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Volume 6 No. 234


Barcelona VP Jordi Mestre said that the board would prefer "respect not insults" after the club unveiled Paulinho as its fourth signing of the summer on Thursday, according to Sam Marsden of Paulinho joins Barça from Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande for €40M ($47M) in a transfer which "sparked an online campaign" calling for club President Josep Maria Bartomeu "to resign." The campaign centers around a "string of poor management decisions" supporters feel the club has made. Mestre: "Fans are free to express what feelings they want. We would prefer respect, not insults, but I have no knowledge that Bartomeu will resign [because of the campaign]. There have been better times during our mandate, but we've come through difficult times. So we need to keep working hard and hope once again that things will work out for the better." Mestre was also asked if, "following the departure of Neymar" and the Spanish Super Cup loss to Real Madrid, he was "worried" about Lionel Messi not signing the contract extension that was agreed upon in June. Mestre said, "We have spoken about things and agreed things and it's just a question of setting a date to sign the papers. We're quite clear about this, we've been sorting things out over several months. I would be very surprised if Messi didn't sign his extension" (, 8/17).

NOT EASY: reported Barcelona Technical Secretary Robert Fernández acknowledged the club is in a "very difficult situation" as it looks to secure deals for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembélé. Barça GM Pep Segura said on Wednesday that the club was "close" to securing deals for the duo. But Liverpool Manager Jürgen Klopp said on Thursday that there was "nothing new" on Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said that Barcelona has "not come a millimetre closer" to agreeing to a deal for Dembélé. Robert said of Coutinho and Dembélé, "Not just Barça but any team looking for top quality players are getting involved in a very difficult situation in this market. Why? Because the market is where clubs like us want to sign top quality players. There's no buyout clauses, so that makes things trickier. Yes, we are negotiating with clubs to make several signings, but in all awareness of the difficulty" (, 8/17).

Former Australian rugby captain Nick Farr-Jones has emerged as Super Rugby side Western Force's "white knight" in its negotiations with the Sunwolves of Japan, "arguing that both franchises would benefit from a merger," according to Wayne Smith of THE AUSTRALIAN. As the Australian Rugby Union "turns the screws on the Force and was only stopped from shutting them down by the Perth franchise's legal action next Wednesday" in the NSW Supreme Court, Farr-Jones "has worked to keep the club's options open." He said, "I think from the Force's perspective, you've got to look at every opportunity, every option. First prize is clearly to remain in the competition which the team, the management, their supporters and sponsors are desperately keen to happen. But you have to look at all options." Farr-Jones "had raised with the ARU the possibility of exploring the Japanese rugby situation and a possible merger" with the Sunwolves, whose own place in Super Rugby has been "put under threat" a number of times by SANZAAR because of "sustained poor performance over their two years in the competition." He said, "I knew they (the ARU) were looking at the potential merger of the Brumbies and the Rebels but for various reasons that didn't go ahead. But I said, 'Have you given this some thought?' Because it might get you out of your dilemma and you might find that Japanese rugby would be very open to it." If the alternative "is oblivion, then the Force might well see the benefits of merging their roster" in the short term with the Sunwolves, "especially since the Japanese side is slated to be competing in the Australian conference next season." The Japanese "are under intense pressure to lift their game," not only to keep SANZAAR "at bay" but also to "improve the standard of Cherry Blossom rugby" ahead of hosting the 2019 World Cup (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/18).