Ronald Koeman claimed it will make no difference to Lionel Messi's Barcelona future if Mauricio Pochettino takes over at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou ever since he expressed a desire to leave the club in August 2020, only to decide to stay until at least the end of this season when his contract expires, having been unable to force a transfer.

In a recent interview with Spanish television channel La Sexta the Argentina forward said he "did not know" what he was going to do but suggested he would like to play in the United States at some point.

With former Tottenham boss and compatriot Pochettino heavily tipped to become the new coach at PSG it has been suggested Messi and the Ligue 1 club could be a good fit, particularly with Neymar keen to reunite with his old team-mate.

But Barcelona head coach Koeman does not think there is an automatic correlation between the two.

"I do not know if it is true about Pochettino to PSG," Koeman told a media conference on Monday. "If Messi decides his future, it will not depend on a coach.

"I did not see the [Messi] interview live, but I have seen it. I have always been calm with Messi and I will not be calmer because he said that he will decide at the end of the season.

"We'll see what can happen. I appreciate Messi's words because he is a very important player for the club and for football. 

"Anyone likes to speak well of oneself. I'm still the same. I try to move the team forward, it is a year of transition and Messi is key to this process."

Barca are enduring a difficult season in LaLiga and are in fifth spot, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi will miss his side's LaLiga clash with Eibar on Tuesday while he completes treatment on an ankle injury but Koeman expects him to return from a Christmas break as planned before they face Huesca on January 3.

"Leo had ankle discomfort, that's why we have given him two more days of vacation," Koeman explained. "The doctor has said that after a week without training he will be fine.

"Not having a Messi is big loss due to his quality and effectiveness. We lose a great player."

The Blaugrana are boosted by the return of Ousmane Dembele following the French forward's troubles with a hamstring injury, as Koeman defended his decision to give players more rest time over the festive period.

Koeman added: "Dembele is fine, he has been training with the team for days. In principle he will be called up [to the squad].

"We have three training sessions before Eibar. Sometimes a break is a training session for a player. In such a tight schedule you have to let the players rest. It is no problem that they have four days off."

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi said Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo stands out in football.

Messi and Ronaldo have dominated football for more than a decade, with the pair winning 11 Ballon d'Or awards between them as debate rages over who is the game's greatest player.

Ronaldo – Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer – has won five Champions League titles, three Premier League trophies, two Serie A crowns and as many LaLiga honours among other silverware throughout his career.

Messi likened five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

"There are many admirable athletes. Rafa Nadal, Federer, LeBron - in all sports there is always someone who stands out and is admirable for his work," six-time Ballon d'Or winner and Barca's all-time leading scorer Messi told La Sexta.

"Cristiano stands out in football. There are many who stand out and always do their best."

Messi has won 33 trophies for Barca since debuting for the Spanish giants in 2004.

The 33-year-old – tipped to leave Camp Nou at the end of the season – has won four Champions League titles and 10 LaLiga trophies.

Messi set a new one-club goals record after netting for the 644th time, surpassing Pele's haul in a 3-0 LaLiga victory at Real Valladolid.

The Argentina skipper's 644 goals have come across 17 seasons and 749 games for Barca.

Messi's effort against Valencia on December 19 made him the first player to reach the 450 milestone for a single club in any of Europe's top five leagues.

Lionel Messi has been encouraged by Ronald Koeman's impact since becoming Barcelona coach but feels the club is so financially crippled that "it will be difficult to get back where it was".

Messi was speaking to La Sexta in one of his first interviews since telling the club of his desire to leave in August. 

Barca stood firm back then, refusing to allow him to depart despite Messi insisting the get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian ultimately opted against pursuing the matter any further. 

Although he stayed put, Messi's future and mindset have been constant sources of debate in the four months since. 

The highly publicised interview, which aired in full on Sunday, saw Messi vow not to decide on his future until the end of the season despite being able to discuss a free transfer with another club in less than a week. 

And while there are plenty of fans unimpressed by Koeman's start with the club - they sit fifth after 14 games - Messi was complimentary about the Dutchman. 

"I think that with Ronald Koeman, he has projected a seriousness and an idea of what he wants for his team and what he wants for the club," Messi said. 

"I think that it was a great success and that he is doing things very well. At the beginning it was difficult because there were a lot of new people, a lot of young players, but little by little the team is growing." 

One aspect that some believe could count in Barca's favour with respect to Messi's future is the fact a new president will be in place by the end of January, with Joan Laporta the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu and take charge for a second time. 

But Messi certainly does not envy anyone stepping into such a position, given the state of Barca financially, and suggested fans should not get their hopes up about the prospect of Neymar returning. 

"For this [the club's finances] it is a difficult time for the club, as it is everyone," he continued. "But from what we know, the club is really bad [financially] – very bad. It will be difficult to get back where it was.

"It won't be easy for the new president because they will find a very difficult situation at the club. It won't be easy to turn it around. 

"I hope whoever wins [the election] does things well to put this great club where it deserves to be - and where it isn't at the moment. 

"It will also be difficult to bring players because we need money and there is no money. There are several important players [required] to fight again for everything, and those players you have to pay them big money. 

"I was laughing because you said Neymar must be very expensive. And how do you pay PSG for that transfer?" 

Messi then also hit out once again at Barca's "crazy" decision to let Luis Suarez leave to Atletico Madrid, whom he has helped to the top of LaLiga. 

"I had already decided [I wanted to leave] before that," Messi mused.

"But it did seem crazy to me what they did with Luis, speaking in the specific case of Luis, because of how things were done, because of how he left, and because he left for free, paying him for the remaining years of his contract and giving him to a team that was going to fight for the same titles as us."

Lionel Messi has vowed to ignore the advances of other clubs until at least the end of the season despite becoming eligible for a free transfer in a matter of days.

Messi's contract with Barcelona expires on June 30, meaning he is legally able to discuss a future free transfer with another club from six months before that date.

The 33-year-old Barca captain and talisman attempted to force a move away from Barca in August after the Blaugrana surrendered the league title to Real Madrid and lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Barca stood firm and refused to let him depart despite Messi being adamant a get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian opting against dragging the club through the courts.

He is now the master of his own destiny as Barca's contractual hold on him will diminish once he enters the final six months of his agreement, with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City expected to fight it out for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

But Messi reassured Barca fans he will wait until the conclusion of the season before making any decisions, a potentially huge boost to the club given a new president will be in place by the end of January.

Speaking to La Sexta in a highly publicised interview on Sunday, when asked if he will start talking with new clubs next week, Messi said: "No, far from it. That would go against everything I've been saying.

"My plan is to give all I can for the club at the moment. Nothing is decided until the end of the season. Now I only think about finishing the season and winning titles.

"I know there are a lot of Barca people who still love me, but I'm going to do what is best for the club and for myself. Besides, I want to live in Barcelona and be in the club in some way when I retire.

"I don't know if I'm going to leave, but if I do, I would like to leave in the best way and be able to return to the club in the future. Barcelona is much bigger than any player.

"It's a love story from a very young age with the club and the city. Either way, everything that my career has meant should not be stained [by this saga]."

But while he offered no hints as to whether City or PSG were enticing options for him, Messi did reveal a desire to live on the other side of the Atlantic.

"I always had the dream of living in the United States, living this experience," he said. "Today I am focused on these six months, on fighting for what I can and not thinking about how the year will end because it wouldn't be good for me to say what I am going to do. I don't know either."

Santos have revealed an unexpected gripe with Lionel Messi being acclaimed for beating Pele's single-team goals record - claiming the Brazil great's friendly feats have been overlooked.

Barcelona captain Messi scored his 644th competitive goal for Barcelona in the 3-0 win over Real Valladolid on December 22.

That took him past the total of 643 that Pele scored in official games for Santos, and three-time World Cup winner Pele has been quick to praise the Argentine forward.

Yet Santos appear to believe that Pele's 448 goals in friendlies should carry equal weight, and that therefore the true leader in goals for one team remains their greatest player.

An article on the Santos website, attributed to club historian Fernando Ribeiro, carries the headline, 'King Pele - 1,091 goals for Santos FC'.

The piece states: "In the last few days, much has been said in the press and on social media about the number of goals scored by Pele with the Santos shirt.

"According to some statisticians, Argentine Lionel Messi (Barcelona) became the player with the most goals for the same club, reaching 644 goals for the Catalan club, excluding friendly matches - called by some as official goals."

Ribeiro acknowledges Pele's note of congratulations to Messi, but adds: "Part of the press reports the historic feat, reneging on the greatest of all records, the total goals in the clubs.

"Pele scored 1,091 goals for Santos. In the accounts of the specialised press, the King of Football scored 643 in competitions and the 448 goals scored in friendly matches and competitions were ostracised, as if they had less value than the others.

"The 448 goals that today they try to disqualify were scored against the main clubs and teams of the day. America (Mexico) and Colo Colo (Chile) each suffered nine goals from Pele.

"Internazionale Milan, one of the main teams in Europe in the 1960s, suffered eight more goals from the King."

The historian points out a string of sides that Pele scored against in friendly games, adding: "Barcelona themselves, where Messi now plays, were also a victim of Pele: four goals, scored in four matches."

Pele's extraordinary four-figure goalscoring haul has been the subject of debate in the decades since he was an active player, with some arguing several of the opposition teams were lightweight.

The 80-year-old Pele posted a note on Twitter on Sunday that appeared to be a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, where he wrote: "We are reaching the end of this great and tiring game. We will come out winners. And we will embrace at the end!"

Even such a warm, positive message did not mean Pele was spared a jibe from one social media critic, clearly a sceptic of his career record, who replied: "How many goals you scored against your nephew in the garden this weekend?"

Lionel Messi will complete a course of treatment on an ankle injury before returning to Barcelona training ahead of next week's game with Huesca.

The club had already confirmed the captain had been granted an extended Christmas break, with Messi having gone to Rosario in Argentina to spend time off with his family.

It means the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will miss the LaLiga match with Eibar on Tuesday.

Barca later announced Messi is due to finish treatment on his right ankle and is expected to return to training before they face Huesca on January 3.

After a difficult start to the season following his failed attempt to leave the club, Messi has recovered some form, scoring six of his seven league goals in 2020-21 in his most recent eight appearances.

Barca are fifth in LaLiga, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's clash with Eibar on Tuesday after being granted an extended Christmas break.

The club captain and his family went to Rosario for the festive period and he is not expected to be back in Catalonia until the new year, ahead of the LaLiga match against Huesca on January 3.

Barca returned to training on Sunday after being given four days off following a 3-0 victory at Real Valladolid.

The club confirmed Messi is expected to be back at the Camp Tito Vilanova facilities after the league meeting with Jose Luis Mendilibar's men at Camp Nou.

According to Sport, head coach Ronald Koeman granted Messi permission to spend longer in Argentina as he looks to keep the six-time Ballon d'Or winner fully fit and firing.

After a difficult start to the season following his failed attempt to leave the club, Messi has recovered some form, scoring six of his seven league goals in 2020-21 in his most recent eight appearances.

Barca are fifth in LaLiga, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

Lionel Messi has highlighted Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique as the best coaches he has worked under at Barcelona.

Guardiola coached Messi between 2008 and 2012, with Barca winning 14 trophies during his tenure at Camp Nou.

Tito Vilanova took over when Guardiola left and guided Barca to a LaLiga title in 2012-13, though he left the post due to ill health and subsequently died of cancer within a year.

After Gerardo Martino's brief spell in charge, former Barca attacker Luis Enrique took charge in 2014 and enjoyed three trophy-laden years as Blaugrana boss.

Luis Enrique guided Barca to two LaLiga titles, three successive Copa del Rey triumphs and the 2014-15 Champions League.

In 105 league appearances under Luis Enrique, Messi netted 106 goals – scoring every 84.29 minutes on average – provided 43 assists and created a total of 251 chances.

Now boss of Spain, Luis Enrique left Barca when his contract expired after three years, and Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien both failed to achieve the same level of success, while Ronald Koeman has endured a difficult start.

In an interview with Sexta which is to be broadcast on December 27, Messi claimed Guardiola and Luis Enrique are the very best he has worked with.

"Pep has something special, he makes you see things in a way," six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi said.

"How he prepared the matches, defensively, how to attack, he told you exactly where the game was, how you had to attack to win.

"I was lucky that I had a lot of time with Guardiola and Luis Enrique, the two best. Having them [for so long] made me grow a lot in football and in the tactical wisdom that they taught me."

Messi led Barca to a 3-0 victory over Real Valladolid on Tuesday, surpassing Pele's record of 643 goals for one club side in the process.

It has been a year like no other, but football eventually managed to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic and give fans across the world something positive to focus on.

Ligue 1 was curtailed and a streamlined version of the Champions League knockout rounds took place in Lisbon in August, before a new season got under way.

There have still been plenty of performances to savour, though, and Stats Perform News has used Opta data to calculate a Team of the Year from the top five European leagues.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi made the grade in 2020 but the same could not be said of Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe earned a spot that his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar could not.

Supporters of Premier League clubs may not be rejoicing about the selections, which were made based solely on data.

 

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico lead the way in LaLiga on goal difference and have two games in hand on nearest rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone's side owe much of their success to Oblak, who has kept 17 clean sheets in 33 LaLiga appearances this year – the most of any keeper in the division during the same period.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)

Juve won a ninth straight Scudetto this year and Cuadrado has played an important role throughout 2020, creating 45 chances (including seven assists) for the Bianconeri in Serie A – only Paulo Dybala (56) supplied more key passes for the club.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Bayern Munich may be the dominant force in the Bundesliga, but Hummels has continued to show his worth since returning to Dortmund. He made the most interceptions (57) and completed the most passes (2,056) of any Bundesliga defender in 2020.

Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

France international Upamecano is one of the hottest properties in European football and has been linked with a host of elite clubs. He shows great coolness in possession – as evidenced by him completing 24 of the 33 dribbles he attempted for a success rate of 73 per cent, the best of any Bundesliga defender to try at least 30.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez (Milan)

While Upamecano has established himself with Les Bleus, Hernandez's continued absence from the France set-up despite stellar showings for a resurgent Milan remains a source of much debate. The Rossoneri will end the year top of Serie A and Hernandez has been directly involved in 102 shots (46 chances created, 56 attempts on goal) in the league in 2020. That is more than any other defender in the same period.

Centre midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Kimmich's looping goal against Dortmund at the back end of last season was pivotal to Bayern retaining their German league title, which came as part of a treble. It has been the Germany international's distribution that has stood out this year, though. He completed an average of 75 passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga in 2020, the most of any midfielder in the competition to feature for at least 1,000 minutes.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Madrid regained the title in LaLiga in 2020, with Kroos a central figure in Zinedine Zidane's midfield. Of all players who attempted at least 1,000 passes in the opposition half in the Spanish top flight this year, Kroos was the only one who had a completion rate higher than 90 per cent.

Right wing: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

This year may have proved to be terminal to Messi's tight relationship with Barcelona, and while he was not quite up to his previous goalscoring exploits he still proved massively influential in the final third. He was the only player in LaLiga in 2020 to both score at least 15 goals and register as many assists.

Attacking midfield: Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

His time with Atalanta may seemingly be coming to an end after a falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Gomez has been one of the club's most important players. He had more assists (12) and created more chances (81) in Serie A this year than any of his team-mates.

Left wing: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG were crowned Ligue 1 champions despite the season being cut short in April, meaning they have played just 26 games this year. Mbappe only featured in 21 of those, but he was still directly involved in 24 goals (19 scored, five assisted) which was more than any other player in the competition in 2020.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was no surprise to see Lewandowski named The Best FIFA Men's Player after an incredible campaign with Bayern. He scored 32 Bundesliga goals in 26 appearances this year and only five of them were spot-kicks. His tally of 27 non-penalty goals was the most of any player in the top five European leagues.

Lionel Messi has hailed Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak as "one of the best goalkeepers in the world" and admits he loves the challenge of trying to beat him.

Oblak became the most expensive goalkeeper to join a Spanish top-flight side when he moved to Atleti from Benfica for €16million in 2014.

He has consistently been one of Los Rojiblancos' best performers since then and has started the 2020-21 campaign in typically outstanding form.

The Slovenia international has kept a clean sheet in nine of his 13 LaLiga appearances to help Atleti sit atop LaLiga ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who have the same number of points but have played two games more.

He has conceded the fewest amount of goals in the league - just five - while only three goalkeepers have made more than his 39 saves.

That gives him a save percentage of 88.1 per cent, comfortably ahead of Yassine Bounou in second place, the Sevilla stopper saving just shy of 80 per cent of the shots he has faced.

Oblak made four saves when Atleti edged past Barca 1-0 last month, with Messi unable to find a way through on that occasion.

"It's nice to face one another," Argentine superstar Messi told Bud Football. "He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment, and it's always good to fight against the best ones.

"It's an extra motivation to be able to, or to try to, score a goal, with what it means and how hard it is, as he proves in every game he plays.

"So, it's nice to see him outside but also face him in the games. It makes them more exciting."

Barca are next in action against Eibar on Tuesday, while Diego Simeone's side take on Getafe a day later.

Ronald Koeman admits Barcelona cannot "settle for anything less" than first place in LaLiga and insisted Lionel Messi is up for the challenge.

A sloppy start to the campaign has left Barcelona with a great deal of ground to make up on the likes of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid over the coming months, after losing four of their opening 14 league games.

However, by taking 10 points from a possible 12 over the course of their last four games, there is a hint of a meaningful revival from Koeman's team.

Even with the season disrupted by the pandemic, and with the distraction of club elections only likely to grow across the next month, Koeman knows there will be no viable excuse for failure.

"At a club like Barca you have to win things. I think our ultimate purpose is to win games and trophies. You get no prizes for finishing fourth, you need to be first," Koeman said.

"That’s the mentality that this team must have, we can't settle for anything less. We know that this is a season with a lot of changes, the club are in a difficult financial situation, with issues regarding the players' salaries.

"This is a very delicate situation for football clubs because of COVID. But Barcelona are still a team that need to win, with the awareness that changes need to be made, but still aspiring to the highest level and making the biggest demands."

They sit fifth for now, after a 3-0 win at Real Valladolid on Tuesday, where Messi added the finishing touch with his 644th goal for Barcelona – breaking the single-club goals record held by Pele for almost half a century after his feats with Santos.

Messi's commitment has been questioned in some quarters this season after his attempt to force an exit from the club before the campaign got under way.

But Koeman says the 33-year-old Argentinian is determined to be instrumental rather than peripheral.

"He trains hard every day. He's very engaged," Koeman told Barcelona's official website.

Koeman said Barcelona, like all teams, need "a certain amount of peace of mind in order to win things", and that may come after the elections to decide a new club president on January 24.

The Dutch coach, once a goal-scoring defender for Barcelona, was persuaded to leave the Netherlands national team job to take up his current Camp Nou role.

He accepted the offer because the Euro 2020 finals were postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the chance came in the wake of a health scare.

Koeman was admitted to hospital with chest pain in early May and now says that was a "small stroke".

Speaking about that worrying time, he said: "It does make you think about things differently. Perhaps managing Barca became a case of 'now or never'."

It may reach a point where Lionel Messi is going to need an encyclopedia to record his ever-growing list of achievements.

The Barcelona great's latest benchmark came as a result of his goal in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

That strike was Messi's 644th in all competitions for Barcelona, the most scored by any player for a single team.

He surpassed the previous record held by Brazil legend Pele, who netted 643 for Santos and enjoyed his most prolific year in 1958 when he scored an astonishing 66 goals.

To commemorate such an impressive achievement, we took a look at some of Messi's most impressive numbers with the help of Opta data.


A CLASS OF HIS OWN

In a little over 16 years in Barca's first team, Messi has raced streets ahead of the competition to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer with a whopping 644 in total. Second on that list is Cesar Rodriguez with 232 goals.

Of Messi's haul, 451 goals have come in LaLiga, which means he also has the most in the history of Spain's top flight. Messi has 118 in the Champions League, 53 in the Copa del Rey, 14 in the Supercopa, three in the UEFA Super Cup and five in the Club World Cup.

His first Barcelona goal came against Albacete on May 1, 2005, with fellow superstar Ronaldinho setting him up.

The Argentina great enjoyed his most prolific campaign in the 2011-12 campaign, when he scored 73 goals across all competitions for Barcelona. There were an eye-watering 79 across the calendar year in 2012.

LOVE FOR PEP, TITO AND SEVILLA

It should come as little surprise that some of Messi's best returns in a Barca jersey came when playing in the golden era of Pep Guardiola.

In total, Messi had 211 goals and 79 assists in 219 games played under the now-Manchester City manager – an average of 0.96 goals per game.

He also excelled under Luis Enrique, winning the second of his career trebles. There were 153 goals, 66 assists and a goals-per-game ratio of 0.97 in that period.

But it was actually Tito Vilanova for whom Messi returned the best goals per game, a mind-boggling 1.2, having scored 60 in 50 appearances.

Many teams have conceded to Messi but none have picked the ball out of the net on more occasions against the Argentina great than Sevilla, who have done so 37 times.

Atletico Madrid are not far behind on 32, while Valencia have conceded 29 times to Messi and fierce rivals Real Madrid have done so on 26 occasions – making him the highest scorer in Clasico history.


LUCKLESS ALVES, SUAREZ AFFINITY AND GLORY AT THE BERNABEU

Not many goalkeepers can say they have got the better of Messi, and Diego Alves in particular has not enjoyed encounters against the mercurial forward.

Messi scored past the former Valencia stopper on 21 occasions, with Gorka Iraizoz next on the list - having shipped 18 to the Argentina captain. Iker Casillas and Andres Fernandez have been beaten 17 times.

At Barca, Messi has played alongside some of the best players of his, or indeed any, generation.

But no player has assisted Messi more than Luis Suarez, who has now left Barca for Atleti, with the Uruguay star setting up his former team-mate to score on 47 occasions.

Dani Alves ranks second on 42 assists for Messi, with Andres Iniesta and Xavi laying on 37 and 31 goals respectively.

Camp Nou is of course the venue where Messi has scored the majority of his goals, but the Santiago Bernabeu is next highest, with the 33-year-old having celebrated 15 strikes there.

The Riazor is where Messi has his best goals-per-game ratio at 1.625, scoring 13 times in eight games played at the home of Deportivo La Coruna.

Erling Haaland is Chelsea's number one transfer target, while a pair of Premier League giants are lining up January bids for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has netted 23 goals in 23 games since moving to the Bundesliga in January, leading to him reportedly being installed as Frank Lampard's top target for the off-season.

Will Haaland make the move to Chelsea?


TOP STORIES – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland has been identified as Chelsea's top transfer target along with West Ham's Declan Rice, according to Sky Sports journalist Angelo Mangiante.

Haaland has been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

But Haaland is wanted in London as Chelsea prepare for a clear-out, with seven players being made available – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Victor Moses.

Ronald Koeman believes Lionel Messi is happy at Barcelona after another record-breaking performance by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi scored the third goal in a 3-0 LaLiga win over Real Valladolid on Tuesday – the superstar captain's 644th strike for Barca as he surpassed Pele for the all-time record amount of goals for a single club.

First-half goals from Clement Lenglet and Martin Braithwaite gave Barca a cushion at Estadio Jose Zorrilla before Messi overtook the record set by Pele during 18 years at Brazilian club Santos.

Although Messi expressed his desire to leave LaLiga giants Barca after 19 years during the off-season, Koeman believes his talisman is now happy.

"I've said it a lot," Barca head coach Koeman said. "I see Leo happy here.

"He's very important for us with his creativity.

"You can see that when there are good players alongside him."

Koeman switched to a three-man back line for the trip to Valladolid after Barca's defence were left exposed in the 2-2 draw against Valencia on Saturday.

Barca kept the hosts subdued until goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a double save in the 71st minute when the Catalans were holding a comfortable three-goal lead.

"We changed to improve the defence and the wings," Dutchman Koeman added.

"We've seen a very serious performance with good concentration and good chances created."

Pedri provided the delivery for Lenglet's opener and claimed his second assist with return pass to Messi, as Koeman reserved praise for both the 18-year-old and his midfield partner Miralem Pjanic.

"Pedri is a very good player when he plays in the middle," said Koeman. "Pjanic had to wait for his chance but he played a great game. He was good with the ball, but also defensively."

Fifth-placed Barca are eight points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, with Koeman's side scheduled to host struggling Eibar on December 29. 

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