Rumour Has It: Messi and PSG relationship irreparable as Barcelona return appears likely

By Sports Desk April 04, 2023

Lionel Messi appeared set to re-sign with Paris Saint-Germain late last year, but the situation has changed.

There have been reports that the Argentinian World Cup winner is unhappy at PSG, with links to an MLS move.

Messi is contracted until the end of this season and had initially agreed to a one-year extension to stay in the French capital.

TOP STORY – MESSI AND PSG RELATIONSHIP IRREPARABLE

L'Equipe claims Messi's relationship with PSG irreparable and he is all but certain to exit at the end of this season, with a return to Barcelona appearing increasingly likely.

Messi spent more than 20 years at Camp Nou, before Barca's financial challenges led to his departure for PSG in August 2021, with the club keen to welcome him back.

The 35-year-old was jeered by PSG fans during Sunday's 1-0 home loss to Lyon amid speculation of his departure.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic reports signing Tottenham forward Harry Kane is Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag's "absolute priority" in the off-season. Kane is out of contract with Spurs in 2024.

– The Sun claims United are strongly considering selling under-performing winger Jadon Sancho in the off-season, with a view to using the sum generated to purchase their next forward.

United have also held exploratory talks with Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard, per The Athletic.

Real Madrid have been linked with Chelsea's Reece James and Football Insider claims they are willing to pay £90m (£102.5m) for his services, with 31-year-old right-back Dani Carvajal struggling with injuries.

Arsenal are plotting a move for Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins during the next transfer window, according to Fichajes.

– Talksport claims  Graham Potter has declined the opportunity to become Leicester City 's new manager, with The Mail reporting that he will wait until the off-season before taking on a new role.

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  • Wharton: If you're good enough, you're old enough for England at Euro 2024 Wharton: If you're good enough, you're old enough for England at Euro 2024

    Adam Wharton does not expect age to be a barrier to his England hopes at Euro 2024 as the midfielder revelled in a "surreal feeling" ahead of the major tournament.

    Crystal Palace's Wharton was playing Championship football with Blackburn Rovers until his January move to the Premier League.

    The next step on his seismic rise comes this month after making Gareth Southgate's final squad for the upcoming European Championship.

    That reward followed after a remarkable second half to the season for Wharton, who is already attracting interest from Europe's elite clubs following his impressive showings for Oliver Glasner's Palace.

    Wharton, aged just 20 for this UEFA tournament in Germany, wants to leave his mark and believes chances are there to be taken, despite his relative inexperience compared to his team-mates.

    "There are still players that have been in the team for a long time and some top young players in the team... I think it's good to have that little mix," Wharton said on Wednesday.

    "If you're good enough, you're old enough.

    "It's a surreal feeling. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. Just a dream come true. Every kid who grows up playing football wants to play in the Premier League, and play for their country.

    "I got to play for the team I supported to begin with, really enjoyed that and then it has continued since. Moving to the Premier League, now here, so it's all been very fast but I wouldn't want it any other way.

    "I have really enjoyed the last six months and I just want to keep playing, getting better."

    Wharton will battle with Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher and Kobbie Mainoo for a role in Southgate's midfield, while Jude Bellingham remains an option if moved deeper.

    That does not concern the 20-year-old, however, as Wharton realises his dreams on the international scene.

    "I am just absolutely delighted," he added. "I get to do what I love on the top stage, you can't beat it."

  • Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami

    Lionel Messi knows his illustrious career is running out of time as the Argentina great suggested his club playing days will end with Inter Miami.

    The Barcelona legend completed a switch to MLS side Miami last year after two decades of European football with the Blaugrana and Paris Saint-Germain.

    As Messi starts to prepare for Argentina's Copa America defence this month, retirement remains a pertinent question for the global superstar.

    The 36-year-old, speaking to ESPN, acknowledged Miami will likely "be my last club" as the fear sets in over ending his playing career sooner rather than later.

    "I've done this all of my life; I love playing ball," the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner said on Wednesday. 

    "I enjoy the practices and the day-to-day, the games. There's a bit of fear that it's all ending. It's always there. It was a difficult step leaving Europe to come here [Miami].

    "The fact we won the World Cup helped, it helped a lot, to see things in another way. But I try not to think about it, I try to enjoy it.

    "I do that more now because I'm aware that there's not a lot of time left. So I have a good time with the club, being lucky to have good team-mates and friends at my side.

    "I enjoy my time with the national team, where I also have good friends, too, and a lot. I enjoy those small details that I know I'll miss when I stop playing."

    Messi is Barcelona's all-time top scorer with 672 goals, as well as lifting four Champions League trophies amid a glittering career.

    Yet the ageing forward insists World Cup glory in 2022 remains his crowning moment, following in the footsteps of late Albiceleste great Diego Maradona.

    "Obviously, I was sad that he couldn't experience what we experienced [winning the 2022 World Cup], because I know what he felt for the national team and what he would say about Argentina being world champion again," he added.

    "We went through a World Cup together which aside from the result was an impressive experience, going through that day-to-day with him, how happy he was, seeing him enjoy being the manager.

    "So I try to remember all the good times that we had together. I know that he loved me a lot, and I loved him, despite what was said in the media.

    "The reality is we had a lot of affection for each other, and since he met me he was always supportive and wanted the best for me.

    "It was a shame that he couldn't live to experience it like the rest of the country did."

  • The Numbers Game: Euro 2024 hosts Germany aim to get off to a flying start against Scotland The Numbers Game: Euro 2024 hosts Germany aim to get off to a flying start against Scotland

    Euro 2024 kicks off on Friday as Germany take on Scotland in Munich, and a flying start is on the agenda for Julian Nagelsmann's team.

    Scotland, in their fourth appearance at the European Championships, would probably have been hoping for an easier start than going up against the hosts in the tournament's opening match.

    Steve Clarke's team qualified in second place, behind Spain and ahead of Erling Haaland's Norway, from their group.

    Germany, meanwhile, have picked up form under Nagelsmann since he was appointed as Hansi Flick's successor, and the former Bayern Munich coach has plenty of talent at his disposal, even if the Euro 2024 hosts are not considered to be among the biggest favourites.

    Mats Hummels, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka are three big-name absentees from Germany's squad, while Bayern youngster Aleksandar Pavlovic had to withdraw from the squad on Wednesday due to injury.

    But in Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz, Leroy Sane, Kai Havertz and Borussia Dortmund's Niclas Fullkrug, Germany have an exciting attack, while Toni Kroos will anchor the midfield before he heads off into retirement.

    This is Nagelsmann's first major tournament as head coach. Jupp Derwall was the last Germany boss to win a major tournament with them at the first attempt (Euro 1980).

    Here, we use Opta data to preview the Euro 2024 opener.

     

    What's expected?

    It's no surprise to see that Germany are the overwhelming favourites to win this match, with Opta's supercomputer ranking their chances of victory at 58 per cent. 

    Germany and Scotland are facing each other for the third time at a major tournament. Germany won the two previous encounters, in the group stages of the 1986 World Cup (2-1) and Euro 1992 (2-0). 

    Indeed, Scotland have won only one of their last 13 matches against Germany (D4 L8); it was in April 1999, with Don Hutchison scoring the only goal in a Bremen friendly (0-1).

    After losing to Turkiye and Austria, Germany have gone unbeaten in their last four matches. That being said, they were not particularly impressive in their warm-up matches. 

    Following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, Germany beat Greece 2-1 last time out, though they mustered a disappointing 0.88 expected goals (xG), in contrast to their opponents' 2.14.

    The scoreline is the statistic that matters at tournaments, with Havertz grabbing an equaliser midway through the second half before Pascal Gross secured a late victory, but it should give Scotland some hope, even though they are handed just a 21 per cent win likelihood, with the draw threat also at 21 per cent.

    Scotland won their first five Euro 2024 qualifiers but then failed to win any of their final three (D2 L1), conceding seven goals in those games after only shipping one goal in their first five games.

    They beat Gibraltar 2-0 and then drew 2-2 with Finland in their warm-up friendlies, though they head into Euro 2024 without some key players, with full-backs Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson, and striker Lyndon Dykes, out due to injury.

    Germany have won only one of their last five matches played in Munich (D3 L1), a 4-2 victory against Portugal at Euro 2020, so while the smart money is on the hosts, Scotland should not go into this one without confidence, with captain Andrew Robertson and midfield duo John McGinn and Scott McTominay offering a threat, too.

    Home hopes

    This is the fourth time that Germany are sole hosts of a major international tournament, reaching the final four in each of the previous three editions: champions at the 1974 World Cup, semi-finalists at Euro 1988 and third place at the 2006 World Cup.

    Germany are taking part in their 14th Euros, more than any other team. They have won the trophy three times, the joint-most alongside Spain.

    Nagelsmann has been happy to lean on inexperience for his squad selection, and in Wirtz and Musiala, he has two of the most exciting youngsters in world football at his disposal.

    Wirtz scored 11 goals and added 11 assists during Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten Bundesliga title-winning campaign to claim Player of the Season honours in Germany's top tier.

    Musiala, meanwhile, scored 10 goals from an xG of 7.9 in the league.

    Behind them, the returning Kroos brings plenty of experience, alongside Ilkay Gundogan, who created the second-most chances of any player in Europe's top five leagues in all competitions in 2023-24, with 132.

    Havertz is likely to lead the line with support from Fullkrug, but Thomas Muller is another weapon in Germany's arsenal. He has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances at the World Cup (36 shots), but he has never scored in 15 appearances at the European Championships (31 shots).

    Will it finally be Muller time? 

     

    At the other end of the pitch, though, Germany do have some issues. On paper, Jonathan Tah, Nico Schlotterbeck and Antonio Rudiger are a fine trio to choose from in the centre of defence, while Joshua Kimmich can play at right-back, but Nagelsmann needs to make sure the team's defending is better than it was against Greece. Perhaps Hummels' experience would have been useful?

    Germany have conceded at least one goal in each of their last 12 games at major international tournaments. The last time they kept a clean sheet was against Slovakia in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

    Fourth time lucky?

    This is Clarke's second major international tournament as a manager, after Euro 2020. He is the first Scotland boss to lead the team into two consecutive Euros.

    Scotland have never reached the knockouts of the Euros in any of their three previous appearances at the tournament.

    They have won just two of their nine Euro matches, with those victories coming over CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) in 1992 and Switzerland in 1996. Scotland have failed to score in six of their nine games at the European Championships.

    While Germany are one of the toughest possible opponents to face first up, if Scotland could get something from this match, then they would be in a great position ahead of meetings with Hungary and Switzerland.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Germany – Toni Kroos

    Kroos' presence in midfield will be a major boost to a team that averaged 59.3 per cent possession at Euro 2020 – second only to Spain (66.8 per cent).

    The 34-year-old came out of international retirement to feature for Germany in their home tournament, though of course, it will now mark the final competitive event of his career.

    Kroos – who won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid this month – played more line-breaking passes (214) and passes leading to final-third entries (69) than any other player in UEFA's flagship club competition in 2023-24.

    Scotland – Scott McTominay

    A strong defence helped get them through qualifying, with a sprinkling of quality from McTominay, who was the top scorer in qualifying Group A with seven goals – one more than Manchester City superstar Haaland managed for Norway.

     

    McTominay's goal tally is the joint most by a Scottish player in a Euros/World Cup qualifying campaign, along with Steven Fletcher (Euro 2016) and McGinn (Euro 2020).

    And what is even more impressive, is that McTominay's goals came from just 1.77 xG, an overperformance of 5.23.

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