Real Betis claim a computer problem has scuppered their bid to sign Pablo Fornals from West Ham.

Spanish midfielder Fornals had agreed a £7million switch to the LaLiga club on deadline day, but the deal failed to go through.

The development came hours after French side Lyon accused West Ham of a “lack of respect” and “incomprehensible behaviour” after the 11th-hour collapse of their move for Hammers winger Said Benrahma.

Betis CEO Ramon Alarcon is hopeful the Fornals deal can still go through, however.

He told Spanish reporters: “There was a last-minute problem with Fornals, we think it was a computer problem.

“Betis sent all the documents correctly and on time and it seems West Ham had a computer problem. It wasn’t just with Betis it was with other deals. We hope that it gets resolved in the next few days.

“It was done on both sides. We imagine that with a computer error it can be resolved. We are working on it and we are optimistic.”

Lyon were distinctly less conciliatory after their deal for Benrahma fell through.

The Algeria winger underwent a medical in France on Thursday afternoon ahead of a proposed loan switch and permanent deal in the summer.

However, Lyon said West Ham failed to complete the transfer ahead of the 11pm deadline and threatened to take further action.

A statement read: “Olympique Lyonnais deeply regrets the failure of the transfer of Said Benrahma, for reasons beyond its control, and questions the behaviour of West Ham which did not succeed in finalising the required administrative procedures despite all the agreements (being) concluded.

“The club reserves the right to undertake all appropriate procedures necessary to validate the transaction at a later date, and to hold West Ham responsible if necessary.”

While Lyon were attempting to finalise the deal, West Ham were labouring to a 1-1 draw at home to Bournemouth, notably without a left winger.

Fornals was at the match, having initially been named on the bench before boss David Moyes had to change his plans.

Speaking to Sky Sports on Friday morning, Moyes said: “It looks like there have been some problems with the paperwork (for Benrahma) at the last minute. But I only learned about it when I came off the pitch later on last night.

“(Lack of respect) is a big word to use before we get a chance to show exactly what happened or didn’t happen.

“It’s something we’ve never had to deal with before and I’m an experienced manager. We’ll have to see. He’s suspended for this week so he’s not available at the moment. We’ll deal with it when we get back into a period where we can play him.”

Asked if Benrahma will be committed to the club, Moyes said: “I would expect so, yep.”

He added: “I think there is a chance the Pablo deal will be ratified. I can’t confirm if it will or not at the moment though.”

Isco has signed a contract extension with Real Betis until 2027, the club have announced.

The midfield player, who joined Betis from Sevilla in the summer, has scored twice in 17 LaLiga appearances this season.

The former Real Madrid man has been an important player for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, who sit in seventh place ahead of their trip to Celta Vigo next week.

Girona missed the chance to move five points clear at the top of LaLiga after German Pezzella’s late strike earned Real Betis a 1-1 draw.

Artem Dovbyk swept home a first-half penalty to put Girona on course for a ninth win in 10 matches.

Betis tried to force the issue in the second half but had failed to register a shot on Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal until Pezzella’s rocket found the top corner late on.

The visitors had the first noteworthy chance when Yan Couto’s cross found Savio in the area but his first-time effort was saved by Rui Silva.

Betis spurned a golden opportunity to open the scoring shortly afterwards when Assane Diao ran through on goal but fired over the crossbar with only the keeper to beat.

The home side forced a superb save from former Southampton and Tottenham goalkeeper Gazzaniga when Willian Jose drilled a powerful effort goalwards which needed to be palmed away.

Girona took the lead six minutes before the break when Aitor Ruibal brought Savio down inside the area and Dovbyk made no mistake in slotting home the resulting spot-kick.

The away side were happy to rest on their goal advantage and Betis came close to an equaliser but Diao once again shot over the bar from outside the area.

Betis left it late to level when a corner caused confusion in the box and when the ball fell to Pezzella he lashed it into the top corner.

Girona almost snatched a winner in stoppage time but Daley Blind guided an effort from outside the box just wide as they moved three points clear at the top ahead of Real Madrid’s clash with Alaves.

Real Madrid were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Real Betis despite another goal from Jude Bellingham.

The England midfielder netted in the 52nd minute of a thrilling LaLiga contest at the Benito Villamarin Stadium but it was not enough for victory as Aitor Ruibal hit back.

The result took Madrid a point clear at the top of the table but Girona and Barcelona – second and third respectively – will have a chance to take advantage when they face each other on Sunday.

Bellingham’s goal was his 16th for the club and continued his extraordinary start to life in Madrid since his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.

Yet he did not have things all his own way in what was an open and entertaining encounter.

Betis had the first opportunity when Marc Roca tested Andriy Lunin but Madrid also went close as Luka Modric flicked a header wide.

Rodrygo suffered double frustration as he was denied a penalty after going down in the area and then thwarted by an offside flag after teeing up Brahim Diaz to score.

Betis enjoyed a good spell and Ayoze Perez forced a fine reaction save from Lunin with a powerful shot before Willian Jose sent a ferocious strike narrowly wide.

Modric attempted to score from distance on a quick Madrid counter-attack but Rui Silva got back to save. David Alaba was also just wide with a strongly-hit free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

Betis threatened early in the second half when Perez released Isco but Lunin forced him away from goal.

Bellingham opened the scoring after brilliantly exchanging passes with Diaz and then running through to slide the ball beneath Silva.

Diaz had a chance to double the lead but shot wide from a tight angle and Betis responded as Ruibal took the ball from Jose on the right and lashed a thunderous strike into the far corner.

Both sides had good opportunities to win the game, with Silva first making a decent save from a Toni Kroos free-kick.

Isco went even closer for Betis in the final minute when he got his head to a cross into the box but his effort thumped against the post.

Madrid had one last chance in stoppage time as Rodrygo fed Joselu but his shot flew narrowly wide.

The talent of players from Concacaf can be found all around the world, the latest signing happening in Spain at Real Betis Balompie, who added Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz forward Tiffany Cameron to their roster.

Cameron was part of the Reggae Girlz squad in both of their historical participations at the FIFA Women’s World Cup appearances. The first in France 2019 when they became the first Caribbean nation to qualify, and in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, when they became the first male of female Caribbean team to contest the Round of 16 since Cuba's feat in 1938.

Besides making an impact with her national team, the Canadian-born Cameron has made her presence felt in different teams around the world over the years. So, her current stint in Liga F, Spain's professional women’s football league, with Real Betis Balompie, one of the most popular clubs in the Andalusian region, comes as no real surprise.

Cameron had previous experience in Europe, playing in the Frauen Bundesliga in Germany as well as many other clubs around the continent. Her first venture overseas was with Apollon Limassol of Cyprus, where she played in the most important club competition in Europe, the UEFA Women’s Champions League. In 2015, she scored three goals in the tournament.

She arrived at Real Betis Balompie in June of this year, as she signed with the club until 2025. Full of expectations about her talent, fans were looking forward to seeing the new member of the squad, and even more so after her participation with Jamaica in the Women’s World Cup.

Cameron's impact was an immediate one.

Shortly after debut in Real Betis Balompie’s first game of the season, Cameron's first goal arrived just weeks later against Real Madrid, as she scored the only one for her team in the match, proving she is a key player for the club every time she’s on the field.

With many weeks of the league ahead, the versatile Cameron, who also plays the right-back position for the Reggae Girlz, will try to seize her chances with Real Betis Balompie to not only show her class, but more importantly, continue to grow her game and go above and beyond for her new team.

"Spain is a beautiful country with vibrant people. My teammates have been very welcoming and supportive since I’ve arrived.  I think it’s a great fit for me because I enjoy combinational play and playing with players that express themselves and make football an enjoyable sport to watch. Playing in Spain will improve my decision making overall, as the speed of play in Spain is ranked one of the highest in the world," Cameron shared. 

Michael Beale praised the performance of Jack Butland as Rangers opened their Europa League group stage campaign with a 1-0 home win over Real Betis.

Abdallah Sima was the matchwinner with a second-half strike but Butland ensured the victory with a number of big saves, including two late on from substitute Rodri.

The former England goalkeeper arrived at Ibrox in the summer to succeed Allan McGregor and Beale felt Butland was already proving his worth.

The Rangers manager said: “Jack was taking over from a modern day legend at the club and there were a lot of eyes on him.

“But I’ve known about Jack for a number of years and all he’s had here is an opportunity to play and show his quality.

“It’s still very early in his Rangers career but we’re delighted with him.

“To get him as a free transfer, I think we’ve done very well.

“But it’s only the start of his Rangers career.”

Beale felt his players had been “outstanding” in the second half as they started to dominate the contest.

But he warned they would need to back it up in the league, starting with Sunday’s visit of Motherwell to Ibrox.

He added: “It was a big result and well done to the players.

“We had a couple of big moments in the first half, particularly with Rabbi (Matondo) going clean through.

“We did not settle until after 35 minutes and that is something that has been recurring. In the second half I thought we were outstanding and the goal typified that.

“For everybody else it is just a goal off a set-play but we win four first contacts before the goal. In tight games that is what we need to do more of.

“I knew it would be tough and I told the players that at half-time. I told them to step over the line, to commit to the game fully and not be a seven out of 10.

“In that changing room it is worth it but it is just three points and the focus is now Motherwell.

“We have had a couple of bangs on the head this season and we have heard it loud and clear from the outside.

“We have had two clean sheets since the international break and that is a real positive sign.

“But, nothing is done. It is just one performance.”

Abdallah Sima’s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 victory for Rangers against Real Betis in their opening Europa League group match at Ibrox.

The forward poked home a shot from close range to settle a competitive match between the two of the favourites to progress to the knockout stages.

Michael Beale’s side also struck the frame of the goal twice in a strong second-half display and had goalkeeper Jack Butland to thank for making several key saves, especially in the opening period.

Rangers made four changes from the team that had defeated St Johnstone at the weekend.

There were starting places for Sima, Rabbi Matondo, Jose Cifuentes and Borna Barisic. Out dropped Danilo, Nicolas Raskin, Sam Lammers and Ridvan Yilmaz.

Betis were able to call upon the experience of Claudio Bravo to deputise for first-choice goalkeeper Rui Silva as part of six changes to the team beaten 5-0 by Barcelona at the weekend.

Rangers could have been in front within five minutes. Kemar Roofe’s searching pass sent Matondo running clear but his shot was weak and easily saved by Bravo.

Betis’ response came from a driven effort from Abdessamad Ezzalzouli that Butland did well to save before he pushed away another Ezzalzouli shot from a tight angle.

It was end to end at this point and a rare mis-step from the impressive Isco saw him drag a shot wide after good play by Hector Bellerin down the Betis right.

Ezzalzouli then lashed a shot over the top and saw another effort repelled by Butland as the Spaniards pushed for the lead.

At the other end, Sima could not get enough purchase on his stab at goal before Matondo was wasteful with another attempt before the break.

The Welshman looked to have a great chance early in the second half with Sima’s cross coming his way only for Bellerin to steer it clear for a corner.

Tom Lawrence struck the outside of a post with a long-range effort and Barisic then hit the top of a crossbar from a free-kick just outside the box after Marc Bartra had felled Roofe.

Lammers came on for the injured Lawrence and saw two efforts blocked as Rangers went looking for a winner.

It arrived after 68 minutes, Sima slamming in a loose ball as Betis failed to properly deal with a goalmouth scramble after Bravo made a stunning stop to repel Roofe’s volley.

Betis pushed for a leveller but two big saves from Butland denied substitute Rodri.

Michael Beale believes it is time for Jose Cifuentes to step up after revealing Nicolas Raskin would miss the Europa League opener against Real Betis at Ibrox on Thursday night.

The Gers midfielder picked up a calf injury in the 2-0 cinch Premiership win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Saturday.

Raskin joins fellow midfielder Todd Cantwell and Brazilian striker Danilo on the sidelines, the latter having an operation on a fractured cheekbone sustained in scoring the first goal in Perth.

Ecuador international Cifuentes has had an unconvincing beginning to his Gers career after signing from Los Angeles FC in the summer and will vie with Ryan Jack for a midfield berth in the coming weeks.

Gers boss Beale said: “Nico is out until after the international break with a calf problem.

“He took a kick in the game and it has given him a problem. So him, Todd and Danilo are missing.

“I saw Danilo yesterday, he still looks sore if I’m honest. He had successful surgery on the areas, it is not just one area.

“He will be back in non-contact training at the back end of the international break, so ideally he will be back the first week after the October international break, but it might be a couple of weeks after that.

“The reason Cifuentes didn’t play at the weekend is that he didn’t arrive back from South America until the Friday morning where he played at altitude, so he is ready to go and Ryan Jack is there as well so it doesn’t change in us having options.

“He (Jose) came in very late and did some good things in his first couple of games. And then he was away on international duty.

“This is his moment, he has been here for a while now.

“I said recently that the new players have been here long enough now. He was the last one to come in, but I still think he is ready.”

Rangers take on Real Betis in their Europa League opener on Thursday night.

The Light Blues have had a difficult start to the season and are under pressure to turn in a positive performances at Ibrox.

Here is the lowdown on the Gers’ opponents ahead of the Group C encounter.

Form

The Spanish side have started the season in patchy form with just two wins in five La Liga matches to leave them 10th in the table, eight points behind leaders Real Madrid. Real Betis have beaten Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano, drawn against Atletico Madrid and lost to Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona. The 5-0 loss to Barca at the weekend could mean confidence has taken a dent but their fans will hope their side can exploit any anxiety at Ibrox. Betis finished sixth last season, 28 points behind Barcelona.

Manager

Manuel Pellegrini is one of the most experienced managers in the game. The 70-year-old Chilean has been a boss since 1988 when he took over at Universidad de Chile in his homeland. A globetrotting career has followed and he has been in the  hot seat at clubs like River Plate, Real Madrid, Manchester City and West Ham, among others.  Pellegrini joined Manchester City in 2013 and won the Premier League and League Cup double in his first season, winning the League Cup again in 2015/16. Most recently, he won the Copa del Rey in 2022 with Los Verdiblancos, who he joined in 2020.

Players

There has been a lot of recent speculation around which players Pellegrini will have at his disposal for the trip to Glasgow, with reports suggesting four key players will be back in contention. Former Manchester City and Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo – aged 40 – is recovering from a calf injury and could make his first start of the season after Portugal goalkeeper Rui Silva had to come off against Barcelona with a thigh injury to be replaced by debutant Fran Vieites, who usually plays for Betis B. Captain and Mexico international Andres Guardado had been missing with an ankle injury but could return along with William Carvalho, who has won 80 caps for Portugal, and right-back Aitor Ruibal. Brazilian striker Willian Jose has scored four of Betis’s five goals this season. Spain internationals Hector Bellerin and Borja Iglesias are also in the Betis squad.

European pedigree

Real Betis have never won a European trophy and have taken part in the Champions League on only one occasion, in 2005/06. Betis finished third behind Liverpool and Chelsea and above Anderlecht in Group G with seven points, dropping down to the UEFA Cup where they were knocked out in the last 16 by Steaua Bucharest. In the 2021/22 season they were drawn in the same group as Celtic in the Europa League, winning 4-3 at home and losing 3-2 at Celtic Park. Last season they were knocked out of the Europa League at the last-16 stage by Manchester United 5-1 on aggregate.

Tiffany Cameron believed the foundation for her to achieve continued success in a longstanding career, hinged on her making another Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, backed by a new signing.

So, the fact the Canada-born player was overcome with emotions when news came that she made Jamaica’s final squad to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, followed by a new deal with top flight Spanish club Real Betis, is understandable, as everything fell in place as she had hoped.

For the Reggae Girl striker, turned defender, both accomplishments are a testament of her hard work and unwavering determination to ensure she remains prominent on the international and club scene in a career spanning over 10 years.

“When the (World Cup) roster was released, I had a big smile on my face and I did shed a little tear because it has been quite the journey for me. This is my third World Cup, second with Jamaica and I had one with Canada at the youth level, so it is definitely something to really be proud of,” said Cameron, who was also a part of Jamaica’s historic team at the 2019 global showpiece in France.

Cameron’s sense of satisfaction, particularly where the Reggae Girlz are concerned, comes from the fact that it initially seemed like she would have missed out on the final 23, based on the approach Lorne Donaldson and his assistants took.

In fact, versatility was always expected to be a characteristic held in high regard by the coaching staff in making their selections and Cameron, recognizing that much, paraded her immense potential by assuming a role as a right full back.

It is that show of versatility that propelled her above others.

Prior to the Cup of Nations tournament, the 31-year-old did not get many minutes, until she accepted the fact that she would not make the squad as an attacker.

Despite logging over 14 goals and more than 10 assists in over 15 games for her previous club FC Gyor in the Hungarian top-flight league, Cameron, who could be considered an important leader in the Reggae Girlz group, embraced change and made the right full back position her comfort zone.

"I’m glad I defeated the odds. It just proves what I’m willing to do to represent Jamaica. I’ll play anywhere needed. Yes, I love to score goals and play forward, but it’s not all about that,” Cameron declared.

“I think I have really worked hard this year and I have proven that I am a versatile player wherever the national team needs me, I am able to play, and I think that is super important going into the World Cup that we have players that are okay with possibly playing in different positions that is being asked of them,” she added.

That said, Cameron, whose career has taken her to club in various parts of Europe and elsewhere around the world, expressed intentions to continue working extremely hard at improving her craft, as she looks forward to playing a key role in Real Betis’s charge when the Liga F gets under way.

“I’m really looking forward to my new adventure with Real Betis. I love the Spanish football culture as it is predominantly possession based. It’s similar to the style of football in Germany, where I’ve played for two and a half seasons in the top division, so this style of football won’t be foreign to me,” Cameron shared.

She continued: “I enjoy combinational play and possession-based football. I think my best qualities are my speed, my fitness, my versatility, my movement off the ball and my ability to combine with the players around me and create goal scoring opportunities for myself and others.

“I believe that no matter a player’s age they can always improve in all aspects of the game. This will be a good challenge for me and like I’ve proven with Jamaica, I respond well when I’m challenged and is expected to prove why I belong in an environment. I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve achieved thus far and I’m truly grateful that my efforts have been acknowledged.”

But for now, Cameron’s attention is fully focused on the Reggae Girlz objective which to get out of Group F at the World Cup. They are scheduled to open against fifth-ranked France on Sunday, before engaging Panama on July 29 and Brazil on August 2.

“I think its super important the team bonding off the field, I think we utilized our time well in the respective camps and we are ready and raring to go. The shout outs from Sean Paul, DJ Khalid and others, will also certainly help to fuel us,” the multi-talented player, who also dabbles in music, ended.

 

Xavi believes Lamine Yamal will go on to achieve great things after the teenager made Barcelona history with his LaLiga debut against Real Betis on Saturday.

Yamal was introduced as a late substitute at Camp Nou as Barca cruised to a 4-0 victory over Betis, restoring their 11-point lead at the summit.

The La Masia academy product, aged 15 years and 290 days, became the Blaugrana's youngest player in LaLiga history.

Yamal almost teed up a late goal for Ousmane Dembele, only for the winger to falter in front of goal, and Xavi believes the midfielder has the talent to make his mark.

The Barca coach said: "I've told him to try things. At 15 years old, he is a talent and a special player. 

"He has been able to score, he has assisted and when you see him in training you see that he can be very great."

Raphinha scored one goal and assisted another in the thrashing of Betis, with Andreas Christensen and Robert Lewandowski also on target and Guido Rodriguez scoring an own goal.

The Brazil winger echoed Xavi's sentiment on Yamal, saying: "When I was 15 years old, I played for my neighbourhood team.

"It's incredible. It would have been incredible to score a goal."

Raphinha suggested Barca must repeat performances such as the one against Betis, which was in stark contrast to their showing in Wednesday's surprise 2-1 defeat to Rayo Vallecano.

He added: "The Rayo game was very tough. We needed to respond with a victory.

"Xavi warned us, we knew we needed a better attitude and be better on the ball. If we want to win the league, we have to play like this."

Raphinha scored one goal and assisted another as Barcelona restored their 11-point lead at the LaLiga summit with a comfortable 4-0 victory over 10-man Real Betis.

Real Madrid cut the gap at the top to eight points with a 4-2 victory over Almeria before Saturday's kick-off at Camp Nou, but Barca reclaimed their significant advantage in style.

Andreas Christensen's early header from Raphinha's delightful cross set the Blaugrana on their way before Robert Lewandowski struck after a mindless first-half dismissal for Betis substitute Edgar Gonzalez.

Raphinha added a third goal soon after, before a Guido Rodriguez own goal sealed a dominant victory for Barca, who introduced 15-year-old debutant Lamine Yamal in the closing stages.

Barca raced into the ascendancy after 14 minutes when Raphinha delivered a pinpoint right-wing cross for Christensen, who headed down past the helpless Rui Silva from close range.

A needless Gonzalez foul on Pedri then saw the Betis defender, brought on for the injured Luiz Felipe, dismissed for two quickfire cautions in the 33rd minute.

Lewandowski capitalised just three minutes later when firing a right-footed strike into the bottom-left corner from Jules Kounde's low cross.

Raphinha inflicted further damage by smashing past the onrushing Silva following Sergio Busquets' disguised throughball, with the goal given after the VAR overturned an on-field offside decision.

Lewandowski rattled the right post when one-on-one with Silva after the break but Betis suffered further punishment when Rodriguez turned Ansu Fati's low cross into his own net.

Xavi took the opportunity to hand teenager Yamal his debut as Barca eased to victory.

 

What does it mean? Barca get back on track as title awaits

With just one win in their past five games in all competitions, Barca appeared to be stumbling – rather than cruising – to their first title of the post-Lionel Messi era.

Yet Xavi's side got back on track with their eighth win in nine league games against Betis, maintaining their unbeaten record at Camp Nou this season in LaLiga (W13 D3).

Bayern Munich and Union Berlin are the only other two clubs to boast such unbeaten runs across Europe's top five leagues this term, with Barca's home form proving the difference in their quest for the title.

Rampant Raphinha

Raphinha seemed simply unplayable at times as left-back Juan Miranda and the Betis defence were unable to cope with the Brazil winger on the right-hand side.

The Barca attacker's glorious cross for Christensen took his assists tally to 11 for the season, as many as Neymar managed in his first Blaugrana campaign in the 2013-14 term.

Poor Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini must be wondering what he must do to defeat Barca, the Betis coach losing 13 of his past 14 games in LaLiga against the Blaugrana.

Pellegrini will still have European hopes for Betis this term, with his side in sixth – three points clear of the chasing pack and Europa Conference League qualification.

What's next?

Barca host Osasuna on Tuesday, while Betis visit Athletic Bilbao two days later.

Barcelona head coach Xavi was left perplexed by a question about Lionel Messi and Bruce Springsteen on Friday, but said the club will discuss a potential move for Messi once they have won the title.

Springsteen is playing concerts at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona on Friday and Sunday, while many Blaugrana fans would like to see Messi once again playing his own greatest hits in the city next season.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the campaign, with rumours abound Barca could look to bring him back to the club where he scored 672 goals in 780 games.

At a press conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga clash with Real Betis, a journalist asked Xavi if he will see Messi at the concert.

"I don't understand the metaphor," he said, laughing. "We don't know if it's going to happen or not about Leo. It's very soon. We are focused on Betis and winning this league, it would give us a lot of stability. We'll talk about possible signings when we win LaLiga.

"For Bruce, I would like to go but I don't have tickets!"

Reports have suggested the club will meet LaLiga officials to discuss the viability of Messi returning given Barca's ongoing financial concerns, but Xavi said the discussion will be more wide-ranging than just centring around the Argentinian.

"It's not just for the possible arrival of Leo, it's to improve next year's squad," he said. "It's not an important issue, there's a league to win. Mateu [Alemany, the club's sporting director] informs us and in theory, everything is going well."

With Barca leading LaLiga by 11 points with seven games remaining, despite losing 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano last time out, Xavi disputed the idea that the season has been a long one, suggesting it felt longer last year when they finished 13 points behind champions Real Madrid.

"I don't understand why you say it's getting long," he responded to a reporter. "Last season it was an eternity. Now I look at the table and I'm happy. Sometimes I don't understand it. I'm having a good time in this league. Who wouldn't have signed up for this?

"The other day we played the worst game of the season, but tomorrow is a good opportunity and there is hope to win. Last year it was long."

On the defeat at Rayo Vallecano, he added: "Madrid lost the day before [4-2 at Girona] and that happens. You're not always going to be outstanding, it's sport. What you have to do is react tomorrow and return to our game model and values. You don't have to look back."

Barca confirmed on Friday that Andreas Christensen and Ousmane Dembele will be back in the squad after recovering from injuries, much to Xavi's delight.

On Dembele, he said: "The injury was in an area that was more difficult to heal. He's fine and happy. We'll see if we play him from the start or as a substitute, but it's very important news for us.

"We have missed him. He is the best footballer one-on-one, there are few in the world like him. Ask the LaLiga full-backs who they prefer. He is a player with tremendous speed, he is a differential. It is logical that we have missed him."

Real Betis legend and former Spain winger Joaquin will retire at the end of the season.

The 41-year-old announced on Wednesday he will call time on a career of incredible longevity when Betis' campaign comes to an end.

Captain Joaquin made his Betis debut 23 years ago and returned to the LaLiga club in 2015 following spells with Valencia, Malaga and Fiorentina.

Only the great Andoni Zubizarreta has made more LaLiga appearances than Joaquin's incredible 615, with the ex-Spain goalkeeper playing 622 times in the Spanish top flight.

Betis have nine games remaining this season, so Joaquin could take that record, although he has started only once this term.

He won the Copa del Rey for a second time with Betis last April and lifted the same trophy during his time with Valencia in 2008.

Joaquin won 51 caps for his country, playing in two World Cups and one European Championship.

He said in a video posted on social media by Betis: "Life is a constant evolution, the secret is to have the ability to adapt to changes, face each day as a challenge and always put a little bit of art into everything.

"The road is full of emotions, names and moments keep resonating in my head. Oh, that magical night at the end of April in which I was able to fulfil a dream!

"Time flies so fast. Nothing is forever they say, but they are wrong. Don't you know art? It is inspiration, emotion and transformation. For 23 years I have tried to make football an art and to be remembered from generation to generation.

"From the classic to the contemporary. Now all that remains is to hang up my boots, my art. A window into eternity."

Heavyweight clubs including Manchester City, Liverpool, Napoli and Milan are reportedly closely monitoring the exciting Celta Vigo midfielder Gabri Veiga due to his affordable release clause.

Veiga, 20, is enjoying the best season of his young career, with the skilful central midfielder forcing his way into manager Carlos Carvahal's best XI.

Playing mostly as an attacking midfielder, Veiga has racked up nine goals in 26 LaLiga appearances, earning his first call-up to the Spain Under-21 team along the way.

His play in one of the top leagues in the world has caught the eye of midfielder-hungry Champions League sides, with his release clause providing a more affordable alternative to some of the other top central midfielders on the market in the upcoming transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE AND SERIE A GIANTS CLAMOUR FOR VEIGA

Veiga is said to have a €40million (£35m) release clause, which Galician newspaper Atlantico says has caught the attention of Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle United, Napoli and Milan.

The report states Celta Vigo are prepared for a big club to come and activate that clause in the off-season, and they will not budge or negotiate a lower figure.

The emergence of Veiga provides another option for clubs who have been closely following Brighton and Hove Albion 21-year-old Moises Caicedo, who is believed to be valued around £80m, or £100m-plus teenager Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Guardian is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea and United are the leading candidates in the chase for 24-year-old Brighton and Argentina standout Alexis Mac Allister, with Puroboca.com quoting the player's father, Carlos, as saying: "It is most likely that Alexis will already be playing in another team next July."

– According to Foot Mercato, Nice are hoping to receive a €60m (£53m) fee in return for 22-year-old midfielder Khephren Thuram, with Paris Saint-Germain, Dortmund, Liverpool and City all said to be circling the France international.

Roma are reportedly in advanced talks with 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar ahead of his contract expiring in a few months, although they will face competition from Real Betis and Eintracht Frankfurt, per Fabrizio Romano.

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are confident they will be able to sign 24-year-old Mason Mount to a new long-term contract.

– According to CBS Sports, Al Nassr are targeting either Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho as their future manager after the club where Cristiano Ronaldo plays fired Rudi Garcia.

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