Barcelona are beginning to plan for a future without Lionel Messi, although club president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes he will sign another contract.

The 31-year-old's current deal will expire after the 2020-21 campaign and the Barca captain has previously said he would like to return to his homeland with boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.

Messi started his career at Newell's but moved to Barcelona as a teenager, developing into an all-time great of the game with nine LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.

Bartomeu remains hopeful Messi can be persuaded to extend his time at the club even further but accepts Barca must have a plan for when the Argentina international moves on.

"We are already thinking about it, but it is a future still far away," Bartomeu said to Le Figaro. "He is a young player, he is 31-years-old, his performance is very good, he plays even better and better, I do not know how he does it!

"He has a contract for two seasons, but I think he will extend his career beyond 2021. But you have to think of young talent. When Messi no longer plays, no one can replace him. It's impossible.

"Behind Messi, there is nobody. Neither in Barca nor anywhere else. The coach of the day will have to think of how the team will play [but] the idea of Barca football will remain the same."

Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot, but Bartomeu denied there has been contact between the LaLiga leaders and the France international.

Rabiot is expected to leave PSG at the end of the season, when his deal expires, with the midfielder not in contention for selection by coach Thomas Tuchel due to the contract stand-off.

"The planning of the club for the next seasons is not yet launched, we will start in March," Bartomeu said of links to Rabiot.

"In addition, Barca always puts the priority on the players of our B team. If we do not find them, we will look for them outside.

"The only sure thing about Rabiot is that on June 30 he will be free."

One player who will be lining up for Barca next season is the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with the Netherlands international adding to Ernesto Valverde's midfield options after agreeing a move worth €86million.

"When a player arrives at Barca, he knows he will be competing. It's a challenge for them, some accept it, others do not," Bartomeu continued. "When we go looking for a talent outside, we are sometimes told: 'I want to play, not be on the bench.'

"He is a player who will mark a time of European football. He has an incredible talent and an understanding of football which is that of Barca... and the same as that of Ajax."

Juventus have made an enquiry to Inter to learn whether Mauro Icardi would be interested in a move, chief football officer Fabio Paratici has confirmed.

Icardi's future has been thrown into doubt after he was stripped of the Inter captaincy last week.

Wanda Nara, his wife and agent, insisted on Sunday that the Argentina striker does not want to leave but there are suggestions the club could look to sell before next season.

Paratici says Juve have informed Inter of their possible interest but has stressed this is relatively normal practice for the club.

"We asked for information," he told Radio Rai. "We wanted to know what Icardi thinks about playing for Juve.

"What we did was to inform them [Inter] that, if Icardi were to change club, Juve could be interested. These are things all clubs do with a lot of players.

"There has been no contact lately with Mrs Icardi. He's an Inter player and we have an important few months ahead."

Paratici also appeared to confirm Juve's interest in rising Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo, although he says the 19-year-old is one of many promising players they are monitoring.

"Very good young players, we are following them," he said when asked about Zaniolo, as well as Federico Chiesa, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Barella.

"The list I wrote down was of players who it's pretty easy to tell are talented. It could have been put together by me or anyone who is even a little interested in football."

It has also been reported that Juve would consider allowing Paulo Dybala to leave as part of a deal to bring in either Mohamed Salah from Liverpool or Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Paratici has dismissed the speculation, saying the Serie A leaders have already done good business by agreeing pre-contract terms with Aaron Ramsey, who will join from Arsenal on July 1.

"At this moment, it's all fantasy football," he said. "It's only February, so nobody knows what could happen in June. We are proud to have brought Aaron Ramsey to Juve, as he is a great signing."

Thomas Tuchel praised Paris Saint-Germain's character after the Ligue 1 champions rounded off a triumphant week with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne.

PSG put a significant marker down in the Champions League as they beat Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg of a last-16 tie they tackled without star forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani.

As his did in midweek, Kylian Mbappe stepped up impressively in their absence 17 minutes from time at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard – volleying a brilliant 73rd-minute winner.

"I am very happy because I knew very well that it was very difficult to play at Saint-Etienne," Tuchel told reporters after his team extended their seemingly unassailable lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 12 points.

"My team showed an exceptional mentality. We accepted all the circumstances. 

"We defended with great intensity and vigilance. We accepted that it was a difficult match. I am very happy. 

"We have been patient, the victory is deserved."

On Mbappe, whose 18th Ligue 1 appearance this term produced his 19th top-flight goal of the campaign, Tuchel added: "He shows his quality every day in training, he has this hunger to score, score, score. 

"It's his quality - he is a special player. 

"Everyone was tired after Manchester United, physically but also mentally. It was necessary to control the game, to play focused. 

"We showed the mentality to have the victory."

Kylian Mbappe chose to focus upon Paris Saint-Germain's collective after his stunning winner at Saint-Etienne broke new ground.

Mbappe netted the only goal of an otherwise forgettable contest in sublime fashion, swivelling to volley Dani Alves' lofted pass into the top left corner after 73 minutes.

It was Mbappe's 19th goal in 18 Ligue 1 appearances this season – making him the first player to have such a prolific return for 45 years.

Another increasingly recognisable feature of the performance was PSG's shape-shifting under Thomas Tuchel, as Marquinhos returned to centre-back and Juan Bernat tackled an unfamiliar midfield role.

As such, Mbappe hailed a team triumph on Sunday.

"We played against a good team, especially at home," he told Canal+.

"Few teams will come here to win, we did it. We are happy and we leave with the three points. 

"We must continue and aim as high as possible. My stats are good, but the team is better."

It left Saint-Etienne boss Jean-Louis Gasset to shower praise upon a player he feels will soon stand above them all.

"Paris respected us because it was practically the same team that played against Manchester United," Gasset told reporters, having seen Tuchel make three alterations from the side that triumphed at Old Trafford.

"We decided to defend low and try to counter if we could. We lost on a goal that came from elsewhere - a 20-year-old, who will soon be the best player in the world. 

"He's going to be the best player in the world in two or three years if he continues like that."

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe continues to make history in Ligue 1.

Mbappe, 20, scored a wonderful second-half volley to see PSG overcome Saint-Etienne 1-0 on Sunday.

He became the first French player to score 19 goals in his first 18 games of a Ligue 1 season over the last 45 years as he continued his tremendous campaign.

Mbappe's 19 goals are also the most in the top five leagues this season among players who have not scored a penalty.

PSG's win moved them 12 points clear atop the Ligue 1 table.

A moment of magic from Kylian Mbappe gave Paris Saint-Germain a hard-fought 1-0 win at Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.

The reigning champions and runaway leaders bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Lyon at the start of the month by beating Bordeaux 1-0 last weekend, however, Thomas Tuchel's team were short of their best once more at Stade Geoffroy Guichard.

Mbappe dazzled in the 2-0 Champions League win over Manchester United on Tuesday but found the going tougher in a line-up without the considerable talents of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Marco Verratti and Thomas Meunier.

Yet he settled matters with aplomb in the 73rd minute, swivelling to guide Dani Alves's lofted pass into the top corner on the volley.

It was the act of a player a class apart from the rest – much like PSG, who are 12 points ahead of Lille at the summit with two games in hand.

The same combination that undid United in midweek were to the fore again, with Angel Di Maria storming forward on the break in the 20th minute to play in Mbappe, whose shot was beaten away at the near post by Stephane Ruffier.

Mbappe felt the effects of a robust challenge from Romain Hamouma, who had a shot blocked by PSG captain Thiago Silva late in the first half after Thilo Kehrer's misjudged headed clearance.

Ruffier smothered a shot from Julian Draxler at close quarters in the 55th minute, Di Maria and Mbappe having combined on the end of Marquinhos' excellent raking pass.

Juan Bernat's replacement Colin Dagba was quickly into the action with a last-ditch challenge to deny Saint-Etienne wing-back Gabriel Silva, with Kevin Monnet-Paquet going close from the resulting 63rd-minute corner.

Di Maria should have done better when he skewed wide two minutes later, leaving Mbappe to majestically show him how it was done.

He showed a more pragmatic side as he joined substitute Layvin Kurzawa in being booked for kicking the ball away in stoppage time -  PSG closing out a result that denied Saint-Etienne a move into the top four.


What does it mean? Any team in the world would miss Neymar

PSG's wonderfully composed win over Manchester United won deserved plaudits but this grasping and increasingly forced performance underlined that victory at Old Trafford came despite the absence of their star forward and not because of it.

Cavani's return will also be welcomed as centre-forward duties weighed a little heavily on the mercurial Mbappe until he produced another picturebook moment in a career already stuffed with them.

Masterful from Marquinhos

The Brazil international's shackling of Paul Pobga at Old Trafford underlined how swiftly he has developed from emergency midfield option to a dependable holding player in his own right. Marquinhos was back in his natural centre-back role here, unfurling a wonderful range of passing and appearing the coolest under pressure as the hosts launched their second-half forays. A Rolls Royce of a player.

Close shave for Bernat

The willingness of PSG's players to undertake unfamiliar roles and operate with flexible tactics has been a symbol of their development under Tuchel. Bernat started sharply enough on the left of a midfield three but was found wanting when a rare opening fell his way in the box. After his booking for fouling Mathieu Debuchy early in the second half, a 56th-minute challenge on Timothee Kolodziejczak was, at best, ill-advised and Tuchel had seen enough.

What's next

PSG tackle their rescheduled Ligue 1 home game against Montpellier on Wednesday – the first of three games in the space of six days at the Parc des Princes. Saint-Etienne travel to Dijon on Friday.

Thomas Tuchel offered no update on the condition of Neymar or Edinson Cavani ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Saint-Etienne but confirmed Thomas Meunier and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting would miss the game amid mounting injury problems.

Right-back Meunier missed PSG's 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League following a head injury he sustained against Bordeaux three days earlier, and Tuchel said Cameroon international Choupo-Moting has been taken ill.

With Cavani sidelined by a hip injury and Neymar recovering from a damaged metatarsal, Tuchel said he is keeping a close eye on Marco Verratti and Presnel Kimpembe, who have both been dogged by injuries in recent weeks.

"Thomas Meunier will not be available tomorrow, nor Choupo-Moting because of illness," Tuchel told reporters.

"The other players will be present but we need to be attentive to the old injuries of Verratti and Kimpembe.

"There is no news for Cavani and Neymar."

Tuchel was in upbeat mood despite the fitness concerns, and he picked out Kimpembe for praise along with Brazilian midfielder Marquinhos who deputised in midfield at Old Trafford.

Full-backs Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat were also credited for their part in extending the champions winning run to three consecutive matches in all competitions.

"Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat are doing a great job," said Tuchel. "They deserve to play.

"Presnel Kimpembe has everything to become one of the best defenders in Europe.

"Marquinhos is very good in the middle, as in defence. He is an incredible player who must and always wants to improve.

"I am happy that we are able to play as a team. Whether in the Champions League or Ligue 1."

Neymar has used social media to share a defiant message as he continues his recovery from a metatarsal injury.

Paris Saint-Germain's star man has been out of action since sustaining the injury in a Coupe de France win over Strasbourg last month.

The 27-year-old missed PSG's 2-0 win over Manchester United on Tuesday, but revealed he is hopeful of returning in time to feature in the Champions League quarter-finals should Thomas Tuchel's side avoid an embarrassing turnaround in the second leg of their clash with the Red Devils.

And Neymar, who also released a video of himself wildly celebrating PSG's goals in the victory at Old Trafford, followed that news up by taking to his personal Instagram account.

"Because life is for warriors, nothing weakens me!" a caption stated, with Neymar pictured in front of a private jet holding both crutches across his chest, although Tuchel may not be best pleased that his key player is so willing to take such a risk if he is indeed serious about making a swift comeback.

Thomas Tuchel has escaped with a suspended two-match ban after he was sent off during Paris Saint-Germain's Coupe de France win over Villefranche.

The Ligue 1 champions were taken to extra time by their third-tier opponents in Lyon, eventually prevailing 3-0 thanks to goals from Julian Draxler, Moussa Diaby and Edinson Cavani.

Tuchel's frustration during the contest spilled over and he was dismissed from the touchline after extended protests to the fourth official over a foul on midfielder Leandro Paredes.

But the French Football Federation has opted for a suspended punishment, meaning Tuchel is free to take his place on the bench for PSG's coming matches.

The federation came down harder on Lille defender Adama Soumaoro and his coach Christophe Galtier following their Coupe de France loss at Rennes.

Soumaoro was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Mexer and, having already sat out last Sunday's win over Guingamp, he must now serve a further three-match ban.

Galtier's protests over the decision have earned him a three-game suspension, with one of those suspended. He will be on the bench for Lille's Ligue 1 home game against Montpellier on Sunday before the punishment takes effect.

Angel Di Maria insists he has never criticised former club Manchester United but expected the frosty reception supporters gave him during Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 Champions League victory on Tuesday.

Argentine winger Di Maria was appearing at Old Trafford for the first time since a disappointing spell at United in 2014-15, playing a starring role with two assists as PSG took complete control of the last-16 tie.

He arrived at United from Real Madrid for a reported £60million but failed to settle, with reports claiming he never wanted to join the club in the first place, and a fractious relationship with manager Louis van Gaal only worsened the situation.

United fans were unsympathetic on Tuesday, jeering him from the first whistle and some even threw bottles after he appeared to goad the home support during PSG's celebrations of the first goal.

Despite the apparent animosity between Di Maria and United's fans, he is adamant the only element of his time at the club he ever spoke negatively about was Van Gaal.

"It was difficult from the opening minute, but I knew this was going to happen," he told Cadena COPE.

"But I've said it in the past and I reiterate it: I never spoke badly of the people here and of this club.

"These are things that happen and people took it badly. I only had problems with the coach here."

United travel to Paris for the second leg on March 6.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer refused to entertain questions over his long-term ambitions at Manchester United on the eve of what could prove to be a defining period of his tenure.

Solskjaer has led United to 10 victories in 11 unbeaten matches under his management since succeeding Jose Mourinho until the end of this season.

Paris Saint-Germain visit Old Trafford in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, with a trip to Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup and a Premier League home match versus title-chasing Liverpool to come before the end of the month.

Success in those fixtures would be seen by many as a water-tight case for Solskjaer to become United manager on a permanent basis, but he told a pre-match news conference he does not view the matter in such straightforward terms.

"Yes, it's too simple [to say that]," he said, a chuckle belying an apparent weariness over the topic.

"You need to change the script now. There's still a few more months left of this season to do whatever we need to do."

Solskjaer was contrastingly enthused when addressing the type of fixture he typically revelled in during his playing days under Alex Ferguson.

"The supporters and players have been looking forward to these nights because they are special," he said. "My last one was when we beat Roma 7-1 [in 2007]. I came on. It was a typical Old Trafford night.

"We lost 2-1 away from home but the manager was so happy. He was so confident in our ability. We just want to go into this game confident and raise our game."

Edinson Cavani is expected to join Neymar on the sidelines for PSG, heightening the sense of a tie very much in the balance.

Nevertheless, Solskjaer believes Thomas Tuchel's men now possess an element of surprise and represent a stern test to his in-form side.

"Of course any team that are missing players like Neymar, Cavani and [Thomas] Meunier will feel the effect," he added.

"But that gives the other players a chance. It makes it more unpredictable for us [to know] who they are going to play.

"When you see them over the season you know what to expect. This time around we are guessing a little bit how they are going to come and play.

"But we've got a good guesstimate on how they are approaching this game."

Neymar is "technically above everybody" at Paris Saint-Germain according to Nene, who feels his fellow Brazilian can still achieve all his ambitions in Paris.

PSG travel to Manchester United for Tuesday's mouth-watering Champions League last-16 clash with their superstar forward sidelined due to a metatarsal injury.

Fellow attacker Edinson Cavani faces tests on a hip problem sustained during Saturday's Ligue 1 win over Bordeaux and Nene, who played for PSG between 2010 and 2013, feels such losses will be felt by head coach Thomas Tuchel.

"It would have been beautiful to play with [Neymar] because he's a very smart player, and technically he's above everybody," he told Omnisport.

"I think he's living an important moment, every year he's showing his quality, his strength. He can be stronger every year."

Despite their dominance in France, PSG are yet to reach a Champions League semi-final and Nene believes amassing experience in the competition is key to going further in the competition.

"I think some experience is missing, and also they need to be consistent," the Sao Paulo winger explained.

"There are only top-level teams, with a lot of experience in that competition. They're playing with very strong teams, so it's normal that they struggle to win.

"Every year, they're a bit closer, this year they have a great team, I hope they'll win it."

Speculation has persisted over Neymar returning to LaLiga following his world-record switch to PSG in 2017 but Nene feels the 27-year-old is in the perfect place to realise all his ambitions.

"I don't think that he's bigger than Paris, because Paris today are massive as well," he said. "They're the same level as Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"He doesn't need to look for another team [due to being] bigger than the club. Paris are one of the most important clubs in the world.

"He has everything, the team, the structure. He has everything he needs to play his A-game."

On the prospect of Neymar achieving his aim of Ballon d'Or glory, Nene added: "Being one of the best players in the world, he can do it with PSG.

"He just needs the team to win big titles, like the Champions League. If he wins the Champions League with Paris he can be the best player in the world.

"He doesn't need to change clubs for this."

Thomas Tuchel is not optimistic Edinson Cavani will be fit for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash with Manchester United after limping out of Sunday's win over Bordeaux.

Cavani was one of the few PSG stars to start the Ligue 1 clash at the Parc des Princes and he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Thomas Meunier had been fouled by Nicolas de Preville.

It was his final involvement, though, as he hobbled off soon after following a brief discussion with Tuchel.

The Uruguay international did not return for the second half, and the PSG boss does not hold out too much hope in having his talisman available for their midweek trip to Old Trafford – when they will already be without Neymar.

"No, I don't have good news," he told Canal Plus. "We have to wait.

"I do not know [if he will be fit]. Yes, it's worrying, it's not a good sign.

"If your key players are not there it's different. We do not have another Edi, we do not have another Neymar."

Edinson Cavani gave Paris Saint-Germain an injury scare ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester United despite scoring in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Bordeaux.

Unlike Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler and Kylian Mbappe, Cavani started at the Parc des Princes but he only lasted 45 minutes before hobbling off.

His departure came moments after he converted a first-half penalty following Nicolas de Preville's clumsy challenge on the marauding Thomas Meunier.

The loss of Cavani seemed to affect PSG after the restart as they struggled to re-assert their dominance, Gianluigi Buffon needing to make a number of saves to ensure their lead at the top of the Ligue 1 grew to 13 points.

Thomas Tuchel made seven changes from the side beaten at Lyon last weekend but it did not affect their rhythm, and Thiago Silva should have put them ahead early on but his shot was cleared off the line by Pablo.

While Silva was unlucky, Cavani was wasteful when played in by Marco Verratti, the Uruguay international controlling the chipped pass well before hooking his left-foot shot well wide.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was denied at point-blank range by Benoit Costil as PSG began to apply pressure, the forward unable to convert from Christopher Nkunku's run.

With half-time looming PSG finally took the lead, Meunier fouled by De Preville and Cavani making no mistake from the spot.

It was Cavani's final action as the striker limped off with a muscle injury, Mbappe coming off the bench to replace him at the start of the second period.

PSG were lucky to still be ahead just before the hour when Younousse Sankhare created space for Francois Kamano, but the forward ballooned over from 18 yards much to the relief of the home defence.

Buffon then made a superb save to deny Kamano's next effort and PSG withstood some late pressure before their return to winning ways in the league was confirmed.

 

What does it mean? All eyes on Cavani

While the win extends PSG's lead at the top of Ligue 1, they may come to rue starting Cavani if he misses the midweek trip to Old Trafford. Tuchel will hope removing him at the break ensured he will be fit to feature as they look to keep their European dreams alive.

Alves shows his versatility

Dani Alves has established himself as one of the best full-backs in the world during his illustrious career, but he showed another string to his bow on Saturday. Deployed in central midfield, the Brazil international was PSG's heartbeat alongside the returning Verratti – who played 58 minutes.

Tuchel's decision backfired

There was no need for Tuchel to risk Cavani from the start, and his decision to play the forward backfired. Now he will hope it is nothing too serious.

What's next?

PSG travel to Manchester for the first leg of their last-16 tie with United before returning to league action at Saint-Etienne next weekend, when Bordeaux will host Toulouse.

Marco Verratti could hand Thomas Tuchel a major boost by returning for Paris Saint-Germain in their Ligue 1 clash with Bordeaux on Saturday.

The Italy midfielder sustained an ankle injury in the 9-0 hammering of Guingamp on January 19 but, although he was declared unfit for Wednesday's Coupe de France win at Villefranche due to another ailment, came through training on Thursday and seems likely to play at the weekend.

Assuming there are no further complications, that would put Verratti firmly in the frame to face Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Tuchel told a news conference: "Marco trained on Thursday and there is no problem. 

"I'm waiting for the afternoon training [on Friday] but he's available to play against Bordeaux. Maybe not 90 minutes, we'll talk with the physio, the doctor and the player but I think he can play. 

"I do not know yet if it's possible, we have to wait."

PSG have been forced to play defenders Marquinhos and Dani Alves in midfield in recent weeks with Verratti injured and Adrien Rabiot out of contention due to a contract dispute.

With Ligue 1 table-toppers PSG 10 points clear of second-placed Lille, and with two games in hand, Tuchel will make several changes for the visit of Bordeaux to the Parc des Princes.

He added: "It is not possible to just let go of the match against Bordeaux but it is my responsibility to protect players who have played a lot in recent weeks.

"Maybe some of the players who have not played too much will play."

The German admitted his focus was on the midweek trip to Manchester.

"Of course, everyone thinks about Manchester but we have to think about Bordeaux," he said. "We talk about it [United] but in a calm way. The squad knows how to do one thing after another.

"I know 10 players who will play against United. Then you have to stay flexible."

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