Barcelona's Braithwaite: I hid transfer away from family, friends

Martin Braithwaite has told ESPN he first learned of Barcelona's interest in signing him at the end of January but kept it a secret from his friends and family, including his wife, who eventually found out about the dream move in the media.

Braithwaite, 28, joined Barca from Leganes in an €18 million deal in February. The Spanish champions were granted special permission to make the signing outside of the transfer window due to a long-term injury to Ousmane Dembele.

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Barca's initial interest was transmitted to the Denmark international via his agents. He said he chose not to tell anyone to avoid being distracted from the task in hand at Leganes, who are fighting against relegation in La Liga.

"I just felt, you know, that I am going to wait and see how this goes," Braithwaite told ESPN. "If it's gonna get 100% serious, then I will let [my wife] know, but there's no reason to get people around me excited. I got excited, but I knew if I told people they were gonna be talking about it every day.

"For me, I was at Leganes, I had to perform. When I am at a place, I give 100%, so I didn't want to put my mind elsewhere.

"Usually I tell everything to my wife, but she only knew three days before I signed because it suddenly got leaked in the media. It got leaked in the morning and I didn't see her until the evening, when I told her I had to talk to her. She knew why. She understood!"

Leganes were not permitted to sign a replacement for Braithwaite after Barca paid his release clause, prompting debate in Spain about a need for the rules to be changed regarding exceptional signings after the window has closed.

However, Braithwaite said the Madrid-based club were "amazing" and didn't stand in his way.

"I cannot speak highly enough of that club," he added. "It was really special for me and the way they treated me when I had to leave, sometimes when you leave a club, you can leave with mixed feelings, but they totally understood me.

"They said this is a chance, one chance in a lifetime, so you have to take it. They would have done the same. Of course they felt it was not fair they could not go out and get a replacement, which I understand, but at the end of the day they were really, really nice to me."

Braithwaite has started well at Barca. He helped set up two goals on his debut against Eibar and came off the bench against Real Madrid in the Clasico a week later. He said he will be even better when football eventually returns after the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the game, and is targetting a long stay at Barca, where he has a contract until 2024.

"I am sure I am going to stay even more than four-and-a-half years that's how I see it in my head," he added. "Right now, I just want to go and play and enjoy and win titles with this team because that's what I am here to do.

"For me, at Barcelona, I am looking at all these legendary players that played here, and all the periods where they had some of the best teams, and for me one of the goals is to be able to say I played in one of the best Barca teams in a generation.

"I want people to be able to look back at the team I played in and say 'Yeah, that was one of the best teams there have been in Barca's history.' That's a huge motivation for me and it comes with a lot of hard work, but I am willing to put in the work. I am just excited."