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Barca chief criticises Saudi transfers, says ‘players are too focused on money’

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta has criticised players accepting transfers to the Saudi Pro League this summer, insisting they are too focused on money.

The Saudi league have recruited aggressively this summer, offering enormous contracts to a number of players across Europe in an attempt to drastically increase the popularity of the division.

Even Barcelona are set to lose a player to the Saudi Pro League, with midfielder Franck Kessie closing in on a €15m (£13m) switch to Al Ahli, despite both Juventus and Tottenham exploring deals to keep him in Europe.

While the money is an obvious boost for Barcelona, Laporta believes players are making the wrong choices by moving to Saudi Arabia.

“When a player, and with all respect, prefers to go to Saudi Arabia, basically there are no sporting reasons,” he told CNN. “You know, there are other reasons that are the priority. And the football must be the priority – the sporting reasons must be the priority.”

Centre-back Clement Lenglet has also been linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League but, like Kessie, also has interest from Tottenham, where he spent last season on loan.

Barcelona are looking to offload a handful of first-team stars this summer, although their need to raise funds has been reduced by the surprise exit of Ousmane Dembele, who is on the cusp of a €50m move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca had wanted to part ways with other wingers, namely Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres, but were rocked by Dembele’s desire to return to France and have agreed the terms of a sale.

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European Leagues

Tella Helps Leverkusen Break Bayern’s Record After Win Against Mainz

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Nathan Tella was in action for Bayer Leverkusen who secured a hard fought 2-1 win against Mainz in the Bundesliga on Friday night.

Tella came on in the 83rd minute and helped Leverkusen hold on to their lead and claim the three points.

His Nigerian teammate Victor Boniface is still out with injury.

The win means Leverkusen stretched its lead to 11 points over champions Bayern Munich in the league table.

Also, Xabi Alonso’s men set a German record of 33 games unbeaten across all competitions.

Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka fired Leverkusen into a third-minute lead, after letting fly from outside the penalty area for his first goal on his 31st appearance for the club.

But Dominik Kohr replied for the visitors with a header at the other end four minutes later.

In the 68th minute Leverkusen went 2-1 up thanks to Robert Andrich’s harmless-looking shot which Mainz keeper failed to hold.

With 10 minutes left Mainz were reduced to 10 men when Jessic Ngankam was sent off after a VAR check for a dangerous tackle on Xhaka.

Bayern Munich could reduce the 11-point gap to eight if they beat Leipzig on Saturday.

Meanwhile, 11 rounds of fixtures would remain after this weekend.

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If I score, I won’t celebrate it – says Ramos ahead of Real Madrid clash

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Sergio Ramos will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he left Real Madrid in 2021 to join PSG, when he lines up for Sevilla on Sunday.

The veteran defender won five La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in his 16-year spell at Real, scoring 101 goals in 671 appearances.

Ramos, back at boyhood club Sevilla, says he will not celebrate if he scores.

“I wouldn’t celebrate but if I happen to score and it was enough for us to win I would be delighted, those three points would be very good for us,” Ramos told the La Liga website.

Ramos is aware of the difficulty of the match for Sevilla against the league leaders, Real Madrid, who approach the game after drawing in Vallecas and having a week without matches.

“Real Madrid is always the favorite to win everything. They’re in a good moment, leading the league, and have players of extraordinary magnitude and quality. We know very well the ground we’re going to step on, and we’ll try in one way or another to have a good game there,” he said.

he recalled how close they were in the first leg at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. “We played Madrid head-to-head, we had chances to win. Kepa made a very good save from my header that would have given us the victory. When the team is compact, we’re all together, we play with good intensity, and we press high, we’re a guerrilla team.”

Ramos didn’t reveal his plans for next season, proud of the decision he made to return to Sevilla after his adventure at PSG.

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Pep Guardiola admits Kevin De Bruyne is not ’100 per cent’

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The Belgian international sat out City’s 1-0 win over Brentford on Tuesday as the 32-year-old had some niggles. Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Guardiola revealed De Bruyne “did not feel comfortable” playing against the Bees, but he is very likely to be in the squad for the clash against the Cherries.

The Spaniard told reporters on Friday: “He’s [De Bruyne] good – not injured. He’s better. I don’t know if he is 100 per cent but we took a good decision to not take a risk, apart from the result, if the result was not good, people would ask why he didn’t play. He didn’t feel comfortable.

“We have training at 4pm [Friday]. The day after the game he didn’t train and yesterday everyone was off, but he trained by himself. Today [Friday] we will assess. I am sure he will travel.”

City are still in the hunt for a second-straight treble (Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League) despite appearing to be at a lower level to where they were at this point last season. For much of the campaign they have been without the influential midfielder due to injury but when he is fit he makes a huge difference. Therefore, managing his minutes is key.

After City take on Andoni Iraola’s Bournemouth this weekend, Guardiola’s side travel to Luton Town in round five of the FA Cup on Tuesday. They then host rivals Manchester United on March 3 in the Premier League.

 

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