Neymar seems eager for a return to Barcelona – and he is reportedly prepared to show just how keen he is.

The Brazil international has been linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he left for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

But amid doubts over whether Barca could get a deal done, it seems Neymar is ready to make a huge sacrifice.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARED TO CUT SALARY IN HALF FOR BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar would cut his salary in half to return to Barcelona but wants guarantees, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says Neymar has rejected a renewal offer from Paris Saint-Germain as he eyes a return to the LaLiga giants.

Neymar scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ligue 1 later called off.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are making their move. The cover of AS says Madrid have made their first approach for Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, the 17-year-old they reportedly see as a substitute for Casemiro.

- Linked with a stunning move to Liverpool, Kalidou Koulibaly could find it hard to leave Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli are unwilling to negotiate a lower price for the star defender, who is also said to be a target for Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. Napoli have been reported to want £90m (€102.4m) for the defender.

- Luka Jovic has struggled in his first season at Real Madrid, leading to transfer talk. But Mundo Deportivo reports Madrid are maintaining confidence in the forward for at least one more season despite links to Newcastle United.

- With Thiago Silva seemingly set to leave, Paris Saint-Germain are targeting Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti as his replacement, according to Sport. Silva is out of contract at the end of the season and Umtiti has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

- A player linked to Barcelona is Tanguy Ndombele. However, The Telegraph reports the midfielder is determined to stay at Tottenham despite the LaLiga giants' interest.

- There could be plenty of movement at Barcelona, but Sport reports the club want to keep Carles Alena, 22, while Riqui Puig, 20, is set to get his chance with the first team.

Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara said it would be "wonderful" to finish his career at the Bundesliga champions, while he praised on-loan team-mate Philippe Coutinho.

Thiago joined Bayern from Barcelona in 2013 and the Spaniard is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season, with head coach Hansi Flick hopeful of re-signing the midfielder.

Since arriving in Munich, Thiago has won six Bundesliga titles among other honours and the 29-year-old is open to retiring in Bavaria.

"That's a difficult question. A lot of things would have to come together," Thiago told Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia when asked if he sees himself finishing at Bayern. "I would have to remain at my level.

"Maybe the club will suddenly look for a new player in my position. But it would be wonderful to end my career at this club."

Thiago was also asked about Coutinho, who joined Bayern on a season-long loan from LaLiga champions Barca at the start of the 2019-20 campaign, which has been postponed due to coronavirus.

Coutinho has struggled to establish himself at Bayern, having also failed to live up to the hype since swapping Liverpool for Barca in a blockbuster transfer in 2018.

"I know him well, he's very good," Thiago said. "I've seen him play since he was 12 years old. I played against him in Brazil at football sala and I loved him.

"He lacks nothing. I like to play with players at a top level and he's a phenomenon. He's a great guy, really hard working, with unbeatable technique and incredible finishing.

"Players go through good moments and some not so good ones and he brings us a lot. We hope he's here next season too."

Jonjo Shelvey is talented enough to play for Barcelona and would "blow teams away", according to Newcastle United team-mate Matt Ritchie.

Shelvey, who won the last of his six England caps in 2015, is a key man at Newcastle, having joined the club from Swansea City in 2016 after struggling to establish himself at Liverpool.

The midfielder had joined Liverpool from Charlton Athletic in 2010 as an 18-year-old.

But winger Ritchie claims Shelvey could be turning out for Barca or Real Madrid if he had the desire to focus on his game.

The ex-Bournemouth man revealed "mad" Shelvey instead plays golf for Northumberland and takes to the course three times a week.

Ritchie told the In The Box podcast: "For me, I've said to him so many times, 'If you just got your head down, focused solely on football and forgot about golf and whatever else...'

"It's true, though, isn't it? He's mad. He'll play golf three times a week, and I'm like, 'Jonj, you can't do that'. He's like, 'No, no, I feel better, Matty'. I'm like, 'That's impossible'.

"But what a player, what a player. I've been at Newcastle now for four years, and I've honestly seen him inside a box [rondo] no more than 10 times. That's how good he is - and we do boxes every day.

"This guy has the natural ability to just see passes, to receive the ball, to move the ball.

"I remember playing against him as a kid. I think he was 14 - we were playing Charlton Under-16s at Portsmouth - and I think he scored a hat-trick. He was unbelievable.

"Obviously, he's got his moves and he's ended up at Newcastle. But I say to him very regular: 'Jonj, if you had your head screwed on, you could play for Barcelona so easily.'

"He's that good, isn't he? He is, though. He's that good.

"He's got everything, he's got the short one, and at Newcastle now, he hits longer passes and tougher passes and he's the one we look to to open teams up and create.

"But - and this is no disrespect to us at Newcastle - I feel like if he was playing for a Barcelona or Real Madrid, you could imagine he'd blow teams away with his ability.

"You've got to have everything in the right place, and he likes his golf too much, doesn't he?

"He says to me, 'I know Matty, but this is what I'm like, this is what I'm like'. Imagine if you wanted to. You could."

Shelvey, who earned the last of his six England caps in 2015, is Newcastle's top scorer in the Premier League this season with five goals from midfield.

The 28-year-old has been criticised for a lack of discipline in the past and was sent off twice in the 2017-18 campaign, having led the Magpies to promotion from the Championship the previous season.

Borja Valero urged Inter team-mate Lautaro Martinez to ignore Barcelona's advances and stay at San Siro as he hailed the Argentina forward.

Martinez has been the subject of consistent transfer speculation this season, with Barca said to be interested in Lionel Messi's international colleague.

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals in all competitions for the Nerazzurri this season, starring alongside Romelu Lukaku.

After netting just nine times in the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign, Valero believes Martinez is Inter's most improved player.

And the ex-Fiorentina midfielder wants Martinez to remain in Milan.

"From year to year, he is the one who has improved the most," Valero told Gazzetta dello Sport. "In addition to scoring, he does an extraordinary job for the team."

As for why Martinez should stay at Inter rather than go to Barcelona, Valero said: "Here we have a very important project. It is clear to everyone. To make it happen, we need him to be with us."

Valero expects January signing Christian Eriksen to follow Martinez in showing signs of progress once he has settled at Inter.

"He only arrived this season," Valero said. "A week before, he was still playing for Tottenham. Then he had changed the league, country, language, training system.

"It is not easy to get used to it quickly. When he was gearing up, the season was suspended. He has everything to lift Inter. He just needs time."

Jose Mourinho will have mixed memories about May 3 down the years.

The Portuguese endured European disappointment with Chelsea and Real Madrid on this date during his coaching career, but also clinched domestic success in his second stint with the Blues.

Derrick Rose would also be forgiven for having bittersweet feelings, considering it marks the anniversary of a personal milestone achieved before injury issues struck.

Take a look back at some of the momentous moments in sport that have occurred previously on this day.

 

2005: 'Ghost' goal sends Liverpool through

Did it cross the line? Luis Garcia certainly thought so after prodding the ball towards the Chelsea goal in the second leg of their all-English Champions League semi-final with Liverpool.

After a 0-0 scoreline at Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard seized on a loose ball in the fourth minute at Anfield after Milan Baros had collided with visiting goalkeeper Petr Cech.

William Gallas' clearance led Chelsea to believe they had escaped, but the goal was given. The Reds stood firm for the remainder of an absorbing contest as Mourinho's Premier League champions suffered an agonising defeat by the barest of margins.

"The linesman scored the goal. No one knows if that shot went over the line and you must be 100 per cent," Mourinho said afterwards. Liverpool, of course, went on to lift the trophy, beating Milan on an unforgettable night in Istanbul.

2011: Rose follows in Jordan's footsteps

Drafted first by his hometown Chicago Bulls, Rose ended his third season in the NBA by being crowned the league's MVP at 22.

The point guard averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds to become the youngest player to receive the honour, finishing comfortably ahead of Dwight Howard in the voting. 

He became just the second Bulls player to be named MVP, following in the footsteps of the legendary Michael Jordan. Chicago finished with a 62-20 regular season record and went on to lose to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The following campaign, after signing a lucrative contract extension, Rose suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the playoffs. He was sidelined for over a year.

2011: Barca book Wembley trip

More European misery for Mourinho, as this time his Real Madrid side missed out on the Champions League final. To make matters worse, it was arch-rivals Barcelona who denied them.

The Catalan side had won 2-0 in a feisty first meeting in the Spanish capital, giving them breathing space ahead of the return at Camp Nou. Gonzalo Higuain had a goal ruled out for Madrid before the hosts extended their advantage, Pedro providing the finish.

Marcelo equalised in the second half but Mourinho - serving a suspension after being sent off in the opening leg for complaining about a red card shown to Pepe - still saw his side exit 3-1 on aggregate. 

2015: Hazard helps Blues cruise over the line

Better times for Jose in 2015, then. Back in charge at the Bridge, he steered Chelsea to Premier League glory again, this time with three games to spare.

A 1-0 triumph over Crystal Palace was enough to be confirmed as champions, Eden Hazard heading in the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Julian Speroni to grab the only goal of the contest shortly before half-time.

"Finally we can breathe, relax and enjoy," a jaded Mourinho said in the aftermath, having also clinched the EFL Cup earlier in the campaign.

Still, he did not have to wait long for a break. Following a disastrous start to their title defence, Chelsea sacked him, bringing in Guus Hiddink as interim boss.

Juventus and Real Madrid have long been linked to Paul Pogba.

The Manchester United star is reportedly unhappy at Old Trafford, where he endured an injury-hit campaign prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

But another club are reportedly trying to sign Pogba.

 

TOP STORY – INTER EYE POGBA

Inter are dreaming of signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Pogba has been heavily linked to former club and Serie A champions Juventus, as well as LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

However, Inter are now in the mix to bring the French star back to Italy.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira claims Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig's Timo Werner. The Premier League leaders and Champions League holders have offered a five-year deal for the German, who has already turned down Bayern Munich.

Barcelona are ready to sell nine players, according to the Mirror. Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are month the names that could leave the LaLiga champions.

Atletico Madrid are still hopeful of signing soon-to-be free agent Edinson Cavani. The Paris Saint-Germain forward was wanted by the LaLiga club during the January transfer window, but a move did not materialise. However, Mundo Deportivo claims Cavani is set to join Atletico.

Milan are trying to prepare for life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Lille's Victor Osimhen is being considered, according to Calciomercato. Chelsea and United have also been linked to the Nigerian forward.

- France Football reports PSG are interested in Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, who is on loan at Ligue 1 rivals Monaco.

West Ham are open to selling club-record signing Sebastien Haller, says the Express. Haller only arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of the season.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen insisted he is "very happy" at the LaLiga champions, despite putting contract negotiations on hold.

Ter Stegen's current deal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season and the Germany international has been linked with Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich amid doubts over Manuel Neuer's future in Bavaria.

Despite question marks over his own future, Ter Stegen said now is not the time to discuss a new contract due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have already had the first conversations," Ter Stegen said during an Instagram Live with former club Borussia Monchengladbach.

"But as I said, we have parked it. There are much more important things.

"I am very happy here and the sporting situation is good, the team is doing well. What more can I ask for?"

Ter Stegen joined Barca from Bundesliga outfit Monchengladbach in 2014.

Since arriving at Camp Nou, the 28-year-old has won four LaLiga titles and the Champions League among other honours.

Barca were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 matches when LaLiga was suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis in March.

Diego Maradona was "pure art" and Lionel Messi is "a Speedy Gonzales", according to Argentina assistant coach Roberto Ayala.

Ayala played alongside Maradona at the start of his career and in his twilight years lined up with Messi.

The former Napoli, Milan and Valencia centre-back believes there are significant differences between the two players widely regarded as the best to have come out of Argentina.

"I played with both of them, with Diego I was taking my first steps. They are two footballing giants, and when he retires, Messi will be remembered," Ayala told FOX Sports.

"I don't know if it'll be like Diego, it doesn't matter. They are different. Diego was pure art in all his mannerisms, Messi a Speedy Gonzales who carries the ball two centimetres from his foot."

Messi's failure to win a senior international title with Argentina often counts against him when he is compared to Maradona, who spearheaded the country's success at the 1986 World Cup.

Barcelona star Messi has suffered defeat in four finals – three at the Copa America and the 2014 World Cup – but Ayala is confident he can be successful with Argentina.

Ayala has been impressed by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's humility in the national team set-up.

"I hope that he gives us his footballing level, that he makes us grow as a team. Having a team with him, not of him," said Ayala.

"He wants to be treated like this, like just one more. We told the players, 'He will not be treated differently by us. You all have to step up, do what you do for your clubs, and he will help you. You have to take advantage of that.'"

Unai Emery hit out at referee Deniz Aytekin, Barcelona forward Luis Suarez and an un-named Paris Saint-Germain player as he reflected on the 6-1 Champions League collapse suffered at Camp Nou in 2017.

PSG, then coached by Emery, romped to a 4-0 win in the first leg of their last-16 tie, but on March 8, a day Emery remembers as the worst of his career, Barca recorded an unbelievable second-leg comeback.

Leading 3-1 on the night but still trailing 5-3 on aggregate after 88 minutes, Barca were on the brink of elimination.

However, they managed to score three times in a dramatic finale to seal the largest comeback in Champions League history, with future PSG star Neymar scoring twice for Luis Enrique's hosts.

Reflecting on the devastating loss more than three years later, Emery hit out at the performance of Turkish official Aytekin.

He also discussed his belief Suarez kept going down easily in the box and suggested there was a PSG player who was "hiding" as he explained the other circumstances that worked against his team.

"There are lots of details in that game that can be scrutinised," Emery said, per EFE, in a discussion with his former Sevilla assistant Diego Martinez, who now coaches Granada.

"But if I start from the end, I'd change the referee and that's it. I watched a repeat of the game the other day because I found it while I was zapping through channels. I watched it from the 50th minute to the 82nd minute.

"We were 3-0 down, we scored to make it 3-1 and we had a one-on-one that Edinson Cavani hit at the goalkeeper to make it 3-2; a clear penalty on Angel Di Maria that wasn't given; and in the 82nd minute, Di Maria fouled Neymar for the goal. That's when I stopped watching.

"In that section of the game, I saw that one of our important players, who had had injury problems during the season, was hiding in the result. Maybe I would substitute him now. 

"They are details, circumstances that escape you in a game.

"Then there are other key circumstances: the Barcelona players, especially Suarez, going down in the box continuously, pressuring the referee until he fell into their trap."

Barca were knocked out in the by eventual finalists Juventus in the last eight.

Barcelona are reportedly looking at Jadon Sancho as an alternative if they cannot land Neymar.

Neymar is linked with a return to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain, where he arrived from Barcelona for a world-record €222million in 2017.

But the LaLiga giants have options.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO AN ALTERNATIVE TO NEYMAR FOR BARCELONA

Borussia Dortmund star Sancho is an alternative to Neymar for Barcelona, according to Sport.

The cover of the Spanish daily says Barca are thinking of Sancho if they are unable to bring Neymar back to the club.

Sancho was enjoying an incredible season with 14 goals and 15 assists in 23 Bundesliga games when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move for RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Liverpool may not be trying to sign the forward. The Mirror reports the Premier League leaders look almost certain not to do any transfer spending in the close season.

- Lyon forward Moussa Dembele has enjoyed another good season with the Ligue 1 club. The Manchester Evening News reports Dembele would find it hard to turn down a move to Manchester United in the next transfer window.

- Miralem Pjanic could be set for a Juventus exit. Marca reports the pieces are falling into place for the midfielder to join Barcelona. It says another player could enter the deal if Arthur does not agree to leave the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Barcelona and Sport reports the door is open for the club to land Layvin Kurzawa on a free at season's end with Porto's Alex Telles seemingly nearing a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma is out of contract at Milan in 2021, but La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the goalkeeper could extend his deal by a year and plan a path forward, with the coronavirus pandemic likely to impact the upcoming transfer window.

- Rayan Cherki, 16, scored three goals in 12 games for Lyon this season, seemingly leading to some interest. AS reports the teenage forward is being watched by Real Madrid.

Massive sporting events do not always live up the occasion.

The boxing world was delivered a reminder of that five years ago as a fight a long time in the making proved a drab affair.

It is the unexpected that often produces the most excitement and that was the case during a 2015-16 Premier League campaign that stands as arguably the most memorable in the division's history.

Here we look back at May 2 in the world of sport.

2009: Pacquiao makes light work of Hatton

"From the ends of the earth to the centre of the ring" was the tagline attached to a light-welterweight title bout billed as the' Battle of East and West'.

With seven seconds left in the second round, Ricky Hatton was indeed in the centre of the ring, on his back having been dumped to the canvas by a thunderous left to the chin from Manny Pacquiao.

The fight marked the last at elite level for Hatton, who finished his career in 2012 with a loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko.

Pacquiao has gone on to secure his legacy as one of the greatest boxers of all time, but his journey has not been without its lows, the biggest of which would come six years later at the same MGM Grand Garden Arena venue...

2009: Leinster-Munster semi-final draws record crowd

Leinster v Munster is regarded as one of the biggest provincial rivalries in world rugby, and it reached new heights as the pair met in the Heineken Cup semi-finals at Croke Park.

A crowd of 82,208, a world-record attendance for a club match, witnessed Leinster secure their place in the final with a 25-6 victory.

They would go on to lift the trophy, beating Leicester Tigers 19-16 at Murrayfield.

2012: Messi breaks European club goals record

Lionel Messi's incredible career has been defined by him shattering records and collecting medals at will.

Eight years ago he bettered a mark that had stood since the 1972-73 season with a hat-trick against Malaga.

The treble took Messi to 68 goals for the 2011-12 season, the most by a single player in a European club season.

Gerd Muller had previously held the record with 67. Messi would go on to stretch his advantage over the Germany great, finishing the campaign with a remarkable 73 goals.

2015: 'Fight of the century' fails to inspire

After years of protracted and tempestuous negotiations, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather finally agreed to touch gloves in the biggest fight of the 21st century.

The contest did not match the hype surrounding it, however, Mayweather maintaining his unbeaten record in uninspiring fashion.

Pacquiao struggled to land punches on a defensive Mayweather, whose tactical acumen won the day in a fight some dubbed 'Better never than late' in the aftermath.

Mayweather followed up that win with a victory over Andre Berto in September, before coming out of retirement in 2017 to defeat UFC star Conor McGregor and improve to 50-0.

2016: Leicester achieve the impossible

The established order of the Premier League was upset in unbelievable fashion in 2015-16 as 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester City, having narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, clinched the title.

Tottenham had been the Foxes' closest challengers in a year where Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal all struggled for consistency, with Liverpool and Chelsea well off the pace.

However, it was Chelsea who ended Tottenham's hopes and ensured the trophy would head to the King Power Stadium.

Spurs needed to win at Stamford Bridge to keep their hopes alive and led 2-0 thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

But Gary Cahill pulled one back and Eden Hazard levelled matters seven minutes from time to spark delirious scenes among the Leicester players watching on TV.

It took a pandemic to stop the goals flowing from Lionel Messi, the brilliant Argentinian who first found the back of the net for Barcelona on May 1, 2005.

Fifteen years since that first strike, Messi has ploughed through the 600-goal mark for the Catalan giants, coincidentally reaching that landmark on May 1, 2019.

He was spending May 1 at home this year, along with every other footballer in LaLiga, which has been paused since March due to the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

To watch Messi in his pomp and assess the pick of his goals for Barcelona is a pick-me-up for any dark day, and here is a look at a chronological top 10 from the Argentinian's collection.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already seen one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

Malaga (H): March 22, 2009

Thierry Henry's favourite goal by Messi during their time playing together for Barca. Why not let the France great take up the story? "It defied logic what he did," Henry said in the 'Take the Ball, Pass the Ball' documentary. "There's a diagonal ball and he controls it on his chest. He runs full speed, then the first player goes and the second player is just behind. If he takes another step, that player will clear the ball." A shimmy of the body and deft touch later – in the blink of an eye – Messi stabbed into the top corner to conclude a moment of 100-miles-per-hour brilliance.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, this strike against Real Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in a goal that began when he won the ball from a tackle on halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

At the height of the Clasico rivalry between Guardiola's Barca and Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, the two teams met four times in three different competitions in less than a month. The league meeting ended in a draw and Madrid won the Copa del Rey final, but Barca triumphed in the Champions League semi-final with a 3-1 aggregate win. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, an ill-tempered affair to say the least, saw Messi make it 2-0 by bursting beyond four attempted challenges and slotting past Iker Casillas, all in the space of around five seconds.

Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

Barca would regain their LaLiga title from Real Madrid but were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern Munich when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly sidefooting home from just inside the penalty area.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Guardiola returned to Camp Nou with a Bayern Munich side struggling with injury problems. They kept Barca at bay until the 77th minute of this Champions League semi-final first leg, when Messi finally struck. It was his second goal that earns a place in this list, though: collecting Ivan Rakitic's pass, a simple-looking shimmy left Jerome Boateng on his backside before he chipped Manuel Neuer with his weaker foot.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Real Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in stoppage time gave Jordi Alba the chance to square to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Rarely has a hat-trick been completed in finer fashion. Messi's two goals had helped Barca to a 3-1 lead at the Benito Villamarin, before he passed to Rakitic, ran onto the return ball and sent a first-time chip over goalkeeper Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from just inside the box. It was a sublime effort that even had the home fans on the feet, applauding - something Messi himself admitted he has not experienced before.

Liverpool (H): May 1, 2019

Over the past few years, Messi has mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. Liverpool held their own for long periods at Camp Nou but goals from Luis Suarez and Messi gave the hosts breathing space. Jurgen Klopp's side then had to bow to greatness when, after being brought down by Fabinho, Barca's talisman swept an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top corner. Barcelona would incredibly blow their 3-0 first-leg advantage, however, losing 4-0 at Anfield as Liverpool reached the Champions League final.

Atletico Madrid (A): December 1, 2019

It was goalless in the 86th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano when Messi collected the ball on the right flank, 10 yards inside the Atletico half. Those famous feet began to shuffle with purpose, and although Atletico knew what Messi had in mind, they were powerless to resist the execution of his plan. Messi surged on, playing the ball to Luis Suarez on the edge of the penalty area before taking the return pass and cracking a brilliant 20-yard shot into the bottom left corner of Jan Oblak's goal. A winner, and one of the highest class.

Barcelona boss Quique Setien has claimed football was out of control before the global crisis - as he remained steadfast that Lionel Messi will extend his Camp Nou stay.

Many sports have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, with the multi-billion dollar football industry dealt a potentially ruinous blow as clubs and leagues face up to an existential threat.

While Setien remains certain at least one constant will remain, with Messi continuing his Barcelona career into 2020-21, he sees the wider game suffering and wonders if it should have been better prepared.

Asked whether any club could now afford a fee such as the €222million it took to buy Neymar out of his Barcelona contract two and a half years ago, Setien frowned at the prospect.

"No. I don't think there is anyone who can spend that much," he told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"And small clubs have water in their throats. Many companies lived on the limit and at the first serious jolt they went into crisis. Football lived at an uncontrolled pace."

Setien says there is a great need for football to return, but he harbours reservations about rushing back onto the field.

The Spanish season could resume in June, with clubs set to return to training this month.

"It is clear that everyone's desire is to start again, and we are preparing," Setien said.

"However, it is equally clear that the situation is not simple, and is made up of three elements: the heart, which pushes hard towards the field, health, which must remain the top priority, and the economy, because this crisis has hit hard.

"We are experiencing a dramatic moment and although we have a huge desire, even an extraordinary need to return to play, we want to do it only in complete safety. Ours and whoever is with us: warehouse workers, masseurs, employees..."

Setien has no doubt six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi will be along for the ride, for the rest of this season and into next term, discounting the possibility of a close-season departure.

Friday marked 15 years since Messi scored his first goal for Barcelona, and one year since he netted his 600th for the club.

It is said to be stipulated in Messi's contract that he can walk away on a free transfer at the end of each campaign, but there is such a tight bond between the Argentinian and the Catalan club that it seems unlikely.

Inter have been credited with an interest in Messi, but Setien is not concerned, even if there has been conflict between the club's star man and senior management, most notably sporting director Eric Abidal, this season.

"No, because it won't happen," Setien said, when asked if he was worried. "Messi and Barcelona will always be united. It's just like that. Leo has been at Barca for 20 years and nobody could explain a breakdown situation.

"Certain things happen at such big clubs, it is normal that there are conflicts. But they get resolved. There is a great feeling in the relationship between Messi and Barcelona, ​​something that goes beyond money and interests.

"Everything must be done so that Messi is supported at his best so that Barcelona can continue to win as in the last 15 years."

Liverpool have reportedly set their sights on Kalidou Koulibaly, while the Premier League leaders could lose out to Manchester United on another target.

Koulibaly has regularly been linked with a move away from Napoli, where he has developed into one of the world's best defenders.

Could a Virgil van Dijk-Koulibaly central defensive pairing be on the cards at Anfield?

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL TARGET KOULIBALY

Liverpool are targeting Napoli defender Koulibaly and contacts have already been made, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

The parties are due to speak again in the coming weeks, according to the report, with Koulibaly's asking price likely to drop from €100million (£87.1m) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report also says Liverpool would likely sell defender Joel Matip if they landed Koulibaly.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another player Liverpool are linked to, Timo Werner, could head elsewhere. The Manchester Evening News reports the RB Leipzig forward is being considered by Manchester United.

- Manchester City will not give up on Milan Skriniar. CalcioMercato reports a €70m (£61m) offer could be enough for the Premier League giants to land the Inter defender.

- Amid debate about whether Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Sheffield United, could replace David de Gea as Manchester United's number one, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer apparently has no doubt. The Daily Star reports the United manager has told De Gea he will remain his first-choice goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.

- Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele has been linked with a move away. Sport reports Barcelona are continuing to track the France international, who was apparently a target for the LaLiga side while he was still at Lyon.

- Mohammed Salisu is drawing attention from several European clubs. Marca reports Atletico Madrid are in pole position to land the Real Valladolid and Ghana defender.

Inter are capable of signing Barcelona captain Lionel Messi thanks to vice-president Javier Zanetti, according to former assistant coach Jose Morais.

Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

Barca superstar Messi is contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021 but his future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

Morais knows Inter better than most, having served as Jose Mourinho's assistant during the Nerazzurri's treble-winning season in 2009-10.

Asked about the possibility of Messi swapping Barca for Inter, Morais – now head coach of K. League champions Jeonbuk Motors – highlighted the influence of the Argentina international's countryman Zanetti.

"You know what, I think it's possible," Morais, who led Jeonbuk to glory last season, told Stats Perform. "You know the reason why? Because they have Zanetti. Zanetti is like a tractor factor for Argentinian players.

"I think he is capable of attracting a player like Messi if he thinks about a different challenge. I think for an Argentinian player, it's almost to have a feeling like I'm going home, I'm going to Inter.

"My feeling is that Inter are welcoming in a special way and for Argentinian players, probably because of the presence of Zanetti. All of the Argentinians joining Inter are extraordinary players, they brought success to the club. I believe Messi can be one of these players."

While the possibility of Messi gracing the blue half of San Siro has excited fans, the prospect of star forward Lautaro Martinez leaving has dominated headlines.

Martinez has been heavily linked with Barca, who are reportedly determined to sign Messi's international compatriot as a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

Also linked to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Premier League powerhouse Manchester City, Martinez had scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions before the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a standstill.

Morais said: "I remember players myself, at certain moments of a career there was a player who decided to go to Barcelona because he thought maybe I could win the Champions League. He was a fantastic player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He went to Barca. I believe that it can happen with any other player. But I think as a professional if you want to have a career, Inter are definitely a fantastic club to stay and make a career.

"I don't know what's going on in the head of a player, if a club like Madrid or Barca, with the impact they have, if it is possible to buy a player from Inter – it's possible. I don't know the conditions of the contract, but it can make the deal possible or not possible. If we speak about Neymar, he wants to leave from Paris Saint-Germain but the price is just too high for clubs to pay. It is not easy to leave.

"If the coronavirus situation will help the player, it's about the contract. I believe the situation in Spain is not too different from Italy at the moment. I don't think this will be a factor for the player to say I will leave Italy to go to Spain. It will be about the vision of his future and goals he has in his career. I hope for Inter they will keep Lautaro Martinez because he makes a difference. You need these kinds of players to win the league."

Morais enjoyed great success alongside Mourinho at Inter, winning the Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia in 2009-10 but the Italian club have struggled to reach those lofty heights since the Portuguese's departure.

However, Inter – with Steven Zhang and Suning Holdings Group in charge – have made progress, luring former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to Milan, while investing heavily in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi, Diego Godin and Ashley Young.

Inter made a fast start to 2019-20 but fell away prior to the COVID-19 crisis, sitting third and nine points adrift of defending champions Juve at the time of Serie A's postponement in March.

"I believe in the club, in the people who are working there. In Italy, I'm Interista. As Interista, there is only one way to think – it's to believe that the club can, in any circumstance, be a competitor for the title," the 54-year-old Morais added.

"With the investment this season, it's possible. It's important to have stability, in terms of organisation, to succeed in the next years. Conte is a good coach. He has been winning titles. He did what he did with Juventus and Chelsea, and hopefully for Inter, he will also make them champions. This is my wish because I want the best for Inter in Italy."

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