Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde does not expect his side to have it all their own way against Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Czech Republic side earned a superb 1-1 draw away to Inter in their opening Group F game before succumbing to a 2-0 home defeat against Borussia Dortmund.

They now face LaLiga champions Barca twice in the space of a fortnight, with few expecting them to cause an upset against their more illustrious rivals.

Valverde has seen enough from Jindrich Trpisovsky's side to suggest they could cause problems for his outfit, though.

"We are looking forward to a game against a great rival, which has already demonstrated its strength in two Champions League games this season," he told a media conference.

"They do not turn their back and they approach games with many players in attack. They run a lot and the game is a fundamental one for both of us. 

"They are a dangerous team. They are a great team and you could see that in the Inter game. They played with personality and dominated the game.

"People may think that we are favourites, but it is an 11 against 11 game. They are a tough team and we will have to work hard."

Barca overcame Eibar 3-0 in LaLiga at the weekend, with Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all on target.

Valverde would not be drawn on whether the trio would start against Slavia but believes their understanding will only get the better the more they play alongside each other.  

"I see the players talking, like everyone else," he added. "It's about understanding and that is achieved by playing together. The great players understand each other quickly."

Barca are second in Group F with four points from two games, behind Borussia Dortmund on goal difference.

They are without the injured Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, Carles Alena and Carles Perez for the trip to the Czech capital.

Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti will miss the Champions League trip to Slavia Prague after suffering a knee injury.

The centre-back sustained bruising to his knee in the final part of Tuesday's training session and will not be risked for the visit to the Czech Republic capital.

Umtiti, who has only played twice for Barca this season due to injuries, will now face a race to be fit for next Tuesday's LaLiga match at home to Real Valladolid.

Sergi Roberto is out as he continues his recovery from a knee problem, while Carles Alena and Carles Perez are also sidelined.

Ernesto Valverde's side are otherwise mostly at full strength, with youngsters Ansu Fati and Inaki Pena included alongside the senior stars in the 20-man group.

Barca are second in Group F with four points from two games, behind Borussia Dortmund on goal difference.

Christian Eriksen was rumoured to be close to leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

Real Madrid were among the clubs interested in the Dane, whose contract expires in 2020, but a move did not materialise before the end of the transfer window.

But that has not deterred the Spanish giants, with Zinedine Zidane willing to move two fringe players away from them Santiago Bernabeu to get a deal done for the 27-year-old.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS PAVING WAY FOR ERIKSEN

Real Madrid could reignite their interest in Christian Eriksen in the January transfer window, AS reports a move will only happen if Madrid dispense of two players.

Isco and Mariano Diaz are understood to be the most likely to be sacrificed.

Mariano is yet to make a single appearance this season but could command a fee of around €20million, while Isco's two LaLiga starts came in the draw against Real Valladolid in August and last weekend's loss to Mallorca.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is being eyed up by Crystal Palace for a January switch across London, according to the Daily Star.

- El Mundo reports Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ended their dispute over the transfer of Antoine Griezmann with an extra €15m changing hands.

- The Daily Mail claim Arsenal are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig's France Under-21 defender Dayot Upamecano.

- Italy boss Roberto Mancini has not ruled out a return to the national team for veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi as he shapes his squad for Euro 2020.

- The Sun says Juventus and Atletico Madrid are chasing 19-year-old West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has been unable to make a final decision on a new date for the postponed Clasico clash originally set for October 26 due to new input from LaLiga.

RFEF confirmed the postponement of the match last Friday following political unrest in Catalonia.

Violent scenes have broken out in Barcelona after nine Catalan political leaders received long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence last Monday.

A rally in Barcelona has been called by pro-independence politicians for October 26, ultimately resulting in El Clasico's postponement for security reasons.

RFEF left Barca and Madrid to agree a date between themselves and they mutually accepted to reschedule the match for December 18, but that now looks unlikely.

LaLiga is reported to have insisted on the game being played on December 4 and RFEF has passed its comments on to the clubs, who have been given until 20:00CET Tuesday to respond.

RFEF's statement read: "The Competition Committee of the Royal Spanish Football Federation will return to Barcelona and Real Madrid tomorrow [Tuesday] after receiving new statements from the National Professional Football League [LaLiga] on the date of the Clasico [originally] to be played on October 26 and was postponed due to exceptional circumstances.

"The clubs will have a deadline to answer by 20:00 on Tuesday, and the Competition Committee must meet again to assess their responses.

"During the day, the Competition Committee has analysed the proposals of both clubs, which it invited to agree to a day and who have agreed to play the postponed match on December 18.

"It [the Competition Committee] has also analysed the various reports sent by the National Professional Football League during these days.

"In addition, the Committee requested a report from the RFEF Competition Area, which has been sent to them in a timely manner."

Virgil van Dijk is been joined by six Liverpool team-mates in the 30-man shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are also present.

Van Dijk played a vital role as Liverpool won the 2018-19 Champions League, producing several standout performances at the heart of Jurgen Klopp's defence en route to the title, making him one of the favourites for major individual awards.

He was pipped to The Best FIFA Men's Player award by Barcelona star Messi, who will surely be Van Dijk's biggest competition for the Ballon d'Or having inspired a Barca side many consider underwhelming to the league title.

Fellow Reds stars Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Alisson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino all join Van Dijk on the list.

Ajax captured the imagination of neutrals in Europe's elite competition last term, reaching the semi-finals in stunning fashion before dramatically going out to Tottenham, and a couple of players from the Amsterdam's club are nominated.

Donny van de Beek and Dusan Tadic are in the running, while Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt - who have since moved on to Barcelona and Juventus respectively - are also included.

Elsewhere, Premier League champions Manchester City are represented by Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero 

Tottenham's Son Heung-min and Hugo Lloris are included from the losing Champions League finalists' ranks, but there is no place for Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen.

Last year's winner Luka Modric also misses out following a below-par year for Real Madrid, as does Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar.

The Ballon d'Or winner will be named in Paris on December 2.

Meanwhile, De Ligt is one of 10 youngsters nominated for the Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best performing player under the age of 21.

Borussia Dortmund and England winger Jadon Sancho is listed for the prestigious accolade and Joao Felix - signed by Atletico Madrid from Benfica for €126m earlier this year - is also in contention.

Four contenders for the Yachine Trophy ply their trade in the Premier League, with Alisson, Ederson, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Lloris included on the 10-man shortlist.

The likes of Jan Oblak and Marc-Andre ter Stegen are also battling it out to win the new award, which is handed to the best goalkeeper of the past 12 months.


Full list of Ballon d'Or nominees:

Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Alisson (Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Mohammed Salah (Liverpool), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris St-Germain), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid).

With Zinedine Zidane on thin ice, a familiar face could return to Real Madrid.

Pressure is mounting on Zidane following Madrid's shock LaLiga loss to Real Mallorca on Saturday, a result that means they sit behind Barcelona in the table.

Former Madrid head coach Mourinho could be the answer to their problems…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID REACH OUT TO MOU

Real Madrid have contacted Jose Mourinho as pressure mounts on head coach Zinedine Zidane, according to El Chiringuito.

Zidane – in his second spell in charge after winning three successive Champions League titles prior to leaving ahead of the 2018-19 season – has failed to convince upon his return to the LaLiga giants.

And ex-Manchester United manager Mourinho, who spent three years in the Spanish capital – winning the 2011-12 LaLiga title, is reportedly wanted by Madrid president Florentino Perez.

ROUND-UP

- Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman could move to Barcelona in 2020. After Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) sporting director Nico-Jan Hoogma confirmed Koeman has a specific release clause in his contract built around his former club, Marca has linked the ex-Barca defender to Camp Nou.

Real Madrid are pushing to sign Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Salzburg teenager Erling Haaland, claims El Desmarque. Sancho has been heavily linked to Manchester United.

- Calciomercato says Arsenal are favourites to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. The 20-year-old was linked to the Gunners before the transfer window closed.

Inter are tracking Atalanta's Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski, reports Calciomercato. The 19-year-old is attracting interest during his loan spell at Parma, where he has scored two goals and supplied five assists in Serie A.

- According to SPORT, Barcelona are interested in two Bundesliga players. While Bayer Leverkusen sensation Kai Havertz is coveted, the LaLiga champions are also keeping an eye on Schalke's Amine Harit.

Ronald Koeman has a clause in his Netherlands contract that allows him to leave to coach Barcelona, but Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) director Nico-Jan Hoogma hopes he stays put.

One point from their final two qualifying matches in Group C will see Netherlands clinch their place at Euro 2020 and they are in good shape after winning their past four games.

Former Barca defender Koeman is under contract until the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup and Hoogma hopes not to change coach until after the tournament in Qatar.

"I hope we can work together for a very long time, because I think it is going very well," Hoogma said of Koeman on FOX Sports.

"But Ronald has long indicated that he wants to be Barcelona coach someday. Let's see what will happen.

"Success with Oranje will certainly help him. But again, I hope that the process continues up to and including the World Cup in Qatar."

Barcelona are top of LaLiga after nine matches in 2019-20 but question marks linger over the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde, who came under pressure towards the end of last season.

The Blaugrana's elimination from the Champions League semi-finals by Liverpool and defeat in the Copa del Rey final to Valencia left Valverde's position in doubt, but Hoogma indicated Koeman would not come cheap if there is an attempt to lure him to Camp Nou.

"Agreements have been made about it," said Hoogma. "They will have to pay something for him. How much? I'm not talking about that.

"After one year [of Koeman's time in charge] we still have a year to go to the European Championship, so this is not the time [to talk about it].

"No matter how I respond, there will always be people who say if they [Barcelona] come for him, he will go anyway."

Gabriel Jesus joined an illustrious list of players after scoring his 50th Manchester City goal in the Premier League champions' 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Jesus sent a glancing header in off the post to put City ahead 39 minutes into Saturday's encounter at Selhurst Park.

David Silva doubled City's advantage with a wonderful volley two minutes later as Pep Guardiola's side moved to within five points of league leaders Liverpool.

With his goal, Jesus brought up the milestone of 50 in all competitions for City, having joined the club in January 2017.

The 22-year-old also became the seventh player to achieve the feat while playing for Guardiola, joining Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, along with City team-mates Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

Jesus is only eight behind Pedro, but Messi leads the way with an incredible 211 goals during four seasons under Guardiola at Barca.

"I'm very happy, you know, because last season I had a difficult start to the season," Jesus, who has now scored in each of his last seven starts for City, told Sky Sports.

"This season is going to be different for me. I worked hard as well. I focus on the goal all the time and I think that's why I score a lot."

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona - 211

2. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City - 103

3. Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich - 79

4. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City; Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich - both 67

6. Pedro, Barcelona - 58

7. Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City - 50

Ernesto Valverde thinks "it is fashionable not to agree on anything in political matters" and is keen for a new date for Barcelona's Clasico contest with Real Madrid to be signed off as soon as possible.

The first LaLiga meeting between the fierce rivals this season was due to take place next Saturday at Camp Nou but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Friday the match was postponed due to the ongoing political tensions and protests in Catalonia.

There were violent scenes in Barcelona this week after nine Catalan political leaders received long prison sentences over their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

The RFEF intervened after a rally in the city by pro-independence politicians was called for the same day as the Clasico.

Barca later suggested December 18 as a potential new date and Madrid agreed with the proposal, which still requires ratification from the RFEF's Competition Committee.

Speaking after Barca's 3-0 triumph at Eibar on Saturday, Valverde said: "I hope and I trust that we play this match before the end of the first round of fixtures, or at least before the end of the season.

"It's fashionable to not agree on anything on political issues. I hope that [there is an agreement] in this. I don't think it's too difficult."

On the pitch, Barca ultimately cruised at Ipurua with Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all on target in a win that saw the Blaugrana reach LaLiga's summit, albeit Madrid can reclaim top spot against Real Mallorca later on Saturday.

It was one of the best collaborative performances the trio have produced since Griezmann's close-season switch from Atletico Madrid and Valverde said it was a matter of time before the triumvirate gained an understanding playing with one another.

"It's a question of time and of playing matches," Valverde added.

"In the end, great players always find each other [on the pitch] and know where their team-mates will be and know where the pass will go.

"They've participated and worked very hard. This is the reward. They scored a goal each, they understood each other well.

"The new players are finding their place and trying to understand each other. It's a question of time before they understand each other better."

Antoine Griezmann believes his alliance with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez is progressing well after the forward trio combined to fine effect in the 3-0 win at Eibar.

Griezmann settled Barca after a frantic opening to the contest, putting them ahead in the 13th minute.

The €120million man then had a hand in second-half goals for Messi and Suarez as Barca moved to the top of the table ahead of Real Madrid playing later on Saturday.

"There will be better or worse days, but we are getting to know each other little by little and we will do more," he told Movistar LaLiga.

Griezmann's opener was made possible by his well-timed run and a wonderful raking pass from centre-back Clement Lenglet – a move the two France internationals conceived before executing it impressively.

"We knew that Eibar were pressing a lot above and I told Lenglet that, if he saw me near the sideline, he should put it long," Griezmann said. "He did so and went 0-1.

"It was important to win all three points because, after the international break, it is always difficult to come on away trips. 

"It has been a good game and now we think about the Champions League."

Ernesto Valverde's side travel to face Slavia Prague on Wednesday, having taken four points from their opening two European matches versus Borussia Dortmund and Inter.

Sergi Roberto is to undergo tests to ascertain the extent of an injury to his left knee sustained in Barcelona's LaLiga victory at Eibar.

The Spain international was replaced at full-back by Nelson Semedo at half-time of the clash at Ipurua.

Barca later tweeted, saying: " [INJURY NEWS] @SergiRoberto10 has hurt his left knee. Tests will reveal the exact extent of the injury #EibarBarça."

Ernesto Valverde's men ultimately ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, with Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all on target.

It was a win that saw Barca reach the summit in LaLiga, although Real Madrid will quickly regain top spot if they emerge victorious at Real Mallorca later on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann's sense the pass from Clement Langlet would coming was intuitive, his run that caused Eibar defender Pablo De Blasis to panic and clumsily fall instinctive.

But then, reality and the weight of the moment briefly seemed to afflict Barcelona's €120m forward.

This was the second time Griezmann, again lining up in a left-sided attacking role that does not come naturally to him, had started a LaLiga match alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

All three were on the field for the final half hour of Barca's 0-0 Champions League draw at Borussia Dortmund, along with the second half of the 2-0 loss at Granada. On their previous starts together, Messi made it way halfway through a 2-1 win over Villarreal, while victory against Inter was only secured after Griezmann's withdrawal.

The former Atletico Madrid favourite was an unused substituted for the 4-0 win over Sevilla that preceded an international break when he failed to find the net for France. And, at Eibar's wonderfully idiosyncratic Ipurua home, the signs up until the 13th minute had not been great.

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Suarez is playing with a level of sharpness rarely spotted over the past 18 months, which is bad news for any designs Griezmann might have for operating in the middle of Barca's front three.

In the fifth minute of a lively opening to the contest, the Uruguay striker effortlessly spun Anaitz Arbilla to open up 45 yards of open space and possibilities, including Griezmann to his left.

Suarez instead opted for an audacious and poorly executed shot from a fanciful distance. Would a pass to Griezmann not have been a better option? True, an early dart from Barca's newest attacking recruit had already been headed off by Arbilla but it was hard to imagine seeing something so wild during the MSN days.

Messi. Suarez. Neymar. The trident to which the Blaugrana's latest all-star configuration is always likely to be compared. Messi has made no secret of the fact he wanted a reunion during the close season when it was clear Neymar's Parisian adventure had turned sour.

Three supreme soloists who slotted together irresistibly at their best. The clunk of Suarez swapping positions with Griezmann, only for Arthur's attempted pass to miss them both jarred by comparison.

                **************************

It is worth remembering it was not instantly all milk and honey for Barca's South American superstars in 2014-15.

While Griezmann, Messi and Suarez will be able to iron out the kinks for a few more weeks before meeting Real Madrid, following Friday's El Clasico postponement, MSN made their collective debut at the Santiago Bernabeu and lost 3-1.

Next time out, there was a 1-0 defeat to Celta Vigo. Only in their third game together, where a Messi brace sealed a 2-0 win over Ajax in Amsterdam, did things start to click.

They were in full flight by the turn of the year, their early struggles eventually a forgotten blemish upon a magnificent treble. Those are lofty standards for a signing whose worth has already been extensively disputed to live up to.

                ***************************

And so, with Arbilla helpfully on his backside, Griezmann came over somewhat jittery. His feet, not quite sorting themselves out the other side of an anxious glance backwards to locate the rest of the Eibar defence.

He dug out a left-footed finish that lacked conviction but ended up in the net via goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic and the inside of his post. Suarez was the first to embrace his team-mate. Job done. Relief palpable.

From that point, Artur, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets gradually drew the sting from Eibar before squeezing the life from them. After the interval, it was time for the headline acts to have some fun.

In the 58th minute, Suarez twisted in a tight spot inside the Eibar area and shifted the ball inside to Griezmann, who saw and heard Messi darting around him. A deft one-touch lay-off left the mercurial Argentine with a simple finish.

In the 66th minute, it was Messi's turn to leave it on a plate for Suarez, having raced clear onto a throughball from Griezmann, who often roved slightly deeper to fine effect after the break.

That was 3-0 and game over. There will be tougher tests of their newly established union, but MSG showed enough at Ipurua to make Spain and Europe take note.

Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were all on target as Barcelona coasted to a 3-0 win at Eibar to end a frantic week with a fifth straight victory on all fronts.

Barca opted to travel to the Basque Country early on Thursday amid the political unrest in their home city as a result of nine Catalan political leaders being dealt long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

The violent scenes that broke out in protest led to the postponement of next week's Clasico with Real Madrid, but it was back to business for Ernesto Valverde's men at Ipurua.

Griezmann opened the scoring with a classy 13th-minute goal and teed up Messi to double the lead after neat work from Suarez, who scored in a seventh straight outing against Eibar to round out the routine triumph.

Suarez's audacious effort just inside the opposition half was not in keeping with the tone of the early exchanges in which Pedro Leon blazed over from one of several dangerous Eibar crosses.

But Pablo de Blasis' untimely slip allowed Griezmann to race onto Clement Lenglet's long punt and he had the composure to clip past Marko Dmitrovic and find the net via the post.

Undeterred, Pedro Leon's exquisite right-wing centre needed evasive action from Samuel Umtiti – making his first competitive appearance of the season – to deny Charles, while at the other end Messi's quick feet nearly rounded Dmitrovic for a tap-in.

It was game over when Messi finished a wonderful team move just shy of the hour. Suarez combined brilliantly with Griezmann and he teed up the Argentina superstar to slot into the bottom-right corner.

Messi then turned provider, racing onto Griezmann's sumptuous throughball and unselfishly laying on for Suarez to pass into an open goal.

Suarez almost added further gloss with a well-struck half-volley five minutes from time, but his effort just cleared the right-hand post.

 

What does it mean? Barca hitting their stride

Messi's injury-hit start to the campaign coincided with some underwhelming early season performances. It took a while for Barca to run through the gears here, perhaps the midweek turmoil playing a part in that, and yet it ultimately ended up a comfortable day for a fourth straight LaLiga win that puts them top – albeit Real Madrid can return to the summit later on Saturday.

Messi, Griezmann, Suarez triumvirate gaining in confidence

One senses Valverde still has solutions to find defensively, but up top there is a growing understanding between Messi, Griezmann and Suarez. The trio combined to glorious effect for Messi's goal and the captain set up Suarez when he could have gone for goal himself for Barca's third. It was an ominous warning to their LaLiga rivals.

Charles struggles to fire

Eibar were arguably the more imaginative team in the opening stages with Pedro Leon and Fabio Orellana dangerous out wide. But Charles did not do enough from his central striking position to put pressure on Umtiti or Lenglet.

What's next?

Barca are back in action on Wednesday when they visit Slavia Prague for matchweek three of the Champions League. Eibar travel to Real Valladolid next Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has backed Jose Mourinho to prove a success in his next position, but the ex-Barcelona striker remains less enamoured with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic forged a strong bond during spells together at Inter and Manchester United.

The divisive former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has not held a managerial job since parting ways with United in December 2018 but appears to be edging closer to a coaching comeback.

Mourinho recently rejected the chance to hold talks with Lyon as he "has already chosen another club," the Ligue 1 side's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, said earlier this month.

Ibrahimovic is adamant the Portuguese's next employers will enjoy the best of his abilities.

"He had an incredible impact on my career," the LA Galaxy striker told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He is still 'the Special One', a winner. I hope he will back on a bench soon and I am sure he will start winning immediately."

Guardiola, however, does not occupy the same place in Ibrahimovic's heart.

The pair shared a famously dysfunctional relationship over the course of the Swede's single season with Barca, which featured 16 LaLiga goals and a title triumph.

"We never had a direct confrontation because of him," Ibrahimovic said of Guardiola, who is now in charge of Manchester City.

"When we faced each other, he hid. He waited for me to leave and then left the dressing room. As a coach he is a phenomenon, but as a man..."

Lionel Messi believes a return to Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar is "complicated" because some people do not want him back at the club.

Neymar attempted to engineer a return to Camp Nou during the previous transfer window, just two years after leaving for the Ligue 1 side in a world-record €222million deal.

The strained relationship between the two clubs was said to have impacted transfer discussions, however, and the Brazil international remains a PSG player.

Messi starred in a front three alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez and they remain in contact, but the Argentina star is unsure if a reunion at Barca will be possible.

"We talk often and we have a group chat with Luis Suarez," Messi told Buenos Aires radio station Metro 95.1. 

"The issue of his return is complicated. Firstly, because it was difficult to see him leave, secondly because of how he left.

"There are people from the club and members who do not want him to return. If it is for sporting reasons, Neymar is one of the best in the world, but I understand the other factors."

Messi, presented with the European Golden Shoe for a sixth time this week, recently declared he intends to see out the remainder of his career at Barcelona.

However, unlike fellow club icon Andres Iniesta, he has ruled out signing a lifetime contract

"That was talked about a while ago, as was done with Iniesta and the others," he said.

"I don't want a contract to tie me up because I don't know how I'm going to feel. I don't want to be [under contract] if I'm not well.

"I'm going to compete as long as I feel good physically, but obviously I would stay a lifetime."

Messi also opened up on his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who he competed with for team and individual honours for just short of a decade during the Portuguese forward's time at Real Madrid.

Ronaldo moved to Juventus in 2018 and Messi admits Barca's Clasico showdowns with Madrid have lost some lustre as a result.

"Yes, it was good when he was in the Spanish league," Messi said.

"It made the Clasicos more special and gave them more value."

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