The race for Manchester United star Paul Pogba is heating up.

LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Serie A champions Juventus are vying for Pogba's signature.

But Juventus are looking to steal a march on Real Madrid by offering one of their stars in exchange.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA FOR POGBA?

After Real Madrid reportedly offered Gareth Bale to Manchester United in a swap deal for Paul Pogba, Juventus have countered.

According to Marca, Juve have put forward Paulo Dybala in an attempt to prise Pogba back to Turin following his €105million departure in 2016.

Dybala has struggled since Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival and Juventus are determined to add Pogba to Maurizio Sarri's midfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian says Frank Lampard will be announced as Chelsea boss on Thursday. Blues great Lampard was seen at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

- Arsenal are set to make an improved bid for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney after their £15million offer was rejected, according to the Mirror.

- AS reports Real Madrid and Tottenham have opened discussions regarding Dani Ceballos, who is surplus to requirements under Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, Spurs star Christian Eriksen was not discussed.

- Southampton have not made an offer for AC Milan forward Andre Silva, according to the Daily Echo.

- Juventus are preparing to make a move for unwanted Inter star Mauro Icardi, claim La Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere Torino, Sport Mediaset and Rai Sport. With Antonio Conte determined to make space for Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku in Milan, Juve are reportedly willing to offer Icardi a salary of €8m per year.

- Sport Italia reports AC Milan have approached Schalke about centre-back Matija Nastasic after being put off by the price of Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.

Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic could be set for a return to the Bundesliga, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Borussia Dortmund are reportedly pushing to sign the 33-year-old former Bayern Munich star, who only signed a new deal in Turin in April.

- According to the Sun, Leicester City have been quoted £40m for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Lewis Dunk as Harry Maguire continues to be linked with Manchester United and Manchester City.

Joao Felix is Atletico Madrid's new record signing having joined from Benfica for a whopping €126million, meaning the pressure is on for him to succeed and the omens aren't great.

A fine talent in his own right, Joao Felix scored 15 goals and set up another seven in 26 Primeira Liga games last season, while also impressing with his technical ability and creativity.

But at just 19 years of age, it's a huge price tag to live up to and Atletico's record of signing creative players and forwards in recent years has been verging on woeful.

While Antoine Griezmann has proven a huge success, few others since he joined can be considered as such, while the Frenchman is expected to leave.

With Joao Felix brought in as his replacement, we look back on the other players brought to add a bit of craft since Griezmann signed.

2014-15

Alessio Cerci - €15m

Technically gifted and clearly talented, Cerci secured a move to Atletico after scoring 13 Serie A goals and setting up 11 for Torino the previous season. But things started badly in LaLiga, as he was overweight when signing and managed just a smattering of appearances before being loaned out to AC Milan. His career has never really recovered.

Angel Correa - €8m

A heart problem delayed Correa's initial introduction, but he showed real promise once he was fully integrated into the squad. Although clearly a useful squad player, it is not so farfetched to suggest the 24-year-old is yet to live up to those early expectations, as he only scored three times in 36 league games last term. If played a little further forward, he might just thrive.

2015-16

Yannick Carrasco - €25m

An up-and-down first season was followed by a hugely promising second campaign at Atleti for Carrasco. The Belgian scored 10 in LaLiga and his skillset appeared to make him the perfect winger for Simeone's system, which required athleticism, enterprise and proactivity. But he partially regressed in 2017-18 and was subsequently deemed dispensable, joining China's Dalian Yifang.

Luciano Vietto - €20m

Although predominantly an out-and-out striker, Vietto showed himself to be well-rounded during his solitary season at Villarreal, and the fact he had worked with Simeone at Racing Club meant it was surely a fool-proof transfer. However, he scored just once in 25 games, converting three per cent of his shots and was little better in loan spells at Sevilla, Valencia and Fulham, despite starting well at the former. He has since been sold to Sporting CP for about €7.5m.

Jackson Martinez - €37m

Granted, Martinez was not signed to offer any kind of creativity, but he highlights the fact Simeone has also struggled to integrate many strikers. Martinez arrived following three fine seasons at Porto, but he scored just twice before being offloaded to China, where injuries restricted him badly. He spent 2018-19 back in Portugal with Portimonense attempting to rebuild his career, though Guangzhou Evergrande still own him.

 

2016-17

Nico Gaitan - €25m

Hailed as a fine addition due to his ability to play on either flank, Gaitan joined Atletico with a big reputation. While he was by no means a humiliating failure, he made very little impact on the first-team, making just 12 LaLiga starts in about 18 months. Another who was sold to the Chinese Super League, he is now in MLS with Chicago Fire.

Kevin Gameiro - €32m

A classic Monchi signing at Sevilla, Gameiro impressed as a partner to Carlos Bacca and as a lone frontman. However, at Atletico Simeone often deployed the Frenchman as more of a winger and that impacted on his effectiveness in front of goal, scoring 27 in 82 games. His conversion rate (24.1 per cent) is the second best of Atletico players with a minimum of five goals under Simeone, however, suggesting he might have netted more if played through the middle regularly.

2017-18

Vitolo - €36m

Another signed from Sevilla, the purchase of Vitolo was a massive ordeal given the legal dispute it spawned, with his former club adamant he had verbally agreed to a new contract including a bigger release clause. As it happened, Atletico probably wish they hadn't bothered. He has scored four goals and set up another five in 51 games, starting only 20. He is tipped to leave this year.

2018-19

Gelson Martins - €22m

Gelson joined having rescinded his Sporting contract after incidents of violence with the club's fans, though Atletico did eventually have to cough up some money. He made one LaLiga start before being loaned to Monaco in January, where he will remain on a permanent basis. He attempted more dribbles (28) than the number of shots (11) and chances created (six) combined.

Thomas Lemar - €70m

A star of the Monaco side that won the 2016-17 Ligue 1 campaign and reached the Champions League semi-finals the same season, Lemar was seen a big coup for Atletico. Three goals and as many assists was all he had to show for his debut LaLiga season, however, a poor amount given his fee. Used to being deployed in a freer role, he still seems to be adapting to life with Simeone.

Benfica signed forward Raul de Tomas from LaLiga giants Real Madrid for €20million, it was announced on Wednesday.

After selling teenage sensation Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid in a €126m deal midweek, Primeira Liga holders Benfica turned to De Tomas on a five-year contract with a €100m release clause.

De Tomas emerged from Madrid's youth team but never made a senior appearance – the 24-year-old enjoying loan spells with Cordoba, Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano in Spain.

"I'm very happy to be here. After all, it was a goal I had, to make a leap in my career and this was the best leap I could make. I am at the big club, for me it is the best club in Portugal and I'm really looking forward to getting started," De Tomas told BTV.

"I want to do my job and score goals, which is what I do best. I've been a goalscorer since I was a kid and I hope I can score a lot of goals with this jersey and that the team can win titles."

De Tomas spent the past two seasons on loan at Vallecano, where he scored a combined 38 league goals and 14 in LaLiga last term following their promotion.

"May we win the Championship again and do a good job in the Champions League," De Tomas added. "I feel like it's going to be a very positive year. I'm aware that it's hard to win a competitive league, and also because of that there is great merit in Benfica's work last season."

Joao Felix will wear Antoine Griezmann's number seven shirt at Atletico Madrid in 2019-20.

With Griezmann poised to leave Atletico for LaLiga champions Barcelona, Atletico have handed the shirt to teenage sensation Joao Felix.

Joao Felix completed his blockbuster €126million move to Atletico from Portuguese giants Benfica on Wednesday.

Atletico beat a host of Europe's top clubs to sign the 19-year-old, who has signed a seven-year contract at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Joao Felix scored 20 goals in all competitions during the 2018-19 season - his first as part of Benfica's senior squad - and in April became the youngest player to hit a Europa League hat-trick.

The Portugal international's arrival comes as Griezmann prepares to leave Madrid after five years with Diego Simeone's side.

Griezmann scored 15 LaLiga goals as Atletico finished second behind Barca in 2018-19, while he netted 21 in all competitions.

Barcelona vice president Jordi Mestre has resigned amid reports he is unhappy about the apparently imminent dismissal of sporting director Pep Segura.

Mestre had been a director since 2010 and became vice president four years later but it has been claimed his departure is a show of solidarity to Segura, who is under pressure.

Local media in Barcelona reported on Wednesday that Mestre had refused to join fellow directors for a meeting purportedly planned to discuss the potential sacking of Segura.

Barca's sporting director has received significant criticism during his two years in the role, with the club's transfer business in that period generally underwhelming and often expensive.

Sport claim there has also been specific concern over Segura's work with the club's youth system.

Mestre is said to have been one of the few still backing Segura and, having learned of the situation, opted to resign, though Barca have not officially acknowledged the reason behind his departure.

A Barca statement read: "Jordi Mestre, until today the vice president responsible for sports at the club, presented his irrevocable resignation this afternoon.

"Jordi Mestre wishes to thank the trust placed in him by the presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and the opportunity and honour of having served and defended the interests of FC Barcelona."

Sevilla have made Lucas Ocampos their seventh permanent arrival of the close season, the winger joining for a reported €15million fee from Marseille.

Ocampos signed for Marseille in 2015 and, after a difficult first few years – including loans to Genoa and AC Milan – he settled to become a key player.

Offering a mix of craft, work-rate and pace, the 24-year-old was one of few Marseille players to come away from the 2018-19 campaign with his reputation intact and he has signed a five-year contract at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

He joins Sevilla in a state of flux, with Luuk de Jong, Joan Jordan, Diego Carlos, Munas Dabbur and Jules Kounde all recent arrivals, while Maximilian Wober's loan from Ajax became permanent.

Sevilla have also been busy arranging departures: Gabriel Mercado, Pablo Sarabia, Quincy Promes and Luis Muriel have all moved on, while Simon Kjaer, Aleix Vidal, Roque Mesa, Joris Gnagnon, Ibrahim Amadou, Guilherme Arana and Wissam Ben Yedder have been heavily linked with the exit.

There has been plenty of attention paid to the rebuild going on at Real Madrid ahead of the 2019-20 season, but city rivals Atletico Madrid are arguably in an even greater state of flux.

After years of relative stability under Diego Simeone, who has turned the club into one of Europe's leading lights, Atleti have a matter of weeks to recruit half a squad of players.

Juanfran, Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Filipe Luis and Rodri will all be gone next term. It appears inevitable Antoine Griezmann will depart, too.

Even fringe men Santiago Arias and Thomas Partey have been linked with moves, potentially leaving Simeone with a skeleton of a team.

As Atleti's recruitment drive steps up a notch with the €126million arrival of teenage sensation Joao Felix from Benfica, we look at how the Wanda Metropolitano giants might line up in the coming campaign.

 

GOALKEEPER AND DEFENCE

Were Atleti not losing their entire backline before next season, a move for star man Jan Oblak might well have been a possibility. As it is, the world's best goalkeeper will surely stay put, having signed a new contract in April.

In front of him, Simeone's men have already brought in Felipe from Porto and he will likely partner Jose Gimenez, although depth might still be required in the centre of defence.

Both full-back positions need addressing, with Barcelona's Nelson Semedo - under contract for another three years and with a release clause of €100million - an optimistic primary target on the right-hand side.  Kieran Trippier  of Tottenham looks to be available and has also been mentioned.

On the left, it is said Simeone wants a pair of options. Renan Lodi has already arrived from Athletico Paranaense, while Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo could be brought in as a mentor and more experienced competition for the 21-year-old.

 

MIDFIELD

With so much work to do in defence, Atleti might have preferred to keep the midfield together. Rodri's imminent switch to Manchester City puts paid to that, with the Premier League champions depositing his release clause at LaLiga headquarters on Wednesday.

Fortunately, Marcos Llorente has already joined from rivals Madrid to replace the former Villarreal linchpin in a reported €40m move. He made just seven LaLiga appearances last season.

Soon after Rodri's departure was confirmed, Atletico announced the signing of Hector Herrera on a free transfer from Porto. At 29 years of age, the industrious midfielder adds plenty of experience and should be a shrewd addition given his attributes and Simeone's system.

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka is apparently another option, yet Atleti will be desperate to keep hold of Saul Niguez and Koke, while Thomas Lemar will get another season to impress out wide.

 

ATTACK

Atleti had to go big for a replacement for Griezmann, who will finally depart - although his destination is still unknown. Joao Felix certainly represents that.

There will be huge pressure on the teenager to make the step up from Portugal to Spain, but Atleti could hardly have done more than to sign world football's most sought-after teenager.

Supposing Simeone sticks with the 4-4-2 that has served him well in the past, Alvaro Morata appears the most likely strike partner as he still has a year remaining of his loan deal from Chelsea.

But Diego Costa, Nikola Kalinic and Vitolo could all depart having failed to impress last season, while Gelson Martins has already gone. That leaves Angel Correa as the supporting cast in attack and out wide. Further reinforcements are surely needed.

 

POSSIBLE ATLETICO MADRID XI FOR 2019-20

Jan Oblak - Nelson Semedo, Felipe, Jose Gimenez, Jesus Gallardo - Saul Niguez, Hector Herrera, Koke, Thomas Lemar - Alvaro Morata, Joao Felix

Atletico Madrid have beaten a host of Europe's top clubs to the signing of highly rated Benfica teenager Joao Felix for €126million.

The LaLiga club submitted an offer last Thursday, just three weeks after he made his debut for Portugal, and the deal was completed six days later.

Joao Felix scored 20 goals in all competitions during the 2018-19 season - his first as part of Benfica's senior squad - and in April became the youngest player to hit a Europa League hat-trick.

Head-turning performances domestically and in continental competitions reportedly captured the attention of Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United, but Atletico have moved quickest to win his signature.

Joao Felix had a release clause of €120m but Benfica will receive a sum greater than that as Atletico's payments will be made in instalments.

The 19-year-old's arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano could pave the way for Antoine Griezmann's exit.

The France forward has made clear his intention to leave the club as Diego Simeone plots a squad rebuild, with Diego Godin already confirming his departure and Filipe Luis tipped to follow.

Joao Felix has become by far Benfica's biggest ever sale after completing a €126million move to Atletico Madrid, continuing the Portuguese champions' strong record of raking in massive transfer fees.

What makes the 19-year-old attacking midfielder's move even more remarkable is the fact he has spent just one full season in the first team.

It was certainly a successful campaign, however, as the teenager scored 15 goals and set up another seven in 26 league appearances, earning his first senior Portugal cap in the Nations League Finals.

A fine dribbler, good finisher and blessed with outstanding technical ability, Joao Felix has huge expectations to match at Atletico, given he is likely to be Antoine Griezmann's replacement.

Benfica will be delighted to receive such a hefty fee, as they have done for a host of other stars in the past, including these six…

 

Ederson - €40m (Manchester City)                   

Like Joao Felix, Ederson only played one full season in Benfica's starting XI before earning a move away. Nevertheless, he has settled in seamlessly at Manchester City with his combination of world-class shot-stopping and passing ability, winning back-to-back Premier League titles and establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

Axel Witsel - €40m (Zenit)

Tipped for big things early in his career, Benfica snapped Witsel up from Standard Liege in 2011 and sold him on a year later, with Zenit – not one of the traditional European heavyweights he was linked with – making the move. He spent five years in Russia, then a season in China, before joining Borussia Dortmund last year. The 30-year-old enjoyed a strong first term in Germany.

 

Raul Jimenez - €38m (Wolves)

Jimenez's adaptation to Europe after leaving Mexico's Club America was difficult and he made little impact at Atletico. Benfica brought him to Portugal after a year and are reported to have eventually paid €22m for him. Despite a modest scoring record, the Aguias are said to have received €38m for him from Wolves in April after a strong debut season on loan in England.

Nelson Semedo - €35m (Barcelona)

An attack-minded right-back, Semedo was identified as the potential solution to Barcelona's post-Dani Alves full-back issue in 2017 and they paid Benfica a reported €35m fee. He is yet to truly establish himself in the starting XI, though signs at the end of the 2018-19 season suggested he was beginning to win the battle with Sergi Roberto for the right-back spot.

Victor Lindelof - €35m (Manchester United)

Five years at Benfica – split between the first team and reserves – saw Lindelof develop into one of Europe's most highly rated young centre-backs, as he mixed technical ability with uncompromising defending. After months of speculation, United completed a deal in 2017. After a difficult first season Lindelof was linked with an exit, but he stayed and was one of few to impress at Old Trafford in 2018-19.

Renato Sanches - €35m (Bayern Munich)

Sanches broke into Benfica's starting XI as a teenager and impressed with his explosive style in midfield, earning himself a call-up to the Portugal squad, whom he helped to Euro 2016 success. His subsequent big-money move to Bayern has not worked out, however, while he also struggled on loan at Swansea City. A move away in the next couple of months is a real possibility.

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of Europe's finest forwards after opting to join Atletico Madrid rather than any of the other huge clubs chasing his signature.

The 19-year-old scored 15 goals in 26 Primeira Liga appearances during his first season in the Benfica side and his dynamic performances lit up the Eagles' campaign as they edged a wonderfully close 2018-19 title race.

Scorer of a Europa League hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in April, Joao Felix has earned a reputation for breathtaking moments of skill, and he possesses the kind of exquisitely delicate touch that would make him an ideal replacement for outgoing Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann.

With Atleti spending €126million to land Joao Felix, fans at the Wanda Metropolitano could be about to witness another icon in the making as Diego Simeone prepares his team for a shot at the LaLiga title.

Joao Felix has some impressive boots to fill at Atletico – a club that demands greatness from their forwards, and in recent years has witnessed plenty of it.

Fernando Torres

Madrid born and bred, Torres is every inch an Atletico legend. Captain of the club at the age of just 19, he helped lift Atleti out of Segunda Division in 2001-02 and the club has never looked back. While it could be argued that Liverpool got Torres' very best years, he was outstanding in his first spell with the Rojiblancos, scoring 19 goals in 35 LaLiga appearances in 2003-04. He was less prolific after returning to the club in 2014-15, but had a minutes-per-goal average of 153.7 the following season.

Sergio Aguero

So prolific has he been in the sky blue of Manchester City, it is easy to forget that Aguero was also a lethal marksman during five superb seasons at Atletico. Javier Aguirre was in charge of the club when Aguero arrived in a €21.7m switch from Independiente and, after a slow start, he emerged as the club's leading marksman as Torres headed for Liverpool, scoring 74 goals in 175 LaLiga appearances.

Diego Forlan

Atletico paid Villarreal €21m for Forlan in June 2007 and he repaid their faith in him over four goal-laden seasons, the best of which came in 2008-09 when he plundered 32 strikes in 33 LaLiga matches. He netted 74 league goals in total for Atleti, and chipped in with 23 assists.

Radamel Falcao

The two seasons Falcao spent at Atletico were among the very best of his glittering career. He scored 24 league goals in his first season after arriving in a €40m switch from Porto before netting 28 in LaLiga the following term and helping the club to glory in the Copa del Rey. Of all the players on this list, he has the lowest minutes-per-goal average, netting once every 112 minutes in an Atleti shirt.

Diego Costa

Costa's third spell at Atletico looks set to come to an end after two disappointing seasons in which he scored just five goals in 31 games, but he remains an icon in the eyes of the club's supporters for his exploits in 2013-14, when his 27 goals were instrumental in winning them the LaLiga title for the 10th time.

Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann had not scored more than 16 goals in a LaLiga season when Atletico paid Real Sociedad €30m for him in July 2014. Since then he has netted 94 in total for the Rojiblancos and contributed 32 assists, while he also helped the club to glory in the Europa League, the Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Super Cup before announcing his intention to leave this off-season.

Atletico Madrid have announced the signing of midfielder Hector Herrera on a free transfer after the Mexico international left Porto.

The 29-year-old's agreement was confirmed shortly after Atletico said Manchester City had triggered the €70million (£63m) release clause of Rodri.

However, Herrera will be expected to offer slightly more of a threat in the final third than Rodri and he will sign a three-year contract at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday.

The former Pachuca star spent six years in the Primeira Liga with Porto, winning one league title in that time.

An all-action box-to-box midfielder, Herrera had long been linked with Atletico due to his style of play being deemed suitable for Diego Simeone's system.

He becomes Atletico's fifth signing of the close season following former Porto team-mate Felipe, Renan Lodi, Nicolas Ibanez and Marcos Llorente, while Joao Felix is also expected to join the club from Benfica.

Sevilla have completed their sixth signing of the close season by bringing in Jules Kounde from Bordeaux in a deal reportedly worth €25million.

The centre-back impressed in his second season as a first-team player at Bordeaux, helping the club to a 14th-place finish in Ligue 1 in 2018-19 and starting in all but one of their top-flight fixtures.

His arrival at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is expected to take Sevilla's close-season spending to over €90million as the club build a squad they hope will improve on last season's sixth-place finish in LaLiga.

Kounde will compete for places with fellow arrivals Diego Carlos and Maximilian Wober in new coach Julen Lopetegui's starting line-up, although he can also play at right-back.

Sevilla have also signed Munas Dabbur, Joan Jordan and Luuk de Jong ahead of the new season, while Pablo Sarabia, Quincy Promes, Luis Muriel and Gabriel Mercado have all left the club.

First-choice centre-back Simon Kjaer is reportedly on his way out, with Fenerbahce favourites to win the race for his signature.

Atletico Madrid have confirmed Manchester City have paid Rodri's release clause, with the midfielder set to join the Premier League champions.

The Spain international had been strongly linked with a move to City for some weeks and a switch to England now appears imminent, with Atletico confirming his contract at the Wanda Metropolitano has been terminated.

An Atletico statement read: "LaLiga has informed Atletico Madrid that Rodrigo Hernandez, through his lawyer, and representatives from Manchester City, paid the player's release clause at the sports association's headquarters on Wednesday, July 3.

"Manchester City has paid the buyout clause on behalf of the player. The player has therefore unilaterally terminated his contract with our club, which ran until June 30, 2023."

Rodri only joined Atletico from Villarreal a year ago, signing a five-year deal as he returned to the club he represented as a child.

The 23-year-old made 47 appearances in all competitions as Diego Simeone's side won the UEFA Super Cup and finished as runners-up to Barcelona in LaLiga.

He also established himself as a mainstay in the Spain squad, with many viewing him as the long-term successor to Sergio Busquets in holding midfield.

Assuming his move to City goes ahead as planned, he will become the club's new record signing, eclipsing the £60m (€68m) they paid for Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City 12 months ago.

Rodri will be expected to provide competition for Fernandinho in midfield, while further strengthening the central options for Pep Guardiola's side.

The departure will come as another blow for Atletico after Antoine Griezmann announced his desire to leave the club, while captain Diego Godin left for Inter.

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.

Lionel Messi railed against refereeing decisions as Brazil knocked Argentina out of the Copa America, the Barcelona star's rage coming after he suffered yet more international heartbreak.

Messi lost international finals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but Argentina fell in the last four of this year's tournament, Brazil running out 2-0 winners in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

His lack of success for the national team - outside of the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and striking gold at the Olympic Games three years later - contrasts sharply with his club career, with Messi inspiring Barcelona to 10 LaLiga titles as well as four Champions League crowns.

Messi will likely have another shot at glory as the Copa America is being held again in 2020 - Argentina are co-hosts with Colombia - but how have things gone wrong for him in Albiceleste colours?

 

World Cup final (2014): Argentina 0-1 Germany (aet)

When measured against the all-time greats, one thing has always proven to be easy pickings for Messi's detractors – unlike Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona, he has not won a World Cup.

That argument could have been laid to rest in Brazil, where Messi scored four goals to help Alejandro Sabella's side secure a final clash with Germany.

But Messi was below-par at the Maracana and Argentina fell to a 1-0 extra-time loss courtesy of Mario Gotze's goal, with the Barca star having fired a late free-kick off target.

He was named the player of the tournament in the immediate aftermath but showed little interest in the award as a far greater prize had just slipped through his fingers.

 

Copa America final (2015): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 1-4 pens)

Messi did not shy away from his spot-kick duties when the 2015 Copa America final went to penalties against hosts Chile.

At the end of a tournament in which Messi scored just once, he stepped up to take Argentina's opening effort, just as he had in the quarter-final win over Colombia.

The result was the same – Messi found the net. However, he was then reduced to the role of spectator.

And what followed was agonising to watch for the forward, as misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega preceded Alexis Sanchez's decisive strike.

 

Copa America final (2016): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 2-4 pens)

The Copa America Centenario proved a far more productive one for Messi, who hit five goals in Argentina's march to yet another final against Chile.

Gerardo Martino's men scored 18 times in the United States, including a 2-1 triumph over Chile on their way to winning Group D.

But when the final rolled around, the goals dried up, with a 0-0 stalemate ensuring more shoot-out drama.

Messi again went first, but this time blazed over the crossbar as Chile defended their title. The crushing blow of the subsequent loss forced him into a decision to retire from the international game, though he later changed his mind.

 

World Cup last 16 (2018): France 4-3 Argentina

After a poor qualifying campaign, Messi dragged Argentina to Russia 2018 single-handedly with a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador, but he could not repeat the magic at the tournament.

A superb goal against Nigeria helped Jorge Sampaoli's side squeeze through the group stage, Argentina having opened with a draw against Iceland before losing 3-0 to Croatia.

But despite Messi recording a brace of assists in the first knockout round, France ran out 4-3 winners in Kazan on their way to winning the trophy.

Argentina captain Messi subsequently refused to speak to the media and took nine months out of the international spotlight amid speculation he would not play for his country again.


Copa America semi-final (2019): Brazil 2-0 Argentina

Messi did return to play for his country in the build-up to the Copa America, but there was yet more disappointment for the 32-year-old on the international stage.

He struggled to show his best form in Brazil, with a penalty against Paraguay his only goal of the tournament heading into the semi-finals.

Although unplayable at times in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's defence kept a fifth clean sheet in a row as Messi struck the post with a shot and set up Sergio Aguero for a header that hit the crossbar.

Whether Messi, who argued Aguero should have had a penalty at 1-0, is willing to put himself through the hurt again remains to be seen, but the chance to have one last Copa crack - and on home soil - will be tempting.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.