Barcelona have a strong new-look XI next season with Cesar Azpilicueta and Adama Traore

Barcelona are set to have a new-look starting XI next season, as rumours suggest they are interested in signing Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Wolves winger Adama Traore

Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay nowXavi unveiled as new Barcelona managerByTom BlowSports Writer

  • 15:25, 27 Jan 2022
  • Updated15:55, 27 Jan 2022
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Last year will not be remembered fondly by Barcelona fans.

The Catalan giants were dumped out of the Champions League, accumulated more than £1billion of debt and lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet things are looking up under new manager Xavi. They're fifth in La Liga – just one point behind Atletico Madrid in fourth – and will be confident of winning the Europa League.

Xavi has also signed two key players – club legend Dani Alves and Manchester City talent Ferran Torres – and many more are expected to follow in the near future.

According to GOAL, Barcelona are confident of luring Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta to the Nou Camp on a free transfer this summer when his existing deal expires.

Who should Barcelona sign in January? Let us know in the comments below!

Cesar Azpilicueta is on Barcelona's radar
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Image:
Getty Images)

And, as reported by Sky Sports, the La Liga outfit are in talks with Wolves to re-sign winger Adama Traore.

Barcelona are believed to have made a loan bid for the 25-year-old, who came through the ranks at the Nou Camp, with an option to buy him for £29million this summer.

They are also thought to be considering a move for Manchester United star Alex Telles, offering Jordi Alba some competition at left-back.

Should Xavi pull off all three deals, he will have a stellar team at his disposal next season.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen will remain Barcelona's undisputed No1 goalkeeper, although he will have a different defence in front of him.

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Youngsters Ronald Araujo and Eric Garcia could form a long-term partnership at centre-back, with Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Azpilicueta offering experience in reserve.

Azpilicueta is likely to be deployed at right-back, although he could push into the middle and Dani Alves, Sergino Dest or Sergi Roberto could fill in for him.

Alternatively, if Xavi wants to play three at the back, he could deploy Azpilicueta or Traore at right wing-back. Either Telles or Alba could slot in down the other flank.

Adama Traore could be set for a return to the Nou Camp
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Image:
Offside via Getty Images)

Sergio Busquets is likely to keep his place in defensive midfield and two of Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong will play either side of the skipper.

In attack, Xavi has plenty of options, including Traore, Torres, Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and perhaps even Alvaro Morata.

Barcelona are reportedly pursuing a deal for the Juventus striker and could even turn their attention to Arsenal ace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if they fail to land Morata.

And Ousmane Dembele could still be part of Xavi's plans. According to Spanish outlet Sport, the World Cup winner wants to extend his existing deal, which expires in June.

Barcelona's potential XI in 2022/23

Preferred (4-3-3)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Cesar Azpilicueta, Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia, Alex Telles

Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong

Memphis Depay, Ansu Fati, Osumane Dembele

Alternative (5-3-2)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Adama Traore, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba

Sergi Roberto, Serigo Busquets, Gavi

Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres

With so many talented players being linked with Barcelona – not to mention those already at the club – president Joan Laporta is confident the team can compete again.

"We're working on the summer window," said Laporta earlier this month. "Everything is possible if it's done well. I am sure things will go well.

"Barcelona are still a reference. Every player considers the possibility of coming here. We still have our status in the transfer market.

"Everyone can get ready because Barca are back… we're a reference. Barca's resurgence is a reality and the football world has realised that."

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  • Jose Mourinho’s Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi point proving more relevant than ever

    The debate regarding Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi has increased this season after summer transfers to Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain respectively

    Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay nowPremier League title race: Man City maintain healthy lead at topByBen HusbandDigital Sports Writer

    • 15:44, 27 Jan 2022
    • Updated15:55, 27 Jan 2022
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    Last summer provided a perfect opportunity to truly reignite one of football’s most divisive debates: Who is better, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

    After almost two decades at the top of world football, battle lines have been drawn, with both camps as loyal as the other.

    With 12 Ballon d’Or crowns between them, there is no question that when they do eventually call it a day, this era will be known as theirs.

    The pair have records that wouldn’t look out of place from 1920s football, let alone in 2022.

    But with Ronaldo and Messi both deciding to move on from their old clubs last year, comparisons have quickly returned.

    JOIN THE DEBATE! Who is the better player, Ronaldo or Messi? Cast your vote here

    The debate over the greatest player of all time often centres around Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
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    It hasn’t been plain sailing for Ronaldo. The Manchester United that he returned to in 2021 is far and away from the one he left more than a decade earlier.

    Dominance has shifted to dysfunction, with managerial changes, unhappiness with owners and no Premier League titles in eight years.

    But he has managed to find the net 14 times in 23 games for the Red Devils and while his overall performances have been questioned, his goalscoring record can’t be.

    Messi meanwhile has endured a similarly up-and-down start to his life away from Barcelona, stunning the football world when he left Barcelona and the security of the Camp Nou for the first time in his career.

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    In contrast to Ronaldo, the side Messi joined, Paris Saint-Germain, are cruising towards domestic honours, but his goal return has been somewhat less impressive.

    In 12 Ligue 1 games Messi has just one goal, with the majority of his scoring feats coming in Europe.

    But his continued profligacy in front of goal in the league has led credence to those in the Ronaldo camp that Messi was only able to perform whilst at Barcelona.

    That was always the view of Jose Mourinho, who had first-hand experience of managing Ronaldo during his stint at Real Madrid.

    Jose Mourinho claime Ronaldo's journey was more difficult than his old rival's
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    Image:
    REUTERS)

    Asked to compare the two, Mourinho claimed Ronaldo had cleared more obstacles to reach his level, while Messi was able to grow and flourish in the same surroundings his entire career.

    "It is harder to be Cristiano than Messi,” Mourinho told A Bola in 2012. “Messi grew up in the team where he plays, with the players with whom he plays. Not Cristiano.

    “He was in England, then they put him here in a losing team. He had to grow over the last two years with this team which has been forming.”

    He added: "When someone with the same responsibility as me comes out and says: 'Mine is the best on the planet' then I have to say: ‘Mine was not born in Madeira, he was born on Mars; he is not from planet Earth, he is the best in the universe.

    "If Messi is the best on the planet, Ronaldo is the best in the universe. It would be a crime if Ronaldo did not win the Ballon d'Or."

    Sir Alex Ferguson once said Ronaldo could play for anyone and score a hat-trick

    It’s a very similar argument to Sir Alex Ferguson’s, who labelled Messi as a “Barcelona player”, while pointing to the fact that his protege could perform for any team in the world. Backed up by his exploits in Portugal, Spain, Italy and England.

    "People say who is the best player in the world? And plenty of people quite rightly say Messi – you can't dispute that opinion,” Ferguson said in 2015.

    "But Ronaldo could play for Millwall, Queens Park Rangers, Doncaster Rovers… anyone, and score a hat-trick in a game. I'm not sure Messi could do it.

    "Ronaldo's got two feet, he's quick, great in the air, he's brave – Messi's brave, of course. I think Messi's a Barcelona player."

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  • Newcastle suffer fresh transfer blow as Ashley Young latest to snub Eddie Howe

    Ashley Young and Steven Gerrard have a big mutual respect at Aston Villa

    But Gerrard, whose first team skipper is Tyrone Mings, still values Young highly and can use him on the right or higher up the pitch.

    The former Manchester United ace has been made aware of interest from Newcastle but the Geordies have cooled their interest after Young opted to stay.

    Watford could also try to prise him away as Young earned 11 of his 39 caps for England under Hodgson.

    But Young rejected the chance to rejoin local boyhood club Watford in the summer when he chose to return to Villa instead.

    After his appointment at Aston Villa, Gerrard spoke enthusiastically about Young’s leadership skills.

    “I know Ashley extremely well and he’s been absolutely outstanding since we walked through the door. Not just on the training pitch but his leadership and standard-setting,” said Gerrard.

    “We see players like him as an outer-layer of the staff, if you like, who really help us when we need to lean on him.

    “The big thing about Ash is he can play right-back, left-back, he can play as an eight, a 10 or wide.

    “That’s what good players allow you to do as a manager, allow you to play in different ways.”

    Young was an unused sub on the bench in Villa’s last two matches after missing three games with a toe injury.

    England manager Roy Hodgson and Ashley Young at a training session
    (Image: PA)

    Gerrard has already added Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Robin Olsen and young defender Kerr Smith this month.

    Now he is also chasing Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur for £16m to replace the injured Marvelous Nakamba.

    He has also suggested Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, who only has 18 months left on his contract, could earn a new deal once the window is shut.

    The Brazil international has made 86 Premier League appearances since joining Villa from Manchester City for £15million in 2019 and has remained a regular under Gerrard, starting the last eight matches.

    Douglas Luiz could be in line for a new Aston Villa contract once the transfer window shuts amid interest in him
    (Image: James Williamson – AMA)

    Gerrard said: “Dougie has done OK for us. We’ve been happy with his training level and the performances he has given.

    “We believe there’s room for him to improve. He’s doing us a job as a No.6 at the moment. We know that he prefers to play a bit more advanced but he’s helped us out an awful lot on the back of Nakamba’s injury.

    “We rate the player extremely high and we’re hoping from now until the end of the season, he can really perform at his best and help the team moving forward.

    “No, we haven’t opened contract talks yet. In this period and this window, it has been about trying to strengthen the current squad, make additions and also find destinations on loan for some of our young players.”