Signings likely as Barca eye midfield reinforcements

Barcelona have already splashed €118million ahead of the new La Liga season and head coach Ernesto Valverde says his transfer business is not finished there.

Young midfielder Arthur, his fellow Brazilian Malcom and French defender Clement Lenglet have all arrived at Camp Nou in a busy July.

They could soon be joined by further reinforcements as the Spanish champions attempt to plug the gaps left by Andres Iniesta’s move to Japan and Paulinho’s return to Guangzhou Evergrande on loan.

Amid ongoing links with Miralem Pjanic and Frenkie de Jong, Valverde admitted he was looking to strengthen his midfield options.

“We’re open to any possibility,” the Barca boss told reporters.

“It’s true that in the centre of the pitch we’ve lost important players in Andres and Paulinho so it’s likely that we will make more signings.

“We will try to build the most competitive squad possible.”

Barca are better stocked in the centre of defence, where the purchase of 23-year-old Lenglet has given them five clear contenders for a starting spot.

Reports suggest one of Yerry Mina and Thomas Vermaelen will be squeezed out, although Valverde was hesitant to discuss which way he was leaning.

“We’ll see how things go. There are a lot of rumours about defenders, we have to wait and see,” he said.

“What we try to do is have the best defenders and those we have are very good.”

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Arsenal 5 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Ozil scores on Gunners return

Mesut Ozil scored on his return to the Arsenal starting XI in an emphatic 5-1 International Champions Cup win over an unfamiliar Paris Saint-Germain side, while Alexandre Lacazette netted a brace.

Ozil, who captained the Gunners, has had a difficult couple of months that culminated in him retiring from international football last week after growing tired of perceived mistreatment from the German Football Federation (DFB).

That saga stemmed from a pre-World Cup meeting with controversial Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but he returned to Arsenal action in successful fashion on Saturday after his country’s shock group-stage exit in Russia.

Arsenal were dominant for much of the first period, a spell which essentially began with Ozil’s 13th-minute opener at the end of a fine move.

A host of chances went begging thereafter, as Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan squandered the best opportunities, and PSG briefly made them pay for their profligacy.

Timothy Weah was the inspiration, winning a penalty from Sead Kolasinac, and Christopher Nkunku converted in the 60th minute.

But the Gunners stepped things up again towards the end – Lacazette, who was brought on for Iwobi at the break, scoring twice in quick succession from close range, before Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah wrapped up an impressive win over coach Unai Emery’s former team.

Although PSG’s starting XI was packed with young players, they enjoyed a far greater start and almost made the most of their early pressure – Azzeddine Toufiqui sending a curling left-footed effort just wide from 20 yards after a brilliant marauding run from Adrien Rabiot.

Arsenal soon woke up, however, and took PSG’s inexperienced defence apart, as Aubameyang latched on to a pass into the right side of the area on the break and squared to Ozil for an easy finish past Gianluigi Buffon.

That ushered in a period of control and they almost got a second in the 23rd minute, but Iwobi was denied when one-on-one with Buffon at the end of a slick passing move.

Buffon was again alert just before the break, saving from Mkhitaryan, who probably should have done better.

PSG improved after the break and deservedly pulled level with an hour played – Nkunku coolly slotting home a penalty after Weah had been clumsily tripped by Kolasinac.

But they were not level for long, as Emile Smith Rowe – the scorer of a stunner against Atletico Madrid – provided a gorgeous right-wing cross a few moments later on his 18th birthday and Lacazette impressively flicked the ball in off the crossbar.

And Lacazette was decisive again 19 minutes from time, nodding in off the post from the middle of the box following a Holding flick-on.

Holding got in on the act in the 87th minute, meeting a corner about 16 yards out and sending a looping header into the top-left corner, before Nketiah rounded off the crushing victory in stoppage time, finishing off a swift break in clinical fashion.

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Oblak expects Real Madrid to replace Ronaldo with another star

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is not getting his hopes up about Real Madrid being slack in the transfer market after losing Cristiano Ronaldo, adamant they will bring in a genuine “star” to take his place.

Ronaldo’s Madrid departure came as something of a shock after Portugal’s participation in the World Cup ended, the forward joining Serie A champions Juventus.

The Ballon d’Or holder followed Zinedine Zidane out of the club in search of a new challenge after helping them to a third successive Champions League title, the coach leaving because he doubted the team’s ability to keep winning after seeing them struggle in LaLiga last term.

Madrid ended the domestic season third behind Barcelona and Atletico, and while Ronaldo’s departure is a boost to both of their rivals, Oblak is expecting a major signing to be made, with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard the most regularly linked.

When asked if Ronaldo’s sale gives Atletico the upper-hand in their rivalry, Oblak told reporters: “Last season we finished in front of Real Madrid.

“Ronaldo is one of the best in history, so Madrid have lost an important player, but I’m sure they will buy another star.

“They will always have a great team, so it will be difficult to say [who has the upper-hand] before the season starts. We will have to see how the season goes.”

Oblak himself was tentatively linked with Liverpool towards the conclusion of last season, though it was swiftly established he has a €100 million (£89m/$116m) release clause in his contract, effectively ending the speculation.

As such, Alisson became the most expensive goalkeeper in history when the Reds agreed a deal with Roma which could reach €72.5m (£65m/$85m) , and Oblak thinks it is a sign that those between the posts are starting to get noticed.

“Before there wasn’t much recognition for goalkeepers,” Oblak said. “I think the goalkeeper is important in the team.

“Everything starts from the back and every position is important. The goalkeepers are getting recognition now.”

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Ronaldo’s exit as important as Barca losing Iniesta – Valverde

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde thinks Real Madrid’s loss of Cristiano Ronaldo is “as important” as Andres Iniesta leaving the Catalans.

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus after the World Cup, causing something of a shock as he ended a nine-year association with Los Blancos.

Iniesta’s own La Liga departure was rather less of a surprise, as speculation had long suggested the Spaniard was destined for a move to Asia despite signing a new lifetime contract just last year.

Ronaldo’s impact will likely be noticed more by the average spectator given his record of scoring at least 25 league goals in each of his nine seasons in Madrid.

But Valverde believes his own loss of Iniesta – who joined J.League side Vissel Kobe – is just as significant.

“We do not know to what extent this will weaken Madrid, but he is a player who has given a lot to the club and you have to recognise everything he has done,” Valverde said of Ronaldo to reporters.

“The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid is as important as the one we have with Andres. Julen [Lopetegui, Madrid coach] will try to notice Cristiano’s absence as little as possible.”

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‘Much better’ – Salah’s shoulder woes behind him

Mohamed Salah says that he is fully fit and recovered from a shoulder injury as he looks ahead to the new season with Liverpool.

Salah, 26, returned to training at the end of last week after World Cup duty with Egypt and marked his first pre-season appearance for the Reds with a goal against Manchester City in the International Champions Cup.

The forward had a remarkable first season at Anfield, scoring 44 goals and gaining wide recognition for his performances, success which was capped with the PFA Player of the Year award.

Liverpool have been busy in the transfer window as they look to challenge for the Premier League title and Salah is glad to be working with his new team-mates, having suffered an injury in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid that hindered him in Russia.

“I am very happy to be back. I feel good and my shoulder is much better. I’m very happy to be back in the squad,” he told Liverpool TV.

“Last year I had a great season – everyone, not just me. When people talk about myself, yes there is some pressure because it was a record [most goals in a 38-game Premier League season].

“We also have to improve [again] in the Champions League and finish in a better position in the Premier League.

“But it’s not something I worry about, I just keep doing what I am doing. I am happy about what I am doing, so I just keep doing the same.”

Liverpool continue their pre-season tour on Saturday when they face old foes Manchester United in Michigan.

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