Despite his own insistence that no decision on his future would be made before the end of the 2020/21 season, Lionel Messi’s continuity at the Camp Nou remains in doubt, although Manchester City have moved to publicly deny reports they have made an offer to the forward.
Messi’s contract with Barcelona is due to expire in June, which means as per the Bosman transfer rules, he has been legally allowed to talk to non-domestic clubs since the turn of the year.
Whether or not this has happened remains unclear, and you would have to say it’s doubtful given Messi’s insistence that his focus was only on the remainder of the season.
With that being said, The Sun posted a story which suggested that Manchester City had made Messi an offer to sign with the club in the summer, however a spokesperson for the Manchester club has told MARCA that this isn’t true.
The information MARCA received was that Manchester City haven’t made an offer for Messi either last summer or within the final six months of his current contract.
Paris Saint-Germain’s infinitely comfortable 4-1 victory over a poor Barcelona team on Tuesday all but confirmed Messi will not win the Champions League this term either, and this could well propel him closer to the exit door.
If this is indeed the case, you can see why Manchester City are eager to not be seen doing anything which could potentially damage their relationship with the Argentine’s camp, especially when they are likely to make their move in the summer.
Messi said during an interview in December that he would not be deciding his future until June and will not engage in talks with any clubs until that decision is made
Manchester City have ‘emphatically’ denied making any offer to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, or even opening talks with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner amid claims that they have presented him with a contract worth a total of £430m.
Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of the season. He is yet to make his mind up about his future and it would not be a surprise to see him leave Camp Nou as a free agent.
The 33-year-old wanted to quit the club last summer, only for Barça to block his attempts to trigger a clause in his contract what would have allowed him to leave a year early.
With his only option then to take the club to court, he chose to back down instead of force the issue.
There are very few viable options for Messi outside Barcelona, but City have been most heavily linked alongside Paris Saint-Germain. Joining City would mean reuniting with mentor Pep Guardiola, while the sky blues have spent the last 10 years building their own version of Barcelona off the pitch.
PSG haven’t hidden their admiration for Messi and magazine France Football even mocked up an image of him wearing PSG colours for a recent cover spread.
But a tabloid story this week that City have put forward an offer is thought to be wide of the mark.
A report from The Sun alleged that City had presented Messi with a five-year contract worth £430m, including three further years of ambassadorial roles with the City Football Group. It is claimed that deal is down on a £600m contract Messi was supposedly offered last summer.
However, NoRM cites a City spokesperson who says there is no truth in the story: “There have been no offers made, either in the summer or since. And there are no talks.”
That version of events also ties into what has previously been reported on the developing saga.
Earlier this month it was revealed that City are taking the opposite approach to PSG and are being much more patient and distant than the noisy French champions.
City have been tipped to delay making any sort of approach until at least or April, which could command greater respect from Messi himself, with the player said to hate the media circus that surrounds his uncertain future and that PSG are helping to fuel.
Messi said during an interview in December that he would not be deciding his future until June and will not engage in talks with any clubs until that decision is made, even though he is now already eligible to do so with a view to signing a pre-contract agreement.
Players can talk and can say what they want. They do so from feelings, just as Real Madrid and Barcelona players do. ..
Mauricio Pochettino has insisted PSG have shown no lack of respect by talking about their desire to sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer.
Messi handed in a transfer request in the summer of 2020 following Barcelona’s chaotic season on and off the pitch. His lofty release clause meant he was unable to force an exit, but the Argentinian’s contract expires in June 2021, enabling him to leave the club for nothing.
PSG are considered one of the few clubs in world football who possess the financial muscle to land the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, and both players and members of the club’s hierarchy have discussed the possibility of signing Messi in recent weeks. This has been criticised by Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman and presidential candidate Joan Laporta.
Pochettino himself has always remained diplomatic regarding the rumours, and insists no harm was meant by his colleague’s comments.
“When a player speaks, he is talking out of affection, excitement and friendship,” the PSG boss said. “There’s no controversial issue that has been generated by the club. At no time has there been a lack of respect or gone against a situation that is not the correct one.
“Players can talk and can say what they want. They do so from feelings, just as Real Madrid and Barcelona players do. They can talk about teammates that are at other clubs.”
PSG sporting director Leonardo began stoking the flames in January when he stated that players like Messi ‘will always be on PSG’s list’. Laporta – who has had the future of Messi front and centre of his presidential campaign – hit back with a dig at PSG’s financial fair play record.
Messi’s international teammate Angel Di Maria admitted that he ‘hopes’ the diminutive forward signs for PSG – comments that Koeman criticised for having a ‘lack of respect’.
Koeman did express his delight with his team’s performance on the night after Barca came back from two goals down in normal time and then scored three goals in extra time.
Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has hit out at Angel Di Maria over the PSG forward’s comments suggesting Lionel Messi could join him in Paris next season.
Messi’s contract at Camp Nou expires at the end of the season and PSG have been mentioned as a possible destination, in part because they are one of only a handful of clubs that could afford the Argentine star’s massive wages.
PSG’s sporting director Leonardo has opened the door to a move, telling France Football last month: “Great players like Messi will always be on PSG’s list. But this is of course not the time to talk about it, or to dream about it.”
Di Maria echoed his sporting director’s comments on Wednesday after his side’s 3-0 win over Nimes.
“Yes, yes, I hope so,” Di Maria told Canal Plus of a possible PSG move for his international team-mate. “There are many possibilities. We have to be calm and things will develop.”
Koeman got word of those comments and speaking after Barcelona defeated Granada 5-3 in an extra-time thriller in the Copa del Rey, the Dutch manager accused Di Maria of being disrespectful.
“It seems to me a lack of respect. Someone can be wrong in saying something like that,” Koeman said.
“It is not fair, I do not think it is respectful towards Barca to speak like that of a player who is ours. So many people from PSG talk a lot about Leo, who plays for Barca.
“Besides, we have a tie against them,” Koeman added, referring to the teams’ upcoming Champions League last-16 matchup.
Koeman did express his delight with his team’s performance on the night after Barca came back from two goals down in normal time and then scored three goals in extra time.
“It’s incredible,” Koeman added. “The football is incredible. I think we’ve done well. We had chances to win the game earlier.
“The team has been huge. In the last five minutes of the second half, we scored two goals. Then extra time was incredible
“The first thing that stands out about the team is their mentality. We never stop trying.”
Barcelona will take legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details on Sunday of Lionel Messi’s current contract, which it says is worth up to 555 million euros ($674 million) over four years.
Barca responded by also insisting they were not responsible for the leak, although the club did not deny the details of the report.
El Mundo say the deal signed by Messi in 2017 is the “largest in the history of sport” and called it the “colossal contract that ruins Barcelona”.
The 33-year-old could end up collecting a maximum of 555,237,619 euros before it expires on June 30 this year, if all conditions were met.
With six months left of the deal to run, “the player has already earned 511,290,052 euros, almost 92 per cent of the possible total”, the report claims.
The leak comes as Barcelona are wrestling with a dire financial situation, worsened by the pandemic, and with Messi’s future still up in the air, given the striker can leave the club for free this summer.
“In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” said Barcelona in a statement.
– ‘Absolute support’ –
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.
“FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the club where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
According to the report, Messi earned 115 million euros just for signing the contract in 2017 and among his potential bonuses is a 3,548,644-euro reward for winning the Champions League and 2,365,766 euros for winning La Liga, El Mundo claims.
His club contract dwarfs those of the other top earners in global sport.
Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, last year signed the biggest contract in North American sport, worth a minimum of 450 million dollars, but it is 10 years long.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with Juventus is worth a reported 30 million euros a year, but bonuses may have taken it up to 70 million euros last season. Ronaldo also earns more from endorsements than Messi.
Messi is set to decide in the coming months whether he wants to stay at Barcelona or leave the club he joined as a 13-year-old and where he has become arguably the greatest player of all time.
Frustrated with Barca’s decline in recent years, the Argentinian also feels unfairly blamed for worsening performances on the pitch.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the favourites to sign Messi if he chooses to leave.
News of Messi’s contract comes just days after the club revealed their 2019/20 financial report, which showed Barcelona are facing gross debts of £1bn.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi’s current contract will see him earn £492m by the time it expires next summer, making it the biggest deal in the history of sports.
Messi became the highest-paid footballer in the world when he penned the four-year deal with Barça back in November 2017, with club officials more than happy to pay up to prevent him from walking away for free in 2018.
Rumours in the infamous Football Leaks drama in 2018 shed some light on just how much Messi would earn from that contract, but El Mundo now claim to have a copy of the paperwork which reveals the true extent of Messi’s earnings.
It’s stated that Messi is guaranteed to take home £122m each season, but that’s not even the craziest part. There was a £102m bonus handed to the Argentine simply for signing the contract, on top of a £69m loyalty bonus he gets every season for staying at the club.
The deal also includes bonuses like more than £520,000 for winning FIFA’s The Best award, something he did in 2015 when it was known as World Player of the Year, and £3.1m if Barcelona reach the Champions League final.
With a total value of £492m, Messi’s contract is now understood to be the biggest in the history of sports, beating the £402m ten-year deal inked by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and boxer Canelo Alvarez’s £292m five-fight deal with DAZN.
It’s prompted claims that Messi has ‘ruined’ Barcelona – something El Mundo go along with in their headline – but presidential candidate Victor Font has hit back at the idea that Messi has run the club into the ground.
“Leo Messi has earned every euro paid to him by Barca,” Font wrote on Twitter. “He has not ruined us. On the contrary. He is the best player in history and we want him to stay with us forever more.”
Instead, others have pointed to the combined £384.5m which was spent to sign Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann, none of whom have really justified their lofty price tags at Camp Nou.
Spanish Football Federation Competition Committee deemed a two-game suspension sufficient – but Barcelona have announced their intention to appeal and this has been supported by Koeman.
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has backed the club’s decision to appeal Lionel Messi’s suspension following the Argentinian’s red card against Athletic Club in the Supercopa de Espana final.
With Barcelona trailing 3-2 in injury time, Messi’s run was blocked off by Asier Villalibre and the forward responded by striking the Athletic Club striker round the back of the head.
The incident was not initially seen, but after the referee consulted the VAR monitor, Messi was shown a straight red card – the first of his club career.
Despite reports suggesting the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could be slapped with up to a 12-game ban, the Spanish Football Federation Competition Committee deemed a two-game suspension sufficient – but Barcelona have announced their intention to appeal and this has been supported by Koeman.
“The club has told me that they do not agree on it and we will see,” said the Barcelona manager (via Blaugranagram.) “There are things that can be defended and it is a matter for the club, hopefully they will reduce the sanction, otherwise we will play two games without Messi.
“He has trained without problems this morning and it means that he has recovered well from the last game and will be good to play when he has to play after his suspension.”
With his two game suspension, Messi is currently poised to miss Barcelona’s Copa del Rey last 32 tie against Segunda B outfit Cornella on Thursday evening, followed by Sunday’s La Liga clash with struggling Elche.
He would then be in contention to return the following Sunday for Barcelona’s league meeting with Athletic Club – the side against whom he initially incurred his suspension.
Barcelona currently sit third in La Liga – seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid – after another turbulent season on and off the pitch.
Messi was well off the pace and allowed his frustrations to boil over in stoppage time, striking Asier Villalibre and being shown the first red card of his club career after VAR intervened, but Koeman insisted that it was the 33-year-old’s decision to play.
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has defended his decision to play Lionel Messi in Sunday’s Spanish Supercopa final defeat to Athletic Club, in which Messi picked up the first red card of his club career.
The Argentine had been a doubt for the game after missing the semi-final with a hamstring injury, but he was surprisingly named in the starting lineup and played the entire 120 minutes, putting in a performance which looked like that of a player who wasn’t fully fit.
“After so many years, he knows when he is fit to play and when he is not,” Koeman said (via Marca). “He has decided to play, nothing more. He was fine.
“I understand what happened. I don’t know how many fouls he has made. The player tries to dribble and cannot. Can I excuse him? I have to see the play first.”
Koeman also declined to give his opinion on the performance of referee Gil Manzano, adding: “I’d better not speak. It would be repeating things and I don’t like it. I’m not going to give an opinion.”
Fortunately for Barcelona, Manzano did not describe Messi’s foul as ‘aggressive’ in his match report, instead stating the Argentine used ‘excessive force’, a charge which brings about a lighter punishment.
It’s expected that Messi will now miss just two matches – the Copa del Rey third round against Cornella and the league meeting with Elche – whereas he could have been sidelined for anywhere up to 12 games if it was deemed as aggressive.
That decision will likely frustrate Villalibre, who claimed after the game that it was clear Messi set out to physically hurt him.
“I put my body in his way to stop him from going forward, he has got angry, he has put his hand in my face and I think it was a clear show of aggression,” the Athletic forward said.
The Catalan press are united in their belief that the Barcelona manager has lost the dressing room but will be given a chance in the Champions League.
Quique Setién’s short and turbulent reign as Barcelona manager appears to be coming to an end after Barcelona surrendered their Liga defence to Real Madrid and both Luis Suárez and Leo Messi spoke out about the Camp Nou side’s shortcomings this season.
The Catalan press are united in their belief that Setién is on his way out of Barcelona just six months after replacing Ernesto Valverde. The former coach faced criticism for the side’s style of play but he did deliver titles. Setién’s Barça have gone backwards despite the former boss being brought in due to his tactical reputation and adherence to the Johan Cruyff blueprint for how the team should perform. The 2-1 home defeat against Osasuna provided the last straw for many, including Messi.
Champions League last chance for Setién redemption Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has held several meetings with Setién and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will be in charge when the 2020-21 season kicks off. He will, it seems, be handed the chance for redemption in the Champions League but that is largely because of the difficulty in finding a replacement at such short notice. If Setién delivers a first European triumph in five years the panorama may change and he will be on the bench when Barcelona play Napoli in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, which is poised at 1-1.
However, Barcelona have been drawn in the tougher section of the knock-out stages and could face Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals with the prospect of either Manchester City, Juventus, Real Madrid or Lyon in the semis.
Should Setién guide Barça past that daunting prospect all may be forgiven but as it stands the former Betis boss’ time at Camp Nou appears to nearing the 11th hour.
As one Catalan daily put it simply on Saturday’s front page: “No league and no football.”
Football agents around the world are “dreaming” about the prospect of Lionel Messi moving to Juventus to team up with Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Argentine has been a one-club man his entire career but reports in Spain have suggested he could quit his beloved Barcelona.
Messi has publicly aired his frustrations this season and is thought to be growing disillusioned with the ideas implemented by coach Quique Setien.
Spanish radio station Cadena Ser have reported that the 33-year-old wants to leave the Nou Camp in a years time.
And former Catalan star Rivaldo believes a move to Juventus is realistic given the financial benefits Messi would bring.
“With all this speculation, I believe that some agents are already dreaming about a Messi-Ronaldo double at Juventus and how big it will be around the globe,” Rivaldo told Betfair.
“If that happened there would be a world ‘boom’, and I believe Juventus would quickly recover any investment on the Argentinian thanks to the boost they would get from visibility and marketing.
“It would be historical to see both playing together and I’m sure many Juve sponsors would love to help financially, so, it’s also a possibility for Messi.
“If there are rumours about his exit, then of course every club will be thinking about how they can sign him.
“That said, the two best players in the world for the past 10 years playing at the same club would be massive.”
Messi would still have a huge amount of clubs keen on his signautre despite his age.
The six-time Ballon D’Or winner has never tested himself outside of La Liga and Rivaldo reckons the Premier League would be a great challenge.
He added: “When Messi’s contract ends, he will be 34, but with his class I think he could still easily play in Premier League.
“It will be sad to see him leaving Barcelona once his contract ends eventually, but I still hope that he can stay for now.
“Despite his connection to the club, he has the right to move if he wants and reuniting with Pep Guardiola at City will be tempting for him, as the two of them formed a great coach and player partnership at Barca.”
Philippe Coutinho filled a Lionel Messi role while on the books at Liverpool, with Frank de Boer saying the Brazilian “doesn’t fit the puzzle” now that he has joined an Argentine superstar at Barcelona.
The former Barca star told talkSPORT: “I think Coutinho was a player where everything [went through] him, every ball went to him at Liverpool.
“He could probably do less work, basically what Messi does with Barcelona.
“And the thing is you see how everything works together, it’s like a machine.
“If one is not doing it it’s fine maybe, they can handle that, but if it’s two similar types of players, that they also want every ball and have that special position in the team, then you see how vulnerable a team can be.
“I think we saw that with Barcelona. There’s only one that can do that now and that is Messi.
“The team is adapting and if you have to adapt for two players like this, it’s difficult.
“I think Coutinho is an unbelievable player but sometimes he doesn’t fit the puzzle and maybe with another club it will go perfectly well.
“It doesn’t mean he is a bad player. It doesn’t mean that you are not a great player when you can’t play for Barcelona – no.
“It sometimes doesn’t fit your style of play and sometimes you have bad luck, not bad luck, that Messi’s around and he has that role, and then you have to do a different role that doesn’t suit you a little bit.
“So it’s a shame for Coutinho but I think now he will do okay.”
Ajax manager Erik ten Hag has said that Barcelona star Lionel Messi has not reached the same level since Pep Guardiola left Camp Nou in 2012.
Since Guardiola left Barcelona have won the Champions League just once in eight seasons, with Messi winning the Ballon d’Or two times in that timeframe – though Barca have won La Liga five times during that span.
Ten Hag believes that during Guardiola’s reign, Messi was able to be more of a team player and under subsequent coaches, the Argentine has seen his level dip at times below where it was under the Spaniard’s reign.
“Messi was one of the leaders, but he also worked for the team and excelled as a result. He has never been as good as under Guardiola,” Ten Hag told Voetbal International.
“Barcelona has not won much in European terms in recent years either.
“Messi still excels, but now also occasionally goes through the lower limit. It was never like that under Guardiola.
“Pep has guts, he dares to be pioneering and innovative.”
Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? It’s the question that has defined a decade of football; the cause of innumerable arguments across the globe.
In the age of social media, you are not allowed to appreciate both. You have to pick one or the other. And whom you chose apparently tells you a lot about how you view the game. As Luis Figo famously argued, it really is a question of taste: “It’s like choosing between white truffle or caviar.”
Indeed, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that both are incredible; both belong in the conversation on the best player of all time. They are, after all, responsible for an unprecedented rivalry in the history of the game: two all-time greats on opposite sides of the Clasico divide for nine years, pushing one another to scale even greater heights.
As Messi himself told DAZN: “It was a duel that will last forever because it went on for many years, and it isn’t easy to keep at your highest level for so long – especially at those two clubs we were at, which were so demanding, in Real Madrid and Barcelona, the best clubs in the world.
“Competing head to head for so many years will be remembered forever. The sporting rivalry between us was very nice on a personal level. I think that the fans also enjoyed it, be they Madrid or Barca supporters, or just those who like football.”
It is not over yet, of course. Ronaldo and Messi may be 35 and 32, respectively, but they have yet to show any real signs of letting up. The Portuguese may have changed teams, leaving Real for Juventus in 2018, but the rivalry with Messi endures; the debate rages on – at least among their most ardent supporters.
When Ronaldo transferred to Turin, his fans followed. Juventus’ social media numbers skyrocketed, highlighting this new phenomenon of some supporters prioritising players over clubs. These very modern consumers of football have a favourite player – not a favourite team, which begs a far more pressing question than Messi or Ronaldo: What happens after the pair retire?
Will football lose followers? The two greatest protagonists in the most absorbing drama of the past decade will have left the stage – will some of the audience leave before the next act? After all, how could anything top what has gone before?
Ronaldo and Messi have distorted our perceptions of what is possible on a football field, making the extraordinary, ordinary. They have altered our idea of what constitutes an excellent goal-scoring season. Anything less than 50 goals a season could, in future, be construed as underwhelming.
And that is the key here: consistency.
“They’ve done it for so long,” Spanish football writer Andy West told Goal. “They’ve barely taken a week off. They’ve both had the physical fitness to play 40 or 50 games a year. Neither of them have really had serious injuries problems, which is amazing in itself. If you go back over the history of the game, there are very, very few players who are able to sustain that excellence for so long.
“Even if you look at players just from my lifetime, such as the Brazilian Ronaldo, he was the best player in the world at his peak, but he had so many injury problems that meant he was only at his greatest for a short period of time.
“They’ve not given anybody else has had a look in. There have been lots and lots of great players over the past decade who would have previously had a claim on being the best player in the world but they’ve not even been close. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Nobody has been close to the level of Messi and Ronaldo.”
Hazard and Neymar? Not even someone like Eden Hazard. The Belgium international was one of the best players in the world for years, lighting up the Premier League with his wing wizardry at Chelsea. However, even Hazard has admitted that he is simply incapable of matching Ronaldo and Messi’s numbers, as so painfully underlined by the 29-year-old’s form and fitness issues in his first year at Real Madrid.
“I often ask myself what I can do to become like Messi and Ronaldo and get 50 or 60 goals in a season,” he confessed to Sport/Foot. I try, of course, but I realise that I will never be a true goalscorer like them. It’s not in me. It is mainly mental: at 2-0, not thinking that is enough for example. Sometimes I still think after a goal, ‘That’s enough.’
“I’m not in search of records like some other players – if I can score between 15 and 20 goals each season, I will be very happy.”
One could never imagine Messi or Ronaldo being content with such a tally.
Of course, for the sake of narrative, they are portrayed as polar opposites: Messi is the quiet, unassuming genius who puts the team first; Ronaldo the self-made goal-scoring machine who takes as much pride in his appearance as his records. Both are crude caricatures, which do both a disservice. Messi can be as ruthless as Ronaldo; Ronaldo can be as magnanimous as Messi.
In addition, they are bound not only by brilliance but also determination, an inner drive that has seen both make the absolute most of their considerable skills.
Which is perhaps why Neymar is no longer the favourite to step into the spotlight when Messi and Ronaldo bow out. There have never been any doubts over the Brazilian’s ability but his level of focus has long been a cause for concern.
Neymar’s situation has hardly improved in the interim. If anything, that storm has only worsened. As has his physical condition.
Since moving to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee in 2017, Neymar has been blighted by injuries and ill-discipline. At 28, his career path now looks more likely to follow that of Ronaldinho than Ronaldo, having, thus far, failed to strike the perfect balance between sporting and commercial growth.
Time For Mbappe and Haaland? But what about the next generation? Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are considered the frontrunners to fill the void that Messi and Ronaldo will leave behind. Both are extraordinary young talents.
Mbappe is the only man other than Pele to have scored in a World Cup final as a teenager; Haaland is the youngest player in history to score 10 Champions League goals, having reached that mark in just seven matches.
Their potential is as obvious as it is enormous. Questions remain, of course. Can they sustain their fine form? Will they avoid serious injuries? Will they be as dedicated to their profession as Messi and Ronaldo?
Both are considered colourful characters. Haaland’s former Red Bull Salzburg team-mate Maximilian Wober described the Norwegian to Goal as “crazy insane” yet recalled how the striker would spend his time on away trips “reading scientific articles on who he could improve his sleep pattern or diet” while the rest of the team were playing cards.
In a similar vein, Mbappe once skipped a party in honour of Monaco’s shock 2016-17 Ligue 1 title triumph so that he could get enough rest to be in peak physical condition for the following day’s training session. The Frenchman was only a teenager back then, though, and there having been growing concerns about his allegedly egotistical behaviour since being taken under Neymar’s wing in Paris, as underlined by his recent spats with PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.
Mbappe has admitted himself that he is “not a hard worker” but is still regarded by journalists who follow the French league and national team closely as someone who simply loves playing football. As long as he retains that passion for the game, he should – like Haaland – continue to rack up record after record.
Of course, it would be unfair to expect anyone to equal Messi or Ronaldo’s remarkable strike-rates. Or carry the game into a new era, for that matter. Besides, it’s not as if the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry has been the only show in town over the past 10 to 15 years.
Messi has never played in the Premier League, while Ronaldo left in 2009 – yet the English top-flight is by some distance the most watched and, consequently, the richest championship in club football. There are, of course, many reasons for its global popularity: the sheer pace of the game separates it from its European rivals; what it loses in quality, it makes up for in frenzied entertainment.
In addition, the almost total absence of running tracks around its pitches only accentuates the raucous atmosphere generated by the massive and passionate crowds found with its modern stadia. England changed its practices and image following the Heysel and Hillsborough tragedies of the 1980s, and reaped the rewards.
With the advent of the Premier League in 1992, English football became a perfectly packaged product expertly sold to audiences across the globe by BSkyB and, in turn, the further riches bestowed upon clubs by the sale of overseas TV rights enabled the acquisition of some of the most talented and charismatic characters in football. All of this, coupled with the sport’s innate capacity for unscripted drama, made the Premier League compelling viewing.
Essentially, football faces a far more pressing concern than the imminent retirement of two living legends, with the Covid-19 pandemic having plunged the game into financial crisis that represents a very real existential threat for clubs and leagues across the world.
By its very nature, though, football is a simple game. Its popularity will not be dimmed by the pandemic; if anything, it may be enhanced by it, as people become even more appreciative of a sport that can be played by anyone with a ball.
So, if football can survive Covid-19, it can survive the loss of Messi and Ronaldo. The show will go on. But so too will the debate over who was better: Messi or Ronaldo?
There will never be an agreement, of course, but that is beside the point.
As Messi says, his rivalry with Ronaldo is a duel that will last forever.
Barcelona’s interest in signing Lautaro Martinez is on everyone’s lips but Inter are resisting selling and will fight hard for a big fee if they do.
The player is keen to move to Camp Nou, where he would join up with Argentine teammate Lionel Messi, but the clubs need to come to an agreement first.
Former Barça and Argentina player Javier Saviola has been speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport about the situation.
“[Lautaro] could be useful for Barcelona,” he said, but he had a warning: “Honestly, he could be useful, but we know what it means to be alongside Suarez, Messi and other big stars. What I am saying is it’s not easy to play with them.”
In that sense, Saviola pointed out the problems Paulo Dybala has had playing alongside Messi with the national team.
“He said it was difficult for him and Messi to play together and I support that theory because to be able to maintain your rhythm requires another level of concentration,” he said. “It sounds easy, but it is not.”
Lionel Messi was always showing signs he was heading for greatness, even as a player for Barcelona B, and his legacy will be impossible to surpass, says Samuel Eto’o.
The 39-year-old had a first-hand view of Messi’s development from raw talent to world superstar and said it was a matter of time before he became one of the best on the planet.
Speaking courtesy of La Liga, Eto’o said: “He would move between the B team and the first team, and he was very good.
“We already knew back then that Messi would one day be what he’s become. I’m very happy because he’s achieved that through his own hard work.”
Eto’o says one of the most pleasing aspects of Messi’s success is the way he has managed to stay grounded during a sensational career that has seen him become a six-time Ballon d’Or winner and doubts any player can better his achievements.
“He hasn’t changed at all. He’s still the good person that I knew back then and that I still know,” he added.
“He recently said ‘thanks to Samuel’, thanks to my advice – that I won’t reveal here – that his career changed.
“Back then he had to iron out a few things but he’s always had that talent. I’m proud and happy to see the story that he’s written and that hasn’t ended yet.
“It’s going to be very difficult, impossible even, to surpass his legacy.
“The most important thing for me is his character. Everyone appreciates him, adores him as a player.
“But he’s a wonderful guy and I’m proud to still be among his friends.”
Prior to football being postponed due to coronavirus pandemic, Messi had scored 24 goals in all competitions for Barca in the 2019-20 campaign.
Raheem Sterling admits he wants to get his hands on one of Lionel Messi’s shirts, even if he might not rush to put it on his wall.
“I am a shirt collector but I don’t put any shirts on my wall as of yet,” Sterling told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I don’t like people coming into my house and knowing I am a football player. I like to keep my house family orientated.
“But for sure when I do finish football and settle somewhere I’ll have all the shirts – hopefully many shirts to choose from – and pick my favourites that I played against and do a room of trophies and football shirts.
“There’s only one I really want and that’s a Messi shirt – when we played Barcelona I got a Neymar shirt, I think that’s the first shirt I ever asked for.”
Former Barca coach Valverde points out that training Messi ‘can’t be compared to anything’
What is it like to train with Messi? Ernesto Valverde was resounding. “It can’t be compared to anything,” said the former Barcelona boss.
“It is very difficult to tell Messi that if he has seen this player or the other player when he is doing something in training that you have not even seen. When you are training a team you are always thinking about what is the best option, from the outside it seems that it looks better and, nevertheless, from the inside it is seeing it much better than you.”
“Messi is an easy player to train”, Valverde stressed that he has “a great boost with respect to the group”.
“He has a great ambition to win and that makes the rest feel a great obligation to the club, to the game and that transmits it to all the players and forces them always to be at a very high level”.
“Watching him play is something that impresses from a far distance, but it impresses even more closely.”