Barcelona fans may have completely forgotten there will be actual football to play very soon.

So chaotic and draining has the off-season been for Barca supporters that they'd be forgiven for thinking they were stuck in some form of purgatory, where the club's finances are discussed and debated endlessly.

In fairness, even those who don't necessarily support Barca may have similar feelings. If you've been following the soap opera in recent weeks and months, you'll already be sick to death of the word palanca, or 'lever'.

Of course, those proverbial levers are what president Joan Laporta has been pulling to inject capital. Barca were expected to work within another measly LaLiga salary limit this season before selling off some of their TV rights at the end of the last financial year, which meant they actually turned a profit.

With the other 'levers' Laporta has activated, he claims the club has brought in €860million in two months, but obviously the deals involved will result in reduced long-term income, hence the widespread suggestions Barca are "mortgaging their future".

It's probably an understatement to say there has been a lot to take in, and that's before we even mention the Frenkie de Jong sideshow, the signings and the latest concerns about whether their new players can even be registered.

In the background, Xavi continues to plug away and drown out all the nonsense surrounding the club, and on the pitch, there are genuine reasons for optimism at Camp Nou.

A platform of rapid improvement

There was a time last season – even after Xavi's November appointment – when Barca's campaign looked to be heading for embarrassment.

After a 1-0 defeat to Real Betis in December, Barca had 23 points from their first 16 matches of the league season, their worst total at that stage since 2002-03.

But the same team – plus a few January additions – claimed more points (45) in LaLiga than any other club after the turn of the year. Sure, Real Madrid played one game less over the same period, but even if they had contested an extra match and won, Los Blancos would still have been two points shy.

Of course, Madrid's focus towards the end was on the Champions League as they never looked likely to throw the title away, so it's probably not the perfect comparison, but it does at least highlight the results Xavi was getting and the degree of the turnaround he has already overseen at Camp Nou.

 

Similarly, there were signs of classic Barca in their performances. Their 9.4 high turnovers per game was a LaLiga high after Xavi's appointment, while they also boasted the greatest average share of possession (64 per cent).

Perhaps the biggest indicator of Barca's promise under Xavi was the 4-0 hammering of Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in March's Clasico. They had lost their previous five such clashes, including four in the league, making it the Blaugrana's worst run against their bitter rivals since the 1960s.

Barca were electric going forward, carving through Madrid almost at will, while they also looked solid defensively, with Xavi's decision to play Ronald Araujo at right-back proving wise as he kept Vinicius Junior in check.

Gerard Pique responded by declaring: "We are back."

Playing the part

The improvement Xavi instigated last season was made even more impressive by the fact certain players didn't have an especially prominent role.

Pedri made just 12 appearances in the league, while Ansu Fati recorded 10. Both were hampered by serious injuries but will in all likelihood – assuming they stay fit – be key players this season.

Pedri will be the vital midfield conductor, keeping the build-up play ticking over, while Fati can provide both goals and creativity from out wide on the left. As clichéd as it sounds, the Spain forward will feel every bit a new signing if he can stay out of the medical room.

 

But it's also fair to say there are several players whose reputations have been enhanced lately – or at the very least restored.

Ronald Araujo really stepped up last season and matured into a colossus of a centre-back. Athletic, composed on the ball and uncompromising in defence, the Uruguayan looks cut out for a long career at the heart of Barca's backline.

While some might've had concerns about his ability to get Barca on the front foot, with his passing range hardly that of a young Pique, the arrival of Jules Kounde should offset those worries given the France international's reputation as an excellent progressor of the ball.

Arguably the biggest surprise of the Xavi era so far, however, has been Ousmane Dembele.

 

Almost perennially injured or underwhelming at Barca, Dembele became essential for Xavi's men in the second half of last season.

Between January 1 and the end of the campaign, Dembele's assists count of 11 was four more than anyone else in the league despite the Frenchman not even playing 1,100 minutes. Vinicius, for example, registered six from 1,182 minutes.

Granted, Dembele's assists tally outstripped his expected assists (xA), though his 7.3 xA was still comfortably better than everyone else over the same period – Vinicius was second with 4.5 xA.

Until he has an extended period without injury, Dembele's fitness and reliability will always be a concern, but Xavi has made it clear the winger is key to his plans, and the 25-year-old has certainly shown his commitment by signing a new contract on reduced terms. He wants to be a success at Barca.

New blood

Now, obviously this part comes with an asterix. Barca have made some impressive additions to their squad, but it remains to be seen whether they can register them in time for the opening weekend. They can only do that if LaLiga are happy their finances are in order and the club adhere to their salary limit.

But assuming Laporta finds a way to get the green light before the transfer window closes, the new faces should be considered statement signings.

The headline arrival is obviously Robert Lewandowski. Barca didn't necessarily have a problem scoring goals last season, but they were short of reliable options in the centre of attack, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang often occupying spaces out on the left.

 

Ferran Torres simply isn't a 'killer' in front of goal, Lewandowski is, and you don't need to go into any great detail to explain precisely what he'll offer; his 161 top-flight goals over the past five years is 30 more than any other player in the top five leagues (Lionel Messi is second with 131).

Among those charged with laying on chances for Lewandowski will be Raphinha, whose dynamism and exceptional creativity made him one of the standout Premier League wingers at Leeds United.

His ability to come inside onto his left foot will give Barca greater invention in central areas as well, potentially key against packed defences, and he's demonstrably a wonderful creator, with his 13.0 xA over two seasons in the Premier League bettered only by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Mason Mount and Kevin De Bruyne – not bad for a player who was embroiled in a relegation battle last term.

 

Then you've got Kounde, who has not only marked himself out as one of LaLiga's best defenders in three seasons at Sevilla, but many consider him an archetypal Barca centre-back – in fact, his ability on the ball was best exemplified against the Catalans in the Copa del Rey last season, when he embarked on a brilliant solo run from defence before applying a cool finish.

 

Add Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen to the mix as well, and Barca have themselves an impressive array of signings who all appear well-suited to the club's particular brand of football.

When they'll all be able to play is still a mystery, but clearly Barca will be a force when they can.

 

The 2022-23 season is right around the corner, with plenty to keep an eye on across Europe.

Title battles in England, Spain and Italy could be too close to call, while France and Germany will see rivals trying to knock Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich off their respective perches – while there is even more set to occur in the fight for European qualification and to avoid the drop.

Central to these battles will be the players, both new signings and established members of the old guard, and here are 10 to watch in the year ahead.

 

Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona

Previously considered to be one of the biggest pieces of evidence on Barcelona's transfer failings in recent years, Dembele turned a corner in the second half of last season to finish the campaign as one of Xavi's most important players.

Dembele finished with 13 assists in LaLiga last term, the most in the competition, 11 of which came in the final 15 games of the season – with the tally being more in that run from February than he accumulated across all competitions combined in the previous two seasons.

Handed a fresh new contract, all eyes will be on Dembele to see whether he is back to his best or whether the former Borussia Dortmund winger, who now has Raphinha for competition, merely had a purple patch.

 

Matthijs de Ligt – Bayern Munich

It has now been three years since De Ligt shone with the Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals, where his performances made him one of the most coveted players in world football.

Stability was never quite found at Juventus, however, with shoulder injuries hampering his progress and the defender himself admitting the style was a "bit different" in Turin to what he experienced with Ajax.

Now at Bayern, De Ligt will look to return to the heights he was once at and is expected to form an exciting partnership with Dayot Upamecano.

Rafael Leao – Milan

In Milan's title-winning campaign last term, Leao was the team's joint-leading scorer in Serie A with 11 goals, alongside Olivier Giroud, but that was way off the pace in the overall charts as 15 players found the net more times.

Milan's total tally for goals in 2021-22 was 69, less than three of their rivals in the top five, and pressure is on Stefano Pioli's side to improve that return – with the signing of Divock Origi showing the desire to improve their return in the final third, with rivals Inter having strengthened by bringing Romelu Lukaku back to San Siro on loan.

It may all fall upon Leao, however, with the 23-year-old needing to show consistency in order to prove a significant venture into the market next year to replace veterans Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not required.

 

Djed Spence – Tottenham

Middlesbrough will likely wonder what might had been if they retained Spence's services, having loaned him to Championship rivals Nottingham Forest and seeing him play a key part in their promotion back to the big time.

From September, the only two games Spence missed during Forest's league campaign were the two clashes with his parent club and his displays, including those in the FA Cup against the likes of Arsenal, made him hot property.

Spurs ultimately signed the England U21 international, who could be a contender to break into Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad if he quickly finds his feet in north London. He is a right-back, after all...

Darwin Nunez – Liverpool

Liverpool's prowess in the transfer market is facing its biggest test under Jurgen Klopp, who is looking to rejuvenate what has been a brilliant attacking trio with Sadio Mane moving on and Roberto Firmino's future uncertain.

Having signed Luis Diaz in January, the Reds raided a Portuguese giant again – this time Benfica – for Nunez.

Nunez scored six Champions League goals in the 2021-22 season and plundered a further 26 in the league, averaging a goal every 76 minutes. Nunez certainly has the capability to fill Klopp's Mane-shaped void, even if his style is slightly different to the Senegal attacker.

 

Matteo Guendouzi – Marseille

Swiftly breaking onto the scene at Arsenal but just as quickly earning himself a bad-boy reputation, Guendouzi flourished in his loan spell with Marseille last season and has now made the switch permanent.

The France international featured in every game for Marseille in the 2021-22 season, starting in 35 of his 38 Ligue 1 appearances, and forced his way back into contention to make Didier Deschamps' squad on a regular basis ahead of Les Bleus' World Cup defence in Qatar.

Guendouzi's growing maturity saw him captain Marseille in a 2-0 defeat against Lille last season and the forthcoming campaign may continue his redemption arc.

Adam Hlozek – Bayer Leverkusen

A name that will be familiar to Football Manager enthusiasts, Hlozek has earned his big move to one of Europe's top leagues after leaving Sparta Prague in his homeland for Bayer Leverkusen and the challenges of the Bundesliga.

Capable of playing across the front line, Hlozek heads to Germany with a stellar record of 29 goals and 30 assists in 91 league appearances in the top-tier in the Czech Republic.

Add in the 24 goals that compatriot Patrik Schick netted for Leverkusen last season along with the creativity of Florian Wirtz from midfield and the result is one that could be extremely exciting.

Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

A formidable season for Vinicius saw the Brazilian net 17 goals and contribute 10 assists during Real Madrid's La Liga title-winning campaign, only being outscored by team-mate Karim Benzema in the league.

Benzema, who was one of only two players to get more assists than Vinicius last season, is now in the twilight years of his career and will soon surely hand the mantle to the next star forward at the Santiago Bernabeu – with Vinicius near-certain to be that man now Kylian Mbappe has decided to remain in Paris for the time being.

In a World Cup year, Vinicius could enjoy a campaign that sees him take the leading man tag for both club and country come the end of the season.

 

Hugo Ekitike – Paris Saint-Germain

Arriving into an attacking that already boasts Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, it remains to be seen just how much football 20-year-old Hugo Ekitike will manage to play for Christophe Galtier's side.

Moving initially on loan, Ekitike, who was also a target for Newcastle United, is certainly one for the future.

With 10 goals and four assists for Reims last term, Ekitike has shown his prowess in the final third and could be a valuable asset in the hunt to end the elusive wait for a Champions League crown.

Samuele Ricci – Torino

Long touted as the next star in Italy's midfield, Samuele Ricci has moved on from Empoli but, to the surprise of some, did not take the leap to one of Serie A's big guns and instead continued his development by joining Torino in January.

Ricci featured 13 times for Torino, including nine starts in what was a stellar breakout year in Italy's top tier, with the 20-year-old having previously been crowned Serie B's best player in the 2020-21 season.

Breaking into Italy's squad in 2022, Ricci's meteoric rise should continue, and he may find himself coveted by some of the biggest clubs across Europe.

Xavi has shown faith in the "different" Ousmane Dembele and Miralem Pjanic to play important roles for his sides, following Barcelona's 2-2 draw with Juventus on Tuesday.

Pjanic made a strong first appearance for the pre-season while Dembele scored a poised brace and performed well despite the result, reflecting the confidence shown in him since Xavi took over as Barcelona's head coach last November.

The 25-year-old's first of the night was a particularly impressive solo action, showing his trademark dexterity on a mazy dribble, wriggling his way past three Juve defenders before finishing from an acute angle.

The Barca boss demanded more consistency from the France international post-match, but is buoyed by both his talent and new-found enthusiasm after extending his contract.

"He has shown what he is capable of, making a difference from the right wing with one-on-two actions," Xavi said afterwards. "He is a different player, special and he gives us a lot.

"He has to make a difference, be more consistent, score more goals. I don't know Dembele from before but since I've arrived, I see him happy and he always tells me that he's involved in the project. I see him like that since November, that's why I insisted so much on to stay."

The 42-year-old also saved special mention for another polarising figure among Barcelona fans, Miralem Pjanic, who made his first appearance for the club upon returning from a loan spell at Besiktas.

When asked about the midfielder's performance, the similarly cerebral Xavi was effusive in his assessment.

"I liked it a lot," Xavi said. "He gives us a lot with the ball, he found the interiors very well. He has an exclusive vision of football in general, because there aren't many who see the game like that with their first touch.

"He always looks forward, looks very well for the pass to nine. He has played a great game."

Ronald Araujo insists he will welcome competition for places at Barcelona amid continued speculation Jules Kounde will join the Blaugrana.

Barca have already signed Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie and Raphinha despite financial difficulties for the LaLiga side.

Xavi's side have also struck an agreement to bring Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski to Camp Nou for a reported €50million, including add-ons.

Ousmane Dembele has penned a contract extension with Barca as well, but the Blaugrana's spending looks set to continue with the Catalan giants reportedly on the brink of purchasing Kounde from Sevilla.

Chelsea and Manchester City have also been linked with the in-demand France centre-back, who Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui appears resigned to losing.

With Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Christensen and potentially Kounde as competition, Araujo suggested he wants the best for Barca to compete, and will welcome any addition to Xavi's squad.

Asked about Kounde after training on Barca's pre-season tour of the United States, the Uruguay international responded: "He is a great player; the best players being at Barca is good for the group.

"They know what I can contribute, my characteristics; what I want is for us to have the best possible team.

"Competition is always good in football because it makes you get the best of you, and players arrive who can contribute. I always say that I want the best for Barca, and that they add to the team."

As for Dembele's extension and the new arrivals, Araujo was quick to express his delight as Barca prepare to challenge Real Madrid for the LaLiga title.

"We all wanted Ousmane to continue in the team," he added. "We know [Lewandowski's] quality; it is tremendous that he is with us. 

"Raphinha, Christensen, Kessie also arrived. It's important that good players arrive to continue growing as a team."

Barcelona face friendlies against Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls before their LaLiga opener against Rayo Vallecano on August 13, and Araujo stressed the importance of pre-season.

"It is important to have a good pre-season, at a tactical and physical level. I think it's going to be a nice season," he continued. "It's important to win titles for the group, but you have to go step by step."

Ousmane Dembele believes Barcelona can challenge to win the Champions League after the France winger signed his new two-year contract.

Former Borussia Dortmund star Dembele looked to be heading out of Barcelona in January when acrimonious wrangling over his future led to him being ordered to find a new club.

At the time, Dembele had refused an extension to his deal, which ran through to the end of June, and Barcelona wanted to recoup some of his value rather than see him leave on a free transfer.

Yet it was all hugs and good will on Thursday as 25-year-old Dembele completed the formalities of the contract that will keep him at Barcelona until the end of the 2023-24 season.

Hampered by hamstring and knee trouble during his first five years at the club, Dembele hopes better times lie ahead.

He said: "It's a very happy day. Barca have been my club since I was little, and I hope to help them.

"These have been very difficult years due to injuries, but now it is another time. Staying was always my first option. I told this to the president and coach. It has taken a long time, but we are all happy. I'm looking forward to the season starting.

"The goal is to win titles, the dream is the Champions League, and I'm going to give everything to win this title. I'm going to work hard, and I hope it's a very good year for me and for Barca."

Dembele believes Barcelona are well placed, with Xavi as head coach and Joan Laporta pulling the strings as president, to bring the glory days back to Camp Nou.

He said there were "many people who have helped me a lot" at Barcelona, adding: "Now I have the confidence of everyone, and I am much better."

Laporta will be hoping Dembele delivers on his word as he looks to put the promise into practice, having been a key performer over the second half of last season.

Dembele has made 150 appearances for Barca and came to the fore when setting up 13 goals in the 2021-22 LaLiga campaign – more than any other player in the Spanish top flight.

He was particularly impressive after Xavi summoned him to help the team once it was clear he would not be moving on. Across the LaLiga campaign he made just 15 starts, plus six substitute appearances, so Dembele will be looking to play a fuller role in future.

Laporta, who hopes to close out the signing of Raphinha from Leeds United this week, said the signing of Dembele to new terms marked "a very important day for Barca".

"He has always wanted to stay and the truth is that he has made an effort to enter the new salary scale," Laporta said.

"Dembele has an incomparable talent, very specific. He brings us a lot. Xavi has loved him from the first moment.

"This year is very important, we have to win trophies. I am convinced that we will achieve it. Today is a very emotional day for me. The coach loves you, but so does the club."

Barcelona have confirmed that Ousmane Dembele has agreed a new two-year contract to stay at Camp Nou.

The five-year contract that Dembele signed when he joined Barca from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 expired at the end of June.

Talks have continued over a new deal and the France international has now agreed terms on a fresh contract, keeping him at Barca until the end of the 2023-24 season.

That Dembele remains a Barca player at all is a complete turnaround from the situation in January, when the club insisted the winger would be sold or leave on a free transfer at the end of the campaign after the 25-year-old turned down a contract offer.

Yet Barca on Thursday confirmed Dembele will remain with the Catalan giants.

The LaLiga club revealed he will sign his new deal at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper on Thursday afternoon.

Barca president Joan Laporta had revealed on Wednesday that Dembele's new contract will be confirmed this week.

Dembele has made 150 appearances for Barca and came to the fore last season, setting up 13 goals in LaLiga - more than any other player in the Spanish top flight.

 

The Blaugrana also reached an agreement to sign Brazil winger Raphinha from Leeds United for a reported fee of €67million (£56.57m).

Raphinha arrived in Spain for a medical on Wednesday.

Barcelona have confirmed that Ousmane Dembele has agreed a new two-year contract to stay at Camp Nou.

The five-year contract that Dembele signed after joining Barca from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 expired at the end of June.

Talks have continued over a new deal and the France international has now agreed terms on a fresh contract, keeping him at Barca until the end of the 2023-24 season.

That Dembele remains a Barca player at all is a complete turnaround from the situation in January, when the club insisted the winger would be sold or leave on a free transfer at the end of the campaign after the 25-year-old turned down a contract offer.

Yet Barca on Thursday confirmed Dembele will remain with the Catalan giants.

 

After last season's disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal, Bayern Munich are on the verge of transforming their team in one transfer window.

Sadio Mane and Ryan Gravenberch are potentially transformative signings for Bayern, and they apparently are not done just yet.

According to reports, Gravenberch's international team-mate is doing to what he can to force a move to Sabener Strasse.

 

TOP STORY – DE LIGT BAYERN'S TOP TARGET

Bayern Munich are reportedly edging closer to securing the signature of wantaway Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt, according to Bild.

De Ligt is reportedly willing to lower his wage demands in order to help force through a move, after a gap in expectations between the two clubs over the initial offer.

Bayern's proposal to the Bianconeri was reportedly €70million with an extra €10m in bonuses, with the latter looking at €80m as a base to any package.

De Ligt's move to lower wage expectations gives the reigning Bundesliga champions added leverage over Juventus, who after Paulo Dybala's departure, would not want to see another star run down their contract.

 

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are now targeting PSG centre-back Presnel Kimpembe after almost securing Kalidou Koulibaly's signature, The Guardian reports.

– Meanwhile, Mason Mount is seeking to begin negotiations with the Blues over a new long-term deal, per The Athletic

– Ousmane Dembele is set to sign a new two-year contract with Barcelona after his previous deal expired, Sport is reporting.

– Charles de Ketelaere prefers a move to Milan despite interest from Leeds United for the Club Brugge striker, according to Fabrizio Romano.

 

Joan Laporta says Ousmane Dembele's new contract will be confirmed this week after Barcelona agreed a deal to sign Raphinha from Leeds United.

Raphinha arrived in Spain for a medical on Wednesday after Barca revealed an agreement in principle had been reached for the winger to sign for a reported fee of €67million (£56.57m).

Dembele became a free agent at the end of last month after his contract with the Catalan giants expired, but Laporta says the France winger will be staying at Camp Nou in another big boost for head coach Xavi.

Ahead of Barca's friendly against Olot, Laporta told reporters: "This week we will present Dembele and Raphinha."

Laporta added: "We are doing everything we can, it is not easy, but we are working very well. I congratulate how the football department is working, with Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff to the front."

He added: "We have come to Olot to hold a meeting of the board of directors. There will be time to talk about that."

Laporta refused to comment on a potential move for Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, however.

Francisco Trincao left Barca on Wednesday to join Sporting CP on a season-long loan deal, with the option to make the move permanent.   

Chelsea have reportedly turned their attention to Bayern Munich winger and Germany international Serge Gnabry.

The decision was made to pivot away from Leeds United winger Raphinha after Barcelona seemingly moved into pole position for the Brazil international, with Chelsea then deciding to test the waters for former Arsenal forward Gnabry.

He is coming off his highest-scoring Bundesliga season, having netted 14 goals and contributed six assists in 34 league fixtures, scoring another three goals in the Champions League.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA GEAR UP FOR GNABRY BID

Despite it being widely reported that Chelsea have secured Raheem Sterling from Manchester City for fee of around £45million, the Blues are clearly not satisfied with their winger stocks. 

This was further fuelled by reports the club tried to include Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech along with cash in a deal for Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, with Ziyech now appearing likely to land a move to Milan.

The Daily Mail claims Chelsea have enquired about Gnabry, 26, who debuted with Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 2012, but his time at the Gunners fizzled out with injuries before a loan move to West Brom, resulting in Werder Bremen scooping him up in a bargain £5m move.

He scored 11 goals in his first season in the Bundesliga to earn a move to Bayern, where he has tallied 171 games and 63 goals across four Bundesliga campaigns, winning four consecutive league titles.

ROUND-UP

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona's top priority is to sell Frenkie de Jong to fund their move for Leeds' Raphinha, while the Manchester Evening News claims top Manchester United officials are in Spain ironing out the details for the Dutch international's switch to Old Trafford.

– TalkSPORT claims that if United's chase of De Jong falls through, they are prepared to target Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves or Leicester City's Youri Tielemans.

Wolves have rejected an offer worth over £20m from Everton for 22-year-old midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, according to The Telegraph.

– According to the Irish Independent, 21-year-old Nathan Collins will become the most expensive Irish player ever when he completes his £20.3m move from Burnley to Wolves this week.

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting that Ousmane Dembele has decided to stay on at Barcelona, shunning interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Manchester United have added yet another Ajax product to their wish-list for this transfer period, with 20-year-old striker Brian Brobbey emerging as a new target.

Brobbey came through the Ajax academy when Erik ten Hag was in charge and, after leaving to join RB Leipzig ahead of this past season, he was loaned back to Ajax in a successful move.

After returning to the Dutch giants, Brobbey scored seven goals in 11 Eredivisie fixtures, prompting the club to try and bring him back on a permanent deal.

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP IN FOR HIGHLY RATED AJAX YOUNGSTER

Brobbey was widely expected to re-join the reigning Eredivisie champions for a fee in the neighbourhood of £13million.

However, the Times is reporting that Ten Hag has caught wind of the move and is hoping to instead coax the promising young striker to Old Trafford.

It is said the deal with Ajax was almost as good as done, so it remains to be seen if he could be convinced to change directions at the 11th hour, but the Times report includes that Ten Hag has been on the phone to Brobbey in an effort to sway him towards the Premier League.

United's interest in Brobbey follows moves for Ajax stars Lisandro Martinez and Antony, with a package-deal for the pair rumoured to be worth north of £100m.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to French publication Media Foot, Arsenal are showing interest in 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who is also linked with Newcastle United.

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona manager Xavi is keen to re-sign Ousmane Dembele to a new contract, but the club's sporting director Mateu Alemany would prefer a move for Leeds United's Raphinha.

Everton are targeting 20-year-old Chelsea striker Armando Broja and 25-year-old Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters, according to The Mirror.

– Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have reached personal terms with Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake, although the final transfer fee, believed to be in the £40m range, is yet to be decided.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that West Ham are considering a £13m move for 23-year-old Roma forward Justin Kluivert, while Goal claims Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma told the Hammers he has no interest in moving there.

Barcelona have no intention of selling Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, according to club president Joan Laporta, although he admitted the club's perilous financial situation could create the "need" for a sale.

Meanwhile, Laporta labelled Cristiano Ronaldo's apparent desire to leave United "interesting" but would not be drawn on whether the Blaugrana would target the Portuguese legend.

De Jong, who starred in Erik ten Hag's Ajax side before moving to Barcelona in 2019, has been touted as United's top transfer target since the Dutchman was announced as the club's new boss in April.

While the midfielder expressed his desire to stay at Barcelona in May, the club's need to reduce their wage bill has led to suggestions a sale could still be possible.

Laporta said last week he would do "what is in my power" to keep De Jong but acknowledged the Netherlands international would need to agree to a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana president repeated that stance at Wednesday's unveiling of new signing Franck Kessie, saying of De Jong: "He's a Barca player and if we don't have the need, we won't sell him. We don't want to sell him. 

"We know he has offers, but right now we're not selling this player."

 

While Ten Hag appears to see De Jong as the ideal candidate to be the fulcrum of his new United side, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford after widespread reports of his desire to leave for a Champions League club emerged last week. 

Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions for United last season, but the club ended the season in sixth place with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58).

But Laporta refused to be drawn on whether Barcelona could make a remarkable move for the 37-year-old, who starred in four Champions League triumphs with their historic rivals Real Madrid.

"I had dinner on Monday with [Ronaldo's agent] Jorge Mendes and we talked about the market in general," he added.

"Cristiano? I'm not going to talk about the players who came out of the meeting, but it's always interesting to know how some names are on the market.

"I'm not going to talk about players in one way or another, it could be misunderstood. It doesn't contribute anything to the interests of Barca. We have to respect the players who have contracts with other teams."

 

Meanwhile, Barcelona's need to adjust their finances in order to strengthen Xavi's squad has led to uncertainty over the future of winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract with the club expired last month.

Dembele made more assists (13) in all competitions than any other Barca player last season, and while Laporta is keen to keep the 2018 World Cup winner, says the 25-year-old is yet to respond to the club's offer.

"We are in a situation of uncertainty. Right now, we still can't sign [him]," he said.

"We are talking to players we are interested in so they can wait for us. Ousmane is not a Barca player, but we have made him an offer.

"He has not accepted our proposal, but he wants to continue talking. We will continue talking, at least for now. 

"Salary balance is necessary for the team to be competitive. All discussions are framed in this context. We're not in a hurry, although we're aware that we can't delay. Let no one expect us not to act with the utmost prudence".

Brazil star Neymar is reportedly interested in a move to the Premier League after being informed Paris Saint-Germain will not stand in his way if he wishes to depart.

ESPN is reporting that Neymar's agent has been in touch with Chelsea to gauge their interest in bringing in the 30-year-old, who scored 13 goals and added six assists in 22 Ligue 1 contests this past season.

While Neymar's talent is not in question, his health may be, having missed over two months of this campaign after suffering an ankle injury, and that is coming off a 2020-21 season where he only played 18 league games due to ankle and adductor injuries.


TOP STORY – NEYMAR WEIGHS UP CHELSEA MOVE AS PSG GIVE GREEN LIGHT

ESPN's report mentions that Neymar's agent, Pini Zahavi, believes there are only "two or three teams" that would be able to meet his wage demands, and it is thought that Chelsea are hoping to make a splash under the new ownership of Todd Boehly.

Spanish publication Sport claims Neymar activated a clause in his PSG contract as soon as he possibly could on July 1 to add one extra year to his deal – tying him to the French giants until 2027 – but that does not rule out a move happening.

Chelsea's Brazilian centre-back and Neymar's former PSG team-mate Thiago Silva has been vocal about his desire to recruit the superstar forward, but his salary of €43million could stand in the way if the Stamford Bridge club decide they would rather use this transfer period's resources in defence.


ROUND-UP

– The Star is reporting that Manchester United are closing in on a deal with Christian Eriksen as his contract with Brentford has expired and he is available on a free transfer.

– Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is expected to leave on a free transfer, with Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich the three teams listed by Marca as his potential landing spots.

Everton are hoping to replace Richarlison with Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis after their Brazilian forward departed for Tottenham this week.

– According to The Sun, Fulham are finalising a £17million move for 26-year-old Sporting defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha.

– ESPN is reporting Fulham have offered £10m for Manchester United's Andreas Pereira as the 26-year-old returns from his loan stint with Flamengo.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is eager to bring in two attacking players this off-season following their third-place Premier League finish last term.

The club's new owners are set to back Tuchel's plans, with the Blues linked to Raheem Sterling, Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele and Everton's Richarlison.

However, Chelsea could be set for their first splash of the window by signing a superstar from Elland Road.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO WIN RAPHINHA RACE

Chelsea are set to win the race to sign Leeds United's Brazilian forward Raphinha claims The Guardian.

Raphinha is being pursued by Arsenal and Barcelona along with the Blues, who are set to complete a £55million deal for the 25-year-old.

The winger is contracted with Leeds until 2024 and may follow Kalvin Phillips out of Elland Road with the England midfielder set to complete his move to Manchester City.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mail reports Chelsea are also interested in a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe claims that PSG's initial offer for the Slovakian was worth €50m.

- Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches is eager to join PSG from Lille according to Le Parisien, with a €10m offer on the table. Sanches has one year remaining on his contract.

- Univision reports that LAFC are not pursuing Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez amid speculation linking the Uruguayan with the MLS club after they recently landed Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini.

- Milan are looking into swooping to sign Juventus' Paulo Dybala who has been heavily linked with Inter, claims RadioRadio.

- Liverpool's Divock Origi is set to join Milan on a four-year deal pending a medical as widely reported by the Italian media.

- Argentinean outlet Relevo reports that Angel Di Maria is set to sign a deal with Juventus on Wednesday, having left PSG as a free agent.

Milan's Serie A triumph played out amid a tumultuous boardroom backdrop.

And the Rossoneri's notoriously thrifty project could now test Paolo Maldini's patience, with the need to bolster their squad for domestic and continental competitions not yet being met.

The Italian champions reportedly losing out on long-desired targets could potentially bring the subject of Maldini's future to the fore again.

TOP STORY – MILAN TO LOSE OUT ON SANCHES, BOTMAN

Milan look set to miss out on the signings of Lille pair Renato Sanches and Sven Botman, according to Calciomercato.

Although the Rossoneri had agreed personal terms with Sanches several months ago, Paris Saint-Germain are set to double Milan's offer to Lille of €15million.

They face a similar dynamic with defender Botman, who also agreed personal terms with Milan, as fellow long-term suitors Newcastle United attempt to swoop.

With Maldini and right-hand-man Ricky Massara's contracts to expire at the end of the month, these failings will likely create inconvenient tension.

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are interested in signing Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Meanwhile, The Sun is reporting the Blues are set to sign Ousmane Dembele, but the winger will demand a starting spot instead of a squad role.

– Manchester United are hoping Barcelona reduce their asking price for Frenkie de Jong, per The Athletic.

– Liverpool are bracing for the eventual departure of Mohamed Salah as contract renewal talks stall, the Mirror reports.

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