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International

Barcelona Brings Defender Eric Garcia Home from Man City

MADRID — Barcelona continued Tuesday to boost its squad with free transfers as the club tries to bounce back from disappointing seasons, signing defender Eric Garcia a day after adding Sergio Agüero to its attack. 

Garcia joined Agüero in leaving Manchester City days after losing the Champions League final. They both arrive on free transfers to a financially struggling Barcelona.

"I think it's a dream come true to be playing for this club," Garcia said. "Hopefully we can achieve big things next season and in the future."

The 20-year-old Garcia is returning home after leaving Barcelona to join City in 2017. His five-year contract will begin July 1 after his City deal expires. His buyout clause was set at 400 million euros ($490 million).

The 32-year-old Agüero on Monday signed a two-year contract with a buyout clause set at 100 million euros ($122 million).

Garcia will first join up with Spain's squad for the European Championship. He is a regular member of the national squad despite not establishing himself in coach Pep Guardiola's City team. Agüero will be with Argentina's squad in the Copa América.

Garcia signed his contract and was officially introduced at Camp Nou Stadium on Tuesday.

"I think I had the chance to live a fantastic experience there at Man City," he said. "I'm grateful for Pep and for all the coaching staff. (They) helped me a lot, giving me the chance to play and at the end to come back here."

Accomplished on the ball, Garcia seemed to struggled to adapt to the typically physical side of playing in the Premier League.

Garcia's career path follows one of his mentors at Barcelona, veteran defender Gerard Piqué, who left Barcelona as a teenager for Manchester United and returned four years later at the start of the Catalan club's dominating era under Guardiola. 

Garcia captained at every level during his time with Barcelona's youth squads. 

Barcelona struggled defensively throughout the season as its central defenders endured long injury layoffs, including Piqué, Ronald Araujo and Samuel Umtiti. Coach Ronald Koeman often had to use players from the reserve team to set up his defense.

Barcelona conceded 38 goals in the Spanish league this season — an average of a goal every game — which was 10 more than runner-up Real Madrid and 13 more than champion Atlético Madrid.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said the club plans to announce more signings this month, with Memphis Depay of Lyon and Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool among those expected to join the squad.

Agüero comes to help boost an attack that last season lost Luis Suárez to Atlético. The Argentina striker is a longtime friend of Lionel Messi, who is yet to announce whether he will stay with the club. Messi had his request to leave denied last season but his contract ends now.

There are also doubts about whether Koeman will remain as coach, with Laporta saying the club is evaluating the job done by the former Dutch great last season. Koeman has another year left on his contract, which was signed by former president Josep Bartomeu. 

It is unclear if Barcelona has Champions League action to offer its new signings. UEFA is prosecuting a disciplinary case against the three Super League rebels — Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus — who refuse to renounce the failed project and face being banned.

Barcelona's only title this season came in the Copa del Rey. The Catalan club finished without a trophy in the previous one, when the club was marred by political turmoil and financial difficulties.

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