Lionel Messi's potential move to Inter Miami in MLS would be even more significant for US soccer than Pele playing for the New York Cosmos, former United States international Brad Friedel told Stats Perform.

MLS has long been considered a likely end-of-career destination for Messi, but the intensity of such links has ramped up considerably in recent days, with media reports suggesting David Beckham-backed Inter are increasingly confident of luring the Paris Saint-Germain forward to MLS as early as next year.

Beckham was of course seen as something of a pioneer when he made the switch to LA Galaxy in 2007, and stars such as Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba all followed over the next decade.

But before MLS, the North American Soccer League (NASL) had served a similar purpose for ageing superstars in the 1970s and 80s, with Brazil legend Pele proving the trendsetter back then when he joined the Cosmos – Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Eusebio, Bobby Moore and George Best all went on to feature in the NASL before it collapsed after the 1984 season.

For all the history US soccer has with the biggest names in the sport, Friedel thinks nothing that has gone before could compare with the impact Messi's arrival would have.

"So, we had David Beckham over here, which was one of the best signings that MLS ever made for notoriety around the world," he told Stats Perform.

"And in today's day and age with social media, everyone's sort of a journalist with their phones these days, and how quickly media gets around the world.

"[Messi to MLS] would be unlike anything anyone's ever seen in this country, including when Pele was over here, just because of the way the media is.

"It would be incredible if Lionel Messi was playing in this league. The fans that he attracts, the global respect, how good he has been.

"If they can pull that off… I'm not generally [in favour of] the older player coming in [to MLS], but like [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Gareth] Bale were [signed] for a reason and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic was for a reason, then work out that if you can get Messi, get him over here."

Although Messi's PSG contract expires next year, Inter should not expect a free run at the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

PSG are still reportedly confident of securing a contract extension, while officials from Messi's former club Barcelona have spoken openly about their desire to bring him back to Camp Nou.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes French football is "collapsing" without him, declaring the presence of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi as "not enough".

Ibrahimovic enjoyed a trophy-laden spell with Paris Saint-Germain between 2012 and 2016, winning 12 domestic honours including four consecutive Ligue 1 titles.

The Sweden striker's tally of 156 goals for PSG, meanwhile, is only bettered by Edinson Cavani (200) and Mbappe (188) in the club's history, although his return of 0.87 goals per game is better than both of those players.

Ibrahimovic, who is expected to return for Milan in 2023 after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury at the end of last season, claims Ligue 1 has suffered for his absence.

Speaking to Canal+, Ibrahimovic said: "Since I left France, everything is collapsing. 

"There is no longer any interesting subject. France needs me, but I don't need France. 

"Even if you have Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, it's not enough, because you don't have God."

Mbappe (11), Neymar (10) and Messi (seven) have scored a combined 28 league goals for PSG this season after all three men netted in Saturday's dramatic 4-3 victory over Troyes.

 

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is known to be desperate for Lionel Messi to finish his career at his long-time club.

The 35-year-old Argentine forward departed Camp Nou hastily in August last year due to Barcelona's financial issues.

Messi joined the Blaugrana in 2000 and had an association with the club for more than two decades, scoring 672 goals across 778 first-team appearances.


TOP STORY – LAPORTA PLOTTING JANUARY MOVE FOR MESSI

Laporta is planning a move for Barcelona club legend Lionel Messi in the January transfer window, according to Sport.

The report states that Barcelona want to take advantage of the Fair Play situation in January, rather than wait for the off-season where the 1/4 rule will make any move more difficult.

However, Laporta's plan is full of obstacles for the Blaugrana to overcome, not least LaLiga's financial restraints, along with convincing Messi and his current club Paris Saint-Germain to part midway through the season.

Messi has publicly said he has deferred any decisions on his club or international future until after the World Cup.


ROUND-UP

– Sporting CP head coach Ruben Amorim may have distanced the club from links with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in midweek but The Mirror reports that the Portuguese club will make a bid for him in January.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are open to selling Moises Caicedo amid interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United but have slapped a £85m price tag on the 20-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder, reports the Sunday Mirror.

– The Express claims that Arsenal are leading the race ahead of Manchester United to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans. The Belgian could move to the Gunners for free, as he is out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to pen a new deal.

– Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante - whose contract is also up at the end of June 2023 - is a major target for Barcelona who are looking at replacements for veteran Sergio Busquets, reports Relevo.

– Sport claims Barcelona are looking to offload Memphis Depay in January, with Juventus interested in signing the Dutch attacker.

Wolves are set to approach ex-Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui again, having failed to convince him previously to become their new manager, claims The Sun.

Christophe Galtier admits Paris Saint-Germain are lacking balance and cannot rely on their superstar forwards to bail them out after scraping a 4-3 victory over Troyes.

The reigning Ligue 1 champions twice trailed to goals from Mama Balde, either side of Carlos Soler's leveller, in Saturday's clash at the Parc des Princes.

But Lionel Messi scored a superb equaliser and then played in Neymar to put PSG ahead for the first time, before Kylian Mbappe emphatically converted from the penalty spot.

There was still time for Ante Palaversa to pull one back, making Troyes the first side to score three or more goals at PSG in the league since Bordeaux in February 2020.

Rather than showing pride in PSG's ability to fight back and move five points clear at the summit, Galtier criticised the defensive performance of his side.

"The team was very unbalanced from the start," Galtier told Amazon Prime. "Some players had trouble finding their levels.

"We won very few balls high up the pitch and lost too many duels. On a defensive level, we made far too many mistakes and again conceded from a set-piece.

"This is something we have to spend time on to fix, something we have to make work. If we have to score four goals to win each time, it's going to be complicated.

"We got ahead of ourselves because we succeeded on the offensive level, but we left ourselves completely open."

 

PSG have scored 54 goals in 19 games in all competitions this season, a tally only Bayern Munich (69 in 20) can better among teams across Europe's top five leagues.

However, having defeated Maccabi Haifa 7-2 in the Champions League in midweek, they have now conceded five goals in their past two matches.

Midfielder Marco Verratti accepts the Parisians have to tighten up at the back if they are to challenge for trophies on multiple fronts this season.

"We didn't defend well today. We cannot concede three goals at home," he said. "We have to find a better balance to our game."

The past 25 goals netted by PSG in all competitions have been either scored or assisted by Messi, Neymar and Mbappe in a run stretching back to September 3.

Galtier fielded all three of his superstar trio for the full match against Troyes – a decision the Frenchman defended after his side's 19th game without defeat since he took over.

"They had to stay on until the end if we were going to get the win," he said. "If the score had been different, with the team a few goals ahead, we could have managed it more.

"Plus, we know Neymar will not play on Wednesday [against Juventus] because of suspension. We knew today we would have to keep our attacking power to score goals."

Chelsea are reportedly the latest Premier League club to signal their interest in 25-year-old Inter striker Lautaro Martinez.

Martinez, who has also scored 21 senior goals for Argentina in 40 international appearances, is coming off a career-best season in the Serie A.

He set a new personal-best with 21 league goals in 35 games in 2021-22, and has started this season in similar fashion, netting six times in 11 Serie A fixtures.

Martinez also showed his quality with a goal and an assist in the dramatic 3-3 Champions League draw against Barcelona.


TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO INTER FOR STRIKER SOLUTION

According to InterLive, what separates Chelsea's chances from Martinez's other Premier League suitors is their potential to include current loanee Romelu Lukaku in their bid.

The report states Inter's starting point for an acceptable price tag will be €90million, which is what Tottenham are said to have offered before the beginning of last season.

Tottenham are one of the other Premier League teams named in the report, while Manchester United and Newcastle United have previously been connected with a pursuit of Martinez.

Inter will have all the leverage in any negotiations, with Martinez's contract tying him to the club until 2026.


ROUND-UP

– De Telegraaf claims PSV are in such a dire financial situation that they will be forced to accept a €30m bid for 23-year-old breakout star Cody Gakpo

– According to Calciomercato, Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are all circling 21-year-old Midtjylland winger Gustav Isaksen.

– Diario Sport is reporting Paris Saint-Germain are the favourites to land prized 16-year-old Palmeiras prospect Endrick, while Real Madrid are also said to be all-in, and Barcelona may turn their attention to more pressing matters.

– Spezia are looking for €30m to part ways with 22-year-old centre-back Jakub Kiwior, with Milan, Juventus and West Ham said to have strong interest, per Tuttomercatoweb.

– The Chronicle is reporting Newcastle are weighing up a move for 18-year-old winger Eguinaldo, who plays for Vasco Da Gama in the Brazilian second division and has a £26m release clause in his contract.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas feels sanctions against Paris Saint-Germain are too lenient, comparing potential fines as comparable to "a cup of coffee" in cost for the club.

The Ligue 1 outfit, who are owned by Qatar Sports Investments, are one of the highest-spending sides in European football, under the watch of chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

PSG's transactions have come under intense scrutiny from critics, with the club previously handed a €65million fine - with €55m suspended - for Financial Fair Play breaches.

Tebas, however, feels such repercussions are too soft on the French outfit, who he claims are dismantling the sport's rulebook.

"€10m for PSG and Nasser is a cup of coffee!" he told L'Equipe. "Sanctions have to be dissuasive and also affect the sporting side of things.

"That has not been the case with those that were taken. These penalties don’t work, they have to be sanctioned now.

"Over the last six or seven seasons, PSG have lost a billion euros. They are breaking the European football ecosystem.

"How can other clubs compete with someone who has losses of one billion euros? It’s difficult."

 

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing to rival Chelsea in the pursuit of RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, with this expected to be the forward's last season in the Bundesliga.

Nkunku, 24, burst onto the world stage this past season when he raised his goal tally in all competitions to 35 in 52 games, after previously never having scored more than seven goals in a season.

This season he has shown it was no fluke, with eight goals from Leipzig's first 11 Bundesliga fixtures, while adding another two in the Champions League, including one in Tuesday's home win against Real Madrid.

His form warranted his senior international debut for France in March, and as he is preparing to play a role for the defending champions at the World Cup, his old club have reportedly decided they want him back.

 

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN LOOK TO RECLAIM LEIPZIG'S NKUNKU

Nkunku spent nine years with PSG after arriving as a 13-year-old in 2010, earning 55 Ligue 1 appearances before being sold to Leipzig for a fee of €13million in 2019.

According to Fichajes, they now view that move as a mistake, and will look to reclaim France's new star as soon as January.

The report states both Liverpool and Chelsea are prepared to activate his €60m release clause in January, with Chelsea already said to have completed a preliminary physical in the previous transfer window, having been engaged with Leipzig in the sale of Timo Werner and an enquiry about Josko Gvardiol.

It is not known if PSG will have the funds to complete the move in January, especially while in contract renegotiations with superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to 90min, Bayern Munich are considering a move for 32-year-old German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan from Manchester City at the end of the season.

– Sport reports that Barcelona are in talks with Wolves about securing 25-year-old midfielder Ruben Neves, with a deal believed to be possible in January. 

– The Los Angeles Times claims Cristiano Ronaldo could come to Major League Soccer to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles FC or Inter Miami if he can not find a European club.

– Calciomercato is reporting Manchester United have joined Chelsea and Barcelona with their interest in 25-year-old Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez.

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to pay €30m for 16-year-old Brazilian Endrick, per UOL Esporte. Endrick is playing in the Brazilian league with Palmeiras, and will not be allowed to make the jump to Europe before turning 18.

Paris Saint-Germain can "do great things" in the Champions League if the attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar continue their rich vein of form, according to defender Achraf Hakimi.

With Neymar operating just behind Mbappe and Messi, all three were on target as Christophe Galtier's side soared through to the knockout stages with a dominant 7-2 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Parc des Princes.

Supported by a midfield trio of Fabian Ruiz, Renato Sanches and Vitinha, the front three embraced the opportunity to express themselves more freely with PSG netting seven goals in a Champions League game for only the third time.

"We played a good game, we fulfilled the objective of qualifying," Hakimi told RMC Sport 1. "We scored a lot of goals. The coach chose the system to try things.

"The coach likes to play with this midfield, we hope it's a good possibility for the team. If the front three stay like that, it's possible to do great things. We're glad they all scored."

Galtier added: "It would be pretentious to think that we have the best team in the world. There are high quality teams in this competition.

"But I have three extraordinary players up front. We had to find a system so that they could express themselves more freely.

"Everyone knows the technical quality of the three, but we also realise that, in this competition, defending more in density allows us to have transitions. It's very nice to see, they play for each other."

Although disappointed by the manner in which the second goal was conceded, Galtier was impressed by the overall performance of his players, who he is urging to secure top spot in Group H when they face Juventus next week.

"I regret the second goal. We lacked requirement and rigour at the beginning of the second half to avoid reviving the team," the head coach added.

"Apart from that, I'm happy with the game. Overall, the team has been fantastic. We played lively, alert football, with a lot of technical relationships and connections between the lines. I am satisfied.

"We are qualified; it's very good, it's the most important. The competition is not over, we have to go for first place against Juventus. PSG's ambition is to finish first. We remain focused on this objective."

Paris Saint-Germain will not win the Champions League because they are "terrible at defending," according to former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi scored twice while Neymar was also on target in the thumping 7-2 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Parc des Princes. 

Despite progressing to the knockout stages with a match to spare, the Champions League trophy has remained elusive to PSG, who are yet to register a clean sheet in this season's competition after Abdoulaye Seck's brace for the visitors.

Schmeichel, who lifted the trophy with United in 1999, heaped praise on the attacking trio of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar after another devastating goalscoring display, but believes that defensive frailties will wreck any title ambitions.

"What was special about this game was the quality of the goals," he told CBS Sports Golazo. "You can't defend against that. These three guys up front, Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, when they play like that, there are no answers.

"I'm not sure when you talk about them winning the Champions League. I think the problem they have also showed today. When they're 3-0 up, all of a sudden, it's 4-2. They need to score a lot of goals to win games, and it's not always going to happen.

"I think they are terrible defending; that's also because of the three front players. When you are at the stadium, and you see how little they take part in defending.

"Everybody else, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, all those teams, it's 11 players attacking, it's 11 players defending. I think in modern-day football, that's what you need.

"That could be the problem in one game, one game against Man City, one game against Real Madrid, it's enough to get knocked out."

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier has explained his tactical changes in recent matches, making clear a return to a three-man defence is not off the table.

PSG switched approaches for their last two Ligue 1 games, playing with a four-man backline and securing victories against Marseille and Ajaccio.

The move impacts Neymar, who has been in outstanding form this season, as he was moved inside against Marseille having previously played from the wing.

Galtier accepts there is now a different demand defensively of the Brazil forward – or anyone else in that position – although he wants his players to work as a team "whatever the formation".

"We changed the system for different reasons," he said ahead of Tuesday's game against Maccabi Haifa. "We played two games in this formation.

"Whatever the formation, you always have to run, and even if tomorrow [Tuesday] we have to evolve in this formation, we need the efforts of each other.

"But it is true that it is more precise defensively for the player who plays under both strikers."

This is not necessarily a long-term switch, however, as Galtier added: "Do not think that the three centre-back system has been abandoned. It is an advantage to have two formations, two systems.

Cristiano Ronaldo remains in limbo at Manchester United after being exiled after exiting their 2-0 win over Tottenham prematurely last week.

Ronaldo and United manager Erik ten Hag were set for talks before a decision was made on letting him return to first-team training and be considered to play.

The 37-year-old Portuguese apologised for the incident on social media, but the situation appears delicate after an off-season where Ronaldo chased a move away from United.

TOP STORY – TEN HAG WILLING TO LET RONALDO GO IN JANUARY

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is willing to let Cristiano Ronaldo leave in January, reports The Mirror.

The Dutchman has publicly said Ronaldo is wanted at Old Trafford, but is ready to allow him to move on should an appropriate suitor be found, amid fresh links with Chelsea via Sunday World.

Ronaldo had pushed for an off-season move to a Champions League club but was unable to find a home, while he rejected a lucrative offer from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club.

 

ROUND-UP

– Le10Sport claims that Paris Saint-Germain are open to renewal talks with veteran Spanish defender Sergio Ramos ,   who is out of contract at the end of this season.

Chelsea are eager to sign Inter right-back Denzel Dumfries amid interest from Juventus , claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are both weighing up making an offer to sign Juve midfielder Adrien Rabiot , Calciomercato also reports.

Arsenal 's interest in Eintracht Frankfurt defender Evan Ndicka has cooled, according to the Express. West Ham are also interested in the Frenchman.

Lautaro Martinez dismissed speculation over a move to Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain, stating he hopes to "become a legend" at Inter.

Chelsea, Bayern and PSG are among a host of Europe's elite clubs that have repeatedly been linked to the forward, who will aim for World Cup glory with Argentina in November.

Julian Nagelsmann's side remain on the hunt for a like-for-like replacement for Robert Lewandowski, while Martinez's Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi could draw the Inter star to the French capital.

However, Martinez refuted reports of a move away from San Siro as he outlined his long-term ambitions with Inter.

"I'm fine, I'm happy here," Martinez told Rai Sport. "I hope I can become a legend, I have a contract here and I only think about Inter. 

"There are many goals from now on and we hope to continue like this."

Martinez scored 21 goals in 35 Serie A appearances as Inter finished second to rivals Milan last season, though he endured a lean spell in front of goal at the start of this campaign.

The 25-year-old failed to find the net in five straight league games but ended that poor form with a strike against Sassuolo on Wednesday, before a brace and an assist against Fiorentina on Saturday.

A dramatic 4-3 victory over Fiorentina – courtesy of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's fortuitous winner – lifted Inter to seventh in Serie A, but the Nerazzurri still sit five points behind leaders Napoli, who have a game in hand.

The Frenkie de Jong transfer rumour mill is heating up once again as we get closer to January, with Chelsea and Liverpool reportedly set to join Manchester United in the pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder.

De Jong, 25, was one of the most ubiquitous names in the most recent transfer window, with United and Barcelona in regular communication as Erik ten Hag tried to recruit his former Ajax pupil.

After deciding to remain at Camp Nou, despite the LaLiga club urging him to leave to help ease their finances, De Jong has started six out of 14 matches for the Blaugrana so far this season.

With their Champions League campaign looking headed for an early exit, and more playing time likely on the table in the Premier League, it may seem more palatable for the Dutch international to make the jump in January.

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE GIANTS PREPARE BIDS FOR BARCELONA'S DE JONG

Barcelona and United agreed on a deal starting at €65million plus add-ons before De Jong decided to veto the move by refusing to sign a contract with the Old Trafford side.

With his contract still tying him to Barcelona until 2026, there is no reason to believe that figure would dip unless the Catalan outfit are desperate to get a deal done.

ESPN's report claims Chelsea have had their interest spurred by the injury status of N'Golo Kante, who will apparently miss around four months after undergoing surgery on his hamstring, while Liverpool have made no secret about their desire for midfield reinforcements, and are said to have contacted De Jong's representatives.

ROUND-UP

– According to Football Italia, Juventus will be willing to sell 24-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie for €20m in January.   

– The Evening Standard is reporting Arsenal are interested in 23-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, with the French international set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Wilfried Zaha is likely to reject a new contract from Crystal Palace so he can join a top-six Premier League side when his deal expires at the end of the season, per the Daily Mail.

– Football Insider claims 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko has caught the eye of the world's elite clubs, with interest coming from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool.

– Le 10 Sport is reporting Inter view Sevilla centre-back Tanguy Nianzou and Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby as potential replacements for Milan Skriniar, with the Slovakian expected to leave in January.

Neymar hailed the "deserved" choice of Karim Benzema as Ballon d'Or winner, after the Real Madrid star claimed the prestigious honour for the first time on Monday.

But the Paris Saint-Germain attacker criticised the eighth-place finish for Benzema's Madrid team-mate Vinicius Junior, with the Brazil international declaring his fellow Selecao star should have finished in the top three at a "minimum".

Benzema was crowned the world's greatest player for the 2021-22 season at a ceremony earlier this week, succeeding Neymar's PSG club-mate Lionel Messi while beating out Bayern Munich's Sadio Mane to top spot.

It came after a campaign that saw him lead Carlo Ancelotti's side to success in LaLiga and the Champions League, scoring 44 goals and adding 15 assists.

Neymar, who was not nominated this year, took to social media a day after the presentation to hail Benzema's victory, but added that Vinicius, another key Madrid star last term, deserved greater recognition.

"Benzema deserved [it - he's the] crack!" the attacker wrote on Twitter. "Now, for Vini Jr to be eighth - it's not possible! Minimum top three!"

After arguably the toughest domestic season of his career to date last term, Neymar looks to be back to his best this season, with nine goals and seven assists in Ligue 1 so far.

Benzema meanwhile has struggled with fitness issues, restricting the 34-year-old to just four goals and one assist in LaLiga.

Florentino Perez says it is "out of the question" for Real Madrid to sign Kylian Mbappe in January, but did not rule out a move for the forward further down the line.

It was reported last week that Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain as he feels "betrayed" by the club only five months after signing a new three-year deal.

The France international had been strongly linked with a move to Madrid as a free agent at the end of last season after his contract expired, but instead opted to stay with the Ligue 1 champions.

Mbappe has rubbished reports he wants to make a PSG exit and Madrid president Perez says the European champions are not planning to make a bid for the 23-year-old.

He told El Larguero: "It's not that I'm bored about Mbappe, it's that I don't even read it. We already had a good summer, so that's out of the question.

"You can't know anything about the future, but the Real Madrid players are progressing spectacularly in the forward areas. Rodrygo and Vinicius [Junior] still have a lifetime to prosper. I see them both as Ballon d'Or [winners]."

Perez added: "Real Madrid only looks at the players it has and we are delighted with them. We are not doing badly with the number of young players we have. We have a very promising future."

The Madrid supremo hailed Karim Benzema after the Los Blancos captain won the Ballon d'Or for the first time on Monday.

He said: "I'm happy because at last he deserves to be the best player in the world. He has been the best for three or four years.

"He is a nine who is a mixture of Ronaldo Nazario and Zinedine Zidane. He is a nine who does these two jobs at the same time. He moves forward like Zidane did and shoots on goal like Ronaldo Nazario did."

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