were monitoring the Gabon frontman back in 2020 before he signed a contract extension with Arsenal, and that they are still interested.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Times is reporting Chelsea are expected to make a £70million bid for 21-year-old Leicester City centre-back Wesley Fofana after having a £60m offer turned down.

– According to Foot Mercato, Nottingham Forest and Leicester are competing for the signing of 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, who is valued at €15m.

– The Guardian is reporting 25-year-old Ivory Coast winger Maxwel Cornet only needs to pass a physical to confirm a move from Burnley to West Ham after the Hammers met his £17.5m release clause.

– Radioestadio Noche claims Real Madrid have identified 19-year-old RB Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko or 22-year-old Nice forward Amine Gouiri as potential long-term successors to Karim Benzema.

Crystal Palace are exploring a move for 19-year-old RB Leipzig midfielder Ilaix Moriba – who is a product of Barcelona's youth academy – according to Foot Mercato.

Cesar Azpilicueta has ended speculation that he could join Barcelona by signing a new contract with Chelsea until 2024.

The long-serving captain had less than a year left on his previous deal with the Blues and emerged as a target for Barca.

Azpilicueta will not be returning to his homeland, though, after the defender agreed to remain at Stamford Bridge for at least another two seasons.

The 32-year-old joined the London club from Marseille in August 2012 and has won every major trophy during his decade at Stamford Bridge.

He has won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League, lifted the Europa League on two occasions, the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

The skipper said: "I am really happy to extend my stay at Chelsea, my home. It is almost 10 years since I first arrived and joined the club so I really feel the love and I am really excited for the new project we have in our hands.

"I would like to say thank you to Mr Todd [Boehly, Chelsea chairman and co-controlling owner] and Mr Behdad [Eghbali, Blues co-controlling owner] for giving me the opportunity to keep my journey at this amazing club and I am really looking forward to continuing our adventure. I am a really proud captain and I hope we can share many good memories together."

Azpilicueta's decision to stay at Chelsea is a major boost for head coach Thomas Tuchel ahead of his side's first game of the Premier League season at Everton on Saturday.

The Spain international, who has played in a back three and as a wing-back under Tuchel, made 47 appearances last season to take his total for the Blues to a mammoth 476.

Boehly said: "We are so happy that Cesar is staying at Chelsea for a minimum of two more years. We are thrilled with our captain showing his exemplary commitment and leadership yet again. There is still so much to do together."

The LA Galaxy have signed midfielder Riqui Puig from Barcelona on a three-and-a-half-year contract.

The Galaxy used Targeted Allocation Money to bring the 22-year-old to Major League Soccer after he was deemed surplus to requirements by Barca coach Xavi.

LaLiga giants Barca have the right to re-sign Puig and will be entitled to 50 per cent of any transfer fee he commands when he leaves Los Angeles.

Puig joined the Catalan club from Jabac Terrassa as an under-16 player in 2013 and went on to made 57 senior appearances for the Blaugrana, scoring twice.

"We are pleased to welcome Riqui to the LA Galaxy," said Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney. "Riqui is a very technical and well-educated player with incredible experiences for his age. He will fit seamlessly into our group and style of play."

Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski said: "Riqui is a very talented player with a unique profile that brings something different to our squad."

Puig won the LaLiga title with Barca three years ago and lifted the Copa del Rey in 2021.

Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong has had a long-running transfer saga this off-season.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou amid Barcelona's financial issues, despite their off-season spending landing Robert Lewandowski among others.

The Catalans need to offload players before they can register new signings and De Jong is surplus to requirements.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO HIJACK MAN UTD MOVE FOR DE JONG

Chelsea have commenced talks with Barcelona in a bid to hijack Manchester United 's move for Frenkie de Jong, reports The Athletic.

Manchester United have actively pursued the Dutch midfielder this off-season but he has been unwilling to leave the Blaugrana for Old Trafford, creating a stand-off.

De Jong, who is still owed deferred wages by Barcelona, is more open to moving to Chelsea than United, according to the report. 

ROUND-UP

–  Chelsea are also considering a move for Barcelona forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claims Fabrizio Romano. The Blues have already held talks with former Arsenal man's representatives.

– Sky Sports reports that Manchester United's pursuit of 19-year-old Slovenian forward Benjamin Sesko is heating up, having held initial discussions with his club, Austrian champions Salzburg. Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have also spoken to Sesko's agent.

Chelsea remain keen on Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana and will offer him £200,000 per week according to the Mail. The Foxes want £85million for the Frenchman.

– The Sun reports that West Ham have agreed to a £35m deal with Lille for Belgian midfielder Amadou Onana. The Hammers still need to thrash out a personal agreement with Onana.

Juventus are interested in signing Udinese left-back Destiny Udogie according to Il Bianconero, while the Daily Mail claims Antonio Conte's Tottenham are also keen on him.

– Diario Sport reports that Rayo Vallecano president Raul Martin Presa has reached a deal with Diego Costa, who wants to return to Spain after time in Brazil.

Borussia Dortmund could be set to spend €30million to sign Almeria forward Umar Sadiq according to Mundo Deportivo. Dortmund are looking for cover as Sebastian Haller is absent due to a testicular tumour.

It felt like a landmark moment in European football.

In August 2017, Paris Saint-Germain forced Barcelona to hand over one of their prized assets when they triggered the €222million release clause of Neymar, apparently signalling a power shift from the more traditional European powerhouses to the French giants.

It has not quite been that simple in the five years that have followed, though.

Barca have not won a Champions League since Neymar left, but neither have PSG, and the Catalan club can probably point to wider issues as to why their trophy haul has dried up in recent times, like how poorly they spent all the money they received for him.

The Brazil international remains the most expensive footballer in history, even if his transfer did signal a general explosion in fees across the top level of the game, but has he been worth it for PSG?

Half a decade since he swapped Spain for France, Stats Perform has taken a look at Neymar's five years in Paris.

Bye-bye Barca

Neymar's name first came to prominence when he was called up to the Brazil squad for the 2010 World Cup at the age of just 18. Immediate comparisons were made to Ronaldo, who was taken to the 1994 World Cup by the Selecao at a young age, before latterly becoming one of the greatest strikers the game had ever seen.

The new kid on the block was clearly a different kind of player to the legendary forward, but Neymar's flicks and tricks at Santos excited onlookers enough that the whole of Europe was trying to sign him, with Barca winning the race in 2013.

Neymar went on to become part of a fabled front three at Camp Nou alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, winning two LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies and the Champions League in 2014-15.

During his four years at Barca, he was directly involved in 164 goals in 186 appearances (105 goals, 59 assists), and in his final season in Spain, Neymar was the only player in Europe's top five leagues to record 20 or more for both goals (20) and assists (21) in all competitions.

It was therefore quite a blow when PSG came along and took him in 2017.

 

Life in Paris

Despite having been in Paris for a year longer than he was in Barcelona, Neymar has so far played 42 fewer games for PSG than he did at Barca, with 156 goal involvements (102 goals, 54 assists) to his name in 144 appearances in all competitions. 

The Brazil international has been largely ruthless, converting 52.9 per cent of his big chances, bettering Mbappe (46.4 per cent) and Messi (26.1 per cent).

He made an impressive start, scoring 28 in 30 games in his first season, followed by 23 in 28 the next.

His lack of availability has often been an issue, though, seemingly unable to stay fit for long enough to truly dominate across a season.

That being said, Neymar currently sits fifth in the club's all-time leading scorers alongside, but well behind team-mate Kylian Mbappe (171), who has become the face of the current PSG side, particularly now he has committed his future to the club after penning a new deal in May.

On the surface, you would say those numbers suggest Neymar has been a relative success at the Parc des Princes, particularly as he has also won four Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe de France trophies and twice lifted the now defunct Coupe de la Ligue.

However, you cannot really mention Neymar or PSG without then discussing Champions League ambitions.

Having ironically been at the centre of PSG's embarrassing elimination at the hands of Barca just months before leaving the latter for the former in 2017, it was hoped that adding Neymar would tip the scales in the Ligue 1 side's favour as they looked to lift Europe's most prestigious prize for the first time.

As it is, they have reached just one final, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in 2020, and they once again suffered a humiliating collapse against Spanish opposition last season as they crashed out against eventual champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite holding a 2-0 aggregate lead heading into the second half of the second leg.

Following that loss, PSG fans turned their ire on Neymar, believing the superstar to have not done enough to prevent their elimination, but he was not the only one receiving boos from his own supporters, with a well-regarded Argentine also being partly sneered at.

 

Friends reunited

Since Neymar left Barcelona, barely a transfer window has passed without him being linked with a move back to Camp Nou, with suggestions that Messi wanted to play with his former partner in crime again.

What many hadn't seen coming was that they would indeed be reunited, just not in LaLiga.

Barca's inability to give Messi a new contract after the league imposed financial restrictions on them in 2021 meant he had to leave, with PSG waiting with open arms to bring the Argentina legend to link up with Neymar once again.

It has not quite been the same, though, and while you can excuse Messi not setting the world alight in his first season having only played for Barcelona at senior level in his illustrious career, Neymar also failed to light up many games in which he featured.

He again missed several games through injury, making just 28 appearances in all competitions in 2021-22, scoring 13 goals, three of which were penalties.

 

Notably, he also failed to register a single goal in the Champions League, the competition he was essentially signed for such vast money to lead the club to winning.

There have been murmurs about PSG moving on from the Neymar experiment, with fans turning on him and club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi recently saying he wants to move on from the "bling bling" era and bring in more local players like Mbappe over the next few years.

Whether anyone is willing to take a gamble on a player who will still cost a lot of money remains to be seen, with Manchester City seemingly distancing themselves from a move in this transfer window.

It might not be too late for Neymar, though. The talent is undoubtedly there, and he has shown he is capable of putting up tremendous numbers, it's just a case of remaining available and turning up in the big games.

The arrival of Christophe Galtier as head coach appears to be a step in the direction Al-Khelaifi was alluding to, and the former Lille and Nice boss has said he would love for Neymar to stay and be a part of things next season.

As far as starts go, Neymar made a strong one to the new campaign, netting twice in Sunday's 4-0 rout of Nantes in the Trophee des Champions, a game that Mbappe missed.

With PSG looking set to play with a back three, there might be even more room for their attack to flourish, and Neymar could prove his doubters wrong.

Timo Werner has only managed 23 goals in his first two seasons with Chelsea after joining from Leipzig in mid-2020.

The new Blues owners are open to allowing Werner, who signed on a five-year contract, to depart on loan.

The 26-year-old scored 95 goals in 159 appearances with Leipzig from 2016 to 2020.

TOP STORY – LEIPZIG LEAD RACE FOR CHELSEA'S WERNER

Leipzig are leading the race to sign Chelsea striker Werner ahead of Juventus, claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Bundesliga club met with Chelsea on Sunday, proposing a swap deal for Werner, who is Leipzig's main target.

Juventus and Newcastle United have also shown an interest in the Germany international. 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are considering a move for Leipzig defender Angelino should they miss out on Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso, claims Diario Sport.

Everton could make a move for forgotten Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi, according to talkSPORT. The Toffees lost Richarlison to Tottenham last month and will turn to Batshuayi, who scored 14 goals on loan at Besiktas last season.

– Portuguese forward Diogo Jota is set to be rewarded for his strong second season at Anfield, with Liverpool to offer him a lucrative pay rise as part of a new deal, despite having three years to run on his contract, claims The Telegraph.

Napoli and Chelsea are in talks on a loan deal for Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, according to Sky Sports.

– Football Insider reports that Leicester City have informed Newcastle that midfielder James Maddison will cost them £60million as they circle for his signature.

– Leicester City are set to farewell goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel,  who is on the cusp of joining French Ligue 1 club Nice, reports the Mail.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta suggested the club's spending may not be overnand hinted at a move for reported target Bernardo Silva should head coach Xavi request it.

The Manchester City midfielder has been linked with a move to Camp Nou as a potential replacement for Frenkie de Jong, who is rumoured to be of interest to Manchester United and Chelsea.

Barca have already signed Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde during the transfer window, though questions had been raised whether the club would be able to register them.

Speaking at a media conference to present Kounde after his move from Sevilla, Laporta explained the current situation around player registration, stating: "We are optimistic. We are doing everything possible to register the new purchases.

"I hope that the interpretation we give of the regulation is the same as [LaLiga]. There is time until August 13."

When asked if the club would be looking to add Silva as well, he replied: "First we have to register the players, then we will see what to do if the coach [Xavi] asks for more reinforcements."

The club also announced it had activated a third economic lever in order to try and register their new arrivals.

A statement on the Barca website on Monday read: "FC Barcelona announces the sale of 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios to the company Socios.com for €100million to accelerate the club's audiovisual, blockchain, NFT and Web.3 strategy.

"The sale has been made in accordance with the authorisation of the General Assembly of FC Barcelona Members held last October 23."

Barca, who had reportedly been €1.3billion in debt, had relied on two economic levers so far, the first seeing the Catalan giants sell 10 per cent of their LaLiga broadcasting rights to American investment firm Sixth Street.

The second reported involved transferring a further 15 per cent of their television rights to Sixth Street for the next 25 years, supposedly raising more than €500m from both.

Jules Kounde has detailed the role Xavi played in bringing the defender to Barcelona from Sevilla, describing how "important" it was the coach was pushing for the deal.

The 23-year-old was long courted by Premier League outfit Chelsea, who were widely reported to be set to secure a deal before Barcelona moved to hijack the agreement.

It was the second time in the window a late Barca move had frustrated the English side, with the Blaugrana beating them to the signature of Raphinha from Leeds United, while they also signed Andreas Christensen on a free transfer from the Blues.

For Kounde, though, the key to his decision was the conversations he had with Xavi.

"I had some good conversations with Xavi, he always expressed desire for me to come here, and that was important for me," he told a news conference.

"This is an important moment in my career, and in the conversations, he asked me to continue to do what I was doing in Sevilla, to continue to be aggressive, bring the ball out from the back, distribute, those are some of my strengths. 

"Barcelona is a great club, very demanding as well, and that's something that Xavi talked to me about."

Kounde's arrival at Barcelona comes as part of a significant recruitment drive from Xavi's side, with Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Christensen and Franck Kessie fellow new arrivals.

However, the France international has an advantage due to his experience of playing in Spain and believes he will quickly settle into the club.

"My knowledge of the league is going to make it easier to adapt as soon as possible, to adapt to the Barcelona style as well," he explained.

"My coach is obviously going to ask me to know my team-mates as well, and that's going to take time, but it won't be a problem.

"There is lots of competition, I think it's very good for the team. It's good to have a lot of competition in each spot; there are lots of games, of course.

"What I have to do here is grow and learn. I'm very young still, and I'm here to help the team at any given moment, whatever the coach asks of me and my team-mates.

"It's good that there is competition, I'm really looking forward to playing, and when there's competition, it's a challenge and that's great."

Chelsea are showing they still have plenty of business to take care of during this transfer period, with reports they will make significant bids for Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong and Leicester City's Wesley Fofana.

De Jong has been a central figure in transfer news since the season ended, locked in an ongoing saga with Manchester United after they finally met Barcelona's asking price, only for the 25-year-old Dutch international to reveal he has no interest in heading to a club outside of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have been outgoing about their desire for another quality centre back to bring in along with Kalidou Koulibaly, and after Barcelona swooped in at the 11th hour to land Blues target Jules Kounde, Fofana is the new hot name in their hunt for a long-term solution in the middle of defence.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PREPARE BIG-MONEY BIDS FOR DE JONG AND FOFANA

In the immediate aftermath of Barcelona securing Kounde, reports came out that Chelsea were then unwilling to do further business with the Spanish giants, withholding Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.

However, that seems to have changed as Sport is reporting the Stamford Bridge side will make a bid for De Jong, who Barcelona value at €80million, and if a deal can be made, Barca will then immediately use some of those funds to sign Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

For the 21-year-old Fofana, who has represented France at the under-21 level, Leicester reportedly value him at £85m after recently locking him down on a five-year contract expiring in 2027. Paris Saint-Germain are also said to be interested in the Foxes' defender.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic are reporting Chelsea have also put out a feeler for 26-year-old Inter defender Denzel Dumfries, while Sport Italia's Rudy Galetti claims they are also discussing Milan Skriniar.

– According to the Daily Mail, Newcastle United have turned their attention to Leicester winger Harvey Barnes after having their bid for James Maddison turned down.

Manchester United are reportedly weighing up moves for 25-year-old Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic and RB Salzburg 19-year-old Benjamin Sesko, with the latter said to be valued at over £50m.

– ESPN are reporting that if Manchester City cannot land Brighton left-back Marc Cucurella, then they will pivot to Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro, who has 56 international caps for Portugal.

– Ekrem Konur has revealed that Aston Villa face stiff competition in their pursuit of Bodo/Glimt right-back Alfons Sampsted, with the 24-year-old Iceland international also drawing interest from Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon and Lazio.

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