Pep Guardiola has reiterated he wants to see Lionel Messi stay at Barcelona.

Barca talisman Messi is out of contract in 2021 and there is fresh speculation the six-time Ballon d’Or winner may wish to leave the club, who have not won the Champions League since 2015.

The forward has often been linked with a move to Manchester City to play under his former Camp Nou coach Guardiola.

But the City boss was reluctant to discuss transfers ahead of Wednesday's Premier League home match against Newcastle United.

He also stressed his stance on Messi has not changed, having previously expressed his hope the Argentine remains with Barca when questioned on the topic.

"I'm not going to speak about transfers until the end of the season," he said. "My wish is that Messi is going to stay in Barcelona."

Asked if a new centre-back was in his plans, he added: "At the end of the season. We still have incredible targets to fight for."

Meanwhile, Guardiola insisted he had no influence on where City's Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid will be played, with a decision due this week.

City lead the tie 2-1 after a win at Santiago Bernabeu before the coronavirus lockdown and reports suggested Guardiola had lobbied UEFA over playing the return leg in Manchester rather than at a neutral venue.

"I am not strong enough to have this impact," he said.

"I am not a president. They have protocols. I have never spoken with UEFA. I have said many times that we want to play in Manchester but we are going to accept wherever UEFA decide to play.

"What I want is to play against Madrid. This is what I want but I didn't make phone calls, I don't have this power."

The club are also getting closer to finding out the verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as they appeal against their two-year Champions League ban.

"On July 10 it is the [Champions League quarter-final] draw and [July] 13 will be the sentence," Guardiola added.

"After that, I will give my opinion. We wait for the resolution from UEFA. This season is not going to change. It is so beautiful what we have in front of us."

Neymar returning to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain is "unlikely", according to the LaLiga club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The Brazil forward left Camp Nou for the French capital in a world-record €222million deal back in 2017, but a return to Barcelona - where he won eight major trophies across four seasons - has long been mooted.

However, Bartomeu thinks such a move would be hard to pull off in the current climate as Europe's elite clubs adjust their plans due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Such an operation is unlikely because the situation of all the clubs in Europe is very difficult," Bartomeu told RAC 1.

Yet there was no such dismissal when Bartomeu was asked about another forward in Lautaro Martinez.

Lionel Messi's Argentina team-mate is said to have a €111m release clause in his contract, but that is thought to expire on Tuesday, and it has been reported Barca will not try to activate it before the deadline passes.

Martinez, 22, has scored 17 times in 37 appearances for Inter this term and is under contract at San Siro until 2023.

"I'm not talking about transfers," Bartomeu added when asked about Martinez.

"We have not marked the signings in the calendar on when they should be."

One man who will be joining Barcelona is midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who will move at the end of this season, with Arthur heading in the opposite direction to join Juventus.

Though Pjanic is seven years older than Arthur and there are reports Barcelona looked to offload the Brazilian to balance the books, Bartomeu insists the new signing had been a long-term target.

"Pjanic is a player who has wanted to sign for a long time, he was highly sought after and there is a Barca player who wants Juve," Bartomeu explained.

"But it is an exceptional situation. It is not to balance balances because we would have sold other players for whom we had offers. Arthur is a player who is highly valued."

Already rivals on the field, Manchester United and Manchester City might be set to clash off it.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Milan Skriniar of Inter are both reportedly wanted in Manchester.

An off-season battle may therefore be set to take place between the two foes.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED, CITY EYEING DEFENDERS

Manchester United and neighbours Manchester City are going head-to-head for centre-backs, according to the Independent.

United and City are both reportedly eyeing defensive reinforcements as they look to catch Premier League champions Liverpool next season.

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Inter defender Milan Skriniar – also wanted by Real Madrid – have been strongly linked to the Manchester clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Ralf Rangnick has agreed a deal to become the head coach of Milan in 2020-21, says The Guardian. Rangnick will replace Stefano Pioli, who was only appointed in October. The German is also set to hold talks about combining the coaching role with that of sporting director – a position held by Milan great Paolo Maldini.

- Qualifying for the Champions League will be the first step of any deal to bring Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho to United, reports the Evening Standard. Sancho has been linked to Liverpool, Chelsea and Madrid.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Paris Saint-Germain are poised to make an €80million offer for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Ligue 1 champions, however, are wary of competition from United, Madrid and Chelsea.

Kai Havertz is aware of interest from Chelsea but the Premier League side are yet to make an offer for the Bayer Leverkusen star, claims Bild's Christian Falk. Liverpool, United, Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have also emerged as possible destinations.

Juventus, Inter and Atletico Madrid are eyeing Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, according to L'Equipe.

- A cross-town move? Gianluca Di Marzio says Inter are continuing to pursue Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

Nathan Ake to United? The Daily Mail claims Bournemouth could be forced to sell some of their stars as they battle to avoid relegation. The defender has previously been linked to City.

Juve are interested in Arkadiusz Milik but Napoli would prefer not to sell to their Serie A rivals, reports Calciomercato. Napoli are said to be prepared to move Milik abroad amid links to Atletico and Tottenham.

Pirelli chief executive Marco Tronchetti said the Inter shirt sponsor can "help" the Nerazzurri sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi but club president Steven Zhang must "make an effort himself".

Messi's future is once again in the headlines amid reports the Barca captain is ready to quit the LaLiga giants once his contract expires in 2021.

Inter have been linked to Messi previously, with former president Massimo Moratti insisting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner relocating to Milan was not a "forbidden dream at all".

Trochetti, however, warned the coronavirus crisis will impact Pirelli's ability to contribute like Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat did when it assisted in Cristiano Ronaldo's move from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2018

"Honestly, at a time like this, we're unable to invest in sports more than we are, between Formula 1, the America's Cup and Inter," Trochetti told Gr Parlamento.

"We have to ask Steven Zhang to make an effort himself. We can help, but we can't do anything significant."

Messi has scored 22 goals and supplied a career-high 19 LaLiga assists for Barcelona this season.

Across all competitions, Messi has scored 27 goals for two-time defending LaLiga champions Barca – who are set to be dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Barca are second and four points behind Madrid with four matches left to play.

Inter, meanwhile, are third in Serie A following Sunday's shock loss at home to Bologna.

Antonio Conte's Inter are third in the table – four points behind second-placed Lazio and just a point clear of Atalanta with eight games remaining.

Hungary head coach Marco Rossi believes Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai is the "ideal player" for Serie A side Napoli.

Szoboszlai is a player in demand and tipped to leave Salzburg following his exploits for the Austrian champions – the Hungary international linked to Napoli, Milan, Inter, Lazio and Premier League outfit Arsenal.

The 19-year-old midfielder has scored 12 goals across all competitions in 2019-20, supplying 10 league assists for Salzburg in Austria.

Amid growing speculation, Hungary's Italian boss Rossi feels Szoboszlai would thrive with Gennaro Gattuso's Napoli.

"He's a 19-year-old who made his debut for the national team at the age of 18. He's a very elegant and talented player, rich in technique," Rossi told CalcioNapoli24.

"He plays between the lines and is good at assisting in the final third. He has great physicality and is tall but, despite its height, also has an excellent burst of pace.

"If he decides to accept an offer from Serie A, it would complement his technical expertise with a couple of things where he still needs to improve, for example his defensive game.

"Tactically speaking, Salzburg have played him high up on the left and he's posted good numbers there, but in possession he often plays between the lines to make room for the full-back.

"In a 4-3-3, instead, he could be a box-to-box midfielder, capable of supporting the centre-forward.

"Szoboszlai expresses himself best in a team who play positionally. In Italy, Napoli must play football and not counterattack because they're among the best teams in Italy, [even if] they might suffer in a couple of games every season.

"Dominik would be the ideal player for [Napoli’s] style of play."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said Lautaro Martinez "must find peace of mind" amid strong links to LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Martinez – who moved to Milan from Racing Club in 2018 – has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for Barca at the end of the 2019-20 coronavirus-hit season.

The Argentina forward had scored 16 goals prior to the campaign being halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but he has only netted once in six games since the restart, missing a penalty in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Bologna.

Inter CEO Marotta – reluctant to part with the 22-year-old – said Martinez needs to regain his focus as his struggles continue.

"There are two factors to consider, the competitive one and the one relating to the transfer market, which run concurrently," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"Inter don't want to sell a 23-year-old lad like him, but this is a time when rumours are flying about.

"We saw Lautaro the great player in the first half of the season, which caught the attention of big clubs.

"Now, he must find peace of mind to guarantee Inter the performance levels he showed in the first half of the season."

Marotta also said Inter must be patient with January signing Christian Eriksen, who has struggled for consistency since arriving from Tottenham.

Eriksen has netted three goals across all competitions and supplied two assists in Serie A, where Inter sit third in the table – four points behind second-placed Lazio and just a point clear of in-form Atalanta with eight matches remaining.

"Eriksen joined in January, obviously with problems in an area of the pitch that is suffering from some absences," Marotta added. "He's a great player and he can certainly give much more. We have to be patient with him.

"There are eight games left and 24 points up for grabs. We've suffered 4 defeats, so many for what Inter represent but not that many in context of our project.

"As for the Europa League, we'll try to win it. We don't know how the other teams in the competition are faring right now, but we must believe. We play to win and this is a big objective for us."

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta said the club must speak with Alexandre Lacazette to see if the forward wants to sign a new contract.

Lacazette is contracted to Arsenal until 2022 after arriving from Ligue 1 outfit Lyon in 2017.

The 29-year-old came off the bench and scored in Arsenal's 2-0 Premier League win over high-flying Wolves on Saturday.

Lacazette has only started two of Arsenal's last eight Premier League fixtures and Arteta acknowledged the Frenchman's future has to be resolved.

"We have to have a chat about the next step with him and get his ideas and his feelings. As I said, I am really happy with him," said Arteta, whose Arsenal face Leicester City on Tuesday.

"He's a player that I've always liked, even when I wasn't here, because of what he brings to the team: his qualities, his ability, his work rate. So let's see.

"Now we are in a crucial moment. It's no time to talk about a lot of contract situations. We still have time and we will do it in the right moment."

Arsenal are seventh in the Premier League after 33 rounds, three points adrift of sixth-placed Wolves and nine behind Leicester – who are third.

The Gunners are in the midst of a four-game unbeaten streak, having also reached the FA Cup semi-finals.

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly agreed to let Neymar return to Barcelona, while Borussia Dortmund have set their asking price for Jadon Sancho.

Neymar, 28, has regularly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, and that could be getting a step closer.

But can the LaLiga giants make it happen?

 

TOP STORY – PSG AGREE TO LET NEYMAR RETURN TO BARCELONA

Neymar has reached an agreement with PSG to return to Barcelona ahead of next season, according to AS.

However, the report says Barcelona must still find the means to make it happen.

Neymar starred across four seasons at the LaLiga club before joining PSG in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

ROUND-UP

- If Manchester United want Sancho, it seems they know what they need to pay. Ruhr Nachrichten reports Dortmund want £108.3m (€120m) for the star attacker and the deal must be completed before August 10.

- Amid links to Barcelona, Xavi signed a new contract with Al-Sadd until 2021. However, Mundo Deportivo says the club's former midfielder has a release clause in his new contract to be able to sign to take over at Camp Nou before his deal ends. Staying at Barcelona and the club have agreed to lower Ivan Rakitic's price, according to Sport, with the midfielder linked with a Sevilla return.

- Nemanja Matic has found form at Manchester United. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, the 31-year-old midfielder – whose contract was expiring next year – has signed a new deal with the Premier League club until 2023.

- While Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, his future is somewhat uncertain. The Daily Express reports Paris Saint-Germain are keeping tabs on the Spaniard.

- As they near promotion to the Premier League, Leeds United could be ready to strengthen. The Sun reports Leeds are prepared to sign Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard – who has been linked to Manchester United and Arsenal – if they return to the top flight.

- Valencia are searching for a new head coach after the sacking of Albert Celades. L'Equipe reports former PSG boss Laurent Blanc is on the LaLiga club's list of possible successors.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not believe Sunday's surprise Premier League loss to Southampton highlights the need for the club to sign new players.

Guardiola's City suffered their third consecutive away defeat in the Premier League after going down 1-0 to Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday.

After routing newly crowned champions Liverpool 4-0 last time out, City – who rested Kevin De Bruyne and others – succumbed to Che Adams' first Premier League goal as they fell 23 points adrift in second position.

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Bayern Munich's David Alaba have been among the players linked with moves to City at the end of the season.

But when asked if City's defeat was a question of needing new players, Guardiola told reporters: "No, I don't think so.

"I think we play good, honestly. We play with the character and desire to drive until the end. We played against Southampton who had 10 players in the penalty area. We did it really well.

"We will review the game, and with the chances that we had, we can do more. It's difficult to create more chances than we created and the way we did it.

"I'm so proud, so I liked the way we played but it's not enough. There's no complaint about the players. We played really well, I like it but it's not enough to win the games."

Guardiola, meanwhile, does not feel City goalkeeper Ederson is to blame for the loss to Southampton.

Adams scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, catching the Brazilian keeper off his line after Oleksandr Zinchenko had been dispossessed of the ball.

"We use our keeper to build up our play. We use our keeper to play better," Guardiola said. "It gives us a lot. The mistake is part of the game but we didn't lose for that reason.

"It happens many times this season this situation. The amount of chances we have but it's football. The amount of chances we have but not able to score goals."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted Lionel Messi has always expressed a desire to retire at Camp Nou amid doubts over his future.

Messi is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner wants to leave next year.

The superstar captain put question marks over his future to one side on Sunday, producing a masterclass in Barca's 4-1 LaLiga rout of Villarreal.

Messi reached 19 LaLiga assists for the season – his best tally in Spain's top flight – and Bartomeu was asked about the 33-year-old post-match.

"I am not going to explain the details of what is happening every week. There are negotiations with many players," Bartomeu told Movistar.

"Messi has always expressed that he wants to end his career at Barcelona."

Bartomeu was also asked about under-fire head coach Quique Setien after Barca stayed within four points of bitter rivals Real Madrid with four games remaining.

Two-time defending champions Barca are on track to be dethroned by Madrid this season, with Setien reportedly set to be axed.

But Bartomeu said: "I know there are rumours. It is totally false.

"Quique Setien has the confidence of everyone, of the players, of the board, he is doing a great job.

"There are four games left and then we have the Champions League. We have important games to play this season."

Barca face bottom side Espanyol in Wednesday's LaLiga derby.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp labelled Thiago Alcantara a "really good player", but was unwilling to say too much about the Bayern Munich midfielder.

Thiago, 29, is out of contract at the Bundesliga club next year and has been linked with a move to Anfield.

Asked about the former Barcelona midfielder amid the transfer talk, Klopp only praised Thiago's quality.

"Would you be surprised if I don't give an answer on that? Just because I never answer these kinds of questions," he told a news conference after Liverpool's 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

"Thiago Alcantara is a really good player. I like a lot of other players out there, but that's all I have to say about that."

Liverpool returned to winning ways thanks to second-half goals from Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones as the champions moved closer to the 100-point mark.

Naby Keita set up Mane's opener and Klopp praised the midfielder, who has struggled to impress since arriving from RB Leipzig in 2018.

"Naby is a top player and it was a difficult game and he was really good. He helped us a lot, not only with the goal. He always made offers. It was not his best game but it was good," he said.

"We play in three days again which is tough, then three days again. It's a tough period, but you need to find solutions for the different moments and Naby was the solution."

Liverpool are away to Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta insists Lautaro Martinez has "not shown the slightest desire to leave" amid continued speculation Barcelona are interested in the Argentina international.

Martinez, who missed a penalty in Inter's 2-1 Serie A defeat to Bologna on Sunday, has been strongly tipped to make a move to Camp Nou at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Marotta was again asked about the forward prior to the defeat at San Siro and he reiterated Inter's desire to hold on to the 22-year-old.  

"Lautaro has not shown the slightest desire to leave," Marotta told DAZN.

"Aside from dates and deadlines, the clearest situation is that Inter do not want to sell their champions or interesting young talents. If the player were to ask to leave, we would evaluate that together, but so far, that request has not arrived.

"I believe that, being a young player, it can boost his career to continue playing for a while longer at Inter.

"Being an Inter player means being part of a big club and that ought to be reason enough for him to feel proud."

Marotta also dismissed rumours Inter have lodged a bid for Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri.

"I understand the many questions about transfer speculation, but I can say we have not had any contact or opened any negotiation for Emerson Palmieri.

"We are making evaluations for next season, but the most important issue remains this current campaign."

Mario Mandzukic is a free agent after the Croatian forward confirmed he has terminated his contract with Al-Duhail.

The 34-year-old only moved to Qatar in December after falling out of favour at Juventus, where he won four Serie A titles and the Coppa Italia on three occasions.

However, Mandzukic announced on Twitter that he had cut short his deal by mutual consent, adding: "I appreciate the trust and hospitality that I have received in Qatar and I wish the best to the club and the team in the future."

A return to Serie A could be a possibility - both ambitious Benevento and Milan have been rumoured as potential destinations - while he has also been linked to Turkish duo Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.

Prior to his successful stint with Juventus, Mandzukic played in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich - where he won the Champions League in 2013 - and Wolfsburg, as well as spending a season at Atletico Madrid in LaLiga.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes Schalke could have been Bundesliga champions in recent years had they not lost so many talented young players. 

After a promising first half to the 2019-20 season, Schalke endured a wretched run of results either side of the break in the campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic, failing to win any of their final 16 games to finish 12th.

There have also been issues off the pitch, with chairman Clemens Tonnies resigning following fan protests, while marketing director Alexander Jobst has confirmed there will need to be cuts due to the financial situation the club faces.

Yet their situation could have been different had they retained some of their rising stars through the years, according to reigning champions' Bayern Munich's chief executive Rummenigge.

Among those to move on were goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka, who both went to Bayern. The duo will be joined at the Allianz Arena next season by two more talents developed by Schalke, goalkeeper Alexander Nubel and Leroy Sane, the latter this week confirming his switch from Manchester City.

"Schalke could have been German champions in the meantime if they could have kept these and many other players who have trained them well in their youth division," Rummenigge told Sport1.

"The pool of their youth work is one of the best in all of Germany.

"The fact is that they have always sold very hopeful players, such as Leroy Sane to Manchester City in 2016, to meet their financial needs."

The COVID-19 health crisis is likely to have major financial implications on the vast majority of football clubs, even those seen as the biggest spenders in Europe.

Rummenigge revealed Bayern have never planned their budget around potential success, instead setting a relatively low bar each season to make sure they have long-term security.

"Until February, this was one of the safest [clubs] in the world," he said.

"If the team performed by reaching at least the last 16 in the Champions League and going very far in the DFB-Pokal, then they knew we always on June 30 that the year will be financially okay."

The former West Germany international feels the economic climate will naturally lead to changes in the transfer market, adding: "I think we all agree that we have to deal with transfer sums and player salaries a bit more responsibly and rationally. How we do that in the future – all over Europe – you will have to discuss."

David Alaba is yet to agree a contract extension at Bayern Munich, but Hansi Flick says it would be special if he finishes his career at the Allianz Arena.

Austria international Alaba's deal is due to expire next year, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City all credited with an interest in the versatile defender.

Following Bayern's DFB-Pokal final victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, in which Alaba scored the opening goal, Flick said he was keen for the 28-year-old and Thiago Alcantara to sign new contracts.

However, the Bayern boss acknowledged it will be "more difficult" to keep Thiago amid links to Premier League champions Liverpool.

"I will stand up for it and try everything to keep two such quality players," said Flick.

"David has become an exceptional player here. It's not just on the pitch that he's good for us.

"He knows he has a huge appreciation at the club. It would be very special if he ended his career here with us."

Since making his debut for Bayern in February 2010, Alaba has won 19 trophies.

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