Robert Lewandowski has made a strong first impression at Barcelona, with manager Xavi calling him "an unbelievable signing".

Lewandwoski made his first appearance for his new club in their 1-0 friendly win against Real Madrid on Saturday, starting up top before being subbed off at half-time.

The 2021 Ballon d'Or runner-up is coming off seven consecutive seasons of at least 40 goals in club competition, with Barcelona hoping he is still at the peak of his powers despite turning 34 years old next month.

Speaking to the media about the club's new front-man, Xavi had nothing but praise.

"[Lewandowski] has adapted really well," he said. "He's very humble – he's won almost everything in the world of football. 

"He has the humility to work hard for the team, and for us he's an unbelievable signing. So really good, really happy to have Robert in the team, and [against Madrid] he adapted really well. 

"He controlled the ball when Madrid pressed high, he understood really well when it was his moment to control and play for the attacking midfielders or for the defensive midfielder. 

"He went deep many times, so we are talking about the top player in the world of football."

Barcelona boss Xavi insists he was not trying to send any message to Frenkie de Jong by playing him out of position in defence after being subbed on at half-time in their 1-0 friendly win against Real Madrid.

De Jong, 25, has been at the centre of Barcelona's transfer discussions this off-season, with the widespread belief that the club must sell him to balance their books after expensive moves for Leeds United winger Raphinha and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Dutch international is not totally inexperienced in defence, but he is undoubtedly more comfortable in the centre of midfield, but with plenty of competition for that position, Xavi said he was simply taking advantage of De Jong's versatility.

"No, I didn't send any messages," he said. "I think [De Jong] can be adapted. 

"The message is personal and already chatted with him. He knows he is valued. I value him a lot as a footballer – he knows… for me, he is a fundamental footballer for the team's game. 

"Then, I insist, there is an economic situation in the club, the situation of [financial] fair play, but for me there is no doubt that he is a very important footballer, and playing as a central defender he can give us many things. 

"We have signed Andreas [Chistensen], we also have Eric [Garcia], we have Gerard [Pique], we have Ronald [Araujo] there, who can also adapt as a full-back.

"We now have a lot of competition and that is good for the team, but Frenkie can adapt very well as a centre-back. He sees the game very well when he controls the ball, he doesn't lose the ball and I like it. 

"No, that position is not a message. I would never do it as a coach."

Barcelona's next friendly is against Juventus on Tuesday.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has rubbished reports the club have accepted an offer from Manchester United for midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

Erik ten Hag is keen to reunite with the 25-year-old, whom he managed at Ajax, and United have been pushing to bring the Netherlands international to Old Trafford.

The financial situation of Barcelona has been identified as a reason why the Catalan side may be tempted to sell, with reports stating the club have accepted an offer from the Premier League side but De Jong himself is yet to be persuaded by a move.

Such claims have been refuted by Laporta, who made it clear to ESPN that no bids for De Jong have been accepted.

"Frenkie de Jong is our player, we really like him," he said.

"We received some offers for Frenkie but we didn't accept as of now, as we want to talk with him and know exactly what he wants. We need to clarify some aspects of his situation."

Laporta's stance on De Jong was echoed by Xavi, although the Barcelona coach admitted the financial situation could affect the proceedings heading into the final month of the transfer window.

"I’m not here to send messages. I already spoke with Frenkie, I value him very much. He's a key player, but then there's economic situation and Financial Fair Play," he said following Barcelona's 1-0 pre-season win against Real Madrid.

Xavi also dropped a hint on plans to utilise De Jong's versatility next season, adding: "He can give us a lot also as a centre back."

Barcelona boss Xavi has claimed there are "no friendlies" for the Blaugrana, while sidestepping questions over a potential move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

The Catalan club continued their pre-season preparations in the United States with a 1-0 victory in an overseas iteration of El Clasico against Real Madrid, thanks to a glorious strike from new recruit Raphinha in Las Vegas.

With Robert Lewandowski handed a club debut, the future continues to look rosy for Barca as they seek to reverse two years of diminishing gains with a high-risk transfer policy to reclaim their crown in La Liga.

Part of that process comes down to a mental belief that every game is there to be won, per their coach, who says that even pre-season tests cannot be interpreted as kick-about games.

"There are no friendlies at Barcelona," Xavi stated after his side triumphed over their rivals. "[We want to] win titles again. Everyone starts from scratch - we don't go by your name."

Asked about Kounde - who looks set to move to Chelsea amid talk of Barca hijacking the transfer - the Spaniard sidestepped a direct answer, merely adding: "We are trying to strengthen all the positions."

Xavi was happier to wax lyrical about Raphinha and Lewandowski, with the two attacking talents the most significant fruits of Barca's transfer dealings, having arrived from Leeds and Bayern Munich respectively.

"[Raphinha] makes a difference," he added. "He's dynamic on the wings. Robert is a world-class star who has adapted very quickly. They'll give competition to the rest of the squad - they'll have to wake up soon."

Barcelona continue their pre-season campaign with another heavyweight European clash against Juventus in Dallas on Tuesday, before wrapping up their American tour against New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

Robert Lewandowski made his debut for Barcelona as they defeated Real Madrid 1-0 in their pre-season friendly in Las Vegas on Saturday.

The 33-year-old had to share the spotlight with Raphinha however, with the latter's lone goal ultimately proving the difference in the 27th minute.

With Xavi also able to take his place on the touchlines after he was allowed entry into the United States, the Blaugrana started close to what could be considered a full-strength starting XI, with Andreas Christensen starting ahead of Gerard Pique.

Carlo Ancelotti kept a number of starters on the bench to begin the match, with the trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos eased in along with Ferland Mendy, while Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga were paired in midfield to start.

Raphinha scored what would be the winning goal midway through the first half in what was an ultimately timid affair, firing home from the top of the penalty area after a quick regain of possession up the pitch for Barcelona.

Modric, Kroos and Casemiro were introduced while the likes of Pedri and Sergio Busquets came off in the second half, creating the aura of a sparring match, and Barcelona held out despite chances to Ousmane Dembele.

Caretaker Barcelona boss Oscar Hernandez conceded it will be the "first and last time" he runs a game from the touchlines, after his side's 6-0 win over Inter Miami on Tuesday.

There were six different goal scorers for Barca as they played the opening game of their tour in the United States, with Gavi, Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembele adding to first half-goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raphinha and Ansu Fati.

With Xavi denied entry into the US reportedly after recent visits to Iran in the past five years with Qatari club Al-Sadd as a player and coach, his assistant was tasked with taking over on match day.

The 45-year-old, who was also an assistant at Al-Sadd, said post-match that he hopes his brother's issues can be resolved quickly, with Barcelona still to play Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls.

Nevertheless, he was content with Barca's performance.

"Hopefully it will be my first and last game," Hernandez said. "The situation is not easy for Xavi, but let's hope a solution is found and tomorrow he can be with us.

"We are very happy, because despite being a friendly, things have been seen. Those at the front have been very switched on and deploying mechanisms that we have worked on. We have to create competitiveness and that is how we will grow."

After confirming his transfer from Bayern Munich on Saturday, Robert Lewandowski did not make an appearance but the older Hernandez sibling believes he will an influential addition going forward.

"With his arrival we make a huge leap in quality, because he is a top player in the world," he said.

"The club has made a great effort, but we needed a top player. In addition, he is a footballer with a lot of commitment.

"For Xavi and the coaching staff it is a blessing to have so many forwards, because competitiveness is going to make the team grow.

Hernandez also saved special mention for Ansu Fati, who missed significant amounts of last season due to hamstring injuries.

Along with making it 3-0, the 19-year-old was impressive on Tuesday, providing Barcelona with dynamism they sorely lacked in the last campaign.

"It's like a new signing and a signing at a very high level," the assistant said. "He's growing a lot, physically he's getting better and better and we're very happy, because he's a reference."

Robert Lewandowski declared it was time for Barcelona to "get back on track" after securing his long-awaited move to Camp Nou, as the Poland international revealed he had always dreamed of playing in LaLiga.

Barcelona confirmed on Saturday they had reached an agreement in principle to sign Lewandowski from Bayern Munich, before completing a deal reportedly worth €50million for the 33-year-old on Sunday.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals across all competitions as Bayern won a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title last term, but made his desire to join the Catalan giants clear at the end of the season.

The 33-year-old leaves Bayern having scored 312 Bundesliga goals, a tally only bettered by legendary striker Gerd Muller (365), and will provide a new focal point for a Barcelona team which scored 12 goals fewer than LaLiga champions Real Madrid last season. 

Having joined his new Blaugrana team-mates in Florida ahead of a friendly against Inter Miami, Lewandowski has targeted restoring Barcelona to the top of the Spanish game, with the league title having evaded the club since 2018-19.

"Finally I'm here, I'm very happy," Lewandowski told the club's media channels. "The last few days were very long days but in the end, the deal is done, so I can focus on a new chapter in my life, a new challenge.

"I am always the guy who wants to win, not only the games but the titles, so I hope from the beginning of the season we're going to start by winning, and go to [win] titles at the end of the season.

"I always wanted to play in LaLiga, I wanted to play for the big clubs.

"Now it's my next step, this opportunity that I had. Also for my private life, it's a new challenge, a new life.

"It's time to get [Barcelona] back on track and that's why I'm here, to help Barcelona be on top and win as many titles as possible.

"For me, the goals are always high. We have so many good players with amazing quality, and we know that with this team we can achieve a lot this season, I'm sure it's going to be like that."

 

Lewandowski joins the likes of Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha in signing for Barcelona in this transfer window as Xavi looks to reshape his squad after finishing a distant second to Madrid in LaLiga last season.

And the striker believes Xavi is the ideal man to revive Barca after a difficult few seasons, as he revealed he had been in contact with the former midfielder throughout his transfer saga.

"I was speaking with Xavi, from the beginning I knew that his idea was going in a good way, with this idea it was easy for me to decide to come to Barcelona," he added.

"I know I'm the guy who wants to play, to win, and I think with Xavi it's very possible. 

"He knows exactly how to coach Barcelona because he was amazing player, now he's also a very good coach with an amazing future and I want to be part of this as well."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xavi was unable to travel to the United States with Barcelona on Saturday as red tape prevented the Spanish coach making the trip.

Widespread reports in Spain said the 42-year-old had been refused the right to enter the US alongside his players because of previous visits to Iran.

Xavi visited the country on AFC Champions League duty during his time with Qatari club Al Sadd, and Mundo Deportivo reported he was not immediately given permission to enter the US as a result.

The United States and Iran have no formal diplomatic relations, and those who have been to Iran may not be immediately eligible to travel to America.

Xavi is expected to be granted permission to travel early next week, reports said.

Barcelona confirmed their 28-player squad left El Prat airport at 14:30 local time on Saturday (13:30 BST), heading for Miami.

They are due to return on July 31 after pre-season games against Inter Miami, Real Madrid, Juventus and New York Red Bulls.

Officials including club president Joan Laporta also made the trip, but Barcelona said in a statement: "Coach Xavi Hernandez will not be taking today's flight for administrative reasons associated to his passport reasons.

"He is expected to join the rest of the squad in Miami in the next few days."

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

Jose Mourinho will return to Camp Nou in August to face Barcelona with his Roma side in the Joan Gamper Trophy.

The Gamper acts as the curtain-raiser for Barcelona's season, with the Blaugrana taking on Juventus in last year's edition, which was the first to involve both the men's and women's teams.

Barcelona announced on Wednesday that Roma are the chosen opposition for this year's version, with the games set to take place on August 6.

Mourinho will head back to the Camp Nou, where he was Louis van Gaal's assistant for three seasons until 2000, on the back of lifting the Europa Conference League with Roma.

The Portuguese coach is a largely unpopular figure among Blaugrana supporters after managing fierce rivals Real Madrid.

Mourinho guided Madrid to a LaLiga title, Copa del Rey crown and the Supercopa de Espana in his three seasons with Los Blancos.

It will not be the first appearance for Roma in the Gamper either, after the Serie A side were beaten 3-0 by Barcelona in the 2015 edition.

Santi Cazorla says Barcelona are fortunate to have his former team-mate and coach Xavi in the dugout, as he emphasised the importance of the Blaugrana holding onto young midfielders Pedri and Gavi.

Xavi led Barcelona to second place in LaLiga last term after returning to the club where he won three Champions Leagues as a player last November, having coached Cazorla as part of his only previous managerial assignment, at Qatari outfit Al Sadd.

Cazorla and Xavi were also team-mates during an immensely successful spell in the Spanish national team's history, with the former Arsenal and Villarreal midfielder featuring in triumphant European Championship campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Speaking to Barcelona's official media channels during a visit to Camp Nou on Friday, Cazorla said Xavi was the idea coach for the Catalan giants due to his long-standing ties with the club.

"For me, he has been a benchmark, as a footballer and as a person," Cazorla said of Xavi. "We have faced each other in many league games, we have coincided in the national team, and I was lucky to have him as a coach. 

"He is a spectacular person, and personally I think he is the ideal coach for Barca.

"He knows the club and for him, it's a dream to be here. He knows what the demand here is. I wish him the best."

Barcelona were ninth in LaLiga when Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman was sacked last October, having won just four of their opening 10 league games.

Xavi oversaw a dramatic upturn in the Blaugrana's fortunes after taking charge, as Barca won 17 of their last 26 league games, aided by the January arrivals of Dani Alves, Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Meanwhile, Cazorla also emphasised the importance of Barcelona – a club famous for producing diminutive creative midfielders – holding onto youngsters Pedri and Gavi.

While Pedri only made 12 LaLiga appearances during an injury-hit season, 17-year-old Gavi played 34 league games for Barca in the 2021-22 campaign, with Sergio Busquets (36 appearances) the only Blaugrana midfielder selected more frequently.

Gavi produced more league assists (five) than any of his fellow Barca midfielders throughout the course of the season, also creating 15 chances and boasting a passing accuracy of 89 per cent.

With Frenkie de Jong linked with Manchester United as Barcelona look to fund a move for Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, Cazorla says keeping the Spanish duo is imperative.

"They have to hold on to Pedri, Gavi... People who come out of the academy with strength," he added.

"I enjoy watching them play, it's nice. For the good of football, let's hope they make a good team."

The dominoes are starting to fall as Manchester United begin to carry out their transfer window plans.

Erik ten Hag's hire has inevitably led to another squad overhaul, and the rest of the market is in some way connected to who leaves and arrives at Old Trafford this off-season.

Reports suggest one of those arrivals could make for a reunion between the new manager and a former player of his.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MOVE ON FRENKIE DE JONG

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is looking to reunite with Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong,   according to Fabrizio Romano.

After announcing the departures of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, United are moving quickly for replacements and have reportedly commenced discussions with the Blaugrana.

While it is understood De Jong would like to remain with Barcelona amid their own rebuild under Xavi, it could ultimately be dependent on the club.

Although De Jong reportedly desires Champions League football, it could be a moot point if Manchester United meet a £72.5million (€85m) asking price. 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah would prefer to join a Premier League rival at the end of next season if a new deal cannot be agreed upon, per the Athletic.

– Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla over the potential transfer of highly rated France defender Jules Kounde, according to Sport.

– Manchester City remain keen on signing England midfielder Kalvin Phillips but Leeds United want to retain the player after securing Premier League safety, the Sun reports.

Real Madrid are looking to sign Jude Bellingham, but Borussia Dortmund are not willing to sell the player until the end of next season, Bild is reporting.

Manchester United and Chelsea are experiencing significant transformation this off-season, albeit for varying reasons.

While the Red Devils undertake yet another rebuild under a new manager, Chelsea are in the midst of ownership takeover.

It is reportedly creating the perfect storm for a shock transfer.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE SHOCK MOVE FOR MOUNT

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is considering a move for Chelsea midfielder  Mason Mount according to the Sun.

The England international has seen talks for a renewed contract at Stamford Bridge stall, amid the prolonged takeover of the club by Todd Boehly.

In dire need to rebuild his midfield, and following Mount since his loan spell with Vitesse Arnhem, Ten Hag has reportedly already relayed United's interest with Mount's camp.

Liverpool and Manchester City have also made enquiries for Mount meanwhile, who according to reports, remains one of Chelsea's lowest-paid players. 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool are tracking Rennes forward Martin Terrier as a replacement for Sadio Mane should he depart, according to the Mirror.

Barcelona boss Xavi has held talks with Portugal midfielder Ruben Neves over a potential transfer, per Sport.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is attracting interest from Everton and Newcastle United, the Athletic reports.

– The Guardian are reporting that Inter are exploring the possibility of a return for Romelu Lukaku.

Kylian Mbappe will not have long to wait until he wins the Ballon d'Or, according to Barcelona great Patrick Kluivert.

Mbappe was widely expected to join Real Madrid when his Paris Saint-Germain contract expired in June, but opted to sign a three-year extension in the French capital.

The 23-year-old cited the project changing at PSG as he hopes to secure a maiden Champions League success.

Mbappe was in scintillating form this campaign as he scored 28 league goals, a tally only bettered by Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (35) across Europe's top five leagues.

The France international also added 17 assists, with no player in Europe's biggest leagues managing more direct goal involvements (45) – Les Bleus team-mate Karim Benzema ranked second with 39.

Mbappe will look to deliver World Cup glory for France in Qatar later this year, and Kluivert believes it will only be a matter of time before the PSG talisman wins the Ballon d'Or.

"Mbappe is one of the best players out there at the moment," former PSG director of football Kluivert told Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo.

"I congratulate him on his recent renewal with the team. I think he will win the Ballon d'Or shortly."

 

Kluivert also discussed his former club Barca, who ended LaLiga in second despite languishing in ninth when Xavi took charge after Ronald Koeman's dismissal in late October.

Xavi will now be tasked with rebuilding in the transfer window as he looks to close the gap on Champions League and LaLiga winners Real Madrid.

Kluivert played with Xavi at Camp Nou, and backed his former team-mate to transform Barca's fortunes.

"Next season he will have many possibilities to improve the team, I have a lot of faith in him," Kluivert said.

"The club has very good young players who know the values ​​of the club. I am confident that Barca will return to where it was."

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