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."

Pep Guardiola admitted "the broadcasters are the bosses" in response to Manchester City's rearranged festive fixture list - but again called for players to receive greater protection amid punishing schedules.

City were initially set to travel to Wolves on Boxing Day but that game has been pushed back by 24 hours for live coverage, with the Sheffield United home game moved to December 29.

Still, they have less than 48 hours of rest between those two fixtures - with the reigning Premier League champions then starting 2020 by hosting Everton on January 1.

While a fan of playing during the Christmas period, a custom that he has become used to since moving to England, Guardiola fears the desire to squeeze in so many matches is a major concern.

He used the example of Neymar - who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Brazil in a friendly against Nigeria last week, ruling him out for up to four weeks - as an example of the risks of playing too often.

Asked for his thoughts about City's fixture changes announced this week, Guardiola told the media: "It is what it is. Since I came here, every season it happened the same.

"The broadcasters are the bosses in this situation. I love to play Boxing Day and winter time when everybody stops, when families and kids go the stadiums and enjoy the games. I like it.

"The problem is the same. So now Neymar is injured again, but they travel for friendly games in Nigeria or Abu Dhabi, or wherever far away, then come back.

"We don't protect the players – the system doesn't protect them. It's too much. Honestly, it's too much."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace - a game that could see both Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones return from injury.

While stopping short of confirming the duo will be available to feature at Selhurst Park, the City boss was upbeat over their outlook.

"Some of them are better. Kevin is back and John trained in the last two days and is good," he said. "[Benjamin] Mendy as well, maybe later, but as well."

Sergio Aguero was involved in a minor car crash in midweek, but Guardiola had positive news on the striker's status: "He is fine. The car is not fine."

Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel is furious his players are being forced to play so many games and warned it could become bad for their health.

Tuchel has told the football authorities they have packed the calendar with so many matches and tournaments that the game will suffer.

The German coach will take his players from the French capital to the south coast for a clash with Nice on Friday, having barely had time to reacquaint themselves after the international break.

And after losing star forward Neymar for four weeks to a hamstring injury sustained on Brazil duty, Tuchel is understandably angry his job is being made more complicated by factors over which he has no control.

"Friday night for us after an international break is a bit bizarre. I can't understand it," Tuchel said. "We'll have to adapt."

Tuchel was speaking in his pre-match news conference on Thursday, and when asked about the busy schedule for his players, he was stinging with his criticism.

"There's too many competitions, too many matches, too many friendlies," Tuchel said. "We've got a big problem for me because there's no preparation phase [for the Nice game].

"There's too much competition. This summer we had the Africa Cup of Nations, the European Under-21 Championship, the Copa America; next year we've got the Copa America again, the European Championship – it never stops.

"For me, it's too much. There are too many matches for the same players. At the end you feel the lack of quality, lack of health, lack of preparation, lack of time to train for sport at the highest level."

He added: "We're convinced it's necessary for everyone to have a holiday and to have time to recover and prepare, but that's not the case in football. Teams play too many games and get too many injuries to players."

PSG lead Ligue 1 but have struggled to assemble a fully fit squad all season, with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Julian Draxler all battling to return to peak fitness.

"We're doing all we can. Injuries happen," Tuchel said. "As I said, we're convinced the best thing to avoid injuries is to have proper time to prepare – good endurance and capacity for creating performance.

"It's a shame we never have the squad fully fit. We expect a lot from them – results and good performances. We have to find solutions. We're going to control as much as we can."

Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel has vowed he will not let Neymar get off lightly following "weeks and weeks" of campaigning for a transfer to Barcelona.

PSG fans were left unimpressed when the club's star forward attempted to engineer a move back to his former employer during the close season.

The Brazilian was booed on his return to action at Parc des Princes in September and only started to mend the rift with a run of four goals in five games leading into the international break.

But winning back favour with fans does not mean the world's most expensive player will be allowed to do as he pleases in what could be his final season in Paris.

"The supporters have expressed their opinions and I can understand them, absolutely," Tuchel told The Guardian.

"It's their right to express themselves. They're proud of their club and it's not so nice when you hear your player talking for weeks and weeks saying he wants to leave.

"As I told Neymar, sometimes it's like this in life – you have to face the truth and deal with the consequences."

German coach Tuchel said: "Sometimes it's a bit hard to see that he is a nice person when you only watch him play from outside. But he is, he's a nice guy.

"I told him: 'You think the hardest part is over, but from now on you have to deal with me and I'm going to push you hard. So the hardest thing is still to come for you.'"

Neymar faces up to a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury sustained while on Brazil duty, so he is set for a short spell out of the spotlight.

The 27-year-old forward's goals have helped edge PSG two points clear after nine games of their bid for a seventh Ligue 1 title in eight seasons.

Asked how he defines success at a club now accustomed to winning domestic titles, Tuchel placed emphasis on forging bonds and the "little rewards" of day-to-day improvement.

"Hopefully I don't depend too much on the points and the titles because the possibility that you get sad or that you don't fulfil your own goals is too high," he said.

"There's more to life than points and trophies but we're all very competitive and we all want to win every game."

Neymar is expected to be out for four weeks after the Paris Saint-Germain star suffered a hamstring injury on international duty.

The Brazil forward was withdrawn in the 12th minute of the Selecao's 1-1 friendly draw with Nigeria on Sunday.

PSG announced Neymar had an MRI scan on Monday that confirmed the injury, which will be re-evaluated in eight days.

Neymar has played just five games for PSG this season owing to an ankle injury picked up in June.

The ex-Barcelona forward did not make his first appearance until September, having attempted to force a move away from the club he joined for a world-record €222million fee in 2017.

He was booed by the home fans on his return to the side in a 1-0 victory over Strasbourg, in which he scored a spectacular overhead kick winner.

The 27-year-old has four goals in his five games for Thomas Tuchel's men, who have a two-point lead in Ligue 1 and have two wins from two in the Champions League.

Speaking after the stalemate with the Super Eagles, Brazil coach Tite said Neymar was not a pre-match injury risk.

"It would be irresponsible and incompetent of me [to play him if he was a doubt]," Tite explained.

"I would have to receive the complaints of the coach and the president of PSG if that happened."

Neymar posted an image on his Instagram story of him back in Paris and receiving treatment for the injury.

The length of Neymar's absence means he is likely to miss two Champions League games with Club Brugge and Ligue 1 matches with Nice, Marseille, Dijon and Brest.

In the same announcement, PSG said Kylian Mbappe is “positively following his recovery programme” after missing the game against Angers last time out.

Edinson Cavani, who has been out since August with a hip issue, continues training with the squad.

Julian Draxler (foot) and Colin Dagba (thigh) have returned to training.

Neymar is expected to be out for four weeks after the Paris Saint-Germain star suffered a hamstring injury on international duty.

Brazil coach Tite is adamant Neymar had shown no sign of injury before Sunday's 1-1 friendly draw with Nigeria, in which the forward was withdrawn after 12 minutes due to leg discomfort.

Neymar was named in Brazil's starting XI for the friendly in Singapore but appeared to reach for the back of his left leg as he made an early exit.

He was then seen in conversation with a member of Brazil's staff on the bench, though Neymar did not look to be in significant pain.

Nevertheless, given the injury problems the forward has sustained in the last two years, Tite was asked after the game if he had taken a risk by playing him.

Tite was unequivocal in his response, insisting the Paris Saint-Germain star would not have played had there been any doubt over his fitness.

"No, not at all," Tite replied when asked if Neymar was at risk before the game.

"It would be irresponsible and incompetent of me [to play him if he was a doubt]. I would have to receive the complaints of the coach and the president of PSG if that happened."

With the international break now over for Brazil, Neymar will return to PSG, who are next in action against Nice on Friday.

 

Brazil lost Neymar to an early injury scare and stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Nigeria as their post-Copa America malaise continued in Singapore.

Having last month restored him to the starting XI, Paris Saint Germain will have been especially concerned when Neymar clutched at his hamstring as he headed to the bench in the 12th minute of Sunday's international friendly.

Joe Aribo fired Nigeria into the lead not long later before Casemiro scrambled Brazil level within three minutes of the interval.

The Real Madrid midfielder went closest to winning it, seeing a header cannon against the crossbar on the hour, but the Selecao were unable to end what is now a four-game winless streak.

Roberto Firmino threatened with a well-struck shot on the turn before Ederson denied Victor Osimhen in an entertaining first five minutes.

Tite was forced to call on Philippe Coutinho when Neymar made way and Brazil's woes were compounded in the 35th minute.

Moses Simon controlled Osimhen's cross and spotted the late-arriving Aribo, who doubled his international account after dancing through Marquinhos' weak challenge.

The defender went some way to making amends when his header from a Dani Alves cross came back off the woodwork and dropped for Casemiro to sweep home.

Casemiro almost single-handedly completed the comeback from Coutinho's corner before substitute Richarlison turned a chance the wrong side of the upright.

Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho had to be taken off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly while attempting to thwart the Casemiro chance.

But his absence failed to hinder the Super Eagles, who held on for a creditable draw after Semi Ajayi blocked a meek Coutinho finish at close range in the closing stages.

What does it mean? Selecao still stuck in a slumber

Brazil's inability to build on their Copa America success has been startling.

Securing continental silverware on home soil was expected to prove the catalyst for Tite's team to grow but they have recorded no more than three draws and a defeat since edging Peru in July.

Centre-back stars for Super Eagles

William Troost-Ekong looked a defender of international class at the World Cup in Russia and acquitted himself well against Brazil's strike force, tallying six clearances and several moments of impressively calm defensive work.

Marquinhos culpable for opener

Meaningless friendly or not, the lack of desperation Marquinhos displayed in defending Aribo's opening goal cannot be tolerated by a team fighting for form.

What's next?

Brazil are to face rivals Argentina in a Superclasico de las Americas clash in Saudi Arabia on November 15, while Nigeria commence Africa Cup of Nations qualifying next month.  

A potential hamstring problem ended Neymar's involvement during the early stages of Brazil's friendly against Nigeria.

The Paris Saint-Germain star did not appear to be in much discomfort but reached for the back of his left leg as he made his way off the pitch after 12 minutes of Sunday's game in Singapore.

He was then seen in conversation with a member of Brazil's staff on the bench at the National Stadium.

Philippe Coutinho replaced the 27-year-old, who won his 100th international cap in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Senegal.

An ankle injury forced Neymar to miss this year's Copa America on home soil and he only returned to action for PSG a month ago, with his reintroduction to the team delayed in part by his widely reported desire to engineer a transfer back to former club Barcelona.

The forward made his first appearance of the season and spectacularly scored the winner in the Ligue 1 victory over Strasbourg on September 14.

Further goals followed against Lyon, Bordeaux and Angers before he headed to Asia to link up with Tite's squad.

Neymar does not have to leave Paris Saint-Germain to fulfil his goal of becoming the world's best player, according to Brazil team-mate Alisson.

The forward was strongly linked with a return to Barcelona during the transfer window, but no move to Camp Nou came to fruition.

Neymar has instead remained in the French capital, scoring four goals in five Ligue 1 games since recovering from a foot injury.

The 27-year-old did not finish in the top 10 for the 2018 Ballon d'Or but, asked if Neymar could become the best player in the world by joining Barcelona, Alisson told Mundo Deportivo: "I think that Neymar can be the best in the world on any team.

"Neymar is a high-level player and would be fundamental in any team in the world. If he returns to Barcelona or not... I wish him good luck and to play with his usual joy and energy, wherever he is."

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi was reportedly pushing for Neymar to be signed by Barca, but he told RAC1 this month he was surprised his former team-mate did not join Real Madrid after it became clear he wanted to leave PSG.

Messi and Alisson met in the Champions League for the second season in a row last term, with the former Roma goalkeeper again coming out on top with a stunning second-leg comeback.

The Argentina captain had struck twice in the first leg to seemingly give Liverpool a mountain to climb but they won 4-0 at Anfield to overturn their deficit, going on to win the tournament by defeating fellow Premier League side Tottenham in the final.

Alisson also got the better of Messi at this year's Copa America, where Brazil beat Argentina 2-0 in the semi-finals before going on to lift the trophy on home soil with a win over Peru.

"The truth is that Messi played very well in the first leg in Barcelona and achieved two goals, but in the return I managed to stop him in some important moments," Alisson added.

"Messi is one of the best players in football history, but I don't think only of duels with him. Both Barcelona and Argentina are two very good teams that have high quality players.

"Luckily, in the last three matches I have been able to overcome him, but the merits are of the whole team: Rome, Liverpool and Brazil."

 

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Thiago Silva expressed concern about Brazil's form after a 1-1 draw against Senegal on Thursday left them winless in three matches for the first time since 2013.

Copa America champions Brazil took the lead against Senegal through Roberto Firmino after nine minutes in Singapore, but Famara Diedhiou fired home a penalty before half-time following Marquinhos' foul on Sadio Mane.

The Selecao, who drew with Colombia and lost to Peru in the previous international break, were unable to find a winner in the friendly international – Neymar seeing Alfred Gomis deny him a goal to mark his 100th cap in first-half stoppage time.

It could have been worse for Brazil had Mane's 20-yard effort with five minutes remaining not been kept out by the post, with Silva frustrated by their struggles in the final third.

"If I said I wasn't bothered, I would be lying. Unfortunately, in the last three games we have failed to show our best selves," Silva said in a post-match interview.

"I think we had the best chances but we were lacking a finish. It was a very equal game. We came up short on the last pass.

"We have to try to look at what went wrong and be more clinical with the last ball.

"Our opponents are more focused and studying our team. We have to get out of this rut."

Brazil will return to Singapore's National Stadium on Sunday to face Nigeria. Dani Alves suggested the heat, humidity and time zone played a role in a sluggish performance from the Selecao.

"I don't believe quality was missing. The opponents also played well and have good players," said right-back Alves.

"The circumstances were difficult. We have an 11-hour time difference [between Brazil and Singapore]; it's really hot. It's not an excuse, but it affects you.

"It is never easy to win. We are doing our best, but of course winning makes it easier to keep working."

Brazil were unable to mark Neymar's 100th cap with a win as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Senegal in humid conditions in Singapore on Thursday.

Neymar has scored four goals in his past five matches for Paris Saint-Germain but was unable to continue that form with the Selecao, failing to convert any of the chances that came his way.

Brazil moved ahead early at the National Stadium through Roberto Firmino's cool finish, but Sadio Mane won a penalty that Famara Diedhiou dispatched before the break.

Tite's team struggled to work clear openings in the second half and are now winless in three games – their worst run since 2013.

Brazil took a ninth-minute lead when Gabriel Jesus skipped inside of Racine Coly and slid a throughball into the box that Firmino dinked beyond Alfred Gomis.

A loose touch from Dani Alves' no-look pass enabled Salif Sane to deny Philippe Coutinho a shot at goal, while Mane sent a powerful drive straight at Ederson in Senegal's first real opening.

Mane remained lively and his driving run into the box off the right drew a foul from Marquinhos. Diedhiou slammed the resulting penalty into the bottom-left corner in first-half stoppage time.

Brazil's newest centurion Neymar was unable to finish off a pass from Firmino before half-time and Jesus felt he deserved a penalty when Gomis sent him to ground after he got a shot away in the 53rd minute.

Jesus was disappointed Kalidou Koulibaly was only cautioned for tugging him back as the last man, with Neymar sending the free-kick narrowly over.

Tite brought on Everton and Richarlison in a bid to revitalise Brazil's attack, while midfielder Matheus Henrique replaced Arthur for his senior debut.

Much of the second-half in the energy-sapping conditions was played at a sluggish pace, but Mane went close to an 85th-minute winner when his 20-yard drive crashed against the post.

Neymar had a shot deflected over – though no corner was given – and Richarlison fired wide as Brazil came up short with belated attempts to avoid a draw.

What does it mean? Strife for Tite

Having come from behind to draw 2-2 with Colombia and lost 1-0 to Peru during the previous international break, Brazil's failure to defeat Senegal will no doubt lead to an increase in the pressure on Tite.

The Selecao are without a win since winning the Copa America in July and the coach will be desperate to turn things around as soon as possible.

Mane impresses

While his Liverpool team-mate Firmino opened the scoring, it was Mane who left a greater mark on the game. The Senegal attacker was a consistent threat either side of winning the penalty that got his team back on terms.

Coly exposed

After being beaten so easily by Jesus ahead of the opener, Coly struggled to get back on track. He was guilty of leaving spaces at the back and gave possession away five times.

What's next?

Brazil will remain in Singapore and take on Nigeria on Sunday, while Senegal are in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying action next month.

Paris Saint-Germain full-back Juan Bernat was surprised Neymar remained with the Ligue 1 giants this season despite strong interest from Barcelona.

Brazil star Neymar was a constant subject of speculation in the previous transfer window, with the forward doing little to hush the rumours of a potential return to Camp Nou.

Barca were said to have offered PSG cash and up to three players – reportedly Ivan Rakitic, Jean-Clair Todibo and Ousmane Dembele – but the deal did not go through, despite the Catalan club reportedly being confident of getting it over the line.

The strained relationship between the two clubs from when Neymar left Barca for PSG for €222million two years earlier was said to have impacted discussions, though Bernat acknowledged he felt the former Santos talent was more likely to leave than stay.

"Yes, it's true that I saw him more [likely] out of the club than in it for everything that was said in the press," Bernat told Marca.

"Until the transfer window closed, anything could've happened.

"It was the best outcome for us [PSG]. He makes a difference with [Kylian] Mbappe. In the first game, as soon as he returned, he scored a goal.

"Then against Lyon he was also decisive. They [Neymar and Mbappe] are a different level.

"They are very skilled players. They carry the ball and make you suffer. Luckily we have them in our team."

Similarly, Mbappe was also linked with a move away from the Parc des Princes, with Real Madrid said to be eager to sign him.

Bernat is not surprised Mbappe attracts such interest, having seen first-hand in training that the 20-year-old is "practically impossible" to stop.

He said: "In a race Mbappe is unstoppable. If he starts [running], you're lost. When he has space, it is very complicated to slow him down.

"With the power he has it is practically impossible. Either you anticipate or there's nothing you can do. He competes very well, and that's what's going to make him very big.

"It [Madrid's interest] is normal, but he is ours and I hope he will always stay with us. He is in a big club."

Neymar attempted to draw a line under months of transfer speculation by insisting he is "happy and comfortable" and Paris Saint-Germain, for whom he vowed to give his all.

The Brazil forward openly discussed the fact  he wanted to leave the Parc des Princes after two years with the French champions but says he is no longer at odds with the club.

PSG fans booed Neymar when he made his return to action this season, yet he has responded by scoring four goals in five Ligue 1 appearances.

At a news conference on the eve of Brazil's clash with Senegal, in which he is set to win his 100th international cap, Neymar told reporters: "Everyone knows what happened in the summer market and the desire I had to leave.

"Today, I feel happy and comfortable with the club, too. It's not just with the national team that I'm happy. The season started out very well for me.

"I will defend my club tooth and nail. I will give 100 per cent for us to achieve great things.

"It was a long summer for me. I knew that I had to prepare, in all circumstances, for a good season. Thank God, it has started well and I hope it stays that way."

The 27-year-old forward missed three months of the 2018-19 season with a foot injury, similar to an issue he suffered in the previous campaign.

The problems restricted Neymar to 20 Ligue 1 appearances in his first season in France and just 17 in his second, and he has targeted a healthier, more fruitful year for Thomas Tuchel's men in 2019-20.

"There have been more than three months of injury treatment in the last two years," he said. "This gets in the way of any athlete.

"But if you look at all the games and numbers you will see that I never stopped playing football. Unfortunately in an athlete's life, this can occur. You have to have a good head and be prepared to go through it.

"My hope for this season is to stay fit, to hope that nothing bad happens."

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