Lionel Messi cannot diminish his reputation by leaving Barcelona because "he is the history" of the club, according to two-time World Cup winner Cafu.

Former Milan and Roma star Cafu, who is Brazil's most-capped player of all-time, says Messi "will always be Messi", regardless of which club he represents.

Speculation surrounding Messi's Barcelona future has intensified in recent weeks, amid suspicions he might consider a late-career move.

Messi reacted angrily to comments from Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal, who questioned the commitment of players during Ernesto Valverde's reign at Camp Nou.

The situation appears to have been defused for now, and Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni recently said he has no concerns about the future of his international captain.

Messi, 32, is a six-time Ballon d'Or winner and there could be a scramble among the world's richest clubs for his services if he decided he wished to seek another challenge.

Cafu admits he does not know what choice Messi will make.

"Nobody knows. It is difficult to say whether Messi will continue at Barcelona or if he will change teams," the former Champions League winner told Omnisport.

"Messi today is the man of Barcelona, he is the history of Barcelona. But if by his choice he decides to change the team, he will always be Messi and we will always be rooting for him."

Messi is Barcelona's record scorer, having netted over 650 times for the Spanish giants - more than twice as many goals as any other player.

He has racked up scores of individual records and accolades during a dazzling professional career, which has been spent in its entirety with Barcelona.

Cafu was speaking in Berlin ahead of Monday's Laureus World Sports Awards, at which Messi is a nominee for the Sportsman of the Year prize.

"If Messi was named Sportsman of the Year it is because he deserved it all year through football," said Cafu. "Playing ball, bringing joy, having fun and making Barcelona bigger and bigger."

Cafu savours his own role as a member of the award voting panel and academy at Laureus, which aims to improve the lives of young people around the world, saying: "It is an honour to be part of an institution as serious as Laureus."

Jamaica basketballer Samardo Samuels has admitted to making mistakes in the past but insists he is older and wiser as he looks to continue a successful career in Europe.

The 31-year-old former Cleveland Cavalier player has had a checked career, with many well-noted instances where he was accused of being disruptive and indiscipline.  Since the 2013 season, the player has had short stints with at least 10 international clubs, some of which saw his contract terminated under acrimonious circumstances.

 In 2017 for instance, after signing with Serbian club Partizan, he was suspended just one month later.  Samuels was suspended by the club for the violation of its discipline policy and the provisions of his contract, the day after Partizan lost in a EuroCup game against Alba Berlin. 

The suspension was a result of his public criticism of the club, head coach Miroslav Nikolić and other inappropriate remarks toward a female reporter.

“Definitely, we’re human, we make errors. The older you get, the more you understand your errors and possibly more circumstances where I could have been less vocal and simpler, in social media platforms and everywhere,” Samuels said in a recent interview.

“I could have remained in training of course, be peaceful, but that’s something you find out with age. Now I’m much better at 31, I’m a much better guy. I still have this experience having fun for fantastic clubs and coaches,” he added.

“People constantly bear in mind the negative points. I think about the game and the fans that like  to see me play, like the Greek All-StarGame for instance, it’s a true blessing.”

 

Substitute Santi Mina's 85th-minute equaliser denied leaders Real Madrid a sixth successive LaLiga victory as Celta Vigo left the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-2 draw.

Los Blancos were stunned by Fedor Smolov's first goal for Celta in the seventh minute and the home side failed to register a single shot on target in the opening half.

However, they turned the game on its head within 13 minutes, Toni Kroos scoring again against Celta before Sergio Ramos slotted home a penalty after the returning Eden Hazard had been fouled.

Mina's late leveller meant Zinedine Zidane's men only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona, though, as their winning run came to an end.

 

 

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic completed a second-half turnaround as Lazio secured what could be a crucial win in the Serie A title race by beating Inter 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Lazio fell behind to Ashley Young's first goal since joining Inter in January but rallied after the restart to hand Antonio Conte's side, who went into this weekend top of the table, their first top-flight defeat in 17 matches.

Inter centre-back Stefan de Vrij, whistled incessantly by fans of his former club, was deemed to have fouled Ciro Immobile in the box and the prolific striker made no mistake from the spot five minutes into the second period.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic gave Lazio the lead with 21 minutes remaining and the hosts held on to move up to second, two points ahead of Inter and one behind leaders Juventus.

Lazio were without Milinkovic-Savic in their 1-0 win over Parma last weekend due to suspension and the Serbia international almost made a significant impact within nine minutes of his return, producing a venomous 20-yard drive that hit the crossbar.

Inter's best moments came on the break and after Thomas Strakosha blocked Antonio Candreva's swerving effort Young volleyed the follow-up into the top-left corner in the 44th minute.

Lazio were level five minutes after the restart. Milan Skriniar intercepted Luis Alberto's pass but looped it over Daniele Padelli, who fell over him, and De Vrij was penalised for a push on Immobile, who slotted home the resulting penalty.

Young was disappointed not to be awarded a spot-kick when he went down under a challenge from Luiz Felipe and Inter fell behind in the 69th minute.

Marcelo Brozovic did well to block Adam Marusic's shot on the line but Milinkovic-Savic picked out the bottom-left corner with the next attempt.

Lautaro Martinez headed in a Young cross from an offside position as Inter pushed for an equaliser, while Immobile was denied a brilliant second by Padelli as Simone Inzaghi's side extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 19 matches.

 

What does it mean? Lazio are serious challengers

Two draws in their previous four matches had seen Lazio fail to take full advantage of slip-ups from fellow title challengers Inter and Juve.

This win ensured they remain thoroughly in contention, and while Inter and Juve have European and Coppa Italia commitments in their schedule, Lazio can focus all their attention on winning a first Scudetto since 2000.

Unstoppable Immobile

Immobile was in danger of failing to score in three straight Serie A games for the first time this season but by firing home from the penalty spot he took his tally for the campaign to 26.

De Vrij slips up

His first touch – and every subsequent one – was met with a chorus of boos and, after a decent first half, the former Lazio player gave away the penalty that the hosts equalised from.

What's next?

Inter head to Bulgaria for the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Ludogorets on Thursday and entertain Sampdoria three days later. Lazio travel to Genoa next Sunday.

Casper Ruud became the first Norwegian to claim an ATP Tour title after winning the Argentina Open.

Ruud made history with a comprehensive 6-1 6-4 victory over Portugal's Pedro Sousa in Sunday's final in Buenos Aires.

The 21-year-old also became the youngest Argentina Open champion – surpassing 2004 winner Guillermo Coria (22).

Ruud's win means he will become Norway's highest ranked male player ever – projected to climb to 34th – taking the record from his dad Christian, who reached 39th in the world in 1995.

Playing on red clay at the ATP 250 tournament, Ruud was a class above as he won all nine of his services games without facing a break point.

Ruud also broke three times in the one hour, 11-minute contest, including the first return game of the match to set the tone.

Sousa hit back-to-back double faults in the opening game of the second set to gift Ruud the break, and the eighth seed never looked back en route to a maiden crown.

Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao said the club would rally around forward Moussa Marega after he was racially abused by Vitoria Guimaraes supporters during Sunday's 2-1 victory.

Marega, a former Vitoria player, scored Porto's winning goal on the hour at Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques but attempted to leave the pitch after receiving abuse from the stands.

The 28-year-old Mali international was prevented from doing so by Porto team-mates and Vitoria players before eventually being substituted by Conceicao, who described the incident as "unfortunate".

Marega scored 13 goals in 25 Primeira Liga matches during a season-long loan spell at Vitoria in 2016-17 prior to returning to Porto, where he became a league winner the following season.

"We are a family regardless of nationality, skin colour, hair colour," Conceicao told reporters. 

"We are human, we deserve respect. What happened here is unfortunate.

"We are completely indignant with what happened.

"I know the passion that exists for Vitoria and I think that most of the fans do not see themselves in the attitude of some people who insulted Moussa since the warm-up."

Eoin Morgan said there was "no limit" to England's batting potential after their second-highest Twenty20 run chase secured a thrilling 2-1 series win over South Africa.

The Proteas capitalised on dream batting conditions to post a mammoth 222-6 in the decider at SuperSport Park on Sunday, Heinrich Klaasen top-scoring with 66 from only 33 balls.

That was not enough to prevent the tourists from winning a run-fest by five wickets with five balls to spare, captain Morgan matching his own record for the fastest T20 half-century by an England batsman.

Morgan bludgeoned 57 not out from only 22 balls - striking seven sixes - after Jos Buttler (57 from 29) and Jonny Bairstow (64 off 34) also flexed their muscles in Centurion.

Skipper Morgan believes England sent out a message to their rivals with the T20 World Cup in Australia on the horizon.

"It creates belief that you can chase down anything and it reinforces what our method is in chasing big totals down," said the England captain, named man of the match and series.

"It's a reference point to what we can do, there’s no limit on restricting yourself to certain things. You want to leave everything out there with the bat.

"It won’t always work but it will give us the best chance of winning.

"Moving forward from this series, our learning will continue to get better, hopefully, because I don't think we’ve played at our best in this series."

Morgan also gave his backing to Buttler, although he did not believe the wicketkeeper-batsman was at his devastating best at the top of the order.

"I'm delighted for Jos," Morgan told Sky Sports. "I think he has as much talent as somebody like AB de Villiers; it took De Villiers a long time, and a lot of games, to get going in a South African shirt.

"We need to back guys that have that sort of talent; Jos has been around a long time now and we know that when he delivers, we win games of cricket. It's great to see him back in the runs.

"I think the priority at the moment is to get the top three facing as many balls as they can - they are the most destructive players that we have.

"If that changes between now and the World Cup, and we feel the need to fill a gap somewhere, then we might change it but, for the moment, it's an extremely destructive batting line-up to play against."

Olivier Klemenczak's last-gasp try snatched a 30-27 victory over Toulouse to move Racing 92 up to third and Castres beat bottom side Agen in the Top 14 on Sunday.

Racing's winning run in the league looked set to end at four matches until Klemenczak nipped in on the blindside to touch down and deny Toulouse with the clock two minutes into the red at Paris La Defense Arena.

Toulouse were pegged back at 17-17 on the stroke of half-time after Dorian Laborde went over, with Fabien Sanconnie also crossing for the capital club either side of scores from Pita Ahki and Lucas Tauzin.

Maxime Machenaud's second penalty of the match put Racing in front, but Sofiane Guitoune finished to put Toulouse ahead again and Cheslin Kolbe took his tally from the tee to 10 points to give them a seven-point advantage.

Racing were not finished yet, though and Teddy Iribaren was on target with a penalty before Klemenczak settled it after Iosefa Tekori was sent to the sin bin with Toulouse under huge pressure right at the end. 

Castres are up to 10th after seeing off Agen 43-24, Martin Leveau scoring two of five tries for the 2018 champions.

Mikel Arteta insisted he is "not conflicted at all" by Manchester City's looming UEFA ban after Arsenal thrashed Newcastle United to move within sight of the European places in the Premier League.

Former City assistant coach Arteta oversaw a 4-0 defeat of Newcastle on Sunday, but the news Pep Guardiola's side are facing a two-year suspension from European competition dominated the weekend.

While City have announced an intention to appeal the ban, there is the possibility fifth could now secure Champions League qualification, with the Europa League potentially in reach for a team in eighth depending on who wins the domestic cups.

Arsenal are 10th, lifted by second-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, but Arteta was not looking to revel in his former employers' gloom.

"We don't know anything about it," he told Sky Sports. "We will have to wait and see.

"It's very difficult. I'm not conflicted at all. I want the best for Manchester City, the best for Pep, for the players.

"I love a lot of people there and I am so grateful for the time I spent there. The only thing I want for them is positive and good things.

"I just want to do the best we can for Arsenal, to achieve ourselves what we deserve."

Arsenal were poor before half-time against Newcastle, making a slow start and surviving the occasional scare, and Arteta is not getting carried away.

"We want to go game by game because, 10 days ago, I was disappointed by the game at Burnley," he said. "A lot of things are going to happen.

"It's up to us and how consistent we can be from now until the end of the season. If we want to have a chance [of qualifying for Europe] in the last few games, we have to put wins together."

Asked what Arteta told his team after the tough first half, captain Aubameyang said: "'Just keep going'. We started not at our best.

"But in the second half, we put in some more energy and we went through and scored the first, the second, the third."

On the coach's overall impact at Emirates Stadium since his December appointment, the striker added: "We feel better. We have an idea of playing that's very clear.

"We'll try to maintain this level. We are happy to keep going like this."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane recalled Eden Hazard to his starting line-up to face Celta Vigo on Sunday after the Belgium international recovered from an ankle fracture.

Hazard's last appearance for Los Blancos came in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in November, the injury limiting him to just eight LaLiga appearances and one goal since his €100million transfer from Chelsea.

The 29-year-old joined Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in Los Blancos' front three against Celta, with Isco dropping to the bench despite scoring in Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Hazard's return to fitness is well-timed given Madrid's tough run of forthcoming fixtures.

Zidane will take his side to Levante in LaLiga before a Champions League clash at home against Manchester City and then the Clasico versus Barcelona on March 1.

Serge Gnabry suggested Cologne had no answer to Bayern Munich's rapid start on Sunday as three goals in the opening dozen minutes took the Bavarian giants back top of the Bundesliga.

Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and Gnabry all struck early on as Bayern raced out of the blocks en route to a 4-1 victory that saw them move above RB Leipzig again in the standings.

Gnabry scored again in the second half before Mark Uth pulled one back, with Bayern's two-goal forward delighted with the way the visitors approached the early stages of the contest.

"We are happy to have three points. I think we came out very strong in the first half - Cologne did not have a chance," Gnabry told the Bundesliga's website.

"I think in the second half we should have scored our fourth goal earlier to not let them come back, but in the end we are happy about the three points and I think we showed a strong performance."

Gnabry could have had a hat-trick but he lost his balance and hit the crossbar after rounding Cologne's goalkeeper Timo Horn, who also tipped a long-range effort from Joshua Kimmich onto a post before the break.

Despite the eventual scoreline, Bayern's inability to add to their three-goal haul until midway through the second half frustrated goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

"I was expecting a little more resistance in the beginning," he told Sky of Cologne.

"We could have scored up to 10 goals. We have to reproach ourselves.

"It annoys me that we didn't keep playing because we made life difficult for ourselves."

Cologne had come into the game on the back of four straight home wins in the Bundesliga, but they were blown away by Bayern in the opening exchanges.

"In the first half you could see that we're still developing," head coach Markus Gisdol said at a news conference.

"Bayern showed their class. We were too passive and weren't courageous enough.

"I had hoped that we could have stayed in the game for longer. But in the second half we presented ourselves well. The boys can learn something from both halves."

Maurizio Sarri explained his decision to rest Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus' 2-0 victory over Brescia, saying the 35-year-old forward "cannot play 75 games" a year.

Ronaldo was left out of the squad after scoring 10 goals in his previous six Serie A appearances to take his tally to 20 this season, but Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado found the net in his absence on Sunday.

Sarri was also without injured quartet Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi, Sami Khedira, and Merih Demiral, but Giorgio Chiellini made his first appearance since August as a second-half substitute.

Juve boss Sarri felt Portugal star Ronaldo needed time to put his feet up given the workload he has for club and country.

Sarri said: "It is difficult; we have many strong players and some are out.

"They are all atypical players, without a specific role. We have many situations to fix.

"Ronaldo is a centre-forward who starts off-centre. Today Cristiano had to rest; he cannot play 75 games there a year between the national team and the club, so we decided to let him recover."

On Chiellini, he added: "He put himself in the team. He had said it since yesterday. He made six months of great sacrifices."

Sarri admitted his side's performance against Brescia left plenty of room for improvement after seeing the Serie A champions pick up only their second win in five matches.

Defeats to Napoli and Hellas Verona either side of a victory over Fiorentina preceded Juve's 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Milan ahead of the win over Brescia on Sunday, and they face SPAL on Saturday with Ronaldo set to play his 1,000th career game.

"We can improve on everything," said Sarri.

"On a defensive level we have room for improvement. We also have room for improvement in attack.

"We have hit the post five times in the last two games, so a little more luck would help us. We must focus on ourselves, instead of looking to others."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the ideal character to lead Milan into a new era of success, according to former Rossoneri hero Cafu.

Brazilian Cafu says Ibrahimovic's age should not be a problem either, with the 38-year-old already making a big impact in his second spell at San Siro.

The mid-season arrival of Swedish striker Ibrahimovic has given Milan fresh impetus and results have picked up significantly.

Last weekend's 4-2 defeat to Inter was their first in nine matches in all competitions since the resumption of the campaign following the mid-season break.

Milan responded to that setback with a 1-1 draw with Juventus in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

It promises to be a gradual process to bring the seven-time European champions into contention to add to their former glories, but Cafu sees Ibrahimovic's role as possibly vital to making that happen.

Speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards, Cafu told Omnisport: "The impact is very great with the return of Ibra to Milan.

"We hope he can help Milan win big titles like we did in our day.

"He's a fantastic player, a sensational player."

Ibrahimovic won a Serie A title with Milan in 2010-11 and has also won league titles in Spain, France and The Netherlands. He lifted the EFL Cup and Europa League at Manchester United.

A couple of seasons with LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer do not appear to have affected his enthusiasm for a fresh European club adventure, and Cafu has no doubt the charismatic veteran has plenty to offer.

Two-time World Cup winner Cafu, who won Serie A and Champions League honours while playing for Milan in his mid-thirties, said: "Age does not matter.

"What matters is that he still wants to play, wants to grow and keep Milan great."

Alexandre Lacazette scored for the first time since December to put the gloss on a much-needed 4-0 win for Arsenal and head coach Mikel Arteta against Newcastle United on Sunday.

Arsenal came into the clash at Emirates Stadium level on points with visitors Newcastle, having won just six times in the Premier League this season - and only once since Arteta's December appointment.

But after a frustrating opening period, the influential Nicolas Pepe laid on a goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 54th minute, and Pepe himself scored three minutes later to all but settle the contest.

Mesut Ozil added another in the 90th minute, before substitute Lacazette, who last netted against Standard Liege on December 12, got in on the act in stoppage time.

Arteta, who revealed before the match he turned down an approach from Newcastle while still an assistant at Manchester City, could enjoy the closing stages of a precious victory, with Arsenal climbing back up to 10th and within sight of the European places.

Newcastle's set-pieces had caused early problems for Arsenal, and Sean Longstaff's deflected strike forced a scrambling save from Bernd Leno, before Joelinton awkwardly stabbed wide from six yards moments later.

Martin Dubravka was not troubled for over half an hour, but Arsenal pressure built heading into half-time as the Newcastle goalkeeper made stops from Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah and Pepe.

The hosts were on the front foot again following the restart, and Pepe danced to the byline before cutting a cross back for Nketiah, who volleyed against the crossbar.

The opener soon followed, with Aubameyang towering over Valentino Lazaro to head Pepe's right-wing delivery across Dubravka into the bottom-right corner.

And the second came less than three minutes after the first, as Bukayo Saka nutmegged Lazaro on the left and squared for Pepe to sweep low inside the near post.

Ciaran Clark skewed wide from a great position in the area when teed up by Allan Saint-Maximin, who himself hit the post with a fine curling effort, but there was no dramatic Newcastle recovery.

Ozil's close-range finish deceived Dubravka for a scruffy third Arsenal goal, before Lacazette's own slightly untidy effort found the top-right corner to spark a joyous celebration.


What does it mean? Arsenal still finding their feet

There was some hope Arteta might have shaped a much-improved Arsenal over the recent mid-season break, but that did not appear to be the case in the first half. The Gunners struggled to break Newcastle down, before their quality came to the fore in a frantic spell. There would appear to be plenty still to do to restore Arsenal to their former glories despite this big win.

Purposeful Pepe

This has not been a wholly successful first season in England for Pepe, but there are signs he is rediscovering the form that convinced Arsenal to splash out a club-record fee last year. The winger was Arsenal's best player in a testing first half and then turned the game on its head with an assist and a goal within 12 minutes of the restart.

Lazaro loses out

Newcastle's new wing-back, making his full Premier League debut, enjoyed a promising first half, getting forward to good effect down the right while standing up to Saka going the other way. But he was later twice beaten for the crucial goals, first unable to challenge Aubameyang in the air and then embarrassed by Saka's trickery.

What's next?

Arsenal have a trip to Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday before their next league assignment at home to Everton. Newcastle have a clear midweek but are then back in the capital next Saturday to visit Crystal Palace.

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