Coutinho, Dembele ‘close’ to battered Barca
Barcelona could be handed a lift after losing 5-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup as a senior official claimed the club are “close” to signing Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Pep Segura, Barca’s general manager, said negotiations with Liverpool for Brazilian playmaker Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund over a deal for promising French winger Dembele could be finalised within days.
“We have to help the team with reinforcements and they will be here in the coming days,” Segura told Catalan TV station Esport3 after Barca lost the second leg of the Super Cup 2-0 at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu.
“We are discussing the conditions of Coutinho and Dembele…they are close.
“We hope they will be Barca players next season.”
Barca’s season has been thrown into turmoil by Neymar’s world record 222 million euro ($261 million) move to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month.
New Barca coach Ernesto Valverde admitted Neymar’s absence has affected the balance of the side.
Meanwhile, the Catalans have struggled to close deals for Coutinho and Dembele with Liverpool and Dortmund holding out for fees in excess of 100 million euros in the knowledge of Barca’s desperation to land a replacement before the transfer window shuts on August 31.
Barca defender Gerard Pique denied reports there is a growing feud between club’s players and under-pressure board.
However, Pique admitted Barca have plenty of work to do if they are to close they gap on Madrid, who have added to their crowns as European and Spanish champions by winning both the UEFA and Spanish Super Cups in style over the past week.
“We are not in the best moment. Not as a team or as a club,” said Pique.
“We have to stick together and move forward.
“The season is long and it has just begun. Madrid were superior so we have to live with defeat, congratulate them and improve.”
– No Ronaldo, no problem –
Despite missing the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, whose five-game ban for pushing a referee after being sent off in the first leg was upheld on appeal before kick-off, Madrid were dominant in the first-half.
Marco Asensio’s brilliant strike after just four minutes built on Madrid’s 3-1 first leg lead and Karim Benzema doubled the hosts’ lead on the night just before half-time.
Victory also sealed Madrid’s seventh trophy of a spectacularly successful spell since Zinedine Zidane took charge just 20 months ago.
“We are delighted with how we played in both games, it is another trophy and you have to congratulate the players because they have been fantastic,” said Zidane.
On top of the absent Ronaldo, the Frenchman also had the luxury of leaving Gareth Bale and Isco on the bench as the gulf between Madrid and Barca’s strength in depth was again laid bare.
“I have a spectacular squad,” added Zidane.
“When you see how Isco played in Barcelona and then I take him out it is a bit harsh, but the players understand how long the season will be and we will need everyone.”