Antoine Griezmann has struggled at Barcelona due to the "reign of terror" presided over by Lionel Messi, according to the France star's former advisor.

Griezmann, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, has found it difficult to hit top form alongside Messi at Camp Nou.

The forward, who missed a penalty against Real Betis last week before scoring in Barca's 5-2 victory, has just two goals, one assist and four chances created to his name in seven LaLiga appearances this season.

Griezmann has previously insisted there are no problems between him and Messi but Eric Olhats, the player's former representative, feels it is telling that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner does not say the same in public.

Speaking to France Football, Olhats even suggested Messi would try neither to speak nor pass to Griezmann when he first joined Barca.

"Antoine arrived at a club where Messi has the final word on everything," he said. "He is as much an emperor as a monarch and he didn't take kindly to the signing of Antoine.

"His attitude has been deplorable and he made him feel unwelcome. I've always disliked hearing Griezmann say that there are no issues with Messi but never the other way around. It's a reign of terror. You're either with him or against him.

"Griezmann is only going to try and solve his problems on the pitch, nothing more. He is never going to look to get into a conflict with anyone. He's not like that at all. And it's not that he lacks personality. He loves football and that's it, he doesn't want to get into arguments with anybody. I've seen him overcome so many difficult moments in his career.

"Last season, when Griezmann arrived, Messi didn't speak to him and didn't pass him the ball. I think he suffered because of a negative adaptation."

Messi came off the bench to lead Barca to victory against Betis, scoring twice and playing a key role in Griezmann's goal when his dummy allowed Jordi Alba's cross to reach his team-mate.

The pair exchanged only four passes in the second half, with Messi mostly combining with Sergi Roberto (15 passes) and Sergio Busquets (19 passes).

Piotr Zielinski is an extraordinary player who should be playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona, according to Pepe Reina.

Napoli midfielder Zielinski has thrived for the Partenopei since joining from Empoli in 2016.

Only forwards Jose Callejon (63) and Lorenzo Insigne (86) created more chances in Serie A last season for the club than Zielinski (53), while he completed more passes than any team-mate except for Fabian Ruiz and Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

Toni Kroos (60) was the only midfielder for Barca or Madrid in 2019-20 who created more goalscoring opportunities than the Poland international.

Reina, a team-mate of Zielinski for two years in Naples, has no doubt the player is good enough for one Spain's biggest two clubs.

"I have a crush on Zielinski!" he told Cadena SER. "He's a Real Madrid or Barcelona player. He is out of the ordinary."

Reina, who was on loan at Aston Villa from Milan last season, is now with Lazio as he continues a senior career in football spanning 20 years.

The 38-year-old thinks Manchester United's David de Gea is presently the best option for Luis Enrique's Spain side, but he believes there is an unfair prejudice towards older players compared to the attitude in Italy.

"The one with the most playing consistency is De Gea and it has to be that way, for me," Reina said.

"Luis Enrique has a choice of young goalkeepers or more expert, 38-year-old goalkeepers.

"David has experience that will for sure make him the most prepared. Kepa [Arrizabalaga] is going through a worse time due to the signing of Mendy. There's also [Sergio] Asenjo, [Fernando] Pacheco... there are a lot of names.

"The culture in Spain is that a 38-year-old player is seen as much older than he is in Italy. Here, respect is different. In Spain, they see you as an older player."

Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Juventus could be coming to an end.

Ronaldo arrived at the Serie A champions from Real Madrid in 2018 and is contracted at Juve until 2022.

However, Juventus could have other plans for the star forward.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS CONSIDER RONALDO SALE

Juventus are considering selling Ronaldo next year, according to Sport.

The report says Juve are opting against renewing the 35-year-old's big-money contract and may instead try to recoup some of the €100million they paid for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has scored six goals in four Serie A games this season, but Juve are fifth in the table.

His shot conversion rate excluding blocks (35.3) and big chance conversion percentage (71.4) are both well up on his previous seasons in Serie A, although it is still early in the 2020-21 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Zinedine Zidane is again under pressure at Real Madrid. Sport reports Madrid president Florentino Perez is already doubting the Madrid coach, with his team fourth in LaLiga after being humbled 4-1 by Valencia on Sunday. Madrid have also won just one of their opening three Group B games in the Champions League.

- With his contract expiring at the end of the season, David Alaba looks set to leave Bayern Munich. 90min reports the defender is open to a move to the Premier League amid apparent interest from Liverpool and Manchester City.

- Ousmane Dembele's future at Barcelona is uncertain. The LaLiga giants are prepared to sell the forward as soon as January, according to Sport, with Manchester United among the clubs previously credited with an interest in the 23-year-old.

- Staying at Manchester United and ESPN reports the Premier League giants are considering sending goalkeeper Dean Henderson out on loan again. It means United are delaying a decision on Sergio Romero's future, with the shot-stopper reportedly eager to leave on a free in January.

- A free agent, Mario Mandzukic is attracting interest from LaLiga club Celta Vigo, according to El Partidazo de COPE. Celta Vigo have scored just six goals in nine league games this season, sitting just a point above the relegation zone.

Barcelona have confirmed Ansu Fati will be out for approximately four months after surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee.

The 18-year-old was forced off at the halfway point of Barca's 5-2 win over Real Betis on Saturday, with the club later revealing the extent of the damage he suffered.

A Barca statement confirmed Fati was to be operated on by knee specialist Dr. Ramon Cugat, and the surgery was completed on Monday.

Following the completion of the procedure, the Catalans communicated that they expect the youngster to be out until March.

"The first-team player Ansu Fati has been operated on successfully by Dr. Ramon Cugat for the injury to the internal meniscus of his left knee under the supervision of the club's medical staff. The player will be out for approximately four months," a statement read.

At the time of the injury, Fati was joint-second top-scorer in LaLiga with four goals, while none of his Barca team-mates had netted more.

A regular squad member last season following an explosive introduction to top-flight football as a 16-year-old under Ernesto Valverde, Fati had seemingly taken on a role of greater prominence and importance in 2020-21.

New coach Ronald Koeman had essentially made Fati an automatic pick for his starting XI, the player beginning all seven of their LaLiga games this term.

Only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga for Barca in 2020-21 than Fati (28), while the club captain is the solitary Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than his team-mate's return of nine.

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Miralem Pjanic has claimed he was offered the chance to represent France but it would have broken his heart to turn his back on Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Barcelona midfielder was born in Tuzla, in what was then Yugoslavia, before his family moved to Luxembourg shortly after the outbreak of the Bosnian War.

Pjanic represented Luxembourg's national youth teams during his formative years and signed for Metz at 14, later turning out for Lyon.

And it was while he was playing in Ligue 1 that he was telephoned by then France head coach Raymond Domenech about the prospect of declaring himself available for Les Bleus.

“Yes, I could have played for the France team when I arrived in Lyon, but I said a few days before that my dream was Bosnia," Pjanic, 30, told Canal Plus.

"Domenech called me, but I had already made up my mind. I thanked him of course, but I preferred to be realistic.

"For me, the France team, it was too much [to break into] at that time. And it would have hurt my heart if, on the other side, Bosnia was watching one of its own playing for the France team."

Pjanic, who joined Barca from Juventus in June, is currently preparing for Bosnia-Herzegovina's international friendly against Iran before Nations League matches against Netherlands and Italy.

Memphis Depay has told Lyon to make the most of him while they can as he is unsure if he will still be at the club after January amid persistent links with Barcelona.

Barca boss Ronald Koeman has made no secret of his desire to sign Depay, with whom he worked as head coach of the Netherlands national side.

A deal failed to materialise late in the recent transfer window, despite the 26-year-old agreeing personal terms with Barca, but a fresh approach is expected in the new year.

Depay is out of contract at the end of 2020-21 and says he cannot guarantee he will even see out the remainder of the campaign at the Groupama Stadium.

"You ask me about this a lot. But I'm not going to make promises that I'm not sure I can keep," he told Telefoot when asked if he will swap clubs in January.

"I think Lyon has to take advantage of my presence here now. And I have to take advantage of being here.

"That's what I try to do every day. You can ask those around me: I like to train, and I try to be positive every day."

Depay was involved in Lyon's 2-1 win over bitter rivals Saint-Etienne on Sunday, a win that lifted Rudi Garcia's side up to fifth in Ligue 1 with 10 games played.

The forward has featured in each of those matches, scoring five times and setting up three more.

Since joining Lyon from Manchester United in January 2017, Depay has been directly involved in 83 Ligue 1 goals in 111 appearances, putting him level with Edinson Cavani - who played in 26 fewer games - and behind only Kylian Mbappe (110 goal involvements in 100 matches).

For comparison, Luis Suarez scored and assisted a combined 112 goals in 112 appearances for Barcelona over the same time frame, while Lionel Messi is way out in front with 173 goal involvements in 129 matches.

Speaking earlier this week, Depay hinted he is frustrated at Lyon as his side already trail leaders Paris Saint-Germain by seven points.

"The title should be our aim," he said. "Even if I cannot say everything going through my head right now, in terms of what's happening, what I am seeing at the club, there are things that I honestly can't say."

Neymar has tried, without success, to return to former club Barcelona in previous transfer windows.

The Brazil forward wanted to reunite with Lionel Messi.

Now, it seems Neymar is content in the French capital.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR HAPPY IN PARIS

Neymar wants to sign a new deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Telefoot.

PSG superstar Neymar has long been linked with a return to Barcelona after leaving Camp Nou in a world-record Є222million transfer in 2017.

But Neymar – contracted until 2022 – is reportedly happy in Paris and is prepared to prolong his stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United star Paul Pogba has emerged as Real Madrid's alternative to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, reports Diario AS. Camavinga tops Madrid's midfield wish list following his exploits for Rennes and France. But with his transfer value continuing to rise, Madrid could turn to Pogba, who is reportedly available for €60m (£54m) in 2021. Camavinga has also been linked to PSG and United, while Pogba is reportedly being eyed by former club Juventus.

- Calciomercato claims PSG have joined Barca and Juve in the race to sign Ajax star Ryan Gravenberch.

Bruno Fernandes could leave United if the Premier League giants continue to struggle for consistency, reports Fichajes.net. Madrid, Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich have been credited with interest in the Portugal international.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are eyeing Udinese star Rodrigo de Paul, who was previously linked with Leeds United.

Juve are interested in Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, according to Tuttosport. Sassuolo will not sell the former Milan sensation for less than €40m.

Benfica star Darwin Nunez will remain at the Portuguese giants until at least 2022 amid links to Barcelona, according to his agent Edgardo Lasalvia.

Nunez became Benfica's most expensive signing when he arrived from Almeria in a €24million deal in September, and he has already caught the attention of LaLiga powerhouse Barca.

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

Juventus have also been linked to Nunez and when asked about the Benfica forward's future, Lasalvia said via Sport: "Darwin will remain at Benfica at least until 2022."

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus has tipped Nunez to surpass Joao Felix as the club's most expensive sale.

Joao Felix left Benfica for Atletico Madrid for a club-record €126m last year.

"We got it right. We must not forget that he is a kid, he is 21 years old, there is a lot about the game that he does not know yet. He will learn with me and Benfica," Jesus told SportTV.

"All this decision-making ability, finishing and speed… He was Benfica's most expensive purchase, and when there is no pandemic, he will be the most expensive sale. He will be a world-class player.

"Unfortunately for me, maybe I will lose him in a short time."

Benfica suffered back-to-back Primeira Liga defeats following Sunday's surprise 3-2 loss at home to Braga.

The result has left Benfica four points adrift of leaders and rivals Sporting CP.

Ansu Fati is to undergo surgery on the torn meniscus he suffered in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Real Betis. 

The teenage forward was substituted at half-time in Saturday's contest at Camp Nou, Barca later confirming the damage sustained to his left knee. 

Fati is now set to have an operation on Monday, after which Barca said they will release further details about the possible length of his absence. 

A club statement read: "The first team player Ansu Fati will undergo surgery [on] Monday for the injury to the meniscus in his left knee by Dr. Ramon Cugat under the supervision of the Club's medical services.  

"Once this intervention is completed, a new communication will be provided with information on the result and the approximate time of withdrawal." 

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga so far this term having notched four in seven appearances, while he was also on target in the 5-1 hammering of Ferencvaros in the Champions League.

His form has been a bright point in an inconsistent start Barca have made under Ronald Koeman, who had seen his side fail to win four on the bounce in LaLiga prior to the Betis win.

Only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga for Barca in 2020-21than Fati (28), while the club captain is the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than his team-mate's return of nine.

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Hector Bellerin and Marco Asensio have been called into Spain's squad for this month's international fixtures as injury replacements.

Arsenal right-back Bellerin earns a first call-up for four years after Sevilla captain Jesus Navas was substituted due to an injury at half-time during his club's 1-0 win over Osasuna.

Luis Enrique's side face a friendly against the Netherlands before Nations League matches against Switzerland and Germany.

Real Madrid attacker Asensio comes into the reckoning in place of Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati.

Like Navas, Fati only managed the first 45 matches of a LaLiga match at the weekend, making way for Lionel Messi in Barcelona's 5-2 triumph over Real Betis.

The Catalan giants later confirmed the forward has suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, with a decision over treatment options to be made over the coming days.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus.

The 18-year-old was substituted at half-time of Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Spain international Fati was sent for tests, which have shown a tear in the meniscus of his left knee.

The club confirmed treatment will begin over the coming days.

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga this season with four goals in seven appearances, while he also scored in the 5-1 Champions League win over Ferencvaros.

His form in attack has been a positive during an inconsistent start to life as head coach for Ronald Koeman, whose team ended a four-game winless run in the top flight by beating Betis.

For Barca, only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga in 2020-21 than Fati (28), while the Argentina star is also the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than Fati (nine).

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus. 

Ronald Koeman says his decision to name Lionel Messi on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga clash with Real Betis was down to the forward carrying a knock.

Messi was absent from Barca's starting line-up for the first time during Koeman's 10-game reign yet still managed to have a major say in his side's 5-2 victory at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had failed to assist a goal or score from open play in six league matches before Saturday's victory.

It was the first time he had been benched for a league game since September 2019, but Koeman insists he was left out purely for fitness reasons.

"We talked yesterday," Koeman said to Movistar Plus. "Leo came out of the game against Dynamo Kiev with some discomfort and was not in a position to play from the start today.

"We had to put him on the bench. If he has no problems then he plays from the beginning. Today he could not."

Messi was brought on at half-time and scored a brace as a substitute for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 2013 – also against Betis.

"I have no doubts about him," Koeman said. "I know him well and see him train every day."

Barca went into half-time level after their academy product Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Ousmane Dembele's strike, roughly 15 minutes after Antoine Griezmann had a penalty saved.

Messi inspired his side to a first win in five league games, however, by playing a pivotal part in Griezmann's strike and converting a penalty awarded for Aissa Mandi's handball.

Mandi was sent off but Loren Moreno scored to make things interesting, only for Messi's first open-play goal this term and Pedri's maiden LaLiga strike to settle things.

"It was an important victory for us because we needed the points," Koeman said. "I'm happy because we created a lot of chances, had opportunities to score and did score.

"Luckily, we scored in the second half because the first half wasn't fair. Conceding a goal against a team with 10 men also isn't good, but it was a deserved victory."

Griezmann missed three big chances in the first half, as well as a penalty, which ex-Barca stopper Claudio Bravo did well to keep out.

However, he scored and assisted a goal in the same Barca game for the first time this calendar year and Koeman was pleased with the France international's overall display.

"I hope to see him continue working like this," he said. "To miss opportunities, you have to be there. His character must be highlighted because he is always there.

"He knows perfectly well that he missed a penalty, but the important thing is that he always shows himself and that type of character is important."

Asked for an update on fellow attacker Ansu Fati, who was withdrawn for Messi at the interval, Koeman said: "He had discomfort and we did not want to risk him."

Lionel Messi scored twice and played a key part in another goal in Barcelona's 5-2 LaLiga win over 10-man Real Betis after being left out of Ronald Koeman's starting line-up for the first time.

Barca assistant Alfred Schreuder put the absence of Messi, who has struggled for form this season, down to a lack of fitness as he started a league game on the bench for the first time since September 2019.

The mercurial forward was brought on at half-time with the game poised at 1-1 after Ousmane Dembele's strike was cancelled out by Barca academy product Antonio Sanabria, either side of an Antoine Griezmann penalty miss.

Messi paved the way for Griezmann's goal 194 seconds into the second half, then scored a penalty after Aissa Mandi was dismissed for handling the ball on the line and doubled his tally late on to kill off Betis following Loren Moron's strike.

Pedri then capped a much-improved display for Koemen's side with a fifth goal late on as they secured a first league win in five on Saturday.

Barca had made their worst start to a league season after six games in the three-points-per-win era but made a bright start against Betis, with Griezmann firing wide from 12 yards and Fati curling a shot off target.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, making his first league appearance of the season, kept out William Carvalho's header before Ansu Fati and Griezmann wasted more presentable opportunities.

However, the breakthrough came 22 minutes in, as Dembele brought the ball inside Alex Moreno and beat Claudio Bravo, who got a touch to the shot but could not keep it out.

Griezmann then hit the post and was denied by Bravo from the spot after Mandi fouled Fati, and Betis were level when Sanabria guided in Cristian Tello's cross on the brink of half-time.

Messi was brought on for Fati at the break and had an instant impact, smartly dummying Jordi Alba's cross for Griezmann to slot into an unguarded net behind him.

After a lengthy VAR check, Mandi was deemed to have blocked Dembele's shot on the line with his arm and Messi had no trouble converting his fourth penalty of the season.

Moron gave the visitors a lifeline by blasting a shot past Ter Stegen after Gerard Pique flicked the ball into his path, but that proved nothing more than a consolation thanks to Messi's powerful left-footed drive and Pedri's close-range finish.

Lionel Messi was named among Barcelona's substitutes for Saturday's LaLiga contest against Real Betis.

The absence of the captain from Ronald Koeman's starting XI at Camp Nou was a peculiar one given Barca have failed to win their past four matches in Spain's top flight, although reports in Spain suggest he is not being risked due to a slight ankle problem.

Messi had previously started every game in LaLiga and the Champions League under Koeman, who named Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati in his starting line-up.

Messi has regularly found himself in the spotlight since failing to engineer a move away from Barca in the past transfer window, particularly given he is yet to score from open play or provide an assist in LaLiga this term - though he has attempted more shots (28) than any other player in the competition.

On Friday, Koeman defended Messi against claims the Argentine was not working hard enough for the team following viral footage from Barca's midweek win over Dynamo Kiev, which showed him failing to press the opposition in second-half injury time. 

In that game, Messi had more shots (six) and created more chances (four) than any other player in the match, but he also lost possession more frequently than anyone else (20 times) without once winning it back.

"I didn't seem him [walking] and I'm not interested in this because I don't see him walking," Koeman said. "If you want to start a controversy around this point, it's your problem.

"Messi is mentally good, enjoying this sport. He's a winner and sometimes you go through moments when the ball doesn't go in, but he looks really focused.

"I think Messi still has so many qualities. He's very important in our game."

Last weekend's 1-1 draw at 10-man Deportivo Alaves saw Barca equal their lowest tally of points through six games in LaLiga.

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