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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atletico Madrid have completed the signing of Nahuel Molina from Udinese for an undisclosed fee.

The Argentina right-back has signed a five-year-deal at the Wanda Metropolitano, where his compatriot Diego Simeone is the long-serving head coach.

Molina played 68 games for Udinese across two seasons, scoring 10 goals and recording seven assists for Le Zebrette.

The 24-year-old has also established himself with his national side, including playing five times for Argentina as they went on to win the 2021 Copa America.

Atletico have been short at right-back since selling Kieran Trippier to Newcastle United in January, while Sime Vrsaljko left the club for Olympiacos after the expiry of his contract at the end of the season.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas would like to see Cristiano Ronaldo back in Spain but conceded he was unsure if it was "feasible" for Atletico Madrid to sign the Manchester United star.

Ronaldo is reportedly seeking a move away from United less than a year after returning from Juventus, supposedly because of a lack of Champions League football after the Red Devils' sixth-place finish in the Premier League last season.

The Portugal captain, who scored 24 goals in 38 games in 2021-22, returned to United's training ground on Tuesday having missed the club's pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.

It seems suitors for his services are not as plentiful as anticipated, with Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn appearing to rule out a move, while nothing has yet come of reported interest from United's Premier League rivals Chelsea.

 

Atletico had also been talked of as a potential destination, though club president Enrique Cerezo described it as "practically impossible".

An Atletico fan group called for the club to rule out signing Ronaldo on Wednesday, with Union Internacional de Penas Atletico de Madrid issuing a statement on the matter saying the forward represents "the antithesis" of the team's values.

Tebas would encourage any move to bring the 37-year-old back to Spain, though, telling reporters: "I would like to see Cristiano Ronaldo in LaLiga again.

"Whether it is feasible or not for Atletico Madrid, I do not know. There would have to be some player departures if they wanted to. To sign a player of that level, you must make room."

Ronaldo spent nine years at Real Madrid between 2009 and 2018 and became the club's record goalscorer, netting 451 times in 438 games for Los Blancos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luis Suarez has officially re-joined his first club Nacional in his native Uruguay.

The 35-year-old, who was a free agent after leaving Atletico Madrid at the end of last season, announced on Tuesday that an agreement was in place to return to Nacional.

That transfer officially went through on Wednesday, though the length of the contract was not disclosed by the South American club.

"I am proud to wear this shirt again," Suarez posted on Twitter. "Thank you for all your support. See you soon!"

Suarez made his professional debut for Nacional as an 18-year-old in 2005 before moving to Groningen the following season.

He then enjoyed spells with Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico, for whom he scored 32 goals in 67 league games over two seasons, winning LaLiga in the first of those.

Uruguay's record scorer, who is expected to play in this year's World Cup, will hope to help Nacional reclaim the Primera Division title after arch-rivals Penarol lifted it last year.

An Atletico Madrid fan group has called for the club to rule out signing Cristiano Ronaldo, saying he represents "the antithesis" of the team's values.

The Manchester United forward returned to training on Tuesday, having missed the pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, and is reportedly pushing to leave due to his desire to continue playing in the Champions League.

Suitors for Ronaldo's services have not been forthcoming, however, although Atletico have been linked with bringing the former Real Madrid superstar back to the Spanish capital.

Fans have made it clear they are not keen on the idea though, with Atletico's International Union of Fan Clubs (Union Internacional de Peñas Atletico de Madrid) issuing a statement on the matter.

"In light of the possibility of signing Cristiano Ronaldo, if it is more than a simple rumour without any basis, we express our absolute rejection of his hypothetical joining of our club," the statement read.

"The aforementioned player represents the antithesis of the values that constitute the hallmarks of our Atleti, such as the effort, generosity, modesty and humility of those who want to defend our values.

"Even in the highly unlikely hypothetical case that a player in steep decline such as Cristiano Ronaldo could guarantee us a trophy, we wouldn't accept his signing.

"The sense of being a part of our Atletico feeling isn't within his reach, unfortunately for him, and as such he could never receive our affection or recognition.

"As such, we ask the club to reject his possible signing, if it has indeed been considered at any time."

The fans will likely have been pleased to have heard Atletico president Enrique Cerezo declare a move for Ronaldo was "practically impossible" on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

"For us, it was a great acquisition."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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