Barcelona have reportedly reignited their chase of Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva, and are said to be confident in their ability to get the deal done in January.

Silva, 28, has won four league titles with City since arriving at the club in 2017, and is enjoying another strong season after setting a new career-high with eight Premier League goals in the 2021-22 campaign.

The Portuguese international with 72 senior caps has two goals and five assists in his 12 league appearances this season, and has appeared in all six of City's Champions League group stage fixtures.

Barcelona have been linked with Silva for months, but after recent reports claimed they had moved on, a recent development has positively impacted the Spanish giants' financial situation and put the City star back on their radar.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA REVISIT CITY'S SILVA AFTER PIQUE RETIREMENT

According to Sport, the retirement of Gerard Pique has resulted in significantly improved financial flexibility for Barcelona, allowing them to revisit their long-standing interest in Silva.

The report claims City may be hesitant to part ways with a key contributor in the midst of a title chase, but that Silva had previously asked to leave the club before the failed sale of Frenkie de Jong muddied the waters.

Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo adds Barcelona will look at 31-year-old Athletic Bilbao centre-back Inigo Martinez as their top choice to fill the defensive void left by Pique's departure.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Chelsea are preparing to terminate the loan of Denis Zakaria, claiming they can not offer him regular starts and have no interest in activating the €28million buy clause in the deal.

– According to ESPN, Liverpool are the favourites ahead of Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and City to land Borussia Dortmund phenom Jude Bellingham.

– The Leicester Mercury is reporting Leicester City will not allow Youri Tielemans to leave during the January transfer window, despite his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Milan are keeping a close eye on 22-year-old Spezia centre-back Jakub Kiwior, with Gazzetta dello Sport reporting they could make a move in January.

– According to La Razon, Aston Villa manager Unai Emery is interested in 25-year-old centre-back Pau Torres, who he coached at Villarreal.

Amnesty International has accused FIFA of brushing human rights concerns "under the carpet" after president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura called on participating nations to "focus on the football" at the World Cup.

The decision to stage the World Cup in Qatar has been criticised due to concerns over the country's human rights record, with the conditions of migrant workers and the criminalisation of homosexuality being highlighted.

Less than two weeks before the World Cup begins, Infantino and Samoura wrote to each participating nation, saying football must not be dragged "into every ideological or political battle that exists".

Amnesty, who called on FIFA to create a compensation fund for workers who suffered during the tournament's preparations in May, has now hit out at those comments.

In a media release on Friday, the human rights charity repeated the demand for compensation and lamented organisers' "astonishing" failure to address the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community.

"If Gianni Infantino wants the world to 'focus on the football', there is a simple solution: FIFA could finally start tackling the serious human rights issues, rather than brushing them under the carpet," said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty's head of economic and social justice.

"A first step would be publicly committing to the establishment of a fund to compensate migrant workers before the tournament kicks off, and ensuring that LGBT people do not face discrimination or harassment. It is astonishing they still have not done so. 

"Gianni Infantino is right to say that 'football does not exist in a vacuum'.

"Hundreds of thousands of workers have faced abuses to make this tournament possible and their rights cannot be forgotten or dismissed. 

"They deserve justice and compensation, not empty words, and time is running out."

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Paul Pogba have been confirmed to appear in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as part of a future update.

The trio of footballers were teased by developers Activision to be "suiting up" for appearances for Modern Warfare II, Warzone 2.0 and Call of Duty Mobile – displaying some teaser art in a social media post.

Characters for Pogba and Neymar have already been leaked on social media by dataminers, though Messi's look is yet to be shown. It is expected their introduction will coincide with the World Cup in Qatar.

Neymar and Messi are no strangers to the world of video games, with the Paris Saint-Germain duo introduced to PUBG earlier this year, while Neymar was featured in Fortnite back in 2021.

Modern Warfare II was officially released on October 28 and quickly broke records for the fastest start for the franchise in terms of revenue, with a further boost expected later this month when Warzone 2.0 is released.

Messi and Neymar will star for Argentina and Brazil respectively in the World Cup in Qatar, though France will be without Pogba due to injury.

Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will miss the Serie A leaders' trip to second-placed Atalanta on Saturday because of a back problem that marks a painful end to a miserable week for the Georgian.

The 21-year-old talent has made a thrilling impact since joining Napoli from Dinamo Batumi in July, playing a key role in his team leading the Italian top flight and topping their Champions League group.

With eight goals and eight assists in 17 games across all competitions, Kvaratskhelia has barely put a foot wrong for Luciano Spalletti's team.

This has been a difficult week though, with Napoli's 13-game winning run coming to an end when they lost 2-0 at Liverpool on Tuesday, albeit with the hosts' late goals coming after Kvaratskhelia was substituted.

It was reported by Gazzetta dello Sport that Kvaratskhelia then suffered a break-in at his home on Wednesday night, with his Mini car stolen and later retrieved by police.

Now the youngster will miss at least one game, with Napoli stating on their website: "Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is ruled out of the trip to Bergamo after suffering from acute lower back pain."

It remains to be seen whether he returns for Tuesday's game against Empoli, or the following Saturday's clash with Udinese, both of which will be played at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Such has been Kvaratskhelia's impact at Napoli, he has been compared to club legend Maradona, earning the nickname 'Kvaradona'. Argentine forward Maradona was the driving force of Napoli when the Naples club won the 1986-87 and 1989-90 Serie A titles, their only Scudetto triumphs to date.

Xavi believes Lionel Messi could finally get his hands on the World Cup in Qatar, tipping Argentina alongside Brazil as favourites to land the trophy.

The closest Messi has come to being a World Cup winner was when Argentina were beaten by Germany in the 2014 final.

His unprecedented seven Ballon d'Or successes underline Messi's individual greatness, but he is missing the most valued team prize of all.

Winning the Copa America with Argentina last year gave him a first major title in senior international football, with Argentina getting the better of Brazil at the Maracana in the final.

Now, at the age of 35, and in his final World Cup, Argentina captain Messi goes again, with former Barcelona team-mate Xavi strongly rating the Albiceleste's chances.

"Argentina and Brazil are a step ahead of everyone else," Xavi said on Friday.

"I see them very strong as a team, also with individual players, physical and in terms of tactics and strategy as well, they're two great teams.

"I think they're a step ahead of some of the best European teams right now. But in a World Cup you can never know. Everything can become complicated."

Xavi, a World Cup winner in 2010 with Spain and now head coach at Barcelona, added: "The European teams are very important: Spain, France, even England, have got very strong national sides, but I think Brazil and Argentina are a step stronger."

Brazil are five-time World Cup winners but have not triumphed since Ronaldo's eight goals drove them to 2002 glory, while Argentina have carried off the trophy twice, in 1978 and 1986.

Messi, surprisingly, has never scored in the knockout rounds and is four goals behind Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina's World Cup record scorer (10 goals).

European teams have dominated the World Cup in recent times, with Italy, Spain, Germany and France winning the last four editions.

Massimiliano Allegri will expect Juventus to take the "anger" of their Champions League failure on Inter when they do battle in the Derby d'Italia on Sunday.

A 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday made it five defeats from six Group H games for Juve, but they will move into the Europa League after finishing in third place.

Allegri stated he expects his players to use the fury of falling short in the Champions League as fuel for the remainder of the season, and a victory at the Allianz Stadium would move them above Inter.

The sixth-placed Nerazzurri, who head into the weekend two points better off than Juve, had already qualified for the Champions League before they were beaten 2-0 at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta data to preview a showdown between two heavyweights of Italian football in Turin.

An upturn in Serie A fortunes for Juve

While Juve suffered another European loss in midweek, they have won three consecutive Serie A games without conceding a goal.

The last time they had four clean sheets in a row in the competition was in December 2018, when they won six matches in a row without conceding.

Allegri was also boosted by the return of long-term absentee Federico Chiesa from a knee injury as a substitute against PSG, a timely lift after it was revealed Paul Pogba will miss the World Cup. It remains to seen when Pogba will return.

 

Inter eyeing Derby d'Italia repeat

The Nerazzurri had won four consecutive games and gone seven without defeat before they came unstuck at Bayern.

Inter won three and drew one of four meetings between these two sides last season, beating the Bianconeri 1-0 away from home in Serie A in April.

They could win two Serie A meetings in a row against Juve for the first time since Alberto Zaccheroni was in charge in 2003-04, while the last time they won two such games in a single calendar year was back in 1987.

Juve building on strong foundations, youngsters doing their bit

While Juve have not started the season in the manner they would have liked, they have an excellent defensive record in Serie A.

In the top 10 European leagues this season, only Barcelona (four goals in 12 matches) and Benfica (five in 11) have conceded fewer goals than the seven Juve have shipped in 12 matches in the Italian top flight.

They also have the most players born since 2000 to be involved in at least one goal in Serie A this season with a total of five, with Dusan Vlahovic (seven), Moise Kean (one), Nicolo Fagioli (one), Fabio Miretti (one) and Samuel Iling-Junior (one) making their mark.

 

Inzaghi the scourge of Bianconeri

Inter's Simone Inzaghi has beaten Juventus seven times in 18 meetings in his coaching career, drawing twice. 

He has defeated the Bianconeri more times than any other coach since he took his first job in April 2016.

Inzaghi could become the second Inter coach to win two Serie A away matches against Juventus, after Helenio Herrera (three, between 1961 and 1965).

Jamie Carragher has accused FIFA of putting players in a "disgusting" position by planting the Qatar World Cup slap bang in the middle of the club season.

For most players involved, the tournament will be taking place while their domestic leagues are put on hold, after it was decided Qatar would not be able to host in the usual June-July time slot, due to its climate.

It means the leading lights of the game are playing important club games just days before the opening matches of the World Cup, knowing an injury, even at a minor level, could scupper hopes of being involved.

Former Liverpool and England defender Carragher said a World Cup in November and December is "absurd" and "has succeeded in compromising every major football competition this season, including their own showpiece event".

He said there would "almost be a perverse sense of justice" if stars of the game suffer minor injury blows in the coming weeks that rule them out of the World Cup, due to the tournament's "indecent timing".

But Carragher suspects those that pushed for Qatar to host would not feel responsible, saying: "To them, elite footballers are like cattle. They get well paid and should get on with it, regardless of the psychological and physical consequences."

Carragher pointed to the example of Raphael Varane coming off in tears for Manchester United against Chelsea last month, putting his France prospects in doubt.

He wrote in the Telegraph: "It is disgusting that players are being put in such a position, and they are at their most vulnerable right now as they are expected to go full throttle in the final weeks before joining their national team.

"In normal circumstances, the squads would already be at the pre-tournament training camp, the fine-tuning under way before the opening ceremony."

Carragher added: "The decisions at the top have materially enhanced the risk of injuries. That was inevitable when the World Cup was arranged in mid-season. Everyone with even the slightest understanding of the demands upon a top-level footballer knew that."

The 44-year-old Carragher spent a decade in and around the England squad, at a time when John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were usually ahead of him in the pecking order.

He still won 38 caps and went to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and believes the upcoming tournament taking place in Qatar casts shame on the game.

Carragher argues football's authorities made a major error by voting to give the World Cup to a country with a widely criticised human rights record. Critics have pointed to Qatar's treatment of LGBTQ+ people, and the death of many migrant workers on construction sites ahead of the tournament.

"Qatar must be the tipping point," Carragher added. "This can never happen again and there are already signs of professional players mobilising to ensure it never will. FIFA and other national bodies must be forced to act as well as listen.

"The 2022 World Cup symbolises FIFA's ultimate power. They pushed ahead, ripping up the football calendar knowing nothing could stop them."

Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim admits it would be a "dream" to sign Neymar but doubts his club's chances, while claiming Cristiano Ronaldo would be a bench player for the Brazilian side.

Neymar is set to star for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, where the South American giants are seeking to end a 20-year wait to win the tournament for a sixth time.

The 30-year-old, who has spent nine years in Europe since leaving Santos for Barcelona in 2013, has an uncertain future with Paris Saint-Germain, who were reportedly open to letting him leave prior to this season.

Flamengo have been linked with a sensational move to bring Neymar back to South America, with Manchester United's Ronaldo also linked, but Landim believes such moves are highly unlikely.

"I don't know how much Neymar earns – I've heard that it will be close to €4million per month," he said.

"If we consider that amount, he will not want to come to Flamengo given what I will be able to offer him, within the wage structure.

"He will have a better proposal from outside. It's natural, it's the market.

 

"There are clubs with much bigger budgets than Flamengo that will be interested in an exceptional player like Neymar.

"Having Neymar would be a dream for any club in Brazil, I have no doubts, but I think he will play outside of Brazil for some time because he is exceptional.

"The clubs that can pay salaries of exceptional players like him are abroad."

The Flamengo president was also asked about potentially signing Ronaldo, but he declared he would only get a spot on the bench.

He added: "I don't know where people get this from. They have a lot of creativity.

"We would hire him in substitution to whom? I want to ask you all: who would you take out of our team for him to play?

"I saw online, I am not sure if that is true, he would have received an offer of $242m for a two-year contract. If you take $242m and divide it by 24 months, it is around $10m per month.

"This is way over all Flamengo's pay cheque just for Cristiano Ronaldo to be on the bench waiting for Pedro and Gabigol."

Xavi described Gerard Pique's retirement as "the law of life" and confirmed it could prompt Barcelona to dive back into the transfer market in January.

At the age of 35, and with a reduced role this season, Pique has taken it upon himself to call time on his career, rather than see out a contract that was due to run through to 2024.

Head coach Xavi has accepted his decisions have led to this point, having made it clear to Pique in pre-season he would not be a regular starter.

Pique will play his final Camp Nou game on Saturday, providing he is involved against Almeria, and has told Xavi he will also be available to face Osasuna in an away game on Tuesday.

The season then goes on hold as the World Cup takes over, and Pique will say his farewells to his boyhood club, for whom he has played over 600 games.

Barcelona will move on without him, and Xavi said: "Now we need to build a new generation. A lot of young players are gaining importance. It's a new era.

"We hope this is a new generation that gives a lot to the club. It's a shame when you see great team-mates and friends who are saying goodbye to football. 

"It's a sad thing to see, it makes you nostalgic, but it's the law of life, and it will happen to everyone."

Xavi believes Pique, who already has substantial business interests, could be a future Barcelona president.

"Gerard can be whatever he wants," said Xavi, when that notion was put to him. "For the ability he's got, the leadership, the personality he transmits, he can be whatever he wants. He's got abilities without doubt.

"He's super competitive, intelligent, he's got an amazing intellectual capacity, much more than normal."

With Pique on his way out, Barcelona will be one defender short of where Xavi would like them. He had hoped Pique would stay on, but instead he confirmed talks will take place about the possibility of making a new signing.

"We'll see. Now Gerard's leaving, yes maybe," Xavi said in his press conference on Friday. 

"We’ll have a meeting after the match against Osasuna to plan a little bit. We'll have time to plan with Mateu [Alemany, sporting director] and the president [Joan Laporta]."

Xavi played in the same team as Pique for seven years from 2008 to 2015, winning three Champions Leagues together and abundant domestic honours. They were also Spain team-mates for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 triumphs.

The coach has little doubt Pique will make a success of whatever he turns his hand to.

"A lot of times we don't choose the end," said Xavi. "It's worked out this way for better or worse and I wish him all the best.

"He's always given his all. He's a winner, he's always been a winner, and he'll continue to be that wherever he goes."

Pique will hope his final game at Barcelona's home is a winning farewell, and the signs are good.

Among current LaLiga teams, Barcelona have played more games against Almeria without defeat (P12 W10 D2) than against any other opponent. At home, Barcelona have won their six games against Almeria in LaLiga, scoring three or more goals in each of the last three.

Almeria's Rubi has lost all six of his games as a head coach in LaLiga against Barcelona, and the club have not had an away win against any opponent in LaLiga since February 2015, during a relegation season. They have drawn one and lost 12 on the road in LaLiga since that last win, with this their first season back in the top flight.

Pep Guardiola has described coaching Gerard Pique as "an honour" after the Spain international announced his decision to retire from football.

Pique revealed in a video on social media on Thursday that he will make his final appearance for Barcelona against Almeria at Camp Nou on Saturday before hanging up his boots.

The 35-year-old played under Guardiola for four seasons at Barca between 2008 and 2012.

"It was surprising news," Guardiola admitted at a press conference ahead of Manchester City's Premier League clash with Fulham.

"After making an incredible career in Barcelona, I wish him personally all the best for him and his family.

"He was a player for the big games, never once missing or behave [badly] or have a performance not in the highest level. That is what all the big clubs need, these kind of players.

"He won everything for Barcelona and Spain. The time arrives, the future will be bright, he's a smart guy.

"It was an honour for me personally to be his manager, and we spent an incredible four years together."

Pique will retire as a Barca legend, with only four players making more appearances for the club than his 614.

Those are Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) - all of whom helped form part of the dominant Barca team in the 2010s alongside Pique.

He lifted 30 titles with the club in what was the most successful period in Barca's history, and Guardiola refused to be drawn on possible comparisons with any of his players at Man City.

"[It is] not about comparing, when you compare these things, someone is damaged," he said. "If you ask me my best full-back as manager, it would be unfair because everyone is everyone.

"All I will say is Gerard is a happy man in his life, he said in the video perfectly 'I don't want to be a football player, I want to be a Barcelona player'. It was his dream and his dream came true.

"Being there In the tough moments, the big important games, final of the Champions League or World Cup finals, derbies against [Real] Madrid, Atletico, Sevilla, Espanyol, always [he] was there.

"Of course his career had ups and downs, every player is like that. We knew in the locker room how his personality was important and in the big games always was the best."

Xavi accepts he "played an important part" in Gerard Pique deciding to retire after downscaling the defender's first-team role at Barcelona this season.

The head coach revealed he went through "some of the most difficult moments" of his career when he made the decisions during the off-season that have spurred his former team-mate to quit.

Pique, a Barcelona great who won eight LaLiga titles and the Champions League three times with the club, is set to play his last Camp Nou match on Saturday when Almeria are the visitors.

The 35-year-old will then be available for the match at Osasuna on Tuesday, according to Xavi, but will put a full stop to his playing career after that.

Xavi said coaching friends can make his role "unpleasant" when big decisions have to be made, and he called on Barcelona supporters to give Pique a rousing send-off.

It should not be taken as a given that Pique would start the Almeria game, Xavi said, but he seems certain to appear at some stage.

"He deserves all the love of the Barca fans," Xavi told a press conference on Friday. "I've known him as a team-mate and as a coach, and what he's decided, to put a full stop to his career, I understand completely due to the circumstances.

"He feels less responsible, less useful. I was in that position, too, and the normal thing is you take a step aside.

"He's got a contract and could easily continue with the club, but he's shown great professionalism by stepping aside, and I wish him all the best. The Barca fans should value him as he is, as a legend of the club.

"We had a conversation ahead of the season. I communicated my intentions. It was a private conversation. It was some of the most difficult moments of my career, speaking with Gerard this summer.

"As a friend of him, I love him a lot and hold him in high esteem, but it's something that happens to all of us. You arrive at a moment where you're not so important or useful for the team.

"You feel badly. I had to go through the circumstances, and it's difficult to manage this.

"I played an important part. I decided the best for the team, the institution. I have to make these decisions. It's a very difficult role where you don't receive a lot of gratitude, but I have to do the best for the team and for the club.

"I was honest with him in every moment over the summer, and the circumstances have helped him decide he'll put an end to his career."

Xavi hinted that Pique was far from happy about being pushed to the fringes of the first team.

"I tried to be honest. The player always feels when you're not wanted very much and don't play very much, the one to blame is the coach," Xavi said.

"You have to live with that, that's my work. It's an unpleasant job sometimes, having to take decisions like this with former team-mates like Pique and Dani Alves, and these are situations that aren't easy to manage."

Only four players have featured in more games for Barca than Pique, who has 614 appearances. Those ahead of him are Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) – all of whom formed part of a great Barcelona team in the late 2000s and into the 2010s.

"He's won everything here," Xavi said. "He's been one of the best centre-backs in history, and whatever decision he makes is to be respected 100 per cent. He's got every right to choose how and when."

Manuel Neuer is expected to return from his seven-match injury absence for Bayern Munich's trip to Hertha Berlin on Saturday, according to Julian Nagelsmann.

A shoulder injury has kept Neuer sidelined since Bayern's dramatic 2-2 draw with Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund last month, causing concern for both club and country.

While the goalkeeper's absence led to speculation he could miss Germany's World Cup opener against Japan on November 23, Nagelsmann repeatedly dismissed those concerns while urging caution over his return.

That approach looks to have paid off, with Nagelsmann revealing on Friday that Neuer was likely to replace Sven Ulreich between the sticks in the German capital.

"If the final training session goes well, Manu will come along and also play," he said at a pre-match news conference. "I assume it will, but we'll see how the shoulder reacts. This week went well.

"We didn't consciously wait longer, we just waited until he was pain-free. When you start again after an injury, there is always some risk, but I don't calculate that, it's the doctors. 

"If they give the clearance, [the risk] is obviously so small so that he can play, but anything can happen when you have a bruised shoulder. Football is a contact sport, so you can never rule everything out."

While Neuer's return is a huge boost for Bayern – who are one point adrift of surprise Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin, they will be without Thomas Muller and Matthijs de Ligt at the Olympiastadion.

"Thomas and Matthijs are still out. Matthijs' knee reacted again, so we could not increase [his workload]," Nagelsmann added.

"It was originally the idea [for De Ligt to return], but unfortunately it doesn't work. That's why he won't be flying to Berlin, the same with Thomas. The plan is for them to come back during the week."

Bayern finished their Champions League group-stage campaign with maximum points by beating Inter 2-0 last time out, becoming the first side to achieve that feat in consecutive seasons.

That means Bayern will be paired with one of Liverpool, Club Brugge, Milan or Paris Saint-Germain in Monday's last-16 draw, and Nagelsmann believes none of those sides will want to face them.

Asked about the prospect of meeting Liverpool, he said: "There are easier draws, but you can also turn the tables. There aren't too many teams who want to play against us. 

"It's all very hypothetical, the next Champions League game is in a few months. The current form of Liverpool, or us, or Milan, or PSG or Brugge is not decisive. 

"Until then, a lot will happen. I also read all of this, I know who our potential opponents are and I have an opinion on all of them. But I'm not making the choice, so we'll wait and see."

LaLiga has warned a fresh attempt to launch a European Super League will be offering only a rehashed version of the competition that launched and collapsed within days last year, leaving clubs humiliated.

The Spanish league is determined to fend off a new proposition for an elite league, and has warned it would "destroy" the existing structure of the domestic game.

In a statement, LaLiga pointed to a previous proposal from 2019, as well as the calamitous launching of the Super League last year that saw 12 teams agree to take part, before almost all pulled out in a hurry after a furious backlash from fans, politicians and football governing bodies.

It was revealed in October 2022 that A22 Sports Management – a company representing the Super League clubs – is planning to revive the proposals. Bernd Reichart, a media executive, has been appointed to head up the plans.

LaLiga said on Twitter on Friday: "The promoters of the Super League are now preparing a model similar to the one put forward in 2019, which is still closed or mostly closed, which will destroy the national leagues and which has already been rejected by clubs and leagues in Europe."

Spanish giants Barcelona are among the teams still keen on the idea of a new competition, with club president Joan Laporta last month saying it would be "more even" than the current system, claiming UEFA is not satisfactorily enforcing the ethos of financial fair play.

LaLiga published a video expressing its opposition to the Super League, in which it stated that "the whole of European football took a stand against its closed, selfish and elitist model".

"Now the promoters of the Super League are trying to conceal its format, claiming that they still don't have a fixed model although it will be an inclusive and open," LaLiga added.

"We know that this is false, and that they want to present a semi-closed format similar to 2019 which has already been rejected by the clubs and European leagues.

"This model is based on promotion and relegation between European divisions where the national leagues do not provide direct access to the top tier. On the contrary, they perpetuate the participation of a privileged few, even if they perform poorly in their domestic leagues.

"To be clear: anything less than any club earning its place in Europe's top flight through success in the domestic leagues will remain a closed or semi-closed model.

"We have also heard that the Super League wants to claim to be the saviour of football, saying that the current system no longer appeals to young people. Fake news. As an example, data shows that LaLiga's audience in Spain among those under the age of 24 has increased by more than 22 per cent in the last four seasons."

LaLiga also said research showed football's global fan base had risen by 3.4 per cent in the 16-29 age bracket, while stating TikTok metrics revealed 60 per cent of its mainly young audience consumes football content.

The statement from LaLiga said the Super League's promise of "a more exciting competition" would in reality mean "a constant stream of the same type of clashes, turning the extraordinary into the ordinary".

It warned such a competition "would destroy the ability to turn dreams into reality", denying smaller clubs than the cherry-picked elite the long-established pathway to competition at the highest level.

LaLiga, whose president Javier Tebas has been a vocal opponent of the proposed new competition, added: "The promoters of the Super League must respect the will of European fans and citizens, where the Council of Europe has already taken a position against the Super League and the European Parliament has defended an open, democratic model based on meritocracy."

Atletico Madrid were eliminated from Europe in midweek after a 2-1 loss at Porto and are looking to bolster their squad.

One player who could be sold is Joao Felix, who Atleti signed for €126million from Benfica on a seven-year deal in 2019.

The Portuguese forward has underwhelmed this season, with only two goals, and has been unsettled at times.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO WILLING TO LISTEN TO JOAO FELIX OFFERS

Cadena SER claims Atletico Madrid have put Joao Felix on the market and are open to offers for him.

Bayern Munich were rumoured to have made a €100m off-season move for Felix, while Manchester United reportedly had a €130m bid turned down in August.

Fichajes reported last month that the 22-year-old had handed in a transfer request, while Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have been linked with him recently.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are getting proactive in the pursuit of Palmeiras' 16-year-old talent Endrick, sending officials to Brazil to commence talks over a deal, claims Marca. Endrick cannot officially join Madrid until he is 18-years-old but Los Blancos are eager to get an agreement in place.

West Ham, Leicester City, Southampton and Brentford are all monitoring Lyon's Brazilian winger Tete, according to The Sun.

– Diario Sport reports Barcelona want to sign Athletic Bilbao centre-back Inigo Martinez as a replacement for the retiring Gerard Pique.

Leicester are weighing up their options for a Youri Tielemans replacement, keeping tabs on Lorient midfielder Enzo Le Fee, reports 90min.

– La Gazzetta dello Sport reports veteran French forward Olivier Giroud will be rewarded with a new Milan contract after the World Cup. The new deal will run until 2024.

Gerard Pique's retirement brings one of the most distinguished careers in Barcelona and Spain footballing history to a conclusion.

Pique won eight LaLiga titles and the Champions League three times with Barca, while helping his national team lift their first World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship two years later.

The Los Cules great has decided to call it quits at the age of 35 after Barca's next match, against Almeria on Saturday, having turned out for his hometown club over 600 times.

A number of high-profile names have hailed Pique since the announcement, including the likes of Patrick Kluivert and Fabio Cannavaro, while former centre-back partner Carles Puyol called it a "privilege" to play alongside him.

A Barca legend

Pique will retire as a Camp Nou legend, with only four players featuring more times for Barca than his (614), those being Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) - all of whom helped form part of the dominant Barca team in the 2010s alongside Pique.

Pique started in Barca's youth ranks but left for Manchester United in 2004, where he won the Premier League and Champions League in the 2007-08 season.

However, Pique returned to Barca in 2008 and has won 422 of his 614 games in all competitions since.

He lifted 30 titles with the club in what was the most successful period in Barca's history.

A rock for his national team

Pique also made his mark at international level, earning 102 caps for Spain between 2009 and 2018 and becoming one of just 13 players to feature 100 or more times for La Roja.

Pique played every minute of the final as they overcame the Netherlands 1-0 after extra time to lift their first World Cup in 2010, before Spain went on to win the 2012 Euros by routing Italy 4-0 in the final.

He scored five goals for Spain, all against different opponents, including three in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

European great

Only Sergio Ramos (135) made more Champions League appearances as a defender than Pique (128), while he scored the joint-most goals for a defender in the competition with Roberto Carlos (16).

Perhaps his best Champions League season was the 2008-09 campaign when he finished with the most ball recoveries (90), while only Xavi (967) completed more passes than him (695).

There are just four players with more Champions League titles, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo, all of whom are on five.

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