Lionel Messi moving to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami would serve as a "reference point for football in the U.S." as David Beckham's franchise look to make high-profile signings.

That is the message from Miami's chief business officer Xavier Asensi, who hinted to Mundo Deportivo that his side will look to make a move for Messi.

Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini made their MLS debuts on Sunday for Los Angeles FC in a 2-1 win over Nashville SC.

Five-time Champions League winner Bale and Chiellini, who won Euro 2020 with Italy last year, joined Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Beckham as some of the biggest names to play in MLS.

With Messi's Paris Saint-Germain contract set to expire at the end of the upcoming season, Asensi suggested Miami will attempt to sign Messi but conceded the aim may be unrealistic.

When asked whether signing a player like Messi was a target for Beckham's side, Asensi said: "Yes, with some caveats. You can't compare Leo Messi with any other player; he's different.

"Having said that, what we're looking for is to be the reference point for football in the U.S., and to do that, the important thing is the players and the show that you can put on.

"To do so, you need the best players, and having them is a genuine objective at this club. In terms of Leo Messi, there's him and then there's everyone else.

"It depends on him and what he wants. We want to have the best players in the world, and I think Messi is the best in history. From there it's up to him."

 

Messi, 35, experienced a lean first season by his own high standards for PSG, scoring 11 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions.

That return was 17 fewer than he managed for Barcelona in the 2020-21 campaign, his final campaign before ending a 21-year association with the Blaugrana.

Though his goal tally diminished, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a term.

After making his intentions and admirations for Messi clear, Asensi's focus turned to the pre-season friendly against Barca on Wednesday.

"From an emotional point of view it's marvellous and professionally it's exceptional," he added. "Barca are, if not the biggest, one of the three biggest clubs in the world for sure, and clubs are the ones that capitalise on the passion for football.

"I don't know of any fans of FIFA or UEFA. In international football everyone supports their country, but clubs don't have any borders, they go everywhere. And in terms of clubs, Barca are among the biggest, looking at the numbers.

"Emotionally, it's the biggest thing for me. To have them here, for the people of Miami, is spectacular."

Sergio Aguero has provided a glowing endorsement for Argentina compatriot Julian Alvarez after his move to Manchester City.

That is the message from former City and England defender Joleon Lescott, who expects Alvarez to become a key figure for Pep Guardiola's side in the Premier League in the coming years.

Alvarez signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the Premier League champions from River Plate in a deal worth a reported £14million ($18.8m) back in January, before being loaned back to his former side.

The 22-year-old initially caught City's eye after 20 goals and 12 assists in 35 games in the Argentine Primera Division last year, with those 32 direct goal involvements at least six more than any other player in 2021.

He added another 11 goals in 15 league appearances in 2022 and, while it remains unclear whether Alvarez will be loaned out again, Lescott revealed the forward has the backing of City great Aguero.

"He's definitely got the quality [to perform in the Premier League]," Lescott told City's official website.

"I've seen little bits, but I've also spoken to Sergio about him briefly and he said he was a top talent. He was excited for him, which was good, so that'll be a high expectation.

"Sergio said he will score goals. He can also excite fans, Sergio said possibly more than him, not in terms of scoring but in terms of the way he plays.

"He wants to dribble a little bit more than what Sergio did, who was more 'let me score', which was great for us but a different mindset.

"But with the likes of [Gabriel] Jesus leaving, you're not going to do that if you're not replacing him with an exceptional talent as well. I'm excited for him and hopefully he gets opportunities to score."

Alvarez will provide able competition to fellow arrival Erling Haaland should the Argentine stay at the Etihad Stadium for the season.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during his two-and-a-half-year spell at Borussia Dortmund, a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 games) and Kylian Mbappe (93 in 111 games) of players from Europe's top five leagues during that period.

Yet with competition aplenty within Guardiola's squad, Lescott encouraged Alvarez to seize his pre-season opportunities as opposed to settling for a back-up role behind Haaland.

"I'm sure Julian has come in and wants to play and not just come to watch Erling Haaland score goals and perform," he added.

"There's an opportunity for him to play and I'm sure he's going to back himself to do that and do well. The age of the squad is good, it helps keep everyone competitive.

"The younger lads from the City academy as well will respect what it is. They'll understand that yes, they need to perform, yes they need to train well and get themselves ready for whatever season they have."

Juventus' new signing Angel Di Maria is casting aside thoughts of Argentina's World Cup campaign as he prepares for his first Serie A season.

Di Maria joined Juve last week, after leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer following seven successful years in the French capital.

The 34-year-old has signed a one-year deal in Turin, and staying in top condition ahead of the Qatar World Cup might have played a part in his decision to stay in Europe.

Yet he insisted that his full focus is on Juve, and not on helping Argentina contest for a world title come November.

"The same Di Maria as always has arrived, who wants to win at all costs, who hates to lose and wants to be a champion: I think Juve chose me for this," said Di Maria, who has been joined by Paul Pogba in signing for the Bianconeri.

"The most important thing will be to work hard and I will try to do my best.

"My head is now solely and exclusively at Juve. I came here to win and work with this great club. We will think about the national team when the time comes to think about it. I want to win with Juventus.

"The World Cup is one of the best experiences for a player, but it is essential to have your head focused on the present. I repeat, I will always do my best for Juve. I always give my best to every new beginning and it will be the same here."

Asked why he elected to join Juve, who have finished fourth in Serie A in consecutive seasons, Di Maria explained: "Juve is Juve, they have won many titles and they are a great club that now has a great desire to return to the highest levels.

"I want to make this happen. It will be important to form a united group.

"I chose Juve because they are the most important club in Italy and have all the credentials to be able to win. I know it's a strong team and I want to be part of this team. If they have looked for me, it means that they believe me to be up to it.

"If an important team like Juve is looking for you, it is almost impossible to say no. They waited patiently for the end of my contract, I really wanted to come here. I was calm with my family, and the right moment came."

Di Maria, speaking at his unveiling on Monday, also revealed a Juve great played a part in his decision to join Juve.

He said: "I have a good relationship with Gianluigi Buffon. I also talked to him when I signed the contract.

"He wanted me to come to Juve and I think being here is very nice. I am calm and I will do my best to help Juventus win."

Julian Alvarez declared he has already achieved one childhood dream in playing alongside Lionel Messi for Argentina, as Manchester City's new signing targets a spot at the World Cup in Qatar.

Alvarez agreed to join Pep Guardiola's side from River Plate in a reported £14million ($18.8m) move in January but remained on loan with the Buenos Aires giants until their Copa Libertadores exit to Velez Sarsfield on Thursday.

On Friday, the Premier League champions confirmed Alvarez would join up with their first team ahead of the 2022-23 season, having scored 54 goals in 122 outings since coming through River's youth system.

Having also won nine caps for his country, Alvarez is primed to appear at the World Cup later this year and scored his first Argentina goal when appearing alongside Messi in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in March.

Alvarez will face competition from the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala to start for the Albiceleste in Qatar, where the City new boy wants to build on his international breakthrough.

"Messi has been my idol since I was a child," he told City's website ahead of his arrival. "He is my family's idol, the idol of my brothers too. So, Messi is a hero for me. 

"Playing for my country is a dream come true. I dreamed as a child to play in the national team with Messi. 

"To have achieved this at the age of 22 obviously makes me feel very proud, happy, and I have to keep going for more success."

Messi is both Argentina's most-capped player (162 appearances) and record goalscorer (86), and will join the likes of Lothar Matthaus, Rafael Marquez, Antonio Carbajal and Gianluigi Buffon in playing at five separate World Cups with an appearance in Qatar.

Julian Alvarez has been provided with plenty of information about Manchester City by club legend Sergio Aguero after officially making his move following his final game for River Plate.

Argentine forward Alvarez penned a five-and-a-half-year deal with City in January for a reported £14million fee but remained with River on loan.

Alvarez's switch has now been completed after River suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Velez Sarsfield in the Copa Libertadores last 16.

The 22-year-old caught the attention of several of European heavyweights thanks to a record of 53 goals and 31 assists in 120 River appearances.

He will have to go some to emulate the achievements of countryman Aguero in a City shirt, with the now retired striker becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 257.

"We all know how important Kun was for Manchester City and what he means for the world too, as a club player and as a player for the Argentinian national team as well," Alvarez, who will wear the number 19 shirt, told City's official website.

"I had the opportunity to speak with him and he told me many things about the city, about the team-mates, about Manchester City in general.

"I also spoke with Willy Caballero and Nicolas Otamendi since we are team-mates in the national team.  

"I am very excited about what's to come and I'm very happy to be part of this club."

Alvarez is another piece in an exciting window for City, who have already added Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips and Stefan Ortega to their ranks.

For Alvarez, the chance to work with Pep Guardiola and play in the Champions League were among the huge lures of leaving South America for Europe.

"I was able to talk to him [Guardiola] in February, when the signing was confirmed," Alvarez added.

"He welcomed me to the club. I am glad to be part of the City project. I think he is one of the best coaches in the world and he has been at incredibly successful clubs. 

"I want to do a good job for him, to continue growing as a footballer and as a person.

"I am very excited and proud having come this far.

"The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. As a boy I always dreamed of playing in Europe, playing for the best clubs, in the major leagues and so to be here today is a privilege.

"I have watched a lot of City games. It's very satisfying to watch them play. City are one of the best clubs in the world and they have an incredible playing style."

Marseille have confirmed the exit of Jorge Sampaoli as coach, with the Argentine departing Stade Velodrome just under a year and a half after his arrival.

The 62-year-old succeeded Andre Villas-Boas at the helm of the Ligue 1 outfit last March, and guided them to a second-place finish behind champions Paris Saint-Germain in his only full season in charge.

Yet just weeks after earning Champions League qualification, the former Albiceleste boss is on his way after reportedly growing frustrated with a lack of transfer activity and ambition from the club.

"[We] would like to sincerely and warmly thank the work of Jorge Sampaoli," read an official club statement.

"We are satisfied with the progress made and the emotions experienced together, but following a long reflection, the two parties [...] have agreed to put an end to this stage [of their careers].

Club president Pablo Longoria will now begin a search for a successor to Sampaoli, who leaves with 36 wins from 67 games in charge, and with a season still to run on his contract.

Angel Di Maria would be a great signing for Juventus who can emulate former Real Madrid team-mates Karim Benzema and Luka Modric by playing at an elite level in his mid-30s.

That is the view of Iker Casillas, who played alongside Di Maria when Madrid won their 10th Champions League title in 2013-14.

Casillas feels the Argentine will be keen to feature regularly for the Bianconeri to cement his place at what could be his fourth World Cup later this year.

Di Maria is departing Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after spending seven years in Ligue 1, and is widely expected to join Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus in the coming days.

The 34-year-old's agent revealed this week that only the "final details" of his contract in Turin remain outstanding, and Casillas believes his former team-mate will thrive in Italy.

"Di Maria is a great move," the 2010 World Cup winner told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"Angel with [Federico] Chiesa, [Dusan] Vlahovic and [Paul] Pogba... what a great team! And he will want to prepare well for the World Cup.

"He is a very cautious guy who has always taken great care of himself physically. He has never suffered serious injuries. I think he is in great shape. 

"Here in Europe, he has always played at a high level, in big clubs. Di Maria will give Juve a new step.

"There is a World Cup in November and it is clear that he is looking for a team where he can play regularly and prepare in the best possible way for the challenge in Qatar.

"Even at 34 years old he is a great player. Age counts only relatively now, careers have lengthened. 

"Without reaching the 44 years of my friend [Gianluigi] Buffon, there are other examples of players over 30 who are doing very well and playing to the fullest level. You just have to think about Benzema and Modric."

Di Maria won six trophies during a four-year spell with Madrid, which he ended in spectacular fashion with a man-of-the-match performance in Los Blancos' Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid in 2014.

Recalling Di Maria's performance as a central midfielder in that 2014 match, Casillas argued his versatility would be a great asset for Juve.

"Juventus bets on a player who knows how to do a lot of things in different areas of the pitch," he added. 

"When we won 'the Decima', [Carlo] Ancelotti changed his position in the middle of the season and he played very well.

"He can play both up front and in the centre of the field, he is an intelligent guy who knows football well. Angel has impressive shots and can decide games by himself."

Angel Di Maria is concerned he has yet to do enough to guarantee himself a place in Argentina's World Cup squad due to uncertainty surrounding his future at club level.

The 34-year-old is without a club after leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer following a seven-season spell in the French capital.

He has been linked with a number of teams, with Serie A giants Juventus reportedly close to agreeing a one-year deal for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player.

Speaking earlier this week, meanwhile, newly appointed Rosario Central boss Carlos Tevez revealed he is hoping to bring Di Maria back to the Argentine club.

Di Maria will not have long to settle at his new side before Qatar 2022 begins on November 21, with Argentina in Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.

And despite playing a key part in his country's successful qualifying campaign with three goals, the free agent is not taking his place in the 26-man squad for granted.

"The only one guaranteed to be in is Lionel Messi," Di Maria, who has appeared at three previous World Cup finals, told TNT Sports. 

"Four months from now you don't know. I have to change clubs, adapt again, play and feel good – that will make a difference."

 

Di Maria is Argentina's fourth-most capped player of all time with 122 appearances, behind only Messi (162), Javier Mascherano (147) and Javier Zanetti (145).

He made 31 appearances for PSG in his final season at the Parc des Princes and registered 13 goal involvements – five goals of his own and a further eight assists.

That is a tally only Neymar (21), Messi (25) and Kylian Mbappe (60) could better among PSG players in the 2021-22 campaign.

Juve remain the favourites to sign Di Maria and the attacking midfielder confirmed the Italian side's interest, as well as commenting on previous links to Barcelona.

"Juventus are the biggest club in Italy and one of the teams interested in me," he said. "Right now I am thinking things through, but I am focused on my holidays and family.

"Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world and I have always had to play against them in the past."

To suggest the next 12 months may well define Lionel Messi's career would be doing a disservice to what we have witnessed up close over the past 18 campaigns. 

From boy wonder to the greatest player ever in the view of many, and now into a new chapter with Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentina forward has nothing to prove to anyone.

And yet on the day he turns 35 – the average age of retirement for a footballer – questions continue to be asked of Messi. 

Will he win a World Cup – still in the eyes of many the real barometer of a truly great player, even in the era of the Champions League – before he retires? 

Can he prove himself in a different country after a mixed first season in France? Both of those questions will be answered before he celebrates his 36th birthday in a year's time.

Stats Perform looks at how Messi's game has already changed, and whether he is still capable of inspiring club and country to glory in possibly the biggest year of his career.
 

MESSI 2.0

Ten months have passed since the shock announcement that Messi was bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona to join Ligue 1 giants PSG.

By his own high standards, Messi's first campaign in Paris was far from great. He scored 11 goals in 34 appearances, down on the 38 scored in his last season with Barca.

And those 11 goals came from an expected goals (xG) value of 16.8, meaning he scored 5.8 goals fewer than he should have based on the quality of his chances.

Among players in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions last season, only six others had a worse return, with Lille striker Burak Yilmaz (8.11 differential) topping the list.

There were extenuating circumstances, of course, with Messi himself recently opening up on just how badly he struggled after testing positive for coronavirus in January.

The La Masia product also had to adapt to life outside the place he had called home for more than two decades, seeing him take on an entirely different role.

While his scoring figures dropped considerably, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a campaign.

The majority of his assists last season came from a left-of-centre position outside the box, where he predominantly played alongside Neymar and just off Kylian Mbappe.


RONALDO SHOWS THE WAY

The 11 goals Messi scored at the age of 34 is his lowest return since the eight he netted when aged 18 and still in the infancy of his Barcelona career.

While that can be put down to a change of scenery, and being in the unfamiliar role of having to play second-fiddle to Mbappe, age is also surely a factor.

At 35 – or 34 as he was last season – Messi will inevitably have to rely more on his footballing brain than his legs to give him an advantage over opponents.

As showed by Cristiano Ronaldo, though, age is just a number when it comes to the very best, the Portugal star having scored 75 goals in 102 games since his 35th birthday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, four months shy of his 41st birthday, has scored an impressive 112 goals in 174 appearances since hitting 35, an age often perceived as being 'over the hill'.


ALL EYES ON QATAR

Playing a supporting role may well be something we must come accustomed to when it comes to club level, but for Argentina Messi very much still remains the main man.

That was clear to see earlier this month when, in his final game in a gruelling campaign, Messi scored all five of Argentina's goals in their thumping friendly win over Estonia.

That five-goal showing rightly attracted plenty of focus, though it was arguably four days earlier in his side's 3-0 'Finalissima' victory over Italy that Messi truly showed his quality.

Messi pulled the strings from a slightly deeper position as Argentina, who also boast the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, showed their credentials.

He assisted two of Argentina's three goals, including a delightful turn to leave Giovanni Di Lorenzo trailing in his wake before setting up Martinez for a simple finish. 

On the back of ending their 28-year wait for silverware in 2021 with victory at the Copa America, Lionel Scaloni's men now look good value to challenge for the World Cup.

Regardless of any more titles he adds to his collection at PSG, Messi lifting the most famous trophy of them all in Qatar later this year would be the defining image of his career.

Different now he may be, but Messi has a chance to show in his 35th year that he has plenty more left in the tank to turn a great career into the greatest.

Eight medical personnel who treated Diego Maradona prior to his death will stand trial for alleged criminal neglect.

On Wednesday, a judge in Argentina ordered a culpable homicide trial for the individuals, including Maradona's family doctor and nurses, with evidence they failed to take "action that could have prevented the death" in November 2020.

The Argentina and Napoli icon died at the age of 60 while recovering from a blood clot, which came after years of battling with cocaine and alcohol addictions.

Maradona was found dead two weeks after the procedure in a rented house in Buenos Aires where he was brought after being discharged from hospital, having suffered a heart attack.

Argentina's public prosecutor convened a panel of 20 medical experts last year who concluded that Maradona's treatment was rife with "deficiencies and irregularities" and said he "would have had a better chance of survival" in an adequate medical facility.

Prosecutors asked for Maradona's caregivers to be put on trial, stating he had been abandoned "to his fate" following a verdict from the medical experts that he was neglected for a "prolonged, agonizing period".

A date for the trial has not been set but the eight will stand on accounts of a legal definition of homicide characterised by negligence committed in the knowledge that it may lead to a person's death.

They risk sentences ranging from eight to 25 years in prison, though all of them have denied responsibility and are currently in pre-trial detention.

Carlos Tevez has expressed an interest in bringing Angel Di Maria back to Rosario Central after being confirmed as their new head coach, as he pledged to emulate former Juventus boss Antonio Conte upon entering the dugout.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juve forward Tevez was appointed as Central's new boss on Tuesday, having ended his illustrious playing career earlier this month.

Speaking at his unveiling after signing a one-year contract with the four-time Argentinian champions, Tevez revealed his interest in coaching his former international team-mate Di Maria. 

Di Maria – who made 39 appearances for Central at the start of his career before heading to Europe with Benfica - is leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and has attracted interest from the Bianconeri, but Tevez plans on speaking with him soon.

"I haven't spoken to Di Maria", he said. "I barely have time to speak to my wife! I haven't spoken to her. 

"But who wouldn't like to have him? Di Maria means a lot to this club. When the situation calms down, I'll call him and ask him what he wants to do.

"We know him. He would bring a lot. He would bring his experience to young players. In addition to experience, he has great technical quality. He has played in the biggest clubs, it would be easy to be his trainer."

Di Maria is the fourth-most capped player in the history of the Argentina's national team with 122 appearances (after Lionel Messi with 162, Javier Mascherano with 147 and Javier Zanetti with 145), and will hope to appear at his fourth World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Meanwhile, Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles during his playing career, and featured under a host of big-name coaches including Alex Ferguson, Massimiliano Allegri and Roberto Mancini.

But the 38-year-old says Tottenham boss Conte, who signed him for Juventus in 2013, is his foremost coaching inspiration.

"When you stand on the other side of the line, the player dies, that's one way of putting it." He said. "You start to think differently, much colder. Today I am a coach and I like this profession. 

"I have a great reference who was Conte at Juventus, he was one of those who taught me the most as a player.

"I'm going to try to get the team to play at least a little bit, or half the way his team played."

Carlos Tevez is back in football as head coach of Argentinian side Rosario Central.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus forward Tevez, who began and ended his playing career with Boca Juniors, hung up his boots in early June.

His appointment with Rosario Central was confirmed on Tuesday as the 38-year-old was handed his first coaching job by the top flight club.

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both CONMEBOL's Copa Libertadores and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

He was a regular member of the Argentina national team for many years, featuring alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but missed out on the squad for the 2014 World Cup where the team finished as runners-up to Germany.

Four-time Argentinian champions Rosario Central revealed on Tuesday that Tevez has signed a one-year deal, announcing on Twitter: "The Apache becomes the new blue-gold coach, after signing a contract with the club for 12 months."

Prior to Tevez signing his contract, goalkeeper Gaspar Servio told TNT Sports: "For me, it's something special that Carlitos [Tevez] can come here. 

"If he does come here, the group will back him to the death."

Carlos Tevez could be set to take up his first head coaching role with Argentinian side Rosario Central, with the club's vice-president aiming to appoint the former forward next week.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus forward Tevez announced his retirement last month at the age of 38, citing the death of his father as the reason why he turned down offers to continue playing.

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

The former striker played his final game for boyhood club Boca Juniors in 2021, but could now be set to return to his homeland in a coaching capacity after four-time Argentinian champions Rosario Central confirmed their ambition to appoint him.

Vice-president Ricardo Carloni told TyC Sports: "The board accepted a proposal put forward by Tevez's staff, and we are now moving forward with the negotiations.

"We will discuss it this weekend. The proposal was approved by the board. The idea is that if all goes well, we could have him by Tuesday."

Goalkeeper Gaspar Servio, meanwhile, is enthused by the prospect of working under Tevez, telling TNT Sports: "For me, it's something special that Carlitos [Tevez] can come here. 

"If he does come here, the group will back him to the death. I hope he comes. He has a lot of experience as a player, and we are all ready to learn and to help Central."

Lionel Messi is "on Olympus" as one of the greatest players in history, and former Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo cannot believe he brought the star to Ligue 1.

Leonardo departed at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, with former Monaco and Lille transfer guru Luis Campos joining the Ligue 1 champions as a football advisor.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino is also widely expected to be heading for the exit door after failing to deliver in the Champions League, which is the crown jewel in the eyes of PSG owners Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).

However, Pochettino and Leonardo did manage to bring Argentina great Messi to Paris at the start of the season, ending a 17-year spell with Barcelona.

Messi ranked only behind Kylian Mbappe (45) for goal involvements for PSG in Ligue 1, with the former's 20 one more than Neymar, who was the final part of an incredible frontline trio.

Only Mbappe (70) created more chances than Messi (63) as well, but the Blaugrana legend's first year in the French capital was largely viewed as somewhat underwhelming, with just six top-flight goals scored.

Nevertheless, Leonardo reflected gleefully on securing the services of the 34-year-old along with his own achievements with PSG.

"We had thought about it a lot, yes. We had talked about it, but Messi had never thought too much about leaving Barcelona," he told L'Equipe.

"It was the last moments before his arrival that were decisive. Afterwards, everything becomes a bit more normal but, you made Messi's only transfer in his career!

"Chronologically, there is Pele, Maradona, Messi. He is on Olympus.

"So when I take stock of my last three years, I see a Champions League final, a semi-final, the 10th league title, seven national trophies and I signed Messi.

"There are two very significant moments for me, even if I don't like to pick out the best. The first is the signing, on the same day, of [Marco] Verratti and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic [in 2012].

"It was no coincidence that a youngster from the Italian second division and a world football star arrived at the same time. The second is Messi. These are two huge dates."

 

Mbappe rejected the advances of Real Madrid to extend his stay with PSG, signing a lucrative three-year agreement.

Reports indicated the World Cup winner was offered assurances relating to matters on and off the pitch.

While Leonardo has departed and Pochettino appears set to follow, the former suggests he did not know whether the Mbappe agreement held such clauses.

"It was the end of the season and maybe it was the time to decide things for the future," he added. "I wasn't told that, but I don't want to get into that kind of thing.

"The fact that they've managed to hold on to that player, a Frenchman and a Parisian, is important for PSG and for Ligue 1.

"Certain things which are said internally should stay that way. It's what I've experienced with the club. When the club wants to get rid of you, there's no nice way to say it's over."

Inter vice president Javier Zanetti expressed his admiration for Paulo Dybala as he confirmed the Nerazzurri are in continued talks with the striker.

Dybala will depart Juventus when his contract expires at the end of June, ending a seven-season stay with the Bianconeri, and Inter are among the frontrunners for the forward.

A host of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham, are also said to be interested in the Argentina international.

Reports in Italy suggest Dybala has already agreed terms with Simone Inzaghi's side, with the Juve star trading Turin for rivals Inter, who narrowly missed out on Scudetto success to neighbours Milan.

The 28-year-old would join – or replace – Argentina team-mate Lautaro Martinez, with Chelsea reportedly interested in signing the Inter striker.

While Nerazzurri great Zanetti would not confirm whether an agreement was already in place, he suggested talks are ongoing as he hailed Dybala.

"We are in talks," he told D-Sports Radio, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I admire Paulo and I wish him the best for his career.

"Dybala is a great player and will surely represent us [Argentina] at the World Cup.

"Inter have always had a lot of South Americans in their team, especially Argentineans. Now we have Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa. The club have faith in the Argentineans."

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