Inter Milan have their eye on a Premier League forward. 

With Romelu Lukaku heading back to England, the Nerazzurri are eyeing Anthony Martial.

However, Manchester United do not appear willing to let him go.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED WANT TO KEEP MARTIAL

Inter Milan want Anthony Martial to bolster their attack, according to multiple reports, but it does not sound like he is available. 

The Mail claims United are prepared to reject a £50million offer for the 25-year-old, who is still easing his way back in after injuring his knee in March.

Martial is under contract until 2024, with an option for an additional year at Old Trafford, so there is no urgency for United to move him on. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko's move from Roma to Inter is "imminent" according to Fabrizio Romano, with the 35-year-old set to sign through to 2023. 

- United and Arsenal have interest in Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, according to a Bild report, with Juventus and West Ham also rumoured to be possibilities for the Fran. 

- Bild also says Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are eyeing Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria

- Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga is on United's radar but FootMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain could swoop for the 18-year-old despite a need to balance the books following Lionel Messi's addition.

- Leicester City and Sevilla could be set to bid for Schalke defender Ozan Kabak, according to Calciomercato.

- Veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero is set to join Granada on a free transfer, as per Romano. 

- Everton are considering a move for 24-year-old Antwerp right-back Aurelio Buta, the Sun reports, saying the Belgian club want £3m. 

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year deal after calling time on his 18-year Barcelona career.

Messi became arguably the greatest footballer of all time at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his prolific spell came to an end after Barca's dire financial situation forced the club's hand.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been a free agent since July 1, though the expectation was for him to sign a new contract at the Catalan club.

However, last Thursday's announcement he would not re-sign with Barca due to "financial and structural obstacles" prompted PSG to move quickly.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target a year ago when he stated his desire to leave, but ended up staying and playing out the final year of his contract.

Having teased the signing throughout the day on social media, PSG finally confirmed it with a video that included footage of their new recruit standing in the centre circle of the Parc des Princes. 

He will wear the number 30 shirt and while PSG confirmed the initial contract length, it is widely reported there is an option in place for a further year.

Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record deal in 2017, and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, with that trio set to form a devastating forward line.

Mbappe's future is in doubt with the France star having only one year left on his contract, though there has been talk that Messi's signing could convince him to agree new terms with PSG.

During his time at Barcelona, Messi claimed four Champions League triumphs alongside 10 LaLiga titles.

The forward finally won a senior international trophy in July, firing in four goals and adding five assists to secure Argentina's first Copa America success since 1993.

Messi's acquisition marks the culmination of a transfer window that has seen PSG add significantly to their squad, signing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi after missing out on the Ligue 1 title and losing in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Lionel Messi is a Paris Saint-Germain player. It may still seem a bit hard to take in, particularly as such a scenario looked so unlikely as recently as last week, the deal is complete.

Messi has signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes and will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

Barcelona's dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Messi's contract expired at the end of June and, although Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed the two parties had reached an agreement, the numbers made a deal impossible. The Blaugrana chief confirmed at a monumental press conference that the deal to keep the talismanic forward at Camp Nou was dead.

Step forward PSG. Just as they gutted Barca four years ago when triggering Neymar's release clause to leave them utterly helpless, the Parisians have swooped in again and wasted no time about it. A matter of hours had passed between Laporta's news conference and the emergence of widespread reports suggesting Paris beckoned.

What Messi goes on to achieve in France remains to be seen, but using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at some of the incredible feats that have make him such a colossal signing for PSG.

 

Messi played 778 games for Barcelona in all competitions, scoring 672 goals and providing 265 assists across those games. That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old.

Previously a one-club man, his first appearance for Barcelona came under Frank Rijkaard against Espanyol in October 2004, while his first goal arrived seven months later against Albacete at Camp Nou from a Ronaldinho assist.

Brazil great Ronaldinho was the last Barcelona player to wear the famed number 10 before Messi took that shirt in 2008 and made it his own.

But Ronaldinho does not feature among the top assisters for Messi goals, a list that is led by Luis Suarez (47). Dani Alves assisted 42 of the attacker's goals and third is Andres Iniesta with 37, six more than fellow legendary midfielder Xavi.

 

Messi played under eight different coaches during his time with Barcelona. Of those, he featured most often (219 appearances) and scored the most goals (211) during Pep Guardiola's tenure.

However, the 60 goals Messi scored in 50 games under the late Tito Vilanova – an average of 1.20 goals per match – was his best goals-per-game return with a single coach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messi's lowest average goals-per-game ratio was during the Rijkaard era at the start of his career (0.38), followed by the 0.63 managed under Quique Setien between January and August 2020.

 

Messi's most prolific season as a Barcelona player was in 2011-12 when scoring a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions and providing a further 28 assists, setting a personal record in both categories.

Indeed, the forward netted 79 goals for his club across the calendar year in 2012, which is a record amount by a single player. His next most prolific year was 2010 when registering 58 times.

In more recent years, Messi managed 51 goals in 2016, 50 goals in 2017, 47 goals in 2018, 45 goals in 2019 and 26 goals in 2020 – a steady decline that he had already rectified this year, having scored 28 times in the first half of 2021.

He is the only player to have scored 10 or more goals in LaLiga in 15 consecutive seasons.

 

Messi's 672 goals for Barcelona were scored against 82 different teams. Sevilla were his favourite opponent, finding the net against them 38 times in 43 appearances.

Atletico Madrid were next on that particular list, with Messi bagging 32 goals in that fixture, followed by Valencia (31), Athletic Bilbao (29) and bitter rivals Real Madrid (26), making him the leading all-time scorer in El Clasico.

In terms of individual goalkeepers, Diego Alves was Messi's most-frequent victim, the former Almeria and Valencia man having conceded 21 goals against the Argentina superstar.

Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas was joint-third with 17 goals against, one less than the 18 Messi put past Gorka Iraizoz.

 

Messi is of course synonymous with Camp Nou, a ground where he has scored 394 goals in 381 games at an average of 1.03 per match. Madrid fans will be particularly sick of him as he has scored 15 times in 22 games at the Santiago Bernabeu – his second favourite venue.

That is followed by Vicente Calderon, Atletico's old home (14 goals in 20 appearances). Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor (13 in eight) and Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan (13 in 18) complete the top five.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Messi has played more times at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena (three) without scoring than at any other stadium for Barcelona. He is also without a goal in two trips to English grounds Anfield and Old Trafford.

 

Messi's other notable records and achievements

– Messi is the all-time LaLiga top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

– He scored in 21 consecutive LaLiga games between November 2012 and May 2013, a record for a player in the competition's history.

– The Newell's Old Boys product is one of only two players to reach 100 goals in Champions League history (120), alongside Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

– Messi was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, doing so against Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012 at Camp Nou.

– The Argentina forward is one of six players to score more than 50 goals in Copa del Rey's history and the only one to score in six different finals in the tournament (Telmo Zarra scored in five).

Lionel Messi will help Paris Saint-Germain make history, according to club chairman and chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

PSG secured Messi's signature after the forward had failed to agree fresh terms with Barcelona, who are enduring financial difficulties amid complications with LaLiga.

The 34-year-old moves to the Parc des Princes having scored 672 times in 778 appearances for his former club and furthers PSG's already remarkable depth of attacking talent.

After confirming Messi's arrival on Tuesday, Al-Khelaifi said: "I am delighted that Lionel Messi has chosen to join Paris Saint-Germain and we are proud to welcome him and his family to Paris.

"He has made no secret of his desire to continue competing at the very highest level and winning trophies, and naturally our ambition as a club is to do the same.

"The addition of Leo to our world class squad continues a very strategic and successful transfer window for the club. Led by our outstanding coach and his staff, I look forward to the team making history together for our fans all around the world."

Messi joins former colleague Neymar as he prepares to form a startling front three with the Brazil forward and France star Kylian Mbappe.

The signings of Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum alongside Achraf Hakimi strengthened Mauricio Pochettino's men, but Messi's historic move could take PSG to a new level.

Having been pipped to the Ligue 1 crown by Lille last term, PSG started their quest to reclaim the title with a 2-1 win at Troyes on Saturday and will hope the addition of Messi can inspire them to a first Champions League success.

Messi has won four Champions League titles with Barcelona alongside 10 LaLiga triumphs.

The forward also guided Argentina to their first Copa America success since 1993, scoring four goals as he sealed his first senior international trophy in July.

The Lionel Messi transfer saga is over after Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the signing of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Despite becoming a free agent at the end of June, the Barcelona legend was expected to sign a new contract with the Catalan club, reportedly agreeing a 50 per cent reduction in wages.

However, due to Barca's dire financial situations and LaLiga's salary restrictions, Messi and the Spanish giants had to part ways.

With Messi – who scored a staggering 672 goals for Barca in all competitions – remaining unattached, PSG quickly swooped in and sealed the forward's signature, assembling a formidable front trio that also boasts Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

So, how did it all come to this? The timeline below shows it has been quite the soap opera.
 

January 13, 2020 – Despite the club being top of LaLiga, Barca confirm the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde four days on from a Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid. Quique Setien is appointed as head coach on a two-and-a-half-year contract, with a supposed return for Blaugrana legend Xavi failing to come to fruition.

February 3, 2020 – In an interview with Catalan publication Sport, sporting director Eric Abidal says the club had begun considering Valverde's future after the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on December 18. He adds that he and his colleagues identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

February 4, 2020 – Messi hits back at Abidal, calling on him to name individuals rather than tar every player with the same brush. Writing on Instagram and highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi says: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions. The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well. Those responsible for the area of​​ sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make. Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true." Furthermore, ESPN report Messi has been playing through a thigh problem for a number of weeks after the club failed to sign attacking reinforcements and let Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz leave after Luis Suarez was ruled out for four months.

March 30, 2020 – Amid the coronavirus lockdown, Messi confirms the players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut. However, he makes it clear he is unhappy about pressure put on them. He posts on Instagram: "Much has been written and said about the Barcelona team in regards to the salaries of the players during this state of emergency. We want to clarify that our will has always been to take a cut in the salary we receive, because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are always the first ones to help the club when asked. Therefore, it does not surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under pressure to do something we always knew we would do. The agreement has been delayed for a few days because we were looking for a formula to help the club and its workers during these difficult times."

July 16, 2020 – Barca suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat against Osasuna, handing Madrid the league title. Messi makes his dissatisfaction known, saying that they must improve quickly or risk Champions League elimination in their last-16 second leg against Napoli. In a post-match interview, he tells Movistar: "People are losing patience after defeats to Roma and Liverpool in recent years. We need a break and forget about this if we want to fight for the Champions League. We need to change a lot, otherwise we will also lose against Napoli. I already said before that playing like this we won't be able to fight for the Champions League and you see, we could not even fight for the league. We need to be self-critical."

August 14, 2020 – While they managed to get past Napoli despite an unconvincing performance, Barcelona are thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final. It is their heaviest defeat in European competition and the most goals they have conceded in a single game since 1946.

August 17, 2020 – Setien is sacked by the club and presidential elections are brought forward to March as the club signals its intention to rebuild. It is reported that the majority of the first team are put for sale.

August 18, 2020 – Sporting director Abidal is relieved of his duties a day after informing Setien his time with the club was up.

August 19, 2020 – Barca icon Ronald Koeman is appointed head coach on a two-year contract. He said of Messi upon being presented to the media: "He is a Barcelona player. He has another year [on his contract]. I don't know if I have to convince him to stay."

August 22, 2020 – Tensions increase as Argentine publication Clarin claims Messi is furious that details of a meeting with Koeman were leaked to the media. RAC1 had reported Messi told the new coach he is 'more outside the club than inside' and he had little faith in president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Koeman is alleged to have said to Messi: "The privileges in this squad are over, you had to do everything for the team. I'm going to be inflexible; you must only be thinking about the team."

August 24, 2020 – Messi's close friend Suarez is one of four players – the others being Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti – supposedly told by Koeman they have no future at the club. Suarez, Vidal and Rakitic all subsequently depart.

August 25, 2020 – Messi informs Barca he intends to leave the club, using a clause in his contract to exit on a free transfer, via burofax. Manchester City promptly emerge as favourites for his signature.

August 30, 2020  – LaLiga claims the €700million release clause in Messi's Barca contract remains valid and must be paid for his deal to be terminated unilaterally. On the same day, Messi fails to report for pre-season coronavirus testing.

September 4, 2020  – Messi confirms he will stay at Barcelona for the final year of his contract in an emotional interview, in which it is all too apparent his preference would have been to leave.

October 27, 2020  – Pressure on the board persists with the clock ticking on that deal. Even with presidential elections on the horizon, in which he would not be able to stand for a third term, Bartomeu faces a vote of no confidence and instead announces his resignation, along with the entire Barcelona board. The outgoing president claims the club have begun proceedings to join a European Super League.

December 22, 2020  – Joan Laporta, previously president between 2003 and 2010, emerges as the leading candidate for the March elections and declares confidence he will convince Messi to stay. "If I win the elections, I want to make a very competitive proposal and I know he will listen to me. I want him to stay," he tells RAC1. "I have an advantage over others, he knows I've always fulfilled what I said. We have a good relationship, we appreciate each other and we respect each other."

February 1, 2021  – With his successor still to be elected, Bartomeu is forced to deny leaking details of Messi's contract. Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports the deal Messi signed in 2017 could earn him in excess of €555m. It was also revealed Barca's debts had risen above €1.1billion, with the COVID-19 pandemic having a huge impact.

March 7, 2021  – After Messi and his team-mates vote in the elections, Laporta is confirmed as Barca's new president. He wins 54.28 per cent of the vote and continues to speak of confidence Messi will commit to his only senior club. "Seeing the best player in the world come out to vote today is a clear sign of what we keep saying," he says. "Leo loves Barca."

April 18, 2021  – Barca, led by Laporta, are one of 12 elite clubs to announce their involvement in a breakaway European Super League.

April 22, 2021  – The unpopular Super League plans quickly collapse, but Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus remain committed to the project. Given the Blaugrana's dire financial situation, Laporta claims the lucrative proposed competition is "absolutely necessary".

May 28, 2021  – The season ends with no new Messi deal in place, although Laporta insists negotiations are "progressing well". However, he also promises new signings, which do not tally with the club's financial difficulties. Sure enough, Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia, Emerson Royal and Memphis Depay are all soon signed, but there is little by way of outgoing movement.

June 30, 2021  – Messi's contract officially expires, making him a free agent. While LaLiga president Javier Tebas refuses to ease the competition's salary restrictions, Laporta says: "We are doing well but you have to fit a deal into the financial fair play."

August 4, 2021  – LaLiga confirms a €2.7billion deal with CVC Capital Partners, with 90 per cent of the injection earmarked for clubs. Only €42m of this is set to be available for Barca to spend on transfers and wages, but it is hoped this investment will help the Blaugrana do the deal as Messi's father Jorge prepares to fly in for talks.

August 5, 2021  – After widespread reports in Spain tell of a hitch in the deal, Barca sensationally announce Messi will leave the club. "Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it will not be possible to formalise it due to economic and structural obstacles (Spanish LaLiga regulations)," a statement read. "Given this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue to be linked to FC Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot ultimately be fulfilled. Barca would like to thank the player most sincerely for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the institution and wishes him the best in his personal and professional life."

August 6, 2021 – In a long and in-depth press conference, Laporta made it clear there was simply no margin in Barca's salary situation to retain Messi, despite the player wanting to stay. He reveals a five-year agreement paying him two years of salary had been agreed, but was not cleared by LaLiga amid financial fair play rules. "In LaLiga, we have to abide by the rules, we feel they could be more flexible but that's not an excuse. We knew we couldn't abide by it due to the situation," he said, admitting a decision had been taken amid opposing the competition's deal with CVC Capital Partners that would "affect the club for the next 50 years". If the statement had not made it clear enough, Laporta admitted Messi's time with the club is over.

August 10, 2021 –  PSG confirm the worst-kept secret, announcing the signing of Messi on a two-year deal that also reportedly includes an option for a further season. The Ligue 1 side seemingly enjoyed a free run at the forward after Pep Guardiola had indicated he was not an option for Manchester City. Having teased the official unveiling for several hours, PSG finally confirmed the deal with a video that included their new recruit standing in the middle of the Parc des Princes wearing the number 30 shirt. "I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions," said Messi, who is the biggest of all the big names to join the club in the transfer window.

Lionel Messi is determined to "build something special" at the Parc des Princes after signing for Paris Saint-Germain.

The former Barcelona star, who scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, was expected to sign a new contract at Camp Nou but financial complications forced him out the door.

Mauricio Pochettino's men promptly swooped in to seal one of the most momentous signings in history, confirming the deal on Tuesday.

Upon completing his move to the French giants, Messi said: "I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions.

"I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes."

Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year deal after calling time on his 18-year Barcelona career.

Messi became arguably the greatest footballer of all time at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his prolific spell came to an end after Barca's dire financial situation forced the club's hand.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been a free agent since July 1, though the expectation was for him to sign a new contract at the Catalan club.

However, last Thursday's announcement he would not re-sign with Barca due to "financial and structural obstacles" prompted PSG to move quickly.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target a year ago when he stated his desire to leave, but ended up staying and playing out the final year of his contract.

Having teased the signing throughout the day on social media, PSG finally confirmed it with a video that included footage of their new recruit standing in the centre circle of the Parc des Princes. 

He will wear the number 30 shirt and while PSG confirmed the initial contract length, it is widely reported there is an option in place for a further year.

Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record deal in 2017, and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, with that trio set to form a devastating forward line.

Mbappe's future is in doubt with the France star having only one year left on his contract, though there has been talk that Messi's signing could convince him to agree new terms with PSG.

During his time at Barcelona, Messi claimed four Champions League triumphs alongside 10 LaLiga titles.

The forward finally won a senior international trophy in July, firing in four goals and adding five assists to secure Argentina's first Copa America success since 1993.

Messi's acquisition marks the culmination of a transfer window that has seen PSG add significantly to their squad, signing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi after missing out on the Ligue 1 title and losing in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

One of the best teams in Europe just got better – Lionel Messi has signed for Paris Saint-Germain.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi becomes the Ligue 1 giants' fifth signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

After coming so close in recent seasons, PSG will hope this move can bring an end to their wait for a first Champions League triumph.

But how will all these players fit in the same XI? Stats Perform attempts to work that out...

 

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Keylor Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. But Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option.

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30).

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. Over the previous three seasons, Madrid won 10 of the 15 Champions League games Ramos featured in and only four of the 13 he missed.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Presnel Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order.

CM: Marco Verratti

At the end of a season in which Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. Now imagine those passes are being played to Messi...

CM: Leandro Paredes

Paredes, Messi's international colleague, also made just 16 league starts for PSG last term, but he was still trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. That included a dominant display against a Barca midfield of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, as Paredes played the second most passes on the pitch (73) and assisted one of four PSG goals.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria is very unfortunate to miss out on this XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play, but Wijnaldum perhaps offers a better balance in a midfield three with the attacking talent ahead of him. Across his Liverpool Premier League career, Wijnaldum led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions.

Neymar is excited about the prospect of playing alongside Lionel Messi again as Paris Saint-Germain teased the imminent signing of the Argentina superstar on Twitter.

Messi has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with PSG after Barcelona confirmed last week they would not be able to retain the Camp Nou icon due to "financial and structural obstacles".

The French capital quickly emerged as the most likely destination for the 34-year-old, who scored 672 goals in 778 games for Barca, as well as providing 265 assists for his team-mates.

Neymar played alongside Messi in Spain and is now preparing for a reunion at PSG, the Brazilian posting a story on his Instagram account that showed footage of the pair in their Barcelona days, along with the words "back together" and a fire emoji.

Messi travelled to complete the move on Tuesday, his father Jorge confirming to La Sexta at Barcelona-El Prat Airport that he would be signing for PSG.

The player is set to have a medical upon his arrival, though his future employers could not wait to tease the announcement with a short video on social media.

Titled 'Mercato Update', the 13-second clip showed a plane in transit followed by Messi in an Argentina shirt, albeit his head was cropped out of the footage.

There was then a snapshot of pen being put to paper, followed by playing shirts belonging to Neymar – whose kit included him wearing the number 10 – and Kylian Mbappe hanging up inside the dressing room, sitting either side of another jersey that was covered up.

After landing in Paris, Messi appeared at an airport window wearing a t-shirt that read "Ici c'est Paris" ("Here is Paris") and waved to the large number of fans who had gathered to greet him upon his arrival.

Neymar and Messi won two LaLiga titles and also the 2015 Champions League final while playing alongside each other at Barca, two parts of the famous 'MSN' forward line that also included striker Luis Suarez.

Lionel Messi's imminent switch to Paris Saint-Germain has not had an impact on Cristiano Ronaldo's future with Juventus, according to team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is expected to complete a move to PSG this week after bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona.

French giants PSG have previously been linked with fellow superstar forward Ronaldo, who is now into the final 12 months of his contract with Juve.

With any path to the Parc des Princes now effectively being cut off by Messi's arrival, Ronaldo looks set to stay in Turin for at least the next year.

However, Bonucci insists the shock transfer involving Messi has had no bearing on where Ronaldo will play his football this coming season.

"I think that Cristiano would have stayed even if Messi had not gone to PSG," the Juve defender told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"For us, it's an added value and I'm sure that this year, more than in past years, he will help us reach all of our goals."

 

Since Ronaldo joined Juventus from Real Madrid in 2018, only Robert Lewandowski (103) has scored more goals in all competitions than the Portugal forward's 73 among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Ronaldo's 83 goal involvements over this period rank fourth behind Lewandowski (121), Messi (106) and Kylian Mbappe (97).

Despite Ronaldo enjoying another prolific season in front of goal, Juve finished fourth in Serie A in 2020-21.

And Bonucci, who played a starring role in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph, is aiming to win back the title from Inter when the new season begins in a little under two weeks' time.

"We want to bring the Scudetto back home, there is no point in hiding that," he said. 

"When you play for Juventus, that has to be the objective for the season, just like having a great Champions League campaign and fighting on all fronts.

"Personally, though, my goal is to continue my form from the Euros, where I played a major role, and do that again with Juventus."

Lionel Messi is on the brink of completing his sensational transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, according to the player's father.

Messi was expected to sign a long-anticipated new contract at Barcelona last week, only for the LaLiga giants to announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles".

PSG have moved quickly to secure the 34-year-old, who is poised to form an all-star forward line alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe under head coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Multiple reports in Paris suggest Messi is expected in the French capital on Tuesday, and Jorge Messi was approached by reporters at Barcelona-El Prat Airport.

Asked by La Sexta whether his son would sign for PSG, Messi Sr replied: "Yes."

A follow-up question enquiring who was responsible for Messi leaving Barcelona was met with the response: "Find out at the club."

Finally, following his tearful Sunday news conference at Camp Nou, Jorge Messi was asked whether the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was upset and retorted: "Haven't you seen him?"

Messi himself then arrived at the airport with his wife and children but did not make any comment to reporters.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is a free agent after his time with Barcelona officially ended.

The Argentina international has been heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi is yet to declare his intentions and unlikely to confirm his next move until later this week at the earliest.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD CONSIDERS LAST-MINUTE MESSI MOVE

Manchester United have entered the race for free agent Messi and are considering a late offer to pip PSG, claims the Daily Star.

Messi's exit from Barcelona was confirmed over the weekend, although the 34-year-old refused to declare his next destination amid strong links with PSG.

The report claims United are considering an opportunistic bid, with competition still swirling for Messi's signature and his PSG move unlikely to be progressed until later this week.

However, Ole is reporting that Messi will be in Paris on Tuesday, with the PSG deal almost done.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS claims that Messi's imminent move to Paris Saint-Germain could signal a transfer swoop from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe. PSG and Mbappe appear to have been drifting apart in recent times, with the France international opting not to extend his contract due to expire in 2022.

- Messi's imminent move means PSG have ended their interest in signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba,  according to Le Parisien. The France international's agent Mino Raiola had opened talks with PSG about a switch and Pogba was keen on the move but no offer was made.

- Chelsea and Roma have agreed to Tammy Abraham's transfer terms with the move subject to the player's approval, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. This is part of a cascade of moves as Chelsea are set to land Romelu Lukaku from the Nerazzurri, with Roma striker Edin Dzeko headed to Inter.

- Lyon have submitted a bid for Liverpool's Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, claims L'Equipe. Shaqiri was largely a bit-part player at Liverpool last season.

- Liverpool are also looking to add to their squad as they eye a move for young Belgian talent Jeremy Doku from Rennes, according to Voetbal 24.

On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.

Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.

Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.

Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.

Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.

That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.

An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.

But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?

 

HIS UNITED RECORD

Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.

Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba's 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).

Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories –  a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.

He has missed 56 league games, with United's win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.

It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes' arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.

The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes' goals have come from the penalty spot.

Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman's 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.

Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).

 

PARIS FOR PAUL?

With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.

PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.

Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.

Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder's 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino's midfield.

Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG's best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.

However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries  – could the pair form Pochettino's pivot next season?

While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following Sunday's press conference and farewell.

Paris Saint-Germain have been widely linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The Argentina international admitted that a move to PSG was a possibility but said nothing was confirmed.

TOP STORY - MONDAY PSG MEDICAL FOR MESSI

Messi is scheduled to have a medical with PSG on Monday before he completes his free transfer move from Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

The Argentina international bid farewell to Barcelona on Sunday and the Parisians appear the frontrunners to sign him.

The report says PSG and Messi have almost agreed to all the final details of the contract, with ESPN claiming he will be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Eiffel Tower this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter are targeting Anthony Martial as they look to replace Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to join Chelsea, reports The Sun. Manchester United are believed to be ready to sell him for £50million. Inter want Martial initially on a season-long loan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Jose Mourinho's Roma are plotting a move to sign French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal. The stumbling block may be that Lacazette wants to play Champions League football, which Roma cannot offer this season.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic if they cannot land Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. The Serbian scored 21 league goals for Fiorentina last term.

- Arsenal and Newcastle have agreed to a fee of £25m for English midfielder Joe Willock, claims Sky Sports. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are trying to lure Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back to the club on loan from Liverpool.

 

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