Sergio Busquets hopes "competitive animal" Gavi can play a big part in a successful era for Barcelona after he starred in a 3-1 Supercopa de Espana final defeat of Real Madrid.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder scored the opening goal in Riyadh on Sunday before setting up Robert Lewandowski for the second late in the first half.

Gavi also laid one on a plate for Pedri in the second half of the El Clasico showdown at the King Fahd Stadium, where Xavi celebrated winning his first major trophy as Barca head coach.

Teenager Gavi was outstanding in the Blaugrana's record-extending 14th Supercopa triumph, causing the lacklustre European and LaLiga champions all sorts of problems.

Barca captain Busquets hailed the young Spain international and thinks he can make a big impact for the Catalan giants for years to come.

Busquets told Movista: "He [Gavi] is a competitive animal, at that age the players are in the youth team or in the subsidiary and he has played at an incredible level, scoring goals and giving assists.

"I would tell him to keep learning and listening. Hopefully he will mark an era at Barca."

Barca lead Los Blancos by three points in the LaLiga title and laid down a marker by outclassing them to take the first domestic trophy of the season.

Busquets added: "We couldn't miss this opportunity to win a title after a period of changes in coaches and players.

"We had hope and ambition, but at Barca you always demand to win and Xavi has reminded us of that."

Xavi expects taking "three golden points" off Atletico Madrid to give Barcelona "tremendous morale and confidence" in the LaLiga title race.

Ousmane Dembele scored the only goal of the game at the Civitas Metropolitano on Sunday to put Barca three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table.

The Blaugrana defended resolutely to take full advantage of Madrid's 2-1 defeat at Villarreal on Saturday, Ronald Araujo clearing off the line to deny Antoine Griezmann a stoppage-time equaliser against his former club.

Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres were sent off for a late off-the-ball clash, but that did not take the gloss off a big win for Barca in the absence of suspended striker Roberto Lewandowski.

Barca had been held to a frustrating draw by Espanyol in their first LaLiga game after the World Cup, so Xavi knew the importance of beating Diego Simeone's side in the capital.

He said: "It's a victory, but it's not just three points, it gives us tremendous morale and confidence for the remainder of the league.

"We are capable of winning in a field as difficult as this, suffering, being a family. Without playing as excellently as we did against Espanyol, today we have known how to suffer and we took three golden points. We hit the table to be candidates for this league [title]."

Xavi added: "Three golden points. We have taken advantage of our chance. They have pressed, and we have known how to suffer.

"And how important it is to keep a clean sheet. Just as I said on the Espanyol game that we deserved more, today perhaps without playing so well we got three points."

Captain Sergio Busquets felt the manner in which Barca dug deep to see out the win bodes well.

He said: "We started well, and we went ahead, but from then on they have pressed very well, it was difficult for us to have the ball and create chances.

"In the second half, although they came out very strongly, we managed to control the game. In the end, we suffered, but three very good points."

Sergio Busquets is "fundamental" to Barcelona and head coach Xavi says the club will do what they can to persuade the veteran midfielder to stay at Camp Nou.

The 34-year-old's deal expires at the end of the season, by which point he will have spent a decade-and-a-half with the senior team.

There have been rumours over the past few months that Busquets, who retired from Spain duty following their last-16 exit at the World Cup, will depart the club at the end of the campaign and make a move to MLS in the United States.

Speaking ahead of his side's LaLiga derby with Espanyol, Xavi revealed talks have not been held over an extension so far, but he hopes Busquets will be persuaded to stay.

"We haven't talked about this," he said. "There are six months of matches left, so we will see how it goes. We are focused on what happens this year.

"We cannot make plans for the following season, but we are waiting for him. It is his decision. 

"He has a contract until June and then we will see. It’s more a personal feeling of his. How he sees himself in the team, for me, he is fundamental. It will depend on him, more than on the club and me, but we will try to convince him."

Barcelona resume their domestic season atop LaLiga, with a two-point cushion, though they may have been overhauled by rivals Real Madrid when they take to the field against Espanyol.

After the uncertainty of the past few seasons, Xavi is working towards making Barcelona regular contenders for silverware again and is confident his side will pick up where they left off following the mid-season World Cup break.

"I have good feelings," he added. "People are in rhythm, with a winning mentality. I am happy what I have seen [in training] and I hope that we are at least [at the level again]."

While Robert Lewandowski has been handed a temporary suspension of his playing ban amid an appeal, Xavi is still looking to juggle his forward line around the Poland attacker.

Off-season buy Raphinha has failed to showcase the form he enjoyed at Leeds United, due partly to being played away from his preferred right flank.

Xavi acknowledges the Brazilian is being utilised out of his favoured position, but reiterated he believes he can still deliver on the left wing.

"Raphinha is more comfortable on the right, but he can help us on the left," he added. "He will adapt. I have spoken with him this week, and he is open."

Pedri hopes Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets stays with the Blaugrana, but identified Frenkie de Jong as a capable replacement for the evergreen midfielder.

Barca great Gerard Pique confirmed his retirement in November and Xavi's side may be set to lose another veteran, as Busquets nears the end of his contract in June.

The 34-year-old remains a pivotal part of Xavi's midfield trio, alongside youngsters Pedri and Gavi, helping Barca to sit two points clear of Real Madrid at the LaLiga summit heading into the World Cup.

While 20-year-old Pedri continues his seismic rise in both international and domestic football, Busquets called an end to his Spain career after their World Cup elimination in the last 16 to Morocco.

Pedri urged his midfield partner to continue with Barca past the end of his existing contract, though he feels De Jong could step into the role given his experience with the Netherlands.

"I would like him to continue, he is a key piece," he told Catalunya Radio. "Frenkie de Jong could be a good replacement for Busquets, he has played in that position with the Netherlands in the World Cup."

Spain's early World Cup exit in Qatar culminated in the departure of Luis Enrique - much to Pedri's disappointment - with Luis de la Fuente replacing him.

Meanwhile, team-mate Ousmane Dembele suffered final heartbreak with France, with the 20-year-old suggesting the winger has returned a different player after the agonising defeat to Argentina.

"[Luis Enrique] transmits things very well. It's a shame, but we will now play with Luis de la Fuente to the fullest," he added. "[Dembele] is now more professional than he was before, and it shows."

Pedri and Busquets will hope to pick up where they left off as Barcelona restart their LaLiga campaign against rivals Espanyol on December 31.

Xavi is the "best coach in the world", according to Barcelona president Joan Laporta.

A product of La Masia, Barca's famous academy, Xavi won LaLiga eight times and the Champions League on four occasions with the Blaugrana in a playing career that coincided with one of the most successful periods in the club's history.

However, financial troubles have plagued Barca in recent times, and they have failed to match the glory days under Pep Guardiola.

Xavi returned to Barca as head coach in 2021 following Ronald Koeman's sacking, and despite an early Champions League exit, the former midfielder led the team to the LaLiga summit heading into the World Cup break.

The 42-year-old has outlined the need to deliver silverware at Camp Nou this season, and Laporta is encouraged.

Laporta believes Xavi is the best coach out there, and says the 42-year-old's emotional attachment with the club is helping him to bring success back to Camp Nou.

"I say we need to win titles this season. I totally agree with Xavi," Laporta told Barca TV.

"I am very lucky to have the best coach in the world, because Xavi, in addition to his great football knowledge, is a man who is always very interesting to listen to with his reasoning, who is also a club man and is very aligned with the club.

"We share moments together, and also we share much of everything that is being done, and I feel very accompanied and supported with Xavi and all his staff.

"They are people in whom we all have full confidence in their knowledge but also in their sense of the club, which is very important, very important."

Xavi's former midfield partner Sergio Busquets is still in the playing squad at Camp Nou, although he is out of contract at the end of the season.

The recently retired Spain international has been linked with Inter Miami, who are also potential suitors for Lionel Messi, but Laporta says Barca are keen to keep him.

"Xavi counts on [Busquets], and he wants him to continue," the president added. "In other words, what we want is that, if possible, he continues.

"There are reports now in the winter market that he had offers from MLS and others.  

"Obviously, whatever Busquets decides is well decided, and the club will always be with him with what he needs and helping with what he needs. When the contract ends, then it will end.

"I don't know if he will decide this winter or continue until the end of the season. We want him to continue until the end of the season because Xavi has let me know [he still wants him].

"Busquets is also one of those that Barca is his home."

Luis de la Fuente tried to convince Sergio Busquets to postpone his international retirement, but the new Spain head coach will respect the veteran's call.

The 34-year-old called time on his career with La Roja following their World Cup exit to Morocco in the last 16, departing with 143 caps and two goals to his name.

Busquets' announcement came following the news De la Fuente would succeed Luis Enrique in charge of the national set-up, after their under-performance at Qatar 2022.

The new head coach has now revealed he sought to convince the Barcelona stalwart to reverse his decision, and acknowledged he will miss his experience as he takes charge.

"It's a shame that, at international level, he wants to close the book, but I can only respect him," he said.

"He is one of the most important players in Spanish football, because of what he has achieved on the field.

"I had the privilege of receiving a call yesterday in which he informed me that he had made that decision.

"I tried to convince him otherwise, but he is a man with clear ideas and he has made his call.

"But football continues, and we will have to think about the future. There are players who have already occupied that position, like Rodri.

"We are following other players and surely there are those who will have their chance. There is still time until March to see the evolution of the players."

De la Fuente will take charge of his first matches as Spain coach in a pair of Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland in three months' time.

Xavi paid tribute to Sergio Busquets following his decision to retire from international football, describing him as one of the greatest midfielders in history.

Busquets announced his retirement from Spain duty on Friday having captained La Roja in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Busquets' miss in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco in the last 16 provided a less-than-fitting end to his stellar career with Spain, for whom he made 143 senior appearances.

The 34-year-old starred alongside his Barcelona team-mate-turned-coach Xavi as Spain won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and the Blaugrana boss believes few can match his impact.

"In the end, it's a personal decision that you make when you feel the time is right," Xavi told Barcelona's website. "I wish him the best, now he will be able to rest more and focus on Barca.

"He is a player who has made history. He is one of the best midfielders that football has produced worldwide and, for sure, the best defensive midfielder in the history of Spain."

Fellow Barcelona star Jordi Alba said Busquets will be "sorely missed" by Spain, who will be led by Luis de la Fuente in Euro 2024 qualifying after Luis Enrique left his role as head coach. 

"You have always been a great leader for all of us who are part of the team, both in good times and in bad," Alba wrote on Twitter.

"After so many training sessions and games together in the national team, today you say goodbye and you will be sorely missed, friend. 

"Thank you for what you have contributed to us and for everything you have given."

Spain's third-highest appearance maker Sergio Busquets has announced his retirement from international football.

The 34-year-old captained Spain in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar, missing a penalty in the shootout as Luis Enrique's side were knocked out by Morocco at the last-16 stage.

Busquets made his debut for La Roja against Turkey in April 2009 and went on to make 143 appearances, behind only Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos in the country's history.

The Barcelona midfielder, who scored two international goals, was an integral part of the Spain squads that won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship two years later.

"I would like to thank all the people who have accompanied me on this long journey," he wrote on Instagram. 

"From Vicente del Bosque who gave me the opportunity to start, to Luis Enrique for making me enjoy it until the last second.

"I also thank Julen Lopetegui, Fernando Hierro and Robert Moreno for their trust, as well as all their staff.

"And, of course, to each and every one of my team-mates, with whom I have struggled to try to take the team where it deserved, with more or less success but always giving everything and with the greatest of pride.

"It has been an honour to represent my country and take it to the top.

"To be a World and European champion, to be captain and to play so many games, with greater or lesser success but always giving everything and contributing my grain of sand so that everything went the right way."

Sergio Busquets says now is not the time to discuss his international future after Spain crashed out of the World Cup in "the most cruel way" with a defeat to Morocco on penalties.

La Roja lost the shoot-out 3-0 at Education City Stadium following a goalless round-of-16 encounter on Tuesday, with the Atlas Lions reaching the last eight for the first time.

Spain captain Busquets, Pablo Sarabia and Carlos Soler were unable to find the back of the net from 12 yards out, goalkeeper Yassine Bounou producing heroics for Morocco.

To add insult to injury, it was the Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi who scored the winning spot-kick.

Luis Enrique's side dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge, with Sarabia hitting the post right at the end of extra-time.

At the age of 34, it has been suggested Busquets could call time on his Spain career, but the Barcelona midfielder will not rush into a decision following a stunning exit in Doha.

He told La1: "Now the important thing is the team and not me, it's a difficult night and we will have to get up and use this experience, there are very young people who will be very useful and we must continue."

Busquets felt Spain were unfortunate to miss out on a place in the quarter-finals.

"It was a shame, it was decided on penalties in the most cruel way. It was complicated, we tried to wear them down, turn them around, find spaces. We lacked luck from the last pass." he said.

Goalkeeper Unai Simon also felt Spain deserved to go through.

He said: "I think that in the 120 minutes of the game we have been superior, but what I say now is of little value if we don't score.

"In the penalty shoot-out they have been superior and that is what has made them reach the quarter-finals

"We are seeing that there are surprises throughout the World Cup, we have not been able to overcome it and we did not expect to be eliminated against Morocco, but it is the reality and we have to go home."

Sergio Busquets denied suggestions Spain were relieved to have avoided a potential World Cup quarter-final against Brazil after La Roja survived an almighty scare to advance from Group E.

Spain were on course to top the group when Alvaro Morata gave them an early lead against Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday, but Ao Tanaka followed up Ritsu Doan's leveller within 142 seconds to fire the Samurai Blue to first place.

Spain's defeat saw them advance via goal difference as Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in the group's other game, and La Roja were briefly set for a stunning group-stage exit when Los Ticos led Hansi Flick's team with 20 minutes remaining.

Spain will now meet Morocco in the last 16, and provided Brazil avoid defeat to Cameroon on Friday, they will not be able to meet the pre-tournament favourites until the final.

However, Busquets was dismissive when asked if that represented a positive outcome, saying: "It has nothing to do with it. 

"We wanted to win and be first. We go to the other side of the bracket, but that does not guarantee that it will be easier or more difficult.

"We didn't want this to happen, our intention was to win. To continue, we have the round of 16 against Morocco, which is going to be a very difficult match.

"We were not comfortable. They closed the pass between the lines very well and it was very difficult for us to connect and create danger. 

"We knew it was going to be like that, it's a shame about the goals. We have to continue, try to correct the mistakes, and go through the knockouts."

Spain dropped to third place when Manuel Neuer's own goal put Costa Rica 2-1 up against Germany at Al Bayt Stadium, before the four-time winners levelled the scores through Kai Havertz three minutes later.

Busquets' midfield partner Pedri revealed Spain were made aware of their perilous situation during that brief period, as he emphasised the need to improve against Morocco.

"We knew we were out. Personally, I tried to encourage my team-mates to look for that goal after they scored against us, but we didn't manage it," Pedri said.

"We have to go with everything, the games now are life or death. The coach will tell us the failures we had and what we have to improve on."

Spain have lost their final group game at a World Cup for the first time since 1982 (1-0 v Northern Ireland), having won eight of their nine previous such matches (D1).

Japan, meanwhile, have reached the last 16 at consecutive World Cups for the first time, topping their group for the first time since they did so on home soil at the 2002 tournament.

Barcelona will ask Sergio Busquets to provide clarity on his future plans when he returns from the World Cup, Jordi Cruyff has revealed.

Midfield stalwart Busquets is due to reach the end of his Barcelona contract at the end of this season, and he has been linked with a move to Inter Miami.

After 15 seasons at Camp Nou, Busquets could elect to finish his career in Major League Soccer with the team part-owned by David Beckham.

His long-standing team-mate Gerard Pique recently retired in mid-season, surprising Barcelona, and the club want to be sure they are aware of Busquets' next intentions.

Cruyff said in an interview with TV3: "When the World Cup is over, we will talk to him. He's earned every right to decide his future, but the club also needs to plan its squad."

The 34-year-old Busquets remains a key figure for Barcelona and Spain, and for his club, only four team-mates have played more minutes than him so far this season (1,201).

He has played close to 700 first-team games for Barcelona since making his debut in 2008.

Cruyff also spoke about Barcelona's transfer plans for the January window and said it was "clear that there are some positions that we can reinforce."

Spending limits may remain a factor; however, if Barcelona get the go-ahead to make a move, Cruyff said they would not hang about.

"If there is an option to sign, we know what we have to do," he said.

Memphis Depay, who has featured for the Netherlands at the World Cup, has played just 131 minutes for Barcelona this season.

He may be expendable and with his contract due to expire at the season's end, this may be a last chance to receive a transfer fee for the Dutch forward.

Cruyff told the Spanish broadcaster: "We are going to see what happens.

"In the summer, he was able to leave but in the end, his departure could not materialise. With [Robert] Lewandowski being suspended for three games, we will see what happens because if there were any injuries, he could be needed."

Lionel Messi has been linked with a blockbuster move to MLS club Inter Miami.

The Times report that the US franchise, co-owned by David Beckham, are ready to make Messi the highest-paid player in MLS history.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has also been linked with a move to his former club Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI AND BUSQUETS COULD BE BOUND FOR MIAMI

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is set to join ex-team-mate Lionel Messi at MLS club Inter Miami, according to Cope.

The 34-year-old Spain captain is out of contract at the end of this season and has been weighing up his future at Camp Nou.

Messi and Busquets spent more than a decade together at the Blaugrana and could re-unite in Florida, where the Argentina great regularly vacations at a house he owns.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Manchester United are exploring a January loan move for Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. Newcastle United and Arsenal have also been linked with the United States international by the Mail.

- Chelsea have been keeping a close watch on Bayer Leverkusen's Ecuadora centre-back Piero Hincapie during the World Cup, reports the Mirror.

- Fichajes claims that Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos has rejected the chance to move to Manchester City.

- Newcastle will move for 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos in January, according to the Northern Echo.

- Milan are eager to discuss lowering the €22m purchase option fee for on-loan midfielder Brahim Diaz with parent club Real Madrid, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Spaniard's two-year loan deal is due to expire at the end of the season.

Luis Enrique expressed sorrow for removing Jose Gaya from Spain's World Cup squad but insisted he made the right call despite Valencia apparently claiming the left-back's injury was minor.

Gaya was cut from the Spain selection last week after suffering an ankle injury in training, and although media reports at the time suggested his recovery would only be brief, Luis Enrique replaced him with Barcelona's Alejandro Balde.

After returning home, Spanish publication AS reported Gaya's club quickly declared him fit.

But when Luis Enrique addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Spain's World Cup opener against Costa Rica, the coach was adamant Gaya's injury would have ruled him out for a chunk of the group stage at least.

For the Spain coach, doing without a player for so long was non-negotiable.

"With regard to Gaya, it happens everywhere," Luis Enrique told reporters. "I have to make decisions.

"If I followed my heart based on his professionalism, he'd be here, but I can't make decisions based on my heart. I have to use mind.

"In three games he'd not have been able to play 100 per cent. I have to make the best decision for the whole team and the whole country. Imagine if I'd listened to Valencia or what Gaya wanted, which was normal, and then imagine if [Jordi] Alba is injured.

"We'd start the World Cup with no left-back, then imagine what you'd say about me. You'd ask why we risked the situation.

"My mind said I should make the best decision for the team, and there's no doubt the best is to have two fully fit full-backs for the World Cup."

Luis Enrique's explanation did not satisfy everyone in attendance, with the former midfielder pressed on why he could not have just played someone else slightly out of position.

But Luis Enrique did not believe that was an option.

"No, you might not believe this, but I can't keep waiting for someone [to be fit], because no one else will be able to adapt to demands of left-back," he added.

"A winger can act as a wing-back at times, but left-back is unfortunately the only position I cannot wait for.

"If it happened to a centre-back, I'd wait, but I only have two players for the left-back position. I'm truly, deeply sorry for Gaya, I really like him, he's a great guy and he has had very bad luck, but I have to think with my mind what a coach should do.

"He's been unfortunate with the injury, he did it while crossing, and it was something I'd never seen before. But I'm sure he'll get something positive in future."

Luis Enrique was followed by Spain captain Sergio Busquets, who at 34 is the elder statesman in La Roja's squad.

Spain's group is among the youngest at the tournament, with six of their players aged 20 or younger.

But Busquets does not believe the younger players' age makes them any less competent.

Asked about the presence of his Barcelona team-mates Pedri and Gavi, Busquets said: "They are very young players, but they've received awards already and they are very well known in spite of their age.

"But they are here as part of the national team to contribute as they can. If the coach decides to field them, then it's a collective group - it's not about individual talent.

"But obviously, having players who are so skilled is great."

Gerard Pique insisted it is "not farewell" after playing his final game for Barcelona at Camp Nou before retirement.

Pique was substituted to a standing ovation in the 84th minute of Barca's 2-0 win against Almeria on Saturday after second-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong had set the Blaugrana on their way to an 11th win in their last 12 LaLiga games.

The 35-year-old announced the imminent end to his playing career earlier in the week, with the club agreeing to mutually terminate his contract prior to the start of the World Cup in Qatar later this month.

It is not yet clear whether Pique will play any part in Barca's final game before then, away to Osasuna on Tuesday, but it seems unlikely given his emotional departure against Almeria in which he hugged each of his team-mates.

Addressing the fans after the game with a microphone in hand, a tearful Pique said: "To want is to let go. There is so much love and passion between Barca and me.

"It was time to leave... [but] I am convinced that in the future I'll be here again. I already left and came back.

"This is not a farewell. I have been a member since I was born here, and I will die here."

The Barca players adorned special shirts before the game with "Sempr3" emblazoned on the front and Pique's name and number on the back, with the word 'sempre' meaning 'always' in Spanish, and Pique's number three replacing the 'e'.

Sergio Busquets also paid tribute to his team-mate with whom he has played at Barca since 2008 after the game, saying: "He leaves and incredible legacy. Playing for Barcelona means more to him than it does to anyone and we are going to miss him."

Andres Iniesta says the booing of Barcelona players Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique by their own fans is "not pleasant".

The pair were jeered by Barca supporters at Camp Nou when being substituted onto the pitch in last month's win over Villarreal, with their refusal to take pay cuts thought to be the reason for the negative reception.

Barca head coach Xavi spoke out against the booing after the game, and Iniesta has joined his former midfield partner in being displeased with the fans' behaviour.

"It is something that no one likes and does not like, regardless of whether they are colleagues or friends," Iniesta, who ended his 20-year association with Barcelona when joining Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018, told AS.

"That your fans whistle you is not pleasant but we know that Barca is a very demanding and particular club. These are situations that have occurred throughout history with great players and people express what they feel at that moment.

"Both Busi [Busquets] and Geri [Pique] are at Barca because they still have the ability to perform, that's how it is. We would all like this not to happen, even those who whistle, because if they do it is because of the club's level of demand."

Barca are second in LaLiga, just a point behind rivals Real Madrid, but another early exit from the Champions League means their wait for a first European title since 2014-15 goes on.

Iniesta believes there is something missing from Xavi's side, adding: "I want Barca, and the people I know and appreciate, to do well.

"Since Xavi came in, the evolution has been very positive and the current squad is super complete in all lines, but there are things that happen and the Champions League is decided by details.

"It is clear that some things are not being done well or not enough to change that dynamic. We haven't been able to handle those details that I'm talking about and that decide play-offs and matches."

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