Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Mauricio Pochettino believes Kylian Mbappe’s uncertain future will "be clarified soon" following reports linking the superstar striker with a move away from Paris Saint-Germain.

France international Mbappe lit up the Camp Nou with a devastating hat-trick to crush Barcelona in PSG’s 4-1 Champions League last-16 win on Tuesday.

Following his starring performance, the 22-year-old said: "It would be stupid to decide my future on a single match," sparking speculation about his long-term plans with his hometown club.

Mbappe’s contract expires in June 2022 and some of Europe’s biggest club are rumoured to be circling if the French champions cannot not lock down the World Cup winner to a new deal.

Last year’s losing Champions League finallists, PSG, are currently second in Ligue 1 and Argentine coach Pochettino believes Mbappe can achieve it all at the Parc des Princes.

"PSG can give Mbappe all the tools he needs to be happy," Pochettino told Catalunya Radio program Tot Costa.

"I think it'll be clarified soon."

Mbappe has scored 21 goals in 29 games this season, taking his tally for the club to 116 goals in his four seasons in the French capital since making the move from Monaco in August 2017.

“We have no doubt that Kylian is one of the greatest players in the world despite his youth," Pochettino said after the thumping win against the Catalans.

"He has already done extraordinary things."

Kylian Mbappe's future is in his own hands after showing the world what he is capable of while scoring a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 Champions League demolition of Barcelona.

With his contract in the French capital set to expire in June 2022, Mbappe ultimately has the choice of either signing a new deal or leaving his hometown team – and the World Cup winner has been non-committal so far.

Should the 22-year-old sensation decide to take his career abroad, there will be no shortage of suitors, with four European giants ready to swoop.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER CITY, REAL MADRID, JUVENTUS EYE IN-DEMAND MBAPPE

If PSG cannot persuade Mbappe to sign a long-term extension, they will not want to lose a world-class talent without a fee, so the Ligue 1 champions have placed a €200million (£173m) tag on his head, according to Le Parisien.

Le Parisien reports the price may not deter the Frenchman's admirers, who include Premier League rivals Manchester City and LiverpoolReal Madrid and Juventus.

While those clubs may want him, it is unclear if all of them would be able to afford Mbappe, who is set to make more than €30m per year gross on his next contract. Reports claim PSG will aim to price their Champions League rivals out of a deal.

Lionel Messi is not motivated by money as he eyes titles amid uncertainty over his Barcelona future, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The record six-time Ballon d'Or winner tried to leave Camp Nou at the start of the 2020-21 campaign before opting to stay.

As doubts remain over Messi following Barcelona's 4-1 rout at the hands of PSG in the first leg of the blockbuster last-16 tie on Tuesday, Laporta – one of the remaining candidates in the running for the presidency – remains hopeful of keeping the 33-year-old.

"Giving him affection is very important," Laporta told Sky Sport Italia. "The love story between Messi and Barcelona is one of the most beautiful stories in football.

"He has to be loved. He deserves it. And he has to be valued with an economic offer that makes him feel valued, but he's not led by money.

"I know him, I have a good relationship with him and a lot of respect.

"He's a winner. What he wants is to win again, with Barcelona. I'm going to do everything I can to keep him. Our competitors are state clubs, they are making offers.

"We have to be clear that money doesn't guarantee titles, and Leo is more about winning titles than making money."

Laporta added: "He makes more money than he costs, much more. Messi's cost represents eight percent of the club's total income, while he generates around 30 percent of the income.

"Messi is very profitable for Barcelona, but the most important thing is the emotional return he gives us.

"It's priceless when you ask a young boy or girl who their favourite player is and they immediately say Messi."

Messi's opening goal against PSG was his 20th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions – it is the 13th consecutive campaign he has scored 20-plus goals for the club.

The Barca captain has scored in the Champions League in each calendar year since 2005. This run of at least one goal in 17 consecutive years is the joint-longest run in the competition's history alongside Raul (1995-2011).

Kylian Mbappe is "further away from Real Madrid than ever before" despite slaying Barcelona, according to former Santiago Bernabeu sporting director Jorge Valdano.

Mbappe netted a stunning hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed an overmatched Barca 4-1 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Such a performance will undoubtedly further endear the France forward to the Madrid faithful and he has been frequently linked with a move to the Spanish capital.

The 22-year-old's contract at PSG expires at the end of next season, however Valdano believes his Camp Nou heroics have given him leverage to demand the sort of wage only the Ligue 1 giants are in a position to afford.

"After this, Mbappe is further from Real Madrid than ever before," the ex-Argentina international told Onda Cero.

"He can ask for a €30million salary, the same as Neymar, and only PSG can offer that amount."

Another factor in Mbappe's favour, Valdano suggested, was that a forlorn Lionel Messi - who opened the scoring from the penalty spot - might now hold less appeal when his Barca deal expires in June and PSG consider how they might fill their ample budget.

"I don’t see PSG very interested right now in swapping Mbappe for Messi," he said. "Mbappe changed the scale of values ​."

Valdano feels Madrid should turn their attention to Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, whose prolific exploits remind him of Argentina's 1978 World Cup hero.

"Mbappe is more complete than Haaland, but I think Madrid needs a scorer like the Norwegian," he added.

"Haaland is the Mario Kempes of the 21st century."

Manchester United are making plans for Paul Pogba's departure and may have already identified the Frenchman's replacement in Real Madrid's Federico Valverde.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries this season, while veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been in vintage form for LaLiga's champions.

Valverde has only started 12 games in all competitions this season, but the Uruguayan has impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enough for United to step up their efforts to bring him to Old Trafford this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE VALVERDE TO PLUG MIDFIELD

Valverde has shown his class while featuring in 89 games during his three seasons in the Spanish capital and has turned heads at United.

The Red Devils are said to admire his energy and box-to-box qualities as they seek a long-term solution to lock down a place in the centre of Solskjaer's midfield, according to The Sun.

One snag in the recruitment drive could be the Uruguay international's buy-out clause of a staggering £148million, though United can offer him a major improvement on his current £120,000 per week wage.

With Lionel Messi's future far from certain at the end of the season, his former team-mate Neymar has apparently reached out to the Barcelona captain about a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazilian superstar Neymar played alongside the six-time Ballon d'Or winner for four LaLiga seasons between 2013 and 2017, before sealing a world-record transfer to Ligue 1 giants

It is understood Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are ready to make a play to bring Messi to the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino's PSG appear to be taking the direct approach.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PUTS IN A CALL TO MESSI

Lionel Messi's contract at his boyhood club expires in the off-season, less than a year after the Barcelona superstar sensationally tried to leave Camp Nou but found his exit plans blocked.

According to L'Equipe, Neymar – who is set to miss the Champions League trip to the Barcelona on Tuesday – has put in a call to convince Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi will lead out Barca in the first leg of the last-16 tie, having stated he will wait until the end of the current campaign before making a decision on where he will play in 2021-2022.

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- PSG star Kylian Mbappe has decided to stay put this off-season but is not planning on extending his current contract, which expires in 2022, claims ESPN.

Liverpool are looking for defensive reinforcements and they are monitoring Aston Villa's England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa, according to The Athletic.

- Bayern Munich's free-agent defender David Alaba has already agreed to join Real Madrid at season's end, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Real Madrid are reportedly planning a €90million move for Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland ahead of next season.

Haaland, 20, is being targeted by Europe's biggest clubs after starring for the Bundesliga outfit.

Madrid are ready to make a move for Haaland ahead of 2021-22.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID PLAN €90M HAALAND MOVE

Real Madrid are plotting a €90m move for Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to ABC.

The report says the LaLiga giants will attempt to get Luka Jovic, who is on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt, or Mariano Diaz to be part of the deal.

Haaland has scored 23 goals in as many games for Dortmund this season.

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- After landing Dayot Upamecano, Bayern Munich have other targets in mind. Bild reports the Bundesliga giants are also interested in Norwich City full-back Max Aarons, Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus, Rennes' Eduardo Camavinga and Lucien Agoume, who is on loan at Spezia from Inter. The Daily Mail also says Bayern are stepping up their pursuit of Aarons.

- David Luiz looks set to extend his Arsenal stay. The Independent claims the Premier League side are set to offer the defender another extension, with his deal expiring at season's end.

- Staying at Arsenal and Alexandre Lacazette's future at the club seems uncertain. The Daily Express reports Arsenal have been told they can sign Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard for just £15m.

- Without a club since leaving Trabzonspor in March last year, Daniel Sturridge has been offered to Newcastle United, according to 90min. West Brom and Sheffield United are also reportedly interested in Sturridge.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

Lionel Messi would be perfectly suited to Manchester City amid ongoing doubts over his future at Barcelona, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Barca superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants City.

A move to City for Messi would mean a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola – the pair teaming up to win two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns among other honours between 2008 and 2012.

Ex-City and Argentina full-back Zabaleta backed countryman Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.

"If Lionel Messi ­decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta told The Mirror.

"It is something that will ­interest him – because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.

"Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge ­attraction for him to experience English football. And Manchester City offer the ­perfect conditions.

"He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano – and also Kun Aguero.

"It would be a big ­decision if Leo leaves ­Barcelona. But if that's what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle

"When you have been at one club for so long, moving ­somewhere new can be very strange.

"I am sure clubs like ­Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus would also be ­interested in signing him, but it is my opinion that City would be the best place to go after Barcelona."

Mauricio Pochettino said Paris Saint-Germain will be ready to face Barcelona in their blockbuster Champions League tie.

PSG will travel to Lionel Messi's Barca for Tuesday's last-16 first leg at Camp Nou after edging Nice 2-1 in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Goals from Julian Draxler and Moise Kean guided PSG past Nice in the French capital, where the Ligue 1 champions extended their winning streak to four matches across all competitions.

Post-match, head coach Pochettino highlighted the importance of the upcoming showdown against Barcelona but believes PSG will be ready for it.

"We have to be ready [for Barcelona]," Pochettino told reporters. Because we have a very important match on Tuesday. And the team will be ready for this match.

"First of all it will be recovery, both physical and mental [before Barcelona]. It's important to recharge the batteries.

"On a tactical level, we won't be able to work a lot on the field, but we will be able to use video.

"It's something we've been preparing for several weeks, so that the players can understand the game plan for this match."

PSG have won six of their eight Ligue 1 games under Pochettino (D1 L1), after winning just three of their previous seven at the end of 2020 (D2 L2).

Meanwhile, PSG have won each of their last six home games in Ligue 1 –the longest current run in the French top flight and their longest run since August 2018-March 2019 (15).

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino described his side's 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Nice on Saturday as "solid" and "professional". 

Julian Draxler and Moise Kean scored either side of Rony Lopes' fine strike at the Parc des Princes as PSG – who were without the injured Neymar – claimed an eighth win in their last nine games across all competitions.

The result lifted the defending champions to the summit of Ligue 1, although Lyon and Lille could move back above them if they overcome Montpellier and Brest respectively. 

PSG did not have it all their own way against Nice, who had 13 shots on goal, but Pochettino was pleased with his side's ability to carve out maximum points. 

"It was a professional display; solid but not brilliant perhaps," he told a media conference. 

"But given the circumstances, it's a decent match. It is not always easy to find the expected combinations. 

"We must be ready for the competition because it is not waiting for us and we must win all the matches that come up."

Kean followed up his winner in the midweek Coupe de France victory over Caen with another decisive goal – his 10th in Ligue 1 this season – and Pochettino was impressed with the youngster's contribution. 

"I think he had a good game and he scored," the former Tottenham boss said. "I'm happy with his performance; he can play anywhere in the attacking frontline. We are satisfied with everything he does."

PSG switched to a 4-3-3 formation in the closing stages and Pochettino said tactical flexibility is something he wants to instill in his players. 

However, he acknowledged there will be little time for that during the quick turnaround ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona. 

"We want the team to be able to communicate, to be confident in different patterns, to find new offensive animations," he added.

"After that, it's not always easy to work a lot in just 40 days [since he was appointed]. By Tuesday, there will not be much time to work tactically; we will instead focus on physical and mental recovery. 

"We have to play in different animations, with different options. It was one of my goals in Southampton and Tottenham and that's also what we are trying to do in Paris: make players feel confident in different systems with offensive and defensive animations."

Paris Saint-Germain moved to the Ligue 1 summit as Moise Kean's late goal sealed a 2-1 win over Nice at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. 

Mauricio Pochettino was without the services of Neymar, who is out for a month after suffering an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen in midweek, but the champions had just enough to seal a sixth consecutive top-flight home win. 

Rony Lopes cancelled out Draxler's 22nd-minute opener early in the second half, but Kean – who scored the winner against Caen – secured maximum points 14 minutes from time. 

The result meant PSG – who visit Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday – leapfrogged Lille at the top of Ligue 1 courtesy of a superior goal difference, although Christophe Galtier's side can reclaim top spot with a point against Brest on Sunday.

The hosts deservedly went ahead midway through the first half when Draxler prodded home his third goal of the season from eight yards after Mauro Icardi's close-range effort had cannoned back off the post. 

Kylian Mbappe should have doubled PSG's advantage shortly before the interval, the France international failing to make contact with Icardi's cross from six yards, while Amine Gouiri thundered over a presentable opportunity at the other end.

Nice pulled level five minutes after the break when Marquinhos' attempted clearance went as far as Lopes, who drove into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful drive that gave Keylor Navas no chance. 

Mbappe fizzed a strike just wide soon after following a swift counter-attacking move, while Gouiri crashed against the crossbar from close range as Nice threatened to pull ahead. 

Kean stretched PSG's unbeaten run at home to Nice to 10 games in the 76th minute, though, heading in from four yards after Icardi had steered Mbappe's cross into his path.

 

Neymar's injury is "a real hard blow" to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the Champions League resuming, Lyon coach Rudi Garcia said.

The Brazil forward was ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering an adductor injury in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday.

Neymar will miss Tuesday's trip to Camp Nou to face his former club Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, while he is also in doubt for the return clash.

Garcia, whose team are second in the Ligue 1 table ahead of PSG by a point, said the injury was a major setback for Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"It would be good if the two French teams could represent us with dignity and go as far as possible in the European Cup. It's a real hard blow," Garcia told a news conference on Friday.

"I've always said, the greatest players we want to see on the pitch rather than in the infirmary. It is a great pity that Neymar was injured.

"Nevertheless, PSG are not lacking substitutes."

PSG were runners-up in the Champions League last season, while Lyon reached the semi-finals.

In what is a tight top part of the Ligue 1 table, Lille (54) are two points clear of Lyon (52) and ahead of PSG (51) and Monaco (48).

Only PSG star Kylian Mbappe (22) has been directly involved in more goals than Lyon captain Memphis Depay (19) in Ligue 1 this season.

Garcia, whose team host Montpellier on Saturday, praised Depay and while he said Lyon were in a strong position, his target remains a top-three finish.

"He sets an example as a captain whether on the pitch or in the changing rooms. Memphis Depay and Lyon have the same goal – that the club be in the top three and qualify for the Champions League," he said.

"If the situation allows us to finish in a better position than third or second place, we will talk about it again. But for the moment it's like that, I'm not going to repeat myself."

Paris Saint-Germain will focus on helping Neymar recover emotionally from his latest injury setback, said Mauricio Pochettino, who is confident they have the squad to win without him.

Neymar was ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering an adductor injury in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday.

He will miss Tuesday's trip to Camp Nou to face his former club Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

The timeline also puts him in doubt for the return leg at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

Neymar spoke of his immense sadness in an Instagram following news of his injury.

And asked about the Brazil forward ahead of their Ligue 1 clash with Nice, PSG boss Pochettino said: "We have been speaking since the injury happened and, with the tests that he had yesterday, he has made his sadness and pain public.

"We are all going to help him get back as quickly as possible. And also help him recover in terms of his emotional state because it has been a tough blow for him.

"He is a tough guy and he is very mature. We have got to know him here to see what a great person he is, not just an athlete, but an extraordinary person who builds good relationships and is very likeable."

Pochettino brushed off talk of him taking an unnecessary risk by playing Neymar against Caen with Barca on the horizon.

"We are here to manage a squad of players and we make decisions that we think are for the best," explained Pochettino. 

"We make decisions together and try to apply that all the time. A player got injured and that can happen. That can happen in the Coupe de France, in training, in the league, in the Champions League.

"It is a shame that he got injured, but these things happen in football.

"We cannot look back. We have key players injured and we have to look for solutions, while also knowing that we have a squad that can still handle that and play well in these fixtures.

"Whether it is Ligue 1 or the Champions League, I have total confidence in the squad, and they are PSG players for a reason. So we are going to try to go into every game to win without any excuses."

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