In this week’s ESPN Insider Notebook: Barcelona are interested in Sergio Aguero if they can’t keep Lionel Messi. MORE: Chelsea feel vindicated by the dismissal of Frank Lampard.

Skip: Chelsea justifies itself. Man Utd are looking at Torres. Haaland heir. Gaia in motion? | Marcel trolls. Pereira’s future.

Aguero Barca will retire when Messi leaves.

Barcelona are considering acquiring the services of Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero as part of their rebuilding plan without Lionel Messi, sources have told ESPN.

Messi has yet to give any sign of signing a new contract and will walk out the door at the age of 30. June to be a free agent. When Joan Laporta was elected president of Barca on the strength of his candidacy, it seemed that his personal relationship with the Argentina international would help persuade him to stay. Reports in Argentina have suggested that Laporta wants to link Aguero with Messi, but sources have told ESPN that the former Atltico Madrid striker is seen as a possible replacement if the club’s record goalscorer does not renew his contract.

– Hunter: What Laporta’s win means for Messi, Barca’s duty…

For Messi, a move to City, where he will be reunited with former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, remains a strong possibility, sources have told ESPN. This would force Barca to think about replacements to fill the huge void Messi would leave behind.

According to ESPN’s sources, Aguero is expected to play a key role in convincing Messi to come to Manchester and turn down a new contract at Barca or a lucrative transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, as the two men are close friends. However, the 32-year-old is expected to leave the Etihad as a free agent at the end of the season after struggling to regain his place in the team following injury problems and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19. Aguero has only played three Premier League games this season and is expected to score for Guardiola’s side in the league this season.

Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero are teammates for Argentina. Jaime Reina /AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Aguero is not the only Barca striker in the absence of Messi, as the Catalans are interested in Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haalande, among others, according to sources from ESPN. But the club’s dire financial situation – debts have reached €1 billion – means they are likely to be the underdog in the race to sign Norway.

Memphis Depay, whose contract at Lyon expires at the end of this season, has been praised by Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman. Like Aguero, the former Manchester United player is eligible for a free transfer.

But sources have told ESPN that Barcelona are aware of Aguero’s likely arrival this summer and his desire to return to Spain, 10 years after he left Atletico for City.

With Barcelona having to find money this summer by selling players, whether Messi stays or goes, the club may have to contract free agents Depay and Aguero instead of spending a lot of money on players like Haaland.

The departure of Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann would help Barcelona’s finances, but with the transfer market badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, sources say there are few buyers. — Mark Ogden

Thomas Tuchel impressed the Chelsea players with his refined style. Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images.

Tuchel vindicates Chelsea bosses by sacking Lampard

The immediate impact of Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea manager has led Stamford Bridge officials to believe the decision to sack Frank Lampard was justified, sources have told ESPN.

The decision to sack Chelsea’s record goalscorer Lampard after spending £220m following a poor start to the season has provoked fierce criticism. Former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole called Lampard’s dismissal a mistake, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said it was harsh and Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers said the former midfielder needed more time to prove himself in his position.

After replacing Lampard in January, when Chelsea were in ninth place, five points clear of the top four, Tuchel engineered a dramatic turnaround for the club, leading the team to an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

Chelsea go into their Premier League match against Leeds United at Elland Road looking to take a five-point lead over fourth-placed West Ham United, while at Stamford Bridge they are confident of a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League.

It shows we know what we’re doing, a club source told ESPN after Chelsea secured fourth place with a 2-0 home win over Everton on Monday. Although results have improved under Tuchel, the German’s influence on and around the training ground is the factor that has impressed the Chelsea manager the most.

Tuchel, formerly of Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, joined Chelsea with a reputation for being demanding with his players and managers. But her insistence on high standards has so far been welcomed at all levels.

According to ESPN, the players have embraced Tuchel’s tactical approach and vocal personality during games. They believe he has given the team the structure and confidence it lacked under Lampard, citing the improved performances of players such as Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Marcos Alonso – all of whom struggled under Lampard – as evidence of Tuchel’s influence. — Mark Ogden

Manchester United and Real Madrid have their eye on Pau Torres. David Ramos/Getty Images

Man ltd, Real Madrid chase TorresVillarreal

Manchester United and Real Madrid have set their sights on Villarreal’s Pau Torres to strengthen their defence, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

ESPN reported last month that Sevilla’s Jules Kunde, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, Braga’s David Carmo and long target Rafael Varane were all being considered as options.

Several sources told ESPN that United have included Torres in the squad because they believe the 6-foot-2 defender would fit in well in the Premier League. Madrid, who are also looking to sign David Alaba, have had their eye on Torres for some time as the future of captain Sergio Ramos, whose contract expires this summer, is uncertain.

Sources have told ESPN that Madrid contacted Torres several months ago to gauge his interest in a transfer this summer, while United have also been in touch in recent weeks. Torres has a €65m exit clause at Villarreal and will only be available for a lower price if Unai Emery’s side fail to qualify for Europe in seventh place in La Liga. The clause was 50 million euros, but was increased by the terms of Torres’ contract after his debut for Spain in November.

Torres was targeted by Manchester City last summer before they signed Ruben Diaz and Nathan Ake, and Barcelona were also interested before Ronald Araujo and the likely arrival of Erik Garcia. — Rodrigo Faez and Alex Kirkland

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Gab and Jules debate whether Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé will be the next title contenders after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Molde’s newest star could be Haaland’s cousin

Norwegian club Molde may have found a new Erling Haaland in Albert Brauth Tjaland, a cousin of the Borussia Dortmund striker.

Haaland, 20, began his senior career under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde, where he scored 20 goals in 50 appearances before joining FC Salzburg in January 2019.

– Bundesliga on ESPN+: Live and streaming playback (US only)

Since then, the Norwegian international has developed rapidly, scoring regularly in the Champions League with Salzburg before joining Dortmund in January 2020 and becoming the youngest player to score 20 goals in a major European competition.

Although Haaland is now a top target for Europe’s biggest clubs this summer, his 17-year-old cousin Tjaland could be a bargain alternative if he continues his progress with the Norwegian team.

Tjalande has yet to make his major league debut. The striker scored 64 goals in 37 games for the club’s youth team. The 16-year-old was contracted last summer after scoring 40 goals in 31 appearances for Bryn FK’s U19 squad.

Sources close to Haaland told ESPN that Tjaland, although still raw, is a talented player and should soon be tested by promotion to Molde’s first team when the elite series begins in 2021. — Mark Ogden

Valencia left-back Jose Gaya is the target of several European clubs. Diego Souto/Quality Sports Images/Getty Images

Valencia from Gaia to European elite

Many European clubs have been eyeing Valencia’s precarious finances and ownership, and the Spanish giants may be looking to make a big sale this summer.

After cashing in around €100 million at the end of last season, Valencia are preparing for even more departures and are looking to raise €50 million through player sales, with left-back Jose Gaya considered one of their most valuable players.

Guy is not without fans from Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and various Premier League clubs who are closely following his progress. Gaia has remained loyal to his parent club Valencia and would like to stay, but if the financial situation does not improve, he could be forced to leave.

One of the main reasons for his stay so far was to be part of Luis Enrique’s Spanish squad for Euro 2020, and playing regular football in Valencia is considered a key reason for his stay.

Sources have told ESPN that Valencia would demand a minimum of 30-40 million euros if they were to sell, although they are not prepared to lose a player who has remained loyal to them and is an important part of the team. Valencia had already rejected two offers for the 25-year-old last summer.

Barca’s interest could get interesting if former Valencia manager Mateu Alemany joins the Catalans in president Joan Laporta’s new team. It was Alemany who negotiated Gaia’s final contract at Valencia and who held the player in high regard. But Jordy Alba’s return to form will make any change difficult.

The most important factor for Gaia’s future could be an attempted takeover of the club, with the Crown Prince of Johor interested in buying a significant number of shares. If successful, it will likely begin injecting cash immediately and alleviate the need for sales. — David cartledge.

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Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens put the brakes on the comparison between Elaix Moriba and Paul Pogba at Barça.

Starlet Barca Ilaix to checkpoint

Elix Moriba does not want Barcelona to increase his €150 million departure clause because he wants to retain control over his own future, sources have told ESPN.

Elaix, 18, has a contract until 2022 and a 100 million euro indemnity clause. Barca want to extend his contract and increase his points tally after he joined the first team earlier this year.

– Live coverage of the game on ESPN+ (US only).

The midfielder became the highest paid player in the club’s academy history when he last extended his contract in 2019, but has since seen his friend and teammate, Ansu Fathy, also 18, sign a bigger deal. His agency, Stellar Group, is hoping to strike a similar deal.

As part of the negotiations, a higher repurchase clause will also have to be negotiated. Elaix and his representatives are reluctant to increase the fee to more than €150 million, while Barca are willing to ask for a much higher amount to protect themselves from losing the youngster.

Sources have told ESPN that the player, who joined La Masia at the age of seven, wants to stay at Camp Nou. He has already impressed in the dressing room and is especially loved by his teammate Lionel Messi.

Elaix made his first-team debut in the Copa del Rey in January and has played in each of Barca’s last four games. He was on the bench when the Blaugrana reached the cup final last week by beating Sevilla 3-0. He scored against Osasuna last weekend and made his Champions League debut against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

In addition to Ilax, new president Joan Laporta is facing several contractual situations. Defender Oscar Mingeza, like Messi, expires this summer, while Sergi Roberto, Ousmane Dembele, Fati, Pedri and Conrad de la Fuente all have contracts until 2022.

Barca have the option to extend the contracts of Ansou, Pedri and Conrad for another two years, while ESPN previously revealed that the club want to extend Dembele’s contract. — Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden.

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Julien Laurent is struggling to come to terms with Canet Roussillon’s defeat in the French Cup against Marseille in the fourth division.

Marcel is humiliated on and off the field

 

Marseille’s disaster season reached a new low when it was not only beaten in the French cup by mid-table Canet-Roussillon, but also humiliated on and off the pitch.

It has been a difficult season for the club, with an attack on the training ground by the club’s own Ultras, a protest against former president Jacques-Henri Ayrault that eventually led to his resignation, ex-manager Andre Villas-Boas offering his resignation at a press conference, and terrible results on the pitch, with five defeats in six Champions League group games and eighth place in League One.

– Lawrence: Why fans stormed the training ground in Marseille

But it got worse with the terrible exit from the cup. Kanet’s side, who have played just three games in the last three months due to a suspension from the competition for COWID-19, not only beat Marseille, but rubbed their noses in it with the 2-1 victory.

First, mascot Canet held up his River Plate jersey and tried to troll Marseille’s Dario Benedetto, who was part of the Boca Juniors team that lost to their rivals in the infamous 2018 Copa Libertadores final. When Paris Saint-Germain fan Johann Bois scored the winning goal for Caen, he celebrated with a juggling dance by Moise Keane.

Marcel felt that the grass at Gilbert-Brut stadium was too high and dry. He therefore requested that it be mowed and watered before the start, but his request was denied. — Julien Lawrence

Andreas Pereira made 22 appearances for Lazio. Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images

Pereira unlikely to return to Old Trafford.

 

Andreas Pereira sees no future at Manchester United even if Lazio decide not to sign the midfielder permanently, sources have told ESPN.

Pereira has made 22 appearances since his loan spell in Italy this summer. Lazio, who have taken on the wages of the 25-year-old this season, have the option to make the transfer permanent, but have not yet informed United of their plans.

Sources have told ESPN that even if Serie A decide not to sign Pereira, the Brazilian will want to leave Old Trafford as he fears he will not have the chance to join United’s squad and compete with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek for a place.

Pereira has played 75 times in the first team, but he has also been loaned out to the club three times and is keen to get in regular games. He still has at least two years left on his contract, which he signed in 2019, and United will be looking to secure a transfer fee before letting him leave the club for good.

Should Lazio turn down the chance to contract him, Pereira would be happy to stay in Italy, according to ESPN, with interest from Napoli and Atalanta. However, he is expected to be at United in July to begin pre-season training if the transfer does not go through. — Rob Dawson

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