There were cards of a different kind for Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal when the Barcelona team-mates won almost €500,000 at a European Poker Tour event on Monday.

World Cup winner Pique placed second in the Single-Day High Roller category at Casino Barcelona the day after helping his club to a 5-2 victory over Real Betis in LaLiga.

The former Spain international pocketed €352,950 as he finished runner-up to countryman Juan Pardo from a field of 70 entrants.

Event sponsor PokerStars revealed "poker aficionado" Pique has now collected more than half a million euros from his involvement in high-level tournaments.

Vidal also performed well, winning €134,460 to claim fifth spot.

The cash contributed to a memorable two days for the midfielder, who netted the final goal as his side secured three points at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Pique made his 500th appearance for Barca in the match.

All eyes remain on Neymar as Barcelona and Real Madrid continue trying to work out a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the superstar forward.

Neymar, 27, is heavily linked with a return to LaLiga before the transfer window closes on September 2, but there has seemingly been limited progress.

The slow developments continue as numerous Barcelona players are either being asked for or offered to PSG, who know what they want from Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – PSG DEMAND VINICIUS FROM MADRID IN NEYMAR DEAL

PSG have told Real Madrid they will only negotiate for Neymar if Vinicius Junior is part of a deal, according to AS.

The LaLiga giants have already rejected a proposal involving Vinicius three times, the report says.

Barcelona are expected to be in Paris on Tuesday, according to Le Parisien, who report PSG have revealed what they want for Neymar.

According to the report, PSG want €100million plus Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele.

Barcelona are willing to offer a maximum of €170m for Neymar if it can be paid over two years, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Inter have spoken again and the Serie A giants are optimistic they will reach an agreement for Alexis Sanchez, according to Sky Sport. The difficulty in negotiations continues to be around the attacker's salary.

- Just what Christian Eriksen's future holds remains unclear. Tottenham have offered the midfielder a new contract but his representatives are unwilling to talk, according to the Mirror. Eriksen wants a move to either Real Madrid or Barcelona, who are yet to make a bid for the Denmark international, the report says.

- Mesut Ozil has been linked with a move away from Arsenal, but it seems the playmaker could stay at Emirates Stadium. Turkish Football claims Ozil will not leave Arsenal during this transfer window.

- Fred's time at Manchester United could be over. Fiorentina have offered €20m (£18.2m) for the Brazil midfielder, according to La Nazione. Meanwhile, The Times report Fred is expected to stay after holding talks with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Staying at Old Trafford, Nemanja Matic wants talks with Solskjaer after losing his first-team place, according to the Mirror.

- Merih Demiral's stay at Juventus may be brief. AC Milan and Juve are set to meet again regarding the defender, with the Rossoneri prepared to offer €35m for the Turkey international, who joined the Serie A champions for €18m last month. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, that would mean Daniele Rugani would stay in Turin and Roma would again turn their attentions to Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren.

- After scoring his first Chelsea goals, Tammy Abraham is set to earn a new deal. The Telegraph reports the Premier League giants are ready to offer the striker a deal that would more than double his £50,000-per-week wages.

Barcelona under-19 head coach Victor Valdes said he bought new boots for Ansu Fati as the teenager continues to impress at Camp Nou.

Fati became Barca's second youngest player to feature in LaLiga during their 5-2 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

The 16-year-old moved behind Vicente Martinez, who was 18 days younger when he played against Real Madrid in October 1941, after coming off the bench.

Former Barca goalkeeper Valdes – back at Camp Nou as a coach – spoke about the highly rated youngster.

"I told him to bring me his boots and they were a complete disaster, they were causing him pain," Valdes said at a news conference on Monday.

"Nobody had thought it could be the boots, but I did. We went to buy some new ones."

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Ansu arrived at Barca in 2013 at the age of 10 and has impressed at every level since then, recently signing a deal that will keep him at the club until June 2022.

Playing for the club's Juvenil A under-18 side, Ansu was not expected to feature for the first team for some time. However, injuries to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele saw him drafted into Ernesto Valverde's side for the home clash with Betis.

"He's strong, quick and self-confident," Valdes added. "You have to give this kind of talent freedom so that he flows.

"I'm so happy for him, he called me this morning and it made me very excited.

"I'm thankful to [Ernesto] Valverde for giving him some minutes. His performance didn't surprise me."

Some major European clubs have only a week left to add to their squads with the transfer window for much of the continent set to close on September 2.

Lots of big moves have already been completed with players including Eden Hazard, Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann, Nicolas Pepe and Harry Maguire swapping teams for huge fees.

But the last week of the window tends to be when clubs kick into gear, with one super-sized deal potentially setting off a chain reaction.

Who are the stars still in the middle of transfer sagas? Omnisport picks out a few names to keep an eye on in the coming days.


ALEXIS SANCHEZ

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have decided there is no place in his Manchester United squad for Sanchez, who is being strongly linked with a loan move to Inter. That would see him reunite with another player who found himself on the fringes at Old Trafford in Romelu Lukaku, who has reportedly been encouraging the Chile international to join him at San Siro. Sanchez's wages – said to be as high as £500,000 a week – are likely to pose a problem for any deal, though.

NEYMAR

Injuries to Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe have complicated matters for Paris Saint-Germain's wantaway superstar Neymar. A return to Barcelona has been mooted for the 27-year-old, who left Camp Nou in 2017 for a world record €222million, but the Catalans have reportedly seen a number of cash-plus-players offers rejected. LaLiga rivals Real Madrid have long been linked with Neymar too, though their capture of Hazard means they have already added one world-class talent who prefers to operate from the left flank. It has been suggested a loan move might now be the Brazilian's best chance of securing the departure from PSG that sporting director Leonardo has confirmed he wants.

PAUL POGBA

Pogba was United's top scorer in the Premier League last term but his season ended with a confrontation with supporters after the final game of the campaign, a home loss to Cardiff City. The Frenchman confirmed in June he was seeking a "new challenge" but is yet to get a move away. Pogba, who was targeted by racist abuse after failing to convert a penalty in a draw at Wolves last Monday, is reportedly wanted at Madrid by Zinedine Zidane. But time is running out to do that deal, especially as United are unable to secure a replacement as the Premier League's window has already closed.


CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN

Mauricio Pochettino has only started Eriksen in one of Tottenham's three Premier League games this term amid continued speculation over his future. Like Pogba, Eriksen is on record as saying he wants to move on, but his position is even more perilous for Spurs as the Denmark midfielder is in the final year of his contract. Chairman Daniel Levy is known for his brinksmanship, so this deal could go right down to the wire. Eriksen is believed to be Madrid's back-up option should they fail to land Pogba.


PAULO DYBALA

One of the players in the Neymar chain is Dybala, who was an unused substitute as Juventus started their Serie A title defence with a 1-0 win at Parma on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival in Turin last year was always likely to be bad news for someone – and it was Dybala who suffered the most. The Argentina attacker is still regarded as one of world football's brightest lights, but at 25 he cannot afford another season on the periphery. Tottenham almost signed Dybala but the deal was understood to have collapsed amid problems with his image rights, while United reportedly pulled out over his wage demands. Should Neymar leave Paris, Dybala is said to be top of PSG's list and, with Juve needing to cut a bloated squad, he would likely be allowed to leave if the price was right.


LUKA JOVIC

Madrid also have too many players and, despite the Serbia striker only recently joining from Eintracht Frankfurt, Jovic may be allowed to leave - even if his departure is a loan move. Jovic's goals were instrumental in Eintracht's run to the Europa League semi-finals but Zidane is seemingly not a fan of the 21-year-old. Jovic has said he will not be leaving but, if the right club comes in, Madrid could be persuaded to let him go.


GARETH BALE

The relationship between Zidane and Bale seemed to be beyond repair, especially as the Madrid coach said during a pre-season tour that it would be best if the Wales star left the club. But after a move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning fell through, Bale has been reintegrated at the Santiago Bernabeu and has started their two LaLiga games this season. It is not out of the question that Bale could still leave in the next week, but his future seems to be in the Spanish capital - at least for now.


JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Similarly to Bale, James has been selected by Zidane in the new LaLiga season after apparently being outcast at Madrid. The Colombia playmaker spent the past two years on loan with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and was strongly being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid before Diego Simeone's side thrashed their cross-city rivals 7-3 in a pre-season game in the United States. Carlo Ancelotti - who coached the 28-year-old at Madrid and Bayern - has also confirmed James is a target for Napoli, but the Serie A side have been unable to make that deal happen. A calf injury sustained on Saturday could also throw a spanner in the works for James.

Antoine Griezmann says he copied team-mate Lionel Messi and NBA superstar LeBron James as he scored his first Barcelona goals in Sunday's win over Real Betis.

The France star, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid, struck twice as the champions secured a 5-2 victory at Camp Nou.

Griezmann got his first by prodding in Sergi Roberto's cross before bending home a fine strike from the edge of the area in the second half.

Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal completed Barca's scoring, with Betis' goals coming through Nabil Fekir and Loren Moron.

Griezmann celebrated his second by throwing confetti into the air and standing with arms outstretched, mimicking James' famous 'chalk toss' warm-up routine.

The forward also revealed how that goal came from watching Messi - who was in attendance but sidelined due to injury - do the same in training.

"I saw Leo do that in training and I copied him," Griezmann told Movistar.

He added of his celebration: "I like the ritual that LeBron James does before the games and I tried to copy him. I hope I can keep copying him for many more games - that would be the best signal."

After the game, Griezmann took to Twitter to say: "How beautiful it is to score at Camp Nou! Thank you for your support, may our colours shine!"

Barca's win was the first of the new season, Ernesto Valverde's side having lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao in their opening fixture.

They face Osasuna on Saturday in their final match before the international break.

Barcelona are preparing their latest bid for Neymar – and this one includes Ousmane Dembele.

With the transfer window closing on September 2, the Neymar saga is seemingly no closer to ending amid reports the star forward wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca are still trying to find a way to get the Brazil international back to Camp Nou and their latest offer is set to see Dembele move the other way.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TO OFFER DEMBELE TO PSG IN NEYMAR BID

Barcelona will offer Dembele to PSG as they try to sign Neymar, according to Le Parisien.

The LaLiga champions are still trying to work out a way to buy Neymar and are set to offer €170million after an initial loan deal with either an option or obligation to buy, the report says.

Barca are also prepared to offer €40m and Dembele as they try to land Neymar.

Meanwhile, Le Monde reports PSG's owners are unwilling to sell Neymar two years after his €222m move from Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- It remains to be seen if Ivan Rakitic will stay at Barcelona. The Croatia midfielder's name was put on the table during a recent meeting between Barca and Juventus, according to Sport.

- After starting for Real Madrid against Real Valladolid, James Rodriguez wants to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu, according to AS. The playmaker has been linked to Napoli and Atletico Madrid during the transfer window.

- Staying at Real Madrid, Cadena SER report the LaLiga giants will not make it easy for Keylor Navas to leave the club. The goalkeeper has been linked with a move away, but Madrid will only sell the Costa Rica international for the right price and provided they can find a replacement.

- Robert Lewandowski appears set to extend his stay at Bayern Munich. The striker will sign a new deal that runs until 2023 with the Bundesliga champions, according to Sport Bild.

- Tottenham are growing confident Toby Alderweireld will sign a contract extension, according to The Sun. The defender's current deal is up at the end of the season but he could be set to stay at Spurs.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma continues to be linked to PSG. The AC Milan goalkeeper is still a target for the Ligue 1 giants, le10sport report.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde praised Antoine Griezmann for stepping up in a LaLiga win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Griezmann scored his first goals for Barca with a brace in a 5-2 victory over Betis at Camp Nou.

With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele sidelined due to injuries, the forward led the club to their first win of the LaLiga campaign.

Valverde hailed Griezmann, who also had an assist, for delivering when Barca needed.

"I have to recognise that it was an important day for him due to the injuries we had. He reacted perfectly," he told a news conference, via Marca.

"He dropped into the midfield to help and he made an impact. We know that if attacking players track back, we have a better chance of winning."

Messi has been working his way back from a calf injury, but the superstar forward missed the meeting with Betis.

Valverde was unwilling to risk the 32-year-old and said: "There wasn't a positive feeling. He hasn't had a relapse of the injury.

"We already said that we wouldn't rush any player. What we wanted to avoid was a relapse."

Barcelona secured their first LaLiga win of the season on Sunday, running out 5-2 winners over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Antoine Griezmann grabbed the headlines after scoring his first goals for the club, but there was an introduction from the bench in the 78th minute that gave a tantalising glimpse into the club's future.

Ansu Fati, just 16, was brought on to replace Carles Perez and became the second youngest player to feature in LaLiga in the club's history behind Vicente Martinez, who was 18 days younger when he played against Real Madrid in October 1941.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Ansu arrived at Barca in 2013 at the age of 10 and has impressed at every level since then, recently signing a deal that will keep him at the club until June 2022.

Playing for the club's Juvenil A under-18 side, Ansu was not expected to feature for the first team for some time. However, injuries to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele saw him drafted into Ernesto Valverde's side for the home clash with Betis.

He did not look out of his depth during the final 12 minutes and was congratulated after the game by Messi, who, alongside an image of him hugging Ansu, wrote on Instagram: "Very happy to see the boys fulfilling their dreams of reaching the first team and playing at Camp Nou in an official match."

Speaking to RAC1 after the game, Ansu's father said: "I have seen him make his debut for Barca; I can die quietly. It will not be the first time, there will be many more appearances."

After such a composed debut, you would not bet against it.

Antoine Griezmann felt Barcelona stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to get their first LaLiga win of the season against Real Betis on Sunday.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid got off the mark for his new club in the 41st minute to cancel out Nabil Fekir's opener, before adding a wonderful second to put Ernesto Valverde's side ahead five minutes after the interval.

The hosts went on to win 5-2 and banish the disappointment of last week's opening defeat to Athletic Bilbao, and Griezmann, while admitting there is still plenty of work to be done, says he was impressed by how Barca coped without injured duo Messi and Suarez.

"We have improved a lot and we still have details to improve, although this is going in the right direction," he told Movistar.

"In the end, when many important people are missing, everyone takes a step forward and today it has been like that.

"After a defeat there are many comments and we had to work hard this week and in the end we played a great game. We have enjoyed it."

Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arutro Vidal were also on target for Barca before Loren Moron added a superb consolation late on for the visitors.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first Barcelona goals as Ernesto Valverde's side recorded a thumping 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Griezmann endured a disappointing debut in last weekend's surprise 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao, but the €120million signing from Atletico Madrid – leading the line in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – announced himself to the Camp Nou faithful in style.

Nabil Fekir had given Betis a shock 15th-minute lead before Griezmann turned the game on its head either side of half-time with two fine finishes.

Barcelona did not look back after his second, adding further goals through Carles Perez – his first for the club – Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal before Loren Moron's wonderful late consolation for the visitors.

Barca started sharply, going close through Sergi Roberto and Griezmann, but it was the visitors who struck first.

The hosts lost possession cheaply in the middle of the pitch, allowing Loren Moron to feed the marauding Fekir. The former Lyon man pulled away from Alba and dispatched a clinical left-footed strike from 16 yards into Marc-Andre ter Stegen's bottom-left corner.

Barca came agonisingly close to restoring parity 10 minutes before the interval when Rafinha's close-range effort was diverted narrowly past the post by the outstretched leg of Sidnei.

They did pull level in the 41st minute, however, Griezmann stretching superbly to meet Roberto's clipped ball over the top and volley past Dani Martin.

Roberto was the provider again for Griezmann's second in the 50th minute, the France international whipping a glorious left-footed strike past Martin from 18 yards.

Barcelona were well and truly in the mood and scored a third six minutes later when Perez skipped past his marker and coolly slotted past a helpless Martin from just inside the area.

The Betis goalkeeper picked the ball out his net again just four minutes later, this time from Alba. The left-back surged into the penalty area, collected Sergio Busquets' pass and slid past the beleaguered Martin.

Barca eased off in the final 30 minutes, but they did add a fifth in the 77th minute when substitute Vidal expertly steered into the roof of the net from 10 yards after being picked out by Griezmann.

The final goal was one from Betis, with Moron firing a wonderful strike into the top corner from 25 yards in the 79th minute, although it did little to detract from a fine Barca win.

What does it mean? Barca's attack in rude health

It was not all plain sailing for Barcelona – they were badly exposed at the back for Fekir's opener – but there was enough on show to suggest the Catalan giants will once again be the side to beat in LaLiga this season. The thought of Messi and Suarez joining Griezmann in attack is sure to give defenders across Spain sleepless nights.

Griezmann introduces himself in style

The World Cup winner took full advantage of Messi and Suarez's absences, leading the line superbly and opening his account with two typically efficient finishes.

Pique endures landmark game to forget

Across 500 games for Barcelona, Gerard Pique has firmly cemented his place as one of this generation's finest defenders. Little of his legendary composure was on show against Betis, however, with the 32-year-old looking surprisingly shaky against Fekir and friends.

What's next?

Barca will hope to make it back-to-back wins when they visit Osasuna on Saturday, while Betis host Leganes on the same day.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for Barcelona since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid against Real Betis on Sunday.

The France international endured a difficult debut in a surprise 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao last week, but he opened his account for the club in the LaLiga clash with Betis at Camp Nou.

Griezmann – leading the line in the absence of injured duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – stretched superbly to meet Sergi Roberto's clipped pass and divert a volley through goalkeeper Dani Martin in the 41st minute.

The goal drew Barca level after they had surprisingly fallen behind to Nabil Fekir's 15th-minute strike.

Gerard Pique made his 500th Barcelona appearance when the LaLiga champions played Real Betis on Sunday and he sits proudly among the greatest defenders in the club's history.

The most decorated Barcelona defender of all time, Pique trails only Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta when it comes to honours won, and he can reflect on the memory of lifting no fewer than 29 trophies.

But there has been more to Pique's 11 years at Camp Nou than just silverware, and the 32-year-old has become renowned for his outspoken personality and uncompromising style.

To mark his milestone match, we take a look back at some of the moments that shaped a Barcelona great.

Unbeaten beginnings

Pique added steel to Barcelona's defence from the moment he arrived from Manchester United, with his first appearance for the club coming in a 4-0 victory over Wisla Krakow in the Champions League.

He made his LaLiga debut for Barca in a 1-1 draw against Racing Santander at Camp Nou on September 13, as the Blaugrana made an inauspicious start to a memorable 2008-09 season.

On target in Europe

Pique has scored goals in all of his 11 seasons at Barcelona, and his first goal in red and blue came against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.

After Lionel Messi put the visitors in front at Estadio Jose Alvalade, Pique made his presence felt in the opposition box and duly doubled Barca's lead from close range.

A goal in the Clasico

Real Madrid were on a hot streak when Barcelona arrived at the Bernabeu in May 2009, the capital side having won 17 of their previous 18 matches.

But the Blaugrana put them to the sword in a 6-2 thrashing, with Pique grabbing the last goal of a victory that all but etched Barcelona's name onto the title.

That was Pique's first league goal for Barcelona. Some way to announce yourself as a club superstar in the making.

Champions League vengeance

Pique was left out of Manchester United's squad when the Red Devils won the Champions League in 2008, but a year later he made up for that omission.

Barcelona went up against United in the 2009 Champions League final at Stadio Olimpico and Pique was at the heart of Pep Guardiola's defence as goals from Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o took Europe's top prize to Camp Nou.

Five finger salute

Pique's anti-Real Madrid stance has endeared him to the Camp Nou faithful ever since he enraged the Los Blancos fans back in November 2010.

After Barcelona thumped their old enemies 5-0, Pique held up five fingers to the Camp Nou crowd - a gesture known as the 'manita', or 'little hand', and the Madrid faithful have never forgiven him.

The second treble

After a glorious first season at Barcelona in which he won LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, Pique might have worried he had peaked too soon.

But any such concerns were blown away in 2014-15 when Pique starred in a 3-1 victory over Juventus in Berlin to clinch a historic second treble of domestic league, domestic cup and Champions League.

Old Trafford return

Pique described Old Trafford as his "second home" when Barcelona were drawn to play against Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-final and he relished the opportunity to return to the Theatre of Dreams.

An imperious performance from Pique helped Barca to a 1-0 victory that paved the way for a 3-0 second-leg win at Camp Nou, and United must have wished they had never let him leave for a paltry €5million back in August 2008.

Presidential ambition

In January 2018, Pique signed a contract to keep him at Camp Nou until 2022 with a buyout clause set at €500m.

The deal is expected to be the 32-year-old's last, and with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu set to stand down in 2021, there is perhaps no candidate to replace him who would be more popular than Pique, who has made no secret of his ambition to take charge of the club.

Neymar's future with Paris Saint-Germain remains up in the air.

The Brazil star has been linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona and Real Madrid as he eyes an exit from the French capital.

If he does leave, PSG have drawn up contingency plans, with one particular Premier League player attracting interest.

 

TOP STORY – PSG PLOTTING BIG ZAHA MOVE

Paris Saint-Germain are lining up a £100million (€109m) move for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha as a replacement for Neymar, according to The Mirror.

Neymar wants to return to LaLiga, with former club Barcelona and Real Madrid reportedly vying for his signature before the transfer window shuts on September 2.

If Neymar does get his wish, former Manchester United forward Zaha has emerged as a potential signing, with PSG reportedly sending a team to London to try to strike a deal.

The Ivory Coast international was linked to Arsenal and Everton before the Premier League's transfer window closed.

 

ROUND-UP

Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, 24, has been lined up as a potential replacement for Manchester United's David de Gea, according to The Sun. De Gea, whose last-gasp howler led to United's shock 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, is out of contract in 2020 and is yet to sign an extension.

- Also at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United are targeting Leicester City playmaker James Maddison. Having already prised Harry Maguire from the Foxes in a world-record deal for a defender, the Red Devils are reportedly ready to return for another Englishman.

- An agreement between Callum Hudson-Odoi and Chelsea over a new contract has been reached, reports Football London. Hudson-Odoi had previously been linked to Bayern Munich.

- According to The Express, Inter and Alexis Sanchez will discover whether a season-long loan deal will go through on Monday. Manchester United are willing to sanction Sanchez's exit.

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic remains a coveted player for Inter, according to FCInternews, who say a transfer is complex but not impossible. The Serbia star is valued at €100m by Lazio, who could receive the likes of Matteo Politano and Joao Mario in return.

- Sport says Espanyol are keen on signing Real Madrid newcomer Rodrygo Goes on loan as a replacement for Borja Iglesias following his move to Real Betis. The 18-year-old Rodrygo only arrived from Santos in a €45m deal during the off-season.

Lionel Messi is once again absent from the Barcelona squad for Sunday's LaLiga clash with Real Betis.

Messi returned to training this week following a calf problem, with the 32-year-old missing Barca's entire programme of pre-season friendlies due to Copa America commitments and his injury.

Although he got several days of training under his belt and appeared to be in fine form in video footage that came out of the sessions, it was reported Messi felt "discomfort" on Friday.

Coach Ernesto Valverde also urged fans to be patient in his pre-match news conference a day later, adamant Messi will not be risked if he is anything other than 100 per cent ready to feature.

As such, Messi has been left out of the squad for the visit of Betis, who left Camp Nou with a stunning 4-3 win last season.

There is a place in the selection for Ansu Fati, a 16-year-old winger who impressed in the UEFA Youth League in 2018-19.

Barca will be aiming to bounce back from their 1-0 opening-day defeat at Athletic Bilbao.

 

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says Lionel Messi has to be 100 per cent fit if he is to feature against Real Betis on Sunday.

The 32-year-old missed the whole of Barca's pre-season programme with a calf injury and was not part of their squad for their opening LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Messi – whose last competitive outing was for Argentina in the Copa America third-place play-off victory over Chile, a match in which he was controversially sent off – returned to training on Wednesday, but Valverde is unsure whether he will be fit for the visit of Betis.

Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Valverde said: "If he is not 100 per cent, he will not play."

If Messi does feature, he will likely line up alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid struggled to make an impact in last weekend's disappointing defeat, with Luis Suarez's first-half injury leaving him isolated up front.

Valverde says he is improving all the time and expects the France forward to start firing soon if he is given the right service.

"He is better every day," the Barca boss said. "He has to participate a lot and last week he did not participate as we would have liked. 

"If he participates, he can be decisive, but we must help him."

Betis also opened their LaLiga campaign with a defeat last weekend – a 2-1 reverse to Real Valladolid – but Valverde is expecting a tough game at Camp Nou.

He added: "Betis are a team that have many options to allow them to be towards the top of the standings, but it is mandatory that we get all three points after losing last weekend."

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