Gennaro Gattuso has been appointed as head coach of Valencia on a deal until June 2024.

The Milan great replaces Jose Bordalas, who was dismissed just one season into a two-year contract after a campaign in which Valencia finished ninth and lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Betis.

A short statement from Valencia read: "Valencia CF have reached an agreement with Gennaro Gattuso who will become the first-team coach of Valencia CF for the next two seasons until 30th of June 2024.

"Gennaro Gattuso (9th of January 1978, Italy) joins the Club following an extensive career both as a player and as a coach. After hanging up the boots, he started his coaching career in 2012 coaching teams like AC Milan and SSC Napoli, with whom he won the Coppa Italia in 2020."

Gattuso spent 18 months in charge of the Rossoneri after being appointed in November 2017, narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification by a solitary point during his one full season in charge.

He later took over Napoli, who he led to Coppa Italia glory in the 2019-20 season but Gattuso departed a year later after again missing out on Champions League qualification.

The 44-year-old was appointed Fiorentina boss in May last year only for the two parties to rescind that agreement a month later.

Gattuso has also had spells in charge of Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa prior to re-joining Milan – initially with their Primavera side.

As a player, Gattuso won two Serie A titles and two Champions League medals during a glittering 13-year stay with Milan, while he was also a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006.

Valencia have cleared the way for Gennaro Gattuso's arrival by announcing the exit of head coach Jose Bordalas.

Former Milan and Napoli boss Gattuso is widely expected to be installed as the new boss at Mestalla.

That could be soon confirmed after Bordalas departed following just one season, having arrived at Valencia on a two-year deal in May 2021.

In a statement, the club said: "Valencia CF announce the conclusion of Jose Bordalas' tenure as first team coach.

"The club would like to thank him for his work, effort and dedication during his time in charge of Valencia CF, in which the team qualified for the Copa del Rey final, and wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavours."

The departure had become inevitable as reports emerged of the strong interest in appointing Gattuso.

The 58-year-old Bordalas was chosen by Valencia owner Peter Lim as the successor to Javi Gracia, who became the 11th coach to leave the LaLiga side in nine years.

Bordalas guided Valencia to a ninth-placed finish in the league, and they suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak in the Copa del Rey final against Real Betis in April.

Bordalas revealed his job frustrations before a clash with Athletic Bilbao in early May, suggesting Valencia must bring in top-level talent as opposed to selling their best players.

News of his exit comes amid a turbulent time for the two-time Champions League runners-up.

Valencia this week confirmed the exit of president Anil Murthy, stating the club must "regain the trust of the fans".

The 49-year-old had been embroiled in controversy since April when a man purported to be Murthy suggested to someone else in audio leaked by Superdeporte that he had threatened to "kill" Carlos Soler's reputation in the press if the midfielder did not sign a new contract.

Valencia did not deny Murthy was the person depicted but claimed the reports were part of a smear campaign against the club, insisting the recordings were "taken out of context from a private conversation and recorded illegitimately without the permission of the president".

The club also reported death threats against Murthy to authorities earlier this month.

Valencia have confirmed the exit of president Anil Murthy following a turbulent few weeks at Mestalla, stating the club must "regain the trust of the fans".

The 49-year-old has been embroiled in controversy since April when a man purported to be Murthy suggested to someone else in audio leaked by Superdeporte that he had threatened to "kill" Carlos Soler's reputation in the press if he did not sign a new contract.

Valencia did not deny Murthy was the person depicted but claimed the reports were part of a smear campaign against the club, insisting the recordings were "taken out of context from a private conversation and recorded illegitimately without the permission of the president of Valencia, Anil Murthy."

The club also reported death threats against Murthy to authorities earlier this month.

Valencia have now issued a further statement, however, confirming Murthy's immediate departure and distancing themselves from his remarks.

"The board would like to clarify that the content of the leaked conversations between Anil Murthy and various third parties are the personal views of Anil Murthy and not of Valencia CF," the club said in a statement.

"Valencia CF disassociates itself from his views. The board values the importance of a close relationship between the club, the community, fans, government authorities, media and other stakeholders.

"The board hold the view that a change in leadership is required, in order to regain the trust of the fans and the community and put Valencia in a position for success.

"Effective immediately, Anil Murthy will cease to be both president and an employee of Valencia.

"The board is pleased to announce the appointment of Sean Bai as acting director general on an interim basis. Mr. Bai has been with the club since 2018 and is currently the director of the academy.

"The board will immediately commence a search process to appoint a new president for Valencia, and an announcement will be made in due course."

Jose Bordalas' side finished ninth in LaLiga this term and lost the Copa del Rey final on penalties to Real Betis.

Valencia have reported death threats made to president Anil Murthy to the police.

Murthy, members of his family and employees at the LaLiga club have also been targeted by fans.

Valencia revealed back in October 2019 that the club had informed police of death threats made to Murthy.

With Jose Bordalas' side 11th in LaLiga and losing to Real Betis on penalties in the Copa del Rey final, supporters are alleged to have crossed the line again.

A club statement said: "Valencia CF, through the club's legal services, are compiling all death threats, insults and other actions against president Anil Murthy, his relatives and club employees.

"This Wednesday morning, these actions have been reported to the police, and in the coming days an update of the complaint will be carried out, including reporting demonstrations of hatred and threats of acts of violence carried out on social networks.

"This type of behaviour is not acceptable in society, it does not represent any of the values of Valencia CF and may lead to legal consequences."

The club earlier this month called on their supporters to respect Bordalas as they condemned "the harassment" of the coach and his players.

Bordalas was appointed as Valencia before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, just two days after departing Getafe following a successful five-season spell.

The 58-year-old was chosen by Valencia owner Peter Lim as the successor to Javi Gracia, who became the 11th coach to leave the club in the past nine years.

Valencia have called on their supporters to respect manager Jose Bordalas as they condemned "the harassment" against the coach and his side this season.

Bordalas was appointed as Valencia manager before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, just two days after departing Getafe following a successful five-season spell.

The 58-year-old was chosen by Valencia owner Peter Lim as the successor to Javi Gracia, who became the 11th coach to leave the LaLiga side in the past nine years.

Bordalas has guided Valencia to 10th in the league and suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak in the Copa del Rey final against Real Betis in April.

Valencia finished 13th in the league last season, but supporters have voiced their disgruntlement at the club, directing questions towards to Lim, who has sold top players to reduce high debts and made no signings to strengthen the squad.

Bordalas revealed his frustrations before a clash with Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, suggesting that Valencia must bring in top-level talent as opposed to selling their best players.

Los Che supporters responded by barracking their team and Bordalas, singing chants against the manager, and Valencia have urged for the fans to back their coach and squad.

"Valencia CF condemn the campaign of harassment and disruption that both coach Jose Bordalas and the team have been receiving throughout this season," a statement from the club said on Monday.

"This trend, fed by some media outlets and which has the sole purpose of harming the coach and the team, has led to very serious insults from various opposing sets of fans towards our coach.

"In addition, it also intends to create a negative environment in an attempt to try to affect refereeing decisions.

"Valencia CF request the utmost respect for both our coach and our squad."

Valencia have denied reports that Carlos Soler is set to join LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

It was claimed in the Spanish media on Monday that Soler, who is under contract until June 2023, will make the move to Barca for a fee of €20million.

Valencia reacted by tweeting "don't lie" and revealed they are in talks with the midfielder over a new deal.

A club statement said: "In response to a story published this Monday in Spanish newspaper Diario AS, Valencia CF deny the existence of any agreement – or any ongoing negotiation – with FC Barcelona for the transfer of Carlos Soler.

 

"The club are currently in an open negotiation process with the player and his agents to extend his contract with Valencia CF."

Soler has scored 12 goals and provided five assists for Valencia this season. Seven of the 25-year-old's strikes have come from the penalty spot.

Talk of Soler moving to Camp Nou comes amid speculation over the future of Frenkie de Jong, who has been linked with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Having helped his boyhood club to their first major trophy in 17 years by netting in a penalty shoot-out victory over Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, it is fair to say Real Betis captain Joaquin was in a celebratory mood.

Few neutrals would have denied the club, who have been relegated twice since their last Copa win in 2005, or Joaquin, a genuine Betis legend who has made the most appearances of any outfield player in LaLiga history (595), their moment of glory.

Unless, of course, they could have foreseen the way in which Joaquin chose to celebrate the triumph, in all his glory.

Having cemented his reputation as one of football's greatest practical jokers by posing stark naked with the Copa he won with former club Valencia in 2008, the 40-year-old decided to grace Betis' social media accounts with a recreation of that photo.

A Copa success might well be the most fitting end to Joaquin's career. He seems intent on making the memory last in more ways than one.

Those of a nervous disposition will probably be hoping it is the last trophy of his career, anyway.

A tearful Joaquin dedicated Real Betis' Copa del Rey triumph to all the club's supporters, after a tense penalty-shootout win over Valencia on Saturday.

Scores were locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes, with Hugo Duro cancelling out Borja Iglesias' opener for Betis in the 11th minute. Yunus Musah's miss in the shootout gifted the eventual opportunity for Juan Miranda to give Betis the 5-4 win on penalties, and the 22-year-old held his nerve.

"Long live Betis even when they lose" has become a mantra for supporters, with the club being relegated twice since their last Copa del Rey triumph in 2005.

The 37-year-old Joaquin, the boyhood Betis fan who was also playing against his old team on Saturday, could not hide his emotion post-match.

"These tears are the suppressed emotion of all these days, of seeing the people and how they supported us, knowing the responsibility of playing this type of game," he told TVE. "It is normal for these tears to flow. We are very happy.

"Let's enjoy the moment, we are Copa del Rey champions, and we dedicate it to everyone who is by our side – the staff, the coaches, the cooks, all the people who are not seen, for my daughters, my wife, my brothers, my parents, all the Beticos."

In characteristic Betis fashion, they had to do it the hard way against a Valencia team willing to absorb pressure.

The Verdiblancos went close to scoring a winner as Sergio Canales hit the frame of the goal, with Valencia keeper Giorgi Mamardashvili also denying Iglesias and Nabil Fekir.

Joaquin, the Betis captain and surviving member from that 2005 victory, believes his side's eventual triumph and contention for the Champions League this season was reflective of the steady improvement they have shown since gaining promotion back to LaLiga in 2015.

"I think that the work of this season and seasons past has been seen today, of gradually achieving goals and improving the team," he said.

"We are having a great season, all the fans deserve it, congratulations to Valencia because they also would have been fair winners. Penalties are a lottery but we also deserved it. It is a joy for all the Beticos."

Yunus Musah missed the only penalty as Real Betis beat Valencia 5-4 on spot-kicks following a 1-1 draw after extra time to win the Copa del Rey for a third time.

Betis entered the contest in their home city of Seville as favourites and led early on through a Borja Iglesias header, only for Hugo Duro to equalise from Valencia's only shot of the first half.

Despite chances for both sides in a gripping and feisty final, the contest at Estadio de La Cartuja went all the way to penalties and it was Manuel Pellegrini's side who prevailed.

Substitute Musah missed the only spot-kick, with Juan Miranda sending Giorgi Mamardashvili the wrong way to seal a famous victory for Betis.

 

Valencia trail Betis by 15 points in LaLiga and the gulf between the sides told early on as Borja Iglesias headed Hector Bellerin's cross past Giorgi Mamardashvili from six yards.

Jose Bordalas' men showed characteristic resolve by responding 19 minutes later, however, thanks to Duro's delightful dinked finish after being played in by Ilaix Moriba's incisive pass.

Betis went close to restoring their lead when Sergio Canales' deflected shot hit the woodwork but Valencia, who had a penalty shout for a shove on Duro turned down, held firm.

Moriba miscued a volley when spotted in a great position but Betis continued to create chances, with Juanmi denied by both Mamardashvili and then the post.

Nabil Fekir and Borja Iglesias were next to be frustrated by Mamardashvili, while Claudio Bravo was needed to keep out Carlos Soler in a gripping finale to normal time.

A quieter period of extra time followed, which was played at walking pace at times, paving the way for penalties to determine the winner of the 120th Copa del Rey final.

After the first six spot-kicks were converted, Musah skied his attempt and that set up Miranda to settle a tense final that went all the way.

 

 

There was a surprise guest at the wedding of Real Betis star Joaquin in July 2005 – surprise because this particular appearance hinged on the outcome of a football match five weeks earlier.

As Joaquin and his new wife stood at the front of the church in his hometown of Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, something else couldn't help but hog attention.

The Copa del Rey trophy, draped in green and white ribbons stood tall – literally, because it's huge – and proud.

That's right, the Copa del Rey was an especially notable guest at Joaquin's wedding, as the winger – then 23 years old – had only recently helped Betis to just their second success in the competition and first since 1977.

Joaquin has always been regarded as something of a practical joker, with that not-so-subtle wedding decoration very much from his wheelhouse.

Fast-forward 17 years and Joaquin is readying himself for another tilt at the crown with his beloved Betis, who themselves haven't reached the final since that momentous 2-1 extra-time win over Osasuna at the Vicente Calderon.

 

Fittingly, Betis' opponents on Saturday will be the other club most people would associate with Joaquin: Valencia, with whom he won the only other trophy of his career in 2008 – also the Copa – during a five-year spell.

That triumph spawned another curious – but no less Joaquin – photo of the winger with the trophy, as he was snapped stark naked squatting next to the cup in Valencia's dressing room.

Hopefully social media won't see a repeat of that one on Saturday…

Joaquin didn't feature for Valencia in that final, however, and therefore his 2005 success will gratefully remain the focus for most.

While Joaquin is by no means the Betis regular he was 17 years ago when he was an exciting fleet-footed winger, this occasion will still be all about him in the build-up, with there also a degree of aptness around the fact Saturday's game is taking place in Seville, at La Cartuja.

This campaign is expected to be Joaquin's last as a player. Now 40, his contract expires at the end of the season and in November he hinted retirement was likely in 2022. Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini quickly looked to sweep that under the rug, adamant such decisions will wait until 2021-22 is finished, and there's been very little public discussion of the subject from he or Joaquin since.

It's easy to understand why many aren't predicting another year of Joaquin in LaLiga, though. Even if you ignore the fairly important point of his age, his time on the pitch has reduced significantly this term.

In LaLiga he has made only two starts this season and in total featured for just 395 minutes. Of course, he's been used across multiple competitions in 2021-22 and was named in the starting XI eight times in the Europa League.

But while his 31 appearances is actually one more than in 2020-21, his minutes-per-game average of 36 (1,117 total) is 12.4 minutes fewer than last term, highlighting how he's become even more of a peripheral figure.

But that's not to say his influence has waned. Pellegrini stood aside before the first leg of their Copa semi-final defeat of Rayo Vallecano to let Joaquin deliver a speech.

He said: "Look each other in the eyes. We are here because of ourselves. I don't know if I should talk to you as a team-mate, friend or captain, but I will do it as a Betico, because I know what many of them must be feeling here today.

"They are going to be there until the death. The Beticos, and this club, have suffered for a long time. Sacrifice and effort lead to glory. That's the reward.

"I had an uncle who used to say, and he taught me this, that there's nothing more beautiful than making other people happy – today we have that chance. We're going to go out there and show we want to be in that final."

Betis fell behind early on in that game in Vallecas but went on to win the game 2-1. They then looked to be heading for extra time when Bebe spectacularly put Rayo ahead with 80 minutes played of the second leg in Seville, but a moment of inspiration from Joaquin right at the end opened the Rayo defence up.

He brought down a cross-field pass, glided away from Bebe and slipped a perfectly weighted pass in behind the defence for Sergio Canales, whose prodded pass was deflected towards goal and tapped in by Borja Iglesias.

The entire Betis bench and staff mobbed Joaquin at full-time, fully aware of what their achievement meant to him – but it was also a show of appreciation, with the veteran's cameo showing he remains a very useful option.

On a per-90-minute basis across all competitions this season, Joaquin tops Betis' charts for assists (0.32), expected assists (0.29) and chances created (2.9), while his 4.3 dribbles attempted is bettered by only three players.

 

Of course, his sample size is much smaller than the likes of Nabil Fekir and Canales – the point isn't that he's better than them, simply that he's packing a lot of quality into his relatively brief appearances.

Don't expect to see his name in Betis' line-up on Saturday, but do not be surprised if he comes on and makes a telling impact – given the legendary status he holds not only at Betis but also in LaLiga, there'll be many willing him to enjoy a successful end to a fine career.

Let's not forget, his 595 LaLiga appearances is a record for an outfield player, while only one man in Spanish top-flight history has appeared in more seasons (Miguel Soler, 20) than his 19.

Assuming he does in fact play some part on Saturday, it will be his 106th Copa del Rey appearance, extending another record among non-goalkeepers.

A 17th wedding anniversary might not be a big milestone for most, but you can count on Joaquin bringing the Copa along for the celebrations if Betis succeed this weekend.

Manchester United's search for a permanent manager continues to take up plenty of column inches, with a new name now entering the mix.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax chief Erik ten Hag have long been considered the two frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford.

But a somewhat surprise candidate is now reportedly being considered to succeed interim manager Ralf Rangnick on a short-term basis at the end of the campaign.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI A CONTENDER FOR UNITED

According to ESPN, United may look to appoint Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti as they explore contingency plans in their pursuit of a new manager.

While Pochettino and Ten Hag remain on the Red Devils' managerial shortlist, Ancelotti is said to be seen as an ideal short-term fix thanks to his vast experience.

The Italian has previously spent time in English football with Everton and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup with the latter in 2009-10.

Ancelotti is currently in his second spell with Madrid and has another two seasons to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.


ROUND-UP

- PSG have offered Kylian Mbappe a contract worth €50million a year to fend off interest from rival clubs, according to Le Parisian. Madrid are the strong favourites to sign the France international should he depart the Parc des Princes as a free agent in July.

- Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are also set to be out of contract at Chelsea in the next few months and are not short of potential suitors. Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona are confident of signing the pair, while Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui and Jose Gaya of Valencia are also targets.

- Madrid are hoping to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back ahead of next season and have a few potential options already lined up. That is according to El Nacional, with Man Utd's Diogo Dalot, Norwich City's Max Aarons and Pedro Porro of Sporting CP all mentioned.

- Sport claims that Barcelona are on course to wrap up contract extensions for Ronald Araujo and Gavi before the end of the month. Rising star Gavi will supposedly be offered a five-year deal that will include a mammoth release clause to ensure he stays at Camp Nou for the long term.

- Former Germany international Julian Weigl is nearing the end of his time at Benfica and has been offered to teams across the continent, according to Calciomercato. The Italian outlet suggests than Milan would prefer to sign Renato Sanches, potentially giving Roma a clear run for the €35m-rated midfielder.

Jose Bordalas dedicated Valencia's victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey semi-finals to the club's "incredible" fans.

A spectacular strike from Goncalo Guedes sealed a 1-0 win at Mestalla on Wednesday and a 2-1 aggregate triumph for Valencia, as they reached the final for the second time in four seasons.

Athletic, who had lost the past two finals, only managed a single shot on target in the match as the home side, roared on by the Mestalla crowd, kept them comfortably at bay.

Valencia have won just eight of 26 LaLiga games under Bordalas this season but will now face either Real Betis or Rayo Vallecano in the final for the chance to lift a trophy and qualify for the Europa League.

"It's a feeling of enormous, incredible satisfaction," said the former Getafe boss.

"It was a case of be in the final or don't be. The little they created against us, we solved in a remarkable way. We were the fair winners of this semi-final. We're in the final on our own merit.

"These fans and this pitch are incredible. I always wanted to manage Valencia and getting to the final will give us a lot of confidence and will unite us.

"What I experienced when I arrived, I was very surprised. I couldn't explain it. I've experienced similar moments, but not like this.

"The fans all deserved that we went through. On the pitch, I couldn't even communicate with the players. Everything was shaking. This gave us incredible strength and energy."

 

Marcelino was in charge of Valencia for their Copa triumph in 2019 and took Athletic to the 2019-20 and 2020-21 finals, where they were beaten by Real Sociedad and Barcelona.

After falling short in his quest for a fourth consecutive final, the Athletic boss said his side had been punished for a lacklustre performance in the first leg.

"Firstly, we have to congratulate Valencia," he said.

"It was a very even tie, but in the first leg we weren't at a good level, and we paid for it. Here, we stood up really well, and we were superior to Valencia in the first half, but a great goal from Guedes decided the tie.

"In the second half, we maybe lacked freshness, a reading of the game. We were losing our positional play as the minutes went by and maybe our best men, or the most decisive in the second half, didn't have their best night.

"We did everything possible to reach the final. We just needed one goal to go to extra time until the 95th minute, but we didn't hit the opposition goal, and we were penalised for that.

"We would have liked to have had a final with fans. Now, we ask that they continue to support us. The team deserves it because it was only small details that decided the tie."

Valencia reached the Copa del Rey final for the third time this century as Goncalo Guedes' strike secured a 2-1 aggregate semi-final win over Athletic Bilbao.

The Portugal international's powerful effort two minutes before half-time sealed a 1-0 second-leg win at Mestalla to send Los Che through.

Winners in 2008 and 2019, Valencia will now contest the final against either Real Betis or Rayo Vallecano, who meet in the second leg of their semi-final on Thursday.

Athletic had eliminated Barcelona and Real Madrid from this season's competition but could not lift themselves after Guedes' goal and were unable to reach the final for the third year running.

After 40 tense minutes of few chances, Inaki Williams was played through on goal by Iker Muniain but dithered on the ball and was denied by goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala.

Just two minutes later, a free-kick was cleared to Guedes 25 yards from goal, he took a touch into space and blasted a superb strike well beyond the reach of Giorgi Mamardashvili.

Athletic pushed for a way back in the second half, but their final product was lacking. Williams miscontrolled at just the wrong moment, and Muniain cut inside and curled a shot a yard over.

A fierce free-kick from Inigo Martinez was well held by Mamardashvili, who had mostly been protected superbly by a disciplined back three.

Athletic had a few late set-pieces to send towards the Valencia box, but there was little to unnerve the jubilant home fans.

 

What does it mean? Valencia seize chance to rescue season

Valencia are ninth in LaLiga, 11 points outside the European places, so the Copa has represented one of the few bright spots in their season.

The chance to win the trophy for the ninth time and qualify for next season's Europa League is therefore a hugely welcome one for Jose Bordalas.

For Athletic, who had performed so well to eliminate Barca and Madrid in the previous rounds, this will feel like a missed opportunity.

Guedes' golden touch

In a contest of few clear-cut chances, it fell to Guedes to settle things with a spectacular effort from outside the box.

It was one of just four shots on target throughout, but it was worthy of winning any match.

More Copa misery for Muniain

Athletic's captain and inspiration, Muniain was exceptional in the earlier rounds to drag his side towards a possible third final in a row.

However, he could not influence proceedings at Mestalla, creating only one goalscoring chance throughout and failing to test Mamardashvili.

What's next?

Valencia host Granada in LaLiga on Saturday, while Athletic are at home to Levante next Monday.

Xavi and Sergio Busquets hailed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the former Arsenal man netted a hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 hammering of Valencia.

The Gabon striker netted either side of Frenkie De Jong's tap-in to give Barca a 3-0 half-time lead, before completing his treble in bizarre circumstances on the hour-mark, after Carlos Soler had pulled one back for Valencia.

Barcelona's fourth goal of Sunday's LaLiga contest was originally credited to Pedri, but has since been awarded to the 32-year-old, who got the slightest of touches on the youngster's long-range effort.

It was the first time Aubameyang, who was making his first LaLiga start, has scored multiple goals in a league game since he helped himself to a hat-trick for Arsenal against Leeds United 12 months ago, and Xavi was thrilled with the forward's contribution.

"He has scored goals his entire career," he said. 

"It was to be expected that he would score here soon too. He goes very well to [find] space, he is mature, he is very intelligent.

"I am delighted with him. These goals will be very good for him."

Aubameyang's opening goal made him just the fourth player to score in the Spanish, English, German, and French top flights this century, after Stevan Jovetic, Michy Batshuayi, and James Rodriguez, while the striker also became the first Gabonese player to net in LaLiga.

 

Barca captain Busquets was equally effusive in his praise for his new team-mate.

"He is working very well, he arrived with a lack of minutes, but he is getting them [now]. He is a great player and it is a luxury to have him in the squad, [especially] after arriving for free," Busquets said.

"Without Aubameyang's help, perhaps the goalkeeper would have been able to stop it [Barcelona's fourth goal]."

Although Pedri saw the final goal of the match taken away from him, the quality of his initial strike did not go unnoticed by Xavi, who said the midfielder is amongst the most talented players in world football.

"He is superlative," the Barca boss said. "At that level of talent, there is no other [player] in the world like Pedri, and he is only 19 years old.

"We ask him to shoot [more often]. We demand it, he has a good shot. He is very young and shy, but not everyone has the skills he has."

Barcelona moved into LaLiga's top four with the win, scoring four or more goals in a single away league game against Valencia for the first time since December 1993.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his first goals for Barcelona as Xavi's team moved back into LaLiga's top four with a 4-1 thrashing of Valencia.

Aubameyang's double and one from Frenkie de Jong gave the visitors a commanding half-time lead at the Mestalla, with the hosts having two goals ruled out before the break.

Carlos Soler pulled one back for Valencia, before Pedri's superb strike added some gloss to the scoreline on the hour mark.

The victory moved the rejuvenated Catalan giants above Atletico Madrid into fourth place as they chase Champions League qualification.

After a scrappy start to the contest, Aubameyang netted his first goal for the Blaugrana on 22 minutes, racing onto Jordi Alba's pass before hammering home at Giorgi Mamardashvili's near post.

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