Barcelona give Gerard Pique time off to complete Davis Cup tennis deal

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique flew to Orlando on Thursday to attend the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) AGM, where his suggested reforms for the Davis Cup were passed.

Ernesto Valverde's side kick off their defence of the La Liga title on Saturday against Alaves at Camp Nou but Pique was granted permission to travel to the United States for the meeting.

The ITF board voted in favour of the defender's proposal to overhaul the Davis Cup in a bid to revive the competition, which will see Pique's company, Kosmos, invest €3 billion into the sport over the next 25 years.

"This is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level," Pique said. "It's a great honour for me to be part of this historic process of a sport that I am passionate about and, without a doubt, in both personal and professional terms this is one of the happiest days of my life."

Starting from 2019, the competition will see 18 countries and the world's best players compete in a week-long season finale to be crowned Davis Cup champions -- Pique has previously dubbed it the "World Cup of Tennis."

Barcelona expect Pique back at the club's training ground on Friday, where they will train for the final time before the game against Alaves.

Meanwhile, the club confirmed that defender Marlon Santos has joined Sassuolo on a permanent deal.

The Italian side have paid €6 million for 50 percent of the Brazilian centre-back's economic rights and will be obliged to pay another €6m for the other 50 percent if he plays 50 games.

Barca have a buyback option on Marlon, who spent last season on loan in Ligue 1 with Nice after signing for the Blaugrana from Fluminense for around €5m.

Another player leaving Barcelona is right-back Sergi Palencia, who has joined French side Bordeaux on a season-long loan.

Palencia, 22, has made over 100 appearances for the B team but with Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo blocking his path to the first team he has decided to try his luck elsewhere.