Rumour Has It: Man City lead Messi race, Bale set to hurt Real Madrid's Mbappe hopes

By Sports Desk January 07, 2021

Manchester City reportedly believe they lead the race for Lionel Messi if the star leaves Barcelona.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at Barca at the end of the season and is linked with a move from the LaLiga giants.

The forward stayed at Camp Nou after sensationally requesting a transfer ahead of 2020-21, but it may have just delayed his exit.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD MESSI RACE IF STAR LEAVES

Manchester City believe they lead the race for Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to The Telegraph.

City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter have been most strongly linked with a move for Messi, who is expected to make a decision on his future at the end of the campaign.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 20 games in all competitions this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Gareth Bale injured, his chances of a longer stay at Tottenham appear slim. AS reports Real Madrid are expecting the attacker to return to the club at the end of his loan spell at the conclusion of the campaign, and that would hurt their chances of signing Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe with Bale contracted until 2022.

- Georginio Wijnaldum's future is no closer to being sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder and Liverpool have reached a stalemate over a new contract. Wijnaldum's deal expires at the end of the season and the Netherlands international has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

- Starring at Tottenham this season, Son Heung-min could be set for a new deal. The Telegraph reports Spurs are confident the forward, who is contracted until 2023, will re-sign.

- Mesut Ozil could finally be set to leave Arsenal. DHA reports the playmaker has agreed to a three-and-a-half-year deal with Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- With Moise Kean impressing on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, Everton are expecting an offer for the forward, according to the Liverpool Echo. Kean has 10 goals in 17 matches for PSG this season.

- Diego Alonso is under pressure at the helm of Inter Miami, and Sky Sports reports the MLS side have approached Phil Neville, who is the coach of England's women's team, to take over.

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    Ian Rush, John Aldridge and Jamie Carragher were among those to pay tribute to Roger Hunt on Tuesday after he died aged 83.

    The former Liverpool and England international passed away on Monday following a long-term illness.

    Hunt won the World Cup with England in 1966, playing all six matches and scoring three times. He earned 34 caps for the Three Lions.

    He joined Liverpool in 1959, firing 41 goals in 42 games to drag them out of the second tier and into the First Division under the stewardship of Bill Shankly.

    The forward managed 285 goals in 492 games for the club, which was a record until Ian Rush surpassed the haul in 1992, but no player has ever scored more league goals for the Reds than Hunt's 244.

    And Rush led the tributes to an Anfield legend, posting: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Sir Roger Hunt, someone I would always look up to. He was a fantastic goalscorer and a true gentleman on and off the pitch. My thoughts are with his family. May he rest in peace."

    John Aldridge, another Liverpool goalscorer, used to play with Rush up top and he echoed his strike partner's sentiments.

    "I'm absolutely gutted to hear of the passing away of one, if not the best LFC [Liverpool] strikers Sir Roger Hunt," Aldridge wrote on Twitter.

    "What a striker and a true gentleman, I had the great pleasure of being with him on many occasions. RIP my Nu 1 [number one] legend and hero."

    Phil Thompson grew up idolising Hunt before making his debut at Anfield, where he would later become assistant manager, and posted his condolences to social media.

    "What an awful day, the passing of my true hero who I'm glad to say became a friend," Thompson said. "A humble man and a legend of the game. RIP Sir Roger."

    While ex-Liverpool centre-back Jamie Carragher added: "RIP Sir Roger Hunt, one of the greatest goalscorers our club has ever seen. Sir Roger along with the other legends from the 60s made LFC the club it is today."

    Former club Liverpool, who Hunt enjoyed an 11-and-a-half year spell with, joined a host of names paying tribute to the 83-year-old, posting: "The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool FC are with Roger's family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

    While Reds head coach Jurgen Klopp hailed a Kop legend, who "comes second to no-one in his importance in the history of Liverpool FC", FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham promised a fitting tribute for Hunt at England's next home game.

    "English football has lost another great with the passing of Roger Hunt," said Bullingham.

    "On behalf of the FA, our thoughts are with his family and friends today. Twice a league champion with Liverpool, either side of a memorable FA Cup success in 1965, Roger will always be treasured by fans across the country as one of our World Cup winners of 1966.

    "He will forever be remembered at Wembley Stadium and we will pay tribute to his memory before our home fixture with Hungary next month."

  • Italy to face Argentina as UEFA and CONMEBOL strengthen relationship Italy to face Argentina as UEFA and CONMEBOL strengthen relationship

    Italy and Argentina will face each other in June 2022 after UEFA and CONMEBOL agreed to stage a series of matches between the European Championship and Copa America winners. 

    Euro 2020 holders Italy, who ended a 53-year wait for the trophy by defeating England in July, are set to take on Copa America 2021 victors Argentina next year.

    While a venue is yet to be confirmed for the inaugural fixture, there will also be further games held between the respective winners after the next two editions of each tournament. 

    A statement from the governing bodies said: "UEFA and CONMEBOL have today announced the broadening of their existing cooperation as well as the staging of a match between the UEFA Euro 2020 winners Italy and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021 winners Argentina during the international window in June 2022 at a venue to be confirmed. 

    "The organising of this match is part of the expansion of the cooperation between UEFA and CONMEBOL, which notably includes women’s football, futsal and youth categories, the exchange of referees, as well as technical training schemes. 

    "The agreement reached by the two organisations currently covers three editions of this match between the respective continental winners and includes the opening of a joint office in London, which will be in charge of coordinating projects of common interest. 

    "By reaching this agreement, UEFA and CONMEBOL express their commitment to the development of football beyond their geographical zones, as a bridge uniting people, countries, continents and cultures. 

    "The UEFA Executive Committee and the CONMEBOL Council also expressed a strong willingness to continue collaborating on other issues of mutual interest going forward." 

    The agreement signifies a strengthening of the working relationship between the organisations, both of whom have openly opposed FIFA's plans for a biennial World Cup. 

    With UEFA and CONMEBOL improving relations between one another, it could prove vital for knocking back FIFA's proposed changes, which remain in the pipeline with their Chief of Global Development Arsene Wenger leading the charge. 

  • Ronaldo almost guarantees goals, says Solskjaer Ronaldo almost guarantees goals, says Solskjaer

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Cristiano Ronaldo almost guarantees goals as Manchester United prepare to face Villarreal in the Champions League. 

    United have drawn their last five meetings with Villarreal, including the 2021 Europa League final which they went on to lose on penalties, while managing to score just once. 

    Therefore, the Premier League club will be hoping the 36-year-old, who is the Champions League's all-time leading scorer, can help them halt that barren run. 

    Ronaldo has never netted against Villarreal in four previous appearances against them for United in the competition, only facing Lille and Benfica as often without finding the net. 

    However, he scored 13 times against the Spanish side during his time with Real Madrid, a factor Solskjaer hopes will work in United's favour. 

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    "Of course Cristiano, you can almost say when he starts it is one guaranteed goal," Solskjaer said at his pre-match news conference when asked if Ronaldo could be the difference. 

    "He has that record and he will score goals.  

    "It is not going to be easy for us, but it is not going to be easy [for Villarreal] to play against Cristiano.  

    "He has 13 goals in 15 against Villarreal [for Madrid] which means he enjoys playing against them.  

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    Ronaldo will break former Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas’ record for Champions League appearances if he plays, setting a new record of 178 games.  

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    With Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka out, and Luke Shaw's status uncertain, United are poised for a defensive reshuffle, so Solskjaer will hope Ronaldo and the attack can carry the load with his team under pressure after losing the Group F opener to Young Boys. 

    The United manager added: "It is a group stage, there are only six games and you need 10 or maybe 12 points to go through. 

    "We lost three points last time. If you end up with zero or one point after two games you need to win the last four games probably, so not a must-win game but it is a very important one." 

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