Ex-Barcelona director Toni Freixa has accused Barcelona of “blatantly selling smoke” in their reported pursuit of Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva.

He claims the club are using such links with the midfielder – as well as with Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde – to appease fans amid their financial difficulties. Barcelona are thought to have debts totalling £1bn.

As a result, they have been hit by La Liga’s financial rules and so are supposedly looking to offload players in order to manoeuvre in the transfer market. The club’s well-documented money issues saw Lionel Messi leave for Paris Saint-Germain last summer as they were forced to recruit either low-cost or free signings.

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Barcelona are said to be interested in purchasing Silva. However, they have reportedly been put off by City ’s £70m valuation with three years still left on his deal.

The Spanish giants are thought to be unlikely to sanction big-money signings unless they sell one of their own players for a hefty sum – albeit some argue any money received should be put into writing off the club’s debts.

It’s why Freixa believes Barcelona’s reported pursuits of top calibre players are nothing but a smoke screen, adding that their interest in Silva is merely only for show. Tweeting on Tuesday, he wrote: “You know that Lewandowski, or Kounde, or Raphinha, or Bernardo Silva will not come? You know, right?”

He then later underlined his position while speaking to Spanish media. He added: “I don’t buy the talk of Barcelona’s signings.

“They are blatantly selling smoke. What they say clashes with reality and I have no choice but to warn people that this is not going to happen.

“One could come in case a player is sold. It sells much more to say that Bernardo Silva is coming. If we want to sell the bike, let’s sell it, I don’t buy it.”

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