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Barcelona to sign Spain left back Jordi Alba

Associated Press Modified: June 28, 2012 at 9:47 am •  Published: June 28, 2012

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona plans to reinforce its defensive options by signing Spain left back Jordi Alba from Valencia.

The Catalan club said in a statement that the former Barcelona youth player will sign a five-year contract after passing a medical exam on Thursday.

Barcelona will pay its Spanish league rival €14 million ($17.4 million) for Alba.

Alba is currently playing in the European Championship, his first major international tournament. Spain defeated Portugal in the semifinals on Wednesday and will defend its title in the final on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Alba, who can also play as a winger, has been one of revelations of Euro 2012 after standing out because of his speed. His sprint down the left flank and well-placed cross for Xabi Alonso's header gave Spain its opening goal in the 2-0 win over France in the quarterfinals.

"We are happy with (Alba)," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "We have found a specialist that has many years in front of him. Yesterday (against Portugal), he knew how to handle the circumstances and did everything a fullback must do."

Alba is a product of Barcelona's "La Masia" football academy, like many of his new teammates, including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. He is the latest former youth player the club has brought back following Cesc Fabregas, who returned from Arsenal last year.

The Barcelona native trained at La Masia from 1998-2005 before joining Valencia and helping the club finish in third place for the past three seasons.

He played 74 games and scored five goals in his three seasons with Valencia.

Alba is Barcelona's first signing of the offseason. He will fill a hole in its defense left by Eric Abidal, who is recovering from a liver transplant.

Barcelona failed to make any major signing to bolster its defense during the past two offseasons, forcing midfielder Javier Mascherano to be converted into a central defender.

Barcelona lost the Spanish league title for the first time in four seasons to Real Madrid last season. It faces a period of uncertainty this coming campaign as the team adjusts to the exit of coach Pep Guardiola, who led the club to its most successful run with 14 titles in four seasons.

Guardiola's assistant, Tito Vilanova, has signed a two-year contract to take over.

Alba is the latest of a long line of players that financially troubled Valencia has been forced to sell in recent years. He will rejoin former Valencia striker David Villa, who moved to Barcelona two years ago.