Lionel Messi has sent "all the strength in the world" and a "hug from the heart" to Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend underwent brain surgery.

Maradona, who turned 60 last week, had what his personal doctor Leopoldo Luque described as a "routine" operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday.

Luque said the former Argentina captain, one of the all-time greats, is "under control" and had made a "great" start to his recovery.

Argentina and Barcelona skipper Messi offered his best wishes to Maradona in a social media post on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old forward posted on Instagram: "Diego, all the strength in the world. My family and I want to see you well as soon as possible. A hug from the heart!"

Maradona also played for Barcelona in his distinguished career, having a two-year spell at Camp Nou from 1982 to 1984.

He went to the Ipensa clinic in La Plata on Monday before being transferred to the Olivos clinic in Buenos Aires province.

The former Napoli talisman's lawyer revealed he only had tests that led to surgery after being admitted to hospital with depression.

"The last medical checks were excellent," lawyer Matias Morla said after visiting Maradona in hospital, according to Ole.

"Diego was very anxious [before the surgery] about what was going to happen and very satisfied with the work of Dr Luque, which was an impeccable operation.

"I want to highlight something very important: the same test that was carried out on Diego yesterday, which detected this bleeding, was also carried out in September, which shows the tireless work of Dr Luque on Diego.

"If it had not been detected by him, Maradona's fate would have been different. I want to make it very clear, mainly because of the criticism. Luque tested him in September.

"Diego had presented a picture of depression. That's why I'm with Carlos Diaz, who was the one who treated Diego before and who noticed a mental issue.

"In principle, [Diaz] linked it to the issue of his birthday, to a depression caused by the pandemic and the different circumstances around it. Later, upon seeing that this picture had developed, at the request of Luque and Diaz, he was hospitalised and that's where the test was made that resulted in the operation.

"I don't know the causes of the haematoma and I'm not a doctor. What I do know is he had strange behaviour, he was very depressed, he made comments referring to relatives who died, that he missed them. He always, on every birthday, suffers from a kind of nostalgia.

"He really misses his mother – this is always the same on the subject of birthdays – but this year it increased, so I'm here with the psychologist who intervened."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen could be set to make his first appearance of the season when Barcelona take on Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.

Goalkeeper Ter Stegen underwent knee surgery in August, with Barca saying following the procedure that the 28-year-old was expected to be out until November.

Neto has filled in during the Germany international's absence, starting all six LaLiga games and both Champions League fixtures played so far in the 2020-21 campaign.

Barca started with back-to-back clean sheets in victories over Villarreal and Celta Vigo but have failed to win in the league since, including going down 3-1 at Camp Nou to rivals Real Madrid.

An awful Neto error gifted Deportivo Alaves their opener on Saturday as the Blaugrana were held by 10 men.

They did shut out Juventus in their previous European match, albeit the Serie A side were without Cristiano Ronaldo and had three potential goals for Alvaro Morata ruled out for offside by VAR.

Ter Stegen could now make his return against Kiev, having been included by coach Ronald Koeman in a 21-man squad list after receiving medical clearance.

The Barca number one's save percentage in the Champions League since the start of last season (67.5 per cent) is lower than Neto's (80), although eight of the 13 goals he has conceded in that span came in one game.

The 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, which spelled the end of an era at Camp Nou, was Ter Stegen's most recent appearance.

Over the same period of time, Ter Stegen has saved 69.0 per cent of shots on target in LaLiga, marginally up on Neto's 66.7 per cent, with each keeper conceding an average of exactly one goal per game.

Matchday three of the Champions League is upon us as teams reach the halfway point of the 2020-21 group stage, and Wednesday's action sees plenty of the heavyweights hoping to take advantage of theoretically weaker opposition.

Juventus were beaten by Barcelona last time out in the competition, but this time Andrea Pirlo will be able to rely on the services of Cristiano Ronaldo, who will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of facing leaky Ferencvaros.

Similarly, Barca will be strong favourites as they face Dynamo Kiev, while Manchester United go to Istanbul Basaksehir and Chelsea host Rennes.

However, Paris Saint-Germain could find themselves in a particularly tricky situation if they lose at an RB Leipzig smarting from their crushing by United.

Here is some of the key data from Wednesday's matchday three match-ups.

Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev: Messi and Griezmann poles apart

Although Barcelona are perhaps no longer the force we expect them to be, there is no doubt they will be firm favourites here, with the Catalans unbeaten in their previous 22 group games, while they could win five first-phase matches in a row for the first time since October 2017.

Lionel Messi's form early on this season has led to some criticism, but few have the pedigree he has and he boasts 20 goals in his previous 24 Champions League appearances.

Contrast that with the much-maligned Antoine Griezmann, however. The Frenchman has just two goals in 10 Champions League games for Barca, one every 373 minutes – he netted once every 190 minutes on average for Atletico Madrid.

Ferencvaros v Juventus: Ronaldo licking his lips

Juve were without talismanic forward Ronaldo in their previous two group games against Dynamo and Barca, the latter of whom beat the Old Lady – therefore he will be hoping to make up for lost time against Ferencvaros, whose seven goals conceded is the worst in the competition.

In that game against Barca, Juve failed to muster a single shot on target – aside from the three goals Alvaro Morata had chalked off for offside.

A defeat for Juve in Hungary would be a huge shock, but if it does happen, it will be the first time the Bianconeri have lost successive group games since October 2014. Coach Pirlo played in the second loss back then.

Istanbul Basaksehir v Manchester United: Red Devils on course as Greenwood eyes history

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked in his pre-match news conference if United felt more confident travelling to Istanbul knowing they would not be facing a vociferous crowd – after all, the Red Devils have lost on each of their previous two trips to Turkey.

United have struggled domestically of late, losing most recently to Arsenal on Sunday, but Champions League wins over RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain have them in fine shape in Europe – no team has ever failed to qualify after winning their first two group games, an omen they should not ignore here.

Marcus Rashford was the hero against Leipzig, but Mason Greenwood also netted to level his team-mate as the most prolific English teenager in UEFA competition with six goals. The 19-year-old will set a new record with another in Istanbul.

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Germans desperate to bounce back

Leipzig's 5-0 annihilation by United last time was their worst ever European defeat and the heaviest suffered by a German team since 2014 – Wednesday's match gives them the chance to bounce back against the team that beat them in the semi-finals last season.

PSG, of course, have plenty of attacking talents for Leipzig to contend with, though arguably chief among them will be Kylian Mbappe, who has been directly involved in 22 away goals in the competition (14 goals, eight assists), which is more than anyone else since his first trip back in February 2017.

But the omens are not all great for PSG. There has only been one previous instance in the Champions League where a German coach has won away to a side managed by another German tactician.

 

Other fixtures:

Chelsea v Rennes

15 - Chelsea have only suffered one defeat in their previous 15 home games in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League (0-1 v Valencia last season), winning nine and drawing the other five games in this run.

3 - Hakim Ziyech scored his first goal for Chelsea in the Champions League on MD2, while he could become just the third player to score on his first two starts for the club in the competition after Didier Drogba in 2004 and Daniel Sturridge in 2010.

Sevilla v Krasnodar

13 - Including qualifiers, Sevilla are unbeaten in their previous 13 home games across all European competitions (W11 D2), with their last such defeat coming in April 2018 against Bayern Munich (1-2 in a Champions League quarter-final).

1 - Only one Russian side has ever won away at Sevilla in European competition, with CSKA Moscow prevailing 2-1 in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in 2009-10.

Zenit v Lazio

4 - Zenit are hoping to avoid losing four consecutive games in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their history.

1 - Lazio will be aiming for their first away win in the Champions League since September 2003 (2-0 v Besiktas), having failed to win on any of their previous six trips in the competition (D2 L4).

Club Brugge v Borussia Dortmund

12 - Only Robert Lewandowski (15) has scored more Champions League goals than Dortmund's Erling Haaland (12) since the start of last season, with the Norwegian striker converting 12 of his 17 shots on target in the competition so far.

1 - Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has only ended on the winning side in one of his 13 appearances in the Champions League, drawing six and losing six of his 12 games since winning on his debut in the competition for Liverpool in September 2014 (2-1 v Ludogorets).

Lionel Messi is again being linked with a move to Inter.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barcelona during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is widely expected to leave Camp Nou when his contract expires at season's end.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI'S BEST OFFER IS FROM INTER

Messi does not want to renew at Barcelona and his best offer is from Inter, according to OK Diario.

The Argentina star has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

Messi was linked to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter during the close season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland continues to be one of the most wanted forwards in Europe. The Borussia Dortmund star almost joined Juventus in 2018 and the Serie A champions are again keeping an eye on him, according to CalcioMercato. Haaland has been linked with numerous European giants and has eight goals and three assists in nine games this season.

- Pedri, 17, has impressed since joining Barcelona from Las Palmas earlier this year. Goal reports the LaLiga giants have a huge €400million release clause on the midfielder.

- Ismael Bennacer is linked with a move from Milan. PSG and City are monitoring the midfielder, according to CalcioMercato.

- Inter's Christian Eriksen is tipped to join PSG as head coach Antonio Conte is unhappy with the Danish midfielder, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

Dynamo Kiev head coach Mircea Lucescu does not believe Barcelona are at the level to win the Champions League.

Group G leaders and LaLiga giants Barcelona will host Ukrainian visitors Dynamo at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Barca equalled their worst tally of LaLiga points after six games since the Spanish competition reverted to three points for a win – Ronald Koeman's side drew 1-1 with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, meaning they have just eight points so far in the early stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

That is the same total as Barca managed at the start of the 2002-03 campaign when another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal, was in charge. 

Barca were also humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League quarter-final and, speaking on the eve of the match, Lucescu told reporters: "After the game against Bayern Munich it was understandable that Barcelona were looking to make changes.

"They have a squad with very talented players, but they need time to learn the mechanisms.

"I don't think Barcelona are at the level to win the Champions League at the moment. Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain have more options.

"In any case, they have a footballer in Lionel Messi, who can be very important. A new coach needs a minimum of six months and in spring they will be another team. Barcelona are a team that are better off playing the Champions League than LaLiga, because in the domestic competition the rest of the rivals know them very well."

Lucescu's Dynamo have one point from two games to be third in Group G, five points adrift of unbeaten leaders Barca.

Barca are undefeated in their previous 22 games in the group stage of the Champions League, while they could win five group outings in a row for the first time since October 2017.

Lionel Messi has scored 20 goals in his last 24 appearances for Barca in the Champions League, while he last netted in his first three games of a single campaign in the competition back in 2018-19.

Dynamo are winless in their past 14 games against Spanish opponents in European competition, with their last victory coming back in March 1999 in the European Cup quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid.

Juventus' Champions League defeat to Barcelona helped them understand where they need to improve, said Andrea Pirlo, who believes playing the Blaugrana early in the competition was a positive for his side.

The Bianconeri visit Ferencvaros on Wednesday, looking to bounce back from a 2-0 loss to Barca on home soil last week.

Pirlo's men did not have a shot on target, although Alvaro Morata saw three goals ruled out for offside, and the legendary former Juve and Italy midfielder feels the game served as a valuable learning experience for his team.

Asked about the meeting with Ronald Koeman's side, Pirlo said: "They made us understand that we need to improve, that to play certain types of matches we need to have more determination and organisation. 

"We knew we were meeting a great team and maybe meeting them so soon did us good. 

"We will work to improve and play a great match when we go to them."

In Ferencvaros, Juve are facing a side who have conceded seven goals in two games, the most of any side in the competition, and will have Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad after he missed out on the Barca clash due to his COVID-19 diagnosis.

However, Pirlo is keen not to underestimate the Hungarian side, with Juve having last lost back-to-back Champions League group-stage games in 2014.

He added: "We have studied Ferencvaros. They are a quality team and they have had two good games in the Champions League in which they deserved more.

"They have a good game plan and excellent attacking players."

There will be fans in the stands in Budapest, a scenario largely alien to players during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Juve prevailed with spectators present in their opening Group G game with Dynamo Kiev, and Pirlo expects having a crowd to benefit his players.

He said: "Having fans here tomorrow will also be a positive factor for us, because it helps us to raise our focus."

Giovanni Reyna, Chris Richards and Konrad de la Fuente have been called up by the United States for the first time.

USA boss Gregg Berhalter on Tuesday named a 24-man squad for this month's friendlies against Wales and Panama consisting solely of players based abroad as MLS gears up for the playoffs.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Reyna, Bayern Munich defender Richards and Barcelona youngster De la Fuente were among 10 uncapped players in the group, which has an average age of just 21 years and 300 days, and only six players with more than 17 caps.

Berhalter said: "We are excited about getting this group back together. I'm proud of the way the players have handled the challenging times – they really stuck together.

"We have built a solid foundation, and now we get a chance to continue our work together ahead of what is going to be a critical 12 months for our team."

Reyna has two goals and four assists – three of which came in a 4-0 win over Freiburg last month – in nine appearances in all competitions for Dortmund this season. He will be hoping to become the 12th player to earn a USA cap before turning 18 years old.

Richards, 18, has featured three times for Bayern in all competitions and set up Robert Lewandowski's second goal in the 4-3 triumph over Hertha Berlin on October 4.

De la Fuente is yet to make his first senior appearance for Barcelona but the 19-year-old has been named on the bench for three LaLiga matches this season.

The USA will take on Wales in Swansea on November 12 before travelling to Austria for a meeting with Panama.

England youth international Yunus Musah, 17, has also been handed a chance to take his first steps in the senior arena by Berhalter.

United States squad:

Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City); John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham); Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolves); Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Timothy Weah (Lille).

Lionel Messi always shows his "ambition" and "winning character" and is not difficult to manage, according to Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman.

This week, former Barca coach Quique Setien described Argentina superstar Messi as the greatest player of all time but said: "There's another facet beyond just the player and it's more difficult to manage. Much more difficult. 

"It's something inherent in many athletes that can be seen in the Michael Jordan documentary ['The Last Dance']. You see things you don't expect."

Setien was dismissed in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League quarter-finals, with Koeman replacing the deposed coach.

The Dutchman retained the services of Messi in his squad despite a very public and ugly transfer saga involving the Barca captain.

But Koeman insists he does not find it tricky managing a player considered by many as the best of all time.

"I respect all opinions. For me Leo is the best player in the world, I am seeing his ambition and winning character," he told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou. 

"I have no difficulties to lead [him]. He is the captain and I talk to him every week. I see things differently from Setien and I do not agree [with his opinion]."

Despite being in the infancy of his tenure, there is already some pressure on Koeman – not least because of the resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Barca have also only taken two points from their past four LaLiga matches, a run that included a 3-1 reverse to Real Madrid in the Clasico and a 1-1 draw at Deportivo Alaves, who finished Saturday's encounter with 10 men.

In LaLiga this season, Barca have scored 10 goals, created 58 chances and 13 big chances in six games. Madrid, as a comparison, have 13, 81 and 25 across the metrics.

Koeman insists his side are trying to play in a positive way and does not pay too much attention to external noise about his long-term future.

"My future at Barcelona is not the most important thing. You have to live day by day and try to win the games," he added. 

"We ask for peace of mind and time because we are changing a lot of things. In LaLIga we have been good, but we have not gotten good results. In the rest I have no influence. I will do my best to stay a long time.

"We are the team that creates the most chances per game. The image we are showing is positive and we will continue on this path although we know that in LaLiga you have to win more games."

Barca's clash with Dynamo has been hit by several positive results for coronavirus returned by the visitors.

But Koeman warned his side against complacency if the match goes ahead, especially considering Shakhtar Donetsk had similar issues prior to beating Madrid in matchday one.

"We know that Dynamo has problems due to COVID. They have done a test this morning, we have to wait for the results this afternoon," he added. 

"I don't know the UEFA rules. We have to prepare for the game and hopefully we can play it.

"The COVID issue is not easy. At Dynamo there are many players and that influences their quality, but there were also casualties at Shakhtar and they won against Madrid. 

"You have to respect the opposition."

Darwin Nunez only joined Benfica in September, but his future is already making headlines.

Nunez has hit the ground running at Benfica, where head coach Jorge Jesus has tipped the 21-year-old forward to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale following the latter's €126million transfer to Atletico Madrid last year.

Barcelona are reportedly targeting the Uruguay international.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA STEP UP NUNEZ INTEREST

Barcelona are eyeing Benfica star Darwin Nunez as a replacement for Luis Suarez, according to ESPN.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24m deal in September, and the 21-year-old has scored four goals since moving to Portugal.

Barca wanted to sign Nunez from Almeria and the LaLiga giants are prepared to rekindle their interest.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport1 claims Bayern Munich are considering RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano as a replacement for David Alaba. Bayern withdrew their offer of a new contract for Alaba, who is in the final year of his deal with the Bundesliga and Champions League holders. He has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, BarcaJuventusParis Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Premier League pair United and Liverpool are believed to be interested in Upamecano.

Atletico are battling Bayern for Brighton and Hove Albion sensation Tariq Lamptey, reports the Daily Mail. Sevilla are also reportedly interested in the former Chelsea full-back.

- Barca are preparing a January bid for City centre-back Eric Garcia following their unsuccessful attempt to re-sign the Spaniard during the previous transfer window, says Sport.

- MilanNews claims Milan will offer Franck Kessie a new contract. Kessie's current deal expires in 2022 as the Rossoneri also look to re-sign Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, who has been linked to Manchester United.

- Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai is at the top of Inter's wish list as they eye youth, according to Calciomercato. Szoboszlai reportedly has a €25m release clause. The 20-year-old has previously been linked to Arsenal and Napoli.

Chelsea are not courting Juventus star Paulo Dybala as owner Roman Abramovich looks to protect new investments Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, says Calciomercato. Contract negotiations are ongoing between Dybala and Juve as the likes of PSG, Madrid, Tottenham and United reportedly monitor the situation.

Barcelona presidential candidate Pere Riera said he "wouldn't pull out all the stops" for Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.

Josep Maria Bartomeu quit as Barca president last week, ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership, along with the entire board of directors.

Following Bartomeu's decision to quit it has been reported Barcelona's presidential elections will be held in the second week of January, with Riera announcing his candidacy.

Messi's future remains an important topic at the embattled LaLiga giants after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

The Barca captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain.

Asked about Messi, Riera told Radio Marca: "In my opinion, Messi has to stay at Barcelona and not with history. It's not good for anyone.

"In the end, it's Messi who decides [his future]. I very much doubt that Messi wanted to leave Barcelona [in the summer].

"I wouldn't pull out all the stops for Messi."

It has been a difficult start to the campaign for Messi, as he has now gone 877 minutes without scoring in open play. 

Messi's last open-play effort came against Napoli in the Champions League back in August, although he has scored three penalties and one free-kick since then.

Barca equalled their worst tally of LaLiga points after six games since the Spanish competition reverted to three points for a win.

Ronald Koeman's side drew 1-1 with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, meaning they have just eight points so far in the early stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

That is the same total as Barca managed at the start of the 2002-03 campaign when another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal, was in charge. 

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus dismissed speculation linking LaLiga giants Barcelona with Darwin Nunez.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24million deal in September.

The 21-year-old forward opened his account with a hat-trick in the Europa League last month, while the Uruguay international has netted four goals across all competitions.

Barca are reportedly interested in Nunez, who has been tipped by Jesus to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale following the latter's €126million transfer to Atletico Madrid last year.

Jesus was asked about Nunez and rumoured interest following Benfica's shock 3-0 Primeira Liga loss to Boavista on Monday.

"There is no point in talking about it, it could just be sports news. I don't comment, I was more interested in commenting on Benfica's victory than Darwin," Jesus said.

Benfica suffered their first league defeat of the season after succumbing to goals from Angel Gomes, Alberto Elis and Yanis Hamache.

The result left Benfica second and a point adrift of unbeaten leaders Sporting CP through six matches.

Benfica lost a Primeira Liga game by a margin of three-plus goals for the first time since October 2015, per Opta. Only Boavista and Sporting CP have won multiple league fixtures against Benfica by three or more goals in the 21st century.

Inter midfielder Arturo Vidal will use his Barcelona past as added incentive to triumph over Real Madrid in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

Vidal spent two seasons with LaLiga giants Barca at Camp Nou before joining Serie A side Inter for a nominal fee in September.

The Chile international has made eight appearances for the Nerazzurri and is expected to start against Madrid in the Group B blockbuster in the Spanish capital.

Should Vidal guide Inter to three points at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, he plans to celebrate the victory with supporters of both his old club and new.

"All the matches are decisive for us at this point," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"It will be a good match, important for the table. I will face them as if I were still a Barcelona player.

"I spent two great years at Barcelona, so I hope to be able to celebrate a win with Inter and Barcelona fans."

Vidal is aiming to become the first player to score against Madrid with three separate teams in the Champions League, having previously done so with Serie A powerhouse Juventus and Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich.

The 33-year-old has yet to get off the mark with his first goal for Inter but scored eight times in the league in his final season with Barca, a tally bettered only by Antoine Griezmann (9), Luis Suarez (16) and Lionel Messi (25).

"I used to score many goals but now I have to just give my best and do what the coach tells me," he said. "I always put the team first.

"I'm happy to be playing here and I'll continue doing what the coach asks me to do."

Madrid have won six of their seven home major European matches against Inter, although this is the first time the Spanish side have hosted the fixture since September 1998 – a 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi will not be given special treatment by Barcelona as the LaLiga giants look to reduce their wage bill ahead of presidential elections that are set to take place around Christmas.

The Catalan club are desperate to reduce their expenditure by €300million in order to remain financially stable as they play behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Barca hope to agree wage deferrals with the first-team squad this week and the president of the club's managing commission Carles Tusquets made it clear that Messi, who is under contract at Camp Nou until June, will not be treated differently.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner expressed his desire to leave Barcelona in August but stayed put after former president Josep Maria Bartomeu refused to let him go for free.

"I think we can reach an agreement. It seems to me that there is a willingness to do so. We do not want to take money from anyone but to adjust salaries so we can pay them when possible – this is the solution we think is the most viable given the circumstances," said Tusquets.

“We cannot make a tailor-made deal just for [Messi]. We can create different structures for similar cases, but we cannot tailor-make deals for individuals.

"We intend to solve the issue with the whole staff and all the employees and we will do everything possible to ensure everybody is satisfied.

"Depending on the money available, we know that our income will fall by around €300million if we cannot open the stadium. Even if we can, it will not be fully open this season.

"I won't get into specifics about Messi because we have to finish negotiations first. What I can say is that there is a willingness from Messi and his representatives.

"There is no reason to hide the fact that Barcelona's wage bill is the highest in Europe but I like to look to the future and today I was with [technical director Ramon] Planes, [head coach Ronald] Koeman and [chief executive Oscar] Grau, and I congratulated them on the courage to bet on young players, not many have that much courage.

"We are top of the rankings in terms of salary expenditure, it is around 70 per cent of the total budget of the club and that is a lot, but we are working on it."

Tusquets is heading up a temporary board convened following the resignation of Bartomeu last week and he expects elections to choose a permanent predecessor to take place before the year is out.

"We set up a work group that will liaise with the health authorities to ensure the full safety of our members while also ensuring the highest possible turnout," he said.

"We will deploy all logistic and human resources to ensure it is well organised, always respecting the club statutes. We could promote postal voting too."

Barca are winless in four games in LaLiga but Tusquets made it clear they are not planning for significant reinforcements when the January transfer window opens.

He said: "I feel we should only make a move if a player can come at zero cost. Or if a player is sold in the transfer window, then we could buy.

"But all these decisions can be reversed by the next presidency. If the new board wants to go back on everything we decided, then they are free to do so."

Barcelona are reportedly considering letting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen leave to join Bayern Munich.

Ter Stegen, 28, only re-signed with the LaLiga giants last month, but the star shot-stopper's future appears far from certain.

Could he join Manuel Neuer at Bayern?

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONSIDER SELLING TER STEGEN TO BAYERN

Barcelona are considering selling Ter Stegen to Bayern Munich to help their financial position, according to TodoFichajes.

The report says the European champions consider Ter Stegen a perfect replacement for Neuer, 34, and could make an €80million move at season's end.

Ter Stegen, who is contracted until 2025, and Neuer have been widely considered two of the world's best goalkeepers in recent seasons.

In last season's Champions League, Neuer had a save percentage of 77.1 – which was ranked behind only Andre Onana (80) and Alex Meret (79) of goalkeepers who played at least five games. Ter Stegen (67.5) ranked 16th.

Neuer made 28 saves and Ter Stegen 27, which ranked fifth and sixth respectively.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Bayern and David Alaba looks set for an exit when his contract expires at the end of the season. CalcioMercato reports Juventus and Inter are monitoring the defender, who has reportedly been offered to Real Madrid.

- As expected, Barcelona appear ready to make another move for Manchester City defender Eric Garcia. Sport claims the LaLiga giants are prepared to offer €8m (£7.2m) for Garcia in January.

- Radja Nainggolan could leave Inter in January. The Serie A giants are prepared to sell the midfielder to Cagliari, where he was on loan last season, for around €10m, according to CalcioMercato.

- Fiorentina suffered another Serie A loss, beaten 2-0 by Roma on Sunday, and head coach Giuseppe Iachini remains under pressure. CalcioMercato says former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is the number one candidate for the job at Fiorentina, who are 11th in the table.

Quique Setien claims he could not be himself while coach of Barcelona and says he was "tremendously damaged" by the humiliating 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Setien was sacked as following the European debacle, just seven months on from his appointment as Ernesto Valverde's replacement.

In that time, the former Real Betis coach – who had signed a two-and-a-half-year contract – lost the LaLiga title to rivals Real Madrid after a break in the season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Setien lost 20 per cent of his matches in charge of the Blaugrana, while they scored fewer goals per game than under Valverde – 2.0 versus 2.3 – even if their average possession increased to 68 per cent, seemingly in line with the demands of supporters.

In an interview with El Pais conducted before president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the Barca board resigned, Spain great Vicente del Bosque asked the coach if he had brought "pure Setien" to Camp Nou.

"No, of course not," Setien said. "I have not been myself. I have not been able to, or I have not known [how to] – this is the reality.

"When you sign for a club with a dimension like Barca, you already know that things are not going to be easy despite having the best players in the world.

"The reality is that I could not be me, nor have I done what I had to do. It is true that I could have made drastic decisions, but they would not have fixed anything in a space as short as the one I had and in which everything was concentrated after confinement.

"Until [the break], the team was good. We were changing many things. We reached the break two points ahead.

"When we returned, we started well in Mallorca, but the situation was complicated and the trajectory of Madrid was extraordinary. In the end, the tension got the better of us.

"But, really, there are situations where, in another context and in other circumstances, I should have been different. There was no time either to think or to work.

"If I made drastic decisions, they could harm us. We had LaLiga, the Champions League. Then what happens against Bayern happens."

In Lisbon, Bayern became the first team to score eight times in a Champions League knockout game, while Barca conceded eight for the first time since losing 8-0 to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey in 1946.

The Catalan giants' oldest ever Champions League XI – at 29 years and 329 days – mustered just seven shots and their humiliation was completed when loanee Philippe Coutinho netted a brace.

Setien recognises the harm done to his reputation but, now "comfortable at home" and "past the mourning", says he would have been sacked regardless.

"You are tremendously damaged," he said. "You go down in the history of Barca with that defeat.

"I take my percentage of blame. Someday I will write about this. Afterwards I found out that the decision had already been made before the 8-2. I found out about everything."

Setien revealed in September he was taking legal action against Barca over the handling of his dismissal, claiming he was offered no compensation and the club failed to honour the terms his contract.

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