If Paris Saint-Germain have their way, Lionel Messi will be playing for the French giants in 2021-22.

But will he be playing alongside Kylian Mbappe in Paris?

Real Madrid target Mbappe could stay.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI IN, MBAPPE OUT?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign Lionel Messi but Kylian Mbappe could remain with the Ligue 1 champions, according to reports.

Barcelona captain Messi is out of contract at season's end and has been heavily linked with PSG and Manchester City.

Le Parisien says there is no doubt who will replace Mbappe at PSG if he departs for LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though Canal + journalist Pierre Menes claims the French forward is interested in staying at Parc des Princes.

 

ROUND-UP

Madrid are considering a €45million (£39.9m) bid to re-sign Sergio Reguilon from Tottenham, according to Sport. Reguilon left the LaLiga champions at the start of the season, but Madrid have an option to buy him back within two years.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are eyeing Bayern Munich duo Corentin Tolisso and Joshua Zirkzee. Bayern are reportedly unwilling to let Zirkzee leave permanently.

- Sport 1 claims Borussia Dortmund are set to battle German rivals Bayern for Borussia Monchengladbach star Florian Neuhaus. The 23-year-old reportedly has a €40m release clause.

- RB Leipzig attacker Hwang Hee-chan could be loaned out amid links to West Ham, reports Kicker.

Inter and Lautaro Martinez remain in negotiations over a new contract, reports Calciomercato. Once tipped to join Barca, Martinez's Camp Nou dream appears to be fading due to the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Inter are not prepared to meet Martinez's wage demands at the moment.

Leon Goretzka said Bayern Munich only had themselves to blame after letting a two-goal lead slip in a dramatic 3-2 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday.

Robert Lewandowski and Goretzka were on target to put the European champions in command after only 26 minutes at Borussia-Park, but the hosts came storming back.

Jonas Hofmann struck twice and Florian Neuhaus gave Gladbach the lead four minutes into the second half as the leaders fell to pieces.

The Bavarian giants were unable to prevent seeing their 20-match unbeaten run come to a stunning halt, and the 24 goals they have conceded from 15 games is their worst defensive record at this stage of the season since the 1981-82 campaign.

Midfielder Goretzka knows Bayern must tighten up in their quest for yet more honours.

"Giving the game away like that after leading 2-0 hurts. The first 30 or 35 minutes were the best we've played in a long time," he said.

"We were in control, but then we lost the ball twice where we shouldn't lose it and didn't react properly. Then it's 2-2 in no time. Their winner comes from a similar situation. We invited the opponent three times and they took their chances.

"Then you're behind and it doesn't get easier when a team is able to just concentrate on defending. In the second half, we had a bit of bad luck here and there.

"They were individual mistakes, but you can still position yourself better beforehand so that these ball losses are not so devastating. We are conceding too many goals against at the moment."

Hofmann now has six goals from 14 goals in all competitions and the winger felt Marco Rose's side exploited Bayern's high defensive line superbly.

"We're over the moon. It was a tough fight. After going 2-0 down, I'm sure many didn't expect us to be able to turn it around. We scored the first two goals exactly as we had imagined.

"Bayern defended with a very high line, so we had to get behind the back four. We did that very well. We had a hard time at the start, but we got into the game more and more.

"It was great that we took the lead right after the break. In the end, it was a tough battle defending that all. That's part of it, especially against Bayern."

Gladbach's victory put them level with Werder Bremen on 26 Bundesliga successes against Bayern, a total that no side has bettered.

Bayern Munich fell victim to a "brutally effective" Borussia Monchengladbach in their humbling 3-2 defeat on Friday, according to Hansi Flick.

Robert Lewandowski's penalty – his 20th Bundesliga goal of the season – and a fine strike from Leon Goretzka put Bayern in control of the Bundesliga clash at Borussia-Park inside 26 minutes.

However, a wayward pass from Benjamin Pavard led to a quick break that finished with Jonas Hofmann scoring, and the Gladbach midfielder was played onside by Niklas Sule as he doubled his tally before half-time after Joshua Kimmich was caught in possession by Lars Stindl.

Sule then gave the ball to Hofmann inside his own half four minutes after the restart and Florian Neuhaus subsequently atoned for conceding the first-half spot-kick with a bizarre handball by netting the winner.

Gladbach consequently became the first team since Cologne in February 2011 to beat Bayern in a Bundesliga game after falling 2-0 down.

"We had hoped for a different ending to this game and expected it, but in the end we were punished. We lost the ball unnecessarily three times and the opposition was brutally effective in finishing those chances," Flick told a post-match news conference.

"When you ask me how to prevent that, on the one hand you have to keep the mistakes to a minimum, or avoid them, and on the other hand you have to cover your deep positions twice.

"We suffered similar situations on their first two goals. Hofmann went deep from midfield and we moved forward too quickly and opened the centre without covering the deep position, and with the second we should have kept going and covering the positions.

"That shouldn't happen and it's not a nice situation to be in, but a defeat, even if it's Bayern Munich, is part of the game. In the second half the team tried everything to achieve a positive result but unfortunately it didn't work."

Manuel Neuer has now conceded in 10 straight Bundesliga games for the first time in his career, with Bayern letting in 16 goals since their last clean sheet against Eintracht Frankfurt on October 24.

Bayern have conceded 24 goals through 15 matches in the top flight this season, the most they have shipped at this point of a Bundesliga campaign since 1981-82.

Flick added: "I've said it a few times, we are making too many mistakes. You can't deny that the team tried to win.

"We had to fight today, we knew it would be a difficult game. Don't forget [Gladbach] is a team that played in the Champions League against top opposition and prevailed, so we needed this compact team performance and we showed – with the exception of these three situations.

"But of course, we're not satisfied with the result. We all know we need to show even more concentration in our defensive work in the crucial moments. We have to cover the deep positions and that's the challenge we have, and we have to improve in the coming weeks."

Bayern are back in action against 2. Bundesliga side Holstein Kiel in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday.

Jonas Hofmann played a pivotal role as Borussia Monchengladbach incredibly came from two goals down to defeat Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich 3-2 on Friday.

Robert Lewandowski scored his 20th top-flight goal of the season from the penalty spot after an inexplicable handball from Florian Neuhaus, and Leon Goretzka had Bayern cruising at Borussia-Park in the 26th minute.

However, Hofmann struck twice in the space of 10 minutes to send the teams into half-time level and Neuhaus atoned for his earlier error with what proved to be the winner in the 49th minute.

Gladbach consequently became the first team since Cologne in February 2011 to defeat Bayern in the Bundesliga after falling 2-0 down.

Lewandowski put Bayern in front from the penalty spot following a bizarre handball by Neuhaus, though referee Harm Osmers only pointed to the spot after a VAR check.

Bayern doubled their advantage six minutes later, Goretzka intercepting Matthias Ginter's pass and drilling a venomous effort past Yann Sommer after a one-two with Leroy Sane.

Gladbach reduced the deficit when Rami Bensebaini regained the ball high up the pitch and a quick passing move ended with Hofmann sliding Lars Stindl's throughball past Manuel Neuer.

The hosts drew level in first-half stoppage time when Stindl dispossessed Joshua Kimmich and fed Hofmann for another cool finish - the VAR confirming he was onside when the pass was played.

Gladbach completed the turnaround four minutes after the restart, Hofmann intercepting Niklas Sule's pass and teeing up Neuhaus to curl a wonderful effort into the top-right corner.

Marco Rose's men sat deep and Ginter cleared a header from Sule off the line in the 91st minute, opening the door for RB Leipzig to replace Bayern at the Bundesliga summit if they can beat Borussia Dortmund in a mouthwatering clash on Saturday.

What does it mean? Worries at the back for Flick

Bayern's defensive struggles continued against Gladbach, with Neuer now on a 10-game run without a clean sheet in the Bundesliga for the first time in his career.

He was not helped by Benjamin Pavard giving away possession prior to Hofmann's first, while Sule played a role in allowing the other two Gladbach goals.

Securing the future of David Alaba, who will be out of contract at the end of the season, never seemed quite so important.

Having it Lars

Most teams would think the game is beyond them when falling 2-0 down to Bayern, but Gladbach captain Stindl led by example to turn the game around. He set up both of Hofmann's goals with a pair of quality passes and contested 11 duels before being substituted in the 82nd minute.

Sluggish Sule

Sule replaced Jerome Boateng in the centre of defence but endured a disappointing outing. He played Hofmann onside for the equaliser just before half-time and within minutes of the restart his stray pass resulted in Neuhaus putting Gladbach in front.

What's next?

Bayern are in DFB-Pokal action against 2. Bundesliga side Holstein Kiel on Wednesday, while Gladbach have a week to prepare for a Bundesliga clash with Stuttgart.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is enduring the worst run of his Bundesliga career.

With Jonas Hofmann's goal in the 35th minute of Bayern's meeting with Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday, Neuer failed to keep a clean sheet for the 10th straight top-flight game.

It is the first time the 34-year-old keeper has conceded in 10 successive Bundesliga matches during his 15 seasons in the competition.

Neuer's previous worst streak was a run of nine games between September and December in 2018.

The last time Bayern kept a clean sheet in the Bundesliga was in their 5-0 triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt on October 24.

Denis Zakaria insists he has had no contact with any other club amid reports Bayern Munich are planning a move for the Borussia Monchengladbach prospect.

The 24-year-old midfielder is said to be high on the Bundesliga champions' list of targets for the 2021-22 campaign, with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United having been linked with a move as well.

A knee injury sustained in March meant Zakaria did not play until November this season, and from seven Bundesliga appearances he has won 24 duels, five tackles, made two interceptions and regained 18 possession times.

His passing accuracy of 86.49 per cent suggests a level of comfort on the ball, which would be crucial at Bayern to allow more attack-minded players to flourish.

For now, though, Zakaria's focus is purely on maintaining his promising rise at Gladbach, with whom he has a contract until June 2022.

"I haven't talked to anyone about a transfer. I'm 100 percent focused on Gladbach and still have a year and a half left on my contract," Zakaria said to Sport1.

"I don't have a classic career plan. But I've dreamed of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world since I was a young player. 

"To achieve that at some point, I have to work hard here in Gladbach. For now, I'm very happy at Borussia."

Last season, Zakaria regained posession eight times per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, the best rate of any Gladbach player. 

If he were to join Bayern, Zakaria would play alongside Joshua Kimmich – someone he considers to be the benchmark for midfielders.

"He's just great. Kimmich is currently the best midfielder in the world," he added.

"It automatically raises your midfield to a top level. Of course I like to watch him."

Asked if he had a role model in the game, Zakaria pointed to a couple of prominent Frenchmen.

"I think Paul Pogba is great. My biggest idol used to be Patrick Vieira. He has had a world-class career. I am already emulating him a little," he said.

"But it's always clear to me: I want to be Denis Zakaria and not Pogba or Vieira. I want to put my own stamp on football."

Hansi Flick has told his Bayern Munich stars to show "a different attitude from the start" as he bids to achieve a feat only Pep Guardiola has achieved before.

On Friday evening, Flick can reach 100 points from his first 39 Bundesliga games in charge of the Bavarian giants, needing a win at Borussia Monchengladbach to hit that landmark.

But head coach Flick is unwilling to tolerate any repeat of the shaky first-half performance that saw his team trail Mainz 2-0 on Sunday, before turning the game around to register a 5-2 win.

Guardiola, who joined Bayern ahead of the 2013-14 season, brought up his century of points in the same number of games.

That saw Guardiola lead Bayern to a championship with 90 points before beginning the following season with three wins and two draws.

The Manchester City boss amassed 101 points from his first 39 Bundesliga matches, the first Bayern head coach to achieve a three-figure points haul so quickly.

Flick knows if he is to add an immediate three points to his current 97 points, the European champions will need to pull their weight.

"We have addressed it very clearly and want to go into the game with a different attitude and dynamic," Flick said on Thursday in a pre-match news conference.

"We want to be more present in the duels. We can't just hope for Manu [goalkeeper Manuel Neuer] at the back.

"We need a different attitude from the start. We have to show what we are capable of. The team have this mentality. Gladbach have high individual quality and great tempo."

Flick's side have scored 119 goals in their 38 league games during his tenure, winning 31 times, drawing four and losing only three times.

But there is no certainty they will get the better of Gladbach, having lost to the Foals in the first half of the season in each of the last three campaigns before winning the reverse game.

Indeed, Bayern have only won 13 of 52 previous away games against Friday's opponents, losing 21 times and drawing on 18 occasions.

Flick's recent record in Friday night games bodes well for Bayern.

They began this season with an 8-0 thrashing of Schalke on a Friday, and their previous Friday game was the 8-2 humbling of Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Bayern have won 16 of their last 20 Friday games in all competitions (D3 L1), Opta said.

Hansi Flick has ruled out Bayern Munich making any major signings in the January transfer window.

The head coach said on Thursday there was a chance of "one or two" players leaving the European champions.

But in terms of arrivals, Flick said it was important he did not press the club to bring in new faces during a "very difficult" period.

Like all clubs, Bayern's finances have taken a hit, largely because of the absence of supporters from stadiums during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Let me be very clear about this: the current situation affects all clubs in the world," Flick said.

"It's not an easy situation with corona. I'd like to be clear: I don't want to demand new players. I know the situation at Bayern Munich; I know it's very difficult at the moment.

"The squad we have here at our disposal is the squad we'll have until the end of the season.

"I'm not sure if one or two might still transfer. There are certain things that have been talked about, but currently we have very good quality in our squad and I don't think our goals are in jeopardy."

Speaking ahead of Friday's Bundesliga trip to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Flick claimed leaders Bayern "still have room for improvement".

"The team knows it and every single player knows it," Flick said.

Scoring 44 goals in 14 league games has pleased Flick but shipping 21 at this early stage of the campaign is a concern.

"We have to work on that," he said. "It's not about the defence in particular. It's conceding no goals, keeping clean sheets, defending.

"In order to do that you have to have a compact defence and order and organisation with which you pressure the opponent and that's what we have to improve on."

Flick was asked whether Joshua Zirkzee may be on the move, with the 19-year-old on the fringes of the Bayern squad.

He responded: "At the moment I am not aware of any departures, but everything can always go quickly.

"Zirkzee has tremendous qualities and can develop well. He was out of training for a few weeks. He will get games, also with the under-23s. He can take a lot from the professionals, but then he has to show what he can do with the under-23s and put himself at the service of the team. He is good in front of goal, has strong technique and good dynamics."

Bayern have a doubt over Serge Gnabry for the Gladbach game after he was substituted with a knock in the 5-2 win over Mainz on Sunday, Flick saying the forward is "still in pain".

Lilian Thuram has revealed his disbelief at seeing son Marcus spit in the face of a Bundesliga opponent.

Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram picked up a six-match ban from the German Football Association (DFB) after his outrageous act towards Hoffenheim's Stefan Posch.

The 23-year-old has been hit in the pocket too, being fined a month's wages by Gladbach after the incident in the second half of Saturday's 2-1 home defeat, with a further penalty of €40,000 levied by the DFB.

The sixth match of the suspension has been suspended by 12 months, with the young French forward now facing the task of repairing his tarnished reputation.

He insisted it was not a deliberate act but apologised to Posch, and Thuram also had some explaining to do to his famous father, a World Cup and European Championship winner with France.

Speaking to RCI Guadeloupe, Lilian Thuram said: "It's completely understandable what is happening in the media. I myself was watching the match, I was extremely shocked.

"I even asked myself the question of whether that was really my son.

"Afterwards, I had his explanation, which is to say that he was raging with anger, and so he insulted the opponent and without actually doing it on purpose, he had saliva which came out.

"What he wants is for people to remember that it's unintentional because he says himself, 'But Dad, I wouldn't want people to think I'm capable of spitting on someone on purpose because it doesn't make sense'."

Retired former Juventus and Barcelona defender Thuram explained Marcus had called younger brother Khephren, who plays for Nice, from the dressing room to explain the situation.

It remains to be seen whether the incident and the adverse attention affects Marcus Thuram's hopes of playing for France in the delayed Euro 2020 finals next year.

Lilian Thuram said his Germany-based son would have to tolerate the sanctions against him, adding: "He accepts - and I think it's normal - that he should be punished because indeed, it is a gesture that must not exist on the football field."

Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram has been banned for six matches by the German Football Association (DFB) for spitting at Hoffenheim's Stefan Posch.

The 23-year-old has already been fined a month's wages by Gladbach for the incident - spotted by VAR - that resulted in a red card in Saturday's 2-1 loss at Borussia-Park.

Thuram insisted it was not a deliberate act but apologised to Posch, Hoffenheim and his Gladbach team-mates, saying he would "accept all of the consequences of my gesture".

The DFB confirmed on Monday that Thuram will serve a five-match ban in the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal, with the sixth match suspended until December 21, 2021.

France international Thuram, who has scored four goals in 20 appearances in all competitions for Gladbach this season, has also been fined €40,000.

Commenting on the incident at the weekend, Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl said: "I had a long discussion with Marcus this morning, in which he apologised to me and to the club once again for his actions.

"We have known Marcus for almost two years, we know his background and his family. Saturday's actions do not represent that. Marcus is devastated and has assured me that he did not purposely spit at Stefan Posch. 

"He told me that during a dispute with Stefan Posch, he had unintentionally spat after cursing several times in French in the heat of the moment.

"He knows that this doesn't change anything and that the pictures speak for themselves, and that the sending off was the right call.

"I believe Marcus because I have come to know him as a reflective person with a great demeanour. He did it, but he did not do it with intent.

"As a club, we will fine him a sum equivalent to one month's wage for his behaviour that led to the dismissal, which will be donated to a good cause. Marcus has accepted this and has also offered to engage with this social cause on his own behalf.

"Marcus apologised to Stefan Posch, Hoffenheim, his team-mates, the coaching staff and the Gladbach fans, and I would like to do this again explicitly on behalf of Borussia Monchengladbach.

"He made a big mistake and is being punished for it. He remains the same person we know, and we will stand by him."

Marcus Thuram has been fined a month's wages by Borussia Monchengladbach after being sent off for spitting at Hoffenheim's Stefan Posch.

The striker was shown a red card 11 minutes from time in his side's 2-1 defeat after VAR spotted he had spat at Posch when squaring up to the defender.

Thuram later insisted it was not deliberate but apologised to Posch, Hoffenheim and his Gladbach team-mates, saying he would "accept all of the consequences of my gesture".

The club confirmed on Sunday that a month's worth of Thuram's wages will be donated to a worthy cause, with which the player will himself engage.

Gladbach are also expected to issue an "internal ban" to the France international.

Sporting director Max Eberl said in a statement: "I had a long discussion with Marcus this morning, in which he apologised to me and to the club once again for his actions.

"We have known Marcus for almost two years, we know his background and his family. Yesterday's actions do not represent that. Marcus is devastated and has assured me that he did not purposely spit at Stefan Posch. He told me that during a dispute with Stefan Posch, he had unintentionally spat after cursing several times in French in the heat of the moment.

"He knows that this doesn't change anything and that the pictures speak for themselves, and that the sending off was the right call. I believe Marcus because I have come to know him as a reflective person with a great demeanour. He did it, but he did not do it with intent.

"As a club, we will fine him a sum equivalent to one month's wage for his behaviour that led to the dismissal, which will be donated to a good cause. Marcus has accepted this and has also offered to engage with this social cause on his own behalf.

"Last night, Marcus apologised to Stefan Posch, Hoffenheim, his team-mates, the coaching staff and the Gladbach fans, and I would like to do this again explicitly on behalf of Borussia Monchengladbach. Marcus made a big mistake and is being punished for it. He remains the same person we know, and we will stand by him."

Thuram, 23, has scored four goals in 20 appearances in all competitions for Gladbach this season.

Marcus Thuram has issued an apology after he was sent off for "accidentally" spitting in Stefan Posch's face during Borussia Monchengladbach's Bundesliga defeat to Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Thuram was given his marching orders by referee Frank Willenborg 11 minutes from time at Borussia-Park following an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by the VAR.

The France international spat at Posch as they squared up when the two sides were level at 1-1 and Ryan Sessegnon made matters worse for Gladbach by securing a 2-1 victory.

Striker Thuram expressed his remorse for his behaviour and said he would accept whatever punishment comes his way, but claimed he did not spit at Posch on purpose.

He posted on Twitter and Instagram: "Today something took place that is not in my character and must never happen.

"I reacted to an opponent in a wrong way and something occured [sic] accidently and not intentionally.

"I apologise to everyone, to Stefan Posch, to my opponents, to my team-mates, to my family and all those who saw my reaction. Of course, I accept all of the consequences of my gesture."

Foals boss Marco Rose said there was no excuse for Thuram's actions following his side's first home defeat of the season in the Bundesliga, which leaves them in eighth place.

"On behalf of the club and personally as head coach, I would like to apologise for the red-card incident involving Marcus Thuram," said Rose.

"It is completely out of line and has no place on the football pitch.

"Marcus is a good person, is self-respecting and has been well raised. He must have blown a fuse in that moment - it's the only explanation for his behaviour. I apologise for that. He has done his team a disservice."

Thuram enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in the Bundesliga last season, scoring 10 goals and providing eight assists from 30 opportunities created.

However, the 23-year-old has only netted twice in the Bundesliga this term, converting only 25 per cent of the big chances – as per Opta data – that he has been presented with across 13 games.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will do battle in a repeat of their memorable Champions League last-16 tie from three years ago, while holders Bayern Munich were drawn against Lazio in Nyon on Monday.

LaLiga giants Barca became the first team in the competition's history to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit when they famously defeated PSG 6-1 in the return tie at the same stage in the 2016-17 season.

Neymar scored twice and assisted Sergi Roberto's last-gasp winner on that occasion but his status to face his former club with PSG may be in doubt after the Brazil superstar sustained a serious-looking ankle injury in Sunday's 1-0 loss at Lyon.

Barca also defeated PSG in the quarter-finals en route to treble glory in 2014-15 and in the last eight in the 2012-13 campaign.

PSG were runners-up in a competition delayed by the coronavirus pandemic last term, and their conquerors Bayern were paired against Serie A side Lazio.

Barcelona may face competition from Paris Saint-Germain for Memphis Depay.

Depay, 26, has been heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga giants, where his former Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman is in charge.

But his impressive displays for Lyon have unsurprisingly caught the eye of their Ligue 1 rivals.

 

TOP STORY – PSG INTERESTED IN BARCELONA TARGET DEPAY

PSG are interested in Lyon star and Barcelona target Depay, according to Le Parisien.

The report says Depay is appreciated by PSG's players, particularly stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Depay, who has scored six goals in 14 games for Lyon this season, is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at PSG and they could seemingly also compete for the signature of another Lyon star. RMC Sport reports PSG are still interested in midfielder Houssem Aouar, who has been heavily linked to Arsenal.

- Isco's future looks to be away from Real Madrid. Marca claims the LaLiga giants are pushing the midfielder, who is contracted until 2022, out amid links to Arsenal and Everton.

- Everton are also linked to Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli. The Daily Star reports they are ready to make a loan move for Alli – who has struggled for game time this season – in January.

- After being thrashed by Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund sacked coach Lucien Favre. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Bundesliga club already have an agreement in principle with Borussia Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose to take over ahead of 2021-22.

- Papu Gomez's Atalanta career appears to be over. Sky Sport reports the attacker, who has been at the club since 2014, could leave in January amid a tense relationship with coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

Manchester United, Inter and Ajax were the big Champions League casualties as the group stage wrapped up - but who have been the stars of the show so far?

Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland featured prominently, scoring half of Borussia Dortmund's goals as they topped Group F.

But what should we make of Lionel Messi, whose three goals all came from the penalty spot for Barcelona? And were Inter incredibly unlucky to bow out?

Using Opta data, we took a closer look at how Europe's elite performed.

Haaland's hammer blows

The Norwegian's left foot is about the deadliest weapon in world football at the moment and it comes as no surprise to see him topping the scoring charts with six goals in four games.

That put him alongside Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, United's Marcus Rashford and Juventus striker Alvaro Morata, all of whom played more games and minutes than the Dortmund marksman.

Five of Haaland's goals came from his trusty left boot, and it continued his rich vein of form in Europe after he hit eight goals in six group games for Salzburg last season and two for Dortmund in the knockouts. The 20-year-old's Champions League goals this season have come at one every 57.5 minutes, and among players to have scored more than twice that minutes-per-goal mark was second only to Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (five goals, one every 28.4 minutes).

Yet when it came to overall goal involvements in this term's group stage, it was another Bundesliga star who led the way in Europe, with Alassane Plea of Borussia Monchengladbach tallying eight - five goals and three assists.

Germany had a productive group stage as Dortmund, Gladbach, RB Leipzig and holders Bayern Munich all reached the last 16 - the first time four teams from the Bundesliga have advanced since the 2014-15 season (Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund, Schalke, Bayern).

Haaland would have been disappointed to see Salzburg bow out, however, with the Austrian side becoming just the second team to score 16 or more goals in the first group stage yet be eliminated, after Chelsea in the 2012-13 campaign.

Messi's mixed bag

For the first time since registering his first Champions League goal in 2005-06, Messi failed to score from open play in the group stage.

From highs of eight open-play goals in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, his number crashed to zero this time even though Barcelona qualified with ease for the knockout stage.

The 33-year-old Argentinian stuck away a group-stage high of three penalties - a total matched by Chelsea's Timo Werner and Lazio striker Ciro Immobile - to ensure it was not a complete goal famine.

Going goalless was not for the want of trying - Messi had seven shots on target in this week's 3-0 defeat to Juventus, which is more than any other player has had in a Champions League game without scoring since at least 2003-04.

He also created more chances across the six games than any other player, with Messi's total of 16 putting him one ahead of Ajax's Dusan Tadic and United's Bruno Fernandes, both of whom only have Europa League football to enjoy in the new year.

Of those chances, however, only two gave Messi assists. Leading the way on that score was Juventus' Juan Cuadrado, who set up five goals.

Barcelona created more chances than any other team (84), followed by Real Madrid (77), Sevilla and Bayern (both 73). Eventual champions Bayern had 106 chances in the group stage last year, as they set the high standard they maintained all the way through the competition.

Barcelona also had the most opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' over this season's six rounds of games, with 26. They converted 46.15 per cent of those openings, which ranked them eighth among teams to have at least 15 – United led the way by scoring from 68.75 per cent of their 16 such opportunities.

Were Inter framed?

Inter could not get the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk this week that would have carried them through to the last 16, with Lautaro Martinez hitting the bar early on, extending his run of bad luck.

The Argentine striker hit the goal frame four times in the group stage, more than any other player and the most by anyone across an entire Champions League season since Robert Lewandowski struck the woodwork five times for Bayern during 2016-17.

Martinez only scored once as Inter bowed out, unlike Lewandowski who put away eight goals in nine games during that campaign.

Inter hit the woodwork seven times in total over their six games, the joint-highest number along with Real Madrid.

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