Jack Grealish is a player in the mould of Paul Gascoigne but will struggle to dislodge the likes of Raheem Sterling from England's starting line-up, says ex-Three Lions boss Steve McClaren.

Aston Villa attacking midfielder Grealish made his first England start against Wales on Thursday and put on a man-of-the-match display in the 3-0 Wembley win.

One particular highlight was a gorgeous assist for debutant Dominic Calvert-Lewin to open the scoring in the 26th minute, while his general play on the ball was a real asset to England.

Grealish has also been influential for a Villa side who have won three from three in the top flight this season, scoring with each of his three shots on target, while he became the first player to have a hand in five goals in a Premier League match when his side thrashed champions Liverpool 7-2.

But still he has struggled to make the breakthrough on the international stage under Gareth Southgate and McClaren says the 25-year-old has to keep earning the trust of the manager as he offers the team something others in the squad do not.

"What a performance, he's really matured. He's the focal point of the Aston Villa team, he needs good players around him, and what Aston Villa have bought this season is good players," McClaren told Stats Perform News. 

"You saw him link up with [Ross] Barkley at the weekend against Liverpool and play two exquisite passes which no one else could play and see and we haven't got that type of midfield player, striker, creative player.

"We haven't had it for a long time, that Gazza type, he is that type.

"Yes he can frustrate at times, but he produces now, he's got end product, he can score, he can assist and it showed in the goal that Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored.

"So, I think he was a major plus. He's got to gain the trust of the manager that's the most important thing, and if he does that he should be in the England team because with good players around him he becomes a better player."

However, McClaren feels Grealish will have trouble nailing down a starting spot, particularly when Manchester City forward Sterling is fit again, due to Southgate's preference for pace in attacking positions. 

"Unfortunately, no [I don't think he'll be in the team]," he added. "Because when you play as you do, 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3, Gareth has gone for speed in the wide areas.

"He's looking at [Jadon] Sancho, Sterling, at [Marcus] Rashford, [Mason] Greenwood – he's looking at speed. 

"Jack hasn't got speed, he's got dribbling ability, he can glide by players, he can see a pass, he doesn't give it away, he can create, he can see things, so he's a different type of player, a different type of wide player. 

"Jack will be useful in terms of being on the bench and when you're 1-0 down or we need to win a game, bring Jack on because he can cause defences havoc whether he plays eight, 10, 11 or seven. 

"He'll cause problems, so he's a tremendous asset to have on the bench or in the squad. But there's still a long way to go before Jack Grealish becomes a permanent England player, still a lot to do."

McClaren was not surprised it took Grealish so long to earn a call-up to the national team, citing a lack of positional discipline during his formative years and the fact he is a "luxury player".

He likened the situation to the one experienced with Joe Cole when assistant to Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"He was a luxury player and you can't have luxury players, at Aston Villa you can't have a luxury players," McClaren said. 

"Sometimes it takes a while to mature and bring great discipline into your game, a lot of people talk about Gazza and the likes of Joe Cole and Joe Cole was exactly the same. 

"We used to play Joe Cole out wide, and he'd say 'why am I playing out wide?' And we'd say 'because Sven doesn't trust you playing in the number 10 because when we lose the ball we need some discipline to that and some shape'.

"By default he's had the opportunity and the key with everything, in the relationship between the manager and the player, is trust and obviously trust takes a long time to build up. 

"Especially in international football, you have to trust a player to do that job. Now he's started the process." 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin's goals have taken his game to another level and the Everton striker can reflect on an "excellent" England debut, says Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.

England cruised past Wales 3-0 in Thursday's friendly at Wembley, Calvert-Lewin marking his international bow with a first-half header to make it 10 goals in seven appearances for club and country this season.

Conor Coady and Danny Ings also celebrated first international goals in a game which saw several players did their chances of further opportunities no harm, given this was England's most inexperienced XI since 1980.

Asked about Calvert-Lewin's performance, Southgate told ITV: "Yeah, excellent, I thought really very good. 

"He had excellent presence, his runs were a threat, he presses well, he obviously took his goal well, so I thought he could be really pleased.

"I think he's in a really good vein of form, he's an all-round centre-forward. I've always liked his general play but it's the goals that he's adding now that are making another level of player."

Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish was also handed a first England start and produced a delicious assist for Calvert-Lewin in an enterprising display.

Asked if Grealish has now jumped the queue in England's plans, Southgate said: "I thought his work with the ball was very good. 

"We know he draws those fouls, he's comfortable receiving in tight areas. I thought it was a debut he could be really pleased with."

England were troubled at times by Wales prior to Calvert-Lewin's 26th-minute opener but Southgate was content with the way his side grew into the match.

"I think the players did very well, it's so difficult for almost a completely new team to come together with not a lot of experience around it, so I thought they coped with that very well," he said. 

"It wasn't fluid at the start but the longer the game went on they got more and more into the game, solved the tactical problem Wales posed us when they were pressing and I thought we finished very strongly."

Belgium's 12-game winning streak came to an end as Franck Kessie's late penalty secured a 1-1 draw for Ivory Coast at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Thursday.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez shuffled his pack ahead of the Nations League double header against England and Iceland, opting not to start the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.

The much-changed starting XI struggled against Patrice Beaumelle's side in the first half but they forged ahead early in the second courtesy of Michy Batshuayi's 19th international goal.

They were denied yet another win three minutes from time, though, with Kessie clipping home from 12 yards after Wilfried Zaha had been brought down inside the area.

Belgium were more dangerous in the opening exchanges, with Brighton and Hove Albion forward Leandro Trossard looking particularly sharp on his first international start.

Chances were few and far between during a tepid opening 45 minutes, with Batshuayi's blocked shot from Trossard's pullback the closest either side came to taking the lead.

The on-loan Crystal Palace striker was not to be denied eight minutes after the restart, slotting home from close range after his initial effort from Alexis Saelemaekers' cross had been kept out by Sylvain Gbohouo.

Substitute goalkeeper Hendrik van Crombrugge was called into action soon after, though, keeping out Nicolas Pepe's close-range effort from Zaha's cross.

Zaha was instrumental to his side's late equaliser, teasing a foul out of substitute Sebastiaan Bornauw inside the area to give Kessie the opportunity to nonchalantly lift the ball into Van Crombrugge's top-right corner and ensure the game ended all square.

What does it mean? Understudies' lack of experience proves costly

Belgium's second-string had acquitted themselves admirably for 87 minutes and looked set to extend their winning streak to a lucky 13. Bornauw - just 10 minutes into his international debut - endured a moment to forget, though. Watching from the sidelines, the Red Devils' elder statesmen will have shaken their heads disapprovingly.

Batshuayi leads from the front

Batshuayi certainly lived up to his status as one of the starting XI's most experienced players. The 27-year-old was a handful for Ivory Coast's defence throughout and had five shots on goal, four more than any other Belgium player.

Doku fails to make his mark

On just his second start for the national team, Jeremy Doku struggled to make an impact. The 18-year-old failed to have a shot and completed just 18 passes before he was hauled off for Divock Origi with more than 20 minutes remaining.

What's next?

Belgium take on England at Wembley on Sunday before travelling to Iceland three days later, while Ivory Coast face another friendly clash with Japan in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin grasped his opportunity on debut as an inexperienced England side defeated Wales 3-0 in Thursday's friendly encounter at Wembley.

With captain Harry Kane rested and Tammy Abraham one of three players alongside Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell absent for breaching coronavirus protocol rules, Calvert-Lewin was selected by Gareth Southgate to lead the line.

The in-form Everton striker headed home from Jack Grealish's sublime cross before Conor Coady doubled the lead eight minutes after the break.

Danny Ings then celebrated his first international goal, marking the first time three England players all scored a maiden goal in the same game since 1963, as the Three Lions completed a clinical if not textbook performance ahead of tougher assignments.

An England XI boasting just 54 appearances – the lowest since 1980 – started nervily and Kieffer Moore dragged a volley wide after a poor headed clearance from debutant Bukayo Saka.

But Calvert-Lewin marked a fine England bow by nodding home from six yards in the 26th minute when Jack Grealish, making his first Three Lions start, hung up a peach of a cross after tying Ethan Ampadu in knots.

The lead was doubled when Kieran Trippier – who became England's 123rd skipper in the absence of Kane – produced a fine free-kick that Coady expertly half-volleyed past Wayne Hennessey from close range.

Wales had no way back just after the hour when Tyrone Mings headed a corner back across the face of goal for Southampton striker Ings to steer acrobatically home with a lovely overhead effort.

Hennessey made a couple of smart stops to deny Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Ings late on to ensure no further damage for Wales.


What does it mean? England have striker options

For a long time, Kane has been England's solitary go-to up front but the form of Calvert-Lewin and more minutes and a maiden international goal for a revitalised Ings means Southgate now has plenty of striking options.

Dominic Calvert-shoe-in?

Calvert-Lewin has been in sublime form for Premier League leaders Everton this term and now has 10 goals in seven appearances for club and country. This was a deserved opportunity and if he continues in this form, he surely is a certainty for future squads.

Giggs' case for the defence crumbles

Wales boss Ryan Giggs will have been encouraged by a first half in which Wales caused England issues, particularly Cardiff City striker Moore who went off injured towards the end of the opening 45 minutes. But usually consistent full-back Ben Davies, who lost possession 12 times, was not always at the races and centre-back pairing Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon gave England's forwards far too much space.

What's next?

England now move onto Nations League Group A2 fixtures with Belgium and Denmark, while Wales face the Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria in Group B4 over the coming week.

A friendly match between the England and Scotland Under-19 sides was abandoned on Thursday after Scottish head coach Billy Stark tested positive for coronavirus.

The Football Association initially confirmed the game was halted in the first half "in line with COVID-19 protocol", with the teams then returning to their dressing rooms at St George's Park when England were leading 3-1.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) later revealed that Under-19s boss Stark, 63, had returned a positive test.

A statement from the SFA read: "The Under-19s squad and backroom team all delivered negative COVID-19 tests on Sunday to enable them to play in today's [Thursday] match against England.

"Three players based in England joined up with the squad yesterday [Wednesday] – and they and the rest of the squad were tested again with a view to Sunday's second match.

"The three players had been in isolation and had no contact with anyone else. Nonetheless, despite testing negative during Sunday's test, the head coach, Billy Stark, returned a positive test for COVID-19 this afternoon.

"The result of the second test was immediately relayed to the under-19 team manager and the game was abandoned immediately, in line with established COVID-19 protocol.

"Billy will now travel home in isolation and will self-isolate for 10 days. The playing group and the rest of the backroom team will undertake precautionary self-isolation for 14 days, whilst the Scottish Government undertakes a formal risk assessment to assess who Stark was in close contact with during the camp."

The senior England side face Wales in a friendly at Wembley later on Thursday, with Scotland taking on Israel in a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final.

A friendly match between the England and Scotland Under-19 sides was abandoned on Thursday following a coronavirus concern.

An unnamed member of one of the teams' backroom staff reportedly returned a positive test for COVID-19.

The Football Association confirmed the game was halted in the first half "in line with COVID-19 protocol", with the teams then returning to their dressing rooms at St George's Park.

England were leading 3-1 at the time.

The senior England side face Wales in a friendly at Wembley later on Thursday, with Scotland taking on Israel in a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final.

Luis Enrique felt Adama Traore showed his "purest form" as he appeared to nail his colours to the Spain mast in a lively international debut.

Traore's international future has been the source of some speculation after the Wolves winger was called up to both the Spain and Mali squads for this window.

The player, who is eligible for each country, belatedly made his bow for La Roja on Wednesday in a goalless draw against Portugal and could become cap-tied in the coming week.

Traore had twice earlier been called up but missed out due to injury and then coronavirus, yet patient head coach Luis Enrique saw exactly the player he had hoped for in Lisbon midweek.

The Spanish-born star appeared for just 28 minutes from the bench but created a huge chance for Dani Olmo, who shot straight at Traore's club colleague and Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

"Adama has been Adama in his purest form," Luis Enrique said of Traore, who was marked by Nelson Semedo, yet another Wolves man.

"That is what we want him to be, with his ability to beat opponents. He has played a killer pass to Dani Olmo that did not lead to a goal.

"With one player they will not to be able to stop him. They are going to have to use two players."

Portugal struck the crossbar through Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches at the other end, and Luis Enrique certainly felt there was no shortage of entertainment despite the scoreline.

"People cannot be sad today for not having seen goals," the Spain coach said. "It was fun. We created that, and who scores interests me very little."

Luis Enrique would not complain if future matches were a little calmer, however, adding: "Sometimes we do not read the game well.

"We have phases in which we lose control. I do not like that the games go crazy."

Opposite number Fernando Santos was not enthused, meanwhile, similarly feeling Portugal needed to have a firmer grasp of proceedings.

Portugal boss Santos, who described the opening stages as "miserable", said: "It will be a different game [against France in the Nations League] for which we'll have to take a different approach.

"We'll have to work well and with another degree of focus. I hope we're at the best level in that game."

Germany head coach Joachim Low said he was "p***** off" at his team for surrendering a lead three times in their 3-3 draw with Turkey and dismissed fatigue as an excuse.

Kenan Karaman scored in stoppage time in Wednesday's friendly to cancel out Gian-Luca Waldschmidt's 81st-minute strike and leave the hosts winless in three games in 2020.

Julian Draxler and debutant Florian Neuhaus had also put Germany in front earlier in the match, only for Ozan Tufan and Efecan Karaca to hit back both times.

Germany also squandered one-goal leads in their 1-1 draw with Spain and Switzerland last month, and Low admitted it is an issue that his side must rectify.

"The problem has been around for a long time," he said at his post-match news conference. "This team, which has never played together like this, cannot be blamed. 

"That has happened to the other players as well. I am disappointed and p***** off, that is the right word."

Germany made eight changes to their starting line-up from their most recent match and had limited time on the training pitch given the tight fixture schedule.

However, Low was not looking for excuses after a third draw on the spin in Cologne, where just over 300 fans were in attendance.

"Fatigue cannot be a reason, it is not an excuse or an explanation," he said. 

"It's about losing control of the game, exploiting opportunities, simply losing the ball in zones where you don't always have to play across the pitch. 

"When it comes to organising after losing the ball, we also have open positions that the opponent can use. 

"When making the assignment, we have to say: In the box there is man against man, there is no space coverage. Concentration and mentality also play a role.

"[Karaman] was completely alone in the penalty area. Under no circumstances should that happen. We did this now and in a few other games. We have to talk about it.

"What can we do better when we have the lead? We then want to develop a mentality from this."

Draxler, given the captain's armband in the absence of Manuel Neuer, agreed with Low's assessment that Germany only had themselves to blame.

"We invited the Turks to score goals and again we didn't manage to get the result over the line," he told RTL. 

"You just have to play it more confidently. It's disappointing. In the end, it's about winning the games - and we did not do that."

One positive for Low on an otherwise disappointing day was Neuhaus' debut goal, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder tucking in after combining with Kai Havertz.

"He had a good debut. He had a lot of good actions, especially when it came to goal, where he slipped very nicely into the corner," Low said.

Germany face Ukraine and Switzerland in their next two Nations League outings on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

Portugal and Spain shared a goalless draw in a friendly on Wednesday, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe reunited with old friend Sergio Ramos after the match.

Ronaldo and Renato Sanches both hit the crossbar for Portugal, while Dani Olmo went close to a winner for Spain in an entertaining clash in Lisbon midweek.

Rivalries were cast aside after the final whistle, when Real Madrid captain Ramos visited his former club-mates in the dressing room.

Ramos, Ronaldo and Pepe each played pivotal roles for Los Blancos in seasons gone by, and the three got together for a photo which the Madrid centre-back posted to his Twitter account.

"We're still around... and there's more to come! Happy to see you, my friends reunited," Ramos wrote.

Ronaldo is starring for Italian champions Juventus in Serie A, while Pepe is at Primeira Liga titleholders Porto.

While Spain host Switzerland on Saturday, Portugal face France on Sunday in the next batch of Nations League fixtures.

Frank De Boer insisted he always wants to win after suffering a 1-0 loss to Mexico in his first match in charge of the Netherlands, but defiantly reminded his critics that he rested key players ahead of his side's forthcoming Nations League fixtures.

Raul Jimenez scored a second-half penalty to settle the friendly at Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday, which saw De Boer go head-to-head with Mexico boss Gerardo Martino – who he succeeded as head coach of MLS outfit Atlanta United.

De Boer left Atlanta in July following a poor run of form and his appointment as Ronald Koeman's successor as coach of the Netherlands raised concerns among supporters unimpressed by his record at club level in recent years.

Inter sacked De Boer after he had been in charge for just 85 days in 2016, and the former Netherlands defender lasted just seven games as Crystal Palace boss in the Premier League the following year.

In his international coaching bow, he handed debuts to Owen Wijndal and Teun Koopmeiners, while resting the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Daley Blind ahead of Sunday's clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina and a trip to Italy three days later.

"Of course I have a bad feeling," De Boer told reporters after the game. "I always want to win.

"But we have made certain choices, which I think are logical. We did not let some guys play. We have two more matches soon.

"Moreover, I do not believe that I am the first national coach to lose on his debut."

"The result is unpleasant," added De Boer. "But it was a practice match.

"You could give the excuse that not all the best guys played. We know that someone like Frenkie de Jong is very important, and he was missing. But let's not forget that Teun Koopmeiners played a very good game in the middle."

De Boer, who played for his country as a defender more than 100 times, offered words of support to 20-year-old Wijndal, who made a glaring error in the first half that almost cost the Netherlands.

"He started a bit rough, that's possible," said De Boer. "But I thought it was very good how he fought back."

Opposite number Martino reflected on Mexico's 18th victory in their last 19 matches, claiming the midweek win one was well deserved.

"We played a good game," he said. "We had enough control of the game and we worked very well together.

"It seems to me that the result is fair. At times we pressed well and had the ball. If you work well, you impose your game.

"Today we were a very solid and generous team."

Kepa Arrizabalaga is feeling confident within the Spain squad after putting aside his struggles at Premier League giants Chelsea for the time being.

Kepa became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea from LaLiga outfit Athletic Bilbao for a reported £71.6million (€80m) two years ago.

However, the 26-year-old's unreliable form in the past year saw his place come under threat and he has now seemingly been usurped as Chelsea's number one goalkeeper by new signing Edouard Mendy.

Kepa played in Spain's 0-0 friendly draw with Portugal on Wednesday and produced a confident display, gathering a few set-pieces and making a fine late save from Trincao.

Afterwards, Kepa admitted to a sense of ease with the national team due to the faith shown in him by Spain head coach Luis Enrique.

"I've felt confidence, at ease. I think it was a good game and I'm happy with the confidence of the coach," he told Teledeporte.

"When I'm needed to help on the pitch, I try to do the best possible."

"It was a game of great intensity. [We had] more control in the first half. In the second, we found it more difficult to control Portugal's transitions. It was a good test.

"We have to be happy. We stood up today. We have to improve because we conceded a few clear chances, which you can pay for in a tournament."

Spain controlled the first half but Portugal were by far the more threatening in the second in Lisbon.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches each struck the underside of the crossbar with thunderous efforts and Joao Felix should have won the match late on, the Atletico Madrid star failing to turn in Ruben Semedo's glancing header.

"We started better, but as the game progressed, we lost control," striker Rodrigo Moreno told Teledeporte.

"The draw isn't an unfair result. The pace dropped as the match progressed. We had little time to train, [and] the games are very demanding.

"We have to give a little more to keep on this good path. We have to keep working and be protagonists with the ball."

Spain and Portugal played out an entertaining 0-0 friendly draw on Wednesday in a warm-up match for the next round of Nations League games.

Luis Enrique's men controlled the first half in Lisbon but had the crossbar to thank for keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches at bay in the second half.

Each side experimented with their line-ups as a handful of players won their first senior caps, including Wolves winger Adama Traore, who nearly set up Dani Olmo for a winner.

Rui Patricio made three saves in the opening 17 minutes, his best a second-minute block from Gerard Moreno after he spun into space from Olmo's pass.

Such was Spain's control in the first 40 minutes that Ronaldo had only one touch of the ball in their penalty area, as Portugal failed to muster a shot on target.

They did let their guards down just before the break, though, Raphael Guerreiro blasting a half-volley over the bar and Ronaldo sending a tricky header wide from Joao Moutinho's free-kick.

Ronaldo was inches from breaking the deadlock early in the second half, smashing a shot off the underside of Kepa Arrizabalaga's crossbar from the edge of the area.

Portugal must have wondered whether the woodwork was cursed when Ronaldo played in Sanches, who thundered a half-volley at goal only to see it bounce off the bar, onto the line and away.

Substitute Traore cut the ball back for Olmo to fire straight at Patricio, before Kepa was at last called into action, saving well at the feet of Trincao after a good run from Joao Felix.

Portugal should have snatched the win in injury time too, Felix failing to turn the ball into the net after Ruben Semedo's glancing header.

 

What does it mean? Strikerless Spain looking sharp

Luis Enrique made it clear before the game that a lack of obvious options in the number nine role was not a particular concern for him.

He will certainly have been impressed with the way his makeshift line-up created several first-half openings before the game rather quietened down after the hour mark.

Portugal, who similarly fielded a weakened side, will consider this a good work-out before facing world champions France.

Late-bloomer Canales looks right at home

Spain's central midfield is an imposing place to be, but Sergio Canales was cool and accomplished here, misplacing just one of 53 passes and winning each of his two duels in a 62-minute outing.

Thiago Alcantara and Fabian Ruiz might be first choice alongside Sergio Busquets, but Canales - who is 29 and only made his Spain debut last year - looks worthy of such esteemed company.

Santos should consider striker-free approach

Portugal were under Spain's control in a first half in which centre-forward Andre Silva only touched the ball 13 times. When he was replaced by Bernardo Silva at half-time and Fernando Santos set up a more fluid forward line, the home side looked threatening every time they went forward.

Food for thought, perhaps.

What's next?

The next round of Nations League matches beckons this weekend. Spain host Switzerland on Saturday, with Portugal heading to France on Sunday.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique continues to be amazed by the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as he prepares his side to face the Portugal star.

La Roja travel to Lisbon this week to face Portugal on Wednesday in the first meeting between the sides since the 2018 World Cup group stages.

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, which included a stunning late free-kick, on that occasion to earn a 3-3 draw with Spain in Sochi.

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has previously sided with Messi in the debate over who is the greatest modern player, describing the Blaugrana number 10 as the best in the world "in every position" and "the best in the history of football".

However, he has huge admiration for the way Juventus forward Ronaldo continues to strive for success at the age of 35 and after spending 18 years in senior football.

"Our goal doesn't change aside from the fact confronting a player of his profile can be motivational," he told reporters on Tuesday as he looked ahead to the friendly at Estadio Jose Alvalade.

"As a team, we will try to do things better than Portugal and try to cause them problems – that's the goal. Whether Ronaldo plays or not, the situation, the general approach to the game doesn't change.

"With regards to your other question, if you check through your newspaper archives, you already knew what my opinion is and I don't think it will be ideal for me again to comment on who is the best player in the world for me.

"What is worthy of praise is the fact that players like Cristiano and Leo Messi keep getting older but maintaining such a high level thanks to their professionalism, their ambition and their capacity to be motivated and keep achieving goals. Both Cristiano and Messi are examples of that."

Ronaldo has scored three goals and set up another in his first two Serie A appearances of 2020-21, with Juve beating Sampdoria 3-0 and then drawing 2-2 with Roma.

Messi has one goal in three LaLiga matches, with Barca beating Villarreal 4-0, Celta Vigo 3-0 and drawing 1-1 with Sevilla in Ronald Koeman's first three league games in charge.

Two international friendlies that had been scheduled for Jamaica in the United States next month, have been cancelled because of the rise in the number of Covid-19 infections.

Lionel Messi returned to the scoresheet in style with a brace in Barcelona's 3-1 friendly win over Girona on Wednesday.

The Blaugrana captain is set to see out the remaining year of his contract at Camp Nou after failing to secure a move away from his only senior club.

Messi was heavily linked with Manchester City but stayed at Barca despite announcing his frustration with the failed negotiations.

The number 10 returned to the fold for his side's first pre-season friendly under Ronald Koeman on Saturday, playing the first half against Gimnastic but failing to find the net.

Messi put that right against Girona, however, with a stunning right-footed strike from 20 yards crashing against the post and in on the stroke of half-time, although it prompted only an understated celebration.

A second followed after the restart, his shot deflecting beyond the wrong-footed goalkeeper and adding to Philippe Coutinho's opener.

Messi made way for Ousmane Dembele after 63 minutes and now has one more friendly remaining - the Joan Gamper Trophy against Elche - before Barca's LaLiga campaign begins at home to Villarreal on the weekend of September 26/27.

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