Lionel Messi was hugged by a pitch invader following the final whistle in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, before the intruding fan was tackled to the ground.

Angel Correa's late strike earned a dramatic 3-2 victory for Atleti in Saudi Arabia, teeing up a final against city rivals Real Madrid and adding more scrutiny to Barca boss Ernesto Valverde.

There was concern after full time, though, as Messi – who equalised for Barca following Koke's opener – was rushed by a spectator who had made their way onto the pitch.

The 32-year-old was in no way harmed, with the fan briefly hugging Messi before security personnel took him to the turf, with Barca's captain then making his way to the tunnel.

However, the incident will likely raise questions over the ease at which the spectator got onto the pitch and evaded security at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium – which also hosts Sunday's final – in order to reach Messi.

Ernesto Valverde admitted his future would come in for fresh scrutiny after Barcelona's dramatic defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final.

Goals from Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann looked set to send Barcelona into the final, as they recovered from conceding a Koke strike in the opening 20 seconds of the second half.

But Barcelona folded in the closing 10 minutes, and a penalty from Alvaro Morata was followed by a winner from Angel Correa as Atletico, second best for almost all of the match up to then, snatched a remarkable win.

It left Diego Simeone, Atletico's hard-taskmaster coach, jumping for joy on the touchline, while Valverde was left to reflect on a damaging defeat.

He has been repairing a reputation that took a battering with Barcelona's 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League semi-finals last term, when the Reds overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit.

But this meek surrender will not help, and Valverde said afterwards, when asked about his position: "We know what football is like and there is always instability when you lose. We will talk about this, it is inevitable.

"But I'll do my thing, which is coaching."

He added: "Of course, it was a match which we dominated. It seemed we had it in hand. It was a complete performance except in specific moments"

Valverde said Atletico throwing their quickest players forward in the closing stages "surprised" Barcelona.

"I don't think it was an accumulation of situations, but two actions that cost us dearly," he said.

He said it had been an "intense" match and that Barcelona's two disallowed goals in the second half, both after VAR reviews, had given Atletico the lifeline upon which they capitalised.

Simeone sent on Marcos Llorente for the final 18 minutes and felt he made a difference in midfield.

"From there the team looked better. It seemed that if we equalised we would win," Simeone said.

"With the best teams like Barca, Madrid, [Manchester] City ... they are on a higher level and we have to be patient. We have to play a final now."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta admitted signing Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal in January is a goal for the Serie A club.

Vidal, 32, has been heavily linked with a move to Inter after just four LaLiga starts this season, although he has made another 11 appearances off the bench.

Marotta said signing the Chile international, who won three straight Serie A titles playing for Juventus under now-Inter coach Antonio Conte, was a priority.

"Vidal? It is one of Inter's objectives," he told reporters on Thursday.

"In this month, the most important things close at the end of January. We are working to raise the quality level of our group.

"You need to hit important goals and this means having great difficulties."

Almost halfway through the Serie A season, Inter are top of the table, but level on points with Juve.

Vidal is just one of several possible moves for Inter, who are linked to Manchester United's Ashley Young and could sell Matteo Politano to rivals Milan.

"At the moment there are many rumours," Marotta said.

"It is needless to [present] me this or that name. We are operational."

Inter host Atalanta in Serie A action on Saturday.

Angel Correa stunned Barcelona with a late winner as Atletico Madrid snatched an improbable 3-2 semi-final victory in the Supercopa de Espana.

Barcelona had 75 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and looked set to ease to victory once they got over the shock of shipping a goal to substitute Koke after 20 seconds of the second half.

Lionel Messi equalised, Antoine Griezmann headed Barcelona ahead against his former club, and Messi and Gerard Pique both had goals disallowed by VAR for marginal offside decisions.

But against the momentum, which suggested a Barcelona landslide, Atletico equalised when Vitolo was hacked down by Neto and Alvaro Morata fired home the ensuing 81st-minute penalty.

Atletico wanted a second penalty moments later when Pique handballed, but their frustration at not getting that decision was forgotten when Morata slipped Correa through and the Argentinian forward fired home the fifth and final goal of a remarkable game.

Now Real Madrid stand between Atletico and the Supercopa trophy, with the final on Sunday at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

Andres Iniesta believes Barcelona would not regret bringing Neymar back from Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazil star Neymar has been repeatedly linked with a Camp Nou return over the past six months, with PSG digging in during the Ligue 1 close season to ensure he stayed in Paris.

An astonishing move to the French giants in August 2017 saw Neymar bought out of his Barcelona contract for a world-record €222million, and PSG hoped he would lead them to Champions League glory.

Only this week, Neymar said he felt the longed-for European glory remained a possibility this season, and he has seen off much of the hostility from Parisian supporters that followed several months of appearing to agitate for a return to Barca.

Yet as PSG bid to scoop a third successive Ligue 1 title and brace for a Champions League last-16 clash with Borussia Dortmund, rumours linking Neymar to the Blaugrana continue to linger.

Iniesta was a team-mate of Neymar's at Barcelona. Now a Vissel Kobe player, the Spain great has no doubt Neymar would slot back in and make a big contribution if a return could be negotiated.

"He's one of the best forwards out there, not just now," Iniesta said, quoted in Marca.

"He'd be a great signing for Barcelona. Another thing is whether it's necessary or not. For me, he's one of the best and he'd be a great signing."

Barcelona have a strong array of attacking talent, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann leading the line in Thursday's Supercopa clash against Atletico Madrid.

Messi and Suarez are both 32, however, and eventually Barcelona will need a succession plan when it comes to their vaunted attack. Neymar does not turn 28 until next month.

Iniesta remains in awe of Messi's achievements, though, saying of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner: "He keeps outdoing himself, beating records; he's more important than ever.

"It's the best news for Barcelona that he's like this. I hope that he can achieve the objectives that he has this season."

Barcelona midfielder Carles Alena has suggested he would be open to joining Real Madrid.

The 22-year-old agreed a deal last month to move to Real Betis for the rest of the season, having struggled for regular football under Ernesto Valverde at Camp Nou.

Alena will return to Barca at the end of 2019-20 but his long-term future remains in doubt.

And, while he accepts it would be a difficult decision to make, the player has refused to discount the idea of moving to arch-rivals Madrid.

"Football has many turns," he told Cadena SER when asked if he would ever play for Los Blancos. I've been a Barca fan all my life. It would be tough, but they've always taught me 'never say never'. But, for me, they are a rival team."

Alena started the LaLiga defeat to Athletic Bilbao on the opening day of the LaLiga season and played just four more times for Barca before joining Betis.

However, despite being frustrated with his lack of game time, he insists there is no bad blood with Barca boss Valverde.

"He never told me why he didn't call me up," Alena said. "But I had a very good relationship because of everything he has done for me. I hope that we meet in the future.

"I called him to say goodbye. He knew that I wanted to go. At the start of December, I was pretty sure. He knew that my decision was almost taken.

"They were complicated months, but in no moment was there a bad relationship with the coach. He decided that and he rules. I tried to get back as soon as possible, and it took a few months. It surprises you, annoys you and p***** you off a bit."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he is not thinking about Arturo Vidal leaving the LaLiga champions amid links to Inter and Manchester United.

Vidal has slipped down the pecking order since Frenkie de Jong's arrival from Ajax, prompting speculation over his future at Camp Nou, where he has only started four LaLiga matches this season.

The 32-year-old Vidal has been heavily linked to a reunion with former Juventus head coach Antonio Conte at Serie A side Inter, while struggling Premier League giants United are reportedly interested.

Valverde addressed the rumours ahead of Thursday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Atletico Madrid in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"We're not thinking about him going to another team," Valverde told a news conference. "We'll see tomorrow [Thursday]. In principle he's with us. No clues."

Pressed on reported interest from England and Italy, Valverde replied: "Arturo Vidal plays for us and tomorrow he'll be on the pitch or on the bench.

"We don't pay any attention to other clubs being interested in our players."

Vidal swapped Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Barcelona in 2018 and the Chilean has since won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana.

He has scored six LaLiga goals in 15 matches this season, while the veteran has amassed 20 appearances across all competitions.

Diego Simeone says every player needs a different amount of time to adapt to the "feeling" of playing for Atletico Madrid, amid continued struggles for his record signing Joao Felix.

Joao Felix, a €126million addition from Benfica in July, has scored just twice in 15 LaLiga appearances, adding a solitary assist.

The Portugal international has gone 659 minutes in the top-flight without scoring a goal or providing an assist and, ahead of Thursday's Supercopa de Espana against Barcelona in Saudi Arabia, Simeone was asked about the 20-year-old.

"Each player has a different personality, every player needs a different amount of time," Simeone told reporters, preferring to answer generally than discuss Joao Felix at length.

"We try to succeed in getting each one of [the new players] to experience Atletico with enthusiasm and emotion, because apart from their talent they need commitment.

"When the feeling of playing for Atletico appears, things come naturally to everyone, just like [Stefan] Savic when he arrived and Koke.

"I don't speak of names, but of the way of living the football that we have had [at Atletico Madrid] for a long time."

Joao Felix's struggles aside, Atletico come into the game in good form after recording four consecutive victories.

However, they have not beaten Barcelona in nine attempts across all competitions.

Simeone added: "We know the rival's virtues, as they have always had them. Their attacking play and players' individual moves end up breaking any collective work of their opponent.

"We go into the game with good momentum, with things to improve. Playing against the best in the world makes you stronger because you have to turn on the alarms from the start and the team grows and improves.

"It will be different from the league games because there is a direct elimination and only one result, which is to win.

"We understand it as an opportunity to continue growing as a club and team and to make our fans excited."

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is yet to be convinced by the changes made to the Supercopa de Espana, conceding he prefers the previous format.

The Supercopa de Espana was traditionally a two-legged affair played between the winners of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey at the beginning of the season, but following last term's one-off meeting between Barca and Sevilla in Tangier, Morocco, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) went ahead with a full revamp.

Instead of just two teams being involved, the Supercopa has been expanded to also include the runners-up from LaLiga and the Copa – meaning Barca and Valencia are joined by Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. It is also set to be hosted in Saudi Arabia for the next three editions.

Many have criticised RFEF's decision to take the competition to Saudi Arabia and Valverde suggested he favours the old format.

"It is a different format than we are used to," Valverde said ahead of Barca's semi-final against Atletico on Thursday.

"It's a final match and we approach it as a league game, knowing that we are looking for victory and we know how difficult it is to play against Atleti.

"We already saw it in the league, which we solved in the end. If they [the authorities] give me a choice, I prefer the previous format.

"It has always been the first title of the season, the game that opens the season, and I thought it was good. The Supercopa format has been changed and we will see how it is.

"We must bear in mind that the football we are involved in is an industry, sources of income are sought and in the same way that there are special connotations in this country, there are also in Morocco, where we played last year."

Barca's preparations for Thursday's match have not gone particularly well, however, as Wednesday's news conference was delayed significantly after their team bus got lost in Jeddah.

Valverde was due to speak at Al-Ittihad Sport City, but their driver set off for the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, where the two semi-finals – the first of which is set for Wednesday – will take place.

Their bus then became lost in traffic between the two venues, which are approximately 40 miles apart.

Barcelona's preparations for their Supercopa de Espana semi-final with Atletico Madrid hit an unfortunate snag on Wednesday when their team bus was lost in Jeddah.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde and midfielder Sergio Busquets were due to speak to the media at 1745 local time (1445 GMT) at Al-Ittihad Sport City.

Barca, like Atletico, decided to hold training there because of concerns about the pitches at the Al Ahli complex.

To confuse matters further, the team bus driver set off on Wednesday for the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, where the two semi-finals are to be played, rather than the Al-Ittihad facilities.

The bus then became lost in a maze of traffic in the 40 miles between the two venues. Suffice it to say that Barca were forced to delay the news conference until after training.

"We certainly know the city a bit better now," said Valverde a little later. "There was a little mistake. We went to the stadium where Real Madrid and Valencia play tonight. He realised before we arrived but then there was some traffic, so we were late."

With concern over a lack of tickets sold and players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ousmane Dembele, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all absent, the inaugural expanded Supercopa could do without any further problems.

The first semi-final between Valencia and Real Madrid takes place on Wednesday, with Barca and Atleti meeting a day later.

Lionel Messi will draw the crowds in their droves despite fears over ticket sales for the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia, insists Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Reports suggest a fraction of the tickets allocated to the four competing clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Atletico Madrid and Valencia – have been sold ahead of the opening game on Wednesday.

The first fixture sees Valencia face Zinedine Zidane's side, with Barcelona taking on Atletico in the second semi-final on Thursday.

And Pizzi, who played for Barcelona between 1996-98 and recently had a spell in charge of the Saudi Arabia national team, is confident the venues will be full for all of the matches.

"I have no doubt," he told Marca.

"They're aware of how much it means to have the four best teams in Spain and four of the best in the world. It's exceptional for them, like a party.

"Also, you have to keep in mind Messi is there, who's a person they admire and recognise, so seeing him on the pitch will be a big deal for them.

"They fill grounds and love the sport. The level isn't like Europe yet, and they know that, but that's why they're investing so much and it's why they follow European football so much.

"Every weekend they watch LaLiga, the Premier League and even the Bundesliga."

Pizzi, who won a top-flight title with Barca in 1998, said his old club have to be considered favourites but warned of the threat Diego Simeone's men will carry.

"Barcelona are a favourite in every competition they play," he said. "But it's one match, so anything can happen. Atletico are a very strong team, too, and they're hard to score against. It's an attractive semi-final."

With Manchester City's Premier League title defence in tatters and a mounting injury list in defence, Pep Guardiola's side need reinforcements.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have been struck down by injuries this season, leaving City with limited options in defence.

As Liverpool run away with the title, City are eyeing an Inter star to rebuild their central defence.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGETING SKRINIAR

Manchester City have set their sights on Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to The Mirror.

Premier League champions City have struggled with injuries in defence this season as rivals Liverpool charge towards the title.

City are reportedly ready to buy in January and Skriniar – also a target for LaLiga champions Barcelona and Real Madrid – is on the list.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic says MLS outfit DC United want to sign Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric after Wayne Rooney's exit.

Juventus are "still hopeful" of signing Paris Saint-Germain loanee Mauro Icardi, reports Calciomercato. Icardi left Inter for PSG at the start of the season, having been linked to Juve and Napoli.

- Sky Sports claims Manchester United are interested in Leicester City star James Maddison, but are aware a January transfer will be difficult. Sky Sports also says the Red Devils are chasing Lille's Boubakary Soumare, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Madrid and Valencia.

Mario Gotze will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, according to Bild. Gotze's contract is set to expire and he has been unable to agree a new deal.

- TZ says Bayern Munich are interested in Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo, with the Bundesliga champions distancing themselves from RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann.

Wolves star Adama Traore is reportedly attracting interest from Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City.

Traore, formerly of Barcelona, has continued to impress this season, helping Wolves sit seventh in the Premier League.

Now, the former Spain youth international is reportedly being targeted by three of Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, BARCELONA & MAN CITY EYE TRAORE

Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City are interested in signing Traore, according to 90min.

Traore has scored four goals and provided four assists in the Premier League this season.

The report says Wolves want at least £70million for Traore.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dani Olmo is expected to leave Dinamo Zagreb and is being eyed by several European giants. Goal reports Barcelona lead Chelsea and Manchester United in the race for the 21-year-old Spain international.

- Arturo Vidal is linked with a move to Inter, but he may be going nowhere. The cover of Sport reads 'You stay', with the report saying Barcelona have told the midfielder he will remain with the LaLiga giants due to his importance to the club.

- Chelsea have identified their top January transfer target. The Daily Express reports the Premier League side want Inter forward Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa this month to ease the pressure on Tammy Abraham.

- Inter are considering reinforcements on the left-hand side. CalcioMercato says Chelsea's Marcos Alonso and Parma's Matteo Darmian are both being considered by the Serie A high-flyers.

- It seems Edinson Cavani's time at Paris Saint-Germain is just about over. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Atletico Madrid and Cavani have an agreement in place and the LaLiga club want the forward to arrive in January.

- Wojciech Szczesny is set to extend his stay at Juventus. The goalkeeper will re-sign with the Serie A giants until 2024, according to CalcioMercato.

Another day, another Paul Pogba story.

The Manchester United star continues to be linked with a move away from Old Trafford.

Inter have reportedly emerged as a possible destination for Pogba, though United want a player in return…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT MARTINEZ IN POGBA DEAL

Manchester United want to swap midfielder Paul Pogba for Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to The Mirror.

Pogba has been linked with a return to Serie A champions Juventus and LaLiga giants Real Madrid as his future dominates headlines.

But a reunion with former Juve boss Antonio Conte at Inter could be in the pipeline. However, the Italian club might have to part with Barcelona target Martinez to prise Pogba to Milan.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror also claims United have set their sights on Wolves forward Raul Jimenez after missing out on Erling Haaland, who opted to swap Salzburg for Borussia Dortmund.

- It comes as the Mirror says United are set to offer cash plus Jesse Lingard for Leicester City star James Maddison. The Sun, meanwhile, claims United want Toni Kroos in return if Pogba heads to Madrid.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo is on his way to join Milan, with the LaLiga champions keen to agree a loan deal with a counter-option should they wish to recall him. Meanwhile, the Gazzetta dello Sport says Atalanta want to re-sign Milan centre-back Mattia Caldara.

- The Daily Express reports West Ham have emerged as shock contenders to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. The star defender has been linked to United and Manchester City.

- Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa has said goodbye to Flamengo supporters via social media, prompting speculation in The Sun that the Inter-owned striker is on his way to either Chelsea or West Ham.

Chris Smalling is keen to secure a permanent deal at Roma and is ready to snub United should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempt to persuade him to return to Old Trafford, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

- The Mirror says Carlo Ancelotti's Everton are eyeing a loan move for Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez.

Ernesto Valverde said Frenkie de Jong's sending-off hurt Barcelona at a crucial moment in their 2-2 derby draw with Espanyol and noted his side's difficulties in killing off games.

The Blaugrana came from a goal down at RCDE Stadium to lead 2-1 thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal but De Jong was shown a second yellow card 15 minutes from time.

It was the midfielder's first career red card in league football and preceded an Espanyol fightback in which Wu Lei scored a deserved equaliser to earn LaLiga's bottom club a share of the points.

Valverde, whose side have won just one of their past four top-flight matches, called for his side to battle for victories.

"We have to fight in every match," Valverde told reporters.

"We started badly, we managed to come back but unfortunately we went down to 10. They pressed and equalised.

"Frenkie's dismissal did us a lot of damage. We were unable to score a third. This is football.

"It was a very competitive game, a derby with a lot of tension and emotion. If you're winning and the opponent equalises, you leave with the impression of having lost two points."

Barca have made a habit of coming from behind in recent away games, doing so in their 2-1 victory at Leganes and their 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad.

Valverde acknowledged his players are capable of digging their way out of difficult situations but thinks they have struggled to go for the jugular when it matters.

"In a lot of games, we cash in first," he said.

"We managed to take the lead in four away games, whereas in other games we managed to come from behind.

"We have a reaction capacity, but we are not always able to kill the match. The sending-off affected the match."

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