First Barcelona and now Real Madrid. Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man.

With 16 goals across all competitions for Inter this season, Martinez is attracting plenty of interest following previous links to Manchester United.

Madrid and Barca are set to go head-to-head on and off the pitch.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID JOIN BARCA IN MARTINEZ RACE

Real Madrid want to pay the release clause of Inter star and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Tyc Sports.

Martinez has long been linked with LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

However, Martinez is now firmly on Madrid's radar with a release clause of €115million and Luka Jovic struggling to score regularly behind veteran striker Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN says Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are chasing Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United. The 22-year-old – who is contracted to United until 2022 – has impressed at Bramall Lane and is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester unless he is number one ahead of David de Gea.

Manchester City have joined Madrid, Barca, Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, reports the Manchester Evening News. Pep Guardiola's City are desperate for defensive reinforcements following Vincent Kompany's exit and injury woes.

- According to the Daily Express, Serie A champions Juventus are eying a shock move for Chelsea's Willian, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Remaining in Turin and the Daily Mail claims Juve have entered the chase for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old is also wanted by United and Chelsea.

Tottenham are plotting a double swoop for Norwich City pair Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons, the Express says. It comes as the Daily Mail reports Spurs will sell Eric Dier if he does not sign a new contract.

- Marca says Barca have contacted Levante about Roger Marti but the club have pointed to the striker's release clause. Barca are looking to bring in an emergency forward following Ousmane Dembele's long-term injury. Real Betis' Loren Moron and Lucas Perez of Deportivo Alaves are also reported options.

Barcelona expect Ousmane Dembele to be sidelined for six months, meaning a new signing could be imminent at Camp Nou.

Under LaLiga regulations, teams can look to the transfer market outside the window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

However, they can only sign individuals from the top two tiers in Spain, or those who are available as free agents.

With Luis Suarez also ruled out until May, we look at the options Barca could go for in order to bolster their attack.

 

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

The former Real Madrid striker was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham during the January transfer window but a move did not come to fruition. However, Barca reportedly only have a budget of €12million, which could prove to be insufficient to sign Willian Jose, who has fallen behind Alexander Isak in the pecking order at the Reale Arena.

Angel Rodriguez (Getafe)

A more realistic option appears to be Getafe's Rodriguez, who is believed to have €10m release clause. The 32-year-old has scored nine LaLiga goals for Jose Bordalas' Champions League-chasing side this season but has started just six top-flight matches.

Lucas Perez

After failing to make his mark in the Premier League at Arsenal and West Ham, at Deportivo Alaves Perez has rediscovered the sort of form that encouraged the Gunners to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016. He has scored nine LaLiga goals and laid on four more for Alaves this season and strike partner Joselu, formerly of Real Madrid, this week revealed he has urged Perez not to join Barca.

Loren Moron

Head coach Quique Setien coached Moron for two seasons at Real Betis and he is the club's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season, finding the net eight times and supplying two assists. Betis president Angel Haro said at the weekend there has been no official contact from Barca, and Moron's release clause is understood to stand at €40m.

West Ham goalkeeper Roberto has signed for Deportivo Alaves on loan for the rest of the season after a disappointing first six months in the Premier League.

The 33-year-old was brought to London Stadium on a free transfer at the end of May as a back-up to established number one Lukasz Fabianski, signing a two-year deal.

But an early hip injury for Fabianski handed Roberto his opportunity in the first team.

The Spaniard played eight times in the league but was at fault for a number of goals during a slump in form and was eventually replaced by David Martin.

Fabianski suffered another injury earlier this month, yet West Ham have brought back Darren Randolph from Middlesbrough in a reported £4million transfer.

Roberto has subsequently been allowed to return to LaLiga on a temporary deal.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde paid tribute to Lionel Messi for his innate ability to make a decisive impact following a wonderful goal in Saturday's 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves.

Other than having an early goal disallowed, Messi had been unusually subdued by his standards at Camp Nou.

Although Barca went into half-time 2-0 up, Alaves scored early in the second period and grew in confidence until Messi struck his 50th goal for club and country this year.

Seemingly surrounded by players, Messi managed to unleashed a fierce strike into the left side of the net from 25 yards and Barca cruised from there, with Luis Suarez – who set up the first three goals – adding a late fourth from the penalty spot.

Despite Suarez arguably being the star of the show, Valverde focused on Messi after the match, singling out his impact when Barca were appearing to lose some of their control.

"All matches require a lot," the coach said. "When they scored, they were spurred on and they had the chance to equalise, but Leo scored a great goal and things are seen in a different way from there.

"I think we played the game well, I would say the first half was very good, then we had less momentum at the beginning of the second. We got a boost with the third goal.

"These things happen with Messi. We see it all the time. Something like that can happen, and it's a huge advantage that we have Messi.

"Leo appears and makes you a goal from anywhere."

With Saturday's win, Barca are likely to go into 2020 top of LaLiga, with Real Madrid needing a big win against Athletic Bilbao to prevent that occurring.

Lionel Messi took his goals tally for club and country in 2019 to 50 with a stunning strike in Barcelona's final match of the year, helping them to a 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

The Argentina superstar had been unusually subdued for much of the match, appearing a little off the pace, but he produced a ferocious 25-yard effort in the second half to ensure he finishes the sixth successive calendar year with at least half a century of goals.

Alaves kept Barca at bay for only 14 minutes, as Antoine Griezmann scored his fourth goal in seven matches across all competitions, and Arturo Vidal doubled their lead with a fierce strike just before half-time.

The visitors did hit back through Pere Pons early in the second half, offering them encouragement, but Messi effectively ended their hopes with his wonderful strike and Luis Suarez – who had set up the first three goals – deservedly got in on the act late on from a controversial penalty.

The warning signs were there early on for Alaves, as Messi had a goal disallowed in the 10th minute as a VAR review identified him to have strayed marginally offside.

But with their next move, Barca opened the scoring – Griezmann placing a right-footed effort into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box following Suarez's lay off.

Vidal was similarly decisive late in the half, receiving Suarez's pass and blasting an emphatic strike in across goal.

Alaves began the second period brightly and got themselves a lifeline through Pons' powerful header, leaving Marc-Andre ter Stegen no chance when arriving late to meet Ruben Duarte's cross.

But Messi turned on the style 21 minutes from time when lashing in from almost 30 yards despite being seemingly surrounded.

And the excellent Suarez rounded off the scoring soon after, converting from 12 yards after a VAR review deemed Martin Aguirregabiria to have handled the Uruguayan's previous header.

What does it mean? Barca set to start 2020 top

Although the scoreline arguably flattered Barca, there was rarely any doubt about who was going to win and the victory means they should begin the New Year top of the league.

Only a remarkable result in Real Madrid's match against Athletic Bilbao will prevent that.

Suarez knits it all together

Several Barca players have come in for significant criticism this season, with Suarez among them. But on Saturday he was excellent, playing a hand in all four goals. His awareness when setting up the first three was particularly impressive.

Ely fails to halt Suarez

The man tasked with keeping Suarez under control was Rodrigo Ely. The Brazilian failed. He barely got near the striker all match and had a miserable outing.

What's next?

LaLiga's winter break kicks in for these two sides now. Barca's season resumes on January 4 at struggling city rivals Espanyol, while Alaves host Real Betis the following day.

Lionel Messi reached 50 goals for the sixth consecutive calendar year by netting for Barcelona against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

The 32-year-old scored with a superb 20-yard curling strike in the 69th minute at Camp Nou as Barca moved closer to a key LaLiga victory.

Messi's effort restored Barca's two-goal advantage after Alaves had responded to earlier strikes from Antoine Griezmann and Arturo Vidal with an effort of their own from Pere Pons.

Argentina forward Messi moved on to 50 goals from 58 matches for club and country in 2019. He has also provided 18 assists as part of a fine year that saw him win a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

Of Messi's 50 this year, 34 have arrived in 32 LaLiga matches, with eight scored in the Champions League and three in the Copa del Rey. 

The remaining five came in matches for Argentina, for whom he has made 10 appearances this year.

Messi's extraordinary consistency has seen him score 50 or more in nine of the last 10 years, the only one in that span where he missed out being 2013, when he notched 45.

His best year came when he scored an astonishing 91 in 2012.

Real Madrid's character in their 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves at a sodden Mendizorroza delighted head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Goals from skipper Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal either side of Lucas Perez's 65th-minute penalty put Madrid three points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, ahead of the champions entertaining Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Zidane selected Alphonse Areola ahead of Thibaut Courtois in goal, while Eder Militao and the under-fire Gareth Bale also started in a shuffled line-up for a keenly contested match.

"It's very important victory, but [we will not be] looking at tomorrow's game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid," Zidane told a post-match news conference.

"Winning at these grounds is what we live for. We played with lots of personality.

"We played really seriously. We knew that we had to fight and we did it.

"We've got three points at a very difficult place to come."

On his surprise selection calls, Zidane added: "[Starting] Areola was today's decision. He's part of the squad, he trains well.

"He's part of the squad and he saved us, like Courtois sometimes does. He did fantastically well.

"Militao did very well and he has the right to play.

"We have to play every three days. The important thing is that everyone shows me every week that they are plugged in."

Madrid return to LaLiga action next weekend when they host Espanyol.

Dani Carval was the unlikely match-winner for Real Madrid as a gritty 2-1 victory at Deportivo Alaves took them top of LaLiga on Saturday.

The right-back prodded home at the end of a chaotic 17-minute period at a sodden Mendizorroza that saw the two sides share three second-half goals.

Sergio Ramos scored first, nodding in Toni Kroos' free-kick, then turned villain with a foul on Joselu that allowed Lucas Perez to restore parity from the spot.

Madrid rose to the challenge and restored their advantage three minutes after the equaliser to go three points clear of Barcelona, who visit Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Eden Hazard's ankle injury opened the door for Gareth Bale to make his first start since October 5 and the winger almost made an early contribution, his deflected header hitting the post in the 10th minute.

Eder Militao was involved in two Alaves penalty shouts either side of that chance, the first resulting in Aleix Vidal being booked for simulation when there appeared to be a slight trip.

The rain intensified after an error-strewn first half and, in the 52nd minute, Madrid raised their level.

Kroos curled an inviting free-kick into the box and Ramos glanced it beyond goalkeeper Pacheco for his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.

It took just 13 minutes for the centre-back to undo his good work.

Ramos raised a hand to Joselu's face in the box and Perez sent Alphonse Areola, chosen ahead of Thibaut Courtois, the wrong way from the resultant spot-kick.

Madrid were tasked with responding and Carvajal delivered the decisive goal in quick fashion, prodding home the winner at point-blank range after Pacheco blocked an Isco header on the line.

Alaves pressed hard for a second leveller but desperate goal-line interventions from Marcelo and Areola in the closing stages denied both Perez and Manu Garcia, before Federico Valverde missed a clear chance for a third in the dying seconds.

Zinedine Zidane named Gareth Bale in Real Madrid's starting XI and left Thibaut Courtois on the bench for Saturday's meeting with Deportivo Alaves.

Madrid had the chance to go top of LaLiga, at least temporarily, with a point and four changes were made to the team that conceded two late goals in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.

Eden Hazard's absence as the result of an ankle injury gave Wales international Bale the chance to start at club level for the first time since October 5.

The 30-year-old winger angered Los Blancos supporters last week when he posed in front of a flag that read: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER".

Eder Militao took the place of Raphael Varane, who reportedly suffered a knock against PSG, while loanee Alphonse Areola got the nod in goal as head coach Zidane shuffled his pack for a third game in seven days.

Luka Modric came into midfield for Fede Valverde, who joined Vinicius Junior on the bench.

Zidane declared the little-used Brazilian attacker would not be sent out on loan in January, but it remained to be seen if he would get an opportunity to impress against the competition's 13th-placed team.

Vinicius Junior will not be leaving Real Madrid in the January transfer window, head coach Zinedine Zidane insists.

The Brazil winger has not started a Madrid match since October 19 and has scored just once in 11 appearances in all competitions this season.

The future of the 19-year-old has been placed in doubt, with some reports suggesting he could leave on loan at the turn of the year in order to find regular first-team football.

Zidane, though, has no desire to let Vinicius leave and has backed him to prove his worth to Madrid.

"Vinicius isn't going to go. He's going to continue here," Zidane told reporters on Friday.

"It's not his moment right now, but it will be.

"I have 26 players and I have to leave some out of the squad. It's not his moment, as I've said, but he has to be ready for when it is.

"What changed is that there's [Eden] Hazard and there's Rodrygo [Goes]. He's training well but now there are other important players and I have to choose."

With Hazard having suffered an ankle injury in the Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain, Vinicius could get a chance to impress in Saturday's LaLiga game against Deportivo Alaves.

Zidane hopes to have Hazard available for next week's meeting with Espanyol, although he remains uncertain over his return.

"It's nothing serious but there's no concrete recovery plan. We'll see if he can be ready for next week," he said of the Belgium star.

"I can't say if he'll be ready for the Clasico [on December 18]. Everything depends on how [the injury] evolves, on the day-to-day."

Zidane also offered sympathy to Unai Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal on Friday after a run of just one win in nine matches.

"I'm very sorry. I don't like it when coaches get sacked and Emery is a great coach," he said of the former Sevilla boss.

"I'm sure he'll be coaching a team again very quickly."

Diego Simeone says Diego Costa is happy to see Alvaro Morata has found form for Atletico Madrid despite losing his own place in the starting line-up.

Morata came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 1-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday and then got the second in Saturday's 2-0 LaLiga defeat of Athletic Bilbao.

While Morata is seemingly growing in confidence, Costa appears to be struggling for meaningful minutes in 2019-20.

The 31-year-old has scored only once from open play this season and was relegated to the role of substitute for the weekend game at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Simeone, though, has dismissed any suggestion Costa is feeling resentment or frustration at Morata's contrasting form.

"He looks happy that Morata has scored and that he has that consistency in front of goal," the Atleti boss told a news conference on Monday. "They are good team-mates and friends. We keep working with Costa and everyone.

"It's normal for strikers to be worried where goals are coming from. Everyone shows the personality they have on the outside.

"As happens with strikers, [Morata] is much freer, looser as a result of his play."

Atletico can move top of the table with a win at Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday, at least until Barcelona play Real Sociedad a few hours later.

With the Clasico having been postponed last weekend, promoted Granada took the chance to go top after 10 matches by beating Real Betis 1-0.

Simeone thinks the balanced league table at this stage of the season shows how LaLiga teams have begun to improve defensively.

"The numbers from the first 10 matches speak for themselves. Nothing else needs to be said," he added.

"There are very good coaches. In Spain, there have always been good footballers for the associated way of playing and teams have acquired qualities to become better defensively. We see that in a lot of teams."

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