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Kessie says playing for Xavi was key factor in decision to join Barcelona

Soccer Football – La Liga – FC Barcelona unveil Franck Kessie – Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, Barcelona, Spain – July 6, 2022 New FC Barcelona player Franck Kessie during a press conference REUTERS/Albert Gea

(Reuters) – Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie said the opportunity of playing under the guidance of manager Xavi Hernandez was crucial in his decision to join Barcelona on a free transfer after leaving AC Milan.

“When a great coach like him calls you, you see that all your efforts are worth it,” Kessie told a news conference on Wednesday after signing a contract until June 2026.

“I am very happy to be part of this family and this great club. I really want to meet my team mates and coaching staff and start working right away.”

The 25-year-old left AC Milan at the end of his contract in June after helping the Italian club to win their first Serie A title in 11 years last season. He has 58 caps for Ivory Coast.

Kessie, who can contribute in attack and defence as a box-to-box midfielder, said he did not have a preferred position on the pitch and was open to helping his team wherever his coach needed.

“I am at Xavi’s disposal, he will be the one who will decide my position here at Barca,” Kessie said.

“I will work to offer my best version wherever I am. When a player starts playing, he never gets worse. We are always trying to improve.”

Barca also announced the signing of Denmark defender and free agent Andreas Christensen, who will join the club on a free transfer from Chelsea.

Club president Joan Laporta, who inherited a deep financial crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic after he was elected last year for a second stint, said the team were looking for more players who “really want to play for Barcelona”.

Restricted by LaLiga’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, Barca are struggling to sign new players.

“I can’t say how many more signings we’ll be able to make,” Laporta told the news conference, explaining that they need to activate measures approved last month to improve the club’s financial situation.

“It will not be easy but we need to reinforce the first team to be more competitive.

“We are in a situation of uncertainty. We are working to be able to sign. At this time we still can’t. We are talking to players we are interested in and ask them to wait for us.”

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; editing by Clare Fallon)