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Messi: My retirement is approaching, time flies

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Barcelona appoint Jordi Roura as new director of youth football

Barcelona have appointed Jordi Roura as the club's new director of youth football, ending speculation the long-time La Masia figure could fill the still vacant sporting director role at the Camp Nou.

Former Blaugrana player-turned long-time coach Roura, who stood in for a few months as first team boss when incumbent Tito Vilanova was seriously ill during the 2012-13 season, was mentioned by AS as a leading candidate to fill the more senior post left vacant after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu fired Andoni Zubizarreta in early January.

A club statement released after Monday's board meeting confirmed that 47-year-old Roura would now be in charge of all youth and reserve team matters at the Catalan club.

"Jordi Roura has been named as the new Director of Youth Football at FC Barcelona," the statement said. "In a board meeting on Monday, the club board decided to give the former assistant coach of the first team the responsibility of overseeing the youth set-up from the very youngest level all the way to Barca B."

This is the latest development in a turbulent few months behind the scenes at the Camp Nou. When Zubizarreta was fired, his assistants Narcis Julia and Albert Valentin departed too, and former player Carles Puyol also left his position on the club's technical staff.

Bartomeu has said the new sporting director will be someone with a strong Blaugrana past, although no potential candidates have been officially confirmed, with both next summer's presidential elections and the current ban on signing any players until 2016 making the task of filling the vacancy more complicated.

Roura was previously linked with the vacant sporting director role at Barca.

Another change this month has seen long-serving Emili Sabadell being replaced as team 'manager' by Pepe Costa, who is thought to be close to players including Lionel Messi.

Sabadell was reportedly an ally of Antoni Rossich, the club's former director general, who was relieved of his services in December 2014.

Ex-Barca player Eric Abidal was thought to be a contender for the 'team manager' post, which was created last summer by Zubizarreta as a buffer between the players and the technical staff. Abidal has said he is considering a job offer from the club, without specifying the particular role.

Barca's official statement on Roura's appointment did not refer to any of the other personnel developments. It did however say that the club, currently banned from signing any new players until 2016 after being found guilty by FIFA of breaking youth transfer regulations, had agreed to new measures to ensure such rules were followed more closely in future.

"The board meeting also included details of the processes involved in contracting players at youth level, the subject of which the club was recently subjected to a ban from FIFA which was ratified by CAS," it said. "The Board has adopted measures to avoid the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future."

Those comments came as FIFA have begun looking into youth transfers at Real Madrid, although the Bernabeu outfit have strongly refuted any wrongdoing on their part.

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