Barcelona defender Gerard Pique revealed the team offered to change their salaries so Neymar could return to the LaLiga champions.

Neymar attempted to engineer a return to Barca during the previous transfer window, just two years after his world-record €222million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

However, a deal did not materialise with PSG despite Barca's efforts to bring Brazil international star Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Pique said he and his team-mates tried to help Neymar return to the Spanish giants amid the constraints of Financial Fair Play, telling Cadena Ser program El Larguero: "We didn't stump up money.

"What we said to the president was whether we could change our contracts because we knew there was a Financial Fair Play issue... so we said to the president, rather than earn something in year one, we could earn it in year two or three or four.

"At the end of the day we want to go along with what the club is doing and if we can help the club, in this case avoiding a financial fair problem, we've got no problem in doing that.

"Rather than reducing our salary it was about finding a formula so that if the club wanted to sign Neymar they could. At the time they thought it was a good idea, but then other problems cropped up."

Asked if Neymar could come back to Barca, Pique added: "In football anything can happen and every year just makes that clearer. We told Neymar, 'you're going to a golden prison'. But in football things can happen and you find the door open."

Lionel Messi will be hoping to dethrone Cristiano Ronaldo at the Globe Soccer Awards after both were named among the nominees for the Best Men's Player for 2019.

Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool team-mates Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are also up for the annual honour, which is to be presented in Dubai on December 29.

Bernardo Silva, part of the Manchester City side largely snubbed at the FIFA Best awards, rounds out the seven-man field.

Juventus forward and five-time winner Ronaldo claimed the main prize for the third consecutive year in 2018.

Barcelona superstar Messi has won it once, in 2015.

United States stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan headline the contenders for the Best Women's Player title.

Lyon trio Amandine Henry, Lucy Bronze and Ada Hegerberg are all shortlisted and the French outfit have been nominated for Best Club, alongside Liverpool and Ajax.

Jurgen Klopp, Erik ten Hag, Fernando Santos and Djamel Belmadi, who guided Algeria to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, are in contention to succeed Didier Deschamps as Best Coach, as is former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.

Other award categories include Best Agent, Best Sporting Director and Best Revelation, designed to recognise emerging players.

Inter's Antonio Conte, ex-England manager Fabio Capello and Portugal legend Luis Figo form part of the judging panel.

Juventus are not resting on their laurels.

Despite their domestic dominance, Juve are craving European glory as they eye a first Champions League crown since 1995.

So much so that they have three Premier League stars on their mind.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE WATCH SALAH, SON & ERIKSEN

Juventus scouts watched Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen during Liverpool's Premier League clash with Tottenham, according to Tuttosport.

Seeking a ninth successive Scudetto, Serie A champions Juve are prepared to spend heavily in pursuit of Champions League glory.

With money no obstacle as they reap the benefits of Cristiano Ronaldo's presence, Liverpool star Salah and Tottenham duo Son and Eriksen are reportedly on Juve's list.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Jose Mourinho wants to become the first manager to win major trophies with three English clubs as the former Manchester United boss is linked to Arsenal. Gunners head coach Unai Emery is under pressure at the Emirates Stadium amid growing fan frustration.

Manchester United are hopeful of completing a deal for Lyon striker Moussa Dembele in January, reports Soccerlink. With Dembele's future uncertain, Lyon are lining up Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- Staying at Old Trafford and United's name has again been thrown into the mix for Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali. The 19-year-old Italy international is fast becoming one of the most sought-after players in Europe, attracting interest from Juventus, Manchester City and Inter. Now, The Suns says United are weigning up a £40million move for Tonali after sending scouts to watch him once more.

- Calciomercato claims Napoli are considering a January move for Benfica full-back Alejandro Grimaldo. The 24-year-old Spaniard has been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham and Barcelona.

Newcastle United are close to agreeing a deal to sign Strasbourg's Ibrahima Sissoko. The 21-year-old French midfielder is poised to make the switch when the transfer window opens in January.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he has "run out of words" to describe Lionel Messi after the captain inspired a 5-1 rout of Real Valladolid.

Messi produced a masterclass with a brace and two assists as defending champions Barca moved top of the LaLiga table on Tuesday.

Barca captain Messi set up Arturo Vidal with an exquisite pass before scoring a stunning free-kick – the 50th of his career for club and Argentina – prior to half-time at Camp Nou.

Messi netted his second of the match after the interval and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner teed up team-mate Luis Suarez as Barca climbed above Granada and Atletico Madrid atop the summit.

"What else can be said about him? I've run out of words," Valverde told reporters. "We always know that he will appear, whatever the match.

"His talent isn't comparable to anything; the reality is that every time he touches the ball, something special happens. I just don't know what to say."

Valverde added: "He is getting closer to his best form [after injury], when Leo gets it something bad will happen to the rival.

"He has that talent that nobody has, he escapes anyone and it is not only that he can make an individual play but he does things that nobody sees.

"It happens to me sometimes, he does things that are not seen even from the crowd, every day is better."

Although Clement Lenglet's second-minute opener was fortuitously cancelled out by Valladolid's Kiko Olivas 13 minutes later, Messi was able to inspire Barca against the visitors.

Barca are two points clear of Granada and Atletico Madrid – the latter of whom have played an extra match due to the postponement of El Clasico last weekend – after 10 games.

"We value very much what we do," Valverde added. "We have in memory what we have done but we want to look forward and win this league.

"It is not easy to take the games forward, Valladolid tied against Atletico and Real Madrid and it is not easy to beat them."

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal said superstar captain Lionel Messi is "from another planet" after producing a masterclass performance against Real Valladolid.

Messi was at his trademark best with a brace and two assists as LaLiga champions Barca routed Valladolid 5-1 at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Argentina international Messi set up Vidal with an exquisite pass before scoring a stunning free-kick – the 50th of his career for club and country – prior to half-time.

Messi netted his second of the match after the break and teed up Luis Suarez as Barca moved top of the table.

"It makes a difference with Leo giving all his quality. When he's like this, the team feels it," Vidal told Movistar Plus.

"We see him every day, but he surprises us every day. Leo is from another planet. 

"We are happy, we won and the team felt good. I have no words to talk about Leo. You have to take advantage of it and make the most of him."

Although Clement Lenglet's second-minute opener was fortuitously cancelled out by Valladolid's Kiko Olivas 13 minutes later, Messi was able to inspire Barca against the visitors.

Barca are two points clear of Granada and Atletico Madrid – the latter of whom have played an extra match due to the postponement of El Clasico last weekend – after 10 games.

"These victories help you, but you have to keep improving," Vidal, who has been linked to Serie A outfit Inter, added. "The game against Slavia [Prague in the Champions League] is not what we know how to do. Hopefully it won't happen to us from now on."

Lionel Messi reached a notable personal milestone under Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona as he scored twice and provided two assists in a 5-1 thumping of Real Valladolid.

After teeing up Arturo Vidal to put Barca 2-1 up at Camp Nou, Messi curled a wonderful free-kick beyond Jordi Masip to score his 100th goal in all competitions since Valverde was placed in charge at the club.

As well as bringing up his century since the start of the 2017-18 season, it was also the 50th time Messi had netted directly from a free-kick in his career for both club and country, with six of his set-piece goals scored for Argentina.

The 32-year-old was not finished there, though, as he lashed home his second from inside the penalty area before compounding Valladolid's misery when he set up Luis Suarez for the home side's fifth and final goal.

Suarez has now scored against every club he has faced in LaLiga, while Messi could have completed an impressive hat-trick late on, only to drill narrowly wide from close range.

Still, the emphatic result sees Barca move to the top of the table, two points clear of surprise package Granada and Atletico Madrid, the latter held to a 1-1 draw away at Deportivo Alaves.

Lionel Messi was Barcelona's inspiration with two goals and a pair of assists as the Blaugrana demolished Real Valladolid 5-1 at Camp Nou to go top of LaLiga.

The postponement of El Clasico – which was initially scheduled for October 26 – due to Catalan political tension allowed promoted Granada to become the unlikely leaders, but Barca restored normal service with a crushing victory, led by Messi.

Although Clement Lenglet's serendipitous opener was cancelled out by an even more fortuitous Kiko Olivas equaliser, Messi was able to drag Barca into a commanding lead, setting up Arturo Vidal and then netting a stunning free-kick.

Ernesto Valverde's men eased off initially in the second half, but Messi remained in the zone, slamming home Barca's fourth before then setting up Luis Suarez to round off a brilliant individual display from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Barca led with just two minutes played when Lenglet's strike deflected on to the crossbar and in, a kind ricochet sending the ball right to him.

Valladolid levelled soon after, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a mess of Michel's wicked free-kick delivery and the ball went in off the oblivious Kiko.

Messi, however, was in an ominous mood.

The Argentina star delivered a delightful lofted pass into the box for Vidal to nudge past Jordi Masip, before then finding the top-right corner with a 30-yard free-kick in the 34th minute.

Messi was a central figure again early in the second half, darting forward and feeding Ansu Fati into the box, but he delayed his shot enough to allow for a defender to deflect it on to Masip's leg.

Shortly after Suarez had a goal disallowed for offside, Messi opened up a three-goal lead – controlling Ivan Rakitic's pass on the thigh before swivelling and blasting in.

Suarez then finished Valladolid off, tucking away after being released by Messi's incisive pass.

 

What does it mean?

Victory rarely looked in doubt on Tuesday, even when Valladolid equalised. Sealing all three points allowed Barca to take full advantage of Atletico Madrid slipping up at Deportivo Alaves earlier in the day.

They now have 22 points, two more than Diego Simeone's men and Granada, the surprise package of LaLiga this term.

Messi unplayable

Valladolid were not shy about getting physical with Barca, but there was little they could do to knock Messi off his stride. The forward provided four key passes, set up two goals and got a pair for himself – you cannot ask for much more than that.

Fati fails to shine

Starting alongside Messi for the first time, there will have been plenty of excitement from fans before kick-off, but Fati struggled in his duel with Pedro Porro and wasted a fine chance when teed up by Messi in the second half.

What's next?

Barca travel to Valencia for a contest with Levante on Saturday, while Valladolid host Real Mallorca the following day.

Barcelona are responsible for the postponement of the Clasico against Real Madrid, according to the Catalan club's former president Joan Laporta.

The clash between the two LaLiga rivals was scheduled to be held on Saturday but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) decided to reschedule the fixture due to civil unrest in Catalonia.

Both clubs agreed to push the game back to December 18 and the RFEF accepted the proposal, but LaLiga responded by stating it was considering legal action over the decision.

Laporta, who was the president of Barca between 2003 and 2014, believes the match should have been played as initially planned.

"Yes, [I would've played] the game on Saturday because if Real Madrid wanted to play then I don't see the problem," he said.

"The powers that be wanted to magnify what was happening for political reasons. [Barcelona] were mistaken because they criminalised a movement and put politics ahead of a football match that always has political connotations. It's always been like this.

"They've played a game with the powers that rule football to make people from Barcelona and everyone look bad. LaLiga made a strong move for it not to be played.

"LaLiga had political interests to magnify a certain situation and exaggerate what happened. It's the worst way of getting past what is happening. Barcelona are guilty in this situation."

With neither Barca nor Madrid in action, Granada went top of LaLiga with a 1-0 win over Real Betis.

Pep Guardiola knew Barcelona "would win everything" after seeing Lionel Messi play for the first time.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner developed into a superstar forward during Guardiola's four years in charge at Camp Nou after being crafted into a false-nine.

In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Guardiola explained how Messi made an instant impression by scoring freely during a pre-season tour of Scotland.

"I had already been told by someone from the squad that there was a very good player in the squad," he said. "They told me that he was very young but scored many goals and he was very good.

"I did not know him and one day I saw him and his father at a Nike store. I saw him, he looked small and shy and I thought: 'Is this one as good as they say?'

"We started pre-season in Scotland, we won 6-1, 5-0 and he would score three goals a game for you. I thought that, with him, we would win everything."

Barcelona won 14 trophies with Guardiola as coach, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns.

The Catalan coach left Camp Nou in 2012 and took over at Bayern Munich the following year.

Opening up on his special bond with the players he managed at Barcelona, Guardiola said: "I enjoyed the process of building the team; seeing that the changes we made worked and everything was flowing; how they were brought together, the chemistry, the respect.

"They were a group of friends who went out to dinner often; a group that knew how to move forward in moments of difficulty.

"All this was very good, but the importance of leading such a big club as Barca means that you do not have much time to enjoy it.

"The relationship that we have with those who formed part of that group is insurmountable. There are no championships or world titles that can compensate.

"We gave each other a lot. But there is a moment, due to the natural process of time, that things end."

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insists any problems within the team will be resolved privately following recent comments made by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The German goalkeeper criticised his side's performance in last week's 2-1 Champions League win at Slavia Prague and stated improvements had to be made.

Slavia ended the match in Prague on top and Ter Stegen suggested he and his team-mates needed to discuss the below-par display among themselves.

Valverde believes too much importance was given to the final stages of the match, however, and wants any issues to remain internal.

"When matches end, everyone leaves with an opinion of what happened on the field," he said at a news conference on Monday. 

"Matches can be seen in many ways, and if we have to solve something, we will solve it with within the club and not publicly. 

"When the game ends, people's impression is of the final minutes and they don't think about the overall game.

"In the first half of the Slavia game we had two or three chances on goal, they attacked and we did as well. In the second half, they got an early goal and we managed to get the result we wanted in the end. 

"They pressed us and that's it. If it had been a 4-1 win, we would be talking like we had the same result as in Eibar [a 3-0 victory]. This is football and it is normal."

Barcelona have not played since that narrow victory in Prague five days ago due to Saturday's scheduled Clasico with Real Madrid being called off as a result of civil unrest in Catalonia.

The reigning LaLiga champions are back in action on Tuesday with a home match against Real Valladolid, who have already taken points off Madrid and Atletico Madrid this term.

"They have had a good run and against the top teams have got some good results," Valverde said. "Taking into account last year's game [a 1-0 win for Barca] which was complicated, this is a game which we have many hopes for after the break this week.

"They have reinforced their style because they are doing well. I expect them to play like they have in recent matches. They will be solid and hard to overcome."

Samuel Umtiti remains a major doubt for the game due to a knee injury, while youngsters Carles Perez, Ansu Fati and Carles Alena are all pushing for inclusion at Camp Nou.

"Umtiti trained apart from the group [on Sunday], though I think it will be difficult for him to participate," he said. "There may be some other changes as well.

"[Perez and Fati] are with the first team and that is, in principle, the idea we have, even though they are able to play with the B team and might at some point play for them.

"Alena hasn't played as much as I thought, and he possibly deserves more game time because he is giving everything in training. There is a lot of competition in midfield and he can be called at any time so he has to be prepared."

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo believes his "healthy rivalry" with Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi during his time in LaLiga made him a better player.

Both men have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times and are considered to be two of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo spent nine years with Real Madrid prior to joining Juventus in 2018 and Messi recently acknowledged the pair spurred each other on in their quest for individual honours.

The former Manchester United star has echoed those views, telling France Football: "A lot of people said that we fed each other, that being together in Spain made us better.

"That's certainly true. I felt his presence more in Madrid than in Manchester. It was a healthy rivalry. We were the symbols of our clubs.

"It's always nice to be spoken of in a flattering way. It's nice if they say I've been the best, a fantastic player.

"Today, I hear everything they say about me, but when it's all over, at the end of my career, I won't mind because I'll disconnect from everything."

Ronaldo is well known for his dedication to training and insists hard work off the field has helped him to become one of the all-time greats.

"First of all, you need talent, otherwise you won't amount to much," he said. "However, talent is useless without hard work.

"I would never have got to where I am today without the culture of hard work."

Ronaldo recently netted the 700th goal of his career in Portugal's 2-1 defeat to Ukraine, 450 of those being scored during his illustrious spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Asked to pick his favourite ever goal, the 34-year-old went with his overhead kick in Madrid's Champions League quarter-final win against current employers Juventus in 2017-18.

"Reaching 700 goals make me proud - it's an impressive total that few players have reached," he said.

"If I had to choose a favourite, I would say the one against Juventus because it was a goal I'd been trying to score for years."

Carlos Vela would fit in perfectly at LaLiga champions Barcelona, according to his Mexico team-mate and Blaugrana youth product Jonathan dos Santos.

Barca reportedly considered a move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

The short-term switch failed to materialise, however, with the Spanish champions instead signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Should Barca come calling again, though, Dos Santos – whose LA Galaxy side were beaten 5-3 by Vela's Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-final on Friday – believes Vela would have no problems slotting in alongside Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Suarez.

Dos Santos, who played for Barca between 2009 and 2014 after also representing their academy and B team, told reporters: "Vela could fit in at Barcelona. He is a great player with a lot of quality; he has shown it in every team that has been.

"I hope a team like Barcelona is interested in Vela. He would do well surrounded by such excellent players."

Speaking after Friday's game, Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic made headlines by suggesting MLS would be forgotten quickly if he were no longer playing in the league.

Amid rumours the former Sweden international could return to Europe when his contract expires in December, Dos Santos said: "Zlatan is very mysterious. He has not said anything else after the game and if he stays he will help us a lot in the campaign. He is a player of excellent quality."

Rumours linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid are refusing to go away.

Pogba – nursing an ankle injury which is set to keep him sidelined until December – wanted to leave Manchester United in the previous transfer window but a move did not materialise.

With the January window approaching, Madrid are eyeing the French star again.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PLOTTING POGBA PURCHASE

Real Madrid are preparing to make a January bid for Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to OK Diario.

Pogba was wanted by Madrid and former club Juventus in the previous window as he eyed an Old Trafford exit, yet United were unwilling to part with their prized asset.

But with Pogba reportedly set to make it clear he will not renew his United contract beyond 2021, Madrid are lining up a €150million (£129.5m) offer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another Frenchman is also reportedly high on Madrid's radar. AS reports the Spanish powerhouse are hoping to take advantage of a tense relationship between Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and head coach Thomas Tuchel. Madrid are determined to lure Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season.

- Linked with Madrid and LaLiga champions Barcelona, in-demand Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also wanted by Premier League holders Manchester City. Gazzetta dello Sport claims City are set to make an approach for the Spain international.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona are interested in Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca after his agent previously revealed the club's interest in Martinez. Now, Ernesto Valverde's side are eyeing the in-form marksman – who has also reportedly attracted the attention of Manchester United – as Inter pursue Barca pair Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal.

United are prepared to meet Borussia Dortmund's demands for England sensation Jadon Sancho, reports the Mirror. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool and Madrid.

Stefano Sensi's exploits at Inter have not gone unnoticed. On loan from Sassuolo with the option to buy, Sport says there is already contact between Barca, Inter and the player's agent.

Granada moved to the top of LaLiga after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday, less than five months on from their promotion back to the top flight.

Diego Martinez's side took advantage of the postponed Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Alvaro Vadillo's second-half goal sealing all three points at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

The Andalusian side have enjoyed a remarkable return to LaLiga after two seasons in the second tier, winning six of their opening 10 games, including a memorable 2-0 victory over Barca on September 21.

With Barca not playing this weekend after their clash with Madrid was postponed, Granada were able to move a point clear at the top of the table.

Their haul of 20 points from 10 games this season is as many as they managed from all 38 league matches when they were relegated in 2016-17.

They could be dethroned when Ernesto Valverde's side take on Real Valladolid in their game in hand on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Civil unrest in Catalonia forced the first Clasico of the 2019-20 season to be rearranged for December 18.

Lionel Messi conceded his dreams of a fairytale return to Newell's Old Boys are fading as he reflected on the "madness" of Argentina's obsession with football.

Barcelona superstar Messi has long expressed a desire to end his career in his hometown of Rosario, where he played for Newell's as a child.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner left for Europe in his teens and acknowledges it would now be tough to ask his wife and three children to leave behind their life in Catalonia.

"I always say that I don't want to leave here, I have no thoughts of ​​moving," Messi told TyC Sports.

"I have the dream of being able to play for Newell's in Argentina, but I don't know if it's really going to happen because I have a family that is ahead of my desire.

"It's a dream I've had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future.

"We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina.

"I will try to convince the family, because today we have to convince the children too."

Messi's involvement in Argentine club football would invite immense interest and, though he relocated almost two decades ago, the 32-year-old is fully aware of the hostile intensity that surrounds his homeland's strongest rivalries.

According to the Barca captain, his club's encounters with Real Madrid do not stir the same level of manic passion associated with derbies like the Superclasico, contested by Boca Juniors and River Plate.

"I would like to have played in Argentine football in general," he said.

"I always went to the stadium with my old man, the crowd was impressive. Besides, playing in one of those Clasicos must be terrible. It's more or less the same [as in Spain], but people live it differently.

"On a sporting level, the match is the same, but people in Argentina are crazier about that issue. Not winning the Clasico means a lot. Here you want to win but, if you lose, nothing happens. There, you can't leave your house if you lose.

"All of the Clasicos are the same: in Rosario, in Cordoba, River-Boca, Independiente-Racing. In general people live it that way. The daily madness is carried into football and it's a disaster. 

"We go through qualifying [with the national team], although that's something else. We had to go all over South America and it is also brave, they do not let you sleep, they spend the night throwing things at you all in the hotels. Libertadores matches must be much worse still."

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