Neymar believes he is enjoying his best form since joining Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

After arriving from Barcelona in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017, Neymar has won nine titles and scored 74 goals in 85 appearances across all competitions.

Neymar – who has repeatedly been linked with a return to LaLiga giants Barca – has already celebrated Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions success in 2019-20 as PSG eye Champions League success this term.

"These three years came with a lot of knowledge. I've lived times of joy and some complicated ones, especially when I was unable to play due to injuries," Neymar, whose PSG are preparing for their Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta, said via his official website.

"With my team-mates' help, I was able to overcome and focus on what really matters for everyone, which is our performance in the field translated into titles.

"Our supporters, the club and every fan can see our team's delivery in any game.

"I believe that today I live my best moment in Paris. We form a family on behalf of the greater objective we have ahead of us.

"We want to mark this season with the Champions. We will fight for this, because we were never so close."

In 2019-20, Neymar has scored 13 Ligue 1 goals and 19 across all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's PSG.

Barcelona have conceded they lack the financial muscle to sign Neymar or Lautaro Martinez - warning there could be "three or four years" of economic strain for Europe's top clubs.

Until the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Europe, Barcelona looked sure to make a major play for Inter striker Martinez in the close season.

They might also have been tempted by a fresh attempt to bring back Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, three years after the Brazilian left Camp Nou.

But a side-effect of the COVID-19 crisis has been its impact on sport across the world, with leagues being suspended and games played behind closed doors once it was considered safe for action to resume.

And while Barcelona held early talks about signing Martinez, an Argentina team-mate of Lionel Messi, that transfer plan was shelved weeks ago, with the club's strategy turning towards bringing through young talent.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Catalan newspaper Sport: "Barca have spoken with Inter about Lautaro, but the talks have stopped. The situation doesn't invite large investments.

"Neymar? In this situation, it's unfeasible. Nor do PSG want to sell him. That is normal because he is one of the best players in the world."

Bartomeu had said as much about Argentinian Martinez last month, and he again warned that Barcelona's income for the 2020-21 season was expected to nosedive by 30 per cent from original forecasts of €1.1billion.

"If the pandemic situation does not improve, there will be no public, no museum, no stores, and money will continue to be lost," Bartomeu said.

"It forces us to be very rigorous in management: we must review which investments are essential and which can wait. You have to adapt."

The necessary cost-cutting means head coach Quique Setien, looking to fashion a side to get the better of Real Madrid next season, cannot hope to have the spending power that many of his predecessors have enjoyed.

Bartomeu was asked whether the days of mega-money transfers are over and said: "I think so. Unless player exchanges are made.

"All major European clubs are affected. Everyone is working to adapt. And this is not going to last one year, but three or four."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu expects Lionel Messi to stay at the club but appears doubtful of deals for Neymar or Lautaro Martinez.

Messi's frustrated outburst after Barca lost the LaLiga title race to Real Madrid prompted speculation he could look to leave the club when his contract expires next year.

It has also been suggested the Argentina star has a tense relationship with Bartomeu, having previously criticised unnamed members of the board for a perceived lack of support for the players.

Bartomeu, though, is not worried about the future of the club captain.

"Messi has said many times that he wants to retire here and I have no doubt that he will renew," he told Mundo Deportivo.

Bartomeu is more sceptical about Barca's transfer plans due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barca players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut in March and volunteered to make contributions to help club staff take home a full salary during the height of Spain's 'state of alarm'.

The Catalans have nonetheless been hit hard by the crisis, meaning any transfers before next season are almost certain to involve player exchanges or require sales first.

With that in mind, Bartomeu appears pessimistic about bringing Neymar back to the club from Paris Saint-Germain or landing Inter striker Martinez, their top target.

"Now, we're making decisions and the players, if they don't come in an exchange, it's very difficult for them to come," he said when asked about Neymar.

On Martinez, he added: "Yes, we have spoken with Inter but now the issue is on hold."

However, Bartomeu believes the squad is already looking promising given a number of players are due to arrive in the coming weeks.

"We already have seven new players," he said. "We have bet on Trincao, Pedrito and Matheus [Fernandes] for the future, and they will have first-team numbers alongside [Ronald] Araujo, Riqui [Puig] and Ansu [Fati]. [Miralem] Pjanic will integrate from the beginning."

For now, Bartomeu's priority is extending the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, which expires in 2022, even though he accepts the Germany international is unlikely to earn a substantial pay rise.

"For me, it's Marc-Andre ter Stegen," he said when asked about the most important renewal. "Not only for the quality of keeper but for his personality as a player, his way of being. He's a pillar for the dressing room and the future.

"He's very young for a goalkeeper and he's already among the elite. And at 28, he's one of the three best in the world.

"He understands what's happening in society and he knows that, given the decrease in income for clubs like Barca, he has to adjust his salary. All the players are doing that and we're working on it.

"I don't get into figures. I say that they adapt their salaries to the level of income that the club has right now and will have in future."

On the future of striker Luis Suarez, he added: "Luis has a contract that, based on the number of games he plays. It automatically renews for the 2021-22 season."

The Champions League remains the Holy Grail for Paris Saint-Germain, but Lady Luck seems intent on keeping it out of their reach.

Neymar's first-half winner against Saint-Etienne in Friday's Coupe de France final delivered a 1-0 victory and a third trophy to the PSG cabinet, and a fourth domestic prize will follow in seven days' time if Thomas Tuchel's side can defeat Lyon in the last ever Coupe de la Ligue showpiece.

But continuing to conquer France is not the MO for Tuchel, for he was brought to the French capital in 2018 to rule the continent too.

Champions League success has forever eluded PSG, despite their Qatari owners assembling a squad that remains the envy of most of their rivals.

Indeed, in the first two years since Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were brought to Paris at great expense in 2017 - the last 16 remained the hurdle they could not clear.

There was a mitigating factor in both years - the loss of Neymar to an untimely injury.

Between the first and second legs against Real Madrid in 2018, the world's most expensive player fractured his metatarsal, prematurely ending his domestic season in February as PSG suffered a 5-2 aggregate loss to the eventual Champions League winners.

Last year it was an ankle problem that sidelined Neymar as Manchester United completed an improbable comeback at the Parc des Princes when Marcus Rashford's penalty sealed a triumph on away goals.

This season it was supposed to be different. PSG had already cleared the last-16 hurdle, showing mettle many thought they may not possess by beating Borussia Dortmund despite losing the first leg.

Pre-lockdown Neymar and Mbappe were fit and firing. PSG would stroll into Lisbon in August as the freshest team as a result of the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season being halted in March.

The draw provided cause for optimism too. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich were all on the other side. Beat Atalanta in the last eight on August 12 and only RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid would stand between Tuchel's men and a first final.

But just as the path to the Holy Grail appeared to be clearing, PSG stumbled upon a roadblock on Friday that may prove insurmountable.

As Mbappe surged forward, a first-half lunge from Saint-Etienne captain Loic Perrin ended his progress, the PSG striker's right ankle buckling in the tackle.

It provoked a furious reaction from the PSG squad, memories of Neymar's absences in previous campaigns perhaps fresh in their mind, and led to Mbappe's substitution.

That Perrin was eventually sent off following a VAR review - effectively ending Saint-Etienne's hopes of victory in the final - was scant consolation for the team that has reigned over France for years.

The Champions League is the prize they crave the most and, with their quarter-final kicking off in just 19 days' time, PSG may have to do once again do without one of their leading men.

And that's why the enduring image from what should have been a night of celebration was not of the trophy lift, but of Mbappe on crutches and in a lower-leg brace.

Kylian Mbappe limped out of the Coupe de France final and was later on crutches as Paris Saint-Germain beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 thanks to Neymar's goal.

PSG, awarded the Ligue 1 title on a points-per-game basis after the season was called off in April, made it a double through Neymar's 14th-minute effort but it proved a pyrrhic victory.

Loic Perrin was sent off in the 31st minute following a cynical tackle on Mbappe, who was withdrawn with an apparent ankle injury and later returned to the bench on crutches with his leg in a brace, making him a serious doubt for PSG's return to Champions League action next month.

That challenge sparked a huge melee in the first competitive match in France since March, watched by a small crowd at the Stade de France, with PSG - who also lost Thilo Kehrer to injury - seeing out the win despite a spirited effort from 10-man Saint-Etienne.

 

 

 

Neymar's performances since Paris Saint-Germain returned to action have come as no surprise to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

After returning to Brazil amid the coronavirus pandemic, Neymar has quickly found impressive form ahead of the conclusion of PSG's 2019-20 campaign.

The 28-year-old scored four goals across three friendly victories over Le Havre, Waasland-Beveren and Celtic, which finished 9-0, 7-0 and 4-0 respectively.

PSG were awarded the Ligue 1 title upon its cancellation in April and will hope to win the Coupe de France against Saint-Etienne in the rescheduled final on Friday.

Asked about Neymar's form in his pre-match news conference, Tuchel said: "I'm not surprised. He came back in a good state of mind, in good shape.

"He adapts super quickly to all training sessions, he gained in capacity very quickly. It's important for him to play as much as possible. He was given as many minutes of playing time as possible.

"He will be on the pitch tomorrow. He's in good shape, decisive, and that's the best thing for us."

PSG will contest the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon on July 31 before heading to Lisbon for the conclusion of the Champions League, in which they were drawn against Atalanta in the quarter-finals.

"The best way to arrive in Portugal is with the four titles and it starts tomorrow," said Tuchel.

"The focus of these past weeks was to prepare the team for this match against Saint-Etienne, to prepare it mentally, to prepare it physically. We didn't talk about Atalanta with the team or the staff, it's not the subject now.

"The most important thing in a club like PSG is to play finals, win finals, win titles. At the end of the day, that's still the best way to prepare a team for a big challenge in the Champions League."

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were both on target as Paris Saint-Germain ramped up their preparations for the 2019-20 run-in with a 4-0 friendly victory over Celtic. 

PSG's Ligue 1 season was curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic - as was Celtic's similarly successful league campaign in Scotland - but the French champions have a series of key fixtures still to come. 

Thomas Tuchel's side return to competitive action in Friday's Coupe de France final against Saint-Etienne, before facing Lyon a week later in the last Coupe de la Ligue showpiece. 

Of surely greater concern to PSG, though, is the Champions League quarter-final tie with Atalanta that lies ahead next month as part of an eight-team tournament in Lisbon. 

PSG are warming up nicely for that tough test and initially threatened to run up the score against Celtic, having put nine and seven past Le Havre and Waasland Beveren respectively. 

Those allowed inside the Parc des Princes saw Mbappe - sporting the new PSG strip with his team-mates - race through and blast beyond Scott Bain with less than a minute played. 

Celtic, completing a tour of France following a draw with Nice and defeat to Lyon, did not collapse entirely, though Neymar struck with a deflected 15-yard shot later in the first half. 

The start to the second period saw PSG change their entire XI but it was similarly painful for the visitors, who quickly fell further behind as Ander Herrera beat Bain with a powerful drive. 

A magnificent Pablo Sarabia volley from Marco Verratti's chipped pass then made it four. 

Meanwhile, PSG have confirmed another game to add to their schedule, playing second-tier Sochaux on August 5 ahead of the highly anticipated trip to Portugal.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar said he was concerned about injuring himself in the 7-0 friendly rout of Waasland-Beveren as the Ligue 1 holders stepped up their preparations for the Champions League quarter-finals.

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi were all on target in PSG's demolition of Belgian outfit Waasland-Beveren at Parc des Princes on Friday.

After Ligue 1 was ended prematurely in April amid the coronavirus pandemic and with the Champions League set to resume in August, PSG have returned to the field in a bid to be ready for the knockout tie against high-flying Atalanta – crushing Le Havre 9-0 last week.

PSG continued their flawless preparation at home to Waasland-Beveren in Paris, where Aleksandar Vukotic's own goal put the hosts ahead in the 21st minute before Neymar converted a penalty seven minutes later.

Icardi and Neymar combined for an audacious penalty attempt in the 47th minute, while Mbappe, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's brace and Loic Mbe Soh's last-gasp effort completed the scoring in the second half.

Reflecting on the result, Neymar was asked about the aggressive nature of Waasland-Beveren and he told beIN SPORTS: "Yes we were a little scared. We are here for a friendly match so those types of things should not have been happening.

"We are here to prepare ourselves, but also to be careful. But us too, we gave them a little bit back, so there are no problems."

Neymar added: "I was very happy to come back and play at home, with some fans as well. We are preparing little by little to get to the maximum then we will be in the finals [Champions League]. The rest is not very important."

PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, confirmed veteran defender Thiago Silva will remain captain until the end of his contract and the Champions League next month.

Silva, who renewed his contract to feature in the postponed Champions League, is set to leave PSG after eight years but the 35-year-old will keep the captain's armband before departing.

"Thiago Silva remains the captain until the last day when he is on the ground," Tuchel said post-match. "He's my captain!"

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly told Barcelona what they want for Neymar, while Paul Pogba is set for a Manchester United stay.

Neymar continues to be linked with a return to the LaLiga giants, three years after leaving for PSG in a world-record €222million move.

It seems Barcelona know what PSG want for the attacker.

 

TOP STORY – PSG WANT €80M AND DEMBELE FOR NEYMAR

PSG want €80m and Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona in exchange for Neymar, according to El Chiringuito.

Dembele has struggled with injuries since arriving at Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Like Neymar, the France international has regularly been linked with a move.

ROUND-UP

- Happy again amid Manchester United's resurgence, Pogba may be ready to extend his stay. The Sun reports the midfielder is close to agreeing to a five-year deal with the Premier League giants.

- Staying in Manchester and City are eyeing Inter star Lautaro Martinez as a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero, according to Sky Sports. Martinez has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona.

- After having their European ban overturned, Manchester City are reportedly ready to spend. The Mirror reports City have been quoted a cut-price £65million (€71.6m) price for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been linked to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea among others.

- Manchester United are fighting to qualify for the Champions League late in the season. According to Sport Bild, Borussia Dortmund are expecting a £108.9m (€120m) bid from United for Jadon Sancho if they qualify for the Champions League.

- Staying with Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga club will pay €25m (£22.7m) for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham, according to Sport Bild.

Paulo Dybala is set to become Juventus' second highest paid player, while Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly targeting Marcus Rashford.

Dybala was linked with a move away from the Serie A club last year, but ended up staying and is enjoying a fine season in Turin.

Now, the Argentina international is set to be rewarded.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA TO BECOME JUVE'S SECOND HIGHEST PAID PLAYER

Coming out of contract in 2022, Dybala is close to extending his contract at Juventus until 2025, according to Tuttosport.

The playmaker will become Juve's second highest paid player behind only star forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Dybala has scored 17 goals and provided eight assists in 41 games in all competitions this season.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing a Manchester United forward. The Independent reports PSG have made Rashford their top transfer target.

- Staying in Paris and talk about Neymar's future continues. Mundo Deportivo says Neymar still wants a return to Barcelona, who are reportedly set to raise funds by selling numerous players. Sport says they are prepared to sell Samuel Umtiti amid interest from Lazio, Napoli, Roma and Torino.

- Jan Vertonghen is coming out of contract at Tottenham and appears set to leave the club. The Telegraph reports the defender has emerged as a target for Manchester City.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma's contract expires in 2021. CalcioMercato reports renewing the shot-stopper's deal is becoming a priority for Milan, who are set to extend his contract until 2023.

- Former Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic, 34, is a free agent after leaving Qatari club Al-Duhail. According to CalcioMercato, Inter are yet to make a strong move for the Croatian amid reported interest.

- As they look to raise funds, Manchester United are open to selling six players. The Telegraph reports Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot are considered dispensable.

What does the future hold for PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar?

Real Madrid have made no secret of their admiration for Mbappe, while Barcelona have tried to re-sign Neymar.

As PSG prepare for the 2020-21 campaign, the Ligue 1 holders have made some transfer decisions.

 

TOP STORY – PSG KEEPING MBAPPE, MAKE NEYMAR DECISION

Paris Saint-Germain will not sell Kylian Mbappe ahead of the 2020-21 season but Neymar's future remains uncertain, according to L'Equipe.

Mbappe has been tipped to make the move to Real Madrid in the future, however, Ligue 1 champions PSG have no intention of parting with the France international before next season.

But Neymar – continually linked with a return to Barcelona after leaving in a world-record transfer in 2017 – could leave as PSG look to avoid losing the Brazilian star on a free transfer in 2022.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea are preparing their first offer for Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz. Journalist Nicolo Schira reports Chelsea will make a £62million (€70m) bid plus add-ons for Havertz amid interest from Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barca. To fund the transfer, Chelsea will look to sell Inter target Emerson Palmieri, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Jorginho, who would like to reunite with Maurizio Sarri at Juventus.

Luke Shaw could be sacrificed as United look to sign Leicester City's Ben Chilwell, claims the Mirror. United have reportedly leapfrogged Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City in the race for full-back Chilwell.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are interested in Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has also been linked to Madrid.

Willian has turned down a move to David Beckham's Inter Miami, reports the Telegraph. Willian's Chelsea contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked to Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is wanted by Russian champions Zenit, according to the Evening Standard.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are not the only club eyeing Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo. Jose Mourinho reportedly wants the Italy international at Tottenham, while Madrid and United are also believed to be interested.

- The Express claims Chelsea are stepping up their pursuit of United goalkeeper and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson. Chelsea are ready to ask Manchester United for a price as Kepa Arrizabalaga struggles in London.

Juventus and Inter are reportedly ready to do battle for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

Zaniolo, 21, made his return from a serious knee injury this month and has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Roma.

A pair of Serie A giants may be ready to fight for the midfielder's services.

 

TOP STORY – INTER, JUVE TO BATTLE FOR ZANIOLO

Inter are ready to challenge Juventus to sign Roma star Zaniolo, according to CalcioMercato.

Zaniolo is considered one of Europe's best young talents, and left Inter for Roma in 2018.

Roma reportedly want at least €50million for the five-time Italy international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Manchester City until 2021, Sergio Aguero may yet stay at the Etihad Stadium a little longer. The Mirror reports City have not ruled out giving the star forward, 32, a one-year extension.

- With Neymar repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona, it seems the LaLiga giants are wanting to distance themselves from the Paris Saint-Germain star. Marca says Barca are keen to see the rumours of a potential return for Neymar stop.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona apparently have interest in two players from Tottenham. The Daily Star says Barca want Ryan Sessegnon and Tanguy Ndombele. However, it reports Spurs will reject all offers for Sessegnon this close season.

- Philippe Coutinho's future remains unclear. Mundo Deportivo reports the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona until the end of the season, will not decide his future until after the Champions League next month.

- Plenty of talk continues to surround Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is coming out of contract at the Premier League club next year. The Daily Star reports the forward will sign a contract extension with Arsenal – if no other club makes an official approach.

- After just two goals in 25 games for Real Madrid, Luka Jovic seems set for an exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Leicester City, Milan and Napoli are all considering moves for the forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But can the LaLiga giants make it happen?

 

TOP STORY – PSG AGREE TO LET NEYMAR RETURN TO BARCELONA

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

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

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

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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