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Rafinha Alcantara's father rules out Barcelona exit amid Liverpool and Arsenal transfer links

Rafinha Alcantara’s father has denied his son is considering leaving Barcelona ahead of the coming summer transfer window. Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus and even Flamengo are said to be interested in his services but the versatile midfielder is determined to continue at the Nou Camp for the long-term.

The 24-year-old is currently in the treatment room due to a serious knee injury but previously played a key role for manager Luis Enrique, scoring seven goals and grabbing five assist in 28 appearances.

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However, his future at Barcelona has come into question since the boss announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the season.

The Spanish manager has been crucial in Rafinha’s breakthrough into the top flight. Luis Enrique coached him during his loan spell at Celta Vigo in the 2013-2014 campaign and didn’t hesitate to bring him back to the Nou Camp when he was appointed the manager of Barcelona.

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In March Mundo Deportivo reported that all Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus were closely tracking the situation ahead of making a potential move in the summer if he becomes available.

Those rumours resurfaced earlier this week after Mundo Deportivo and other Spanish media said that the 24-year-old is considering leaving Barcelona in order to secure more regular time somewhere else to improve his chances of a playing the World Cup 2018.

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The Catalan publication reiterated that Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus have expressed an interest in his situation while adding that Rafinha could also consider to move on loan to his homeland to play for Flamengo.

In November 2015 Rafinha signed a long-term deal at Barcelona until 2020, setting his buyout clause in €75m (£64.5m, $81.6m). Yet, Mundo Deportivo added that the La Liga giants would be ready to listen offers for between €30m and €40m.

Rafinha’s brother Thiago has already left Barcelona to join Bayern Munich after growing frustrated with his lack of playing time.

However, Rafinha’s father has now claimed that Thiago’s young brother won’t follow the same footsteps.

“This is absurd, I don’t know who started this,” Mazinho said to Sport TV. “Rafinha has no interest in leaving Barcelona. We have a contract until 2020 and he will finish it normally.”

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Barcelona boosted as Gerard Pique 'returns to training' ahead of final La Liga clash with Eibar

Gerard Pique looks in line to return to action for the last game of La Liga against Eibar on Sunday (21 May) after different reports in Spain revealed that the Barcelona centre-back was back in training on Wednesday. The news would be a major boost for manager Luis Enrique as the Catalans need to secure the three points to keep alive their slight hopes of beating Real Madrid for the title.

The 30-year-old defender was forced to spend time in hospital last week after being unable to train with the rest of his teammates due to a mysterious illness.

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Barcelona revealed on Sunday morning that the Spanish international had been released to continue his recouperation at home.

“Gerard Pique left hospital on Sunday morning and will continue his recovery at home from his illness. His availability will depend on how well he recovers and the centre-back has been unable to train all week with abdominal pain which required treatment in hospital,” Barcelona confirmed.

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Pique consequently missed the Sunday night victory over Las Palmas which helped Barcelona to keep the pressure on Real Madrid in the La Liga run-in until the last game of the season.

However, it looks like the Spain international could be back in time to face Eibar as both Mundo Deportivo and Sport are reporting that the centre-back returned to training on Wednesday despite the rest of his teammates being off.

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Pique’s potential return would be a boost for Barcelona anyway as Javier Mascherano is a doubt to face Eibar after suffering a thigh injury in the warm-up at Las Palmas.

Furthermore, Jeremy Mathieu is also expected to remain on the sidelines alongside Aleix Vidal and Rafinha Alcantara after having been out of action since the 3-0 defeat to Juventus on 11 April.

Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto also missed the victory over Las Palmas through suspension but the Spaniard should be back available to start at the right-back when Barcelona host Eibar on Sunday.

The Catalans are currently level on points with Real Madrid but Los Blancos still have a game in hand to play against Celta Vigo on Wednesday night – and will thus clinch the title if they secure four points in their last two games at Balaidos and Malaga.


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Zidane admits Real Madrid are 'better' with Gareth Bale, backs Welshman for Champions League final return

Gareth Bale is expected to be back in action for the Champions League final against Juventus on 3 June. The Real Madrid star is yet to play a game since suffering a calf injury during the 3-2 defeat to Barcelona on 23 April. However, Zinedine Zidane has provided a positive update following Los Blancos knocking Atletico Madrid out of the CL semi-finals 4-2 on aggregate.

Isco took the place of former Tottenham Hotspur star in the starting line-up and scored Real Madrid’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat, which saw them make the final thanks to a 3-0 victory in the first leg.

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Many in Spain feel Isco should retain his place in the line-up against Juventus as Los Blancos look more balanced in a traditional 4-4-2 than when they play with Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema upfront.

However, Zidane claimed Bale is expected to recover in time for the final and could make the line-up as Real Madrid “are a better team” when the Welshman plays.

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“He’s recovering and there’s time for him to be ready for the final. I hope he’s ready before and I hope he can be with us more than anything. We’re a better team when he plays,” Zidane said after the game. However he did also praise Isco.

“Isco was important in our game plan today, playing between the lines with his quality. In the last 10 or 15 minutes of the first half we found our rhythm and in the second half we were better. He’s contributed a lot, as did Karim and Cristiano Ronaldo”.

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Bale will have additional motivation to make the final as it takes place at the National Stadium of Wales (also known as the Principality Stadium) in his home city of Cardiff.

However, Real Madrid would be advised against rushing the ex-Spurs man back as he has been hit by a number of injuries this season, including an ankle knock that has kept him sidelined for three months.

Bale returned to action from that blow in February but has since struggled to replicate his best form. He appeared to shake off those issues in time for El Clasico with Barcelona on 23 April but lasted just 39 minutes after suffering a recurrence of the injury.

The Welshman has been out of action since but Zidane’s positive words suggest he could even be ready to help Real Madrid in their battle with Barcelona for La Liga.

Los Blancos still have games to play against Sevilla (14 May), Celta Vigo (17 May) and Malaga (21 May) before the Champions League final and Bale could use them to gain match fitness with a target of being 100% fit against Juventus.

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