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Free transfers Barcelona could plot for 2023 summer transfer window

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Barcelona’s financial situation is still shambolic and it’s unlikely the club will be able to support Xavi’s exciting project with an array of lucrative signings this summer.

Players will have to depart in a bid to balance the books and loosen the purse strings somewhat, and we should see the free agent market targeted once again by La Blaugrana.

Fortunately, there are several marquee names who could potentially be available for nothing this summer.

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Here are six free agents Barcelona could target ahead of the 2023/24 campaign.

Milan Skriniar

Milan Skrinian is among Europe’s very best centre-backs / Marco Canoniero/GettyImages

While time is beginning to catch up with Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni’s form has taken a slide, Skriniar has remained an imperious figure in Inter’s defence.

The Slovakian defender has gone from strength to strength after initially struggling to settle in Antonio Conte’s back three during the Italian’s first season at the club. He’s established himself as one of Europe’s most stout defenders, and any side would be lucky to get ahold of him should he depart San Siro on a free transfer this summer.

Barcelona are pretty well stocked at centre-back with Andreas Christensen impressing since his move, but a player of Skriniar’s talent will be tough for La Blaugrana to overlook.

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Raphael Guerreiro

Raphael Guerreiro is set to leave Dortmund in the summer / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Jordi Alba continues to play at a high level, while 19-year-old Alejandro Balde looks destined to emerge as the Spaniard’s successor in Catalonia.

But Guerreiro’s potential availability in the summer could throw a spanner in the works. The diminutive left-back is a player that’d certainly suit Xavi’s system and his quality can’t be ignored.

He’s excellent in possession and always eager to make an impact in the final third. Although, his production has tailed off as of late, hinting that he needs a change of scenery to help rediscover his most potent form.

Guerreiro is destined to move on from Dortmund this summer, and he’ll certainly have his fair share of suitors.

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Ilkay Gundogan

Barcelona have been linked with a move for the Manchester City midfielder / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Barcelona are blessed with an array of young midfield stars, yet they could still bolster their core with the signing of veteran German international Ilkay Gundogan.

The impressively intelligent Manchester City midfielder has excelled in various functions at the Etihad, and it’d be interesting to see whether he drifts into a deeper position during the latter stages of his career.

Gundogan could rotate with the likes of Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong at the base of Barcelona’s midfield should La Blaugrana make a move for the impending free agent.

The La Liga giants hold a strong interest in the German, and this is a move that appears likely to happen.

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Youssoufa Moukoko

Young Youssoufa Moukoko is attracting plenty of interest / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Moukoko is already garnering plenty of interest for his services in the summer with the young striker’s contract at Dortmund running down.

The teenager is poised to move on with the likes of Chelsea and Newcastle interested. Barcelona, too, could join the party given their need at striker.

Sure, Robert Lewandowski remains one of the very best in the world but they need a succession plan. Memphis Depay doesn’t appear to be the answer and Moukoko could prove to be a savvy piece of business from Barça.

The teenager will be handed the chance to develop at his own rate while Lewandowski remains proficient before eventually emerging as the club’s long-term number nine.

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Marcus Thuram

Marcus Thuram endured World Cup heartbreak in the winter / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Thuram impressed for France during his limited appearances at the World Cup and will be available on a free transfer this summer should no club sign him at a discounted price in January.

The physically impressive forward has enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2022/23 following two lean years and, at 25, is yet to enter his prime years. Thuram’s versatility renders him an intriguing option for Barcelona, who could do with more depth up top and out wide, especially if the likes of Ferran Torres and Raphinha depart.

The French international is capable of functioning as a number nine and out on the left wing.

Lionel Messi, Leo Messi

Is it time for a reunion? / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

This is a reunion that the footballing world needs. It’s our answer to American Pie.

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2022 was the year of Lionel Messi after he conquered his final peak in Qatar by leading Argentina to World Cup glory off the back of a majestic individual campaign. His form for Paris Saint-Germain has been imperious, too, but there are no guarantees he’ll remain in the French capital beyond the summer.

Barcelona vice president Eduard Romeu said Messi’s reunion would be “possible financially” but added the final decision will be determined by the “coaching staff and the player”.

The Argentine has the option to extend his PSG stay by another year. Yawn.



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EPL

RB Leipzig End Liverpool’s Hopes of Early Naby Keita Move

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Naby Keita will not be allowed to ditch Leipzig for ​Liverpool in January, regardless of progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, according to Leipziger Volkszeitung.

It was announced during the summer that Liverpool had met Keita’s release clause and the Guinean midfielder would move to Anfield at the end of the 2017/18 season. 

However, recent speculation suggested that die Roten Bullen could be persuaded into letting Keita leave the club during the winter transfer window.

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“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” said RB Leipzig sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

“We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”

Leipzig have won just one Champions League game this season, with defeats to FC Porto and Besiktas making progression to the knockout stages a difficult task this year.

Following their impressive maiden season in the Bundesliga, in which RB Leipzig finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund, the Red Bulls will be desperate to make sure their Champions League status continues next season.

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The 22-year-old has struggled to replicate the incredible form he showed last year since the announcement of his move next summer. 

Questions about Keita’s disciplinary record have also arisen this season, the midfielder seeing three red cards for club and country in less than one month.



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Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes

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Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.

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Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

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The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.

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The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

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Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.

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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga

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Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.

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Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.

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That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)

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Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)



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