Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insisted it would be easier for the LaLiga champions to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland instead of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 titleholders PSG for Madrid, but Dortmund sensation Haaland has emerged as a serious option for the Spanish powerhouse.

Haaland is a player in demand – linked with the likes of Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus – following his exploits for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and Champions League.

Ramos feels Haaland is a more realistic option for Madrid due to the financial situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while PSG still try to re-sign Mbappe.

"I would like them both to come, but if one of them were to come, it would be easier to sign Haaland," Ramos, who is facing an uncertain future as he is yet to sign a contract extension with Madrid, told Ibai Llanos on Twitch.

"With Mbappe the economic circumstances are more difficult. Haaland wouldn't be bad because of his hunger for goals, his size, his speed... It would be easier to reach an agreement for Haaland."

Haaland became the quickest player to 20 Champions League goals after reaching the milestone in his 14th game in the competition as Dortmund drew 2-2 with Sevilla on Tuesday but advanced 5-4 on aggregate.

Aged 20 years and 231 days, Haaland also became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Champions League matches, while he is the first player in the history of the competition to score at least two goals in four consecutive appearances.

Mbappe also made Champions League history on Wednesday after PSG eliminated Barcelona in the last 16.

The PSG forward claimed Lionel Messi's record as the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the competition, aged 22 years and 80 days. 

Meanwhile, the future of Messi has dominated headlines as the Barca superstar continues to be linked with PSG and City.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, and Ramos is cheekily prepared to welcome the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the Santiago Bernabeu in a controversial move.

"I would be delighted to welcome Messi [to Real Madrid]," Ramos said with a smile as he dismissed the idea of leaving Madrid for bitter rivals Barca. "I'll make my house available to him for the first few weeks.

"We had to suffer Leo in his best years, so the fact of not having to face him would be good.

"He would help us win and achieve more success. It would be silly to say otherwise."

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti "can't say" the Serie A leaders want Lionel Messi as he believes the Barcelona superstar will remain at Camp Nou.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner tipped to join Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain or Premier League leaders Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Inter have also emerged as a possible destination for Messi, who tried to leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Argentina and Inter great Zanetti, though, feels his 33-year-old countryman will continue playing for Barca beyond this season.

"We can't say that, he is a Barcelona player and he's spent the whole career there. I think he will continue there," Zanetti told ONTime Sports.

"We are focused on the group of players we have. We must be focused on ourselves, we are focused on the next game. Everyone is doing very well."

Asked to compare Messi to legendary football Diego Maradona – who died in November – Zanetti added: "I can't make comparisons, they are both great champions.

"It's always good when big players move to Serie A. When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, it was good for the league."

Messi has scored a league-high 19 goals and supplied six assists in 24 LaLiga appearances for Ronald Koeman's second-placed Barca this season, and 25 across all competitions.

Barca are six points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Monday's match against Huesca.

Messi has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas has dedicated his penalty save from Lionel Messi's spot-kick to absent team-mate Sergio Rico.

Navas denied Messi from the penalty spot in first-half additional time and helped PSG complete a 5-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday.

The match finished 1-1 with Kylian Mbappe opening the scoring on the half-hour mark before Messi levelled with a long-range rifle in the 37th minute.

Navas made his penalty save on the stroke of half-time, dedicating it to Rico post-game with his team-mate absent due to personal reasons.

"It's always difficult, especially against Messi who shoots very well," Navas told RMC Sport post-game.

"It gives a lot of joy to everyone. This penalty is for Sergio Rico who is going through difficult times with his family, it is for him."

Navas and Messi are long-time adversaries from the Costa Rican's time at Real Madrid, with his low save with his knee representing a major win.

The save, one of several from Navas, played a major part in PSG thwarting any potential Barcelona response as they rallied following their 4-1 first-leg defeat in Spain.

"It was a very great match for Barca, they pushed to the maximum," Navas said.

"We are very motivated to continue in this competition, with this state of mind. We must be united for this competition.

"The group has clear objectives in mind. This is what helps us to progress to go far in this competition."

If Lionel Messi is to leave Barcelona at the end of the season it will not be due to doubts over the club's direction, according to boss Ronald Koeman. 

The Catalan giants were knocked out of the Champions League in the last-16 stage on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. 

That followed the Ligue 1 side's thumping 4-1 win in the first leg at Camp Nou last month and means Barca have failed to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Their run of 13 consecutive last-eight appearances was the longest in Champions League history. 

Messi, who cancelled out Kylian Mbappe's opener with a stunning strike before missing a penalty, has been tipped to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, with PSG and Premier League leaders Manchester City the reported frontrunners for the 33-year-old.

However, new Barca president Joan Laporta is desperate for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to sign a new deal, while Koeman believes any decision the Argentina international makes about his future will be influenced by the club's commitment to giving young players a chance. 

"Leo has seen for quite some time that the team is improving thanks to all the changes we've made," he told reporters.

"Particularly, we have young players of great quality. We've got a great future ahead. Leo can't have any doubts about what the future holds for this team."

Barca started on the front foot against Mauricio Pochettino's side and only a combination of wayward finishing and smart goalkeeping from Keylor Navas ensured they did not go in at the interval ahead. 

Indeed, they took 16 shots during the opening 45 minutes – the most they have had in the first half of any game since January 2019.

Messi alone had six shots before half-time, which is the joint-highest in this season's Champions League alongside Borussia Monchengladbach's Breel Embolo. 

Despite exiting the competition, Koeman was pleased with his side's display and believes it laid down a marker for next season. 

"Okay, we are out, which is what counts in this sport," he added. "But we leave with good sensations. We had opportunities to make things very complicated for our rival. 

"We were the superior team in the first half, taking big risks at the back with man-to-man marking. Really, we deserved more for that effort. 

"It should at least have been 2-1 to us at half-time. If we'd led at the break, the second half would have been a whole different affair.

"In the first leg they were ultra-effective in front of goal and in this match we weren't. They scored four, here we scored once. That comparison is the big difference across this tie. 

"But no criticism of the lack of cutting edge. We put in a huge effort and merited more; maybe just a hint of luck. Their keeper was the player of the match. We had our chances but couldn't take them.

"We are departing this Champions League in a very different manner from the way we did last season. 

"In this game, we hit our level and that's the road we have to follow. Clearly we are sad but the impression we leave behind after this match is important."

Another year, another early Champions League exit for Barcelona.

Despite Lionel Messi's sparkling intransigence, there was to be no second 'remontada' against Paris Saint-Germain. After Roma, Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the past three years, 2021 saw Barca dance their last tango in Paris, a sixth season in a row of knockout failure. The opponents change, but the story stays the same.

Or does it?

This was not Rome, nor Anfield, nor Lisbon, the scene of last year's 8-2 annihilation by Bayern. This was not Barca collapsing under pressure, wilting before foreign crowds or just plain giving up. Their 5-2 aggregate loss to PSG was born of a wretched first-leg performance, but they are not the team they were just three weeks ago. At Parc des Princes, they showed that. Messi showed that.

Since that 4-1 loss at Camp Nou, Barca have won four games and drawn two, conceding just two goals, a penalty here and against Cadiz. They have closed back to within six points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, breathing life into a title challenge that had looked over in the autumn.

In a Copa del Rey comeback against Sevilla, they played with verve and passion seldom seen in the recent years of squad mismanagement and boardroom chaos. And while they didn't beat PSG, they were the dominant side and thwarted mostly by man-of-the-match Keylor Navas, their performance in a different stratosphere to that sad clown act against Bayern a year ago.

We're into a new era now, of course. Joan Laporta, the man who appointed Pep Guardiola, who oversaw Messi's introduction to the world stage and counts the club captain as a friend, was voted in as president again on Sunday. He assured members he was their best chance of seeing Messi sign a new contract; what he saw on Wednesday as he watched from the stands will not have dissolved that belief.

What Messi wants, what he has always wanted, is a winning project. His protracted and ultimately futile efforts to leave last year were fuelled not just by the ugliness of Josep Maria Bartomeu's final months as president, but by the fear that winning the biggest trophies on offer – this trophy, to be precise – had slipped away. He wants a coach with a plan, a team with panache, and a collective drive to knit it together.

If he had none of that in the first leg, he certainly did in Paris.

Without first-choice centre-backs in Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo, Ronald Koeman dropped Frenkie de Jong into a back three with Clement Lenglet and Oscar Mingueza. It meant attacking full-backs, Pedri and Sergio Busquets could all be accommodated behind Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele. At an average age of 26 years and 166 days old, it was also Barcelona's youngest starting XI in a Champions League knockout tie since they beat Stuttgart 4-0 in March 2010 under Guardiola.

It was a bold set-up, and the players embraced it. They had 73 per cent of the ball in the first half, attempting 10 shots in the first 26 minutes, just two short of their total from the first leg. Dembele could have scored twice but for Navas; Mingueza narrowly missed contact with a clear header. Barca ended the half with 16 attempts, the most in the first 45 minutes of a game since January 2019 against Levante, and the most by far faced by PSG in a first half at home all season.

Kylian Mbappe perhaps thought the tie was dead when he swept home from the spot against the run of play, Lenglet punished by VAR for an entirely accidental trip on Mauro Icardi, but Messi had other ideas. His equaliser was a sensational, swerving strike that had Navas grasping at thin air. He should have made it 2-1 before the break, but Navas' leg and the underside of the crossbar combined to keep out his penalty. An inch or two either way, and they really would have believed.

That was the key difference to those awful European nights experienced by Messi since he last won this trophy six years ago. Where before came embarrassment, anger and inquests, here there was disappointment – but reason to hope. They outplayed last season's beaten finalists on their own patch in a way that looked impossible a month ago.

Barca are not where they want to be – far from it – and this season will still be remembered for failure in Europe. But they are, as a club, at last moving in the right direction. Whether Messi chooses to be part of that progress next season is, even now, difficult to predict. And if this was the last time we saw him in this tournament in a Barca shirt, at least it was a more fitting farewell.

Kylian Mbappe made history as Paris Saint-Germain booked their place in the Champions League last eight with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday. 

Mbappe plundered a stunning hat-trick to help Mauricio Pochettino's side to a 4-1 first-leg win at Camp Nou last month and the World Cup winner opened the scoring in Paris, whipping home from the penalty spot shortly after the half-hour mark. 

That goal saw him overtake Lionel Messi as the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the competition, aged 22 years and 80 days, but the Barca talisman had his say soon after, thundering home a glorious equaliser from outside the area. 

Barca's hopes of becoming the first side in Champions League history to progress from a knockout tie after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals evaporated before the interval when Navas kept out Messi's penalty, PSG seeing out the second half with the minimum of fuss to seal a 5-2 aggregate triumph. 

Ousmane Dembele was guilty of squandering a number of fine opportunities inside the opening 20 minutes as Barca started on the front foot. 

Keylor Navas tipped Sergino Dest's powerful drive onto the crossbar before Mbappe gave the hosts an undeserved lead after 31 minutes, the France international powering home from the spot after Clement Lenglet had tripped Mauro Icardi. 

However, Messi pulled Barca level soon after with a stunning 25-yard strike into Navas' top-right corner – only Cristiano Ronaldo (20) has scored more Champions League goals from outside the area than the Argentinian's 19.

Messi should have added a second before half-time after Layvin Kurzawa had fouled Antoine Griezmann in the area, but Navas repelled his spot-kick – his first miss from 12 yards since February 2015. 

A superb tackle from Marquinhos prevented Messi scoring from close range shortly after the hour mark, while Navas kept out Sergio Busquets' header at his near post. 

Mbappe blazed over after a surging run in the closing stages, but it mattered little in the end as last year's beaten finalists booked their place in the quarter-finals in style.
 

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe made Champions League history on Wednesday with his penalty against Barcelona. 

The France international powered home from the spot after 31 minutes to claim Lionel Messi's record as the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the competition, aged 22 years and 80 days. 

After a hat-trick in the first leg last month, Mbappe has now scored four goals against Barca this term - the most a player has ever scored against the Catalan club in a single season in the competition.

Messi cancelled out Mbappe's goal soon after with a stunning effort from distance, taking his tally of Champions League goals from outside the area to 19.

Since his debut in the competition in December 2004, only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more from range in the tournament (20).

Messi then blotted his copybook by missing a penalty before half-time – the first time he has failed to score from the spot in the Champions League since February 2015 against Manchester City.

Last season's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain are red-hot favourites to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals when Barcelona visit the Parc des Princes for the second leg of their last-16 clash on Wednesday. 

Mauricio Pochettino's side hold a three-goal advantage after Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped them seal a stunning 4-1 win over Barca in the first leg last month.

Liverpool are in a strong position to join them in the last eight, with Jurgen Klopp's side taking on RB Leipzig at Anfield after running out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture. 

The German club, though, might just fancy their chances of causing an upset against the Premier League champions, who have lost six of their last eight matches across all competitions. 

We used Opta numbers to preview the two clashes.

Paris Saint-Germain (4) v (1) Barcelona: Blaugrana out to make history

Barca will have to make history if they are to book the most unlikely of last-eight places, with no side ever having progressed in the competition after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals.

The game marks the first Champions League meeting between the sides at the Parc des Princes since February 2017, when the Ligue 1 team recorded a 4-0 victory. 

That remains PSG's biggest margin of victory in a home knockout game in the competition, while it is also Barca's joint-heaviest defeat in a knockout game away from home in the competition (also 0-4 against Liverpool in May 2019 and against Bayern in April 2013).

While the onus is on Barca to score freely, do not be surprised to see the hosts do just that themselves. They have netted at least once in each of their last 22 Champions League games at home (61 goals), in a run that dates back to December 2015. 

Spearheading their attack will be Mbappe, who will become the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the Champions League if he scores (aged 22 years and 80 days), taking the record from Lionel Messi. 

Barca talisman Messi has only ended on the losing side in four of the 75 Champions League games he has scored in. However, half of these have come against PSG – the first-leg defeat and a 3-2 loss at the Parc des Princes in September 2014.

Should Messi and his team-mates slip to defeat it will mark the first time the LaLiga giants have lost three Champions League matches in a row.

Liverpool (2) v (0) RB Leipzig: Reds have the edge over German opposition 

With a two-goal advantage from the first leg, Liverpool will expect to continue their run of never having been eliminated from a Champions League knockout tie after winning away from home in the first leg.

The game will be the 21st time the Reds have hosted German opposition across all European competitions. They are unbeaten in the previous 20 of those (16 wins, four draws), scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine.  

Central to their chances of extending that run will be two players who have enjoyed themselves in the Champions League in recent seasons. 

Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Roberto Firmino is one of only three players in double figures for both goals (15) and assists (11) in the competition, along with Messi and Mbappe. 

Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, is Liverpool's top scorer in the competition, netting 23 goals in 40 games for the Reds. If he scores a brace in this game, he will reach 25 goals for an English club in the second-fewest appearances, following Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United (27).

If Leipzig are to have any chance of causing an upset they will need to improve dramatically on their last away clash with an English side, the Bundesliga club suffering their heaviest defeat in European competition against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in October (0-5).

Only four of their 12 wins in the Champions League have been achieved by more than a one-goal margin (33 per cent).

However, the last time they won by two or more goals in the knockout stages of the competition was against Spurs last season (3-0 in the last-16 second leg).

Rivaldo believes Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for bitter LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and the superstar defender is yet to agree a new contract with the LaLiga champions.

The 34-year-old Spain skipper has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus.

Rivaldo, who won two LaLiga titles among other honours during his time with Barca, backed Ramos for a controversial move to Camp Nou.

"A player has to be professional, and if you have good offers, I don't think it's okay to hear them," former Brazil international Rivaldo told Betfair.

"Of course, Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for Barcelona. It would be historic and it would be controversial because of Sergio Ramos' history with Real Madrid."

Ramos has called Madrid home since joining from Sevilla in 2005, winning five LaLiga trophies, four Champions League titles, as many Club World Cup crowns and three UEFA Super Cup medals among 22 major honours at the Santiago Bernabeu.

There is also speculation over Lionel Messi's future, with the Barca skipper tipped to leave the Catalan powerhouse on a free transfer at season's end.

Messi – a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders City.

"If I were [PSG head coach Mauricio] Pochettino, I would tell the owner of PSG that we'd better stay the way we are before bringing in Messi," Rivaldo said. "I like Messi, but [Kylian] Mbappe is at home and there would also be everyone in their team.

"It is difficult to talk about a change from Messi to Mbappe, because football is money and if Messi goes to PSG, he will have many economic benefits. But of course, Messi is already more than 30 years old and in PSG there is already Mbappe with 22 years. It is difficult.

"PSG, I repeat, I think they do not need any signings because they have a great team… but football is also a business."

Lionel Messi's history with newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta is a good thing for the club but it still may not be enough to convince the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to stay, accepts Ronald Koeman.

Laporta was confirmed as the permanent successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu on Sunday, winning over 50 per cent of the votes in the long-delayed elections.

Bartomeu left the club in October last year after facing the brunt of the criticism in response to Messi's attempted departure, with the player publicly castigating him and accusing him of reneging on promises.

Laporta had long been seen as the favourite for Sunday's election due to holding the post from 2003 to 2010, one of the club's most successful eras and the period that elevated Messi from youth prospect to global superstar.

Resolving Messi's future is now one of Laporta's chief focuses, with the Barca captain previously suggesting he will only look to stay beyond June – when his contract expires – if the club is competitive.

Laporta routinely emphasised his relationship with Messi during his election campaign, adamant he was the only one of the three candidates able to ensure the player would stay, but Koeman knows the decision ultimately rests with the captain.

"I don't know if it's more likely for Messi to continue [at Barca now Laporta is president]," the Barca boss told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League last-16 second leg with Paris Saint-Germain.

"It's true that Laporta has a past with Leo and other players. That is positive, but I don't know [if that will help] – he has said that he will decide.

"Only Leo knows what he will do. Hopefully, he continues with us. We all want him to stay.

"Laporta won the election by a considerable distance. The members voted and for the club, it is good to have a president like him to work things out and improve things for the future of this club."

Koeman's own future has been a subject of contention connected to the election, with numerous reports suggesting other coaches had been sounded out by the various candidates.

Mikel Arteta and Xavi are the two names to have been linked most prominently with Koeman's job in recent weeks, but the former Netherlands coach insists he has only received positive vibes from his new boss and those who have worked with him before.

"I know Laporta, we've greeted each other several times in the past. I also know [Frank] Rijkaard well, who worked with him here when Laporta was president last time," he said.

"Laporta gives the coaches a lot of confidence and also his players. He is very involved in his role of helping both. In the end, everything depends on the results."

When asked to relay what Laporta said while addressing the team on Monday, Koeman added: "They were normal things. It went well, he said a few words to the players and staff in the dressing room and there were good vibes.

"Now we have to continue on the path we have started on. Tomorrow [against PSG] we have to continue on that."

Ronald Koeman maintains another miraculous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain is not beyond Barcelona's capabilities, especially with Lionel Messi in the side.

Barca head to the Parc des Princes on Wednesday trailing 4-1 from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick in PSG's commanding win at Camp Nou last month, leaving Barca requiring a remarkable result in France if they are to go through, with no team having ever progressed from a knockout tie in the competition's history after losing the first leg at home by three goals or more.

The Catalans are also on a miserable run away from home in Europe, having won only once in their past nine such knockout stage matches, failing to score in six of those games.

Barca pulled off an unforgettable comeback against PSG four years ago, recovering from losing the first leg 4-0 in Paris to progress after a sensational 6-1 win at home.

Koeman accepts a repeat of that famous 'remontada' is less likely given PSG are the home side for the second leg on this occasion, and the Barca boss does not believe Mauricio Pochettino's men will be afraid of history repeating itself.

However, even with centre-backs Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo missing through injury, Koeman will not give up on Messi and Barca producing another match to remember.

"We had a bad result in the reverse fixture. It all depends on how we start the game. We'll try to make life difficult," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"It depends on our effectiveness. They had a lot in the first game. We go out to win on any pitch. We always create a lot of chances. Nothing is impossible.

"The comeback in the Copa del Rey [against Sevilla] has given us confidence, but it's not the same to come back from 2-0 at home as coming back from 4-1 away, and PSG are a very strong team.

"To be able to have any chance, we have to have a complete night and have a huge amount of effectiveness. But we'll try. Hopefully, we can make things tough.

"We have to go out strong and play our game and create chances. If, after the game, we have the feeling we've given our utmost, we'll see what the result is. The worst thing that can happen is to think we haven't tried, or we haven't given everything.

"Of course, if we think we can come back, we need every player at their best level. If Leo is able to play one of his best games, everything is possible.

"He can decide any game in any moment. But it shouldn't only be him at his best level, but the whole team. We need luck, too.

"I don't think PSG are scared of us. I'm sure their coach will prepare them in the best way so they don't think it's an easy game, but there are circumstances that are totally different for a comeback [this time].

"It's always easier playing the second leg at home than away. We need to play our game. I'm sure they have confidence in their new coach."

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong thinks Barca's comeback against Sevilla, when they won 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou to overturn a 2-0 Copa semi-final deficit, proves the players are united behind their coach.

With Neymar still unavailable due to an adductor injury, De Jong is keeping faith in his side's chances.

"The main objective is always to qualify," he said. "We're going to compete and see how things go.

"We're always united. Recently, we've been getting good results, and we're united as a team – you could see that against Sevilla.

"I don't know if 4-1 was fair, but we played that game badly. We're going to Paris to give a good image of ourselves, to compete.

"Neymar is among the best in the world. The fact he's not available is better for us. If Neymar isn't there, the opposition are less strong."

A new era begins in earnest for Barcelona, with Joan Laporta's second spell as president confirmed on Sunday following his victory in the election.

Regarded as arguably the most important political event at the club in a generation, much was said to be riding on the collective decision of the socios, or members, who voted.

Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font had spent months outlining their plans in public, with La Masia, the club's crippling debt and the tumult caused by the previous administration among the main focuses.

But outsiders can be forgiven for thinking the election essentially boiled down to which candidate stood the best chance of convincing Lionel Messi to stay.

Laporta's first spell as president, from 2003 to 2010, coincided with Messi's rise from the youth ranks to global star, while he was also in charge when Pep Guardiola was promoted to the top job 2008.

While nostalgia may have played a strong part in Laporta's ascension, 54 per cent of voters feel he is the best man to navigate a challenging period – but what are the most important tasks facing him?

Messi – Should he stay, or should he go?

Laporta stopped short of insisting Messi will definitely stay put under his administration, which was probably wise given he only has a few months left on his contract. Fans would have surely seen through such a promise.

However, what he did throughout his campaign was emphasise his relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while also pointing out Messi's lack of familiarity with his rivals.

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca," Laporta said at last week's debate. "He was not very happy with Freixa's time [Laporta's rival was an ally of the discredited Josep Maria Bartomeu], when they let him see that he was expendable."

Of course, Messi attempted to force an exit last year, but his refusal to drag the issue through the courts meant Barca managed to keep hold of their prized asset.

Since then he has insisted his future is tied to the competitiveness of Barca. Laporta's discussions with him will be key, but they could be undermined should Ronald Koeman's men collapse in the latter stages of the season.

Make La Masia a force again

For years Barcelona's La Masia academy was the jewel of the club, the inspiration behind many hugely successful teams and the school that developed some of the finest players to play the game.

Even though a significant portion of the current squad have come through the ranks, La Masia's standing isn't quite what it once was and the likes of Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique are all into their thirties.

But Laporta emphasised the importance of the academy during his campaign, adamant he would look to restore it to its former glory, previously saying: "It will be our pillar, the backbone of the club's values."

Nevertheless, with Ansu Fati emerging as a ready-made star and Ilaix Moriba recently establishing himself as one to watch, La Masia's reputation is already receiving a timely boost.

Sell high-earning fringe players

Eric Abidal's spell as sporting director was ill-fated, to say the least. A day after sacking Quique Setien in August, the Frenchman was unceremoniously dismissed as well, with his overseeing of transfers making him a contentious figure long before he was eventually shown the door.

Among his purchases were the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Malcom, Jeison Murillo, Junior Firpo and Antoine Griezmann – it'd be difficult to consider any of those successes.

Granted, not all of his signings have been poor, with Pedri, Clement Lenglet and Frenkie de Jong brought in under his watch, but over the past few years the club has spent a significant amount of money on sub-standard players or underperforming so-called 'superstars'

As such, the Barca squad is bloated in terms of its wage expenditure and many of the back-up players are expected to be put up for sale, easing the financial strain and boosting revenues.

But before Barca can begin outlining transfer plans and a potentially revised recruitment strategy, Laporta needs to do something else…

Establish a new sporting department

Laporta is expected to bring his own people in to manage the club's sporting structure, and Jordi Cruyff – of course, the son of Barca icon Johan – is among the frontrunners for the sporting director post.

Cruyff is still thought to have significant influence and respect inside the club due to his family name, with the former Manchester United player recently affirming to Cadena Ser that he believes his father would have always backed Laporta in an election.

Mateu Alemany, former Valencia general manager, is also widely reported to be on his way in.

Alemany had played a major role Valencia's resurgence during the previous decade but left under something of a cloud in November 2019, with the Frenchman and club owner Peter Lim at odds.

Lim had dismissed popular head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, of whom Alemany was a staunch backer, and that left the general manager's position looking untenable, particular after local reports claimed he wasn't even consulted about the subsequent appointment of Albert Celades.

Very little has gone right for Valencia since the exits of Marcelino and Alemany – their reputations, however, have remained firmly intact.

Strengthen the squad while managing debt

It's no secret that Barcelona's financial state is a mess – they have amassed €1.2billion in debt and that has unsurprisingly impacted their clout in the transfer market.

One of Laporta's main messages ahead of the election was that Barca needed a board and president with experience in such a tricky time, and that's certainly something he has in abundance.

In his first interview since being elected, Laporta stressed the need to make the club financially stable. He told Catalunya Radio: "The first thing will be to do an audit but first I will greet the workers. The club is in mismanagement and now we will finally be able to make the necessary decisions. We will do an audit and apply our shock plan so that Barca is economically sustainable."

Drastic changes could be on the cards, yet despite the financial state of the club, they will still need to work on improving the squad.

Juggling the two won't be straightforward, particularly when you add Messi's demand for competitiveness into the mix.

Joan Laporta is optimistic superstar captain Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona after being elected president of the LaLiga giants.

Laporta – who held the post from 2003 to 2010 – won the presential race on Sunday, seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa to return to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor.

Attention will now turn to six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi amid serious doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Messi has been tipped to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders Manchester City the reported frontrunners for the 33-year-old.

After his victory, Laporta delivered a speech and said: "Today marks 20 years since a boy named Leo Messi debuted with Barcelona's Infantil B [U12-13] team.

"Seeing the best player in the world come to vote with his son is an example of what we've said.

"Leo loves Barcelona. That's the reflection of it. The best player in the world loves Barcelona.

"Hopefully that will help him to stay at Barcelona. That's what we want."

Laporta also paid tribute to Barca great Johan Cruyff, adding: "I want to thank all the members for coming out to vote what has been the most important election in the club's history due to [the effects of] the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed our lives.

"I want to thank the members that have supported our campaign. This has been a celebration of democracy and of Barcelona. I also want to pay special thanks to Johan Cruyff, who's no longer with us. I am sure he's helped us.

"Barcelona is a huge family and we will overcome the difficulties together. We will achieve the objectives that we have set out."

Barca are three points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Ronald Koeman's Barca will face Athletic Bilbao in next month's Copa del Rey final, while they are looking to overturn a 4-1 deficit against PSG in the Champions League last 16.

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

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