Messi has proven his commitment to Barca ahead of PSG tie, says Alba

By Sports Desk February 15, 2021

Lionel Messi has proven with his recent form that he is committed to Barcelona despite significant uncertainty surrounding his future and links to Tuesday's Champions League opponents Paris Saint-Germain, according to Jordi Alba.

Messi rocked world football in pre-season when declaring his desire to leave Barcelona after spending his entire professional career at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had grown disillusioned with the state of the club under previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom Messi subsequently accused of reneging on an agreement to let him leave on a free transfer.

Messi ultimately decided to stay put, uncomfortable with the idea of dragging Barca through the courts, leaving the possibility for him to depart at the end of his contract in 2021.

While Barca have made no secret of their desire to renew his deal, a situation that is dominating the lead-up to next month's presidential election, PSG are apparently eager to bring Messi to France and even some of their players have openly addressed the prospect.

With PSG up next on Tuesday, attentions understandably turned to Messi's future in the pre-match news conference, and Alba insisted his illustrious team-mate had shown his professionalism with his haul of nine goals in as many games.

"The decision he makes will be well thought out and well-considered," Alba said. "I have said many times that I am a better player on the field when he is on the field.

"It is his decision and it will have to be respected whatever he makes, but now his thoughts are at Barca and you see that in every game.

"Even if he had decided, he wouldn't say whether he is going to stay. He already said before what intention he had.

"Today he is 100 per cent committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season.

"What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word."

Ronald Koeman, who addressed the media after Alba, was a little less willing to discuss Messi, yet he reiterated he is optimistic Barca's captain will remain with them after the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know if it was the intention from [the media] to talk a lot about Messi, my idea is to prepare the team and the players for an important game," he said.

"Messi is a Barca player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barca player."

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Man Utd scouting Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa amid David de Gea uncertainty Rumour Has It: Man Utd scouting Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa amid David de Gea uncertainty

    Manchester United have already conceded 14 goals in seven Premier League games this season.

    United boss Erik ten Hag is weighing up his goalkeeping options, having stuck with long-term number one David de Gea since taking over.

    Reports have emerged that United and De Gea are set for talks on his future, with the 31-year-old's deal to expire in 2023.

    TOP STORY – MAN UTD EYE COSTA AS DE GEA REPLACEMENT

    Manchester United's goalkeeper situation is in flux, with the club interested in Porto custodian Diogo Costa, according to Metro.

    United have sent scouts to watch the 23-year-old goalkeeper, who has seven caps for Portugal.

    The Red Devils are looking for De Gea's successor, with the Spaniard seemingly not suiting Ten Hag's possession-based style.

    United also have 25-year-old England international Dean Henderson out on loan at Nottingham Forest.

    ROUND-UP

    – O Jogo claims former Olympiacos manager Pedro Martins could be the latest Portuguese coach to take over at Wolves, following Bruno Lage's dismissal on Sunday. The Telegraph reports that under-fire Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui may be considered and Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has also been discussed.

    Juventus and Real Madrid will rival Liverpool in the race to sign Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans from Leicester City, claims Calciomercato.

    – LaLiga pair Sevilla and Valencia are both interested in Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, reports Todofichajes.

    Tottenham and Juventus target Nicolo Zaniolo is set to pen a new deal with Roma, re-committing on a €4million per-year deal until 2027, according to Calciomercato.

    – Everton's Venezuela international striker Salomon Rondon has interest from UAE club Sharjah FC but is likely to stay with the Toffees, reports Liverpool Echo.

  • When Barca youngster Gavi burst onto the scene at San Siro When Barca youngster Gavi burst onto the scene at San Siro

    When Gavi made his international debut for Spain in October 2021, most onlookers would have been asking who this fresh-faced teen was.

    By the end of the game, they were still asking that, but armed with the knowledge that whoever he was, he was astonishingly good at football for someone born a month after Greece had beaten Portugal in the Euro 2004 final.

    Pablo Martin Paez Gavira made his La Roja debut against Italy in the Nations League at San Siro aged just 17 years and 62 days, becoming Spain's youngest-ever player, taking the record from Angel Zubieta, who had debuted in 1936.

    Head coach Luis Enrique popped the Barcelona midfielder in from the start against Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella, and not only did he hold his own, he was arguably the best player on the pitch as Spain won 2-1 to end the Azzurri's 37-game undefeated streak.

    Almost a year on from that night in Milan, Gavi will return to San Siro with Barca to take on Inter in the Champions League having established himself as a vital cog for both club and country, despite only turning 18 in August.

    He recently signed a new contract at Camp Nou with a €1billion release clause, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what it is that makes Gavi not just the future for Barcelona and Spain, but also the present.

    From school to Cule

    Remarkably, Gavi had only made four starts for Barca before getting the nod for his country in that crucial Nations League game, showing the early impact made.

    His debut for the Blaugrana came just over three weeks after his 17th birthday in the 2-1 home win against Getafe, before making his first start in a 0-0 draw away at Cadiz.

    Barca may have been struggling at the time under Ronald Koeman, but the development of Gavi and Pedri as the potential future of their midfield reminded fans of the halcyon days of Xavi and Andres Iniesta dictating play for them.

    It was therefore fitting that Xavi actually came back as head coach, and not only did it improve the team's fortunes, but it cemented Gavi's place even further and guaranteed he would be getting guidance from one of the best of all time in his position.

    Naturally, given his inexplicably young age, the not-quite-a-man from Los Palacios y Villafranca continued to set records, or at least come close to breaking them.

    His appearance at Cadiz at 17 years and 49 days made him the second-youngest player to make his first start for the club in the 21st century in LaLiga, only behind team-mate Ansu Fati (16 years and 318 days).

    At 17 years and 80 days, Gavi became the youngest player to start his first Clasico in the 21st century, breaking the previous record held by Pedri set just a year prior.

    Then he set another record for his country, but only just, aged 17 years and 304 days, he netted against the Czech Republic to become the youngest player to score for Spain in a competitive game, beating the mark Fati set previously by just one week.

    Overall in his debut campaign, Gavi made 47 appearances for Barca (36 starts), helping them to finish second in LaLiga.

    This season he has featured in all seven of their league games, as well as both Champions League clashes against Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich.

    Arguably his most impressive achievement so far, though, remains that performance against an elite Italy midfield that had just won the Euros.

    Another Barella challenge

    He will come face-to-face with one of those midfielders again on Tuesday, as Barella and Inter welcome Barca to Milan.

    Barella has emerged as one of the finest midfielders in Europe in the last few years, playing a key role in the Nerazzurri's Serie A title win in 2021.

    Comparisons have been made between the Italian and Gavi, which may not make Barella feel all that good considering it makes him the veteran of the debate at the age of 25.

    Their well-rounded performances in the middle of the park at club and international level are well-known, but just how do they compare?

    Looking at the stats for their clubs last season, Barella made 48 appearances in all competitions for Inter while Gavi made 47 for Barca, albeit the former made 47 starts compared to 36 for the teenager.

    Barella had 16 goal involvements (four goals, 12 assists), while Gavi had seven (two goals, five assists), and the Italian was more of a threat in attack generally, creating 81 chances from open play compared to 25 from the Spaniard.

    He was also more involved on the ball, averaging 55.84 passes per 90 minutes against 45.15, though Gavi did boast a higher success rate, with 89.23 per cent of his passes finding a team-mate against 85.44 per cent from Barella.

    The Inter man had a better tackle success rate of 59.77 per cent to 49.77 per cent, but the Barca youngster claimed more interceptions (32 to 29) despite playing fewer minutes.

    The impressively combative nature of Gavi is also clear when comparing, as he committed 91 fouls to Barella's 37, which might not sound ideal but for a team that attacks as high as Barca do, tactical fouls are often vital to prevent swift counters.

    It appears Barella has the edge on Gavi at the moment as an overall package, but that is hardly a surprise given the latter is more than seven years younger.

    How their meeting goes at club level this week will be truly fascinating to observe, especially if Barella recalls their Nations League clash.

    It could be argued that Gavi continues to be underrated by some.

    With fellow prodigies Pedri and Fati also featuring regularly for Barca and Spain, while being more of a visible goal threat than Gavi, it is easy for him to get a bit lost in all the praise, though it does not seem to be slowing down his growth as a player.

    In late August, Gavi made his 50th appearance for Barcelona, becoming the first LaLiga player born in 2003 or later to reach this figure across all competitions.

    With his long-term future tied to the Catalan giants and with one of the greatest midfielders the game has ever seen guiding him, the sky really is the limit.

    People will certainly know who he is when he takes to the field at San Siro on Tuesday.

  • Lewandowski salutes Barcelona teenage rampagers as mature beyond their years Lewandowski salutes Barcelona teenage rampagers as mature beyond their years

    Robert Lewandowski has been blown away by Barcelona's flood of teenage talent and believes there is no better place for young footballers to blossom.

    The 34-year-old Poland captain was brought in from Bayern Munich to provide a quick fix and give Barcelona a reliable goalscorer in the short term.

    But there is long-term vision at Barcelona too, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde all emerging as first-team players while still in their teens.

    Pedri arrived from Las Palmas in 2020 and was quickly assimilated into the senior set-up, bypassing the system at La Masia, the Barcelona academy, because he was considered so advanced already.

    Most have come through years of training in the academy system, however, which is churning out top-class footballers at a rapid rate.

    Lewandowski counts on such players as team-mates now, and says their style of play, having been training to follow Barcelona principles, is "noticeably distinct" to other youngsters in the game.

    "I'm impressed by the fact of how at that age one could be so mature in football," Lewandowski said, speaking to Polish online sport channel Kanal Sportowy.

    "I don't mean mature mentally. I meant if they thought differently about football. I wouldn't even compare it, if there are any differences there.

    "A man can't change his age. People abroad who are 18 years old can't think as it they were 26. People here live and grow in the same way. However, thanks to these academies it's much easier for them.

    "Being well trained at the age of 18 and really talented, they may reach a higher level. Additionally, they're really familiar with the world of football which Polish players miss."

    Lewandowski opened up on a host of themes in the interview, and said he intended to stay involved in sport once his playing days are over.

    He might find a coaching role one day, and his experiences in Barcelona should stand him in good stead.

    "It's the best possibility for a young player, to be able to observe experienced football players in order to become one of them in the future," said Lewandowski.

    Such players also point to a bright future for the Spain national team, with the emergence of a possible new golden generation.

    At first-team level, Barcelona are attempting to knock Real Madrid off their perch.

    Madrid won last season's LaLiga title and added the Champions League to boot, while Xavi's mid-season arrival began to turn around a Barcelona team who made a rocky start under former head coach Ronald Koeman.

    Xavi's Barcelona are level on 19 points with Madrid through the first seven rounds of this campaign, and the two current co-leaders will face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on October 16 in the season's first Clasico.

    Lewandowski hit the only goal at Real Mallorca on Saturday, with a hard-fought 1-0 win showing Barcelona have tenacity to complement their more obvious flair.

    The close-season recruit said he was "positively astonished" with how intense his early training experiences had been at Barcelona, after last season's "tough" experience for the club.

    Lewandowski is confident Xavi has a firm grip on what needs to be done to turn Barcelona into trophy winners again.

    "He's aware of what went wrong in the last season, in contrary to what he dreamed of, and I see that he wants to make it better," Lewandowski said.

    "Mentally they were really focused, but their bodies couldn't manage. I think that with every week and every match, we'll be growing, and I strongly believe that with time it'll get better."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.