Livescore Thursday, April 25
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Barcelona’s season has ended, which is possibly the best news for a club who have been thinking about the summer break for a long time.

Since Xavi’s side clinched the title against local rivals Espanyol midway through last month, they have lost three of the four games they had left. That culminated in last night’s 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo, who saved themselves from relegation thanks to a brace from their rising star and local boy Gabri Veiga.

There was little to add from a Barca point of view. Robert Lewandowski did not score but sealed the Pichichi award for La Liga’s top scorer with 23 goals, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen failed in his final attempt to become the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets in a Spanish top-flight season (the German is tied with the former Deportivo La Coruna keeper Paco Liano on 26).

Still, the final whistle in Vigo came as a relief to the Catalans. You might be tempted to think a deserved break beckons for a club who have just won their first league title in four years, but you would be wrong. As Xavi confirmed after the game, Barca are already planning their next moves.

“This next week is absolutely definitive to know where we are regarding the transfer window,” he said. “Once we know it, we will act quickly.”

The Barca boss alluded to the economic viability plan the club submitted to La Liga last month, which will dictate what they can spend in the window. La Liga have yet to give the green light to those accounts and inform Barca what limits they will be working with in terms of their salary bill.

Xavi’s reference to acting quickly, meanwhile, referred to how he will soon sit down with those players who are not in his plans for next season to explore a potential departure.

“I think we need to be fair and honest with ourselves,” he added. “We need to sign players. Improve the squad as much as we can. The more the better. We need to be competitive, especially in Europe.”

Two players most strongly linked with an exit are wingers Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati.

Both have struggled to impress this season, although Fati did end the league campaign on a positive note — he headed home Barca’s only goal against Celta, his third in the past two games.

“I think his season has been good,” Xavi said. “He’s scored, assisted and been important in some moments. Why is he not unsellable? Well, this week we’ll know more about what we have to do.”

That may have been cryptic from the legendary Barca midfielder, but he was much more direct when asked if the closing games of the season had changed his view of any players.

“Not at all. Our planning remains the same. Over the past four games we’ve tried new things and players in different roles, but our minds were already made up.”

Fati should prepare for the worst. As much as the 20-year-old has insisted he wants to stay at Barca, it would take a near-miracle for him to be playing at Montjuic next season, where the club will temporarily play while works take place on the Camp Nou.

Torres is in a similarly awkward situation. According to some dressing room sources — who, like others cited in this article, preferred to remain anonymous to protect relationships — he is in an even worse place than Fati.

Last season, Torres, 23, was accused of missing a host of clear chances, but this campaign he has not created enough. Despite joining from Manchester City in January, he registered more expected goals in his 18 league games last season (7.0) than this term in 33 appearances (4.9), according to FBRef.

The Spain forward would argue he has not been given sufficient time to shine, having played more La Liga minutes in five months last season (1,412) than in the whole of the present campaign (1,393). Last night was his first start since Barca had won the title and it seems clear Xavi has lost faith in Torres after Barca paid €55million (£47.4m; $58.8m) for him only 18 months ago.

The reason Xavi has waited to hold private conversations with any player he plans to sell is that he does not know what margin Barca will have to work with. But he warned journalists “we will have news” this week, while some players are wondering when those meetings will take place, with holidays starting this Wednesday for most of them.

Straight after Sunday’s game, Barca’s squad flew to Japan, where they will play against Vissel Kobe — the club Andres Iniesta recently left — in a friendly on Tuesday. Iniesta will make his final appearance for the J-League club and the Catalans will earn around €3m for playing there.

Every little helps, as some sources around the club have pointed out given Barca’s financial predicament.

The club know this transfer window will be anything but easy. The Lionel Messi transfer saga is nearing its end, with the Argentina star wanting to resolve his future soon and Barca president Joan Laporta appearing to lose hope this weekend.

“Right now it seems difficult (to sign Messi), but we will see,” he said during the club’s celebrations after winning the Women’s Champions League.

If reclaiming La Liga was tough, then senior figures are well aware an equally big challenge awaits this summer.

(Top photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP via Getty Images)



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