Joan Laporta believes Barcelona's strong contingent of players within the Spain squad can help propel the national side to victory at the World Cup.

A 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica was followed by a 1-1 draw with Germany and has put the 2010 champions on the brink of qualifying for the knockout stage.

Young Barca pair Gavi and Pedri have caught the eye in midfield during the opening two fixtures, while Ferran Torres hit a brace against Costa Rica.

Laporta expressed his pride at their performances, with the Barcelona president believing Spain's positive displays are down to head coach Xavi's work at club level.

"I think it's fantastic. It gives pride for Barcelona to see how the national team is playing and how our players are doing," he told AS.

"[Spain head coach] Luis Enrique has been able to take on all the pressure, which is a way to relieve all the pressure on the players.

"He has been very brave betting on very young players who are falling in love with the world and it just so happens that most are from Barca.

"The good role of Luis Enrique's national team is also thanks to the good work that Xavi is doing in Barcelona, where there are the most players.

"For me, Spain, along with Brazil and France, are the big favourites of the tournament."

Spain face Japan in their final group match, where victory would confirm top spot.

Frenkie de Jong blames Barcelona's hierarchy, rather than head coach Xavi, for the uncertainty which has surrounded his Camp Nou future in recent months.

De Jong – who is set to make his World Cup debut when the Netherlands face Senegal in their Group A opener on Monday – was strongly linked with a move to Manchester United in the last transfer window.

Despite the midfielder repeatedly stating his preference to stay put, Barca reportedly viewed him as the club's most saleable asset as they looked to fund big-money moves for Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha.

With Xavi making a series of vague statements on De Jong's future at the time, the Netherlands international believes the Barca boss was put in an uncomfortable position by those above him.

Asked whether Joan Laporta's administration was responsible for the transfer saga, De Jong told De Telegraaf: "I blame these people, but I have nothing to do with them.

"Yes, for me they are Barca because they run it. I don't see them when I'm at the club during my daily routine.

"Xavi, it's true that he left the door open to the possibility of me leaving because he never said 'Frenkie stays'. But I don't blame Xavi. 

"I never had the feeling that Xavi was against me, and I think it was difficult for him to talk about all this."

Despite reports suggesting Barca were willing to let him leave, De Jong has continued to play a central role for the Blaugrana this season, making 17 appearances for Xavi's team in all competitions.

De Jong revealed he is targeting an extended stay at the club he joined from Ajax in 2019, adding: "I am very happy in Barcelona. 

"When I play it is great and in terms of living here life is perfect. I see myself at Barca. Personally, I see myself here eight or 10 more years."

Barcelona tried to sign Luis Diaz in January but his move to Liverpool was already too far down the line, according to Joan Laporta.

The Colombia winger moved from Porto to Liverpool for a reported fee of an initial £37.5million (€45m), with a further £12.5m (€15m) to come in add-ons.

It was suggested at the time that the Reds had beaten fellow Premier League side Tottenham to Diaz's signature, and Laporta has now admitted that Barca were also looking to do a deal.

"At that time we had just landed at the club and Liverpool beat us to it, but we were considering bringing [Diaz] in," the Barca president said at a press conference in Bogota.

"But we were in an economic situation that we had to resolve and reverse. Liverpool were ahead of us."

 

Diaz has recorded 16 goal involvements - with 10 goals and six assists - in 38 games for Jurgen Klopp's men since his arrival, winning the EFL Cup, FA Cup and reaching the Champions League final last season.

He has not played since suffering a knee injury in the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal in September, though is expected to be back once the Premier League resumes after the World Cup.

Barca instead signed Daniel Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the last January transfer window, but Laporta says they left it too late to try and land Diaz.

"He's a great player who has a great sense of belonging to Liverpool and I'm not going to talk about it anymore, but we were interested at the time," he added.

"We had a conversation with his representative, but they already had it very advanced [with Liverpool]."

Barcelona would receive a €1billion bonus for being one of the Super League's founders, club president Joan Laporta has revealed.

Laporta also believes the competition would resemble a "much-improved Champions League".

Nine of the Super League's 12 founding clubs withdrew their support in the face of public and media pressure following a botched launch last year, though three clubs have advocated a revival of the competition.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have all been vocal in their support for the project, with a new format reportedly being drawn up by A22 Sports' chief executive Bernd Reichart.

Having organised a meeting with Reichart earlier this week, UEFA hit out at the "greedy plan" of the Super League's backers, accusing them of jeopardising the future of football.

However, Laporta – who has spent his second spell as Barca president battling a financial crisis at Camp Nou – feels the competition would offer his club several benefits.

"From the outset, for the founding clubs, there is an initial bonus of €1bn, and per season, we could get about €300m annually in this competition," Laporta told Sport.

"In addition, the key to the Super League is that the clubs will have governance. UEFA will obviously be at the governance table, but the clubs will have the majority.

"The Super League is a great opportunity. But you can only win through dialogue. What the Super League aims to do is improve football. 

"It fights for the sustainability of football, so that the clubs come out of ruin, so that the clubs can be more and more competitive and have more resources. 

"The Super League will end up as a much-improved Champions League, which will be based on meritocracy, that is, it will be open, without club discrimination, but with guarantees and rules that will allow clubs to have more resources. 

"Super League chief executive Bernd Reichart met last Tuesday with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin in a very important step forward."

Despite their economic troubles, Barca embarked on a significant spending spree in the last transfer window, acquiring the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha.

While the Blaugrana were criticised for gambling the club's future after selling shares in their future television rights and in-house production company to fund those deals, Laporta says they will look for opportunities to strengthen again in January.

"The economic levers have helped to save the club from bankruptcy and to build a competitive team," Laporta said. 

"But the hole was so big that we still have an operating deficit of €200m annually, as a result mainly of the enormous expenses that we have, especially with the wage bill.

"To sign in winter, we would have to incorporate players that improve what we already have. It's not easy, especially considering that we continue to have fair play problems due to our elimination from the Champions League, which has reduced our budgeted income.

"LaLiga has already warned us that we will have less capacity to sign. We will try to reverse it by negotiating with LaLiga to reconsider its interpretation [of the rules] and achieve new income with victories in the Europa League or the Supercopa de Espana. Even with some friendly matches during the World Cup."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reiterated Lionel Messi "always has his home" at the club.

The Argentina superstar left Camp Nou in August 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, after financial issues left Barcelona unable to tie their academy graduate to a new contract.

Speculation of a return to Catalonia has been present ever since and have heated up ahead of 2023, when Messi is set to become a free agent unless he agrees to a fresh contract in the French capital.

Whether an emotional return materialises remains to be seen but Laporta is keen to stress that Messi will always be welcome.

"Leo knows that at Barca he always has his home," he told Sport.

"But let me not talk about Leo because he is a player of another team and we would enter again into a series of statements and counter-statements that would not benefit us at all. He has a current contract with a European club.

"I can only say that Leo has been the best player in the history of Barca."

Barcelona waved goodbye to another stalwart last week in Gerard Pique, who decided to retire, and Laporta made it clear the decision was solely down to the defender.

"Pique's departure has been decided by him. Motivated surely by a sports theme. If Gerard had had the confidence of the coach and played as an undisputed starter, he obviously would not have left," he added.

"Pique has decided what he wanted to do and we, from the board of directors, respect it.

"Xavi has been very honest with him. From the first moment the technician told him that he did not count on him and I also commented with him about his situation.

"But Gerard is a competitive man, a winner, and he still saw himself as a starter and wanted to continue. Although in the end he has seen reality and made a decision.

"He has had a way of saying goodbye to the club, given the haste, very nice. We always want our heroes to be eternal but it is impossible."

Barcelona head into the mid-season break for the World Cup top of LaLiga, two points ahead of Real Madrid, and return to action in late December against city rivals Espanyol.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta concedes his side's premature Champions League exit is a shame but was philosophical about their "young project" under Xavi.

The Blaugrana were officially eliminated and consigned to the Europa League following Inter's 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen earlier on Wednesday, before producing a limp home display in a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

Barcelona have been condemned to a group-stage exit for the second straight season, while that comes almost 12 months since Xavi's appointment to replace Ronald Koeman.

The five-time Champions League winners spent significantly in Xavi's first off-season at the helm, bringing in Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen, Hector Bellerin, Franck Kessie, Marcos Alonso and Raphinha.

Barca's failure to reach the Champions League knockout stages will have a financial impact on the club, but Laporta was philosophical.

"It's a shame, but you can't blame the players or the coach for anything," Laporta told Barca TV. "We have to look forward, because we have LaLiga and other competitions left.

"This is a young project in which from the beginning we knew we were going to have ups and downs. The league remains and we have to show that we continue."

The Blaugrana are second in LaLiga after a strong start to the campaign with 28 points from 11 games, three points behind Real Madrid, whose El Clasico victory earlier this month put them top.

"LaLiga is very important and we have it close," Laporta said. "The message is to look forward. This has already happened."

Barca's 3-0 home loss to the German champions marked the sixth straight defeat against Bayern, including the 8-2 Champions League quarter-final rout in 2020.

"Bayern is a consolidated and powerful team, one of the best in Europe and they did not play anything, they left relaxed," Laporta added.

"For us it was very complicated and the [Inter] game against Plzen was torture, but we still have faith."

Barca midfielder Pedri was more forthright in his assessment of the side's elimination.

"For me it's a failure," he told Movistar. "We don't deserve to be in the Champions League, we've shown it in games. But we have many competitions to face and give joy to the fans who have been with us at all times."

This was the first time Barca have been eliminated from the Champions League group stage in back-to-back seasons since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns under Louis van Gaal.

Madrid will be Spain's only team in the last 16 with Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid all out with a game to spare. The last season Spain only had one team in the knockout rounds was 1998-99, also Los Blancos.

As is always the case when Barcelona fall short in the Champions League, the local media reaction was unforgiving.

"On the brink of disaster," screamed the Diario AS front page. Barcelona were hurtling towards "the abyss", according to L'Esportiu. 

Robert Lewandowski's 92nd-minute equaliser may have rescued a point in a 3-3 draw with Inter last time out in the competition, but it was not enough. 

Having suffered a 1-0 defeat at San Siro one week earlier, the result left the Blaugrana staring at an early Champions League exit.

Xavi acknowledged Barca did not deserve to progress following their madcap draw with the Nerazzurri, but that will be no consolation to their hierarchy should they bow out of the competition on Wednesday.

As Barca – just a few weeks on from a huge transfer spree and a positive start in LaLiga – prepare to host Bayern Munich in a do-or-die clash, Stats Perform examines the potential ramifications of yet another European failure.

Tracing Barca's Champions League woes as old foes visit 

Football has a funny way of throwing up narratives. Surely no team has been responsible for causing Barca greater embarrassment than Bayern, who have won nine of their 12 Champions League meetings with the Catalan giants (D1 L2).

Among those victories, of course, was an 8-2 humiliation of Quique Setien's team in the 2019-20 quarter-finals, an historic result that hastened Lionel Messi's attempts to quit Camp Nou that year.

Bayern also appeared to take great joy in crushing Barca last season, preventing Xavi's men from reaching the last 16 for the first time since 2003-04 (when they were absent from the competition entirely) by thrashing them 3-0 in a match with no consequences for the Bavarians.

The German side are already assured of their own last-16 spot again ahead of Wednesday's match, but they will no doubt be keen to deal another blow to their old rivals – particularly after the less-than-amicable departure of Lewandowski in July. 

While Bayern's domestic dominance makes their obsession with Champions League success understandable, Barca have suffered extensively after failing to meet lofty European aims of late.

Barca are looking to avoid suffering consecutive group-stage eliminations for just the second time in the competition, having previously crashed out at this stage in both 1997-98 and 1998-99, but their Champions League woes stretch back beyond last season.

Since lifting the trophy in 2015, Barca have posted four quarter-final exits and one last-16 elimination, as well as an incredible collapse against Liverpool in their one semi-final appearance.

Meanwhile, Barca have been beaten by three or more goals on 10 separate occasions in their past seven Champions League campaigns, having not lost by such a margin in their previous three seasons in the competition.

For a club who are in a state of perpetual crisis despite a run of five league titles in seven seasons between 2012-13 and 2018-19, the Champions League clearly holds special importance, which has only been heightened by recent off-pitch events.

The view from the boardroom: Why qualification matters for Laporta 

The economic 'levers' pulled by Joan Laporta were the talk of the continent a couple of months ago, with Barca spending in excess of €150million on Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha, as well as attracting four high-profile free agents.

That spree was set against a backdrop of continued economic fears, with Barca accused of gambling their future to finance a short-term rebuild.

The sales of 10 per cent of their future LaLiga broadcasting rights and 49 per cent of their in-house production company Barca Studios were required in order for the Blaugrana to meet the division's salary limits – and even that was not enough to prevent director of football Mateu Alemany having to contribute his own money to ensure Kounde's registration.

The identity of their marquee addition Lewandowski, meanwhile, raises further questions. 

The Poland international may remain his indomitable self, following up a return of 35 goals in his final Bundesliga season with Bayern by scoring 12 in his first 11 outings in LaLiga, but handing a four-year contract to a player who turned 34 in August gave an idea of where Barca's priorities lie.

It is within this context that Laporta's view of the Blaugrana's European failings must be examined.

Reports have suggested Laporta was "furious" with Barca's inability to beat Inter, and the president's frustrations were on display when he stormed into the officials' changing room following their Clasico defeat to Real Madrid four days later, earning himself a fine.

It is thought Barca have budgeted for a run to the Champions League's last eight as a minimum this season, and failing to meet that objective would reportedly cost them €20m.

With Barca and Madrid seemingly fighting a losing battle in their attempts to convince Europe's other giants to back a revival of the Super League, the loss of further revenue is unlikely to go down well in the Camp Nou boardroom.

Could Xavi pay for Laporta's approach?

While Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman lost his job with Barca ninth in LaLiga, overseeing the club's worst ever start to a Champions League campaign hardly helped his cause, with a 3-0 loss at Benfica last September representing a watershed moment for the Dutchman.

Xavi has goodwill in the bank after leading Barca to second in LaLiga last term, but the former midfielder recently acknowledged a European exit would deal a blow to his own job prospects.

Indeed, resounding league wins over Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao have done little to lift the mood at Camp Nou, demonstrating a shift in expectations Xavi must handle.

Signing Lewandowski, who has 91 Champions League goals to his name, has also ensured Xavi has few excuses, at odds with Koeman's patched-up, Messi-less side.

Whether fair or not, Xavi is now perceived to have the players to compete with sides like Bayern; failure to do so would undoubtedly prompt questions of both the coach and the board.

Xavi may have restored Barca's status as domestic title contenders, but as ever in Catalonia, past European glories cast a long shadow.

If Xavi oversees another continental failure, he may just pay for Laporta's approach.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been fined €602 for storming into the referee's changing room after his team's 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico on Sunday.

First-half goals from Karim Benzema and Federico Valverde left Barcelona facing a 2-0 deficit at the break, but a Ferran Torres strike with seven minutes to play gave the visitors hope.

That was soon extinguished though as a VAR review led to the award of a Madrid penalty after Eric Garcia tripped Rodrygo, who scored from the spot to secure three points for his side and condemn Xavi's men to defeat.

The result sparked a furious reaction from Laporta, who confronted referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez in the official's changing room after the match.

The Competition Committee fined him on Wednesday, citing article 133 of the disciplinary code, which relates to non-compliance with orders, as well as article 255, which stipulates those who access the changing rooms when they are not allowed to face potential sanctions.

Sunday's defeat saw Madrid leapfrog Barca to the top of LaLiga, another blow for Laporta's team after their Champions League hopes were left hanging by a thread following a 3-3 home draw against Inter last week.

Frenkie de Jong says president Joan Laporta put him under pressure to leave Barcelona but he had no intention of moving.

De Jong was strongly linked with a move to Manchester United during the last transfer window as Barca tried to offload players after splashing out on the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde.

The Netherlands midfielder, who was also said to be a target for Paris Saint-Germain, made it clear he wanted to remain at Camp Nou.

De Jong knew the Catalan giants were eager for him to depart, but he was not affected by so much talk about his future.

He told Ziggo Sport: "I was calm. I decided in May that I wanted to stay. My opinion has never changed during this entire period. I stayed calm.

"But then you know the pressure would start to come...from the newspapers, from the president, from everywhere. But I wanted to stay at Barca so it never bothered me."

Former Ajax man De Jong has made only four starts for Barca this season, but hopes to be included in the side for the Clasico clash at Real Madrid on Sunday. 

He added: "I knew that he [Xavi] would play fewer minutes at the beginning of the season. I want to be a starter again. I hope to be against Real Madrid.

"Maybe he [Xavi] has already decided, but normally we don't know until the day of the game.

"Of course we are disappointed after the game against Inter, but we have to change our state of mind. We have to show that we are still a good team."

Joan Laporta has told Barcelona fans to "keep believing" as they head into El Clasico on Sunday looking to hit back from a midweek Champions League disappointment.

A 3-3 draw with Inter on Wednesday was a blow to Barca's hopes of reaching the round of 16, but a win against Real Madrid in one of the most anticipated fixtures in world football would be a perfect response.

The fierce rivals head into the match level on points, with the Catalan giants top of LaLiga by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Barca president Laporta urged supporters to maintain their faith in Xavi and his players, telling BarcaTV: "Keep believing. We have a very competitive team, with very good players who are going to bring you a lot of joy.

"Stick behind Xavi, he needs your warmth and confidence. That's what we will give him and we hope the fans do too.

"I have my full faith in Xavi and his staff, and also with the players. We have a great squad and I'm sure they'll bring us a lot of joy. We have a team to compete against anyone in Europe.

"We'll get through this. We won't ever stop working for what we want. This club has had all kinds of ups and downs over the years, but we have always bounced back. And we can still do that, from every part of the club."

Laporta acknowledged just how important Sunday's fixture could be in the title race, adding: "We're top of the league and there's a big game on the way at the Bernabeu.

"El Clasico is very important, whoever wins get a huge injection of morale and the loser takes a mighty blow. It's the kind of game you want to see. We'll go there with our heads held high. We have a team to do things there.

"I hope the players will defend the Barca shirt with the right spirit, because whenever you get knocked down, you have to pick yourself up again. We want to show how good we are and that we can win the league."

Laporta spoke of his frustration at not securing a win over Inter that would have put their chances of progressing in their own hands.

"It was a big game for us and I am sad and angry that we didn't win despite scoring three goals," Laporta said.

"It was always going to be a difficult group. We should have got a better result in Munich because we were the better team.

"And the refereeing in Milan was scandalous. We shouldn't play the victims card, but we were very unhappy with the match officials, and I spoke to UEFA about it afterwards.

"Financially, missing out on the latter stages of the Champions League is a big blow."

Barcelona chief Joan Laporta is not a fan of the original plans for a European Super League, even though his club have stood by the proposal.

Along with 11 other European heavyweights, Barca attempted to form a breakaway competition in April 2021.

However, nine of the 12 teams withdrew due to the unpopularity of the proposals, with UEFA's reaction particularly strong.

The sides nevertheless avoided any meaningful punishment and three clubs – Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus – remain committed to a Super League.

However, Laporta, who succeeded Josep Maria Bartomeu as Barca president in March of last year, does not believe a closed-shop Super League would be the correct way to go.

Indeed, Laporta believes keeping alive the chance of smaller teams winning major competitions is crucial.

"I think that playing between the big clubs would end up tiring," he said in an interview for the Sonora project. 

"Those of us who like football, [it] would end up tiring us. It's nice and healthy that a smaller team beats the big one. 

"You find that a European Championship is won by Greece and it is very nice. And when Leicester [City] won in England it was special. This is football.

"I entered the Super League as Barca's representative with everything already well advanced. My criteria was, leave a closed league, we have to make an open Super League, where there is a meritocracy.

"Another thing that we have to combine is the Super League with the leagues of each country. For me that is very important. I believe in the leagues of each country and for me it would be a mistake for the Super League to replace the leagues."

Laporta believes further tweaks to the Champions League, despite a new 36-team format having already been announced for the 2024-25 season onwards, are required, however.

He explained: "[We] need an improved Champions League, with a very good competition format, which will surely be the most attractive competition in the world.

"But at the same time you have to maintain the [domestic] leagues, this is essential." 

Lionel Messi could return to Barcelona, claims vice-president Eduard Romeu, stating the club knows "how to perform miracles" after they announced a profit.

The forward left last year when Barcelona were prevented from re-signing him after his contract expired because their financial struggles led to a massively reduced salary limit in LaLiga.

He then signed a two-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain, though the relatively short-term nature of that deal meant speculation has frequently linked the veteran Argentinian with a homecoming at Camp Nou.

Romeu suggested any decision to bring Messi back to the club is a matter for the sporting side of Barcelona, but he hinted they could make any move work financially.

"He is an asset to the club and our doors are open," he said. "We have shown that we know how to perform miracles."

His comments came as Barca posted a €98million profit after tax for the 2021-22 financial year, following several seasons of serious economic woe.

President Joan Laporta's activated what he called financial "levers" during the off-season to help ease their strife in the short-term. His measures included selling off 25 per cent of their LaLiga TV rights for the next 25 years.

While critics accused Laporta of mortgaging the club's future, they were able to build a squad that is expected to be competing for the biggest prizes in football once again, with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha arriving at Camp Nou.

Laporta's gamble is also reflected in the club's latest statement of profit, though whether they have enough manoeuvrability to put together a package for Messi's return remains theoretical.

Ronald Koeman claimed an attempted move to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona fell through after president Joan Laporta delayed a deal.

The Dutchman, who was fired by the LaLiga outfit last October after 14 months in charge at Camp Nou, struggled at times on the Barcelona bench and was replaced by Xavi.

Koeman, who will embark on a second spell as Netherlands head coach after the World Cup in Qatar, has confirmed he attempted to bring in compatriot Wijnaldum during the final transfer window of his Barcelona tenure.

However, Koeman contends that president Laporta, then recently returned to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor, stymied any move by dragging his heels.

"I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca, but I failed because the president wanted to play with me more than bring in a player," Koeman told Dutch newspaper AD.

"That delayed the operation, and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona."

Wijnaldum left Liverpool in June 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled across a dismal first season, resulting in him being loaned out to Roma for the current campaign.

A serious leg injury has since left Wijnaldum sidelined, however, making it highly unlikely he will be included in the Netherlands' squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Barcelona have confirmed their board has approved an operating income budget of €1.255billion for the 2022-23 season.

LaLiga giants Barca have been battling financial difficulties over the course of several seasons, with president Joan Laporta aiming to steady the ship, though it has not stopped them spending big in the transfer market.

Though Lionel Messi left the club in 2021, Barca this year signed Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha for big money, while also adding Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Hector Bellerin and Marcos Alonso on low-cost deals. Ousmane Dembele was handed a new contract, too.

Barca sold 25 per cent of their TV revenue for the next 25 years to private equity group Sixth Street in two separate deals in June and July, while they have also turned to streaming platform Spotify as their new stadium and shirt sponsor.

On Monday, a club statement outlined a €1.255billion budget for the 2022-23 season, as well as confirming the previous financial year's turnover of €1.017billion, €98million of which is said to have been profit.

The forecasted profit for the next financial year is much greater, at €274m.

Barca's board also decided the club's general assembly of delegate members would be held virtually on October 9. Xavi's team host Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on the same day.

In a subsequent statement, Barca announced the tender process for the project management of the redevelopment of the Gol Sur section of their stadium had been finalised, with contracts signed with Catalan companies Enginyeria i Arquitectura Torrella and Ingenieros JG.

According to Barca, the tender process for the construction work has not yet finished.

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