Neymar signing for Real Madrid was a prospect Lionel Messi feared was about to become a reality.

The Brazil superstar featured in a lethal front three alongside Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou before joining Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222m move two years ago.

Reports of Neymar wishing to return to LaLiga have been frequent since then and an 'MSN' reunion was mooted during the close season.

But with Barcelona unable to put together a package to make the deal happen, Messi worried his old team-mate would end up pulling on the famous white shirt of their sworn rivals.

"I honestly thought that in this market, if he did not come here, he would go to Madrid, because I really thought he wanted to leave," five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi told RAC1.

"He said it, he wanted to change, to leave Paris. I thought that Florentino [Perez, Real Madrid president] and Madrid would do something to take him away."

Barcelona still boast a plethora of elite forward options.

Messi is back to fitness after a calf problem delayed his start to the 2019-20 season, while Suarez came through a period of criticism to score four times in the space of eight days before the international break.

Big-money arrival Antoine Griezmann is still bedding in, although his fellow France international Ousmane Dembele must serve a suspension having been sent off for dissent during the 4-0 victory against Sevilla last time out.

In his report, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz said Dembele told him he was "very bad, you're very bad" in response to Barca youngster Ronald Araujo being red-carded.

Like coach Ernesto Valverde, Messi was perplexed by the incident – mainly due to Dembele's lack of aptitude with the Spanish language – that means the winger is set to miss El Clasico at Camp Nou later this month.

"It is very difficult for him to be able to say that because it is difficult for him to put together sentences and speak well enough to speak clearly," Messi said.

"The coach supported him at a press conference. The truth is we were surprised that [the referee] understood it so clearly because Ousmane has a hard time speaking Spanish – although he makes himself understood and understands everything.

"It's difficult [to accept the referee] understood it so clearly. That's just the way it is."

Kylian Mbappe has returned to Paris Saint-Germain and will miss France's Euro 2020 qualifiers with Iceland and Turkey due to injury.

The 20-year-old forward returned from a hamstring problem in the 1-0 win over Bordeaux on September 28 but suffered a complication to the treated area, leading him to miss the 4-0 Ligue 1 defeat of Angers prior to the international break.

Mbappe joined up with the France squad but, following medical tests, the French Football Federation (FFF) has confirmed it has allowed the player to leave Didier Deschamps' group.

Borussia Monchengladbach's Alassane Plea has been called up as Mbappe's replacement.

France face Iceland on Friday before meeting Turkey on Monday in Euro 2020 qualifying.

They are second in Group H on 15 points, the same as leaders Turkey.

Mbappe has only managed six appearances for PSG in all competitions this season, scoring twice.

The former Monaco star will attempt to regain fitness in time for PSG's next Ligue 1 match, which is against Nice on October 18.

The relationship between Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and the club's fans is "getting better", according to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Brazil international Neymar scored his side's fourth goal in their 4-0 Ligue 1 victory over Angers at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

The 27-year-old has four goals in his five league appearances this season, all of which have come since the transfer window closed without him having secured a move away from the club.

Neymar was keen to return to Spain and former club Barcelona, although a transfer never materialised, and has been booed by PSG supporters for a perceived lack of commitment to the Ligue 1 champions.

The attention from the stands led Neymar to admit last month that "it's going to be like playing every game away from home" although he stressed his desire to leave the club was nothing to do with the fanbase.

However, Tuchel thinks his performances are now helping to heal the rift.

"About Neymar, yes, it's getting better, it's easier," he said when asked if he could see some improvement in the relationship.

"I said it's up to us, up to him to show again and again, be decisive, suffer, run to get the ball. It's not necessary to talk.

"He showed a lot of things and tried a lot of dribbles [against Angers]. He scored once again, he could even have scored more goals, but he's still capable of incredible things.

"It's up to him to show it, really, at the end of the day."

Kylian Mbappe missed the match after Tuchel confirmed he had suffered "a reaction between the scar and the nerve" on a hamstring he injured in August.

Tuchel is now waiting to learn whether the forward will be excused international duty over the next two weeks so he can recover.

"I need to ask [sporting director] Leonardo what we're doing with Kylian," he said. "We need to do some treatment. We need to wait for the agreement between the French Football Federation and PSG to know if he goes with the France team."

Mauro Icardi believes Paris Saint-Germain are growing more with each game after cruising to a 4-0 Ligue 1 win over Angers at the Parc des Princes. 

The Inter loanee opened his Ligue 1 account in Saturday's clash as the reigning champions moved five points clear at the top of the table. 

Pablo Sarabia gave PSG the lead after 13 minutes before Icardi scored his second goal in as many games with a first-time finish, while Idrissa Gueye and Neymar were also on target in the second half. 

PSG have now won eight of their past nine matches in all competitions and Icardi, who was also on target in the midweek 1-0 Champions League victory at Galatasaray, feels he is gaining confidence. 

"You know, the players here are a lot of quality," he told beIN SPORTS.  

"It's a strong team and we showed it today on the field against a big team from Angers. We have prepared in the best way and this group is growing. 

"The match went well. I had been hoping for that goal at home for a while. My team-mates gave me the opportunity to score in other games but I did not succeed.  

"This goal is good, it was important for me to score". 

Gueye bagged his first goal for PSG since arriving from Everton and helped his side keep another clean sheet. 

Thomas Tuchel's side have won all six Ligue 1 games Gueye has started, keeping out the opposition in each match.

"It's not just my work, it's the work of the people behind us, a great goalkeeper and the work of the whole team, a great team," the Senegal midfielder told Canal+.

"I'm happy to be in this team. We''re demanding of ourselves, that's why we kept pushing even at 3-0 up.

"You have to give everything and enjoy being out on the field and that's what we did today." 

PSG face Nice on their return to Ligue 1 action on October 18.

Mauro Icardi scored his first Ligue 1 goal with Neymar also on target as Paris Saint-Germain earned a routine 4-0 victory over in-form Angers at Parc des Princes. 

Having opened his PSG account with the winner against Galatasaray in the Champions League in midweek, Icardi - who squandered a great chance early on - doubled his tally for the season with a simple finish 37 minutes into his first Ligue 1 start. 

Icardi's effort put PSG 2-0 up, with Pablo Sarabia's neat strike having given Thomas Tuchel's side a 13th-minute lead. 

Idrissa Gueye joined Icardi and Sarabia in getting off the mark in Ligue 1 midway through the second half, before Neymar capped a fine individual display with his fourth goal of the season late on.

Icardi should have made the breakthrough 10 minutes in, only to mishit his shot after rounding Ludovic Butelle. 

But Sarabia made no such mistake, arrowing a low strike beyond Butelle after leaving a glut of defenders in his wake. 

Rachid Alioui should have restored parity when he went through against Keylor Navas, but Angers' top scorer lashed his effort wide. 

PSG duly made Angers pay - Sarabia turning provider with a drilled cross in for Icardi to finish first-time. 

Sarabia had his second assist just before the hour, albeit in rather fortuitous fashion. 

After seeing a volley cleared off the line, Sarabia's sliced follow-up fell to Gueye, who turned home into the left-hand corner. 

Butelle made a terrific save to prevent Neymar adding a fourth but the Brazilian, superb throughout, was not denied again in the 90th minute, coolly slotting in after skipping past Angers' goalkeeper.

 

What does it mean? PSG well on their way

Angers have made a fantastic start to the season and headed into Saturday's contest two points behind Ligue 1 pace-setters PSG, who have suffered two defeats already this term. 

But the gulf in quality was evident from the off and, with Lyon entrenched in mid-table and Lille - who finished second last season - having sold star player Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal, it is hard to see anybody mounting a challenge to their domestic dominance. 


Neymar runs rings around Angers once again

Neymar had been involved in each of PSG's last three goals against Angers in Ligue 1 before Saturday and continued his excellent form against them this time out, rounding off his tremendous performance with a brilliantly taken goal.

 


Alioui fluffs his lines

After scoring three goals in his last two appearances, Alioui would have backed himself to hit the target again when faced with Navas, but with plenty of time to play with, he got his attempt horribly wrong, wasting one of Angers' only clear chances. 


What's next?

Nice are PSG's first opponents after the international break, while Angers host Brest.

Neymar may not have secured his return to Barcelona, but the Paris Saint-Germain star's future continues to make headlines.

The Brazil forward was keen on making a Barca comeback, two years after his world-record transfer to the French capital.

But as Antoine Griezmann struggles to settle in at Camp Nou, the Frenchman could see himself shipped out to make way for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR & GRIEZMANN IN SWAP DEAL

Barcelona are considering the possibility of sending Griezmann to Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar, claims Le10Sport.

Neymar was unable to secure a return to Barca during the transfer window following his €222million exit in 2017.

But as Griezmann – who only arrived from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in the off-season – finds it difficult to settle and develop a relationship with Lionel Messi, the Barca recruit is being talked about as a possible makeweight.

 

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City star James Maddison is Tottenham's number one target to replace soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen, according to the Daily Star. Maddison has also been linked to Premier League rivals Manchester United.

Real Madrid could trigger Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak's €120m release clause as Thibaut Courtois struggles at the Santiago Bernabeu, according to ElDesmarque.

- The front page of Corriere dello Sport says Lazio have signed star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to a new contract until 2024. The deal, worked out in secret for another season, appears to end speculation of a move to the likes of InterUnited, Real Madrid, Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain.

Gennaro Gattuso could make a sensational return to AC Milan, but only in an unlikely scenario. Amid mounting pressure on coach Marco Giampaolo, El Corriere claims Gattuso – who stepped down at the end of 2018-19 – would make his way back to San Siro if directors Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban quit.

- The Express says Chelsea will offer Willian a new contract amid links to LaLiga champions Barcelona. It comes as the Evening Standard reports the Blues will reward Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori with fresh deals.

- Could Carlo Ancelotti leave Napoli at the end of the season? Corriere dello Sport suggests the Italian head coach could depart if results do not improve. Napoli are already six points adrift of Serie A leaders Inter.

- Marca says Manchester United are keeping an eye on Mexico international Jose Juan Macias. The 20-year-old Leon forward scored his first international goal on debut for El Tri on Wednesday.

- Ernesto Valverde's future as Barcelona boss is far from certain and with that in mind, TNT Sport reports that River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is the club's first choice.

Paris Saint-Germain will be without both Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani against Angers on Saturday, with the Uruguay striker left out of their 19-man squad.

Coach Thomas Tuchel had earlier ruled out Mbappe, who had only recently returned from a hamstring injury.

But Tuchel, speaking at his pre-match news conference, said PSG would wait to make a decision on record goalscorer Cavani, who has been out with a hip issue since August.

Cavani "is not completely free", said Tuchel, and confirmation followed later on Friday that the front man would not be involved this weekend.

Thomas Meunier had reportedly been a doubt but is named in the squad.

Thomas Tuchel has revealed Kylian Mbappe will miss Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Angers due to injury, leaving him a major doubt for France's Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Mbappe has featured as a second-half substitute in PSG's last two matches after shaking off a hamstring problem that had ruled him out for a month.

However, the 20-year-old aggravated the injury during his 30 minutes on the field in Tuesday's 1-0 win at Galatasaray and is now facing another spell on the sidelines.

Didier Deschamps named Mbappe in France's 23-man squad for this month's qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey, but the talented young forward may now be forced to withdraw.

"I can tell you Kylian will not be with us," Tuchel said at his pre-match news conference. 

"It is not a relapse, but a reaction between the wound and the nerve. 

"I understand time is needed to treat the wound. I have not spoken with Didier Deschamps about Kylian."

PSG have been without record goalscorer Edinson Cavani since their 4-0 win over Toulouse at the end of August, while Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer and Colin Dagba are all out of this weekend's clash at the Parc des Princes.

Asked for an update on the fitness of Cavani, who has returned to training, Tuchel said: "Honestly, I do not know. He is with us and is not in pain, but he told me he does not feel 100 per cent comfortable. 

"He is not completely free from injury. We'll wait until after today's training session to decide on him."

Presnel Kimpembe is PSG's other representative in France's latest squad after earning a recall for the world champions with his return to form and fitness in recent weeks.

"He is ready to play for France," Tuchel said. "I am very, very happy for him. He deserves this. He has worked very professionally and is in a good spell."

Colin Dagba has signed a new five-year contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The 21-year-old defender has committed his future to the club until June 30, 2024.

Dagba joined PSG's youth system from Boulogne-sur-Mer in 2016 and has established himself as a regular in Thomas Tuchel's first team.

The full-back has played 26 times in all competitions since signing his first professional contract in July 2017, winning the Ligue 1 title and Trophee des Champions last year.

The France Under-21 international has made four appearances this term, all in the top flight.

Garrissone Innocent has also signed a new deal with PSG that will run until the end of the 2023 season.

The 19-year-old goalkeeper has been a regular at youth level and is Tuchel's third choice in this term's Champions League.

Could Massimiliano Allegri be the man to rescue AC Milan?

Marco Giampaolo is under increasing pressure at San Siro after Milan slumped to a fourth defeat in their first six games of the Serie A season.

Allegri led Milan to their last league title in 2010-11 and, now unemployed, he shapes as being a target for the club once more.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN EYE ALLEGRI

Allegri is one of the favourites and the choice of many of AC Milan's leaders to be their next head coach, according to Calciomercato.

The 52-year-old spent three and a half years at Milan before taking over at Juventus, where he won five Serie A titles.

Allegri could be set for a return to Milan, who are struggling in 16th in the table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

ROUND-UP

Ansu Fati has made an impression with Barcelona early in the season and he could be set for bigger and better things. Cadena SER says the 16-year-old will be included in the pre-list for Spain's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Norway and Sweden in October.

- Staying in Spain, Real Madrid are considering a move for United States star Megan Rapinoe, according to AS. Set to have a women's team starting next year, Madrid are considering trying to sign the Reign FC attacker.

Inter coach Antonio Conte wants to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, reports Calciomercato. Matic – who is out of contract at the end of the season – has struggled to establish himself in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side this season amid links to Juventus.

- Tuttosport claims Juve will offer out-of-favour midfielder Emre Can to Paris Saint-Germain in exchange for full-back Thomas Meunier.

- With Genoa struggling in the relegation zone, Aurelio Andreazzoli is also under pressure. Sky Sport says the Serie A side made contact with former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso after being thrashed 4-0 by Lazio.

- Arsenal still want to see Mesut Ozil make a move. The Sun reports the Premier League club want to send the playmaker out on loan and would even contribute to his wages to make a move happen.

- Desperately needing to add to their attack, United are weighing up a move for Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic in January, according to the Mirror. United were heavily linked with the Croatian during the close season.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon revelled in his record-breaking appearance after eclipsing Paolo Maldini for most games at club level.

Buffon – back in Turin after a season with Paris Saint-Germain – made his 903rd appearance for Juventus in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over SPAL to break Maldini's appearance record.

The 41-year-old Buffon matched Maldini's record in last week's victory against Hellas Verona before returning to the bench for Tuesday's trip to Brescia, however, the Juve star was back on the field for the visit of SPAL.

After surpassing fellow Italian great Maldini, Buffon told reporters: "It's a great satisfaction, I wasn't aware I was so close to this record two games ago, I found out at the last game. I was told I had reached Paolo [Maldini].

"It makes me very happy and very proud, proud for what I did, but as I said to your colleagues, I am happy because I got here not dragging myself, but as a high-level player. That's what I think I can say without being presumptuous.

"Therefore I also added, earlier on, that I will always thank my parents and my wife, which has been benevolent with me, but I can also say that there's something of my own in all this."

Buffon returned to Juve during the close season after a one-year spell at Ligue 1 champions PSG, having also previously represented Parma.

Unlike Maldini, who spent his entire career with Serie A rivals AC Milan, Buffon's appearances have been spread across three clubs.

He played 220 matches for Parma at the start of his career, was used 25 times in a largely underwhelming campaign with PSG last time out and has now featured 658 times for Juventus.

Neymar played down his fractured relationship with Paris Saint-Germain's fans, insisting "it is like with women, sometimes you argue and spend some time without talking".

PSG superstar Neymar has enjoyed a stunning return to the team since his failed return to Barcelona, scoring three goals in four matches.

Neymar's desire to re-join Barca sparked a rift with PSG's fans, who insulted and displayed banners during the Brazilian's comeback against Strasbourg on September 14.

But Neymar has not been affected, scoring the winner in Saturday's 1-0 Ligue 1 victory at Bordeaux and he dismissed the rocky relationship with PSG's supporters.

"It is like with women. Sometimes you argue and spend some time without talking," Neymar told reporters post-match.

"However, with love and affection, you go back to normal. I am here to help PSG and I will give my life on the pitch."

Neymar added to beIN SPORTS: "I'm very happy! I love helping the team, whether it be goals or assists! I'm here for that, and I have every intention of doing that.

"I'm happy when I make the breakthrough in such tight and difficult games. Kylian Mbappe? He returned with his smile, his good mood...and his football!"

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe combined for the 70th-minute winner as PSG bounced back from their shock 2-0 defeat at home to Reims on Wednesday.

"We won this evening by getting back our good feelings in our understanding with each other, linking up, and with quick attacks! It augurs well," Mbappe said.

"My absence? It was long, difficult too. When the team loses, you want to come back as soon as possible, but you can't be hasty. It wasn't easy, but it's over!"

On the relationship between Neymar and Mbappe, PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel said: "They have qualities. They like to be together, their personalities go well together. 

"We can feel it, observe it on the field but it should not be too obvious because you have to keep a balance with other players, they must seek others. We always have to make the best decision for the team, to win, to create opportunities. We played like that today."

Titleholders PSG are two points clear atop the Ligue 1 table ahead of Tuesday's Champions League trip to Turkish giants Galatasaray.

"We played well at the end of the game but forgot to score! We created a lot of chances, but the match was close to the end," Tuchel continued. "It's the only negative point, because I'm really very happy with our performance. The team's display was really excellent, with and without the ball. It was a great performance. I'm very happy."

Kylian Mbappe marked his return from injury by teeing up Neymar for the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain got back to winning ways in Ligue 1 with a 1-0 triumph at Bordeaux.

Mbappe had not featured since August 25 because of a muscle problem but came off the bench in the second half to make a telling impact for the defending champions.

The France forward was introduced on the hour mark and 10 minutes later he laid on a close-range winner for Neymar.

Victory for Thomas Tuchel's men sees them go two points clear at the top of the table, though surprise package Angers can go back level with them at the summit by beating Amiens.

Pablo Sarabia saw a goal ruled out for offside in the ninth minute, and a frustrating first half for the visitors - beaten at home by Reims in midweek - featured a booking for coach Tuchel after he expressed his disdain at a free-kick given to Bordeaux.

His side dominated throughout and Thomas Meunier dragged an effort wide before Angel Di Maria and Neymar were each denied by Benoit Costil in quick succession.

Neymar then headed wide after more good work down the right from Meunier, with PSG's profligacy forcing Tuchel's hand as Mbappe was summoned to join the action.

He wasted an early opportunity by shooting straight at Costil before Neymar sent another header off target at the far post with the goal at his mercy.

PSG's persistence was finally rewarded, however, when Bordeaux lost the ball in their own half and Mbappe broke free down the right, firing a low cross in for Neymar to tuck into the bottom-left corner.

Mbappe's cameo was arguably worthy of a goal but Costil kept his team in it with another fine save after a break from the World Cup winner, who blasted over the bar shortly after on a day when PSG should have won by a much more convincing margin.

There was controversy late on, though, as Bordeaux had an appeal for a penalty rejected by VAR despite Idrissa Gueye appearing to make contact with Loris Benito, but a point for the hosts would have been scarcely deserved.

Didier Drogba believes Paris Saint-Germain's "exceptional" strikers Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will both win the Ballon d'Or during their careers.

The pair have been instrumental in PSG's dominance of French football since linking up at the start of the 2017-18 season, scoring 115 goals between them across all competitions.

Luka Modric broke Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's decade-long stranglehold on the Ballon d'Or last year and former Chelsea and Marseille striker Drogba has no doubt PSG's potent attackers will join that illustrious group.

He told Le Parisien: "Neymar and Mbappe will one day win the Ballon d'Or. They are part of this small group of exceptional players. There are very few in the world."

While Champions League winner Drogba thinks their individual talents will be recognised on the highest stage, he was keen to point out how impressively they work together in tandem.

"Neymar likes to create spaces and Kylian likes to move into those spaces. Neymar creates and Kylian profits. It works very well," Drogba said.

"Just watch them when they are together on the pitch. They are constantly looking for each other. It's almost the first thing they do when they touch the ball. It is obvious that when they are not on the pitch, PSG are not as strong."

Neymar has endured a mixed start to the campaign after an off-season transfer saga during which he reportedly pushed for a return to Barcelona.

He was booed by PSG's own supporters during a home clash with Strasbourg on September 14 before scoring a stunning stoppage-time winner. He followed that up last weekend with another decisive late goal against Lyon.

Drogba believes the Brazilian has been harshly treated and does not think it will not take him long to be accepted by fans again.

"At the moment, it seems like it's fashionable to criticise him for everything that happened [during the off-season]. But once he's on the pitch, who can seriously say they do not take pleasure in watching him play?" Drogba said. 

"The more matches he plays, the more things will change and he will become what he was before.

"I'm sorry, but what happened this summer is what happens in all the big clubs with all the big players. There are some who want to leave and some their clubs want to keep. It's the life of modern football."

Christian Eriksen appears set to leave Tottenham and Manchester United could make it happen in January.

The Denmark international was linked with a move away from Spurs during the close season amid reported interest from Real Madrid, but ended up staying in North London.

However, with his contract expiring at season's end, United are said to be weighing up a deal.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UNITED CONSIDER ERIKSEN MOVE IN JANUARY

Manchester United are considering a January move for Spurs midfielder Eriksen, according to Goal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are struggling this season and could look to strengthen to begin 2020.

Madrid are also reportedly still interested in Eriksen, but may want to wait until the end of the season to bring in the Dane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Pictured with Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar on Thursday, Arthur may have upset his club Barcelona. The LaLiga champions are unhappy with the midfielder after the night out, according to Marca.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Neymar seems to remain eager for a return to Barcelona. Cadena SER reports the forward would have dropped his lawsuit against the club if they promised to re-sign him next year. Neymar is in court against Barca fighting to be paid a bonus he believes he is owed from his contract signed in 2016.

- Jose Mourinho knows what he wants his next move to be. Having turned down numerous clubs since leaving Old Trafford, Mourinho wants a return to Real Madrid, according to Goal.

- Everton are apparently looking to sign Mario Gotze. The Borussia Dortmund attacker is out of contract at the end of the season and Augsburger Allgemeine says the Premier League club want to sign Gotze on a free transfer.

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