Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo would welcome Antoine Griezmann back to the club, though he does not expect Barcelona to sell a player who has not hit the expected heights at Camp Nou.

Griezmann joined Barca from their LaLiga rivals in July 2019, a year after a heavily rumoured move had initially appeared set to happen.

Instead, the France international decided to remain in Madrid for one more season, during which he scored 15 league goals. It was his lowest output for a top-flight campaign while at Atleti, who had signed him from Real Sociedad in 2014.

However, linking up with Lionel Messi at Barca has not quite panned out as hoped.

In two years at Barca, the 30-year-old has managed 34 goals in 98 appearances in all competitions. His second season has seen an improvement (19 scored, compared to 15 in the previous term), but he is still more of a peripheral figure than the focal point he once was at his previous club.

While he has started 44 games under Ronald Koeman in 2020-21, Griezmann has been substituted in 27 of them. His conversion rate on chances deemed ‘big’ by Opta (where a player is expected to score) has dipped slightly, yet his 11 open-play goals in LaLiga is actually in line with an xG of 10.5.

 

Cerezo, however, is in no doubt about the forward’s qualities, even if a return to the Wanda Metropolitano appears highly unlikely.

"He is a magnificent player, but I don't think Barca wants to sell Griezmann,” the Atleti president said while appearing on the El Larguero show on Cadena SER.

"I think any team would be crazy to have Griezmann.

"He had magnificent seasons with us and I think he became a football player at Atletico Madrid.”

A sensational swap deal involving Joao Felix has been rumoured, though Cerezo was quick to shut down the possibility of the Portuguese youngster, who has had his own issues living up to expectations in Madrid, moving on in the next transfer window.

"There's no way he leaves," he said. "He has to adapt, but when he takes off, he'll be one of the most important players on the planet."

So what next for Griezmann? His focus will soon switch to France’s bid for Euro 2020 glory, but is he certain to stay at Barca?

The LaLiga club have been linked with Erling Haaland and soon-to-be free agent Memphis Depay, suggesting a focus on adding attacking options for a new board determined to turn around the team’s fortunes on and off the pitch.

"A cycle has finished and we are working to carry out a renovation," Barca president Joan Laporta said at the Festa de l'Esport Catala on Tuesday.

"We have been eliminated from the Champions League very early and the league has been lost in an incomprehensible way.

"I'm talking about the end of the cycle and renewal because that's what I think needs to be done.”

Heading back to Atleti seems highly unlikely – Barca will not want to make the same mistake twice, having let Luis Suarez head there on the cheap – but Griezmann must wait to see if he will be brushed to one side amid potentially sweeping changes in Barcelona.

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

Barcelona withstood a scare to beat Valencia 3-2 and set up a grandstand Camp Nou clash with LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid next weekend.

Lionel Messi missed a penalty but scored twice, including a sublime free-kick, with Antoine Griezmann also on target at Mestalla.

The Barcelona goals came after the jolt of conceding early in the second half when Gabriel Paulista headed in from a corner to give the hosts the lead, with visiting boss Ronald Koeman banned from the touchline after his dismissal in the shock defeat to Granada.

Carlos Soler drove in a spectacular late second for Valencia, but Barcelona's success means they are back to just two points behind Atletico, and level again with Real Madrid, as the saga of the title race heads for a thrilling conclusion.

Pedri wasted a great chance in the third minute as he shot wide of the right post after being teed up by Frenkie de Jong, and Ronald Araujo's effort on the stretch from a teasing Messi free-kick was blocked away by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

Valencia's Goncalo Guedes should have scored early in the second half but allowed Marc-Andre ter Stegen to push his shot wide for a corner. However, Gabriel made no mistake when Soler swept the set-piece delivery across from the left, heading in at the far post.

Barcelona drew level in the 57th minute through Messi, despite him failing from the spot. Toni Lato conceded the spot-kick after jabbing his right arm at a floated Messi pass, and although the Argentinian saw his tame penalty parried by Cillessen, Pedri's shot as the ball pinged around the box was deflected to Barcelona's record scorer, who netted from close range.

The visitors went ahead six minutes later when De Jong's powerful header from Jordi Alba's cross was well saved by Cillessen but palmed only as far as Griezmann, who tucked home.

Messi's second goal was a 69th-minute curling free-kick from a central starting point that found the back of the net via the inside of the right post, giving the goalkeeper little chance, a speciality of Barca's captain.

It was arguably topped by Soler's brilliant long-range finish in the 83rd minute, but Valencia could not find a leveller.

Antoine Griezmann is proud to be playing his part in Barcelona's LaLiga title push, even if it means continuing to play out of position.

The France international scored twice to earn Barca a 2-1 comeback win away at Villarreal on Sunday after Samuel Chukwueze opened the scoring at Estadio de la Ceramica.

He has 13 goals and nine assists in all competitions in 2021 - only team-mate Lionel Messi (32) and Villarreal's Gerard Moreno (24) have been involved in more among LaLiga players.

Griezmann was once again paired with Messi up top against Villarreal, with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri positioned just behind in a 3-5-2 formation now favoured by Ronald Koeman.

While the 30-year-old was more accustomed to being the focal point in attack during his Atletico Madrid days, he is happy to put the team first in Barcelona's quest for more silverware.

"I try to be there, among the opposition centre-backs," he told LaLiga TV. "I need to make space and create room for my team-mates.

"It's not my natural position, but I'm proud to be at Barcelona and play with these team-mates. Sometimes I'm asked to mark, other times I lead, but I always work for the team."

Griezmann has now scored in three successive matches, his latest brace helping Barca to close the gap on league leaders and former side Atletico to two points.

Barca have taken 46 points from the 51 on offer this calendar year, compared to 38 points in one game fewer for Atletico ahead of their trip to Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday.

The two sides are scheduled to meet at Camp Nou on May 8 and Griezmann acknowledged Barca's fate is in their own hands with six matches to go. 

"We all want to win LaLiga. There are four teams, including Sevilla, that are fighting for it," he said. "We have to try to win every game - that is the only way to be champions.

"It will not be ease but we have the group of players needed to achieve it.

"Atletico are having an incredible season. We are close behind them and trying our best to be champions. We have it in our hands. We just need to win all the games we have."

All five of Barca's shot on target against Villarreal were in the first half, with Frenkie de Jong being denied by a fine Sergio Asenjo save with the game scoreless.

De Jong also missed from a one-on-one late on after the hosts had Manu Trigueros sent off for a challenge on Messi, but the Dutchman impressed compatriot Koeman with his overall play.

"For me, this De Jong is better than the Netherlands and Ajax version," he said at his post-match news conference. "He attacks, defends and is a very important player for this team."

Barcelona, who won their first piece of silverware of the Koeman era with victory over Athletic Bilbao in last week's Copa del Rey final, have a four-day rest before facing Granada in their next LaLiga outing.

Koeman only made one change to his starting line-up for the Villarreal match and does not believe fatigue is a major issue for his side.

"It is more about mentality than freshness," he said. "We have two games this week. The players are use to that.

"Sometimes you have to suffer. We faced a good opponent and did not panic when they scored.

"This is a big step towards the title, as is every victory. Every match is difficult, but we reacted well and defended well, even if we were tired in the final stages."

Antoine Griezmann scored twice to earn Barcelona a 2-1 comeback win over 10-man Villarreal that keeps the pressure on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barca are now unbeaten in 24 league meetings with Villarreal but were made to work hard for their latest victory at Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday.

Griezmann struck twice in the first half, but only after Samuel Chukwueze had opened the scoring for Villarreal against the run of play with his third goal in as many league appearances.

Manu Trigueros was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Lionel Messi in a quieter second period as Barca made it eight wins from their last nine LaLiga outings, moving them to within two points of Atletico after the same number of matches.

Frenkie de Jong was presented with a glorious opportunity to open the scoring after 16 minutes when teed up by Jordi Alba for what appeared to be a back-post tap-in, but the Dutchman got his feet in a mix and Sergio Asenjo clawed the shot off the line.

Asenjo was then equal to a Messi shot at his near post and that looked to be a pivotal moment early on as Chukwueze had the ball in the net at the other end eight minutes later, the winger rounding Marc-Andre ter Stegen and tucking in.

But Griezmann levelled things up 87 seconds later with a sublime chipped finish over Asenjo and he doubled his tally soon after with a first-time shot after pouncing on a weak Juan Foyth back-pass that did not reach his keeper.

Griezmann would have had a hat-trick before the midway point if not for a low save from Asenjo, while Etienne Capoue was denied by a Ter Stegen save from the game's next big moment just after the hour mark.

Villarreal were in the contest at that point, but Trigueros' red card for catching Messi on the shin with a follow-through challenge left the Europa League semi-finalists with an even tougher task on their hands.

Barca were able to see out the final 25 minutes in a stress-free manner – De Jong failing to beat Asenjo from a one-on-one in the best of the remaining chances – to stay firmly in the title hunt.

Antoine Griezmann accepts Lionel Messi's future is "not in our hands" but hopes Barcelona's inspirational captain can be convinced to remain at Camp Nou.

Messi was in typically brilliant form with a brace as Barca hammered Athletic Bilbao 4-0 to win the Copa del Rey on Saturday, the Blaugrana's first trophy under Ronald Koeman.

Griezmann had started the rout with the opening goal on the hour, with Frenkie de Jong doubling Barca's lead.

Messi's future at Los Cules, where he is the club's all-time leading goalscorer, remains the subject of debate with his contract up in June and Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain still rumoured to be interested in putting together a lucrative deal for the Argentina great.

Newly-re-elected president Joan Laporta spoke of his hope that Messi, who tried to engineer a move before the start of the campaign, will stay put and Griezmann echoed those sentiments.

"I think he's good here, we'll see what happens," Griezmann said in quotes reported by L'Equipe.

"It is not in our hands.  It is he who will decide, but we are proud and happy of the have with us and hope he will stay."

Griezmann joined Barca from Atletico Madrid in a big-money deal ahead of the 2019-2020 campaign. The Copa triumph represents the first trophy since he joined Barca but LaLiga success remains a realistic prospect, with only two points separating Koeman's third-placed side and leaders Atletico Madrid.

"I am very happy and very proud," he added. "I have been in the Spanish league for 10 years and I had not won the Copa del Rey.

"It's a relief, for the club and for me too, he said. There have been ups and downs since I arrived, sometimes negative comments, sometimes unfair, but it's like I have always worked and with the team we were focused on this game since we knew each other in the final."

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona turned on the style in the second half to beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in Saturday's Copa del Rey final and win their first silverware under Ronald Koeman.

Barca were beaten 3-2 by Athletic in January's Supercopa de Espana final and they were kept at bay by the Basque club for an hour in this latest encounter at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja.

But Frenkie de Jong set up Antoine Griezmann for the crucial breakthrough goal and added the second himself three minutes later, before Messi took over with a couple of quickfire strikes as Barca made it a record-extending 31st Copa del Rey triumph.

It means yet more heartbreak for Athletic, though, after they were beaten 1-0 by Real Sociedad in the delayed 2019-20 final two weeks ago.

Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal as a below-par France edged past Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in their World Cup qualifying clash on Wednesday. 

The 2018 winners followed up their opening Group D draw against Ukraine with a routine win over Kazakhstan on Sunday, but back-to-back wins did not look likely during a dismal first half from Didier Deschamps' side. 

They perked up in the second period, though, and sealed all three points when Griezmann headed home his 35th international goal in the 60th minute. 

The result means Les Bleus are top of Group D on seven points, four points clear of second-placed Ukraine.

Hugo Lloris, whose 123rd appearance moved him level with Thierry Henry as France's second-most capped player, was twice called into action shortly before the half-hour mark. 

First, he pawed away Darko Todorovic's fierce strike from distance before superbly tipping away Anel Ahmedhodzic's close-range header from a corner. 

Kylian Mbappe and Griezmann cut isolated figures in attack for France in the opening 45 minutes, with Deschamps side going in at the break having had just a single shot on target. 

They improved after the interval and went ahead on the hour mark, Griezmann steering a superb header from Adrien Rabiot's cross into Ibrahim Sehic's top-right corner.

The hosts rarely looked like salvaging a point in the closing stages as France comfortably held on to take command of the group.

 

 

Could Luis Suarez return to Liverpool, where he spent three and half seasons from 2011 to 2014?

The Uruguayan forward has been a key part of Atletico Madrid's LaLiga title push this term, with 19 league goals.

The Reds are reportedly keen to bolster their forward options, with Suarez on their list.

 

TOP STORY – REDS PREPARING SUAREZ OFFER

Liverpool are interesting in the return of Suarez this off-season and are preparing an offer for the Atletico Madrid forward, according to Fichajes.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp reportedly wants to add experience to his front line and 34-year-old Suarez fits the bill.

Suarez scored 82 goals in 133 appearances for the Reds in his previous stint before joining Barcelona.

ROUND-UP

- Spanish outlet Cope claims that Real Madrid are not contemplating a move for Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo despite widespread speculation of a return. The report says Madrid are focused on the future rather than a veteran player whose career is winding down.

- Barcelona are planning to release Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho this off-season due to their financial issues, allowing them to retain young talent Pedri, Ilaix Moriba and Ansu Fati, according to El Confidencial.

- On the topic of Barcelona, Sport is claiming the Catalans have approved the signings of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Memphis Depay from Lyon and are awaiting validation from their new board.

- Diego Costa has reached an agreement to join Benfica as a free agent, according to Mundo Deportivo. Costa left Atletico Madrid in December and returned to his native Brazil.

- Manchester United are considering a move to sign 24-year-old Villarreal defender Pau Torres in the off-season, according to the Manchester Evening News.

- Galatasaray, Flamengo or Marseille are the primary options to be Arturo Vidal's next home as he is set to leave Inter, reports Calciomercato.

The understanding between Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud will be key to a successful World Cup qualifying campaign for France, according to boss Didier Deschamps. 

Reigning world champions France start their Group D campaign against Ukraine on Thursday before taking on Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday and Wednesday respectively. 

Les Bleus are expected to comfortably book their place in Qatar next year and Deschamps expects his forward trio to shine again after their heroics won the 2018 tournament. 

"I'm not going to separate them from the rest of the team, but when you look at the number of goals and assists that the three provide, that's what allowed the France team to be world champions," he told a media conference.

"They know each other; it is automatic. The experience they have is something important. It is up to them to maintain this level of performance."

Mbappe has enjoyed another fine season for Paris Saint-Germain and is Ligue 1's top scorer with 20 goals in 21 starts.

He has also laid on six goals for his team-mates – second behind only Angel Di Maria (eight) for Mauricio Pochettino's side. 

Mbappe largely plays on the left of a front three for his club and Deschamps revealed he has spoken to the 22-year-old to ensure his position for France brings out the best in him.

"Kylian has the ability to play in all offensive positions," Deschamps said. "In his club, he is mainly used in a position on the left, even if he has a lot of freedom. 

"Sometimes he plays in the middle, where he is also efficient. On the right, he plays less. I discuss it with him to make sure he is happy [where he plays]."

Trying to force his way into Deschamps' forward line will be Ousmane Dembele, who has not featured for France since November 2018.

Deschamps handed the Barcelona man his full debut back in September 2016 and, after injuries wiped out the vast majority of the 2019-20 season, he has returned to form this term. 

Captain Hugo Lloris is pleased to see the 23-year-old back on the international scene and is hopeful he is in the right condition to make a positive impact. 

"He has a fairly strong history with the France team as he was part of the World Cup group in Russia," the Tottenham goalkeeper said. 

"He was held back by injuries, but we know all his qualities. We hope that his injuries are behind him and that he can look ahead. 

"He is doing very good things with Barca. We know what he can bring and what he is capable of doing."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was delighted to mark his 58th birthday with an "incredible" 6-1 LaLiga thrashing of Real Sociedad.

The Catalans closed back to within four points of league leaders Atletico Madrid on Sunday with arguably their finest performance under Koeman.

Two goals each from Sergino Dest and Lionel Messi – who made a record 768th appearance for the club – and further strikes from Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele secured an emphatic victory, Barca's ninth in a row in the top flight.

Koeman, who was thrilled to see the goals spread out among four players and not only come from his captain, was proud at the way Barca made life so uncomfortable for their hosts.

"Without a doubt, it's the best present they could have given me," said Koeman. "I'm also happy for Griezmann and [Jordi] Alba, who've had their birthdays, and who played a great game.

"Scoring six goals at Real Sociedad is incredible. They tried to press us but, when they saw they couldn't, they took a step back.

"The first goal made us very calm and the second was almost decisive. We gave a really good impression of ourselves. We pressed really well without the ball and we were very effective.

"There's a long way to go. It won't be decided yet. Atletico are strong, but you saw against Alaves that it's not easy to win a game. Real Madrid are also in the fight; we can't forget them.

"We leave with a great result and a demonstration that we're going to go for everything. It's important that it's not just Messi scoring the goals because that makes it more difficult to defend against us."

Barca head into the international break trailing Atletico by 10 points after Diego Simeone's side claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Deportivo Alaves.

The Blaugrana look the sharpest of the big three in Spain at present and Koeman thinks they have improved significantly in recent weeks.

"I can't say we're not going to lose any game from here until the rest of the season, but it's clear that we're on a good path. We're very strong mentally and physically," he said.

"We've had many difficulties since the start of the season. We've changed things; any team needs time to learn. We've had some ups and downs in LaLiga, with defensive mistakes and a lack of effectiveness. But it's obvious the team has moved on."

Sergino Dest scored his first goals for Barcelona on a landmark outing for Lionel Messi as the Catalans thrashed Real Sociedad 6-1 to move back to within four points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

The United States international netted in each half after Antoine Griezmann had broken the deadlock against his former club on Sunday.

Messi marked a club-record 768th appearance in all competitions with Barca's fourth and sixth goals either side of a superb fifth from Ousmane Dembele, capping a resounding victory for Ronald Koeman's men on the road, with Ander Barrenetxea grabbing the hosts' consolation. 

Barca's most impressive league win of the season lifted them back into second place behind Atleti, who earlier beat Deportivo Alaves, and means they head into the international break on an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

La Real posed an early threat on the break, Marc-Andre ter Stegen making a solid block to deny Alexander Isak, but they fell behind 37 minutes in courtesy of their former star.

Ousmane Dembele should have buried Jordi Alba's cross but, after Alex Remiro's save, Griezmann pounced to blast the ball home.

Barca doubled their lead two minutes before half-time, Dest producing a confident low finish after a clever turn and slide-rule pass from Messi, all after Ter Stegen had produced another fine stop following a loose goal kick.

Any hope of a Sociedad comeback was lost seven minutes into the second half, Alba surging into the box and crossing for Dest to prod in a surprise second goal.

There was less of a shock about the scorer of Barca's fourth, Messi lifting a composed finish over Remiro following a fine ball over the top from Sergio Busquets.

Dembele had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside but was not to be denied a second time, the France winger waltzing his way into the penalty area before drilling a low finish past Remiro.

The home side did at least get off the mark, substitute Barrenetxea powering an unstoppable effort beyond Ter Stegen from the edge of the box, but Messi completed the rout with a neat near-post finish after a fine move involving Alba and Riqui Puig.

What does it mean? LaLiga pauses as title race heats up

Barca have now won nine consecutive away games in LaLiga, the third best such streak in their history, while they are unbeaten in 10 league meetings with La Real.

More importantly, they have gone back into second in the table, two points above Real Madrid and four behind Atletico with 10 games remaining.

Imanol's men stay fifth, with a 10-point gap to the top four making their Champions League aspirations look a little forlorn.

Messi makes his mark on another momentous day

Dest may have been the unlikely goalscoring hero but Messi was again integral on the occasion of another career milestone.

His pass for the full-back's first goal was superb and his own finishes equally composed as he reached 23 in LaLiga for the season.

A Real concern

Sociedad had responded quite well to losing 4-0 at home to Manchester United a month ago, beating Alaves and Levante and drawing away against Real Madrid and the Red Devils, conceding just once in that run.

However, back-to-back league losses to Granada and Barca may well have put paid to their top-four aspirations and they will need to recharge during the break ahead of their Copa del Rey final. 

What's next?

Barca return from the international break at home to Real Valladolid on April 5. Sociedad, meanwhile, will now prepare for the rearranged 2020 Copa del Rey final with Athletic Bilbao.

Cristiano Ronaldo is more likely to return to Manchester United than Real Madrid, while Chelsea are desperate to land Erling Haaland.

Ronaldo, 36, is out of contract at Juventus in 2022 and his future has again become a talking point.

Two of his former clubs, United and Madrid, have been linked with the Portugal star.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD RETURN MORE LIKELY THAN MADRID FOR RONALDO

A return to Manchester United is more likely than Real Madrid for Juventus star Ronaldo, according to Tuttosport.

The report says Madrid president Florentino Perez has not opened the door for a Ronaldo return, due to the club's interest in Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Ronaldo starred at United between 2003 and 2009 before shining in Madrid for nine seasons.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea look desperate to land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. The Daily Star reports Chelsea are prepared to again do business with Haaland's agent, Mino Raiola, in a bid to sign the forward. Chelsea fell out with Raiola after Romelu Lukaku joined Manchester United over them in 2017.

- Could Paulo Dybala and Antoine Griezmann be set to swap places? CalcioMercato reports there is an idea for Dybala to leave Juventus and join Barcelona, with Griezmann heading to Turin.

- Liverpool seem set to strengthen ahead of next season. Eurosport reports the Premier League champions are thinking about a move for Sheffield United midfielder Sander Berge.

- Manchester United have reportedly received a transfer boost. The Sun reports Sevilla have lowered their asking price for defender Jules Kounde to around £50million (€58.4m).

Lionel Messi scored two gorgeous goals befitting the occasion as he moved level with Xavi as Barcelona's all-time record appearance-maker in Monday's 4-1 win over Huesca, moving the Blaugrana up to second in LaLiga.

The Barca captain was playing his 767th match for the club across all competitions and opened the scoring as Ronald Koeman's men closed the gap on leaders Atletico Madrid to four points, though there were a few scares along the way.

Messi's sumptuous effort got the ball rolling, as Barcelona's talisman became the first player in LaLiga history to net 20 goals in 13 successive campaigns, and Antoine Griezmann scored an arguably even better effort soon after for his 150th top-flight strike.

A farcical penalty allowed Huesca to pull one back through Rafa Mir, who also inexplicably wasted a remarkable opportunity in the wake of Oscar Mingueza making it 3-1, and Messi finished them off towards the end with another fine goal.

The game was just 13 minutes old when Messi made his mark, effortlessly bending a 20-yard effort around Alvaro Fernandez and into the top-left corner via the crossbar.

Jordi Alba almost made it 2-0 just past the half-hour when his shot from a tight angle was kept out by the frame of the goal, but two minutes later Griezmann picked out the same corner as Messi but from about 10 yards further out – his first league goal since the end of January.

Huesca got themselves a lifeline in bizarre circumstances just before the break, Mir converting a penalty after Marc-Andre ter Stegen was deemed to have fouled him when essentially brushing the striker's shin with his hand, the ball having flashed past both of them.

Barca restored the two-goal lead early in the second period, Mingueza getting his head to a Messi to open his account for the senior side.

Huesca should have reduced the deficit again a few moments later, though, as Mir somehow nudged the ball over the goal from under the crossbar with his chest after latching on to Dani Escriche's header across goal.

Messi capped off a wonderful individual display with his second goal in the 90th minute, receiving Francisco Trincao's pass and elegantly picking out the bottom-left corner from just outside the box.

Barcelona midfielder Pedri conceded Lionel Messi's saved penalty was a "big blow" in their Champions League last-16 exit, but blamed wasting numerous chances.

The Catalans prematurely exited the Champions League 5-2 on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain after a second-leg 1-1 draw in the French capital.

Pedri admitted Barca's 4-1 first-leg defeat left them with plenty to do in Paris but argued they had the better chances.

Messi cancelled out Kylian Mbappe's penalty opener before the Argentinian had a spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of half-time which could have given Barca the momentum to kick on in the second half.

Messi's miss was his first failed penalty attempt in the Champions League since February 2015, having scored his previous eight spot-kicks.

"We knew it'd be vital to take our chances," Pedri said post-game. "We produced a really good game but we missed big chances.

"We believed we could produce another big fightback and qualify but the penalty just before half-time was a big blow to miss.

"We kept on fighting and you can't define a result or a game looking just at a missed penalty. We had many chances and didn't take them."

Barcelona had 21 shots compared to PSG's seven, including 10 on target, while they had 73 per cent possession.

Forward Antoine Griezmann agreed that profligacy in front of goal cost the Catalans.

"It's a real shame, I'd say there were four clear-cut opportunities plus the penalty," Griezmann said.

"If you don't put them away, it's harder later in the game. Nevertheless, it was a completely different contest to the first leg."

Barca's failure to reach the Champions League quarter-finals was their first since 2006-07; having been on the longest-run in the competition's history of 13 consecutive last-eight appearances.

France international Griezmann vowed they would return in 2021-22 to challenge for the European crown.

"It's time to keep our heads up and feel confidence because of how we played," he said.

"We need to keep improving for the season to come. We are hacked off because we were desperate to go through. I don't think we deserved to go out this early but next year we'll try to win this competition."

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