Diego Forlan played down the significance of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi staying in LaLiga, insisting the league would survive without the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi's future remains an important topic at Barca after he handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

The Barca captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain, though he has since been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

"I wouldn't say it is a gift [Messi finally staying]," former Atletico Madrid forward Forlan, who won the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup during his time in the Spanish capital between 2007 and 2011, told Marca Sport Weekend.

"Obviously, LaLiga has grown up thanks to the great players who played in different club. But LaLiga is LaLiga, and the clubs are very important, and are in the history.

"It is very good he stayed, but they are growing… Leo Messi, Luis [Suarez]… great players, they are changing and LaLiga will be still there… It is more than 90 years history of LaLiga and big stars has been here, and will be also.

"But at the end, what remains in LaLiga, the teams, and that is the important thing."

Messi, who is due to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, has endured an underwhelming start to the 2020-21 season.

The 33-year-old had failed to assist a goal or score from open play in six LaLiga matches before last weekend's 5-2 win over Real Betis, when he also netted from the penalty spot.

Messi started that game on the bench – the first time that has happened in the league since September 2019 – but Barca head coach Ronald Koeman revealed he was carrying a knock.

This season, Messi has scored three goals in LaLiga and six across all competitions for Barca.

Former Barcelona, Liverpool and Argentina star Javier Mascherano has announced his retirement. 

Mascherano, 36, revealed his decision on Sunday, calling it quits after 17 years as a professional. 

A 147-time Argentina international – the most in the country's history – Mascherano returned to his homeland by signing with Estudiantes de La Plata in January. 

After 11 appearances in all competitions for the Argentine side, including Sunday's 1-0 loss to Argentinos Juniors, Mascherano said it was time to hang up his boots. 

"I want to announce that today I am retiring from football professionally," he said. 

"I want to thank this club that gave me the opportunity to finish my career in Argentina." 

Mascherano added: "I have lived my profession 100 per cent, I gave the maximum I could. 

"Today, I find that for some time it's hard for me and I don't want to disrespect Estudiantes, who trusted me to return to Argentina, or my colleagues, or this profession."

After beginning his career with River Plate, Mascherano played for Corinthians and West Ham before joining Liverpool in 2007. 

A fearless defensive midfielder who turned into a centre-back, Mascherano enjoyed most of his success at Camp Nou, winning five LaLiga titles and the Champions League twice among numerous other trophies after joining Barca in 2010. 

He helped Argentina reach the 2014 World Cup final, which they lost to Germany in extra time, while finishing with four Copa America runner-up medals and two Olympic golds. 

After two years with Hebei China Fortune, Mascherano headed back to Argentina with Estudiantes, where he finished his career.

Manchester City are reportedly making plans to sign Lionel Messi next year.

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

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the season and City continue to eye the star forward.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONTINUE TO MAKE MESSI PLANS

Manchester City are making plans to sign Barcelona captain Messi, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says the Premier League giants are trying to attract Messi with the idea of playing in England before finishing his career with fellow City Football Group (CFG) club New York City in MLS.

Messi has been linked with the likes of City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter previously.

He has six goals in 10 games this season, including three in seven in LaLiga.

Messi's dribbles success rate (56.3) in LaLiga is his lowest since 2015-16, while he is creating just two chances per 90 minutes, his lowest number since 2012-13.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports City manager Pep Guardiola is closer to agreeing to a contract extension, with his deal up at the conclusion of the current campaign.

 

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- Barcelona's pursuit of City defender Eric Garcia is seemingly continuing. Sport reports Barca will attempt to sign Garcia again in January, but City still want €15million (£13.5m) for the defender despite his contract expiring at the end of the campaign.

- Also out of contract at the end of the season is Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. Tuttosport says Juventus are considering a move for the Austria international, who has been linked with several European heavyweights.

- Sidelined with a serious knee injury, Ansu Fati's future could be clearer soon. Marca says talks between Barcelona and Fati are on track, even with the 18-year-old forward contracted until 2022.

- Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders after serious injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. The Daily Star says the Premier League champions may make a move for Olympiacos and Portugal defender Ruben Semedo in January, although it could cost them £18million (€20.1m).

- After just three Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, Marcos Alonso again being linked with a move. The Daily Mail reports Crystal Palace are looking at the left-back.

Lionel Messi will have his motives and reasons for wanting to leave Barcelona and nothing will make him change his mind, according to the club's former player Luis Figo.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner stunned the world in August when he informed Barca of his intention to leave the club he has spent two decades with.

He intended to trigger a clause in his contract to walk away on a free transfer, but the validity of such a stipulation was made murky due to last season being prolonged into August by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Figo, who made a surprising and controversial move from Barca to bitter rivals Real Madrid in 2000, believes Messi will now have his mind set on departing Catalonia.

"I watched the thing with Messi and his attempt to leave Barcelona this summer like all football fans: expectantly and surprised," he told Marca.

"He'll have his motives and reasons for making that decision. I don't know what happened beforehand. 

"Every club wants a player like Messi, but then it depends on factors like the current financial situation at the club, the money he'll cost the club in wages, the will of the player...

"But generally, in life, if you don't want to be somewhere, in the end there's nothing that can change your mind."

Messi, who is due to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, has endured an underwhelming start to the 2020-21 season.

The 33-year-old had failed to assist a goal or score from open play in six LaLiga matches before last weekend's 5-2 win over Real Betis, when he also netted from the penalty spot.

He started that game on the bench - the first time that has happened in the league since September 2019 - but Ronald Koeman has since revealed Messi was carrying a knock.

Messi is now on international duty with Argentina and played the full 90 minutes of Thursday's 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Paraguay, the forward having a goal ruled out by VAR in that game.

Is Kylian Mbappe's future in Paris?

Mbappe has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid, while Liverpool have also emerged as a possible destination.

But Mbappe could extend his Paris Saint-Germain contract under one condition.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE READY TO RENEW IN PARIS

Kylian Mbappe will re-sign with Paris Saint-Germain but there is a catch, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has been tipped to swap Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Real Madrid, while Liverpool are another possible destination.

The France star has reportedly rejected three contract offers from PSG, though he could be prepared to renew if a minimum-fee release clause was inserted in the deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS also says Madrid and Sergio Ramos are set to provide an update on his contract situation. The Los Blancos captain is out of contract at the end of the season. El Chiringuito claims Juventus, PSG, Manchester United and Manchester City have made approaches.

- Sport, meanwhile, claims Madrid are eyeing potential replacements if Ramos does not extend his deal in the Spanish capital. Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Villarreal defender Pau Torres and City's Eric Garcia are reportedly being considered by Zinedine Zidane.

Alaba has also been linked with a move to Serie A champions Juventus, reports Tuttosport. The front page of the newspaper adds that Juve are also targeting midfielders, with Lyon star Houssem Aouar atop the list, while Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch is wanted in Turin. Aouar has also been heavily linked with Arsenal, Barcelona and City.

- The Express says Premier League champions Liverpool are prepared to splash the cash on a centre-back in January. It comes after Joe Gomez joined Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines through injury.

- Inter star and Barca target Lautaro Martinez will reject a renewal with the Serie A side if they remove his release clause, according to Sport.

Neymar is again being linked with a return to Barcelona.

The Brazil forward left the LaLiga giants for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million deal in 2017.

But rumours of a return to Camp Nou refuse to go away.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CONTACTED OVER BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar has been contacted by different Barcelona presidential candidates over a return to the club from PSG, according to Sport.

It says Neymar, who was recently said to be happy to renew a PSG deal that expires in 2022, does not want to extend at the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar has battled injuries since moving to the French capital, making 30 or fewer appearances in each of his three seasons at the club heading into 2020-21.

 

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- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports Lyon star Memphis Depay has a four-year agreement with the Catalans. It comes days after Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas ruled out a January exit for the forward. Depay is out of contract at season's end and Mundo Deportivo says he could make a January move for €5m or €6m.

- Dominik Szoboszlai sent Hungary into Euro 2020 on Thursday, and the Salzburg star is wanted across Europe. AS says Real Madrid are following the midfielder, who it says is valued at around €25m and also wanted by Arsenal, Milan and RB Leipzig.

- Also at Real Madrid and AS reports Martin Odegaard could play a key role in helping the LaLiga champions land his Norway team-mate Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund in 2022.

- After playing just 33 Premier League minutes for Chelsea this season, Olivier Giroud is again linked with a move. CalcioMercato reports Inter are set to go back in for the forward in January.

- Amid their defensive crisis with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez facing long spells on the sidelines, Liverpool are likely to look for a centre-back in January. TeamTalk reports the Premier League champions have been offered former Newcastle United and Watford defender Daryl Janmaat.

Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann get on very well despite claims to the contrary, according to former Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic. 

Griezmann has struggled for consistent form since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid last year and some have suggested his incompatibility with Messi is part of the problem.

Messi came off the bench to score twice and set up another, as well as play a key part in a goal for Griezmann, as Barca beat Real Betis 5-2 in LaLiga last week.

Griezmann, who earlier missed a penalty, scored only his second goal in seven league matches after Messi dummied Jordi Alba's cross into his path.

The pair only exchanged four passes throughout, however, as Messi mostly combined with Sergi Roberto (15 passes) and Sergio Busquets (19 passes) in an impressive cameo.

In an interview with France Football, Griezmann's former advisor, Eric Olhats, went as far as suggesting Messi has actively avoided passing to the France forward, accusing the Argentine of having a "deplorable" attitude and ruling the dressing room with a "reign of terror".

Rakitic, though, believes any such talk will disappear once each player hits a run of goalscoring form.

"From what I saw, they got along very well," he told Canal Sur Radio. "I got on wonderfully with Antoine and with Leo.

"I don't know what there is there. The two of them drink mate and spend a lot of time together in the dressing room.

"If they both start scoring goals, it won't be talked about any more. It's the demand of great teams.

"I'm not worried because they're two amazing guys. I wish them all the best."

Rakitic rejoined Sevilla during the transfer window after six seasons at Camp Nou, in which he won 13 major trophies, including four LaLiga titles, four Copas del Rey and one Champions League.

The 32-year-old has featured in all seven of Sevilla's league games in 2020-21 but still feels he needs time to readjust to his old surroundings.

"I'm going to be judged by what I do on the pitch. I need a little time. It's not the same as Barca; it's a different way of playing," he said.

"We're very competitive and you always want to play. I came here with great enthusiasm to give my very best. I have to rediscover my rhythm, understand my team-mates and have them understand me."

Memphis Depay has talked up his transfer link with Barcelona, acknowledging any player would want to play for the Catalan giants.

Speculation around Barca's interest in the Lyon forward has been particularly strong since Depay's former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman arrived as the club's new coach in August.

Depay remained with Lyon when the transfer window closed in early October, but his contract expires next year.

While Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has insisted he will not sanction a deal in January, as he is not prepared to miss out on European football for a second successive season, Barca may opt to test his resolve as the Ligue 1 side face missing out on a transfer fee.

Failing to earn a move to Barca for this season does not appear to have impacted Depay negatively, however – he has been involved in eight goals (five scored, three assists) in Ligue 1 this term, a figure only Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe can match (seven goals, four assists), while he is level with Leo Dubois for the most goalscoring chances created (27).

Depay continues to stress his focus is on Lyon and the Netherlands, though he did not shy away from a desire to play for Barca.

"Who wouldn't like to go to Barcelona? It's a top club," he said after wearing the captain's armband in the second half of the Oranje's 1-1 draw with Spain on Wednesday.

"We'll see what the future holds for me. Barca is one of the biggest clubs and everyone would like to play there, but I'm focused on my club and the national team."

With regards to whether a January move is an option, despite Aulas' recent comments, Depay added: "I don't know. The transfer window is not open.

"I don't have the focus on that at the moment. I am training well and focusing on being a better player. There is a lot of speculation, but my head is not there at the moment."

Depay's last venture at one of Europe's elite, Manchester United, did not go as expected, the forward struggling to adapt.

He was eventually sold to Lyon in January 2017, and it is fair to say he has rediscovered the form that made him one of Europe's most promising young players at PSV.

Depay has set up 35 league goals since his Lyon debut on January 22, 2017, level with Angel Di Maria for the most in Ligue 1 in that time.

Similarly, Mbappe (110) is the only player to have been involved in more goals than Depay (83) across the same period.

Cristiano Ronaldo's name is still chanted at Old Trafford, 11 years on from his Manchester United exit.

The 35-year-old enjoyed great success in Manchester, while he has gone on to break records with Real Madrid and Juventus.

However, the Juventus superstar could reportedly be set for a second stint at the Theatre of Dreams.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE RONALDO RETURN

Manchester United are looking to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus, according to ESPN broadcaster Christian Martin.

Ronaldo spent six years at United, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League, before joining Real Madrid in 2009.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner swapped Madrid for Serie A champions Juve in 2018, but he has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Juve would negotiate a deal with United if Ronaldo asked to leave Turin, the report claims.

 

ROUND-UP

Kylian Mbappe tops Real Madrid's list of transfer targets, reports Diario AS. The club's wishlist includes the PSG forward, Rennes sensation and United target Eduardo Camavinga, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. It comes as United eye both Upamecano and Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane.

Matthijs de Ligt will not leave Juventus next season, reports Calciomercato. Juve are not entertaining offers, unless a club pay De Ligt's €150million release clause, which will be active in 2021.

- Calciomercato says United have set their sights on Dortmund defender Dan-Axel Zagadou. The 21-year-old arrived from PSG in 2017.

Madrid are concerned about the form of Zinedine Zidane's team, according to Cadena SER. While there are reports Madrid directors are losing faith in Zidane, the club are also unwilling to throw Raul or Mauricio Pochettino in the deep end at the LaLiga champions.

Lionel Messi's father, Jorge, rubbished reports he had been contacted by Paris Saint-Germain about the Barcelona star.

Messi, 33, continues to be linked with a move away from the LaLiga giants with his contract expiring at season's end and having requested to leave during the close season.

PSG, Manchester City and Inter have previously been most strongly connected with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

But after a report claimed Jorge was contacted by PSG to start negotiations in January, Messi's father denied the suggestion.

"Stop inventing!!! #fakenews," he wrote on Instagram.

Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, where he has won 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

He sensationally requested to leave the club in the close season but ultimately ended up staying.

Messi has scored six goals in 10 games this season, including three in seven in LaLiga.

Though it is still early in the LaLiga campaign, Messi is without an assist, while his two chances created per 90 minutes is his lowest since 2012-13 (1.6).

Ronald Koeman's men are eighth in the LaLiga table, nine points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad but having played two fewer games.

Barcelona have failed to reach an agreement with players over a salary reduction.

The LaLiga giants are seeking to reduce their wage bill amid a "serious financial problem" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Barca say COVID-19 has caused a reduction in revenues of more than €300million for the 2020-21 season, with the club requiring a salary adjustment of €191m.

But talks between Barca and representatives of the players – and a group of corporate workers – ended on Wednesday without an agreement.

"Today, November 11, after several days of intense meetings, and the negotiation was exhausted, the parties have ended the consultation period without reaching an agreement," part of a statement from the club read.

The statement said parties had given themselves a deadline of November 23 to consider whether a deal can be struck.

Reports have suggested Barca want to cut the wages of their top earners, including Lionel Messi, by 30 per cent.

Barca are believed to have one of the highest wage bills in Europe, and the likes of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal left the club in the close season.

Ronald Koeman's side are eighth in LaLiga, nine points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad but having played two fewer games.

Lionel Messi has been declared fit for Argentina's 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru by Lionel Scaloni.

It had been reported that Messi was a doubt for Thursday's meeting with Paraguay at La Bombonera after reporting for duty with an ankle issue.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner started Barcelona's 5-2 victory over Real Betis on Saturday among the substitutes but came on at half-time and scored twice.

Barca assistant coach Alfred Schreuder said the decision was made because Messi was "not fresh", but Scaloni put any lingering concerns over his fitness to bed.

"Leo trained with us normally. He has been experiencing discomfort in his ankle but it does not prevent him from playing, so for us he is fit and available," Scaloni told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We'll see if anything changes tomorrow, but in principle he's ready to play.

"The truth is that we have had quite a few problems. We still do not have every player. [Lucas] Martinez Quarta just arrived and we will see if he can train with the group this afternoon, and the rest of those who trained differently for various reasons, we hope today to see how they are so we can define the team for tomorrow.

"Without a doubt, it was a very unusual selection – the most difficult we have had. It's typical of what we are experiencing with the number of games being played and the rush there is. We hope to have them all."

Angel Di Maria returned to the Argentina set-up for the first time since last year's Copa America and Scaloni explained the reason for the absence of the Paris Saint-Germain attacker for the opening round of qualifiers in October.

"We had Nicolas Gonzalez and [Giovani] Lo Celso, who got injured after being called up. I would have been in favour of calling up Di Maria, but with everything that was happening it did not seem fair and respectful when he would only have arrived for the second game," said Scaloni.

"This time, Nico Gonzalez had very few minutes, Lo Celso had not got a rhythm and we thought we were not going to make the mistake of not bringing him in again.

"My relationship with him is perfect. We are happy to have him and he is training very well."

Paulo Dybala will become the next Lionel Messi but only if he leaves Juventus and joins a club like Real Madrid or Barcelona, says former Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini.

The Argentina international has struggled for minutes under Andrea Pirlo this term, starting just three of Juve's 10 games in all competitions.

He was criticised for his attitude after being brought on as a second-half substitute in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Lazio and has again been linked with a move away next year.

Zamparini was Palermo president during Dybala's time at the club and has urged the 26-year-old to take his previous advice and depart the Allianz Stadium at the earliest possible opportunity.

Asked about previously labelling Dybala "the new Messi", Zamparini told Tuttosport: "Yes and I am still convinced about that. Why should I have changed my mind?

"Besides being a champion, Paulo is also a very good guy. I can't understand why many people forget that.

"Paulo should have followed my advice from three years ago, which was to leave Turin. I told him clearly: 'Paulo, for your own good, you must leave Juventus.'

"He plays fantasy football that is more suited to Spanish teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid. But he has always told me he feels good at Juventus."

He added: "Paulo is a champion and not a deputy. At Juventus they have Cristiano Ronaldo, a true phenomenon, and Dybala must play against Ronaldo with another big team.

"Ronaldo is like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic – very strong players with an incredible personality and crazy experience. They are two champions I would have liked to have had.

"With Cristiano at Juventus, however, I advise Paulo to become a number one choice elsewhere."

Dybala has yet to score in his three Serie A outings in 2020-21, despite managing nine shots, behind only Alvaro Morata (11) and Ronaldo (21) among Juve players.

He has created four chances, which ranks below Aaron Ramsey (eight), Juan Cuadrado, Alvaro Morata (both 10) and Dejan Kulusevski (11).

But Zamparini is shocked the forward is not given more opportunities by Pirlo, who was brought in as Maurizio Sarri's successor after their Champions League exit to Lyon last season.

"When I listen to football shows, people talk about the Juventus line-up and forget all about Dybala. I don't understand why. That Dybala is not a starter in Serie A is a blasphemy," he said.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is desperate for more trophies after committing his future to Barcelona by signing a new contract.

The Catalans announced last month that Ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet had all agreed to extensions.

The Germany goalkeeper's new deal runs until 2025 and contains a release clause of €500million.

Ter Stegen, who returned to action this month after a knee injury, has been one of Barca's few major transfer success stories in recent seasons.

The 28-year-old, who signed from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, has won 12 trophies with Barca including four LaLiga titles, four Copas del Rey and the 2014-15 Champions League.

Ter Stegen has felt at home in the city since his arrival and is now keen for more silverware – and to celebrate in front of fans again.

"Barcelona has become a home for my family and I," he said in a video published by the club. "Both on and off the pitch, we are very happy.

"So, it was clear, the direction to take. The ambition from both myself and Barca has always been to reach a renewal agreement, to continue our story, which we started together in 2014.

"It's not just about playing for the biggest club in the world; it's more than that. The city and the fans have treated me like one of their own since the beginning, and this is important to me. A feeling I will never forget.

"I want to be a player at Camp Nou for many more years and keep winning trophies. There is no greater motivation. Hopefully, in the near future, with our fans once again."

Since his LaLiga debut, Ter Stegen has kept 64 clean sheets in 152 games, a tally bettered only by Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak (110 clean sheets in 198 games).

He has maintained a save percentage of 74.4 per cent, which is the fourth-best in Spain's top flight among keepers to make at least 100 saves, and a passing accuracy of 83 per cent – the highest in the division for his position.

Ronald Koeman is backing Antoine Griezmann to find consistent form for Barcelona but will not rule out a bid to sign Memphis Depay.

France star Griezmann, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, has struggled to impress on a regular basis alongside Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

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

Koeman thinks the 29-year-old is bound to hit top gear, though, as long as he maintains his strong work ethic.

"He needs a bit more confidence and scoring goals always gives you that confidence," Koeman told Mundo Deportivo.

"You can't say he doesn't work, he works a lot, but maybe he feels a little more free when he's with the national team, having been with them a long time and always playing in the same position.

"There's are many more things besides, but a player who is working and trying so much to change things, I think in the end he'll get to where he wants to be.

"His best position is maybe more central, as a number nine, a number 10 behind a nine, with a lot of freedom on the right wing cutting in, with [Ousmane] Dembele playing more outside.

"They're positions in which he can give a lot to this team."

With Griezmann out of sorts and Ansu Fati sidelined for four months after meniscus surgery, Barca have been tipped to make a new move for Lyon forward Depay.

The Catalans agreed terms with Depay during the previous transfer window but a deal could not be struck between the clubs, and the Ligue 1 side's president Jean-Michel Aulas insists they will not sell the player in January even though his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, Koeman will not discount the prospect of signing the Netherlands international, with whom he worked while in charge of the national side and who has been directly involved in eight goals in Ligue 1 this season, a tally bettered only by Kylian Mbappe.

"Now is not the moment to talk about players who aren't here. For me, it's not good," he said.

"It's true his name has come out and he's played every game with our national team as a number nine.

"Everyone can have their opinion, but not here, and we'll see what happens in the future."

Koeman also suggested a deal could yet be struck to sign Eric Garcia from Manchester City, adding: "Well, I don't know. It depends on Manchester City."

Speaking to Sport, Koeman admitted captain Lionel Messi had been "unhappy" when he first arrived at the club, the forward having tried unsuccessfully to leave in the wake of the 8-2 Champions League destruction by Bayern Munich, a club-record defeat in the competition. 

Messi's form has been questioned in 2020-21, the Argentina star having failed to score from open play or register an assist in his first six LaLiga matches.

He produced a star turn off the bench against Real Betis, however, scoring twice, assisting another and playing a key role in Griezmann's goal as Barca claimed a 5-2 victory.

"I spoke to him on the first day, totally frankly, and I've never doubted him," Koeman said of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I see him training every day and enjoying playing. I said on the first day that he's the best player in the world and of course I prefer to have the best in the world in my team.

"As I said after the game against Betis, if he's well, he'll always start."

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