Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau has confirmed Ernesto Valverde asked the club to buy Neymar, as the Spanish champions consider whether to make any future bids to Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Camp Nou, with PSG sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazilian was for sale having asked to leave the French capital.

But despite Barca reportedly making a series of cash-plus-players offers to PSG, no deal could be completed before September 2's European transfer deadline.

Neymar scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance this term after failing to get his desired move, but PSG ultras have indicated he will not be welcomed back to the fray quickly.

Real Madrid have also long been linked with a move for Neymar, with Grau unwilling to say whether Barcelona will continue to pursue a deal for the Brazil forward.

"Neymar was a request from the sports area and the coach and the club did everything in order to get him, albeit in a financially sustainable way," Grau said on Thursday.

"We made many proposals to PSG. They always rejected them. I don't know if we are going to target him again next summer. Planning for next season will be done in the future.

"We would have been delighted to have the chance to bring Neymar back, but the terms always had to be reasonable.

"If some parameters had been accomplished, it would have been possible, but PSG were not happy about losing him."

Barca also missed out on Matthijs de Ligt, who opted not to follow his Netherlands team-mate Frenkie de Jong from Ajax to Camp Nou.

"We made him an offer, but he preferred to go to Juve, where Italian taxation allows him to earn a higher net salary," Grau added.

Manchester United will not give up on extending Paul Pogba's stay at Old Trafford.

Pogba, 26, was heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid during the close season, despite being contracted at United until 2021, with the club also reportedly holding the option for a further 12 months.

The LaLiga giants are reportedly still interested in the France midfielder, but United have plans of their own.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA CONTRACT A PRIORITY FOR MAN UNITED

Manchester United are looking to sign Pogba on a long-term deal, according to the Evening Standard.

New contracts for Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood are priorities for the Premier League giants, the report says.

It comes after United re-signed goalkeeper David de Gea and defender Victor Lindelof.

ROUND-UP

- Amid tension with fellow goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Manuel Neuer is considering his Germany future. Bild reports Neuer, 33, could end his international career after Euro 2020.

- Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati is set to get a Spanish passport next Friday, according to AS. Portugal have reportedly made advances for the talented 16-year-old forward, but Fati looks set to be ready to feature for Spain at the Under-17 World Cup beginning in October.

- Luca Pellegrini may be on loan at Cagliari, but his future appears to be at Juventus. The Serie A champions are keen to keep the 20-year-old defender for the long-term, according to Calciomercato.

- Chelsea have received some good news on the injury front. The Sun and the Mirror report midfielder Mason Mount could face Liverpool on Sunday despite suffering an ankle sprain in Tuesday's Champions League loss to Valencia.

- Bayer Leverkusen decided to reward midfielder Kai Havertz in the close season. According to Bild, the Bundesliga club handed the five-time Germany international a wage increase from €2m to more than €5m per season.

- Paul Mitchell has opted against returning to the Premier League. Sky Sports News reports Mitchell will leave his role as head of recruitment and development at RB Leipzig at the end of the month to become technical director of Red Bull's global soccer division. The report says as many as four Premier League clubs were after the former Tottenham and Southampton recruitment chief.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a late chance as Juventus drew their Champions League opener against Atletico Madrid, but Diego Simeone remains aware the Portuguese can decide any encounter.

Atletico came from two goals down with 20 minutes to go at the Wanda Metropolitano, Stefan Savic and Hector Herrera converting well-worked set-pieces.

It was a measure of revenge for Simeone's side after Juve knocked them out of the competition last term despite losing the first leg of their last-16 tie 2-0 in the Spanish capital.

Ronaldo's hat-trick in the return fixture eliminated Atletico and he almost snatched all three Group D points at the death on Wednesday, firing wide after beating a series of defenders.

The former Real Madrid forward has scored 25 career goals against Atletico, with Simeone relieved his late chance narrowly missed Jan Oblak's goal.

"It was a tremendous piece of play," Simeone told Movistar of the Juve superstar.

"We know the player he is, that he can decide an encounter at any moment."

Set-pieces offered Atletico a route back into the game after goals from Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi put the Serie A champions in control.

Savic nodded home after a free-kick to bring Atletico within one goal and when Kieran Trippier delivered a corner in the 90th minute, substitute Herrera steered in a magnificent header.

"Hector was working really well and it's no accident that he came on and scored," Simeone said.

"In life, work always has reward, and more so in football. The competition is very good and that makes us grow.

"It was a spectacular Champions League game, against a really strong opponent, really tough, with great individual and collective quality.

"We started well, although without chances to score, but in the second half they hurt us twice; Cuadrado and Matuidi took the game from us, but we didn't lose face.

"In the first half we had really good circulation of the ball, although we didn't have chances at goal, which is what counts.

"I like this draw because we haven't lost face and because we recovered from being 2-0 down. When the youngsters evolve, we'll be closer to winning."

Maurizio Sarri accepted Juventus must work on defending set-pieces after surrendering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Sarri's first European game in charge of the Serie A champions seemed set to end in three Group D points after Juan Cuadrado's stunner was followed by Blaise Matuidi's header.

Atletico, though, earned a measure of revenge for their Champions League exit at the hands of Juve last term by fighting back in the last 20 minutes on Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Stefan Savic nodded home after a free-kick to reduce the deficit and Hector Herrera brilliantly steered in a headed equaliser from Kieran Trippier's corner in the 90th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo, whose hat-trick knocked Atleti out last term, almost won it for Juve at the death when he fired just wide, but Sarri was in no doubt where his focus must be on the training ground.

"I think we played well but we have a bitter taste in our mouth now because we felt we had the game in our hands," Sarri said.

"We need more attention and focus on set-pieces. We will work on that.

"I opted to start with Cuadrado because I thought it could have been an open game with spaces for him to use his pace.

"I think we are working well and I could finally see the things we are trying in training."

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci agreed with Sarri's assessment.

"We played a great game but we must be more careful to defend against set-pieces," he said.

"It's a pity because it cost us two points. At this level, our attention must be high for 90 minutes."

Hector Herrera came off the bench to score a 90th-minute equaliser as Atletico Madrid fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Juventus in the Champions League.

Juan Cuadrado's stunning strike and a Blaise Matuidi header looked to have earned Maurizio Sarri's side victory in Group D on Wednesday.

However, Atletico produced a wonderful fightback as set pieces proved Juve's undoing, Stefan Savic nodding home from close range to set up a grandstand finish at the Wanda Metropolitano.

With injury time beckoning, substitute Herrera rose highest in the box to superbly flick home a header from Kieran Trippier's left-wing corner, leaving the spoils shared.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid begin their respective Champions League campaigns with huge tests against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in the pick of Wednesday's action.

Atletico will be smarting from last season's 3-2 aggregate defeat to Juve in the round of 16, when Cristiano Ronaldo – a consistent nemesis of theirs during his time in LaLiga – netted a hat-trick in a 3-0 second-leg win to see the Old Lady into the quarter-finals.

Madrid get started away to PSG, who will be aiming to continue their fine run at home in the group stage despite being without Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

Last term's beaten finalists Tottenham, Premier League champions Manchester City and German giants Bayern Munich are also in action.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Wednesday's contests.

Club Brugge v Galatasaray

4 - After losing their first two matches in the 2018-19 Champions League, Club Brugge remained undefeated in their final four (W1 D3) – should they avoid a loss in this match, it will be the best unbeaten run by a Belgian side in the competition took on its current format in 1992.

12 - Galatasaray's new striker Radamel Falcao has scored 12 goals in the Champions League, just one goal off the record by a Colombian player in the competition: Jackson Martinez with 13.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid

21- PSG are unbeaten in 21 Champions League home games in the group stage (W15 D6), not losing since December 2004 against CSKA Moscow (1-3). 

1.97 - Real Madrid have averaged the most goals per game (2.13) in Champions League history. PSG are third on 1.97, with Barcelona the only club separating them in the rankings (2.02).

Olympiacos v Tottenham

8 - Olympiacos are winless in eight Champions League matches (D1 L7) since a 2-1 win against Dinamo Zagreb in November 2015. It is their joint-longest winless run in the competition alongside a streak that ended in October 2003.

50 - Mauricio Pochettino's will oversee his 50th European game as manager of Spurs on Wednesday. Only Bill Nicholson (55) has presided over more for the club.

 

Bayern Munich v Red Star Belgrade

36 - Robert Lewandowski has scored 36 goals in just 52 Champions League appearances for Bayern – only Thomas Muller has scored more for the club in the competition (42 goals in 105 games).

17 -  Red Star conceded more goals in the group stage of the 2018-19 Champions League than any other team (17).

Dinamo Zagreb v Atalanta

11 - Dinamo Zagreb have lost their last 11 consecutive Champions League matches, their joint-worst run in the competition. Only Anderlecht have lost 12 successive matches in Europe's elite competition, that run coming between December 2003 and November 2005.

3 - Just three of the nine Italian clubs to have participated in the Champions League before Atalanta have won their opening match in the competition: AC Milan in 1992, Juventus in 1995 and Udinese in 2005.

 

Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City

79 - Excluding own goals, 79 of Shakhtar's 124 Champions League goals have been scored by Brazilians (64 per cent) – only Barcelona (85) have seen more goals scored by Brazilians than Shakhtar, while Braga (11-12 – 92%) are the only team to have had a higher proportion of goals scored by players from Brazil.

124 - Gabriel Jesus scored a hat-trick for City in their last meeting against Shakhtar in November last year, inspiring a 6-0 win. Of the 73 Brazilians to have scored four or more goals in the Champions League, Jesus has the best minutes-per-goal (124) ratio.

Atletico Madrid v Juventus

54 - Atletico will be competing in their first Champions League season without Antoine Griezmann since 2013-14. He scored or assisted 54 per cent of their goals in the competitions (19 goals, 7 assists) between September 2015 and March 2019 before leaving this year for Barcelona.

25 - Juventus star Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in his career against Atletico, having tormented them regularly in derbies with Madrid and netted a hat-trick last term for the Bianconeri. Only against Sevilla (27) has he scored more in all competitions.

 

Bayer Leverkusen v Lokomotiv Moscow

0 - Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz has yet to win a Champions League game as a manager (D2 L4, with Dortmund). Each of Leverkusen's past four managers have failed to win their first Champions League match in charge.

7 - Lokomotiv forward Jefferson Farfan will be looking to score in his seventh different Champions League campaign (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2018-19). The only Peruvian to have scored in more seasons is Claudio Pizarro (eight).

There could be a fight to prise Fabian Ruiz from Napoli.

Fabian has established himself as one of Europe's premier midfielders and the Spaniard is reportedly attracting interest.

Two LaLiga giants and the Champions League holders are said to be eyeing Fabian.

 

TOP STORY - THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to the Daily Mail.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and the Spain international has quickly become one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders.

Now three of the biggest clubs in the world are reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Manchester United are preparing a January move for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. The Red Devils have limited options up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Wilson, who has already scored three goals this season, fits the bill at Old Trafford as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes talented English players.

Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City are all interested in Real Madrid playmaker Isco, claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona are set to offer 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati a new five-year deal to fend off interest from European rivals, claims the Daily Mail.

- League One side Southend United want to hire former Celtic, Barca and Manchester United striker Henrik Larsson as their manager, says the Daily Mail. Southend are second bottom in the league after eight games, while Larsson was last in charge of Helsingborg before quitting in August.

- According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo are negotiating to bring Fredy Guarin to the club. The 33-year-old former Inter midfielder is a free agent after leaving Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Juventus and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo opened up on the sadness he feels that his alcoholic father never saw his greatest football achievements.

Ronaldo, 34, has enjoyed a glittering trophy-laden career with club and country, while he is the recipient of five Ballon d'Or awards.

However, his father Dinis Aveiro passed away when Ronaldo was aged 20 after liver failure from excessive drinking and did not see Real Madrid's all-time leading scorer reach the zenith of his career.

"My family see, my mum, my brothers, even my old son, but my father, he didn't see nothing, and it was - he died young," Ronaldo said in an interview on ITV with Piers Morgan.

"I have to have these images to show my family. But I really don't know my father 100 per cent.

"He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him, like a normal conversation. It was hard.

"Sadness? To be the number one, and he don't see nothing, and he don't see me receive awards."

Ronaldo – a five-time Champions League winner – also admitted he has banned his mother from attending big matches for her own health.

Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro, 64, has collapsed on a few occasions at tense games which prompted the Juve forward to step in.

"She gets so nervous, I don't understand. She is not allowed now to watch big games," he added.

"I get friends to stay with her and she goes for walks around the house. She fainted two times in the stadium. She is nervous.

"It is impossible, I don't have a father anymore and I don't want to lose my mum, so I told her 'you will not watch semi-finals or finals anymore'."

Cristiano Ronaldo has claimed sex with model girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez is superior to the best goal of his glittering football career.

Speaking in an interview on ITV, Ronaldo was asked about a spectacular overhead kick he scored against Juventus for Real Madrid in April 2018.

The 34-year-old agreed it was the best goal of his career, but it still did not match a night between the sheets with 25-year-old Rodriguez.

"No, not [when compared] with my Geo, no!" Ronaldo said as he laughed at the question.

"I tried to score this goal for many, many years. I had scored 700-odd goals but I hadn't done this. I thought 'finally I had scored a bicycle, the beautiful jumping'.

"The way I had done against Gianluigi Buffon, against Juventus, in the Champions League. It was a beautiful goal."

Ronaldo spoke about how it was "love at first sight" with Spaniard Rodriguez, who he first encountered at a Gucci shop.

"Geo's the mum of my kids, and I'm so passionate for her, you know. It's great," explained the Juventus forward.

"Geo, is, you know, part of me. She helped me so much. Of course, I'm in love for her.

"She's my friend. We have conversations, I open the heart for her, she open the heart for me."

When pressed by Morgan on whether he would soon marry Rodriguez, Ronaldo added: "One day. No, we'll be [married] one day, for sure. 

"It's my mum's dream as well. So, one day. Why not?"

Maurizio Sarri has warned Juventus must escape the "illogical phobia" of previous Champions League campaigns if they are to prosper in it this season.

Juve travel to face another side Sarri believes can win the Champions League this season, Atletico Madrid, in Wednesday's Group D opener.

The Italian giants have won eight Serie A titles in succession but have not triumphed in Europe's elite competition since 1996.

They strengthened again in the close season, adding the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot to an all-star squad already including Cristiano Ronaldo as they attempt to end that wait for Champions League glory.

“We don’t feel this pressure," Sarri, who confirmed Miralem Pjanic is available, told a news conference.

"We are Juventus, every time we step on to the pitch, the objective is to win, but we also know full well there are 10-12 other teams who feel the same way and have the same resources as we do.

"At this moment, I don't see Italian football as the favourites going into the Champions League, as over the last 20 years we've lost ground. The fault for that goes to everyone, from presidents to journalists, everything that surrounds the sport.

"I think we need to face this competition with exceptional determination, but also a relaxed mind. We've got to get back to enjoying our football, without this illogical phobia.

"Atletico Madrid are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. It's difficult to fight against the Premier League sides, as they have so much money in the sport.

"Atletico lost an extraordinary player in Antoine Griezmann, but brought in one just as extraordinary in Joao Felix. Saul Niguez has made huge leaps forward and I consider him one of the best in Europe right now.

"Atleti have the players to beat anyone, but unfortunately at this level, you need mental strength, technique, tactics and a bit of luck."

Cristiano Ronaldo is not the only threat Atletico Madrid will have to contend with against juventus, Jose Gimenez has warned ahead of Wednesday's Champions League showdown.

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in the last meeting between the two sides in March, securing a 3-2 aggregate win for Juve in Turin.

While that victory sent Juve into the quarter-finals - where they were beaten by Ajax - their reunion with Atletico comes in the opening fixture of Group D, which also includes Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Former Real Madrid star Ronaldo has a great record against Los Blancos' rivals and is the record goalscorer in Madrid derbies.

But Gimenez does not believe Atletico will need to draw any extra motivation from Juve's comeback, and urged them not to focus too much on Ronaldo. 

"The motivation comes from us, the past is the past," Gimenez said ahead of the match at Wanda Metropolitano.

"We want to play with the same desire we have in any game, in any competition.

"He's a great striker, but Juve is not just Cristiano Ronaldo. We can't think of the game that way. The important thing is to do a great group job.

"We are always motivated. But we know how important this game is, it is the first of the group. It's another season, with other players, it's all different."

Coach Diego Simeone echoed Gimenez's thoughts, though conceded Atletico may not be able to keep out Ronaldo if he is in the mood once more.

"It is difficult to prepare a game against him," said Simeone.

"He is a goal animal, he is at a different level and with him in the area he needs attention, he is not easy to control, he has a change of pace and an ability to score that we have suffered as seen."

Portugal's next rising star is Joao Felix, who has scored one goal in four LaLiga appearances so far this season for Atletico following his €126million move from Benfica, but Simeone stressed the 19-year-old will need time to adapt to the intensity of the Champions League.

"Champions are talented players who can make you win games against any rival," he said.

"We are trying to improve, to grow, to adapt to this type of competition, to make young players understand what it is. I think with Joao Felix, it will take time."

Atletico Madrid captain Koke insists revenge is not a motivating factor ahead of the Champions League rematch with Juventus on Wednesday.

The Spanish side entertain the Serie A champions just over six months on from their capitulation in the second leg of last season's rollercoaster round-of-16 tie.

Diego Simeone's men appeared on course for the quarter-finals following a 2-0 home win but collapsed in the return encounter as a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick earned Juve a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The turnaround in Turin extended Atletico's wait for Champions League glory, yet Koke is not worried about getting one back on the Bianconeri.

"Not, revenge no. Every year is different," the midfielder told Marca.

"It is true that we are going to play against one of the best teams in the world, with great players, and it will be a nice game.

"But what matters to us is to try to get out of the group, which is our goal, and to beat Juventus or whoever we come up against."

He added: "To tell the truth, it was inexplicable [to lose].

"Just like anyone, one day on the job is not the same as another. We had a bad day, they were good and the goals were in specific moments, in the middle of the first half, at the beginning of the second and then at the end."

Stefan Savic watched the match unfold from the bench and views it as the "worst" of his four years at the club.

The centre-back appears likely to start this time around and warned his team-mates against focusing solely on stopping Juve star Ronaldo.

"Juve are much more than Cristiano," Savic said. "They have great champions in their team. Ronaldo is one of the most important players in history and we will be watchful."

Atletico Madrid captain Koke insists revenge is not a motivating factor ahead of the Champions League rematch with Juventus on Wednesday.

Diego Simeone's side entertain the Serie A champions just over six months on from their capitulation in the second leg of last season's rollercoaster round of 16 tie.

The Spanish side appeared on course for the quarter-finals following a 2-0 home win but collapsed in the return encounter as a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick earned Juve a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The turnaround in Turin extended Atletico's wait for Champions League glory, yet Koke is not worried about getting one back on the Bianconeri.

"Not, revenge no. Every year is different," the midfielder told Marca.

"It is true that we are going to play against one of the best teams in the world, with great players, and it will be a nice game.

"But what matters to us is to try to get out of the group, which is our goal, and to beat Juventus or whoever we come up against."

He added: "To tell the truth, it was inexplicable [to lose].

"Just like anyone, one day on the job is not the same as another. We had a bad day, they were good and the goals were in specific moments, in the middle of the first half, at the beginning of the second and then at the end."

Stefan Savic watched the match unfold from the bench and views it as the "worst" of his four years at the club.

The centre-back appears likely to start this time around and warned his team-mates against focusing solely on stopping Juve star Ronaldo.

"Juve are much more than Cristiano," Savic said.

"They have great champions in their team. Ronaldo is one of the most important players in history and we will be watchful."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears set on his determination to bring young British talent to Manchester United.

There are four English names on the United manager's radar, apparently, as he looks to rebuild the team into a title-winning force once more.

The end of the season could potentially see a spend of a similar magnitude to the £150million, more or less, that he spent on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James this year.

 

TOP STORY - MADDISON AND SANCHO TOP SOLSKJAER'S WISH LIST

As per ESPN, Manchester United will pursue deals for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Leicester City's James Maddison in 2020.

Manager Solskjaer is set on his policy of recruiting young, hungry British talent and remains keen on signing Sancho, who was reportedly a target this year.

United believe Leicester could sell Maddison for around £70m and are also interested in Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff, Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Stoke City's Nathan Collins.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have been ordered by a judge to pay a €300 fine or play a match behind closed doors as part of Atletico Madrid's complaint against the transfer of Antoine Griezmann, Marca say. Atleti believe they are owed more than the €120m Barca paid to activate his release clause.

- The Daily Mail report Napoli are interested in Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, a player they value at around €34m (£30.1m). 

- A handful of reports in Italy suggest Bernard Arnault, the billionaire owner of Louis Vuitton, is interested in buying Serie A giants AC Milan

- Back with Manchester United, and Calciomercato say JuventusInter, Milan and Borussia Dortmund are all keeping an eye on Nemanja Matic, who has grown frustrated at his reduced role in Solskjaer's plans.

Miralem Pjanic has been passed fit for Juventus' Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, but Douglas Costa is set to be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Both players hobbled out of the 0-0 Serie A draw with Fiorentina on Saturday, Costa managing only eight minutes and Pjanic forced to depart shortly before half-time.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder had tests at J Medical on Monday and no muscle damage was detected, meaning he should be clear to play in his side's Champions League group-stage opener away to Atletico on Wednesday.

However, Costa has been diagnosed with a thigh injury and it will be 15 days before a definitive time frame on his recovery can be put in place.

It means the Brazil winger will sit out the Atletico clash and potentially Juve's second Group D match at home to Bayer Leverkusen on October 1.

He will also miss league matches against Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL over the coming 10 days.

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