Neymar's prospective return to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain has been given the seal of approval by Brazil and Blaugrana great Rivaldo.

A PSG exit for the 27-year-old forward looks increasingly likely this close season, two years after his world-record €222million move to the Ligue 1 champions from Barca.

The Brazil international failed to turn up to the first day of pre-season training, while PSG sporting director Leonardo has confirmed Neymar is available for the right price.

And Rivaldo, who spent five seasons at Camp Nou, wants to see his compatriot back at Barca.

"For the moment, the one [Brazilian] that I like the most is Neymar," he said, courtesy of Betfair.

"I [would] like that he returns to Barcelona."

Even without Neymar due to an ankle injury, Brazil managed to win the Copa America on home soil on Sunday thanks to a 3-1 win over Peru.

Asked for the nation's next star, 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo praised Real Madrid attacker Vinicius Junior.

"We have Vinicius, who is a great player that went to Madrid and has everything that is needed to be a great player," he said.

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior is "sure" Kylian Mbappe's arrival from Paris Saint-Germain is imminent, while expressing his desire to play alongside Neymar.

Mbappe's future has been the subject of intense speculation since he announced a "new project" might appeal to his desire to take on more authority at club level, but PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said he was "200 per cent sure" the 20-year-old will be remain at Parc des Princes.

Vinicius, who joined Madrid in a €45million switch from Flamengo in July 2018, shed light on his burgeoning friendship with Mbappe and indicated he would back a swoop for the France international or Neymar – or both.

Vinicius told Telefoot: "I want to play with Neymar, for sure, and also with Kylian Mbappe.

"All the Madrid fans dream of having them here, and I know it because I'm there.

"The fans of all teams in the world would like to see Mbappe play under their colours. We do not know each other but we talk a little bit, on Instagram, we send messages.

"I admire him a lot, he's already won several titles when he's only at the beginning of his career, if he came here it would be great."

Madrid have spent heavily in the aftermath of a disappointing 2018-19 season in which they finished third in LaLiga and failed to defend their Champions League crown.

Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Rodrygo Goes, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy and Takefusa Kubo have arrived for a combined €308million, but Vinicius claimed another large outlay on Mbappe is in the offing.

"Everyone wants him to come here, and I'm sure he will come soon," said the 18-year-old Brazilian.

"With him, we would win many trophies, that's for sure."

Former Brazil international Ze Roberto believes Rodrygo Goes has got what it takes to emulate Vinicius Junior at Real Madrid.

Rodrygo was presented as a Los Blancos player at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, a year after the club paid a reported €45million to Santos for him.

Vinicius joined the LaLiga giants at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, becoming a fixture in the first team after the turn of the year before he suffered an ankle injury in March.

Ze Roberto – who had a brief spell with Madrid in 1997 – believes Rodrygo has already shown the attributes needed to be a success in Spain and has backed him to follow Vinicius' lead.

"Vinicius started his career very well in European football," he told AS.

"He has a lot of personality and I believe that, when he gains more experience, he will become a significant player in the continent. 

"Rodrygo has everything to follow these steps. He also started very well at Santos and he seems to have a good head, like Vinicius."

When asked if the pair could become two of the world's best players, Ze Roberto responded: "It is impossible to predict that today. It is better to wait."

Paris Saint-Germain may be heading for a tough rebuild that includes losing two of the world's best players.

While they won Ligue 1 once again, PSG fell short in the Champions League, exiting in the round of 16. Still, Thomas Tuchel has earned trust in Paris, signing a new contract in May.

He may have some massive work to do in the close-season, with Kylian Mbappe reportedly eyeing a move to Real Madrid, while Neymar is considering his options.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE WANTS MADRID MOVE

After a standout season, Mbappe is feeling undervalued at PSG and wants a move to Real Madrid, according to ABC.

The France international, who scored 39 goals in 2018-19, does not feel properly valued in Paris, the report said.

Mbappe has continually been linked with a move to Madrid, where his fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane returned to the helm late in the season.

There may be even further worries for PSG, too, with Neymar considering his options, according to Telefoot.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gareth Bale is on his way out at the Santiago Bernabeu and Manchester United may be interested. According to the Mirror, United are ready to meet the attacker's wage demands, initially signing him on loan before holding on to him for a second season.

- Manchester United are also looking at potential replacements for Paul Pogba, who is linked with a move away. The Evening Standard report that United are considering Tottenham star Christian Eriksen and Monaco's Youri Tielemans, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Leicester City.

- While Madrid's rebuild has well and truly started, there appears to be some uncertainty over Vinicius Junior. According to AS, Zidane is still unsure about the forward, while president Florentino Perez believes the Brazilian should be part of Madrid's squad.

- Real Madrid are nonetheless expected to sign Lyon left-back Ferland Mendy, but AS say there are concerns over the defender's hip. The LaLiga giants are hoping to do another medical on Wednesday before confirming the signing.

- Atletico Madrid are set to lose Antoine Griezmann and are looking at AC Milan's Suso to add some strength to their attack, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Manchester United will need a bigger bid to land Crystal Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Times report Palace rejected a £40million bid, looking for something closer to £65m.

Real Madrid announced the signing of Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt for a reported fee of €60million on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old arrives in Spain as one of Europe's most prolific young forwards and Los Blancos' notoriously demanding fans will expect the Serbian to hit the ground running after their torrid 2018-19 campaign.

Jovic is likely to compete with Karim Benzema and Mariano Diaz for the central striking role in Zinedine Zidane's starting XI.

We look at last season's statistics, courtesy of Opta, to see how Jovic compares to his new team-mates. 

BENZEMA STILL DELIVERING THE GOODS

Madrid needed someone to take on the goalscoring burden following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Juventus and Benzema did not disappoint.

The 31-year-old rolled back the years to score 30 goals in 53 appearances across all competitions, a return of a goal every 143.47 minutes.

While Jovic scored fewer goals overall than Benzema (27), they did arrive more frequently. He played almost 1000 minutes fewer than the Frenchman, which meant he found the back of the net every 122.41 minutes.

Mariano, meanwhile, struggled in his first season following his move from Lyon. The 25-year-old played just 593 minutes across 19 appearances, scoring four goals.

JOVIC'S ALL-ROUND GAME TO COME UNDER SCRUTINY

While Jovic's primary objective will be to score goals, he will need to demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the greater good if he is to usurp Benzema as the club's pre-eminent forward.

In addition to his goals last season, Benzema provided 10 assists for his team-mates. This meant he was involved in a goal every 107.60 minutes throughout the campaign. He also created a whopping 70 chances and completed almost 58 per cent of his attempted dribbles.

Jovic has an even better rate of involvement, his six assists ensuring that he played a part in a goal every 100.15 minutes. He created far fewer chances than Benzema, though, just 37, and did not enjoy as much success with dribbles, completing 42 per cent of those attempted.

Mariano was nowhere near the level of Jovic or Benzema. He created only eight chances during his stop-start campaign, failing to contribute a single assist.

HOW DID THE WIDE MEN FARE?

Gareth Bale has been heavily linked with a move away from Madrid during the off-season and Zidane will certainly feel his new signing from Frankfurt can offer more of a goal threat than the Wales international.

Bale scored 14 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions this season and provided six assists. His number of chances created, 33, is also lower than Jovic's total.

Another wide player that will be at the Santiago Bernabeu next season is Vinicius Junior.

After breaking into the team midway through the season, the Brazil international registered eight assists to suggest he could prove to be an effective supply line for Jovic as the latter looks to make his mark in Spanish football.

Brazil great Ronaldo can understand the comparisons between himself and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, a player he professes to "love".

Mbappe, 20, enjoyed a remarkable season in Ligue 1 this term, scoring 33 goals in 29 matches for the champions.

The France international was the undisputed star of PSG's title defence and has been linked with record moves to Spanish sides Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Throughout his fledgling career Mbappe has been likened to former Brazil, Barca, Madrid and Inter forward Ronaldo, as he has a similar combination of pace, skill and lethal finishing.

When asked by Marca if he concurs with those saying they see Ronaldo in Mbappe, the Brazilian said: "Yes, I do. I love him.

"He's fast, can finish and he's only 20 years old. We've known about him for three years already because he has a lot of talent.

"I don't know how players are valued at what they are now, but who am I to speak? People paid a lot of money for me, and for [Zinedine] Zidane. It's a normal evolution in football."

If Mbappe was to move to Madrid, he would link up with another of the world's most promising players in Vinicius Junior.

Ronaldo's compatriot enjoyed a promising debut season and was one of the few bright points for Madrid, who finished third in LaLiga and were knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax in the last 16.

"No, I'd seen him at Flamengo," Ronaldo replied when asked if Vinicius' adaptation was unexpected.

"He has a lot of quality and that's why Madrid paid €40million. When they put him in the team they saw what he has.

"He's not fully formed, but he's 18 years old and it'll come. He's an incredible player and will bring a lot of joy."

Vinicius Junior had "a great season" despite Real Madrid falling short in domestic competitions and the Champions League.

Madrid splashed out a reported €45million to sign Vinicius in May 2017 - when the winger was just 16 years old - but let him stay on loan at Flamengo for another year.

The Brazilian teenager made the move to Europe ahead of the 2018-19 season, which he started by playing for Castilla before becoming a regular part of the first team under Santiago Solari.

Vinicius developed rapidly and was keeping Gareth Bale out of the side after the turn of the year, but an ankle injury sustained against Ajax on March 5 ruled him out for two months and cost him a place in Brazil's Copa America squad.

And although Los Blancos were eliminated from the Champions League at the last-16 stage by Ajax and lost to Barcelona, who they finished 19 points adrift of in LaLiga, in the Copa del Rey semi-final, Vinicius was proud of his first campaign in the Spanish capital.

"It was a great season for me. I started at Castilla, but I knew that could happen and that's how it was. Then I went to the first team, I started playing and I learned a lot," he said.

"It was a shame that we did not do well in any of the three competitions, but the team had won three Champions Leagues in a row. Unfortunately, it can happen.

"We all hope things will go better next season. I'm sure we will win again.

"We have to rest, but I'm ready to start all over again."

Real Madrid duo Marcelo and Vinicius Junior have been left out of Brazil's squad for the Copa America.

Tite revealed his 23-man group on Friday, with experienced Marcelo – one of Brazil's captains during the 2018 World Cup – the headline name to miss out.

The defender has had a difficult season with Madrid, falling out of favour under Santiago Solari and failing to recapture his best form after Zinedine Zidane's return to the club.

Brazil's left-back options for the tournament, which they host, will be Juventus' Alex Sandro and Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis, with Porto full-back Alex Telles not included.

Marcelo's Madrid team-mate Vinicius Junior, who was given a first international call-up for Brazil's friendlies against Panama and the Czech Republic in March – only to drop out due to injury – has also not made the cut, with Ajax star David Neres preferred.

Neres joins fellow forwards Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Everton and Neymar, who was missing from Tite's last squad due to the ankle injury which saw him miss three months of the campaign.

Fernandinho, who has not made an international appearance since World Cup 2018, has earned a recall, while Dani Alves is also involved.

Brazil, who take on Qatar and Honduras in pre-tournament friendlies, kick off the Copa America against Bolivia on June 14, with Venezuela and Peru their other opponents in Group A.

Brazil squad in full:

Alisson (Liverpool), Cassio (Corinthians), Ederson (Manchester City); Alex Sandro (Juventus), Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Porto), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Miranda (Inter), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Allan (Napoli), Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan); David Neres (Ajax), Everton (Gremio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton).

Vinicius Junior has revealed some Real Madrid players still get nervous when speaking to head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Former France international Zidane, who returned Madrid in March after resigning in the wake of leading the club to a third straight Champions League title in 2018, is widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation.

He won the Ballon d'Or in 1998 after spearheading France's World Cup triumph in the same year, scoring twice in the final against Brazil, and won the Champions League with Madrid in 2002 after crashing home a stunning volley in the final against Bayer Leverkusen.

Despite the Madrid squad containing multiple high-profile stars, Vinicius says there are times when they are in still in awe of their boss.

"When a guy like that – who played at such a high level – is on the bench and says anything, you pay attention, don't you?" Vinicius told Globo's Esporte Espetacular.

"Sometimes we get a little nervous when we are going to speak to him. He does everything for you, so you only worry about playing football."

Vinicius has not featured under Zidane during his second reign at Los Blancos, having suffered an ankle injury in the Champions League last-16 second-leg defeat against Ajax on March 5.

The 18-year-old, though, is convinced he will be given the chance to shine under Zidane when he recovers.

"I'm relaxed because I know my opportunity is going to appear," said Vinicius.

"I know that Zidane gives everyone their chance. Now we are preparing for next season."

Vinicius faces a race against time to be fit for Brazil's Copa America campaign, which kicks off in June, and is doing everything in his power to prove his fitness to national team boss Tite.

"When you come back from an injury, you are a little afraid," he said.

"But I am preparing very well so that I can play the final matches of the season and, if possible, be called up by the national team.

"I would be happy if that happens, and if it doesn't I will support the Selecao like always."

Brazil head coach Tite said Vinicius Junior has to play well for Real Madrid if he is to be involved at the Copa America after the teenage sensation "missed an opportunity" during the international break.

Vinicius was set to make his Brazil debut before pulling out of friendlies against Panama and the Czech Republic due to an ankle injury.

Ajax star David Neres replaced the 18-year-old winger and impressed in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic.

Vinicius may not return until early May and with the Copa America scheduled to get underway in June, Tite told reporters: "Vinicius missed an opportunity, he's going to have to play very well in his club.

"Neres is going to have to continue playing very well, just as Richarlison entered a situation where Pedro was injured."

"We say to them: 'Play very well in your clubs.' We will accompany, monitor and the moment they are in will be decisive," Tite continued.

Criticised following a 1-1 draw against Panama on Saturday, Brazil were unconvincing in their win away to the Czechs in Prague, where Gabriel Jesus' brace spared Tite's blushes.

David Pavelka put the Czech Republic ahead before half-time, though Roberto Firmino equalised early in the second half.

Substitute Jesus came off the bench and scored twice to ease some of the pressure on Tite with a Copa America on home soil looming.

"Criticism can come from everyone, I'm exposed in my line of work and I must know how to deal with it. I just can't deal with situations regarding moral or education, the rest is ok. I'm exposed and I have no intent of hitting back. No hypocrisy," Tite said.

On Brazil's form since their quarter-final exit at the 2018 World Cup, Tite added: "It's been normal. If I had to use an adjective, let's be careful not to synthesise too much. It's normal, as far as modifications can be.

"For one who is listening, when he's working with people [players] that he already knows, things flow easier. On the creative phase it might hurt a little, but our standard has been normal."

Neymar and Vinicius Junior could play "in any team in the world" according to Casemiro, but the Real Madrid midfielder said it would be down to national team coach Tite to decide whether they can play together for Brazil.

As the Selecao prepared for friendly matches against Panama and Czech Republic, Casemiro expressed his admiration for Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar and his Madrid team-mate Vinicius, both of whom are ruled out of international duty by injuries.

While Neymar has made 96 appearances for Brazil in the nine years since making his bow, Vinicius has yet to be handed his full international debut.

But Casemiro feels the 18-year-old's recent form for Madrid, where he has made eight LaLiga starts and scored two goals in 2018-19, put him in the same bracket as Neymar.

"We started talking about Neymar here," Casemiro told reporters. "Let's spend the whole afternoon talking about him.

"For me, Neymar's in the top three and has everything to be the best in the world. In the last two months Vinicius played at a high level, at a level of one of the best in the world.

"What he's producing at Real was not normal, for someone who's 18 years old. Being bold in the shirt of Real Madrid is not easy."

Tite has the likes of Everton forward Richarlison and West Ham winger Felipe Anderson in his squad to face Panama and Czech Republic, but Casemiro knows there will be some tough decisions to make when Neymar and Vinicius return to fitness.

Neymar is recovering from a fractured metatarsal while Vinicius has damaged ankle ligaments, and Casemiro backed the pair to flourish upon their comebacks.

"We're talking about two great players, two players who are exceptional," said Casemiro.

"It is up to the coach to talk about whether they can play together or not. There's no doubt they are great players.

"Of course, they can play in any team in the world."

Brazil's match against Panama takes place in Portugal on Saturday, while the clash with Czech Republic is on Tuesday in Prague.

Vinicius Junior revealed he chose the "best project" when opting for Real Madrid over Barcelona.

The Brazilian forward, 18, signed for LaLiga giants Madrid in May 2017 before officially making the move from Flamengo in July last year.

Vinicius said Barca had offered him more money, but his decision was based on what he felt was a better move.

"My father never told me of interest until Barcelona and Real Madrid," he told Cadena SER.

"Then we visited both clubs and liked them both.

"Barcelona wanted to pay more, but we wanted the best project and Marcelo and Casemiro spoke to me and helped me decide."

Vinicius suffered an ankle injury earlier this month and is set to be sidelined until May in a blow for Madrid.

The teenager must wait to feature under Zinedine Zidane, back at the helm after replacing Santiago Solari, and Vinicius said he could already see the differences between the two coaches.

"Casemiro told me that, when Zidane spoke, he would get a bit nervous," he said.

"It is quite different how Zidane speaks compared to Solari. He is a legend, he won everything and he is special.

"To me, he said to be calm about the injury in order to return stronger."

David Neres has been called up by Brazil for the first time, with the Ajax winger replacing Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid teenager Vinicius was set to earn his debut senior cap but had to withdraw due to a calf injury.

Taking his place is Ajax star Neres, who was on the scoresheet as the Dutch side knocked Madrid out of the Champions League.

Neres, 22, has been directly involved in 40 Eredivisie goals in 60 league appearances since joining Ajax from Sao Paulo in 2017.

Brazil face Panama in Porto on March 23 and take on Czech Republic in Prague three days later.

Tite's side are building towards the Copa America, where the hosts have been drawn with Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru.

Vinicius Junior faces a spell on the sidelines after Real Madrid confirmed the Brazilian teenager has torn ligaments in his right leg.

The winger sustained the injury in the first half of Madrid's Champions League defeat at the hands of Ajax on Tuesday.

He was substituted in the 35th minute, with Ajax leading 2-0, and the Eredivisie side went on to win 4-1 and dump the three-time defending champions out in the round of 16.

Vinicius has been a rare highlight for Madrid in a terrible season that has seen the club dismiss Julen Lopetegui, with Santiago Solari reportedly close to following suit.

He has made 15 LaLiga appearances in 2018-19, scoring two goals, while he has also featured in four Champions League matches.

Madrid gave no timescale for his recovery in a statement released on Wednesday.

"After the tests made today to our player Vinicius Jr by the Medical Services of Real Madrid, he has been diagnosed with a torn ligament of the tibiofibular joint of the right leg. Evolution pending," the statement said.

Solari's future is under severe threat with Madrid 12 points off the top of the LaLiga table after Saturday's 1-0 home Clasico loss to leaders Barcelona.

Madrid were also knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Barca at the semi-final stage, losing 4-1 on aggregate, although Solari led the team to Club World Cup glory last year.

Santiago Solari insists Gareth Bale remains firmly in his plans as Real Madrid prepare for a second El Clasico in the space of four days.

Bale has started just two LaLiga games in 2019 and was limited to a second-half substitute appearance as Los Blancos slipped to a 3-0 Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday.

Solari's side have the chance to avenge that defeat and close the nine-point gap to the league leaders when Ernesto Valverde's side once again travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Bale's future at the club has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks, with the Wales international cutting an increasingly frustrated figure, but Solari is adamant that the forward – alongside other recent absentees Marcelo and Marco Asensio – will play an important role as the season draws to a close.

"They are still important," he told a media conference.

"Bale has played every game since returning from injury and is scoring goals.

"We all know what Marcelo means and Asensio has played since he came back and scored in Amsterdam [against Ajax in the Champions League] the goal that gives us the advantage. 

"All are important, not only those who start the matches. Titles are earned with full squads."

Solari confirmed that Isco is back in full training after a back injury and will be fit enough to play some part against Barca.

While the Spain international might not be fit enough to start the game, Solari will have no hesitation in continuing with Vinicius Junior in attack.

The 18-year-old – who received his first call-up to Brazil's senior squad this week – has become a key member of Madrid's first team under Solari and turned in another dazzling display against Barca.

"I like to look at all the positive things that football players do," Solari added.

"Vinicius has a lot of positive things; his ability, quality, sacrifice, willingness to learn and how he can stand the pressure – so many things in such a short time."

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