Lionel Messi is free to negotiate a move to clubs outside LaLiga and Juan Sebastian Veron thinks Javier Zanetti will be key to Inter's hopes of signing the Barcelona superstar.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is in the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou, having failed to engineer a move away during the close season.

The 33-year-old has long been linked with a switch to Serie A giants Inter, where his former Argentina team-mate Zanetti – the Albiceleste's most-capped player of all time – is vice-president.

Former Nerazzurri and Argentina midfielder Veron does not expect Messi to be at Inter next season, but believes it will be down to Zanetti if he does complete a move to San Siro.

"I don't think he can go to Italy. If he will, it is because of Javier Zanetti, who knows him and will try to talk to him, making him feel important again and to explaining the future projects of the club," Veron told Stats Perform News.

"At the end of the day it is purely Messi's decision. But if Inter want to make an attempt, they have to use seduction and get to his heart to draw him near. 

"I don't know how many more years Messi wants to play at this level, but if you want to sign him, Inter have to make Messi their flagship and make clear they want to be at the top level."

After a 2-0 victory over Juventus on Sunday, Inter sit second in Serie A three points behind leaders Milan.

Antonio Conte's side have not been lacking in attack this term, though, with Romelu Lukaku (12 goals, three assists) and Lautaro Martinez (nine goals, three assists) developing a potent partnership in the league.

No forward in Serie A to have played at least 10 games this season has had more Opta-defined 'big chances' than Lukaku, whose tally of 20 is only matched by Edin Dzeko and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Belgium international has the best conversion rate of the trio, scoring from 12 such openings for a 60 per cent success ratio. Ronaldo is second on 55 per cent, while Dzeko is third on 35 per cent.

Messi has scored 11 goals and assisted two more in LaLiga this term, while converting 58.3 per cent (seven out of 12) of his big chances.

The Barca captain's 35 key passes are only bettered by Iago Aspas (37), and his 100 attempts on goal in the Spanish top flight this season are almost twice as many as Karim Benzema (51) in second.

Manchester United have left it late again, but they are finally adding more new faces to the squad in this transfer window in the form of Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles.

Cavani, who has been a free agent since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in June, is reportedly joining the Red Devils on a one-year contract with the option of a second, while Telles arrives from Porto in a deal worth in the region of £15.4million (€17m).

Cavani became PSG's record goalscorer in his seven years in France, scoring 200 times in all competitions to help them to win 19 trophies.

He certainly has the pedigree to be a strong addition to the United ranks, but they have endured mixed fortunes in the past when it comes to South American signings.

Here are their previous 18, ranked from worst to best...

18. Rodrigo Possebon (2008-10)

Possebon squeaks onto this list as a Brazil-born player, even though he represented Italy at youth level.

Signed by United from Internacional in 2008, he mustered three league appearances before a fruitless loan to Braga and then a return to Brazil. He last played for Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

 

17. Radamel Falcao (2014-15)

Falcao, the man who tore through defences for fun with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco, looked as though he had practically forgotten how to play football when he pulled on the red shirt at United, even if he did manage four goals in 26 Premier League appearances.

Just to rub it in, he returned to Monaco in 2016 and promptly became brilliant again. He's now at Galatasaray.

16. Kleberson (2003-05)

A World Cup winner snapped up for approximately £6.5million - what could possibly go wrong? Pretty much everything, it turns out.

Kleberson played 20 league games between 2003 and 2005 before being shipped out to Besiktas.

 

15. Guillermo Varela (2013-17)

Becoming David Moyes' first signing was probably never going to work out for the best.

Varela spent four years at United, two of which saw him leave on loan, before he went to Penarol to get his career back up and running. He now plays for Copenhagen and started in the 1-0 loss to his old club in last season's Europa League quarter-final.

 

14. Alexis Sanchez (2018-19)

He had some moments - the winner in the comeback against Newcastle United, the FA Cup strike against old club Arsenal - but they did not exactly justify the reported basic wage of £300,000 per week.

Sanchez has gone some way towards rekindling his career alongside good friend Romelu Lukaku at Inter - another player who could not convince Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of his importance.

 

13. Angel Di Maria (2014-15)

His audacious lob against Leicester City showed the sort of quality he could offer United as a then-British record signing (£60m, according to reports). Sadly, in that same game, United collapsed to lose 5-3 and Louis van Gaal seemed to lose all faith in attacking football of any kind.

Di Maria never seemed to gel with Van Gaal, nor did he ever settle in Manchester, and he was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a loss within a year. He has, of course, been exceptional in France.

 

12. Andreas Pereira (2011-)

A Brazil international born in Belgium, Pereira had a long wait to break into United's first team on a regular basis. Many supporters are still wondering when he will justify the patience.

The midfielder has talent, for sure, but whether he has enough to become a mainstay over the coming years remains to be seen. He was given plenty of opportunities to impress last season but failed to do so consistently, and a loan move to Lazio for 2020-21 was considered the best for all parties.

 

11. Juan Sebastian Veron (2001-03)

Veron is another expensive Argentina star who scored a memorable goal in a 5-3 game for United - on that occasion, it was when they came from 3-0 down to beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Veron was a good example of the right player signed at the wrong time. United still had great quality in midfield in 2001, when Veron joined from Lazio; within a couple of years, that strength in depth had evaporated, and the world's most right-footed footballer would have been a welcome addition.

 

10. Anderson (2007-15)

A combative, hard-working presence in the United midfield, Anderson seemed to have a peculiar habit of kicking the ball as hard as possible regardless of whether he was shooting from 35 yards out or passing to a team-mate behind him.

He certainly got a huge medal haul – seven major trophies in eight years, no less – but his crowning achievement at Old Trafford was having a song to the tune of Black Lace's 1984 hit 'Agadoo'. And, yes, he was better than Kleberson.

 

9. Fred (2018-)

Like Sanchez, Fred was said to be a man coveted by Manchester City only for United and Jose Mourinho to get in the way. Like Sanchez, the £47m midfielder proved initially to be a redundant presence in the squad, apparently not valued by Solskjaer.

Unlike Sanchez, Fred has managed to prove his worth to the manager and was arguably their most consistent midfielder in 2019-20. His place in the first XI is far from guaranteed, though, after Donny van de Beek's arrival from Ajax.

 

8. Marcos Rojo (2014-)

Injuries, including serious knee damage, and a proclivity for a reckless challenge or two have dogged Rojo's past couple of seasons and may leave many wondering why he is so high in this list.

Well, it's easy to forget the important part he played in Mourinho's first season, when United won the EFL Cup and Europa League. Such was his determination to run through the proverbial brick wall for his boss, he asked for a banana to give him an energy boost while playing in the last-16 win over Rostov.

 

7. Fabio (2008-14)

Whether or not he really was the most talented of the Da Silva twins, as was claimed, Fabio was certainly not the most effective in his Old Trafford career, although he won plenty of silverware.

Although a full-back by trade, Fabio made two rather decisive appearances in midfield for United. One was in a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Arsenal, when Alex Ferguson somehow pulled off a win with Fabio, Rafael, Darron Gibson and John O'Shea as the central four; the other was during a 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve in 2011, a match that convinced Paul Pogba he had no immediate future at the club.

 

6. Diego Forlan (2002-04)

Forlan's best days were after he left Old Trafford, when he would become a fine forward for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid. He retired last year to a general hum of respect and admiration.

United fans will always remember him for a winning double against Liverpool in 2002, but his talent was just a little too raw for him to establish himself in the north west permanently. Still, he won the Premier League and FA Cup and cost under £7m.

 

5. Rafael (2008-15)

A popular figure like his brother, Rafael simply offered more quality and consistency in the United team, his best season coming as first-choice right-back when they last won the league in 2012-13.

Van Gaal was not a big fan, so he was sold to Lyon in 2015. Five good years in France came and went and he now plays for Istanbul Basaksehir, meaning he will get an Old Trafford reunion in this season's Champions League group stages.

4. Gabriel Heinze (2004-07)

Although he was a touch heavy-handed with challenges at times - he really did like to lead with his elbows when jumping for headers - Heinze was an excellent player for United despite his second season being ruined by a major knee problem.

In fact, he would likely have stayed for longer had his place not been usurped by Patrice Evra, who was signed as cover following that injury and went on to become one of the club's finest full-backs in years.

 

3. Sergio Romero (2015-)

Okay, he has not played as often as others on this list, but Romero has essentially established himself as the most accomplished back-up goalkeeper in the world at United.

Hugely dependable when called upon, he was also first choice in the successful Europa League campaign of 2016-17 and kept a clean sheet in the final against Ajax. He has barely put a foot wrong.

 

2. Antonio Valencia (2009-19)

Some fans lost patience with him in his final few months, when he seemed to be phased out of the squad by Solskjaer with little explanation, but Valencia had a commendable career at United after joining from Wigan Athletic in 2009.

His decade at Old Trafford yielded two Premier Leagues, two EFL Cups, an FA Cup and a Europa League, as he marauded down the right flank as a wide midfielder and later as a first-rate converted full-back. He was the club's Players' Player of the Year twice, in 2011-12 (as a winger) and 2016-17 (as a defender), and served as club captain.

1. Carlos Tevez (2007-09)

He's not exactly the most popular man in the red half of Manchester given his move to City in 2009, but even the angriest of Red Devils cannot deny Tevez's impact.

He spearheaded an attack containing Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo - one of the most fearsome United have ever had - and led Ferguson's side to two Premier Leagues, an EFL Cup, a Club World Cup and the Champions League in just two years.

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes joked he is the new Juan Sebastian Veron after sporting a goatee while isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

While a number of players have shaved their heads due to social distancing policies during the coronavirus pandemic making it tricky to get a professional trim, Fernandes has only taken the razor to his facial hair.

United team-mate Diogo Dalot teased him by tweeting that he now looked like a character in Netflix drama Narcos.

However, Fernandes believes his new look shared greater similarities with a former United player.

"We've found the new Juan Sebastian Veron! But the hair, the hair needs to stay," he told MUTV.

Fernandes has quickly become a key figure since arriving at United from Sporting CP in January in a deal worth £67.6million (€80m).

The Portugal international is yet to taste defeat in his nine appearances for the club and has contributed three goals and four assists.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's backing has been important to him since he arrived at Old Trafford, but he says he would have been ready to give "200 per cent" to force himself into the manager's plans in different circumstances.

"For me, the most important was obviously the confidence of the coach. I need to know I am backed from the coach, because sometimes when you change club, not every time the coach wants you," said Fernandes.

"Not like I need to come because the coach wants me to play, no, not like this, but I want to feel the confidence from the coach: 'You come, you are a choice for me and you come. I need you, I want you.'

"It's not like you come and I ask, 'But I will play?' No, this for me is not the point. For me, the point is the confidence he has in me. If he has confidence in me, then the rest is working."

He continued: "I feel the confidence from the club and I feel also the confidence from the coach, Ole, and also if maybe the choice was not from the coach, I come.

"I come and I will show to the coach I can play, I can be a choice for him, because sometimes you need to press yourself to be better and give more.

"Maybe if I come and I am not the choice for the coach, I will know I need to give not 100 per cent, 200 per cent, because the coach needs to see, he needs to see me, he needs to understand that I need to play, I want to play more than the others.

"In your mind, you want to play more than the others, but the others are thinking the same way with you.

"This is the confidence we need to have to keep improving, to keep training more and the healthy battles you need in the team. You are competing with someone, this one, this one and this one.

"You need to give more than him and he will be thinking the same way with me and then, if you're thinking the same way, you can be much better. Me and him.

"It doesn't matter who plays, you will train better, I will train better and so the team will be better."

Bruno Fernandes' performance in Manchester United's 3-0 victory over Watford drew comparisons with Paul Scholes and Juan Sebastian Veron, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer underlined the Portugal international's quality.

Solskjaer recalled Veron's ability to thread long-range passes and Scholes' technique after Fernandes scored United's opening goal and had a hand in strikes from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

The victory was Fernandes' first at Old Trafford following his transfer from Sporting CP, and Solskjaer said his displays since joining the club had eased the attacking-midfield problems within the squad.

"In today's market I think we got a good deal," Solskjaer told reporters. "He has come in, done really well and given everyone a boost.

"It means more than just getting a player in. You can see the supporters are used to players with that personality, mentality and quality. He's been a big plus.

"From day one and, first minute, [he] felt like a presence in the group. First training session, demanding the ball. Some players take some time in warming up, but he felt confident straight away.

"It is a bit of a mix between Scholes and Veron. To be fair, he's got the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of Scholesy. He is a box-to-box midfielder. He can do everything a midfielder can do, similar to Veron and Scholes.

"One of the good things about him is he risks the ball like Veron did. I used to love playing with Seba [Veron] because you could make runs and you'll get the ball. And if he doesn't hit you, at least he's looking for you."

Midfield creativity has been an issue for Solskjaer this season, particularly due to Paul Pogba's lengthy injury lay-off and Jesse Lingard's struggle for form.

The United boss said Fernandes would not be limited to the advanced role behind the forwards, but indicated the club had recruited a key figure in his plans for the future.

"He is here now and he is one of the pieces that we are trying to put together," said Solskjaer. "He is a big piece in it and an important piece, because we are getting towards the business end of the field.

"We have spent with Harry [Maguire] and Aaron [Wan-Bissaka], who have done fantastically, and now we have got this number 10 or attacking midfield role nailed down. Hopefully he'll keep fit and keep producing performances.

"Some games he will play in a two, some games as an attacking midfielder, some games as a 10. He has played every position in midfield.

"He is going to be a very important part and is coming in to be a very important player for us because we've needed that type of player."

Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo is a target for Estudiantes and they are "working" on his signing, according to the Argentine club's sporting director Juan Sebastian Veron.

Rojo joined United from Sporting CP in 2014 but has rarely been considered first choice, with injuries a regular problem for him, while he has also seemingly failed to convince incumbent manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

This season the 29-year-old has featured just three times in the Premier League and media reports suggest United are actively trying to offload the centre-back, who is said to be on a wage of around £130,000-a-week.

Argentina international Rojo came through Estudiantes' academy and represented the first team before leaving for a brief spell with Spartak Moscow prior to joining Sporting.

But his family are reportedly eager to return to Argentina, and Veron – a former United player – is hopeful of being able to strike a deal.

He is quoted as saying by La Nacion: "Hopefully United can see that there is no economic issue that we can match, but that it [the deal] happens in other ways and that we can attract him. We are working so that he can come back.

"He has everything to keep playing Europe, but he wants continuity."

Estudiantes president Juan Sebastian Veron confirmed talks have taken place with Vissel Kobe captain Andres Iniesta over a switch to the Argentine club.

Spanish great Iniesta has been linked to a reunion with former Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano at Estudiantes.

The 35-year-old Iniesta – contracted to Vissel until 2021 – has called Japan home since leaving LaLiga giants Barca in 2018.

Amid growing links to Estudiantes – where ex-Barca defender Gabriel Milito is head coach – after Mascherano arrived from Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortuna, Veron insisted negotiations are yet to take place.

"Today, we can't say that there are negotiations with Iniesta," Veron told La Oral Deportiva. "[But] yes, there are talks.

"[Trying to sign] Iniesta is something that people will not forget about, regardless of whether it materialises or not."

Veron added: "Having Javier in the club is an important fact, not only for Estudiantes but also for Argentine football, for all that he is as a person and a professional."

Iniesta has scored 10 goals since joining Vissel, who also boast Lukas Podolski, Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Samper, while David Villa retired at the end of the season.

Former Barcelona and Argentina star Javier Mascherano has agreed to join Primera Division side Estudiantes.

The 35-year-old left Barcelona at the end of the 2017-18 season to sign a deal with Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune.

He has made 53 appearances for the club over the past two seasons but will now make a return to Argentina 14 years after leaving River Plate for Brazilian side Corinthians.

Estudiantes announced the deal on social media alongside a video of president and former Seleccion team-mate Juan Sebastian Veron dining with Mascherano.

"We have travelled 19,000km to welcome Javier to the Pincha family," the club wrote on Twitter. "Estudiantes is your home, Mascherano."

Mascherano retired from international duty after the 2018 World Cup, having amassed a national record 147 caps.

Estudiantes are seventh in the Primera Division after picking up 22 points from their opening 13 games.  

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