Messi dismisses Inter transfer and Ronaldinho bail rumours as 'fake news'

By Sports Desk April 09, 2020

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has branded speculation linking him with moves to Inter and Newell's Old Boys as "fake news".

Reports in Argentina, Spain and Italy in recent days have suggested Inter could launch an audacious bid to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, with Barca said to be keen to speak with the Nerazzurri about striker Lautaro Martinez.

TNT in Messi's homeland even suggested discussions had already begun over a series of transfers that would see Martinez move to Camp Nou and Messi head to Inter along with rising Velez Sarsfield star Thiago Almada.

However, Messi has made it clear there is no truth to the rumours, publishing a screenshot of the claim on his official Instagram page and labelling it "fake news".

He described the report of the Inter deal as "lie 1" and wrote "lie 2" over a further claim that bail for former team-mate Ronaldinho, who is being held in Paraguay over allegedly entering the country with a fake passport, was paid from a Barcelona-based bank account that could have been used by Messi.

Messi added: "What they said in this same publication about Newell's a few weeks ago was also false. At least nobody believes them..."

Messi's future remains unclear as he has the option to unilaterally terminate his Barca contract at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has been at loggerheads with some of Barca's board this term, adding to speculation he could decide to walk away.

Messi called out first-team technical secretary Eric Abidal for suggesting some players downed tools during Ernesto Valverde's final weeks in charge, while he then accused figures within the club of trying to place the players under undue public scrutiny while they negotiated a voluntary 70 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus crisis.

Manchester City are another club to have been linked with the Argentina star, who has always stressed he feels at home at Barca, where he has spent his whole senior career.

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    Former Barca and Argentina great Maradona died last week at the age of 60 and was honoured before all LaLiga matches over the weekend.

    Messi scored his side's fourth goal in fine style during Sunday's 4-0 home win over Osasuna.

    Afterwards, he removed his Barca shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys jersey emblazoned with Maradona's famous number 10.

    He then pointedly saluted the sky in honour of his compatriot, who spent a season towards the end of his career with Newell's - the club where Messi began his youth career.

    Following the victory, Koeman told the media how impressed he was both with his captain's finish and with the way he chose to pay his respects to his compatriot.

    The yellow card shown to Messi, which regulations state will come with a €3,000 fine for Barca, has attracted attention after the match and Koeman believes it should be overturned.

    Speaking ahead of Wednesday's away Champions League match against Ferencvaros, for which Messi will be rested, Koeman said: "We know that there is a rule [relating to the award of] the yellow card.

    "But we also know that it was his dedication to Maradona when he took off his shirt. 

    "It's not my decision, but for me I would take it off."

    Barca are hopeful the yellow card decision will be changed.

    According to Sport, they will use the precedent of Sergio Ramos having a booking overturned on sentimental grounds in 2007 after he paid tribute to Sevilla star Antonio Puerta to argue their case.

    Barcelona have won all of their previous five competitive meetings with Hungarian sides and dominated the Camp Nou fixture against Ferencvaros in a 5-1 triumph last month.

    Messi opened the scoring with a penalty in that game and also laid on a late assist for Ousmane Dembele.

    However, he will now sit out of a second straight Champions League match, having also been rested for the 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out in the competition.

    Barca have fared surprisingly well without Messi, winning eight of their last nine Champions League games that he missed and drawing the other since losing to Ajax in 2013, according to Opta statistics.

    The club are looking to win each of their first five UEFA Champions League group stage games for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.

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    Messi's absence is not an issue Barca have often had to deal with down the years in the Champions League, particularly in recent times – the 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out was only the fourth in 43 matches in the competition that he has not featured in.

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    "I understand that it is not normal, but in the calendar this season there were two moments for Leo Messi to rest, Kiev and tomorrow, because we are already qualified," Koeman told reporters on Tuesday.

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    "He always likes to play and it's good that he has this mentality, but I spoke with him and asked him, but the final decision is up to the coach.

    "I wanted to give him rest in Kiev and tomorrow. For the rest of the season he may not get any more rest because we play every three days."

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    Messi is expected to return for Barca's final group match next week against Juventus and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

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    "With FC Bayern he has won the five big titles that can be won. Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup and UEFA Super Cup. In addition, he was also the top scorer in the first three competitions mentioned.

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