Rumour Has It: Neymar flirting with Barcelona return and Messi reunion

By Sports Desk April 29, 2021

Neymar's future at Paris Saint-Germain remains strangely undecided.

The 29-year-old Brazilian has said he is happy in Paris but speculation continues to bubble away.

Neymar is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly discussing a renewal with PSG until 2026.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR TEMPTED BY BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar continues to flirt privately with a return to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Publicly, the Brazil star has declared he is happy with PSG but in no rush to re-sign, yet there are behind-the-scenes rumblings, potentially part of contract manoeuvring.

Neymar is reportedly obsessed with playing alongside Lionel Messi again at Camp Nou and continues to keep that option open.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United are still in the market for a right-winger with Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho top of their list, according to 90 Min.

- The Sun reports that Chelsea are preparing to launch a £90million-plus offer to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club from Inter.

- Chelsea are also open to offers for forward Tammy Abraham this off-season, with an asking price of £40m, claims The Telegraph.

- Arsenal wants to sign Norwich City full-back Max Aarons as a replacement for Hector Bellerin, whom they are prepared to offload, reports 90 Min.

- Juventus' Turkish defender Merih Demiral is in the sights of Everton, according to Calciomercato.

- AS claims that Atletico Madrid may ask Juventus to swap Paulo Dybala as compensation to permanently sign on-loan forward Alvaro Morata.

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    While not officially confirmed by the German club, widespread reports on Thursday suggested Nagelsmann had been dismissed.

    Bayern sit second in the Bundesliga, one point behind Borussia Dortmund, and it is one of their rivals' former coaches who is favourite to replace Nagelsmann.

     

    TOP STORY – TUCHEL SIGNS BAYERN DEAL

    According to Fabrizio Romano, Tuchel – who was sacked by Chelsea in September – has already agreed to become Bayern's new coach.

    Tuchel's first game would be against his former team Dortmund on April 1.

    Bayern face Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals. Nagelsmann, meanwhile, is sure to be linked with plenty of high-profile job opportunities.

    ROUND UP

    - The Sun, citing a Sport Bild report, claim that Eintracht Frankfurt have placed an £88million (€99.7m) price tag on Manchester United target Randal Kolo Muani.

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  • Messi scores 800th career goal – Opta numbers behind the GOAT's latest landmark Messi scores 800th career goal – Opta numbers behind the GOAT's latest landmark

    Another week, another landmark for Lionel Messi as the Argentina superstar scored his 800th career goal in Thursday's friendly against Panama.

    It's been an almighty journey for the all-time great, who has basically won everything on offer and claimed a record haul of seven Ballons d'Or along the way.

    The player regarded by many as the greatest ever, Messi reached his latest milestone with a picture-perfect free kick in the 89th minute against Panama, curling one into the top corner after crashing two prior free kicks into the crossbar.

    Although Messi hits new landmarks so frequently, at the age of 35 he is approaching a point where such achievements will become a little rarer.

    With that in mind, it's worth celebrating Messi and his feats while we still can – therefore, Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data behind his latest accomplishment.

    On the receiving end

    It's nearly 18 years since Messi's first goal in professional football. Then a floppy-haired 17-year-old, he latched on to a Ronaldinho pass before lifting a clever lob over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena on May 1, 2005.

    That goal has since become famous given its significance in marking the arrival of Messi – it also left a mark on the career of Valbuena.

    "The press calls me every time he's broken a record or achieved something important, especially press from Catalonia," he told Marca nine years later. "To me, it's a funny anecdote in my career as a goalkeeper."

    Well, it's all right for some. Many goalkeepers have had to contend with Messi smashing past them a few more times than Valbuena's single concession.

    In total, 232 goalkeepers had let in a goal against Messi before Thursday. No one conceded more than Diego Alves, however, with the Brazilian beaten 21 times. Iker Casillas is a close second (19).

    Returning the favour

    Of course, over his career Messi has also become synonymous with creativity, routinely setting up goals for his team-mates.

    But, given how many he's scored, he's also had to benefit from plenty of service from his colleagues as well – when he's not doing it all himself.

    There are several players with whom he's struck up particularly effective on-pitch relationships.

    For years, his combination with Dani Alves was unrivalled, the Brazilian setting up 42 of Messi's goals, but then along came Luis Suarez.

    Suarez, Messi and Neymar were a revered and feared front three, their understanding on the pitch so deadly. The Uruguayan ended up assisting 47 goals for Messi across their six years together, with no one else teeing him up more often.

    Messi also has his favourite clubs to score against. Impressively, Real Madrid (26) are right up there – but there are four teams he has punished more.

    Athletic Bilbao (29), Valencia (31) and Atletico Madrid (32) all struggled against him, but if there has been one team who have resembled lambs to the slaughter when facing Messi, it's Sevilla (38).

    Heights few have reached

    The world of football numbers can be a little muddy. What constitutes an official goal? What's an official competition?

    As such, there has been lots of confusion regarding the 'official' goals hauls of players down the years – we're looking at you, Pele and Romario.

    The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considers Cristiano Ronaldo to be the world record holder, stating in December 2021 that the Portugal forward was the first player to reach 800 official career goals.

    This makes Messi the second to reach that figure, with Opta corroborating his career record. There remains a possibility he will eventually reach 1,000. No one is expecting him to get there soon, though.

    After all, as good as he remains, achievements like scoring 91 times in a calendar year – as he managed in 2012 – appear to be beyond him these days.

    That was his best ever year, which – perhaps unsurprisingly – coincided with his most prolific season (2011-12), when he scored 82 goals.

    Still, the 35 goals he plundered in 2022 wasn't a bad return, especially given that haul included seven en route to World Cup success with Argentina.

    Still to come?

    There aren't many records at Barcelona that don't already belong to Messi. Top scorer? Done. Most appearances? Completed it. The most-photographed person at Camp Nou? Probably.

    It seems unlikely Messi will be around at PSG long enough to have the same kind of impact there, but he certainly still has career targets in sight.

    There's the aforementioned 1,000 goals landmark, though before then he will have his eyes on more international achievements.

    Messi's free kick to seal Thursday's 2-0 win left him just one from reaching 100 with Argentina, and after that he'll perhaps have designs on usurping both Ali Daei (109) and Ronaldo (120), the two highest-scoring players in men's international football.

    Similarly, with Ronaldo now out of the way in Saudi Arabia, Messi could also take his record for the most Champions League goals (140) – Messi is on 129.

    But regardless of what else he does or doesn't go on to achieve, Thursday's milestone is just another reminder of how fortunate we've been to witness Messi's truly remarkable career.

  • Messi scores 800th career goal on Argentina's return to action Messi scores 800th career goal on Argentina's return to action

    Lionel Messi reached the latest major milestone of his storied career on Thursday as he moved on to 800 goals with a stunning free kick for to seal Argentina's 2-0 friendly win against Panama on Thursday.

    The reigning World Cup champions returned to Buenos Aires where they received a thunderous reception from their loyal supporters, but they would have to wait until the final moments for their favourite son to get on the scoresheet.

    Messi had hit the crossbar with a free kick in the first half, and after a second free kick was saved by inspired Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra, he struck the woodwork again with a third free kick, although this one led to the opening goal as Thiago Almada tapped in the rebound.

    But his fourth free kick finally curled under the bar and into the top-right corner, sending the stadium into raptures.

    Of course, it was not so long ago that Messi hit another goals landmark.

    His tap-in from Kylian Mbappe's inch-perfect cross against Marseille on February 26 was the 700th club goal of Messi's career – the strike against Panama was only his second for club or country since then.

    Messi's stunner at El Monumental on Thursday was his 99th on the international stage.

    Only his old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo (120) and Iran legend Ali Daei (109) have scored more goals in international men's football than Messi, who looks set to continue playing for Argentina for a little while yet.

    As such, his 100th goal for the Albiceleste is seemingly just around the corner.

    But much like with that international milestone, Messi is not the first player to reach 800 across a full career.

    Data can get a little murkier when you go deep into the past, with historical inconsistencies making it a little tricky to classify "official goals" or "official competitions".

    The likes of Brazilian greats Romario and Pele are among a group of players deemed by some to have scored over 1,000 goals over their careers, but many of those were netted in friendlies or "unofficial" games.

    The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considered Cristiano Ronaldo to be the first player to ever reach 800 official goals in December 2021.

    With that in mind, Thursday's goal makes Messi the second to reach the landmark, and he is still going strong.

    He has scored 18 for the season (all competitions) with PSG, though he also netted seven in as many games at Qatar 2022 as Argentina won the World Cup.

    Of course, the vast majority of his 800 goals have been scored in the colours of Barcelona.

    During 17 years with Barca's first team, Messi scored 672 times. That is 440 more than any other player in the club's history, while he also holds their record for most appearances (778).

    And with his future at PSG in doubt, he could yet extend those records at Camp Nou.

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