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João Félix relishing fresh start at Barcelona after first goal


João Félix says he is loving life at Barcelona after scoring on his full debut in Saturday’s impressive 5-0 win over Real Betis in Laiga.

Félix, who joined Barça on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid this month, scored the first goal at the Olympic Stadium and then dummied an Andreas Christensen pass to help create Robert Lewandowski’s goal.

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Ferran Torres, Raphinha and João Cancelo were also on target as Barça temporarily moved top of LaLiga ahead of Real Madrid’s game against Real Sociedad on Sunday.

“I’m very happy to be starting games again, the feelings are very good — it’s easy to play in this team,” said Félix, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea.

“When you have a good structure and circulate the ball rapidly, spaces appear and so do goals. I am happy, the change has done me good, me and my family, I am very happy here.”

Félix, 23, has been backed to flourish at Barça after four up-and-down seasons at Atletico following his €126 million move from Portuguese side Benfica in 2019.

Local media have suggested Barça’s style will suit him better, although coach Xavi Hernandez did not want to be drawn into making comparisons with Atletico, saying he has “a lot of respect” for their coach Diego Simeone.

However, Xavi poured praise on Barça’s two latest signings, with Cancelo, who has joined on loan from Manchester City, also impressing on his full debut against Betis.

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“Both Joaos are really happy here and you can see that,” Xavi said in a news conference. “No one doubts their individual quality. You see them train and you see how good they are.

“Cancelo joins us after working with, for me, the best coach in the world [Pep Guardiola] and he interprets the game so well. He understands what we want.

“We worked on the positioning of the full-backs this week. We wanted to look for Cancelo in the middle and for [Alejandro] Balde to stretch the pitch. We looked for that superiority in midfield. If we are more positional, we will attack better.

“Both Cancelo and Félix offer options that help improve the team. Physically, they are strong. They increase the quality in the squad. They are where they want to be [at Barça].”

Torres scored the third goal, ending a run of over two years since Barça last scored from a direct free-kick, dating back to Lionel Messi’s effort against Valencia in May 2021.

It was Torres’ fifth goal for club and country in as many games this season and comes on the back of a summer when he doubled down on his workload and nicknamed himself the ‘shark.’

“Ferran deserves all the credit,” Xavi added. “He told me very clearly in the summer he wanted to stay and that in his head he only wanted to succeed at Barça.

“He is only 23, he still has a lot of room to improve and ambition. Hardly anyone believed in him and he has shown spectacular mental strength. I am delighted for him.

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“He is a good kid. He always gives 100% no matter how much he plays. He has received a lot of criticism at Barça and he has shown incredible mental strength to flip the situation on its head.”

Torres did not know about Barça’s free-kick drought.

“I didn’t know we hadn’t scored a free-kick since Messi,” he told reporters. “It could have been anyone, but I am delighted it was me. I was actually trying to place it under the bar, but when things are going well, everything seems to come off.

“I have a lot of self-confidence at the moment. I am working hard and I will keep doing so. [Lewandowski] will want the next free-kick again, but these decisions are made in-game, so we will see.”

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