Lionel Messi described former Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas as "a legend of the game" following his retirement from football. 

Casillas issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm he is calling time on a playing career that spanned more than 20 years. 

The 39-year-old suffered a heart attack during Porto training in May last year and has not played since. 

Casillas won five LaLiga titles and the Champions League on three occasions in a glittering Madrid career, while he was also a key part of Spain's greatest period in international football. 

He earned 167 senior caps for his country and captained them to back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup triumph in South Africa in 2010. 

Although on the other side of the Clasico rivalry, Messi has no doubt Casillas deserves the highest praise for his career. 

"Iker is retiring, but his status as a legend of the game was secured long ago - not just because he was one of LaLiga's best players, but also because he won everything at international level," Messi told AS. 

In a message to the former goalkeeper, he added: "You're a fantastic goalkeeper and were a really tough opponent, I have to say. 

"Looking back, I think it was a really special rivalry that pushed us to reach new levels every time we came up against each other."

Will Manchester United sign Jadon Sancho or not?

That is the question dominating headlines as United reportedly negotiate with Borussia Dortmund.

This transfer saga is one to watch.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED READY TO END SANCHO PURSUIT

Manchester United are threatening to walk away from a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to reports in England.

Sancho has been tipped to swap Dortmund for United, with Bild claiming a lucrative five-year contract has been agreed as the Bundesliga outfit insist on a €120million (£108m) fee.

But Goal, Sky Sports and The Mirror say United are ready to pursue alternatives of Dortmund do not lower their demands.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian reports Leicester City are trying to sign Francisco Trincao from Barcelona. Leicester have proposed a two-season loan deal with an obligation to buy for £45m (€50m). Trincao is preparing to link up with Barca after the LaLiga giants signed the 20-year-old from Braga in January.

- Premier League champions Liverpool are eyeing a move for Norwich City left-back  Jamal Lewis, says The Mirror. Lewis impressed in 2019-20 as Norwich were relegated and Liverpool are looking to wrap up a £10m deal.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier is open to joining Serie A side Milan.

- According to Tuttomercatoweb, Juventus are lining up possible replacements for under-fire head coach Maurizio Sarri. Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi, Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini and Luciano Spalletti have all been linked.

-  Aston Villa are aiming to keep star captain and rumoured United target Jack Grealish by offering a new contract, reports The Sun.

- Linked with United , Everton and Napoli, France Bleu Nord claims Arsenal are leading the race for Lille centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes.

- Is Federico Chiesa set for Old Trafford? La Nazione reports United have made a €55m (£49m) offer for the Fiorentina forward, who has also been linked to Inter, Juve and Chelsea .

- Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake is poised to complete his move to Manchester City. Fabrizio Romano reports there is a total agreement and a medical will take place in the next couple of days.

Manchester City have signed highly rated 20-year-old winger Ferran Torres from Valencia.

Stats Perform News understands the Spain Under-21 international will cost City £21.1million (€23m), plus further add-ons.

City were linked to several young wingers after Leroy Sane's move to Bayern Munich was confirmed at the start of July, with Torres ultimately emerging from the pack to pen a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium.

While perhaps not a like-for-like replacement, Pep Guardiola and City will believe they have got themselves a bargain and pulled off a significant coup in landing Torres, who had also attracted interest from Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

"I am so happy to be joining City," Torres said. "Every player wants to be involved in attacking teams and Manchester City are one of the most attacking in world football.

"Pep encourages a really open, aggressive style, which I love, and he is a manager with a proven track record of improving players. To have him overseeing my development is a dream."

Torres is considered one of Spain's most promising young players, having come through Valencia's academy and made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2017.

A talented and direct winger capable of playing on either flank, though preferring to operate from the right, he enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20.

Having made 24 LaLiga appearances in 2018-19, Torres had even greater exposure to first-team football this term due to injuries, taking full advantage of Goncalo Guedes' long-term absence as he featured 34 times domestically.

He scored four goals and set up another five in LaLiga, while his Champions League strike against Lille in November made him the first player born in 2000 to net in the competition for a Spanish club.

Torres' contract with Valencia was said to contain a €100m release clause, but he had stalled on signing fresh terms, meaning Los Che were never likely to hold out for such a fee given his deal was due to expire next year.

With Valencia failing to qualify for European football next season after a disappointing 2019-20, their final bargaining chip was essentially lost and City have moved swiftly to secure the youngster's future.

Manchester City have signed highly rated 20-year-old winger Ferran Torres from Valencia.

Stats Perform News understands the Spain Under-21 international will cost City £21.1million (€23m), plus further add-ons.

City were linked to several young wingers after Leroy Sane's move to Bayern Munich was confirmed at the start of July, with Torres ultimately emerging from the pack to pen a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium.

While perhaps not a like-for-like replacement, Pep Guardiola and City will believe they have got themselves a bargain and pulled off a significant coup in landing Torres, who had also attracted interest from Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

"I am so happy to be joining City," Torres said. "Every player wants to be involved in attacking teams and Manchester City are one of the most attacking in world football.

"Pep encourages a really open, aggressive style, which I love, and he is a manager with a proven track record of improving players. To have him overseeing my development is a dream."

Torres is considered one of Spain's most promising young players, having come through Valencia's academy and made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2017.

A talented and direct winger capable of playing on either flank, though preferring to operate from the right, he enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20.

Having made 24 LaLiga appearances in 2018-19, Torres had even greater exposure to first-team football this term due to injuries, taking full advantage of Goncalo Guedes' long-term absence as he featured 34 times domestically.

He scored four goals and set up another five in LaLiga, while his Champions League strike against Lille in November made him the first player born in 2000 to net in the competition for a Spanish club.

Torres' contract with Valencia was said to contain a €100m release clause, but he had stalled on signing fresh terms, meaning Los Che were never likely to hold out for such a fee given his deal was due to expire next year.

With Valencia failing to qualify for European football next season after a disappointing 2019-20, their final bargaining chip was essentially lost and City have moved swiftly to secure the youngster's future.

Five months after the Champions League and Europa League were halted, the continent's creme de la creme are ready to finish what they started.

Atletico Madrid's dramatic extra-time win at Anfield seems an age ago, as does Manchester United's 5-0 thrashing of LASK, with those results two of the final matches to occur before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season.

Now, with those domestic leagues and cup competitions that did return having finished, the focus is solely on Europe's elite.

The Europa League resumes on Wednesday, with the Champions League coming back on Friday - both competitions reaching a conclusion this month with mini tournaments taking place in different countries.

Here, we detail the who, what, why, where and when.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON... THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AND EUROPA LEAGUE

Both the Europa League and the Champions League are at the last-16 stage, but while all 16 teams remain in the Europa League, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Tottenham are all out of Europe's premier club competition.

Their conquerors - Atletico, Paris Saint-Germain, Atalanta and RB Leipzig - all won across two legs prior to pause being pressed on the campaign.

Only six of the eight first legs in the Europa League happened, with four away teams - United, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel claiming advantages, while Istanbul Basaksehir beat Copenhagen 1-0 in Turkey and Wolves drew 1-1 at Olympiacos.

With Spain and Italy being two of the countries initially hardest hit by the pandemic, Sevilla's tie with Roma and Inter's fixture against Getafe could not begin. 

 

SO HOW WILL THIS ROUND CONCLUDE?

Let's deal with the Champions League first.

PSG and Atalanta can put their feet up knowing their quarter-final begins on August 12, the day before Leipzig face Atletico Madrid.

Four last-16 ties remain and the quartet of home teams in the second leg - Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich - will respectively host Real Madrid, Lyon, Napoli and Chelsea in their own stadiums without fans present.

That is also the case in the Europa League, though Sevilla's clash with Roma, and Inter's encounter with Getafe will now be one-off fixtures at neutral venues in Germany.

 

AND FROM THE QUARTER-FINALS ONWARDS?

Due to the need to get this thing wrapped up quickly before the 2020-21 season begins, both the Champions League and Europa League have done away with two-legged affairs for the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Instead every last-eight and last-four match will be decided across 90 minutes - or 120 minutes, or a penalty shoot-out should they be required.

And with the pandemic still a very real threat, the two competitions will be concluded in one city to minimise travel and reduce the risk of spreading COVID within the squads.

Benfica's Estadio da Luz will be the venue for the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final between August 12 and 23, while those comparative stages in the Europa League, taking place between August 10 and 21, will be staged in Cologne.

 

WILL ALL THE PLAYERS STILL BE INVOLVED?

This stage of the football calendar is typically transfer time and even a global pandemic could not stop that.

So Leipzig's Timo Werner, who scored four times for the Bundesliga club in their run to the last eight, is now on Chelsea's books while winger Leroy Sane has swapped Manchester City for Bayern Munich. Neither man will be able to play for either their new team or their old.

Those like Achraf Hakimi, a recent Inter signing from Dortmund, will also be reduced to a watching brief.

It is a different case for Hakimi's new team-mate Alexis Sanchez, who has been included in Antonio Conte's squad for the latter stages after terms were reached on a loan extension with Manchester United - though a new arrangement will need to be made for him to be available from the quarter-finals onwards.

Sanchez's parent club were not willing to let Roma have loanee Chris Smalling any longer, though, the English centre-back having bade farewell to the Eternal City on Tuesday ahead of his return to United, for whom he cannot feature either given his prior involvement with the Giallorossi.

Things seem to be moving quickly at Manchester United and Jadon Sancho could be on his way to Old Trafford.

Sancho, 20, has been heavily linked with a move to several Premier League giants this close season after starring for Borussia Dortmund.

And a switch to United appears to be close, latest reports indicate.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO PAY €120M FOR SANCHO

Borussia Dortmund expect Manchester United to pay £107.9million (€120m) for Sancho in instalments, according to Sport Bild.

Its report says the Bundesliga club are prepared to accept that as long as the offer is submitted by August 10.

Sancho scored 20 goals in 44 games in all competitions for Dortmund in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Manchester United and Alexis Sanchez is reportedly set for a permanent exit. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Inter and United have reached an agreement over Sanchez, saying he will make his move to the Serie A club permanent on a free, signing a three-year deal worth €7m per year.

- Barcelona are still looking to raise funds. Sport reports the LaLiga club's main transfer targets are Inter star Lautaro Martinez and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia. Meanwhile, Sport also says Barca rejected a £54m (€60m) bid from a Premier League club for 20-year-old forward Francisco Trincao.

- While Manchester City are reportedly set to sign Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, the Premier League giants are apparently still looking to strengthen elsewhere at the back. ESPN reports City are still interested in Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

- There remains uncertainty over Antonio Conte's future at Inter, according to reports. Fabrizio Romano says the head coach held a call with president Steven Zhang with a decision to be made after the Europa League.

- With Willian coming out of contract at Chelsea at the end of the season, the attacker is apparently attracting plenty of interest. France Football reports Arsenal have offered Willian the best deal with their three-year offer.

- Idrissa Gueye could be on his way out of Paris Saint-Germain after just one season. Le 10 Sport reports the Ligue 1 champions want to sell the midfielder, who has been linked to Manchester United and Wolves.

Former Real Madrid defender Oscar Ruggeri labelled Barcelona star Gerard Pique a "bang-average" player, while insisting Sergio Ramos is the best centre-back in the world.

Pique has enjoyed great success since re-joining boyhood club Barca from Manchester United in 2008, winning eight LaLiga trophies and three Champions League titles among other honours to establish himself as one of the world's best defenders.

The 33-year-old is also a World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain.

However, ex-defender Ruggeri – a 1986 World Cup champion with Argentina who spent a season playing for Madrid in 1989-90 – talked down Pique as he hailed Los Blancos and Spain captain Ramos.

"Pique is a second-rate [player], like me, like many others," Ruggeri told FOX Sports Argentina.

"He's good looking, he's with the singer [Shakira]... he has a cool beard, but if he played for Valencia, he wouldn't be well known.

"Pique ended up playing for Barcelona. He's like me – bang average. A good defender, but not much else.

"He doesn't get put under pressure, except against the big teams.

"Sergio Ramos is the best [centre-back] in the world, by far."

Memphis Depay has links to Manchester United and he might be able to help out his former club.

Depay spent two years at United but struggled before leaving for Ligue 1 outfit Lyon in 2017.

The Netherlands international has since flourished in France, and he could now play a role in United bringing Jadon Sancho to Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND WANT DEPAY AS SANCHO REPLACEMENT

Manchester United's bid to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho could hinge on Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to The Sun.

Sancho has been tipped to leave Bundesliga side Dortmund for Premier League giants United in a blockbuster transfer this off-season.

Former United forward Depay has emerged as a possible replacement for Sancho at Dortmund and is reportedly the key to the Red Devils prising the England international to Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Antonio Conte leave Inter after just one season? The Inter head coach took aim at the club after their final game of the Serie A season – a 2-0 win over Atalanta on Saturday to secure second spot behind Juventus. Conte claimed neither he nor his players were protected by the club amid criticism. Now, Sky Sport Italia, SportMediaset, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport claim the damage is irreparable. With Conte facing an uncertain future, former Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri and ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino have emerged as possible replacements.

- Le10Sport reports Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wants Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele to join the Gunners. Dembele has been linked with a move away from the LaLiga giants, who are reportedly trying to raise transfer funds through sales. Aubameyang himself has been linked to Barca, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and United previously.

Milan are ready to sell Lucas Paqueta, claims Calciomercato. Linked to PSG previously, Serie A rivals Fiorentina are interested in the Brazilian attacker and an exchange involving Viola star defender Nikola Milenkovic could take place.

- According to the Telegraph, Sevilla defender Diego Carlos is at the top of Arsenal's transfer wish list. Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have also been credited with interest.

- AS Diario says Real Madrid have a clear plan of when they want to pursue their transfer targets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Reluctant to spend after winning LaLiga and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Madrid are focusing on 2021 – PSG's Kylian Mbappe at the top of the list. Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is also wanted next year, while Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is a 2022 target.

Wayne Rooney has suggested Alex Ferguson committed tactical suicide during Manchester United's two Champions League final losses to Barcelona.

Rooney became a European champion under Ferguson when United beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final in Moscow but they fell at the last hurdle in their bid to retain the trophy the following season – running into Pep Guardiola's formidable Barca in Rome.

United had the chance to avenge that 2-0 loss in the Italian capital at Wembley in 2011 but, despite Rooney cancelling out Pedro's first-half opener, superb goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa saw the Blaugrana run out deserved 3-1 winners.

Rooney was discussing how best to approach crunch European nights in his Sunday Times column, previewing the forthcoming Champions League last-16 showdown between Manchester City and Real Madrid.

City hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu but Rooney expects the pragmatic approach of three-time winner Zinedine Zidane to pose problems to Guardiola's current side – something that did not always come so easily to Ferguson.

"It's always hard for a club like Real to go into a game saying, 'We'll surrender the ball'," Rooney said

"It is the same for United. But we lost two Champions League finals going toe-to-toe with Guardiola's Barcelona, by trying to press high and get round them, which was suicidal.

"I remember Alex Ferguson saying, 'We're Man United and we're going to attack, it's in the culture of this football club' and thinking,' 'I'm not too sure about this'.

"I think all the players knew, deep down, it was the wrong approach, that we were abandoning the way that had brought us success in that 2008 semi-final — and sure enough both times we got outplayed.

"There is being true to the club, but then there's sitting back afterwards and thinking, 'We lost'.

"For me, it doesn't matter how you do it in these big Champions League games, as long as you win — look at how Liverpool ground it out in last year's final — and I think Zidane has the same mindset."

Rooney feels his old cross-city rivals are well placed to claim an elusive first Champions League crown, although doubts linger over a defence that has appeared suspect against elite opponents this season.

City have lost games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham across all competitions this season.

"Manchester City may never have a better chance to win the Champions League," he added. "Liverpool are out. In my opinion, Bayern Munich are not quite as good as in previous years, and City are 2-1 up against Real Madrid in the round of 16, going into a second leg at home.

"The Champions League is the competition that Pep Guardiola most wants to win and for City to take that next step as a club, this is the trophy they need.

"Friday's second leg at the Etihad is massive. Sergio Ramos is suspended, which is a huge loss to the Real defence, and I think City will score. Whether they are solid enough at the back themselves is my only question about Guardiola's side."

Barcelona have conceded they lack the financial muscle to sign Neymar or Lautaro Martinez - warning there could be "three or four years" of economic strain for Europe's top clubs.

Until the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Europe, Barcelona looked sure to make a major play for Inter striker Martinez in the close season.

They might also have been tempted by a fresh attempt to bring back Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, three years after the Brazilian left Camp Nou.

But a side-effect of the COVID-19 crisis has been its impact on sport across the world, with leagues being suspended and games played behind closed doors once it was considered safe for action to resume.

And while Barcelona held early talks about signing Martinez, an Argentina team-mate of Lionel Messi, that transfer plan was shelved weeks ago, with the club's strategy turning towards bringing through young talent.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Catalan newspaper Sport: "Barca have spoken with Inter about Lautaro, but the talks have stopped. The situation doesn't invite large investments.

"Neymar? In this situation, it's unfeasible. Nor do PSG want to sell him. That is normal because he is one of the best players in the world."

Bartomeu had said as much about Argentinian Martinez last month, and he again warned that Barcelona's income for the 2020-21 season was expected to nosedive by 30 per cent from original forecasts of €1.1billion.

"If the pandemic situation does not improve, there will be no public, no museum, no stores, and money will continue to be lost," Bartomeu said.

"It forces us to be very rigorous in management: we must review which investments are essential and which can wait. You have to adapt."

The necessary cost-cutting means head coach Quique Setien, looking to fashion a side to get the better of Real Madrid next season, cannot hope to have the spending power that many of his predecessors have enjoyed.

Bartomeu was asked whether the days of mega-money transfers are over and said: "I think so. Unless player exchanges are made.

"All major European clubs are affected. Everyone is working to adapt. And this is not going to last one year, but three or four."

Mauricio Pochettino has seemingly opened the door to potentially coaching Barcelona after expressing regret for showing them "disrespect" with comments he made in 2018.

Pochettino's managerial career is most synonymous with Tottenham, where he spent five years until 2019, but Espanyol is where he first made his name and spent most of his playing days.

Across two spells as a player, Pochettino represented Espanyol for just shy of 10 years and then became the club's head coach in 2009, three years after retiring with Los Periquitos.

It was this association that was often referenced by Spanish football commentators and columnists when suggesting Pochettino would not coach Espanyol's rivals Barcelona.

Pochettino also expressed reticence to such an idea on several occasions, but most recently in 2018 when he claimed he would never coach Barca, Arsenal or Rosario Central due to his close ties to Espanyol, Spurs and Newell's Old Boys.

"I would prefer to work on my farm in Argentina than go to work in certain places," he said.

But he has now backtracked on that grand statement.

"I have to explain it well," he told El Pais. "I was in Barcelona that year and I met [Barca president, Josep Maria] Bartomeu in a bar.

"We greeted each other because we were taking the children to the same school and we were talking for five minutes. That generated a rumour that set off alarms because there were more teams that wanted us.

"When they [reporters] asked me [about the meeting], I wanted to settle it drastically. I didn't want to disrespect Barcelona.

"You can say things differently. Espanyol has made a name for me, but I'm not arrogant and I didn't like making a statement like that.

"Maybe now I wouldn't because in life you never know what will happen."

Pochettino has been out of a job since November last year when he was sacked by Spurs, just a few months after leading the club to the Champions League final.

Barca are currently coached by Quique Setien, but following his failure to retain the LaLiga title after replacing Ernesto Valverde earlier this year, reports suggest he must win the Champions League just to keep his job.

Could Kasper Schmeichel follow in his father's footsteps?

Peter Schmeichel earned legendary status at Manchester United after winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at the club.

Now, Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper is being linked with a sensational move to the Theatre of Dreams.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CONSIDER SCHMEICHEL MOVE

Manchester United are lining up a transfer swoop for Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to replace David de Gea, according to The Sun.

De Gea's position at United has come under threat following a slump in form for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, despite being contracted until 2023.

There have been calls for Dean Henderson, who has spent time on loan at Sheffield United, to return Old Trafford, however, Kasper – the son of Red Devils legend Peter – is reportedly seen as the perfect ready-made option.

 

ROUND-UP

Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a bid for Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara, says Le10Sport. Thiago has been tipped to join Premier League champions Liverpool, however, Ligue 1 holders PSG are believed to be in the mix for his signature.

- TF1 reports United have made contact with Monaco about a potential move for 19-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile, who has also been linked to Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have ruled out a swap deal that would see Ivan Rakitic move to Juventus in exchange for Rodrigo Bentancur.

Milan have opened talks with Tottenham over the signing of right-back Serge Aurier, reports Sky Sport journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Juve are willing to offer Federico Bernardeschi and Cristian Romero to Serie A rivals Roma as part of a deal to sign Italian star Nicolo Zaniolo, claims SportMediaset. Zaniolo has also been linked to Madrid, Tottenham and former club Inter.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is willing to wait for a Madrid move until 2021-22, Marca claims. The 17-year-old has been heavily linked to the LaLiga champions as well as PSG.

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso joked that he can only mark Lionel Messi in his dreams or on PlayStation as he looked ahead to the upcoming Champions League showdown with Barcelona.

Saturday saw Napoli end their 2019-20 coronavirus-hit Serie A season with a 3-1 victory at home to Lazio – Fabian Luiz, Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Politano fuelling the win.

Attention now turns to the second leg of Napoli's Champions League last-16 tie against LaLiga giants Barcelona, scheduled for August 8 at Camp Nou following February's 1-1 draw.

Asked about six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi post-match, former Milan midfielder Gattuso told reporters: "I can mark Messi only in my dreams.

"Or if I set Napoli vs Barcelona on my son's PlayStation, trying to catch him there when I played for Milan with 10-15 kilograms less than today."

On Napoli's planned approach against Barca after seeing off fourth-placed Lazio in Serie A, Gattuso said: "I think they are very different teams [Lazio and Barcelona] with two different styles.

"Lazio mixes technical and physical skills. Barcelona are all about quality. I think it will be a different game. We don't have to think about score or not.

"We must play as a team, being confident that we can have our chances. We know that it will be an enterprise. Our mind must be free in order to express our qualities."

Napoli will be sweating on Insigne's fitness for the Barca trip after the star captain hobbled off against Lazio with six minutes remaining due to a thigh problem.

"Insigne spoke to the doctor, we'll evaluate it over the next 48 hours when we have the test results," Gattuso added. "Hopefully, it's not as serious as we first thought."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta once again poured cold water over the possibility of signing Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, labelling the speculation as a "pure dream".

Messi continues to be linked to Inter, with the Barca superstar reportedly unhappy at Camp Nou and prepared to leave the LaLiga giants once his contract expires in 2021.

There has been renewed talk that Inter could attempt to prise Messi to San Siro after a picture of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was projected onto the Duomo di Milano prior to Tuesday's 2-0 Serie A victory over Napoli.

However, Inter CEO Marotta dismissed the chance of Messi swapping Barca for the Italian club following Saturday's season-ending 2-0 triumph at Atalanta.

"We have to be realistic, it's a dream. These are fantasies," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"Messi is an absolute top player who is with his ideal club like Barcelona, where I think he will end his career. So, I repeat that this is a pure dream."

Inter finished the 2019-20 Serie A season just a point adrift of champions Juventus thanks to their success away to high-flying Atalanta.

Ashley Young scored a fine goal from outside the box after team-mate Danilo D'Ambrosio had given Inter the lead inside just 50 seconds.

Despite securing a runners-up finish in his first season with Inter, head coach Antonio Conte took aim at the Nerazzurri afterwards, claiming neither he nor his players received protection from the club amid criticism.

But Marotta – who also worked alongside Conte at Juventus – said: "Second place is the confirmation of a project that has been underway since the beginning of this season.

"The fact that we have matched the points earned in the treble season, that we have set the away goals record and maintained the best defence in the league are great facts, but the priority is to have created a model for the seasons to follow. So, I have to thank the management for the support given to the team."

Antonio Conte reiterated his belief that rumours linking Lionel Messi to Inter are a little farfetched, hinting he struggled to even get the club to sign Romelu Lukaku.

Inter closed out a solid 2019-20 Serie A campaign on Saturday, beating Atalanta 2-0 in Bergamo to secure the runner-up spot in Italy's top flight.

That result means they finished just a point adrift of champions Juventus, who lost 3-1 at home to Roma in their final league match.

Having already backed Conte significantly in the transfer market, Inter are expected to further strengthen ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

One somewhat outlandish report in Italy has claimed Inter are trying to lure Barcelona icon and Ballon d'Or holder Messi away from LaLiga, with his future a little uncertain due to turbulence at Camp Nou.

But Conte will remain realistic, particularly after Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta likened the rumour to a "utopian" fantasy. 

"Look, only I know what I had to do to get Lukaku," he joked to reporters after the match.

"Trust me, at the end of the season we will make evaluations."

Lukaku, a 2019 arrival from Manchester United, finished his maiden Serie A campaign as Inter's top scorer, having netted 23 times, and Conte paid tribute to the Belgium striker along with his attacking colleagues Lautaro Martinez and Alexis Sanchez.

"He is strong, I was already looking for him at Chelsea but then he went to United," Conte said of Lukaku. "He is an atypical footballer who can be a point of reference, but he can improve.

"Today, I also liked Lautaro and Sanchez. It is thanks to these guys if we scored 81 goals and if we finished second."

Page 1 of 81
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.