Manchester United's hopes of silverware this season are officially over and focus is now turning towards the 2022-23 campaign.

The Red Devils are left focusing on their top-four battle in the Premier League following elimination to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 this week.

That has surely ended Ralf Rangnick's hopes of landing the managerial position full time, though it remains to be seen who will be in the Old Trafford hot seat come next term.


TOP STORY – UNITED RAMP UP MANAGERIAL SEARCH

The likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel have each been touted as contenders to replace Rangnick, but another name may now be in the frame.

According to Spanish outlet Fichajes, Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui is also being considered for one of the top positions in world football.

Lopetegui has previously managed Real Madrid and the Spain national team and is in his third season with Sevilla, whom he remains under contract with until 2024.


ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United intend to splash the cash when the transfer window reopens at the end of the season and, according to Fichajes, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar is in their sights. The Brazil international was jeered by his own supporters during last week's win against Bordeaux.

- After two years with Tottenham, Fabrizio Romano claims that left-back Sergio Reguilon could be on his way back to Spain in the coming months. Barcelona are said to be monitoring his situation, while Madrid have a buy-back clause of around €40million.

- It could be a busy transfer window for Madrid, who have also been strongly linked with PSG forward Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's in-demand striker Erling Haaland. However, Goal reports that Los Blancos are losing hope of beating Manchester City to the signature of the latter.

- Man City midfielder Rodri has another three years to run on his contract, but The Telegraph suggests that the Premier League leaders are eager to tie the midfielder down to an even longer deal, with talks between the two parties ongoing.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Nikola Milenkovic is on the radar of Inter and Man Utd. Inter are said to have made the Fiorentina and Serbia defender one of their primary targets, while United had scouts present to watch him against Bologna last week.

Mohamed Salah is arguably the best player in the world on current form, though Liverpool have not yet tied him down to a new deal.

Talks over fresh terms for the 29-year-old have been ongoing for some time, but nothing is close to being agreed.

With his contract up in 2023, Salah could become one of the most sought-after free agents.

 

TOP STORY – MO HAPPY TO WAIT

According to Fabrizio Romano, Salah is perfectly happy at Liverpool and is not considering pushing through a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid or Barcelona.

However, there has been no further progress on the contract talks.

Salah, who has scored 28 goals already this season across all competitions, remains fully focused on Liverpool but could leave on a free transfer at the end of next season.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland will demand that a release clause is included in his contract should he sign for Manchester City, reports The Sun. The Daily Mail suggested a deal was close.

- Bundesliga reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft, however, has claimed that Haaland is of interest to Bayern Munich, who may be faced with the prospect of losing Robert Lewandowski.

- Bayern are also said to be interested in Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest. That is according to a report by Fichajes.

- Foot Mercato say that Neymar will be offered back to Barcelona, as Paris Saint-Germain prepare for a "shake up" ahead of next season.

- Juventus and Milan, meanwhile, are interested in Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, according to Calciomercato.

Mauricio Pochettino said he was "sad" to hear boos and whistles from Paris Saint-Germain supporters during Sunday's 3-0 win against Bordeaux, but assured them that he and his players "share this disappointment."

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders were made to work for victory against the bottom side, but goals from Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Leandro Paredes were enough to secure the three points.

However, the home crowd made their feelings known after Wednesday's chastening defeat in the Champions League round of 16 to Real Madrid, appearing to reserve their loudest boos and whistles for Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Speaking at a media conference after the game, Pochettino said regarding the fans' jeering: "Nobody likes this background, it made me sad. Everyone who loves PSG after the Madrid disappointment is sad. I am saddened by what I experienced here today.

"We have all been affected. We understand the disappointment and frustration. We all experience this together, as a team. We have a responsibility to take responsibility for what happened. We share this disappointment of the supporters."

The former Tottenham manager also addressed the fact he started Keylor Navas rather than Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal against Bordeaux, with the Italian goalkeeper coming in for criticism for his error that led to Madrid's first goal at the Santiago Bernabeu in the 3-1 defeat.

"It's not a goalkeeper's error but an arbitral error [Donnarumma's mistake in Madrid]. Donnarumma is fine, we chose Keylor today. Gigio and Keylor are both disappointed. It is the results that decide the choice and not an error."

Presnel Kimpembe also sympathised with frustrations from the home fans after Wednesday's capitulation, telling Amazon Prime Video: “Inevitably, we hear [the boos and whistles] anyway, even if we are focused, concentrated in our match. 

"We understand their disappointment, we understand their hatred and their cries. Now we are professional, we must know how to remain so too. It is now that we must raise our heads and be able to move forward in order to be able to win this league."

Luis Suarez sent a message of support to Lionel Messi and Neymar after the Paris Saint-Germain duo were booed by their own fans.

Mauricio Pochettino's team threw away a 2-0 aggregate lead to exit the Champions League at Real Madrid in midweek, prompting fury on their return to domestic action on Sunday.

Messi and Neymar were roundly jeered during PSG's 3-0 Ligue 1 win over Bordeaux, even when Neymar tapped home the team's second goal after a move which included a sublime defence-splitting pass from Messi.

Messi has not enjoyed his finest campaign since arriving in the French capital, scoring just two goals from 60 attempts (18 of them on target) in Ligue 1 this season, although he has hit the woodwork eight times in the league, more than any other player in the top five European divisions.

The treatment of his former Barcelona team-mates prompted Atletico Madrid striker Suarez to show support on his Instagram story, accusing the fans of having "no memory".

"As always, football has no memory," the 35-year-old wrote alongside a picture of the three players.

"[I'm] always with you. I love you."

The Messi-Suarez-Neymar 'MSN' trio enjoyed a fruitful relationship in their time with the Catalan giants, hitting a combined 81 LaLiga goals in a stunning 2014-15 season. They led the Blaugrana to the LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in that campaign.

Neymar's goal against Bordeaux means he has scored eight Ligue 1 goals against them, more league goals than he has managed against any other team since arriving in Europe in 2013. 

The dominant victory at Parc des Princes also means that PSG have won seven of their nine Ligue 1 games immediately following a Champions League exit since their Qatari takeover in 2011.

Lionel Messi and Neymar felt the wrath of Paris Saint-Germain fans as the Ligue 1 leaders moved 15 points clear at the top of the table with a 3-0 win over bottom side Bordeaux.

Boos and whistles were aimed at Messi, Neymar and their team-mates before and during the clash at the Parc des Princes, four days after PSG were dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Kylian Mbappe was not targeted, despite reportedly being bound for Madrid, and the in-form striker opened the scoring on Sunday with his 26th goal of the season.

Neymar then responded to abuse from his own supporters by scoring in the second half and Leandro Paredes was also on target, with Messi involved in all three goals and also hitting the post as Mauricio Pochettino's side ended a tough week with a resounding win.

 

PSG were almost caught cold when Remi Oudin let fly with a rasping drive that was well saved by Keylor Navas in the first minute and Jean Onana's glancing header from the resulting corner flashed just wide.

Messi and Neymar continued to be targeted by PSG fans when they touched the ball, but the Argentina captain played a big hand in Mbappe's opening goal 24 minutes in.

The former Barcelona playmaker's reverse pass found Georginio Wijnaldum, who slipped Mbappe in with a perfectly-weighted ball and the France forward finished clinically with his right foot from inside the penalty area.

Messi was then given too much time to thread a pass through to Achraf Hakimi, whose cross was coolly dinked over Bordeaux goalkeeper Gaetan Poussin and into the net seven minutes into the second half.

Although PSG were denied a penalty due to offside following a VAR check, Paredes extended their lead just after the hour mark with a sweet left-foot finish after showing great skill and composure to leave two Bordeaux players on the deck.

Messi struck the woodwork with a long-range strike following a surging run late on as the boos continued to sound, with Pochettino looking distinctly unimpressed with the hostility as his side cruised to victory following back-to-back defeats.

Lionel Messi and Neymar were booed by some Paris Saint-Germain fans during the first half of Sunday's Ligue 1 match with Bordeaux.

Supporters made their displeasure clear towards the star duo following the Champions League exit to Real Madrid this week.

Neymar set up Kylian Mbappe to score at the Santiago Bernabeu and give PSG a 2-0 aggregate lead, but a collapse during the final half-hour saw Madrid triumph 3-1 in the last-16 second leg and 3-2 in the tie thanks to Karim Benzema's hat-trick.

Neither Messi nor Neymar was able to inspire PSG to a comeback as Mauricio Pochettino's side failed once more in their quest to win Europe's biggest prize.

The defeat prompted further speculation over the future of Mbappe and, according to some reports in Spain, the France star has now signed an agreement to join Madrid on a free transfer at the end of the season.

However, Mbappe's early touches against Bordeaux were generally met with cheers from the home fans and it was his strike that gave them the lead 24 minutes in after Messi found Georginio Wijnaldum.

Tite has continued his regeneration of the Brazil national team, with Gabriel Martinelli receiving a first international call-up.

Martinelli and Arsenal team-mate Gabriel Magalhaes are both without a cap but were named in Tite's squad on Friday, with the Selecao facing Chile on March 24 and Bolivia on March 29 in their final 2022 World Cup qualification window.

Along with the Arsenal duo, seven more players in the latest 25-man have won fewer than 10 caps for Brazil, including Bruno Guimaraes, Raphinha and Rodrygo.

Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus may face further risk of not playing in Qatar, having been left out of the squad.

However, the Selecao have already secured qualification, meaning there is increased scope for experimentation. They are currently four points ahead of second-placed Argentina, with 39 points from 15 games.

Notably, after not playing Brazil’s last three qualifiers, Neymar has returned to the squad.

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Danilo (Juventus), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Telles (Manchester United), Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Militao (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Paqueta (Lyon), Arthur (Juventus), Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Coutinho (Aston Villa, on loan from Barcelona); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior, Rodrigo (both Real Madrid), Martinelli (Arsenal), Antony (Ajax), Raphinha (Leeds United).

As soon as the December draw for the Champions League round-of-16 threw out Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, all eyes were on a certain French striker.

And for a long time Kylian Mbappe looked set to be the difference-maker between two European giants who are also in a tug-of-war for the forward's future.

His excellent goal in the first leg at the Parc des Princes was decisive then, and he terrorised Los Blancos further in Madrid.

But almost out of nowhere the tie was turned on its head, with Karim Benzema once again proving his master status with a truly exceptional display of ruthlessness as Madrid won 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to secure their passage to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

This was anything but predictable. After all, the tie was all set up perfectly for 'The Narrative' to settle things in this clash of titans.

For months, maybe years, Madrid have flirted with the idea of bringing Mbappe to the Spanish capital, even going as far as submitting huge bids for him last August.

Carlo Ancelotti is asked about him at pretty much every pre-match news conference, such is the obsession in the Spanish press, but PSG's resolve in August seemed to be paying dividends just over six months later, with Mbappe crucial last time and in the mood here.

Ahead of the trip to Madrid, PSG communicated how the Frenchman was a doubt due to a training knock. Whether that was the truth or subterfuge can only be confirmed by Mauricio Pochettino, but one thing's for certain, Mbappe looked as sharp as ever.

The warning signs were there – twice – inside the first 13 minutes. On both occasions, Mbappe managed to get in behind Madrid's riskily high defence, but he let the hosts off the hook each time.

Despite worrying signs for Madrid, at no point did you expect a tactical change from Ancelotti given Madrid's desperate need to get at least one goal.

As such, the Mbappe 'cheatcode' was seemingly always going to be a possibility for PSG as long as the other 10 remained focused. For all the obsession over tactics, Pochettino's approach seemed to resemble that of millions of FIFA video game players from down the years: kick the ball beyond the defence for the really, really fast chap.

And that was exactly how the breakthrough came. PSG defended a corner and Neymar picked up possession deep inside his own half. Mbappe was already on the charge and the Brazilian clipped a first-time ball over Dani Carvajal.

Mbappe surged forward, shaped to curl his shot around Eder Militao and then picked out the near corner instead, usurping Zlatan Ibrahimovic as PSG's all-time leading scorer in the process.

The offside flag then cruelly, but crucially correctly, denied Mbappe what would have gone down as a classic Champions League goal early in the second, latching on to a throughball and beating Thibaut Courtois with an exquisite stepover before he'd even touched the ball and slotting into an empty net.

And almost instantly PSG's performance went stunningly awry.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's dawdling on the ball gifted Madrid an equaliser as Benzema charged down his clearance and then stabbed in from Vinicius Junior's cut-back.

Suddenly Madrid were like a pack of rabid wolves. Donnarumma's hesitancy and indecision began to overcome the rest of his back four, with PSG almost in a flash going from in control to utterly terrified.

Just 15 minutes later, 1-1 turned into 2-1, with Luka Modric doing brilliantly in midfield to pick out Vinicius, who had the presence of mind to patiently wait for the Croatian to appear on the edge of the box, and he slotted the ball through to Benzema to steer home.

Then, within seconds of PSG restarting the game, Marquinhos panicked in his own area, flicking the ball into the path of Benzema who unleashed an impossibly cool finish into the bottom-right corner, picking it out with the outside of his foot without breaking stride.

It sparked bedlam in the stands of the Santiago Bernabeu as it quickly dawned on the Madrid faithful and players that the tie was theirs. While PSG had the best part of 15 minutes to fight back, their mystifying lack of composure since the hour mark had already sapped them of belief.

Mbappe looked on, having gone from unstoppable to helpless in the space of just a few second-half minutes.

Of course, a key difference between the goalscorers was their respective supporting casts. While Lionel Messi, Marco Verratti and Neymar looked impressive in the first half, they were nowhere to be seen after half-time.

Madrid, on the other hand, had already looked a threat with Vinicius up top alongside Benzema. The Brazilian excelled where his compatriot Neymar could not – the young winger was relentless, working exceptionally hard throughout to ensure Benzema didn't have to do it alone, even if the headlines will suggest it was all him.

There is a school of thought that this tie will ultimately determine where Mbappe ends up next season. On the evidence of this, a front three of him, Benzema and Vinicius will be mouthwatering.

Mbappe has so far been very calm and unequivocal when asked about his future, but Madrid have given him a glimpse of what awaits.

Neymar is relishing the chance to create more happy memories at the Santiago Bernabeu after declaring himself fully fit for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last-16 second leg with Real Madrid.

The Brazil international spent four seasons with Madrid's bitter rivals Barcelona prior to joining PSG in 2017, winning eight trophies – including the European Cup in 2014-15 – during his time in Spain.

He has found the net three times in 11 appearances against Los Blancos with PSG and Barca, two of those goals coming at the Bernabeu, including in a 4-0 LaLiga victory for the Catalans in November 2015.

Neymar had been considered a major doubt for the first leg with Madrid three weeks ago, but he made his return from a near-three-month injury lay-off to play the final 17 minutes of his side's 1-0 victory in Paris.

Having started PSG's three league matches since then, the 30-year-old is ready to make an impact in Wednesday's return fixture in the Spanish capital.

"I feel 100 per cent fit," he said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday. "My injury lay-off was longer than expected, and it was a very tough injury to recover from.

"But I'm 100 per cent mentally and physically ready to help the team, help my team-mates and play a great game. It's a match where you have to all be ready.

"I had targeted this fixture for my return. It's a game that the players want to play, you have to enjoy every minute of these games. These are minutes that will not be repeated. 

"I focused and I worked to help the team. I'm going to give everything and do everything tomorrow. You have to have a very strong mentality to play a great game.

"I have a lot of good memories at this ground. I have scored goals and made assists here. Playing here is always special and not just for me."

 

Neymar is not the only former Barca player set to feature at the Bernabeu, with fellow forward Lionel Messi also expected to start against a team he inflicted a number of painful defeats on across 17 years in the Blaugrana's first team.

"It's a special match for me and Lionel because we played at Barca," Neymar said. "We are motivated. We want to play well tomorrow and to make some history for PSG.

"I feel good to help PSG. We're ready to play on Wednesday. This is a very strong team in front of us, with players with a lot of quality. But we're not going to give up or hide. We're going to give everything to try to win the game.

"I'm happy to play and I'm sure my team-mates have the ambition to play on Wednesday and go home with a victory."

Kylian Mbappe's late strike at the Parc des Princes leaves PSG as slight favourites heading into the second leg, but the visitors have been eliminated from three of their eight Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg.

Only Barcelona (four) and Madrid (six) have a worse such record, while PSG have won just one of their previous five away games against Los Blancos in European competition.

But with this year's final being switched from Saint Petersburg to the Stade de France in Paris, Neymar is extra motivated to ensure that PSG get the job done.

 

"The final being in Paris is incredible for us," said Neymar, who has provided more assists (27) than any player in UEFA's primary club competition than any other player since his debut in September 2013.

"It makes us want to reach the final even more, more than ever. But we have to start on Wednesday. We've been working for a long time and Wednesday is a step towards our goal.

"It's a match between PSG and Real, which is always 50-50. There are no favourites as they are two strong teams. We have an advantage after winning 1-0 in the first leg, but we have to think about winning and playing even better.

"We have to attack and defend together. These are things that can help us win the Champions League if we play together. If we play together, we have the possibility of winning the match, but not only that."

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is unconcerned by recent wastefulness in front of goal and believes his star-studded attack will soon click.

PSG suffered just their second league loss of the season at Nantes last week, going down 3-1 despite creating plenty of chances and finishing the match with an expected goals (xG) of 3.8, with Neymar missing a second-half penalty after the Parisians had found themselves three goals down.

The Ligue 1 leaders also missed a penalty in their recent 1-0 Champions League win over Real Madrid, with Lionel Messi failing to beat Thibaut Courtois on a night where they had 1.88 xG to their opponents' 0.14.

However, Pochettino has faith that his attacking endeavours will be rewarded.

"I'm not worried when we don't score. I would worry if we didn't get chances," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of this weekend's game with Saint-Etienne.

"We have talented players, who can score at any time. 

"This week, we emphasised work. We must improve the balance in our play, the defensive transitions, controlling space. 

"With the team we have, there is no doubt in my mind that we'll find that clinical streak."

 

Although PSG boast a 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, they have won just five of their last 10 league games, drawing four and losing one. 

Meanwhile, with defender Sergio Ramos close to resuming training after a calf injury, Pochettino expressed his frustration at the injury woes which have blighted the Real Madrid legend this season, with Ramos making just two Ligue 1 starts since joining the club last summer.

"The person who suffers most from him not being available to play is him," the PSG boss added.

"We are trying to help him. We have great medical staff who are trying to give him the best possible treatment to deal with this type of situation. We're here to give him moral and psychological support. 

"It's always difficult for an injured player. A footballer needs to be part of the competition, of the squad too, on big days. All of that creates cohesion with the squad."

PSG are looking to defend a proud record against Saint-Etienne in their next outing, having won 42 of their 80 Ligue 1 games against them (25 draws and 13 losses). Only against Metz have they won more top-flight matches (43).

Neymar has suggested he could move to Major League Soccer before hanging up his boots, rather than return to play in his native Brazil.

The 30-year-old has a contract with Paris Saint-Germain until 2025, and has scored 91 goals in 132 games since moving to the French capital in a world-record transfer from Barcelona in 2017.

He scored his first goal since returning from an ankle injury, but also saw a tame penalty saved by Alban Lafont in PSG's shock 3-1 defeat at Nantes on Saturday.

Speaking to the Fenomenos podcast, Neymar said: "I don't know if I'll play in Brazil again. I have some doubts about that.

"I'd love to play in the US actually. I'd love to play there at least for a season."

Neymar joked that he would benefit from the shorter regular season in MLS, adding: "Their season is shorter, so I'd get three months' vacation."

He has previously been linked with a move to Inter Miami, with co-owner David Beckham jokingly offering him a contract in an interview for Otro two years ago.

Neymar also said he remains unsure how long he will go on playing for, but that he intends to do so as long as his mental health will allow.

"I joke with my friends that I will retire when I'm 32. But it's just a joke. I don't know," he said.

"Honestly, I will play until I'm mentally tired. If my mental health is ok and my body as well. Physically, I think I'll still last a few years. But my mental health is the most important thing."

Neymar has criticised the connection between the Brazil national team and their fans as he questioned whether the Selecao are as important now.

Brazil became the first South American team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, with Neymar set to take part in Qatar in November.

However, the Paris Saint-Germain forward, who missed a penalty in a 3-1 defeat to Nantes in Ligue 1 on Saturday, believes the Selecao's games are not talked about enough and there is no hype around their outings.

"Today the national team has distanced itself from the fans, I don't know why, but I see it through the games," Neymar told Ronaldo Nazario on the Fenomenos podcast.

"There is little comment, few people know when we are going to play. And that's bad, it's sad. In this generation of mine, when the national team plays, it's no longer important.

"When I was a child, the national team match was an event. You put the Brazilian flag in the window. There was a barbecue, there was cake and there was everything at home. It was quite an event. 

"Today it no longer has that importance, I don't know how we got to this stage. I hope that everything will come back, that the fans will once again support the Brazilian team. 

"That we'll be together to go in search of the World Cup, which is what everyone wants."

Neymar has endured a tumultuous relationship with Brazil, revealing last year that he was unsure whether he could manage another World Cup with the national side due to the mental stress it imposes on him.

Brazil remain unbeaten in their 15 CONMEBOL qualifiers for the World Cup, in which they next face Chile on March 24.

Paris Saint-Germain fell to just their second defeat of the Ligue 1 season as Mauricio Pochettino's side were beaten 3-1 by Nantes at Stade de la Beaujoire.

Goals from Randal Kolo Muani, Quentin Merlin and a Ludovic Blas penalty handed the home team an incredible 3-0 half-time lead, with goalkeeper Alban Lafont starring for the hosts.

Neymar pulled one back immediately after the restart before seeing a soft penalty effort saved on the hour and Nantes held on for the win, moving into fifth place in the French top-flight.

PSG remain well clear at the top of Ligue 1, but this was not how Pochettino will have envisaged following up their impressive 1-0 win against Real Madrid in the Champions League in midweek.

Nantes took a shock lead just three minutes into the game with Kolo Muani rounding off an efficient break by flicking home just seconds after Juan Bernat had forced a good save from Lafont.

The Nantes stopper made an excellent save from Lionel Messi moments later, before Merlin fired a stunning left-footed strike into the top corner from the edge of the area on 15 minutes, his first goal of the season.

Lafont denied Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Idrissa Gueye in an inspired performance, before Dennis Appiah had a red card correctly overturned after a VAR check. 

Another VAR intervention gave Nantes a penalty before half-time that Blas hammered home after Georginio Wijnaldum's clumsy handball.

Lionel Messi is set to make the 800th senior appearance of his illustrious club career after being named in Paris Saint-Germain's squad to face Nantes.

The Argentina maestro is joined by Neymar in Mauricio Pochettino's 22-man travelling party for the trip to Stade de la Beaujoire, where the Ligue 1 leaders would move 16 points clear at the top with victory on Saturday.

Should he feature, as would be expected, Messi will reach the latest milestone of his glittering career, over 17 years after Frank Rijkaard handed him his Barcelona debut against Espanyol in October 2004.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner would make his 22nd appearance for PSG since joining from Barca on a free transfer, having scored seven times so far.

Messi, the Blaugrana's record appearance maker and scorer, played 778 times for Barca in all competitions, netting 672 goals.

Under Pep Guardiola, Messi played more games (219) and scored more goals (211) than with any other coach, while he is one of only two players to have netted 100 Champions League goals, with his tally of 125 behind only Cristiano Ronaldo's 140.

The 34-year-old is also approaching 1,000 career appearances, having won a record 158 caps for Argentina since his debut in 2005.

Meanwhile, Neymar is in contention to make his first start since suffering an ankle injury against Saint-Etienne in November.

The Brazil international, who returned as a substitute during Tuesday's Champions League win over Real Madrid, has endured a series of injury issues since his own move from Barcelona to Paris in 2017.

Indeed, he has failed to make over 20 Ligue 1 starts in a single season to date. 

Mauricio Pochettino has moved to defend Lionel Messi after the Paris Saint-Germain forward's missed penalty against Real Madrid.

Although Kylian Mbappe's superb late winner put the Parisians on the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals, Messi's performance in the first leg drew criticism.

Since his first season in the competition (2004-05), no player has missed more Champions League penalties than Messi, who has failed with five spot-kicks.

But speaking ahead of PSG's Ligue 1 trip to Nantes on Saturday, Pochettino launched a strong defence of his fellow Argentinian.

"Messi is the best in the world," said former Tottenham boss Pochettino. "A player like him, with his experience, and what he means, is the essence of football.

"If you want to explain to someone what football is all about, it is Leo Messi.

"In no way will missing a penalty affect his confidence, that is impossible. If anyone thinks that, they do not understand this sport. 

"I am pleased with his performance. He played well [against Madrid], which was down to his ability to link difference pieces together on the pitch.

"Leo Messi is football."

Messi has struggled for consistency during a stop-start first season in French capital, netting just two league goals from an expected goals tally of 5.82, a notable underperformance of over three goals.

The former Barcelona captain was joined on the pitch against Real Madrid by Neymar, as the substitute provided the assist for Mbappe's match-winning strike with a sumptuous backheel.

Pochettino has confirmed the Brazilian is now in contention to make his first start since suffering an ankle injury against Saint-Etienne last November.

"Neymar could start [against Nantes]," Pochettino said on Friday.

"He has been doing well in training, and he has been very focused at every stage of his recovery, showing his commitment to get back to his best level and help the team.

"We hope that he is over these problems now, and through playing competitive games, that he can reach his best level."

Neymar has suffered a plethora of injury issues since making his own move from Barcelona to Paris in 2017, failing to make over 20 Ligue 1 starts in a single season to date. However, he has managed 59 goals and 34 assists in his 80 league appearances for the capital club.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.