The 2019-20 Champions League gets under way with the usual suspects among the favourites for the title: Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and holders Liverpool.

Madrid face PSG in a blockbuster opening clash but the most interesting stories in the group stage could be bubbling under the surface, with Atalanta among the clubs making their competition debuts.

Stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah could dominate but the stage is set for many others to make their names among Europe's elite.

Omnisport picks out 10 players who may have a huge impact on this season's Champions League.


MATTHIJS DE LIGT - JUVENTUS

Juventus may have preferred to slowly integrate De Ligt into their defence after he joined from Ajax. But a long-term injury to captain Giorgio Chiellini means the Netherlands centre-back has been pressed into action already. De Ligt has made a stumbling start in Turin but his leadership helped Ajax reach the semi-finals last season, knocking Juve out along the way. If they are to recapture the Champions League title, De Ligt is set for a key role at the back.


JOAO FELIX - ATLETICO MADRID

Antoine Griezmann's move to Barcelona left Atletico with a huge hole to fill in their attack, with the Rojiblancos breaking their club record to sign Joao Felix from Benfica. There is no doubting the 19-year-old's extreme talent but whether or not he is ready to lead Atleti to Champions League glory after some perilously near misses in recent years remains to be seen.


JADON SANCHO - BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Another teenager, England star Sancho is already one of the most dangerous forwards in world football. The 19-year-old has already contributed two goals and four assists in the Bundesliga this term, while he opened his international account with a brace against Kosovo last week. Perhaps most impressive about Sancho is his decision-making in the final third where he is clinical, especially on the break. Dortmund are in a tough Group F with Barcelona, Inter and Slavia Prague.


RODRI - MANCHESTER CITY

European success continues to elude City but the capture of Rodri from Atletico could help them finally go to the next level in the Champions League. Control has been an issue for Pep Guardiola's men in the knockout rounds but Spain midfielder Rodri, seen as a successor to Sergio Busquets internationally, should enable them to dominate possession more than ever.


PHILIPPE COUTINHO - BAYERN MUNICH

Having struggled to justify his move to Barcelona, Brazil playmaker Coutinho has been given a fresh start with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. His arrival ought to help address the loss of James Rodriguez after his two-year loan from Real Madrid ended. Bayern are looking for a first European crown since 2012-13 with Coutinho needing to step up.


ERLING HAALAND - SALZBURG

One of Europe's most in-form strikers, Haaland hit eight league goals in six games for Austrian champions Salzburg before the international break. The Leeds-born 19-year-old, son of former Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland, shot to fame when he scored nine goals in Norway's 12-0 win over Honduras at the Under-20 World Cup earlier this year.


LAUTARO MARTINEZ - INTER

Inter and Dortmund look likely to be scrapping for second spot in Group F, so Antonio Conte will want a big impact from Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina attacker should get more chances to impress after the departure of compatriot Mauro Icardi to PSG on loan and he showed he is in fine form by hitting a hat-trick in a friendly defeat of Mexico during the international break.


DANI OLMO - DINAMO ZAGREB

Having led Spain to glory at the European Under-21 Championship this year, Olmo was one of Europe's most in-demand players. Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham were all linked with the 21-year-old, who was retained by Dinamo instead. He offers a genuine threat in the final third, having scored eight league goals last term, and Dinamo have a real chance of qualifying from Group C behind likely winners Manchester City.


ALEJANDRO GOMEZ - ATALANTA

In the same group, along with Shakhtar Donetsk, are Champions League newcomers Atalanta, who thrilled in Serie A last term. Finally getting a chance to shine in the Champions League, Gomez may not get another opportunity to adorn this competition. One of the most consistent performers in Italy's top flight, the 31-year-old could help Atalanta become the tournament's surprise package.


MASON MOUNT - CHELSEA

A transfer ban has forced Europa League winners Chelsea to reassess their squad with new England international Mason Mount among those making the most of their chance under Blues head coach Frank Lampard. Three Premier League goals have helped the 20-year-old, who played under Lampard at Championship side Derby County on loan last season, settle in quickly. The Champions League is his next test.

Italian police have arrested 12 leading Juventus 'ultra' members as part of an investigation headed by the Turin Public Prosecutor's office.

The suspects are accused of a range of crimes, including the use of extortion and violence to obtain tickets to matches that they could later sell on.

Police confirmed fans also threatened to carry out racist chanting at games, which would result in the club being fined and potentially docked points, leading to a clampdown from Juventus.

"We found proof that many things were obtained through violence or the retaliation through racist chants, with a ban and expensive fines as a consequence [for the club]," deputy prosecutor of Turin, Patrizia Caputo, told a press conference on Monday, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport

"The club have had the courage to sue and that was very important. But even the other tifosi [fans] were victims of threats and couldn't go to the stadium anymore because they can't stand menaces, the environment and the racist behaviour."

Cristiano Ronaldo said he felt "embarrassed" after being accused of rape.

Kathryn Mayorga claimed Ronaldo raped her in a hotel room in Las Vegas 10 years ago, with German publication Der Spiegel reporting the story last October.

Ronaldo repeatedly denied the accusation and the Clark County District Attorney's Office announced in July that the Juventus striker would not face charges as they could not "be proven beyond a reasonable doubt".

According to Der Spiegel, Mayorga first made a complaint of sexual assault in 2009 and subsequently reached an out-of-court settlement with Ronaldo. It was claimed by the magazine she was paid $375,000 as part of a privacy agreement, preventing her from going public with the allegations.

The Portuguese, speaking to Piers Morgan in an interview to be aired on ITV on Tuesday, has spoken for the first time about the impact the case has had on his family life.

"They play with your dignity. It's hard," said Ronaldo.

"You have a girlfriend, you have a family, you have kids. When they play with your honesty, it's bad, it's hard.

"I remember one day I was at home in the living room with my girlfriend watching the television, to see the news and they talk about Cristiano Ronaldo and this and that, I listened to my kids coming down the stairs and I changed the channel because I was embarrassed.

"I felt embarrassed, I just changed the channel for Cristiano Jr not to see that they speak badly about his father, about a very bad case. It makes me feel so bad, to be honest."

If losing your manager was bad enough, imagine losing your star defender?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and centre-back Virgil van Dijk are attracting some serious interest from across Europe.

Now, LaLiga's powerhouse duo are reportedly eyeing the Reds pair.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID WANT KLOPP AND VAN DIJK

According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona and rivals Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head to try to prise Klopp and Van Dijk from Liverpool.

Klopp and Van Dijk helped lead Liverpool to Champions League glory last season, while the Reds are challenging for Premier League honours this term having narrowly missed out to Manchester City in 2018-19.

With Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde and Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane under some early pressure in Spain, Klopp and Van Dijk are reportedly "two priorities" for both clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have the budget to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season, reports AS. Madrid's financial accounts have been revealed, with €156million in liquid assets at their disposal, as well as €285m in credit. Los Blancos are reportedly planning to persuade the France forward, who is contracted until 2022, not to re-sign in the French capital in an effort to force the club's hand.

Lionel Messi to MLS? There has been talk about Messi and David Beckham's incoming franchise Inter Miami following a report claiming a delegation had been sent out to open negotiations for the Barcelona captain. However, Goal says Messi has had no contact with Beckham's Miami.

Manchester United are trying everything to re-sign star goalkeeper David de Gea. According to the Times, United have offered De Gea a new contract with no wage drop if the Red Devils do not qualify for the Champions League. The Spain international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, reportedly has a four-year deal on the table worth £13.5m a season.

- Staying at Old Trafford, and Record and O Jogo both report United are back in for Benfica star Ruben Dias. The 22-year-old defender was linked to the Manchester club before the transfer window closed. Now reports claim a United official was in attendance for Benfica's 2-0 win over Gil Vicente.

Inter are hoping to sign Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund, according to Calciomercato.com. Gotze's contract expires at the end of the season and Antonio Conte's Inter are eyeing the Germany attacker on a free transfer.

- Velez Sarsfield's Thiago Almada is still on the radar of Manchester City, says Record. City had a bid rejected during the transfer window but Pep Guardiola's side remain keen on the 18-year-old.

Inter boss Antonio Conte advised Maurizio Sarri to take comfort in his club's riches after the Juventus boss expressed annoyance with having to play in the afternoon.

Sarri took to the touchline for the first time since a bout of pneumonia as Juve drew 0-0 at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Serie A champions lost Douglas Costa and Miralem Pjanic to suspected muscle problems amid high temperatures in Florence.

Sarri partly attributed the frustrating result to the energy sapping conditions and suggested a later kick-off would have made a difference.

But his fellow former Chelsea boss believes the Bianconeri can have no excuses for not performing.

"I won't say anything because otherwise I would have to bring out the budgets, the turnover and the balance sheets," said Conte, who spent three seasons in charge of Juve.

"I will only say that someone now on the side of the strongest team should be calm and comfortable."

With the Bianconeri labouring to a stalemate, Conte's in-form Inter were able to open up a two-point lead at the top of the table.

Stefano Sensi's first-half goal secured a 1-0 win over 10-man Udinese to continue the Nerazzurri's perfect start to the season.

Conte, however, warned his players to block out premature thoughts of a title tilt.

"We're growing and I'm happy with how we're maturing," he said.

"But I also know that you [the media] talk about us now only to beat us when something goes wrong.

"We have to keep our feet on the ground. Let the others talk, we have to shut up and work."

Inter Miami are continuing their stunning bid to sign Lionel Messi.

Messi, 32, can reportedly leave Barcelona at the end of any season for a club outside of Europe despite being contracted at the LaLiga champions until 2021.

Linked with a shock switch to David Beckham's MLS outfit Inter Miami, the club are continuing to make moves for the Argentina superstar.

 

TOP STORY – INTER MIAMI REPRESENTATIVE MEETS MESSI'S DAD

Beckham sent Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough to London for talks with Messi's dad Jorge, according to The Sun.

Inter Miami are set to enter MLS in 2020 and are looking for a big-name signing, with Messi undoubtedly the biggest of the names linked.

It comes just days after Messi said in an interview with Sport that he wanted to remain at Camp Nou for "as long as possible".

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid could chase Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba again in January. Sport Bild reports Real Madrid are planning to use Toni Kroos in an exchange deal to land the France international, who was heavily linked with a switch during the close season.

- Sadio Mane re-signed with Liverpool until 2023 less than 12 months ago, but the European champions are already looking for the attacker to recommit. Liverpool have opened talks with Mane for an extension, according to Soccer Link.

- Seemingly unwanted at Juventus, Mario Mandzukic's future remains a talking point. Qatari club Al-Gharafa have offered €6million net per year to the striker and can meet Juve's demands, according to CalcioMercato, which reports Los Angeles FC are also interested in the Croatian despite the MLS transfer window not reopening until February.

- Inter are already looking to lock down a couple of stars. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants want to extend the contracts of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic – until 2022 – and forward Lautaro Martinez until 2024. The report says Inter would also double Martinez's salary from €1.5m to €3m per season amid interest from Barcelona.

- Sam Allardyce is ready for a return to management. The Sun reports the former England boss, who left Everton in May last year, is eyeing a return to Sunderland if the reported takeover by an American consortium is completed.

Maurizio Sarri believes Juventus were fortunate to come out of their Serie A match against Fiorentina with a point but was happy with his side's character.

Juve dropped points for the first time this season on Saturday, drawing 0-0 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

The visitors lost Douglas Costa and Miralem Pjanic to suspected hamstring and thigh injuries respectively before half-time and never really got going, with full debutant Franck Ribery the biggest threat for Fiorentina.

Although Sarri, who watched on from the sideline for the first time this season after overcoming a bout of pneumonia, pointed out injuries and a general lack of fitness had an impact on Juve's display, he accepts his side were not up to scratch.

"We didn't put in a good quality performance," Sarri told Sky Italia. "It was a very complicated situation, as Fiorentina played well and we used up all our substitutions with injuries and had no more fresh legs to introduce.

"With all those variables, we did well in terms of character to get a point out of it. We lost possession too many times, which may also be a consequence of physical issues.

"Playing in mid-afternoon in Florence when it's realistically still summer is tough for everyone.

"We had difficulty on a purely technical level and I am confident a team with less personality would've lost. That is the positive and certainly a valuable quality to have a team that can fight it out for a point even when not in great shape.

"We had five players at the Copa America and eight on the treatment table, so we have half the squad at a more advanced fitness level than the rest.

"It was a difficult situation to deal with and we needed some time to get them all to acceptable levels, but the good news is that we tend to finish games strong."

Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Douglas Costa started up front for Juve, and Sarri suggested the trio needed to do more to get themselves into the game, as well as assist defensively.

"When the team defends deeper, we need the forwards to come back and help more," added the former Chelsea boss.

"It was evident after 30 minutes that this was going to be extremely difficult."

Maurizio Sarri watched on from the dugout for the first time but could not prevent Juventus' perfect start to the Serie A campaign coming to an end in a goalless draw at Fiorentina on Saturday.

Juve's head coach was absent for the wins against Parma and Napoli due to a bout of pneumonia but was on the sideline in Florence as his side failed to find a way through.

The visitors lost Douglas Costa and Miralem Pjanic to suspected hamstring and thigh injuries respectively before half-time and never really got going at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Fiorentina were without a point heading into this match - and without a Serie A win since February - but looked the more likely to score against a lacklustre Juventus, who move one point clear of Inter and Torino at the summit after playing a game more.

Franck Ribery was handed his full debut for the home side and fired in a low drive 16 minutes in that was saved by Wojciech Szczesny, who survived an earlier scare when his clearance ricocheted off Federico Chiesa and flew over the bar.

Fiorentina keeper Bartlomiej Dragowski kept out efforts from Blaise Matuidi and Pjanic in the space of a minute, but Szczesny was also kept busy at the other end as Dalbert came close with his back-post header.

The hosts continued to look the more likely to score in the early stages of the second half as Dalbert's angled drive was palmed away by Szczesny, moments before Gaetano Castrovilli scuffed wide from a good position.

Chiesa's deflected effort skimmed the crossbar 65 minutes in and Nikola Milenkovic then headed straight at Szczesny from a good position as the match finished scoreless, making it four top-flight away games without a win for Juventus.


What does it mean? Juve far from full flow

Juve's 4-3 win against Napoli followed a slender 1-0 victory against Parma on the opening weekend.

Kalidou Koulibaly's own goal may have rescued the champions last time out but there was no such luck today, giving the chasing pack a chance to capitalise on this first slip-up of the campaign.


Ribery still has it

Used as a substitute in Fiorentina's first two games, the two-week break gave Ribery a chance to reach peak fitness and he was very lively on his first start. 

The 36-year-old had a couple of efforts on target in the first half, created a glorious chance for Dalbert and left the field to a standing ovation 69 minutes in.


De Ligt needs time to adapt

Matthijs de Ligt struggled on his Serie A debut against Napoli two weeks ago and he again looked shaky at times here as Fiorentina took the game to their opponents - though Juve did at least keep a clean sheet on this occasion.

The Netherlands centre-back put Szczesny under pressure with a poor back-pass in the first half and was cautioned 35 seconds into the second period for bringing down Ribery.  


What's next?

Fiorentina visit Atalanta next Sunday and Juventus host Hellas Verona the day before, but first they travel to Atletico Madrid in four days' time for their opening Champions League group fixture.

David de Gea has finally committed his long-term future to Manchester United.

The goalkeeper was out of contract at the end of the season, with plenty of speculation regarding his future at Old Trafford.

But the Spain shot-stopper has now agreed to a new deal.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA FINALLY SIGNS MAN UNITED DEAL

De Gea has signed a long-term contract with Manchester United, according to the Daily Record.

The 28-year-old's five-year deal is worth more than €15million per season, the report says.

De Gea has been linked with a move away amid the ongoing contract saga, with Juventus among those reported to be interested.

ROUND-UP

- Christian Eriksen's Tottenham future remains up in the air, but the Premier League giants seem eager to keep the midfielder amid apparent interest from Real Madrid and Juventus. Football Insider reports Spurs have offered the Denmark international a new deal worth £60m in total.

- Mario Mandzukic appears to be nearing a Juventus exit. The Croatia striker has rejected Qatari club Al-Gharafa, according to CalcioMercato, but is evaluating offers from elsewhere, including MLS, with the 33-year-old seemingly not in Maurizio Sarri's plans in Turin.

- Napoli are to chase Atalanta playmaker Josip Ilicic again in January, according to CalcioMercato. The 31-year-old was considered by Napoli during the close season and they are set to intensify their interest again at the start of 2020.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha missed out on a move before the transfer window closed, and he is reportedly on the look-out for a new agent. The Daily Mail reports Mino Raiola is one of several agents circling the attacker, who is unhappy about not getting his move from Selhurst Park.

- Keita Balde enjoyed his season on loan at Inter in 2018-19, but the Serie A side opted not to use their buy option on the Monaco attacker. CalcioMercato reports the Senegal international wanted to stay in Italy and AC Milan are now considering the 24-year-old.

Mario Mandzukic has not been included in Juventus' squad for Saturday's Serie A clash with Fiorentina as speculation continues over his future.

Mandzukic has not played for Juve this term having reportedly been deemed surplus to requirements by Maurizio Sarri, who also left the forward out of his Champions League squad.

Reports emerged this week linking the Croatian with a move to Qatari side Al-Gharafa, while offers from other leagues – including MLS – are also rumoured to be on the table.

The 33-year-old, who is said to be fully fit, looks to have taken a step closer to leaving Juve, with Sarri leaving him out of the squad to face Fiorentina.

Mandzukic – a World Cup finalist with Croatia in 2018 – joined Juve from Atletico Madrid in 2015 and has scored 31 times in Serie A.

His honours in Turin include four Serie A successes, three Coppa Italia titles and two Supercoppa Italiana trophies.

Maurizio Sarri has defended his decision to leave Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic out of Juventus' Champions League squad.

The pair were surprise omissions from the Italian champions' selection for the group stage of the competition, which begins next week with a trip to Atletico Madrid.

Can admitted to being "furious" and "shocked" at Sarri's selection call and said he was not given an explanation as to why he was overlooked.

Sarri has previously expressed concern about the size of his bloated squad and insisted at Friday's news conference that he made the "necessary" decision in leaving out Can and Mandzukic.

"It wasn't easy or pleasing to make the choices I had to for the Champions League list, but it was necessary," he said.

"I'm sorry because two important players were left out. However, these difficulties demonstrate the strength of our squad."

Asked if he expected the reaction from Can, Sarri said: "It's normal that when a player suffers from a strong and impactful choice that there's an emotional aspect involved. 

"We must give him the opportunity to let out how he is feeling. I'm of the right age to understand these kinds of reactions."

Can played the final five minutes of Germany's 2-0 win against Northern Ireland on Monday, having been an unused sub for the loss to Netherlands, and he may get the nod to start Juve's trip to Fiorentina on Saturday.

Juventus are back in action four days later when travelling to Atletico in the Champions League and Sarri is ready to make full use of his big squad.

"At this moment our attention must be on the league," he said. "Then we will think about the cup. 

"We are in a moment in which the team must take its own identity. We must fight the difficulty that is having many players who have played very little in the last period."

Among those pushing for inclusion is midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has not featured in a competitive game since arriving from Arsenal during the close season because of a muscle injury.

"A few weeks ago he was far behind his team-mates from the physical point of view," Sarri said. 

"In the last 10 days I have seen progress in training. He is not yet at his best but if his evolution continues he can soon return to a high level."

Massimiliano Allegri lauded the mentality of Cristiano Ronaldo, while the former Juventus head coach believes Inter can win the Scudetto.

Ronaldo should be in the twilight of his career, but the 34-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down after joining Juve from LaLiga giants Real Madrid in 2018-19.

Allegri was in charge when Juve prised Ronaldo to Turin in a stunning €112million deal last season – the five-time Ballon d'Or winner scoring 21 Serie A goals and 28 in all competitions as the Italian champions claimed their eighth consecutive Scudetto.

Asked about Ronaldo – who netted four goals in Portugal's 5-1 rout of Lithuania to become the highest scoring player in European Championship qualifying history – Allegri hailed the veteran superstar.

"His strength is on a mental level," said Allegri. "He is 34 years old, he has won Championships, European titles and Golden Balls but he continues to give himself important stimuli that make the difference.

"The technique is fundamental to stay at high levels for many years, but the difference is made by the head and the professionalism. If I prefer to coach Ronaldo or a young talent? Ronaldo, without a doubt."

Allegri worked with Ronaldo last season before the Italian coach and Juve parted ways following his fifth successive league title.

Juve reportedly turned to Maurizio Sarri in pursuit of European glory after their Champions League quarter-final exit – the Old Lady managing two runners-up medals under Allegri in 2015 and 2017.

Reflecting on his exit, Allegri said: "I have absolutely not regretted the choice made with Juventus, things must not be forced. After five years it was time to take a break, perhaps the president had understood it before me."

There is a touch of Juve at Inter this season, with former Bianconeri coach Antonio Conte joining chief executive Giuseppe Marotta in Milan.

Allegri won four straight Serie A title under Marotta's leadership before the 62-year-old moved to Inter in 2018 and the Nerazzurri are now one of the favourites to dethrone Juve.

"At Juve I won both with him [Marotta] and without him," Allegri added. "At Inter he built a strong team and with Conte he made a choice of weight on the bench. They can win the scudetto."

Gonzalo Higuain says he is determined to prove his worth to Juventus after being handed another chance at the club.

Higuain, 31, struggled to make an impact during loan spells at AC Milan and Chelsea during the 2018-19 campaign.

Chelsea opted against triggering a purchase option in Higuain's loan and he therefore returned to Serie A and reunited with new Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri.

He was not expected to be given opportunities to start, with Juve boasting forward options including Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic.

However, Higuain has started both Serie A games this term, while he scored a brilliant goal as Juve beat his old club Napoli - where he thrived under Sarri - before the international break.

"I am here to prove my worth," Higuain said on Thursday ahead of this weekend's trip to Fiorentina.

"I wanted to stay from the first day I returned. I am happy to be at Juve, at a big club with a great team and a big fanbase, in a city that I know.

"I don't think about the past, I only have the present and the future in mind. It will be an important season, last year was difficult for me but I still went into double figures and won a Europa League title.

"Now I only think of our season: I have good memories against Fiorentina, I made my Juve debut against them.

"It's never easy at the Franchi, but we must be strong as we know we are and take home the victory. I'm back on the same team as Cris [Ronaldo] after a few years and he's even stronger, more complete and ambitious, I'm happy to play with him again."

Higuain has switched shirt number this term and he believes the move to 21 is helping him turn his fortunes around.

"This is a decision that I made," the attacker added.

"I decided to swap from number nine, although it was available, with the day in which my daughter was born, to take her with me in every game - a choice of the heart, which is bringing me luck."

Lionel Messi insists he has no issue with Cristiano Ronaldo and would accept a dinner invitation from his long-time awards rival.

The pair crossed paths at a recent ceremony to crown the UEFA Men's Player of the Year for 2018-19, which Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk won.

Barcelona captain Messi and Juventus star Ronaldo finished second and third respectively, but the event gave the former Real Madrid forward the chance to publicly reflect on their "battle in Spain" and the time they have spent at the pinnacle of the game.

Ronaldo floated the prospect of a private dinner in future, an idea welcomed by his fellow five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Yes, I don't have any problem with that," Messi told SPORT.

"I've always said that I don't have any issue with him. We might not be friends because we've never shared a dressing room together, but I always see him at award shows and there's no problem.

"We actually spoke with each other for quite a long time at the most recent show.

"I don't know if there will be a dinner because I don't know if our paths will cross for obvious reasons, each one of us has our own life and our own commitments. But obviously I would accept the invitation."

Messi has missed the early weeks of the new season because of a calf injury suffered before Barca's pre-season tour to the United States.

The 32-year-old ruled himself out of Saturday's clash with Valencia and remains unsure whether he will be available for next week's Champions League date with Borussia Dortmund.

"I feel better," he said. "It [the injury] was really bad because it happened on my first day back [after the Copa America] and it originally looked to be something minor but, in reality, I have been out of action for the past 15 days.

"Now I know what it is and I feel more at ease. I will return when I feel I have fully recovered.

"I've spent a long time on the sidelines. As soon as I started this happened to me and I can’t wait to return."

Barca have struggled in their skipper's absence, winning one of their opening three LaLiga games.

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