Lionel Messi and Neymar were on target as Paris Saint-Germain thumped Nantes 4-0 to win the Trophee des Champions on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe did not travel to Israel for the clash at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, but his absence was not felt as Christophe Galtier started his reign as PSG boss in style. 

Messi set the Ligue 1 champions on their way in the 22nd minute with a cool finish, before Neymar doubled their advantage with a superb whipped free-kick from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time.

Sergio Ramos made it 3-0 shortly before the hour mark with an improvised finish, then Neymar claimed a second late on from the penalty spot after an incident that saw Jean-Charles Castelletto dismissed.

Achraf Hakimi and Pablo Sarabia went close for PSG inside the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end Ludovic Blas was superbly denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

PSG went ahead in the 22nd minute when Messi rounded Alban Lafont and slotted home after latching onto Neymar's deflected throughball.

Lafont got down well to deny Messi a second shortly before the interval, yet Galtier's men did go in at the break with a two-goal lead courtesy of Neymar's sumptuous free-kick.

Ramos added a third in the 57th minute, the former Real Madrid defender superbly backheeling into the net after Lafont had kept out Sarabia's initial effort. 

Neymar scored his second in the 82nd minute with a calm penalty after he had been brought down in the area by Castelletto, who was shown a red card by referee Orel Grinfeeld.

Xavi has given a strong indication Barcelona will make a sensational move to sign Lionel Messi next year.

Barca boss Xavi stated earlier this week that it would be "impossible" for the Catalan giants to bring club legend Messi back to Camp Nou during this transfer window, given he is under contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Argentina captain joined PSG on a two-year deal last year after sensationally ending his 21-year stay with the Blaugrana, who could not afford to keep him.

Barca president Joan Laporta on Thursday declared that he thinks the LaLiga giants "will make this aspiration a reality" when asked about the prospect of signing Messi.

Xavi wants his former team-mate to return to Barcelona, but says it will not happen while he is contracted to the Ligue 1 champions.

He said: "Now he has a contract, it's a utopia, we're going to focus on this year. Obviously, I would like Leo's time at Barca not to end the way he did and for him to have one last chance to say goodbye as the best in history.

"Of course I would like to, yes, I would like it to happen, but he has a contract."

Xavi has been given great backing in the transfer market ahead of the 2022-23 season, with Barca splashing out on Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde

Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen have also arrived on free transfers and Xavi wants further additions.

He said: "Everything that is reinforced is good. I already said that there should be two players per position, more this year with the World Cup.

"We need footballers to compete and to be better. Yes, we want to reinforce ourselves more, the more the better."

Hugo Ekitike says he would have joined Newcastle United if he had departed Ligue 1, but that he was unable to refuse the chance of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Reims striker signed a loan deal with the French champions, which includes an obligation to buy, earlier this month.

It brought to an end an unsuccessful pursuit from the Magpies, who heavily courted the forward in an attempt to persuade him to come to St James' Park as far back as the January transfer window.

Now, Ekitike has revealed he remains grateful for the efforts Newcastle made to sign him, but he could not turn down the chance to go to the premier club in his home country when it arose.

"I had an appointment with Luis [Campos, PSG sporting director] which meant a lot to me," Ekitike told Le Parisien.

"It was not so long ago. We talked a lot, he is someone I value a lot. I wanted to come to PSG before this exchange, but he convinced me even more

"I’m not setting aside everything Newcastle did for me to come. If I had to go abroad, I would have gone there. But when PSG wants you and you're French, you can't refuse."

While Newcastle have made several signings ahead of the new season, Eddie Howe's side have failed to bring on board a major forward target, potentially leaving them light ahead of the manager's first full season in charge.

Barcelona's infatuation with Lionel Messi has been underlined after president Joan Laporta raised the tantalising idea that the Argentina great could return to end his career with the club.

It is coming up to 12 months since Messi tearfully departed and joined Paris Saint-Germain, breaking a 21-year association with a struggling Barca who could not afford to keep him.

The forward won every trophy available with the Catalan giants and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals from 778 appearances. To give that some context, next on the goalscoring list is Cesar Rodriguez, who scored 232 goals for Barcelona.

Laporta spoke in New York on Thursday evening, as Barcelona's US tour neared its end, and addressed the prospect of Messi one day resuming his career with the Blaugrana.

"Leo's phase did not end as we all wanted. It ended up very conditioned by economic issues," said Laporta. "We owe him a moral debt in this regard. We would like the end of his career to be with the Barca shirt and being applauded in all stadiums.

"This is an aspiration. There is nothing spoken. I feel jointly responsible for this ending. I think it is a provisional end, I think we will make this aspiration a reality."

Barca's financial situation in August 2021 meant they could not agree fresh terms that adhered to LaLiga's salary cap rules.

Messi has another year to run on his PSG deal, which will take him through to the age of 36, though that contract also contains the option of a third season in Paris.

Laporta might be pushing the right buttons for those who dream of a Messi comeback in LaLiga, but whether his ambitions are realistic remains to be seen.

Barcelona have sold off a proportion of future TV rights revenue in order to bolster their financial resources, allowing them to embark on a signing spree ahead of the new LaLiga season. They are suddenly moving in a positive direction again, and Laporta will look to make it sustainable.

 

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when he scored 73 in all competitions and assisted a further 28.

That is in stark contrast to the 11 goals and 14 assists managed in 34 games during his first season with PSG.

Diminishing returns are setting in, as would only be expected of a player who reached staggering heights at the peak of his career.

Yet Laporta is determined to have Messi back on board, surely mindful of the commercial opportunities it could bring, and how such a coup would reflect on his presidency.

The more Laporta says it, the more he will be held to his word by a fanbase that was left stunned by the departure of the club's greatest player.

Tottenham have reportedly entered the race for 23-year-old Roma attacking midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, with Juventus also heavily linked to the Italy international.

Zaniolo missed the entire 2020-21 season after suffering the second torn ACL of his career, but he made a successful return this past campaign, totalling 42 club appearances, including five goals and four assists in 10 Conference League fixtures.

The man with nine senior international caps has been linked with Juventus for some time now, but with the club yet to make any breakthrough, they could face competition from the Premier League.

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM LOOK TO SWOOP IN FOR JUVENTUS TARGET

According to Tuttosport, Juventus and Roma have been holding discussions about different constructions of a deal for Zaniolo, including an iteration that would make it a loan this season with an option to buy after. The report mentions his price tag is believed to be between £30million and £40million.

With Tottenham set to play Roma in a friendly on Saturday, it is said to be an opportunity for the two clubs to sit down and discuss the possibility of a move.

Reports have claimed Spurs are willing to include Giovani Lo Celso in their bid, with the English club said to value the Argentinian at £17million.


ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting that Marseille are investigating a potential move for Inter's Alexis Sanchez.

– Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea have yet to receive an acceptable offer for 20-year-old striker Armando Broja after turning down a £30million bid from West Ham, and that he may be competing for first-team minutes this season.

– Fabrizio Romano is also reporting that Everton have approached Paris Saint-Germain about bringing 32-year-old Idrissa Gueye back to the club after he left in 2019.

– According to 90min, West Ham are in talks with Eintracht Frankfurt about 29-year-old wing-back Filip Kostic after having their first bid turned down.

Ajax, Newcastle United and Bayer Leverkusen are tracking 18-year-old forward Giovani, playing for Palmeiras in the Brazilian top division, according to ESPN Brasil.

Juventus have been targeting a deal for Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, hoping he can be acquired for around £20million.

Firmino, 30, has spent the past seven seasons with Liverpool, playing a major role in winning the 2019-20 Premier League and 2018-19 Champions League, but in the past season a series of injuries limited him to his fewest league appearances (20) and league goals (five) since arriving at Anfield.

Corriere dello Sport claims the Brazilian was not Juventus' first choice when weighing up the striker market, but interest grew as it became increasingly unlikely they would be able to bring Alvaro Morata back to the club from Atletico Madrid.


TOP STORY – WITH MORATA UNLIKELY TO RETURN, JUVENTUS PIVOT TO FIRMINO

Darwin Nunez's arrival has given Liverpool an abundance of options up front, and instead of letting Firmino operate as a back-up as his value continues to diminish, the club could elect to cash in, if the price is right.

The report from Italy claims Juventus have also been investigating the possibility of acquiring Chelsea's Timo Werner or Manchester United's Anthony Martial, but securing Firmino would put an end to those pursuits.

Reports from England have indicated Liverpool are not interested in selling for the fee Juventus have so far proposed.

Meanwhile, Marca is reporting that Juventus are also in the hunt for Benfica left-back Alejandro Grimaldo, with Manchester City and Newcastle United their main competition.


ROUND-UP

– Spanish publication Cadena Ser claims Frenkie de Jong has told team-mates he has no plans to leave Barcelona in the current transfer period, despite strong interest from Manchester United.

– Cadena Ser is also reporting that Barcelona will look to sell highly paid goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for financial relief if they can not convince De Jong to leave.

– According to The Athletic, Bournemouth are set to sign 23-year-old Middlesbrough winger Marcus Tavernier for £10million.

Roma are reportedly in the final stages of securing Georginio Wijnaldum on a loan deal from Paris Saint-Germain, with negotiations said to be continuing about the percentage of salary the French club will cover during his stay in Italy.

– The Daily Mail is reporting that Ajax have raised their asking price for Manchester United target Antony to £84million, likely indicating they have no intention of parting ways with the 22-year-old Brazil international.

Neymar has hit back at Thomas Meunier after his former team-mate suggested the Brazil international has "lost his magic" at Paris Saint-Germain.

Meunier, who spent three seasons with Neymar at PSG prior to joining Borussia Dortmund in 2020, made his comment in an interview with German outlet Kicker this week.

"I have to admit that I was a big fan of Neymar when he was still playing at Barcelona," Meunier said. "In Paris, however, he lost his magic, from my point of view."

Neymar is approaching his five-year anniversary at PSG and remains the world's most expensive player following his €222million switch from Barcelona in August 2017.

The 30-year-old has made 144 appearances for the Parisians and won 11 trophies, though tellingly he has yet to lift the Champions League with the Ligue 1 giants.

And the former Barcelona star has not taken kindly to Meunier's criticism, which he responded to on social media on Tuesday.

Commenting on a post showing Meunier's remark on Instagram, Neymar responded "this boy talks too much", accompanied by a laughing emoji.

 

Neymar has scored exactly 100 goals for PSG in all competitions, which is 71 fewer than team-mate Kylian Mbappe has managed in the same number of seasons.

The Santos youth product scored 19 league goals in his maiden campaign with the Parisians but has since failed to manage more than 15 in any of the four seasons since.

Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the signing of RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele on Tuesday as coach Christophe Galtier continued to shape his side.

Mukiele appeared destined to become a PSG player when Leipzig announced he had been granted absence from their squad for the DFL-Supercup due to ongoing transfer negotiations on Monday.

Despite reports of late interest from Chelsea, PSG sealed the acquisition of the 24-year-old and will reportedly pay an initial €12million fee, which could reach a total of €16million with add-ons included.

Mukiele has signed a five-year deal at the Parc des Princes, becoming the third new arrival of the transfer window after midfielder Vitinha and striker Hugo Ekitike, while left-back Nuno Mendes made his loan from Sporting CP permanent.

Speaking to PSG's website, Mukiele said: "When I found out that Paris were interested in me and that they wanted me to come here, I had to think about it because it's very important.

"It's a very big step in my career, it's not a choice to be taken lightly. But I think and I'm sure I made the right choice."

Mukiele made 28 appearances – 21 of them starts – as Leipzig finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, contributing to the side matching Bayern Munich as the competition's best defensive side.

No Bundesliga team conceded fewer than their 37 goals across the 2021-22 campaign, while only Bayern and Wolfsburg (both 11) bettered their tally of 10 clean sheets.

PSG won three out of three fixtures during a pre-season tour of Japan, though Galtier expressed frustration with their defending after Monday's 6-2 rout of Gamba Osaka.

Mukiele, who is capable of playing at full-back and centre-back, is expected to challenge for a spot in a three-man backline next season.

Neymar has "lost his magic" after spending five seasons with Paris Saint-Germain, according to former team-mate Thomas Meunier.

Brazil international Neymar remains the world's most expensive player following his €222million switch from Barcelona to the French capital in August 2017.

The 30-year-old has made 144 appearances for PSG and won 11 trophies, though tellingly he has yet to lift the Champions League with the Ligue 1 giants.

Neymar signed a new four-year deal last year, but the former Barcelona star has been liked with the Parc des Princes exit following the arrival of head coach Christophe Galtier.

And ex-PSG defender Meunier, who spent four years at PSG before leaving for Borussia Dortmund in 2020, believes Neymar's career has stagnated.

"I have to admit that I was a big fan of Neymar when he was still playing at Barcelona. In Paris, however, he lost his magic, from my point of view," Meunier told Kicker.

"The comeback is all about him. If I was 10, I would have had his poster in my room."

Neymar has scored exactly 100 goals for PSG in all competitions, which is 71 fewer than Mbappe has managed in the same number of seasons.

The Santos youth product scored 19 league goals in his maiden campaign with the Parisians, but has since failed to manage more than 15 in any of the four seasons since.

 

Belgium international Meunier himself endured a difficult time of things at PSG, which he has put down to a combination of factors both on and off the field.

"In Paris, I was sidelined by the then sports director [Leonardo] because I didn't want to extend my contract," he said.

"Privately, it wasn't easy to leave Paris, either. My wife, my children and myself, we all loved the city. It was hard to give up. But over time we managed to adapt as a family."

Xavi acknowledged a Barcelona return for Lionel Messi is "impossible" at present but refused to rule out a reunion in future, as he rejected comparisons between himself and two legendary Blaugrana coaches.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona came to an end last August when he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer amid the Catalan club's financial woes.

However, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's six league goals during his debut campaign in Paris represented his worst such tally since he netted the same amount in LaLiga as an 18-year-old in 2005-06.

Messi has just one year remaining on his contract in the French capital – though an option exists for a further 12 months with PSG – and Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Sunday he did not believe the Argentine's Barca story was over.

His former team-mate and current Barcelona coach Xavi, however, told a news conference such a move was unfeasible, at least for now. 

"He has a contract and it's impossible right now," Xavi said, looking ahead to Barca's friendly with Juventus in Dallas on Tuesday.

"Messi is the best footballer in the world and in history. President Laporta already said that Messi's story with Barca is not over, but now is not the time to talk about it."

 

On a personal level, Xavi has enjoyed success since returning to Barcelona as head coach last November, leading the side to a second-placed league finish after they had languished in ninth under predecessor Ronald Koeman.

Barca are now expected to challenge for silverware after acquiring the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, but Xavi insists he does not seek comparisons with legendary Blaugrana bosses Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff. 

"I don't have the idea of equalling Pep, what I want is for Barca to win," he added.

"It's not a question of ego, I don't want to beat Pep or Johan or anyone. On the contrary, I have nurtured myself from them, I am a student of theirs. 

"My dream is to return Barca to the top of the world."

Despite their perilous financial situation, Barcelona have recruited heavily throughout the transfer window, and with Sevilla and France defender Jules Kounde reportedly also close to joining, their spending does not look likely to stop any time soon.

And Xavi believes the capture of Lewandowski demonstrates the lure of the Catalan giants, adding: "It's not for me, it's for the club. What I do is speak clearly with the players. 

"Everything adds up, but I would say that the club is the one that has strength, its greatness is a magnet for footballers. 

"People are excited to play at Barca, the fact that players of the stature of Lewandowski want to come proves it."

Nordi Mukiele has thanked RB Leipzig in a social media post as he closes in on a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

The versatile defender joined Leipzig in 2018 from Montpellier, and made 80 Bundesliga appearances for them over a four-year period.

Mukiele is now set to join PSG, with the 24-year-old's move expected to go through in the coming days. The deal is reportedly worth up to €16million.

On Monday, the 24-year-old posted a video to his Instagram account, accompanied by a farewell message to Leipzig.

The post said: "I wanted to thank you for everything you have done for me. You made me feel [at] home since the very first day I arrived and it is with [a] heavy heart that I leave today.

"I want to thank everyone involved at the club that help us reach our goals on a daily basis. To my brothers on the field, let's keep this legacy alive.

"To the coaches and staff I've had during these four seasons: THANK YOU. With you, I've discovered the highest levels of football.

"Today I'm a better player but also a better human being and I've been able to achieve some of my personal dreams also thanks to you."

PSG have also been linked with a move for Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier hinted further arrivals are imminent after his side wrapped up their pre-season tour of Japan by thrashing Gamba Osaka 6-2.

Meanwhile, despite star trio Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar all netting during Monday's rout, Galtier was frustrated by his team's defending, insisting they must improve after conceding "two goals too many".

With Messi starting alongside Neymar and Pablo Sarabia in a 3-4-3 shape, PSG eased to a 4-1 half-time lead as each of the front three joined Nuno Mendes on the scoresheet.

Neymar grabbed his second after the break before Mbappe came on to convert a late penalty, ensuring PSG finished their tour of Japan with three wins from three outings.

Having already signed creative midfielder Vitinha, PSG are expected to carry out further recruitment ahead of their Ligue 1 campaign starting on August 6. 

It was revealed on Monday that RB Leipzig's Nordi Mukiele would miss the German team's DFL-Supercup meeting with Bayern Munich while he finalises a move to Paris, and Galtier is hoping for more new arrivals to follow the defender.

"The club is working to improve and make this squad stronger," he told a post-match news conference.

"We're going to fly, we're going to take a long 12-hour journey, we're going to sleep and when we land we might have one or two, even three more players… We'll see what happens this week."

PSG produced a scintillating attacking performance in their final pre-season outing, only slightly outperforming their 5.65 expected goals (xG) and recording 17 attempts on target, but Galtier was left unimpressed by their two concessions.

Galtier coached Nice to Ligue 1's joint-best defensive record last term (36 goals conceded, level with PSG), while his title-winning Lille side of 2020-21 conceded only 23 goals and kept a league-high 21 clean sheets.

Having built a reputation for his strong defensive organisation, Galtier stressed PSG must improve off the ball.

"I'm happy with the first half, the second we were tired. We conceded two goals, two goals too many," Galtier added. "Even if we have a big goal difference, I would like us to be hard to beat. It's a major line of work.

"Annoyed? That's not the term. On the second goal, we have to be more structured and not disorderly. We weren't in the right timing, we couldn't manage to get back on track. This is an important line of work, we have to show a tougher face for future matches.

"[But] even if we don't want to concede too many chances and concede goals, my players' DNA is to play, take risks and attack as much as possible. We're not going to change that."

Nordi Mukiele has been left out of RB Leipzig's squad for their DFL-Supercup clash against Bayern Munich on Saturday, with the defender in talks over a move to Paris Saint-Germain. 

PSG are in the market for defensive reinforcements after struggling to mount a serious challenge for the Champions League last season, with new boss Christophe Galtier keen to employ a three-man defence at the Parc des Princes.

Inter's Milan Skriniar was initially linked with the French giants, but versatile Leipzig star Mukiele appears close to becoming the first new defender through the door in Paris this window.

With reports suggesting one-cap France international Mukiele is on the verge of agreeing a five-year contract with PSG, his current club revealed he will not be available for their season curtain-raiser.

On Monday, the club announced on Twitter that the defender "has been granted absence due to ongoing contract discussions".

Mukiele made 28 appearances, 21 of them starts, as Leipzig finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season.

No German top-flight team conceded fewer than their 37 goals across the 2021-22 campaign, while only Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg (both 11) bettered their tally of 10 clean sheets.

Sassuolo have agreed to sell Italy striker Gianluca Scamacca to West Ham, according to the Serie A club's chief executive Giovanni Carnevali.

The 23-year-old forward has been strongly linked with a move away from Sassuolo throughout the transfer window, with Paris Saint-Germain reportedly among the clubs interested.

Carnevali insisted earlier this month that Sassuolo were in no rush to sell their prized asset, adamant they would only let him leave on their terms.

And despite the apparent interest of PSG, West Ham are seemingly close to securing the striker's arrival.

Speaking to Corriere dello Sport, Carnevali said: "€36million plus €6m in bonuses and 10 per cent on any resale for Scamacca. A good deal, isn't it? Also, because West Ham is a selling club.

"Scamacca is the present and future of Italy, a complete striker. He's improved a lot in the last year, and he still has unexpressed potential.

"He has physical and technical strengths – he has to learn to play more with his team-mates, [but] he's an exceptional lad, very good."

Scamacca enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, scoring 16 goals in 36 appearances in Serie A.

His tally was only bettered by five players – Giovanni Simeone, Tammy Abraham (both 17), Lautaro Martinez (21), Dusan Vlahovic (24) and Ciro Immobile (27) – in the Italian top flight.

Meanwhile, Erling Haaland, Vinicius Junior and Vlahovic were the only players younger than Scamacca to score 15 or more goals in Europe's top five leagues.

Scamacca will expect to play a prominent role at West Ham should the deal go through, as the club lack depth in his position, with Michail Antonio the only recognised striker in their squad following last year's sale of Sebastien Haller.

Lionel Messi could return to Barcelona one day, according to club president Joan Laporta, who feels "indebted" to the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona, 16 of those spent as part of the senior squad, came to an end last August when he signed for PSG as a free agent.

The Argentina international won every trophy available with Barca and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals across 778 appearances.

Last year's departure came as a huge shock at the time, with the Catalan giants' financial situation meaning they could not agree fresh terms that adhered to LaLiga's salary cap rules.

Messi has another year to run on his PSG deal, which will take him through to the age of 36, though that contract contains the option of a third season in Paris.

But Laporta, who was re-elected as president in March 2021, has opened the door for the club great to return to Catalonia one day.

"For Barca, he has possibly been the best player in history, the most efficient, only comparable to Johan Cruyff in the history of Barca," Laporta told ESPN.

"But it had to happen one day. We had to make a decision as a consequence of the legacy we had received, the institution is above players and coaches.

"I don't believe Messi's chapter at Barcelona is over. And I believe it is our responsibility to make sure that chapter is still open, that it hasn't closed.

"To have a moment to do it how it should have been done so that he may have a much more splendid ending than what he had."

 

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when scoring 73 goals in all competitions and assisting a further 28.

That is in stark contrast to the 11 goals and 14 assists managed in 34 games across all competitions during his first season at the Parc des Princes.

As the poster boy of the most successful period in Barca's history, Laporta feels a sense of gratitude towards the superstar forward.

"Do I feel indebted to him? Yes. Morally, as president of Barca, I did what I had to do," Laporta said. "But also as president of Barca and on a personal level, I think I owe him."

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