Edu is delighted that Arsenal managed to sign first-choice transfer targets Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko despite missing out on Champions League football last term.

However, the club's technical director also revealed Raphinha was never close to moving to the Emirates Stadium, with the now-Barcelona winger having always prioritised a move to Camp Nou.

Arsenal have been active in the transfer market after a late-season collapse saw rivals Tottenham secure a top-four Premier League finish at their expense in May, outspending every other side in the top flight do far.

Alongside former Manchester City duo Jesus and Zinchenko, Mikel Arteta's side have recruited Porto's Fabio Vieira, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, and young Sao Paulo winger Marquinhos, and Edu revealed Arsenal's lack of Champions League football has not been too inhibitive in securing their foremost targets. 

"[We signed] almost 100 per cent of them," he told Sky Sports. "I understand sometimes players want to play Champions League football, but I think we can offer something very special for the players as well.

"It's not only Champions League, but you can be part of a group of players which can achieve something very special for this football club. And then I always ask them if they want to be part of the project we've been building.

"I'm sure we will do something very special for this football club and then when I explain to the players, they really understand [it] and that's why they're here."

Zinchenko made just 10 Premier League starts for City last season, playing a total of 1,044 minutes in the competition, but Edu is delighted with the signing of the Ukraine star after targeting him for six months.

"We are so excited to have Zinchenko with us here because he's a player that we really targeted," he added.

"It's a player that we really believe has the characteristics and the qualities that are going to increase our level in the squad for sure. [The transfer] was planned like six months ago, to feed that position in the best way possible in the way which Mikel really wants to play.

"Mikel of course knows him more than anyone because they worked together [at City] but all the information around the player is top."

Edu also revealed the signing of Jesus was the culmination of another drawn-out process, adding: "I think we as a club have to be proud to have a player like Gabriel Jesus here.

"This process really, I think, takes like seven months in terms of understanding each other and talking to each other, because also he had a lot of other opportunities and then he chooses because he understands who we are."

Raphinha was another player linked with Arsenal after scoring 11 goals in 35 Premier League appearances for Leeds United last season.

However, he made a big-money move to Barcelona earlier this month, and while Arsenal did speak to the winger's agent Deco, Edu revealed his heart was set on a move to Camp Nou.

"People think we went in too deep about Raphinha, because Raphinha was everywhere," Edu said. "It's fair, we did have some conversations with Deco because Deco is his agent and I have a good relationship [with him] - we are friends.

"I just said to Deco, 'can you explain to me the situation with Raphinha?' and he was clear, 'Edu, we have a good relationship but I'm not going to lie to you, his idea is to go to Barcelona because he's dreaming to go to Barcelona, and we've been talking to Barcelona since a long time ago'.

"[I said] 'okay, thank you very much, if something happens then just let me know because I can explore and understand the situation'. If not, no problem and we carry on with our relationship."

Despite winning LaLiga and the Champions League last season, Real Madrid want to secure a bright future to follow their trophy-laden present.

Having confirmed the signings of Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger this off-season, Madrid managed to bolster their squad in two areas of the pitch.

Meanwhile, they are on the verge of securing the long-term futures of three foundational pieces in those successes last term.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID TO SECURE BRAZILIAN TRIO

Real Madrid are all but set to confirm renewed contracts for their Brazilian trio of Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Despite tricky initiations for each, all three have now established themselves as vital players under Carlo Ancelotti, as evidenced by their new release clauses.

Militao and Rodrygo have reportedly extended to June 2028, with respective €500million and €1billion release clauses.

After a breakout season, culminating with his goal in May's Champions League final, Vinicius will reportedly extend to June 2027, along with a €1bn release clause.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester United are now considering a move for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as an alternative to Frenkie de Jong, Calciomercato is reporting.

– Juventus have made a €23m (£19.5m) move for Liverpool's Roberto Firmino as they finalise the termination of Aaron Ramsey's contract, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Jules Kounde's departure from Sevilla appears likelier with the defender close to agreeing personal terms with Barcelona, per Fabrizio Romano.

– Arsenal have confirmed their interest in Lucas Paqueta but are yet to make Lyon an offer, The Times has reported.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has outlined his plans for new signing Antonio Rudiger, and hinted that he could be utilised in an unfamiliar position.

The Germany international joined the reigning Champions League winners on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with Chelsea, where he was a regular fixture in the Blues' side at the heart of the defence.

Different opportunities may present themselves in Ancelotti's plans, however, as the head coach admitted he does not want to disrupt the centre-back partnership of Eder Militao and David Alaba.

Rudiger started at left-back during Madrid's 1-0 pre-season defeat to Barcelona, and Ancelotti hinted it is an area he could find himself slotting into more regularly.

"I liked him a lot. I am not crazy and he is very intelligent," the Italian said after the loss.

"He can play in that position, just as he can also change in the match with Alaba. They didn't do so today, because it went well.

"[Alaba] as a left-back, only when necessary. I don't want to change the pair from last year."

Real have a void on the left side of their defence following the departure of club legend Marcelo last season.

Though another signing is unlikely to be made before the end of the window, with Ancelotti making it clear he is not targeting further additions to his squad.

Los Blancos complete their pre-season preparations against Club America and Juventus, before tackling reigning Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt in the Super Cup.

Robert Lewandowski feels like he has been at Barcelona "for months" after making his first appearance for the Blaugrana in Saturday's El Clasico win against Real Madrid.

The exhibition game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas was decided by a wonderful goal from another new man, Raphinha, as Xavi's side ran out 1-0 winners.

Lewandowski could not find the net on debut but saw a fierce strike at goal pushed away by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the first half.

The Polish striker only officially became a Barca player last week, but explained after the game to Barca TV and TV3 how settled he is already feeling.

"Although it was a friendly, the Clasico is the Clasico and it is always different and special, and we are very happy with the quality and intensity that we have shown," Lewandowski said.

"I'm very happy to be here and to be part of this team. I don't feel like I've been with the team for days, it feels like I've been with the team for months. I feel very supported by both my team-mates and the staff."

Despite their well-reported financial issues, Barca have been very active in the transfer window, bringing in Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen so far, while also being linked with a move for Jules Kounde from Sevilla.

The former Bayern Munich hotshot is anticipating a successful first campaign in Spain, and discussed the winning mentality at his new club.

"We always think about winning," he added. "We have a very winning mentality, not only in games but also in training.

"We have the opportunity to look forward and think that this can be a great season."

Barca begin their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano on August 13.

Thomas Muller has admitted that Bayern will face a stern test following the departure of Robert Lewandowski, but says there were "good reasons" for the striker's departure.

The Poland international brought an end to a trophy-laden stint in Bavaria by completing a move to Barcelona, leaving a significant void in Bayern's attack ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Bayern have moved for a replacement, landing Sadio Mane from Liverpool and being vocal with interest in Tottenham striker Harry Kane, and Muller has defended the club's decision to allow Lewandowski to leave.

"All parties decided that Lewy should leave the club, there were good reasons for that," he told BILD.

"But, without a doubt, we don't know what to expect when a player who has always scored between 30 and 50 goals per season is no longer with us on the field.

"There was no plan to always play for him, but when you know you have a striker like that, you do it. Now things will change, and it will be exciting to see how our attack develops."

While the loss of Lewandowski's goals will certainly present a difficult adjustment for Bayern, Muller identified occasions in the past where the club has coped with similar high-profile departures.

 

"We're not going to play with ten simply because Lewy left," Muller said. "Now there will be opportunities and scoring chances for other players. Maybe we score less, but that doesn't mean we won't succeed as a team. 

"For example, Mario Mandzukic replaced Mario Gomez in 2012. Mandzukic didn't get the records Gomez had, but we won the treble and were invincible as a team."

Bayern will once again begin the season as favourites for the Bundesliga, having won the past 10 titles, but Dortmund's transfer activity prior to the start of the campaign has caught the eye.

Muller, heading into his 15th season as a Bayern player, believes it's a good thing that their arch-rivals are bolstering their ranks.

"[It's good] that something is also stirring at BVB. It is not known whether BVB will now score ten more points," he said. "But it's good for the league. There is anticipation and excitement in the air."

Lionel Messi could return to Barcelona one day, according to club president Joan Laporta, who feels "indebted" to the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona, 16 of those spent as part of the senior squad, came to an end last August when he signed for PSG as a free agent.

The Argentina international won every trophy available with Barca and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals across 778 appearances.

Last year's departure came as a huge shock at the time, with the Catalan giants' financial situation meaning 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 contains the option of a third season in Paris.

But Laporta, who was re-elected as president in March 2021, has opened the door for the club great to return to Catalonia one day.

"For Barca, he has possibly been the best player in history, the most efficient, only comparable to Johan Cruyff in the history of Barca," Laporta told ESPN.

"But it had to happen one day. We had to make a decision as a consequence of the legacy we had received, the institution is above players and coaches.

"I don't believe Messi's chapter at Barcelona is over. And I believe it is our responsibility to make sure that chapter is still open, that it hasn't closed.

"To have a moment to do it how it should have been done so that he may have a much more splendid ending than what he had."

 

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

That is in stark contrast to the 11 goals and 14 assists managed in 34 games across all competitions during his first season at the Parc des Princes.

As the poster boy of the most successful period in Barca's history, Laporta feels a sense of gratitude towards the superstar forward.

"Do I feel indebted to him? Yes. Morally, as president of Barca, I did what I had to do," Laporta said. "But also as president of Barca and on a personal level, I think I owe him."

Former Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has said he is "calm" about reports linking Inigo Martinez with the Blaugrana.

Reports in Spain have indicated that Barca see the 31-year-old as an alternative option to Jules Kounde if they are unable to complete his signing from Sevilla.

The France defender has also been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, though reports on Saturday suggested Barca were confident of beating the Premier League side to a deal.

Valverde was appointed as Athletic boss last month for a third spell, after managing Barca between 2017 and 2020, where he won two LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey.

Speaking after Athletic's 1-1 friendly draw with Bundesliga side Mainz on Saturday, Valverde said he was relaxed about the Martinez rumours.

"We are calm about Inigo," he said. "For us there is no situation.

"I guess all this is the classic thing that happens every summer, that some clubs are interested or talked about as they are interested.

"We are calm. From what comes out we always isolate ourselves a little and that's it.

"He hasn't said anything to me [about a move], at all. At the club we are all very calm about it. We have players very committed to the club, you see it in every training and in every game. He's a very important player for us."

Martínez has made 342 LaLiga appearances for Real Sociedad and Athletic, 99.7 per cent of which have been from the start (341), the highest percentage of any outfield player with at least 250 appearances in the competition in the 21st century.

Barca teenager Pedri recently told Marca he hopes to see Martinez at the Camp Nou, saying: "Inigo is a magnificent player, I've played with him in the national team, I hope it can happen."

Barcelona could not compete financially with Chelsea for the signing of centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Chelsea confirmed the signing of Koulibaly last weekend in a deal worth a reported £33.8million (€40m), bringing an end to the defender's eight-year stay in Naples.

LaLiga heavyweights Barca, whose financial problems have been well documented over the past year, also had an interest in the Senegal international.

However, De Laurentiis claims the Catalan club could not meet Napoli's valuation for Koulibaly, who was into the final year of his contract at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

"Barcelona had come in, but they didn't have the money because they are in debt," he told Radio Kiss Kiss. "Then Chelsea came forward and we couldn't say no."

Koulibaly helped Napoli to three second-place finishes in Serie A and to Coppa Italia glory in 2020, as well as winning the Supercoppa Italiana shortly after he arrived in Italy.

Since joining the club in 2014, no defender in the Italian top flight has won more tackles than Koulibaly (344), or made more successful passes (14,528).

De Laurentiis revealed Napoli offered the 31-year-old an improved contract in an attempt to fend off Chelsea.

"I let Koulibaly go because he asked me to. I tried in every possible way to keep him, offering €6million per season net," De Laurentiis said.

"But if a player wants a new experience at a prestigious club, in the biggest league in the world, you have to recognise what he's given you and not put up walls."

Koulibaly made 236 Serie A appearances for Napoli, including 27 as the Partenopei finished third last season.

Dani Alves is grateful that he will have the opportunity to say a final farewell to Barcelona fans at Camp Nou in one of his first games as a Pumas UNAM player.

The veteran full-back left Barcelona at the end of last season following the expiration of a short-term deal signed when returning to the club for a second spell in January.

Brazil international Alves started 14 LaLiga games for Xavi's side in the second half of last season, but the club decided against extending his contract for another year.

He will now continue his prestigious career in Mexico with Pumas, who confirmed the 39-year-old's arrival on Saturday after days of teasing the high-profile signing.

And in a coincidental twist, Alves is now expected to be part of the Pumas squad that takes on Barca for the Joan Gamper Trophy on August 7.

Barca were originally scheduled to face Roma, but Jose Mourinho's side pulled out and Pumas took up the invitation to play in the pre-season friendly.

The defender previously suggested he was unhappy with the manner of his Camp Nou exit, but he has now said he can understand Barcelona's decision.

"In the end, life treats people who treat life well, and this game gives me the right to come and play with Pumas at Camp Nou to say goodbye," he told TUDN News. 

"My contract there ended. I didn't expect much more as I'd only signed for six months and fulfilled those.

"But now, I will have the opportunity with Pumas to say goodbye to the people as I would have always liked."

 

Alves scored one goal and set up four more between his second debut on January 5 and the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

That is a tally bettered only by Ferran Torres (six), Jordi Alba (seven) and Ousmane Dembele (11) among Barca players over that period.

Despite recently turning 39, Alves made clear he wanted to quickly find a new club in order to remain part of Tite's plans for the 2022 World Cup.

Asked why he opted for Mexico, and Pumas in particular, Alves said: "What attracted me to this club is more than just football.

"I think that in Mexico, you have to try to believe a little more in their football. 

"Those who out of ignorance discredit Liga MX, do it wrongly. There are very good goalkeepers, who we have faced at the Olympics. 

"When we went to the Club World Cup with Barca, the Mexicans were the only ones who wanted to face us."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has welcomed the additional competition for a starting spot at Barcelona and says landing Robert Lewandowski "is what the club is all about".

Barca pulled off a coup of sorts earlier this week when bringing in prolific striker Lewandowski from Bayern Munich in a deal worth up to €50million.

Lewandowski outscored every other player across Europe's top five leagues last season with 50 goals in 46 appearances, six more than next-best Karim Benzema.

The Poland international's 312 Bundesliga goals with Bayern and Borussia Dortmund is the second-most of any player in the competition's history, behind only Gerd Muller (365).

Lewandowski's arrival could see February signing Aubameyang playing a bit-part role this term, but the ex-Arsenal man is relishing the chance to link up with his former team-mate.

"I was really excited because I know him well, we played together at Dortmund and had some nice times over there," Aubameyang told ESPN.

"I was just happy and when this was official we are reunited and we had some fun words about the past.

"I’m really happy because this is how Barcelona will compete, with great strikers and that's what this club is all about.

"Obviously I think we have more experience, we can maybe do better than the past in Dortmund, I am sure about that. 

"Personally, I will try to give my best and I'm sure he will [as well]. We will hope we have better numbers than in the past."

 

Aubameyang scored 13 goals in 23 games for Barcelona after arriving at Camp Nou in early February – more than double that of any of his team-mates over the same period.

He scored at a rate of one goal every 116 minutes, compared to a goal every 80 minutes for Lewandowski with Bayern across the whole of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, asked if he has been informed by head coach Xavi if he will be used alongside Lewandowski, Aubameyang said: "Yes, a little bit.

"He was talking to all of us that we have to compete this year to win titles. Of course, when you talk about trophies we need a competitive team.

"That's why we have a lot of strikers and midfielders and defenders. This is the way to achieve things this season."

Ousmane Dembele also signed a new contract with Barcelona in what has been a positive transfer window, despite the Catalan giants' well-publicised financial issues.

"That's definitely a boost," Aubameyang said of Dembele's new deal. "He's one of the best players I've ever played with.

"I'm sure about that because his quality is something crazy and every time I play with him I enjoy it on the pitch. I'm really happy he re-signed.

"Everyone was a bit scared because we didn't know if we would re-sign or not. In the end he did. 

"I'm sure he knows Barcelona is one of the best clubs in the world so this is the place to be."

Pedri hopes Barcelona can raid Athletic Bilbao to sign "magnificent" defender Inigo Martinez.

Barca have reportedly turned their attention to centre-back Martinez, with Sevilla's Jules Kounde expected to join Chelsea rather than move to Camp Nou.

Pedri believes his Spain team-mate would be a great signing for the Blaugrana, who have been busy in the transfer market ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The teenage midfielder said when asked about the prospect of signing Martinez: "I hope he comes. He is a magnificent player. I know him very well from the national team."

Barca academy graduate Pedri believes the Catalan giants have a great chance of winning LaLiga after recruiting the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Franck Kessie.

Asked how the team is ready to approach the season, he replied: "With the greatest enthusiasm. In addition, the reinforcements that have come are helping people get excited.

"We face this season with the illusion of winning all the titles."

Xavi's side face Real Madrid in an El Clasico friendly at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Pedri is relishing doing battle with the LaLiga champions in a mouthwatering pre-season friendly.

"There is always a desire to play against Real Madrid," he said. "I had never been to the United States and I am noticing the affection of the people."

He added: "it's pre-season and the important thing is to add minutes. But it's true that playing against Real Madrid is always a motivation and winning is always good for the dynamics of the group."

Thomas Tuchel does not intend to give in to Cesar Azpilicueta's demand for a cut-price exit to Barcelona. 

Azpilicueta has reportedly asked to leave Stamford Bridge for Barca, who have already signed Andreas Christensen after his Blues contract expired.

It has been suggested that a £55million move for Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde could pave the way for the Spaniard to leave for Camp Nou. 

However, Tuchel is standing firm and does not want to let Azpilicueta leave on the cheap, saying he was "maybe a little bit" annoyed by Barca's pursuit of the player. 

"It's a tough question because I'm not sure if I want to give Azpi what he wants," said Tuchel, as quoted by Standard Sport. 

"At some point it is about what we want. I just made the comparison about how much we fought for [Kalidou] Koulibaly, who is a national team player and roughly the same age. 

"He is a hugely important player for Napoli but we have a Spanish international who is the captain at Chelsea. I see him maybe at the same level, but Barcelona don't see him on that level. So I am not sure if I want to give him what he wants as he is a huge player. 

"We don't think so much about other clubs. The focus is on us and what we need. I said that to him and I say it to you that I understand on a personal and a career level. But I am not only in this role to give him what he wants. I am a manager for Chelsea who wants to do what's best for Chelsea. 

"He doesn't like it but he understands. It is tough for him because the other club is permanently on him. On September 1 when things calm down, then he can play on his highest level." 

Tuchel poured cold water on reports that striker Timo Werner is keen to return to Germany after failing to make an impact following his arrival from RB Leipzig in 2020. 

"I don't think so, so I don't know about it. Timo has not talked to me about it," said Tuchel. 

"At the moment I think he wants to make his way at Chelsea. He still has to prove a point." 

Eden Hazard has no intentions of leaving Real Madrid to follow Gareth Bale to Major League Soccer, insisting "I want to show people that I can play in this club".

Hazard has struggled at Santiago Bernabeu since completing his big-money move from Chelsea in June 2019, with injuries and fitness issues hampering the forward.

The Belgium international was largely a spectator last season, making just seven starts for his 17 LaLiga appearances as Madrid earned European and Spanish glory.

That followed the pattern of a frustrating spell in the Spanish capital, where he has made only 48 appearances in LaLiga for the club – 20 of which have come from the bench.

But the 31-year-old, who has just 10 league goal involvements for Madrid (four goals, six assists), is out to prove a point and show his worth to Carlo Ancelotti's side.

"It's been a few seasons that I was not playing that much, so for me... I just want to show what I can do on the pitch – that's my only target," he told ESPN.

"When you play football, you just want to be on the pitch, and when you are out [of] the pitch... [You think] 'What's happened?' because I was not injured before and so it was something new for me to be injured, so you have to learn.

"It's a way to learn the way you have to do things, your body, you take care [of] in different ways, you work more with physios, this kind of thing. But it's a good challenge now... I'm healthy, so I'm just ready to play.

"It's not that easy, especially when you don't know why you're injured. I've been injured at my time at Chelsea, but not like those three years with Real Madrid.

"I knew that it was something wrong with my body, so that's why I asked to do the surgery at the end of the season last year."

Bale ended his spell with Madrid as he joined MLS side Los Angeles FC at the end of June, aiming to gain fitness and match practice to feature for Wales at the upcoming Qatar World Cup in November.

Hazard has no intentions of moving to the United States to join Bale in the near future, though, with his sole focus on playing for Madrid for at least the next two years.

"I don't think about that that much now, I'm just focused," he said when asked about a transfer to MLS.

"It's been three years [which have been] hard for me, so I'm just focused on this season. I still have a contract after two more years, and then we'll see.

"In two years I'm going to be 33, so let's see what can happen."

Former Barcelona full-back Dani Alves is to continue his playing career in Mexico, with the 39-year-old set to join Pumas UNAM.

Alves re-joined Barca last year and, after registering in January, went on to make 14 LaLiga appearances for Xavi's team.

The defender made 13 starts in Spain's top flight and scored one goal, as he returned to Camp Nou after spells with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Sao Paulo in his native Brazil.

Alves is now heading back across the Atlantic to join Liga MX side Pumas, who teased the signing on their official Twitter account on Thursday.

A video showing the club's mascot arriving at Pumas' stadium concluded with the caption "Dani, we wait for you." Alves is expected to arrive in Mexico this weekend to finalise his move.

Barcelona have sold off a further 15 per cent of the club's LaLiga broadcasting rights to Sixth Street, a global investment firm.

In June, Barca confirmed 10 per cent of its TV rights had been sold to Sixth Street, and the company have now increased their investment into the club.

Sixth Street will now receive 25 per cent of the club's TV rights for the next 25 years, as Barca aim to appease their financial issues.

A statement from Barca president Joan Laporta read: "We continue to move forward on our strategy and are pleased to have completed this additional agreement with Sixth Street providing us with a meaningful increase in capital strength.

"Over the past few weeks, we and Sixth Street have engaged and collaborated with a shared understanding of what we are seeking to achieve for our organisation, and we look forward to our long-term partnership."

Alan Waxman, co-founder of Sixth Street and the organisation's chief executive, said: "FC Barcelona is one of the world's premier sporting organisations, and we are glad to be expanding our relationship through this additional investment.

"Our flexibility and cross-platform expertise continue to be of value to management teams when seeking to execute highly strategic initiatives."

Barca have required an influx of cash in order to boost Xavi's squad ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

While Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen arrived on free transfers, Barca have spent big on Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, with the duo arriving over the course of the last two weeks in deals worth around a combined €100million, according to reports.

Barca face rivals Real Madrid in a friendly in Las Vegas on Saturday.

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