Antoine Griezmann acknowledged he has found it difficult to build a connection with Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi because of the Argentinian's injury problems this season.

Messi, 32, has managed to make just a single start across all competitions in 2019-20, with a calf strain suffered in early August ruling him out for over a month.

He then sustained a hamstring issue in the 2-1 win over Villarreal, with initial speculation suggesting he could be out for up to three weeks.

But according to reports in the Catalan media, Messi could make his return earlier than expected against Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday, with coach Ernesto Valverde refusing to rule him out.

Griezmann is eager to feature consistently with the Barca talisman having had few opportunities to link up with him.

"He doesn't talk much and neither do I, so it is difficult for us to talk to each other," Griezmann told reporters on Tuesday.

"I have already taken him some mate [tea, a traditional drink of Argentina], so we are going in the right direction.

"He has been injured, so it is difficult to build that connection. I think we are both good people and I'm here to help anyone.

"I am always with him – he trains. He arrives earlier to reinforce his legs and his body. He takes care of himself, but when you enter a sequence of injuries, it is difficult to get out of it.

"He has my support, the support of the coach and that of the team. We are here to help him, so that he feels good. When he is there [in the team], he'll do as he was doing."

Wednesday's match will see Griezmann go up against former Atletico Madrid team-mate and close friend Diego Godin at club level for the first time since the Frenchman left Real Sociedad in 2014.

But Griezmann is confident he can outwit the Uruguayan centre-back.

"In the World Cup [France v Uruguay] it was a special game," Griezmann said. "It will be special to play at home in the Champions League against him.

"He is a great friend and a great example for me. He is my daughter's godfather and I know tricks to catch him if I play and if he plays."

Romelu Lukaku was handed his first Inter start in Antonio Conte's Serie A bow for the club against Lecce.

Inter get their league campaign under way on Monday with former captain Mauro Icardi left out of the squad amid uncertainty over his future.

Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara has indicated the striker wants to stay at the club despite being told he is free to leave.

Conte picked Stefano Sensi in midfield after the Italy international joined the Nerazzurri on loan from Sassuolo.

Fellow new signing Nicolo Barella was on the bench and Argentina attacker Lautaro Martinez was selected to partner Lukaku in attack.

Defender Diego Godin, who joined Inter on a free transfer after leaving Atletico Madrid, missed out due to injury.

It's been all change in Serie A ahead of the 2019-20 season, with five of last season's top six changing their head coach.

As such, an action-packed close season in the transfer market followed.

Champions Juventus have done big business, but could any of the chasing pack - including Antonio Conte's Inter - catch them after a busy window?

Although Italian clubs can buy until September 2, we take a look at five of the best signings in Serie A before the action gets underway.

 

5. Aaron Ramsey (Juventus)

Juventus are the masters of the free transfer and nothing changed this year, with two huge midfield signings arriving without a fee. Adrien Rabiot is a massive talent who will improve Maurizio Sarri's options, but Ramsey may well prove the real star.

In an Arsenal team where big wages and large fees were spent on the likes of Mesut Ozil, Ramsey was perhaps their most consistent performer, playing a key role in their FA Cup successes.

The Gunners will likely rue the expiration of Ramsey's contract and the Welshman already looks like he will settle quickly in Turin, after giving an introductory statement to the media in Italian.

4. Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari)

Nainggolan was one of Europe's dominant midfielders just a couple of years ago, so it seems incredible that he is on loan at Cagliari at the age of 31.

But after falling out of favour with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Nainggolan had a stop-start first season at Inter - although his form picked up towards the end of the campaign - and Conte has seemingly decided he does not need the former Roma man.

All of this works out wonderfully for Cagliari, though, who had Nainggolan for four years earlier in his career and will welcome him back with open arms. His midfield alliance with Nahitan Nandez, an exciting acquisition from Boca Juniors, will be a must watch.

3. Diego Godin (Inter)

Godin has perhaps been Europe's best centre-back in recent seasons and so, even at 33, his expiring Atletico Madrid contract would have made him a target for many top sides.

But this move to Inter was long mooted and he should form a formidable three-man defence alongside Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar.

If Conte's reign at the Nerazzurri is to be a success, they will need to deliver at both ends of the field. It is on Romelu Lukaku's shoulders to provide the goals, while Godin will surely perform at the back, even if he endured a rocky campaign last time out.

2. Kostas Manolas (Napoli)

This list might be dominated by centre-backs and Serie A, to many the home of defending, will see some of the very best in action again next season. Manolas is certainly among them.

The Greece international might be best remembered for his Champions League goalscoring exploits at Roma, but he was a consistent star in defence over five seasons in the capital.

Quick and strong enough to mix it with Serie A's very best attackers, Manolas will leave a big hole in the Roma back line and instantly find a home at Napoli alongside Kalidou Koulibaly.

1. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

It is an obvious answer, but every club on the planet would have loved to have brought in former Ajax captain De Ligt.

He was inspirational both on and off the pitch for the Dutch giants last season, as well as starring for Netherlands. Brilliant at the back and a threat in attack, De Ligt is still just 20, too, and will only get better.

That he cost a relatively reasonable €75million, considering the reported £80million spent on Harry Maguire, is merely a bonus. Juve should be set for years to come.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone bears no ill feeling towards Antoine Griezmann following his move to Barcelona, and is adamant it was better to leave when he did instead of staying and potentially ruining their relationship.

Simeone is overseeing a major rebuild at Atletico this close season, with Griezmann one of several key players to leave the club.

Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Juanfran have also left, with Atletico bringing in Felipe, Mario Hermoso, Hector Herrera, Renan Lodi, Marcos Llorente and Kieran Trippier as replacements, while Joao Felix is tasked with filling Griezmann's boots.

Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Fernando Torres have all received great send-offs from Atletico supporters in the last 14 months, but Griezmann was widely jeered after confirming his intention to leave in May.

Simeone puts the indifference partly down to longevity at the club, while accepting Griezmann probably chose a good time to seek a new challenge.

"Because it wasn't the same time [at the club]," he told La Nacion when asked why Griezmann did not get the same send-off as Godin and Torres.

"His time was significant from a sporting perspective. The others, in another way, have lit up the hearts of Atletico fans.

"The numbers of Antoine are tremendous. In five years, he was among the five top scorers in the history of the club.

"When he came to talk to me about his departure, I already sensed it. I think he looked for the most appropriate moment in his search to keep improving.

"He is young, he has talent, he is an extraordinary boy whom I love very much, and the best way to maintain this affection is from respect.

"I understand that others also have needs. As long as others have needs that do not alter mine, it is great. If the needs of he who remains alter my needs, we may not end up as friends anymore."

New recruit Felipe is not concerned about filling Diego Godin's boots at Atletico Madrid.

Godin has signed a three-year deal with Inter, ending a nine-year stay in the Spanish capital that yielded a LaLiga title and two Champions League final appearances, though Atleti lost on both occasions to neigbours Real Madrid.

After joining from Porto for €20million and agreeing a three-year contract, Felipe is widely expected to be Atletico's replacement for captain Godin.

But the 30-year-old defender is not feeling the pressure of following in the footsteps of one of the club's modern greats.

"Godin is Godin, he's a great player and he's made a great story," Felipe said of the two-time Europa League winner. 

"I'm here to make my story. I want to play a great role, I know the club is huge.

"I really wanted to come in. I have very high expectations of having a good season."

Atletico face a substantial rebuild with Lucas Hernandez joining Bayern Munich and veteran right-back Juanfran leaving, while striker Antoine Griezmann has announced his intention to depart and left-back Filipe Luis also expected to be on his way out.

Spain midfielder Rodri is close to completing his move to Manchester City, with the Premier League champions paying his release clause, though Marcos Llorente has arrived from Real Madrid.

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