If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Diego Simeone praised the development of Marcos Llorente after the midfielder helped Atletico Madrid secure a 2-1 victory over Granada. 

Atleti extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points thanks to Angel Correa's deflected winner on Saturday. 

Llorente provided the assist for Correa having opened the scoring himself with a neat finish in the 63rd minute, taking his tally of league goals for the season to seven. 

The 26-year-old – signed primarily to play as a defensive midfielder in 2019 from rivals Real Madrid – scored his first goal for Atleti in a 2-2 draw with Valencia on February 14 last year. 

He has now netted 13 times in all competitions in total for the club, while his tally of 10 league goals since getting off the mark puts him behind only Luis Suarez (16) for Simeone's squad. 

Llorente has averaged a goal every 237 minutes in LaLiga over the last 12 months, as well as providing 10 assists and creating 35 chances. Only Koke, who moved level with Tomas Renones for second place on the list for appearances in all competitions for Atletico, has created more (41).

With his opener against Granada, Llorente became the midfielder in LaLiga with the most direct goal involvements so far this season, so it was hardly surprising when Simeone spoke glowingly of the Spain international's desire to transform himself into an all-round attacking threat. 

"As coaches, titles are wonderful, because they fill you with excitement and glory," Simeone told a news conference. 

"But when you work with a footballer and see his growth reflected, you feel more joy and more enthusiasm to continue advancing in this profession.  

"When we see a footballer with the ability to do different things than what he had been doing in his career, we jump into it. It happened to us with Griezmann, with Saul, with Juanfran. 

"Why is it happening? I would like to look for the images of Marcos training when he was not even playing, when in practice he scored a lot of goals, we joked that he was going to have to play higher [up the pitch]. 

"We put him up front and now I think in the middle is where feels more at ease." 

While Llorente delivered the goods on Saturday, LaLiga's leading scorer Suarez had an off day in front of goal, landing only one of his four attempts on target, though he was unfortunate to hit the crossbar in the second half. 

"We always ask all the boys who have played as strikers in our team for collaboration and effort for the team," Simeone said. 

"Luis, beyond what he generates with his goals, has a lot of intelligence. He knows where to apply pressure, where to bother the rival, generate doubts and we need everyone."

Atletico Madrid got their LaLiga title tilt back on track as Angel Correa's fortunate goal secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over Granada.

Diego Simeone's team saw an eight-match winning streak in the league come to an end when they were pegged back by Celta Vigo on Monday.

Real Madrid and Barcelona looked to be getting another favour when Granada substitute Yangel Herrera cancelled out Marcos Llorente's 63rd-minute opener on Saturday.

The unusually profligate Luis Suarez had gone close to breaking the deadlock numerous times, hitting the crossbar and finding Rui Silva in fine form, but a fifth successive away win seemed set to evade Atleti.

However, a huge slice of luck went Atleti's way when Correa's strike deflected in off Jesus Vallejo to settle the contest and move the visitors eight points clear.

Correa let Granada off the hook when he poked a one-v-one straight at Silva, before German Sanchez headed Granada's first opportunity wide.

Geoffrey Kondogbia's surging run resulted in an opening for Suarez three minutes later, but LaLiga's leading scorer could not generate enough curl to pick out the far corner.

Kondogbia and Suarez combined again 30 minutes in, yet Silva was equal to the latter's powerful effort, with Granada's goalkeeper denying Atleti's number nine again soon after.

Suarez went closer after the restart – a half-volley clipping away off the bar.

Another opportunity fell Suarez's way before the hour, but the former Barca star could not take the ball under control in the six-yard box.

Llorente finally found the opener when he drilled in from the edge of the box for his seventh league goal of 2020-21, but despite creating little of note, Granada snatched a swift equaliser three minutes later as Atleti failed to clear a corner and Herrera's effort deflected beyond Jan Oblak.

Yet Atleti had a deflection go in their favour 16 minutes from time, Silva helpless to prevent Correa's shot from looping in after Vallejo's attempted block.

Karim Benzema insists "there is a long way to go" in the LaLiga title race after Real Madrid made up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema opened the scoring on the hour-mark and Ferland Mendy doubled the lead as Zinedine Zidane’s side claimed a 2-0 victory against Getafe on Tuesday.

Atleti were held to a 2-2 home draw by Celta Vigo on Monday as Los Blancos closed the gap to five points at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, although Diego Simeone’s team still have two games in hand.

But that does not matter to Benzema, who headed in Vinicius Junior's cross to net his 16th goal of the season in all competitions, and the France international striker believes Madrid have Atleti in their sights.

"It was a good goal, a good centre from Vini and the ball goes in. I think we are back," Benzema told Movistar.

"It is always very difficult against Getafe. We will continue like this. There is a long way to go until the end.

"Each game is a final and we have to try to win every one. We are confident.

"There is always a lot of noise around Madrid because this is the best club in the world."

Next up for Madrid is a meeting with Valencia on Sunday, while table-toppers Atletico travel to face Granada on Saturday.

Third-placed Barcelona, who are three points behind Madrid and eight points off the top, host Deportivo Alaves on Saturday following their Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg against Sevilla on Wednesday.

Real Madrid will "keep on fighting" in this season's LaLiga title race, says Zinedine Zidane, whose side are five points shy of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atleti's draw with Celta Vigo on Monday gave Madrid the opportunity to make up some ground when they faced Getafe on Tuesday, and Los Blancos cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.

Karim Benzema's fifth headed goal of the season in all competitions – more than any other LaLiga player other than Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri – put Madrid ahead with an hour played before Ferland Mendy turned home Marcelo's cross.

Getafe were hardly robust opposition, however, with Jose Bordalas' side mustering just one attempt in the entire match. Indeed, Thibaut Courtois did not have to make a save, claim a catch or punch a cross clear.

It is the lowest amount of shots Madrid have faced in a LaLiga match since 2004-05, while have scored just 17 goals in the league this term - their lowest tally in a single season after 22 games played.

Nevertheless, Madrid did what was required of them and moved back into second place, three points above Barcelona and five behind Atleti, though Diego Simeone's side have two games in hand.

Zidane insisted Madrid's focus is simply on taking it game by game as they hope to retain their title.

"It will not change anything, we will do our thing. Our duty is to fight, to continue with our work, without paying attention to others," said Zidane, after seeing his side win back-to-back games for the first time in 2021.

"It's a good win. They are two consecutive victories, we needed it. Also with many injuries. We needed it now.

"I don't think there are Madridistas who think we're going to lose the league. On the contrary, they think we can always change things and that is what we are going to try to do. 

"With difficulties, it is clear, but we continue to do our thing. You have to keep fighting, little by little."

With Madrid cruising, Zidane introduced the lesser-spotted Isco in the 75th minute – the playmaker having not featured since January 23 due to a back injury.

Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season and has created five chances – registering one assist – across 12 league appearances in total.

"Isco couldn't start," Zidane explained when asked why Isco, who was linked with a move away in January, was on the bench.

"He has only trained once with the team. Then he entered the game a little later. It was just that, because he only did one training session with us."

Diego Simeone insists there are plenty of positives to take from Monday's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo despite the disappointment of conceding an 89th-minute equaliser. 

Los Rojiblancos looked set to restore their 10-point lead over Barcelona and Real Madrid at LaLiga's summit after a Luis Suarez brace overturned Santi Mina's opener for Celta. 

They were denied a ninth consecutive top-flight win, however, when substitute Facundo Ferreyra - making his debut after joining from Benfica on transfer deadline day - bundled home from close range late on. 

Despite that late blow, Atleti still have an eight-point lead at the top of the table and boast a game in hand on their rivals.

They are unbeaten in 22 home league games - their best run in the competition since a 22-match streak between September 2015 and October 2016 - while their tally of 51 points after 20 games is their best at this stage of the season since they last won the league in 2013-14.

Simeone refused to be too harsh on his side after Ferreyra's late leveller and felt there were plenty of plus points to take into next weekend's game at Granada.

"It is normal that during the season, with the number of games there are, things will happen like this," he told a news conference.

"Today, we continue on our way, match by match, and I am left with many positive things that were taken from negative things. 

"Some players came in, took their opportunity, and played very good games, such as [Renan] Lodi, [Geoffrey] Kondogbia and [Lucas] Torreira. Those are important things for the future.

"It was a difficult start for us. They played well. I think there were not many chances in the first half for anyone, but they did feel more comfortable with possession. 

"In the second half we improved with the change of system to have one more in the middle and take one from behind. Kondogbia and Torreira managed to press higher."

Suarez's latest double took his tally to 16 goals in his first 17 league games for Atleti, overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo as the fastest player to reach 16 goals for the same club in the competition in the 21st century.

Those goals have secured 12 points for Atleti this season - more than any other player in the league. 

Simeone knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Suarez from Barcelona ahead of the 2020-21 season and the Atleti boss says his side tries to play to the Uruguay international's strengths.

"It [Suarez's record] speaks for itself," he added. "He always scored goals, it's not just now that he does. 

"We try to enhance everything he brought and bring him closer to the area. Let's all hope we continue growing as a team."

Atletico Madrid were denied the opportunity to restore their 10-point lead at the LaLiga summit after Facundo Ferreyra's 89th-minute equaliser sealed an unlikely 2-2 draw for Celta Vigo on Monday. 

Wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona over the weekend put the pressure on Diego Simeone's men, who lost Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera shortly before kick-off after positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed.

They started poorly at the Wanda Metropolitano and slipped behind to Santi Mina's third top-flight goal of the season, but Luis Suarez levelled matters in the 45th minute with a simple finish at the back post. 

The former Barcelona striker repeated the trick five minutes after the interval, but Los Rojiblancos were denied a ninth consecutive top-flight win when Ferreyra - a debutant from the bench - scrambled in from close range late on.

 

Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera are the latest Atletico Madrid players to test positive for coronavirus.

Atletico confirmed last week that Joao Felix and new signing Moussa Dembele returned positive test results in consecutive days, ruling them out of Monday's LaLiga visit of Celta Vigo.

Now their midfield and attacking options have been further depleted, with Herrera and Lemar immediately beginning periods of isolation.

A club statement read: "Our players Hector Herrera and Thomas Lemar underwent antigen tests prior to the match against Celta Vigo according to the LaLiga protocol, giving a positive result for COVID-19, which was later confirmed with the relevant tests PCR.

"Both players remain isolated in their respective homes, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and LaLiga protocol."

Atletico did not provide any further information regarding their respective conditions.

Lemar and Herrera could miss as many as three games, with Atletico facing Celta, Granada and Levante in the next 10 days.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi will retire wherever he wants amid doubts over his future, according to former team-mate Luis Suarez.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the current campaign and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner appears likely to leave on a free transfer amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

The 33-year-old attacker had tried to exit Camp Nou prior to the start of 2020-21 before opting to remain with the embattled LaLiga powerhouse.

Suarez won four LaLiga titles and the Champions League among other honours during his time together with Messi before joining Atletico Madrid in the off-season and he hailed the superstar.

"This afternoon I spoke with him, he was very happy about yesterday's victory [over Granada]," Suarez told El Transistor.

"He is [playing] at a spectacular level, he is the best in the world.

"Messi will retire wherever he wants, he can decide whether it's at Barcelona, in Argentina or wherever."

Suarez has starred since leaving Barca after six years at Camp Nou, spearheading Atletico's title charge this season.

The 34-year-old has scored a LaLiga-high 14 goals to help Diego Simeone's Atletico sit 10 points clear atop the table, ahead of second-placed Barca with a game in hand.

Suarez averages the fewest minutes per goal (one goal every 85 minutes) among players to have scored at least two goals this season.

The Uruguay international reflected on his Barca exit following Ronald Koeman's arrival, adding: "When Barcelona told me that they did not count on me it was hard, I did not expect it.

"They were very difficult moments because of the manner [in which it happened]. Koeman called me and told me that I was not in his plans.

"When Barcelona made it official that they did not count on me, conversations began with Atleti, with Cholo [Simeone], with Miguel Angel...

"There was interest from many clubs, not just Juventus. I wanted to make the right decision, the best for me and my family."

Atletico Madrid forward Moussa Dembele has tested positive for coronavirus.

LaLiga leaders Atletico confirmed the news on Thursday, a day after record signing Joao Felix returned a positive test.

"Our squad underwent PCR tests on Wednesday as recommended by LaLiga, in addition to the first weekly antigen tests outlined in their protocol. The PCR test showed that Moussa Dembele is positive for COVID-19," Atletico said in a statement.

"The Frenchman is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Atleti face Celta Vigo at home next Monday as they look to build on their 10-point lead at the top of the table.

Dembele joined from Lyon last month on loan until the end of the season, with Atleti retaining an option to buy the former France Under-21 international for an initial fee of €33.5million.

He has been on the bench three times in LaLiga but is yet to make an appearance under coach Diego Simeone.

Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19, adding to Diego Simeone's problems ahead of Atletico Madrid's meeting with Celta Vigo.

Portugal international Joao Felix is self-isolating at home, as team-mates Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco have been doing since Friday.

A brief Atletico statement read: "Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19. The striker is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Simeone's men have a 10-point advantage at the top of LaLiga and welcome Celta to the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday. They then travel to Granada the following Saturday.

Hermoso and Carrasco are unlikely to return for the meeting with Celta, while Kieran Trippier will be absent due to suspension.

Joao Felix marked his return to the starting line-up against Valencia on January 24 by scoring his first goal in almost two months and setting up another, leading Atletico from a goal down to a 3-1 victory.

The 21-year-old has been left out of the first XI eight times in LaLiga this season and Atletico have won all those matches.

However, when Joao Felix starts they average two more shots (12.1 to 10.0) and their goals-per-game ratio improves from 1.9 to 2.3.

Luis Suarez scored a set-piece double as Atletico Madrid saw off Cadiz 4-2 to move 10 points clear at the LaLiga summit.

Real Madrid's shock 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday provided Atleti with a chance to extend their lead at the top and they did exactly that with victory at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Diego Simeone's men had trailed in their last two outings, though Suarez opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick in Sunday's clash before Alvaro Negredo equalised.

Saul Niguez's flicked finish and Suarez's penalty gave Atleti some breathing space and, while Negredo's second of the day did make things interesting, Koke finished smartly late on to make certain of an eighth league win in a row.

Anthony Lozano glanced wide from a promising Cadiz opportunity and, less than three minutes later, Suarez sent a 28-yard free-kick up and over the wall and into the left corner to give Atleti the lead.

Cadiz were level almost instantly thanks to Negredo, who curled a fine finish beyond Jan Oblak after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Thomas Lemar.

The visitors had won only one of their last eight league games prior to Sunday and it did not take Saul long to restore Atleti's lead with a rather fortunate goal.

Lemar sent in a cross from the right and Saul stuck out a leg, seemingly in an attempt to help the ball on, but instead succeeding in sending it looping over Jeremias Ledesma.

Atleti survived another scare before half-time when a penalty initially awarded for handball against Koke was overturned by VAR due to the midfielder's arm being on the ground when contact was made.

That proved a big moment as Simeone's side converted a penalty of their own through Suarez five minutes into the second half after Marcos Mauro brought down Lemar.

Suarez blazed over when on for a hat-trick and that nearly proved costly as Atletico failed to deal with a ball into the box and Negredo scrambled past Oblak to give Cadiz hope.

Oblak then had to be alert to keep out Negredo's header, but the next goal went Atletico's way, substitute Angel Correa exchanging passes with Marcos Llorente and squaring for Koke to round off the scoring.

Luis Suarez is "blowing up LaLiga" to prove to Barcelona that he is not finished, according to Gustavo Poyet.

Barca made the decision to allow Suarez to leave in the close-season after a successful six-year stay at Camp Nou.

Domestic rivals Atletico Madrid moved swiftly to sign him on a two-year contract in September and have reaped the rewards.

Uruguay international Suarez has scored 12 goals in 15 league games, adding two assists, and his side sat seven points clear at the top of the table heading into the weekend's top-flight action.

His compatriot Poyet, who formerly starred with Real Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham, believes Suarez has been desperate to show he is not past his best, having turned 34 this month.

Discussing why he thinks Atletico are title favourites, Poyet told Stats Perform News: "They took a very important decision which would not be easy for some people.

"It was easy for El Cholo [head coach Diego Simeone], from what I know of him.

"Bringing in Luis Suarez as Barcelona didn't want him, bring him in now. And Luis went with his mentality, 'I will show you who I am'.

"A bit like a Uruguayan I am, 'You don't want me? Am I over? Let’s see!'. 

"And this is blowing up LaLiga."

Leaving Barcelona gave Suarez the push he needed to make changes and give something extra, in the view of Poyet.

He added: "What it shows is that sometimes football players need something different, just something.

"It can be a different treatment or being tougher [on them]. But they need something to react to.

"He was low, not bad, but like the [Barcelona] team, he was low. He needed a new challenge and sometimes it is tough to get it in the same club.

"It can happen with arrival of a new manager, or signing a new player who becomes a rival of yours. There are different ways, but if it does not happen, it looks difficult.

"However, there is no doubt that joining such a special team like Atletico with such a special coach, similar character [to Suarez], you get it and he is showing that extra [effort] needed.

"Sometimes we all need to realise. Get out from the club and notice that you have to do something to change the situation.

"I was not doubtful on his performance, especially playing in that system and having that responsibility.

"I don't forget it that it was him or Diego Costa [playing] at the beginning, sometimes both together. But at the time, Costa had gone, with all the respect to other players, it was only Luis Suarez.

"That also gives him the responsibility on scoring 20 to 30 goals and Luis accepts it in a natural way."

Atletico play away to Cadiz on Sunday and Poyet was asked if he thinks they can finish the job and win the title in the second half of the season.

"I do, for two reasons," he replied. "First, they are very strong, all credit to them, and also, because Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently really poor.

"I don't see any consistency in any of them. Unfortunately, when I look at Barcelona or Real Madrid I don't know what to expect from them, I don't know what is going to happen.

"And that proves it is a year for other teams like Atletico Madrid of El Cholo to go the distance, to actually show they belong at the top without any falling.

"We will see how they can keep it up. We know everything can change with injuries, sending-offs, everything can become really difficult. But no doubts, the main candidate is Atletico Madrid."

Yannick Carrasco and Mario Hermoso have tested positive for coronavirus and face a period of self-isolation, Atletico Madrid have announced.

Atletico said on Saturday that the positive results had been returned the previous day and the players have already been isolating at home.

The club have not communicated how long the two players will have to isolate or when they will be expected back in training.

However, both will miss Sunday's trip to Cadiz and are unlikely to face Celta Vigo a week on Monday.

While losing two important players will undoubtedly be a blow to head coach Diego Simeone, his side are sitting pretty at LaLiga's summit.

They have won seven in a row in the league and sat seven points clear of rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table heading into the weekend, with Los Colchoneros also having a game in hand.

Both Hermoso and Carrasco have played 15 out of Atletico's 18 LaLiga matches this term.

Chelsea are reportedly interested in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. 

Haaland and Alaba have been linked with moves, with the latter almost certain to leave Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Chelsea spent big last year – but they are apparently eyeing the pair.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA INTERESTED IN HAALAND AND ALABA

Chelsea are interested in signing Dortmund star Haaland and Bayern defender Alaba ahead of 2021-22, according to Sky Sports.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with the duo, while Alaba is said to be a target for several other European giants.

Thomas Tuchel has replaced Frank Lampard at the helm for Chelsea, who are eighth in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard could join West Ham. Sky Sports reports they have offered a £1.5million loan fee and to pay Lingard's wages for the rest of the season to land him on loan from Manchester United.

- Amid reports Lucas Torreira could leave Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Arsenal, to join Monaco, it seems that may not be the case. Fabrizio Romano reports Monaco are not negotiating for Torreira.

- Bayer Leverkusen are confident of completing a deal for Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray, according to Sky Sports.

- Struggling for game time at Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make a move. The Athletic reports West Brom are looking at the 23-year-old for a potential loan deal.

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