Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona might make them less of a threat to Real Madrid, but his exit would be a blow to LaLiga, according to Los Blancos midfielder Toni Kroos.

Messi rocked Barcelona last week when informing them of his desire to leave the club he initially agreed to join as a 12-year-old.

Now 33, Messi had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 season, but that is reported to have expired at the end of May.

But because the coronavirus pandemic extended the season into August, Messi and his entourage believe it should still be valid.

LaLiga has sided with Barca, though that has not stopped speculation as to his next destination from running wild, with Manchester City appearing the most likely move.

Messi's father, who is also his agent, suggested on Wednesday that his son remaining at Barca would be "difficult", and Kroos – a regular opponent of the Barca icon in El Clasico – thinks it would be bad for the league if the Argentinian star left.

"Messi is a player who is interesting for all clubs in the world," Kroos said in a news conference on international duty with Germany.

"It's bad for LaLiga and especially for Barcelona. For me, as a Real Madrid player, it's of course something different.

"But even if Messi left, it wouldn't automatically mean that we at Real Madrid would win everything."

Messi has a year left on his contract at Barca, who are reportedly demanding his €700million release clause be met for their talisman to leave.

Should he depart without playing another game for them then his final match will have been the 8-2 Champions League humiliation to Bayern Munich.

 

Sergio Reguilon says Real Madrid is his "home" but the left-back is keeping his options open amid reported interest from numerous clubs.

The 23-year-old enjoyed an impressive 2019-20 campaign on loan with Sevilla, which culminated in Europa League success with victory over Inter in the final.

His form has earned him links with Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, plus a call-up to the Spain national side.

And Reguilon, in line to earn his international debut against Germany or Ukraine this week, is still contemplating where his future lies given he is under contract with Madrid until 2023.

"I go day by day. If I am thinking about calls and my destiny I will not enjoy the national team and I do not have that," he told Radio Marca.

"Obviously Real Madrid is my home, but it is not easy... I have all the factors in mind."

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui managed to get the best out of Reguilon, who featured 38 times in all competitions in his season at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The defender is glad to have been able to reward Lopetegui's faith by playing a starring role in the club's latest European triumph.

"He means a lot to me and I have a lot of affection for him," Reguilon said. "He gave me my first opportunity in professional football and now we have shared something very nice. 

"When I saw him crying after winning the Europa League I couldn't be more happy, he worked like a b***ard."

Juventus midfielder Arthur says linking up with Cristiano Ronaldo will be "the realisation of a dream" as he targets Champions League success at his new club.

The Brazil international has joined Juve ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, with Miralem Pjanic having gone the opposite way and moved to Barcelona.

Arthur spent two seasons in the same side as Lionel Messi at Barca and is now relishing the prospect of playing alongside another multiple Ballon d'Or winner in Ronaldo.

"I have had the privilege of playing with great players. Playing with Ronaldo is almost the realisation of a dream," he said when presented to the media on Wednesday.

"Today is a very important day for me. I thank my family, the managers, Fabio [Paratici, chief football officer] and all those who have welcomed me."

Juventus won a ninth straight Scudetto last season but sacked head coach Maurizio Sarri after losing to Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Iconic former midfielder Andrea Pirlo was installed as Sarri's successor and Arthur is honoured to play under the Italian, who has never previously managed at senior level.

"I haven't talked to the coach in detail yet. But he played football in a unique way, different to others. I feel privileged to play for such a coach," he said. 

"Anyone with an interest in football followed his playing career."

Arthur won two trophies in his two seasons at Camp Nou, but Barca fell short in the Champions League in both campaigns.

It has been 24 years since Juve last won silverware in Europe's premier club competition and Arthur is out to change that.

"One of the main reasons for joining was this," he said. "Here I can play with important players and the Juventus project is extremely ambitious. 

"The Champions League is a priority. I will work with my team-mates to reach that goal and many others.

"We are talking about Juventus, a club with a unique history. It is a team with an important structure - all these factors will always make it unique."

Reflecting on his two years at Barca, Arthur added: "I can only thank them - ​​they had great affection for me. I was treated very well, as part of a very ambitious project."

Bayern Munich have paid tribute to the "outstanding" Philippe Coutinho as the Brazil international returns to Barcelona.

The 28-year-old joined on a season-long loan last August, with that deal extended to cover the final weeks of the season after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coutinho's time in Germany was hugely successful in terms of silverware, with Bayern winning the treble of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League titles for the second time in their history.

Coutinho even came off the bench to score twice and assist another goal in the 8-2 quarter-final destruction of his parent club.

However, injury problems and the form of Bayern's other attacking players under Hansi Flick restricted Coutinho to just 15 starts in the Bundesliga and five in Europe.

"We would like to thank Philippe Coutinho very much. With his creativity and excellent technique, he has invigorated our game during this treble-winning season," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.

He added that Coutinho's impact against Barca "proved that it was a good decision to sign him on loan. We all wish Philippe the best for his career going forward".

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said: "Unfortunately, he could not be used more often due to injuries and an operation, but he can be rightly proud of his contribution to the treble, especially in the Champions League finals tournament in Lisbon.

"Even though FC Bayern and Philippe Coutinho are parting ways after just one season, his commitment in Munich has made it clear what an outstanding player he is."

Coutinho has been linked with a return to the Premier League, with Arsenal and Chelsea said to hold an interest in the ex-Liverpool player.

However, he could stay at Barca for 2020-21 should new head coach Ronald Koeman consider him important to his plans.

Brahim Diaz's agent Pedro Gonzalez says Real Madrid failed to get the most out of the young midfielder and has backed his client to succeed on loan at Milan.

The 21-year-old joined Madrid in January 2019 after six years at Manchester City but has made just five LaLiga starts since then, with only substitute appearances in the top flight last season.

He previously vowed to win over head coach Zinedine Zidane, but the Spaniard is now on the verge of linking up with Milan for the 2020-21 season after flying into Malpensa airport on Wednesday.

Diaz declared himself "ready for this challenge" ahead of undergoing a medical and his representative Gonzalez is confident the ex-Man City product can become a key player at San Siro, having been underused by Zidane at Madrid.

"Brahim returned to Spain in January 2019, but in Madrid they didn't give him the required space and above all the confidence he needed," he told Tuttomercatoweb.

"He's a young player and he needs to play continuously to bring out his full potential.

"I'm convinced of the Rossoneri choice. Brahim has already lived abroad and will therefore adapt quickly to his new reality.

"His future team-mate Samu Castillejo, another great player I brought to Malaga, will help him. I say this with great pride.

"If Brahim Diaz has chosen Milan, it means he already knows he can help the team by carving out a leading role.

"I have no doubts about this. As soon as he has finished his growth path, we will talk about an absolute champion and not a promising youngster anymore."

Spain Under-21s international Diaz has scored two goals in 21 appearances for Madrid in all competitions during his 20 months at the club.

Lionel Messi's desire to win major honours means Manchester City would be "top candidates" to sign the Argentina superstar, concedes Barcelona presidential hopeful Victor Font.

It was revealed last week Messi had made Barca aware of his desire to depart Camp Nou in the wake of the embarrassing 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Messi did not turn up for pre-season training this week as he believes a clause in his contract means he should be able to leave on a free transfer, though Barca and LaLiga both say payment of a €700million release clause is the only way to break him from his deal.

Earlier on Wednesday, Messi's father and agent, Jorge, said it will be difficult for his son to remain at Barca but discussions have yet to take place with Pep Guardiola over a move to the Etihad Stadium.

If Messi does secure a sensational exit then Font feels a reunion with ex-Barca boss Guardiola makes the most sense as City will challenge for the Champions League.

"Only time will tell," Font told talkSPORT on Messi's future. 

"What is clear is the priority for Messi is to play in a team that can compete for the top silverware worldwide and in Europe.

"He wants to win more Champions Leagues and obviously Manchester City and Pep are top candidates."

Font described the damage the situation has done to Barca as "phenomenal" but reiterated his desire for an amicable resolution to be reached.

"The damage this is doing to Barcelona is quite phenomenal. That's why we insist in the relevance of managing this properly because it can still be contained," he added.

"We need the two parties to sit down and discuss to ensure that whatever transition needs to happen, that transition is smooth and we can protect the ties between Messi and Barcelona, which are deep.

"I'm truly hoping reason prevails and as soon as the club and Messi's father sit down and talk, that the interest of both Messi and Barca will be taken into account and properly protected.

"Hope is the last thing you lose, so that's why until he's gone we will continue hoping that the situation can change.

"But beyond that, what I believe is very important is that a reasonable agreement is reached, so that we protect the interests of the club going forward.

"Even if that's the case [Messi leaving], the ties between Messi and Barcelona are very deep; he came to the city 20 years ago, he's been playing for this club all his life. 

"Messi is Barcelona, Barcelona is Messi, and what we need to ensure is that even if he leaves now these ties between Messi are Barcelona prevail.

"We have a plan, and the plan we have for the future is the club would like to count on Messi, even after he retires."

Messi's announcement came shortly after Barca great Ronald Koeman was chosen to succeed Quique Setien as head coach at Camp Nou.

It was reported Font would replace Koeman with Barca legend Xavi should he be voted in as president.

Clarifying his stance, Font said: "It was taken out of context. What I said was that in the last seven years we have been working on designing a project, a project that has many different pieces, and obviously the sports organisation is a very relevant part of that complex puzzle.

"We've been working on what the sports organisation would look like with the leadership of Xavi Hernandez, and what I said is, if we have the honour of being chosen by the members and we become the board of the club, we would like to implement the project we've been working on.

"Xavi as the leader of the sports organisation would be making the decision of how to handle the situation of Koeman, and I'm sure that if Koeman does well Xavi will take care of that in the right way."

Ivan Rakitic insists Barcelona remain "the best option for all players" but admits he does not know whether Lionel Messi will leave the club.

Rakitic this week agreed a return to Sevilla from Barca for an initial fee of just €1.5million, signing a four-year deal with Julen Lopetegui's side.

His departure has been overshadowed by the news that Messi also wants to leave Camp Nou, having told the club as much last week.

His father and agent, Jorge Messi, was to meet with president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Wednesday to try to reach an agreement over an amicable exit.

Rakitic says it is down to each player to decide their future but suggested the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could in fact be better suited by staying.

"The first option and the best option for all players is always Barca," he told reporters. "Then, each player has to make their decision.

"For me, the first option would always be to be at Barca.

"Every player has to do his own analysis and I believed it was my moment. What Messi and other players are going to do, I don't know, you'd have to ask them.

"I've spoken with the board and we're all satisfied. And I'm convinced that everyone will make their own analysis and do the best for all parties.

"I respect the decision of every player and I've already said that these are decisions everyone has to make."

Messi informed the club he wanted to leave in the wake of Barca's humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.

The Catalan giants ended 2019-20 without a major trophy, having endured a marked decline in standards since Rakitic's first season in 2014-15, when they won the treble under Luis Enrique.

However, Rakitic does not believe it is necessarily the end of an era of success at the club.

"I've not said anything about the end of a cycle, only that I always analyse everything and the situation has arrived to start thinking in another way," he said.

"It's not the end of an era. After six years, it wasn't easy for me to leave. I'm really grateful for every detail.

"I don't like to talk about the end of an era. I believe every player has to think about when the moment comes for them to leave, and that moment has come for me, nothing more."

Lionel Messi would be highly unlikely to swap Barcelona for Real Madrid and would need to show "cojones" to remain if Spain if he departs Camp Nou, says Toni Kroos.

The future of Argentina superstar Messi remains shrouded in doubt after he made the club aware of his intention to leave following Barca's humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Messi did not show up for pre-season training this week, nor did he appear for coronavirus testing on Sunday, as he believes a clause in his contract is now active making him a free agent – something Barca dispute.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City is seen as the likeliest outcome should Messi seal a spectacular exit.

Kroos also sees that as a possibility, but the Blancos star cannot imagine Messi becoming a Madrid team-mate any time soon.

"I do not think he will come to Real Madrid, if I have to rule it out categorically," he said on the Einfach mal Luppen podcast with his brother Felix.

"To stay in Spain: You need cojones for that. I think hardly anyone in the football world can imagine Barcelona without Messi."

Kroos added "that it could most likely be Pep and City" for Messi, while admitting Barca losing a player of his calibre would not be a bad thing for LaLiga champions Madrid.

"If one of those players no longer plays in the rival team, one can imagine that we do not consider it as something necessarily bad," Kroos said.

"Messi away from Barcelona means that Barcelona lacks a total weapon."

Kroos is preparing for a Nations League double-header against Spain and Switzerland and revealed he is no longer told by Germany head coach Joachim Low when he has been selected for international duty, only if he is being rested.

"It's actually like this, if I don't hear anything from Jogi, I'll travel there too. Regardless of whether I'm nominated or not," he said.

The father of Lionel Messi says it would be "difficult" for the player to stay at Barcelona but that talks with Pep Guardiola have not taken place.

Jorge Messi, who acts as agent for the Argentina star, arrived at the club's offices on Wednesday to hold talks with president Josep Maria Bartomeu over the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's future.

Lionel Messi informed Barca last week that he wants to leave the club and reportedly believes he can move on a free transfer after activating a clause that allowed him to have his contract terminated at the end of the season.

However, LaLiga stated its belief that his deal remains intact, making it clear that any potential suitor will have to negotiate with Barca or pay the forward's €700million release clause if they wish to sign him.

Manchester City are considered the favourites to land the 33-year-old, but manager Guardiola is reported to have advised Lionel Messi to stay at the club and see out the final year of his contract.

However, Jorge Messi told El Chiringuito that it will be "difficult" for his son to remain at Camp Nou.

He then said "I don't know anything" when it was put to him that City would be a good destination for Messi.

He also added: "I haven't talked with Pep. Not at all."

Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been linked with Messi, but any deal for the player could risk incurring Financial Fair Play penalties given the huge cost of his wages added to any transfer fee, which is likely to be at least €100m.

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio told Sky Sport Italia this week that "there is nothing" to rumours of the Nerazzurri's interest, adding: "There is no team that does not want such a player, but the reality is different.

"To date, we have limited resources that we can only improve through the [transfer] market."

Lionel Messi's father and agent Jorge has arrived in Barcelona and is expected to try to negotiate a move away for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Jorge Messi will reportedly meet with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Wednesday to discuss a potential departure for the club captain, who last week informed the Catalan giants of his desire to leave.

However, it has been reported that Barca are willing to offer their all-time leading goalscorer a contract extension until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Upon arriving at El Prat Airport, Jorge Messi told reporters: "I don't know anything, guys."

Lionel Messi did not report for the first day of pre-season training under Ronald Koeman on Monday, signalling his belief that a clause in his contract allowing him to leave on a free has been activated.

However, Barca and LaLiga are of the opinion the €700million release clause in a deal that runs until next June will need to be met in order for him to terminate his agreement at Camp Nou.

Manchester City, managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, are thought to be leading the race to sign Lionel Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain and Inter have also been credited with significant interest in the 33-year-old Argentina international.

 

With a crucial meeting set to take place in the Lionel Messi saga, the Barcelona star has reportedly agreed to a deal with Manchester City.

Messi, 33, has sensationally requested to leave the LaLiga giants, where he has spent his entire professional career.

But just whether a move happens could hinge on an upcoming meeting.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI AGREES €700M DEAL WITH CITY

Messi has agreed to terms on a deal worth £623million (€700m) with the City Football Group (CFG), which owns Manchester City, according to the Daily Record.

The deal is reportedly five years in length, including three in Manchester and two with MLS side New York City.

A six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi is set for a Barcelona exit after a tumultuous and trophy-less 2019-20 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Messi's dad, Jorge, is set to meet with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, according to Mundo Deportivo. It reports Jorge is drafting an exit for Messi, but Barcelona plan to tell him the superstar has a contract and they will not negotiate. It also reports Barca are preparing to offer Messi a renewal until the 2022 World Cup.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong conceded the LaLiga giants are in turmoil as superstar captain Lionel Messi looks to leave Camp Nou.

Messi did not feature in Barca's first day of pre-season training under new head coach Ronald Koeman on Monday after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner handed in a transfer request, with Manchester City reportedly the frontrunners for his signature.

As with Sunday's coronavirus testing for members of Koeman's first-team squad, Messi did not attend because he believes a clause in his contract allowing him to leave on a free transfer is now active, meaning he is no longer a Barcelona player.

It comes after Barca were dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid in LaLiga and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2019-20.

Netherlands international De Jong, who endured a difficult first season in Spain, told NOS: "Currently it's a mess at Barcelona, so many strange things happening. It's chaos.

"I haven't talked to him [Messi] about this myself. Nor the club. So I honestly do not know how it is. 

"But if Messi really leaves, it will be a huge blow to the team and the club. 

"When I come back after these international matches, I will see what has happened at the club."

Messi has called Barca home since 2001, emerging from the club's famed youth system in 2004.

Since making his debut 16 years ago, Messi has won a club-record 33 trophies – including 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.

Messi – linked to Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Inter – also holds the records for most goals scored for LaLiga giants Barca.

De Jong added to Fox Sports: "I hope that Messi is still there when I get back, but that is not something that is up to me. He's still in the group chat.

"I'm not anyone to talk about it with him, I'm sure he has many people around him doing that these days."

Presidential candidate Victor Font fears it is too late to keep Lionel Messi at Barcelona and says it is vital the captain leaves on amicable terms in the hope he may return in some capacity.

Messi dropped a bombshell last week by telling Barca he wants to leave the Catalan giants.

The mercurial forward believes a clause in his contract allowing him to leave on a free transfer has been activated, though the club and LaLiga say his €700million release clause remains the only valid way to terminate his deal, which runs until next June.

Long-serving Argentina international Messi has failed to report for pre-season training this week and Manchester City are the favourites to sign him.

Font last week stated that the only way the six-time Ballon d'Or winner might remain at Camp Nou is if president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the man he hopes to replace, resigns.

He now feels too much water has gone under the bridge to avoid losing Messi.

Asked if it is too late for Messi to change his mind, Font told Sky Sports: "That's the way it seems. This is the best football club in the world and we will do everything to ensure that the association with Messi stays."

When quizzed if he sees any way that Barca can convince him to perform an about-turn, he added: "That's the hope, right? Until it's over there is always hope. And therefore I really hope the decision can be changed.

"It doesn't seem likely, though, and therefore if that's the case, the focus should be on making the transition as smooth as possible. And the ties between Messi and Barcelona that go very deep, remain there, so we can ensure somehow, the relationship continues in the future."

He added: "Being the best player in the history of the sport carries a lot of weight. You see it with [Diego] Maradona, with Pele, with Johan Cruyff, these people carry a lot of value to the organisation they belong to.

"That's why we need to ensure that happens."

Zinedine Zidane has described Toni Kroos as a "spectacular" player, and one he will single out as an honour to have coached when he retires.

Kroos joined Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014 and has gone on to help Los Blancos to two LaLiga titles and three Champions League triumphs.

Zidane has coached Kroos since 2016 over two separate spells, and the Madrid boss has no doubt that the Germany international will go down as a midfield great.

"He will be remembered as a spectacular player, one of the best in the world in his position," Zidane told Real France, as reported by TyC.

"When I arrived, well, you can imagine, I was really happy to be his coach.

"It's true, when I retire I will be able to say that I trained Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Gareth] Bale, [Luka] Modric, [Sergio] Ramos. But I will also say I coached Toni Kroos.

"It is impressive to see him train every day. How professional [he is]. Talking about him is talking about someone extraordinary."

Kroos' main skill, according to Zidane, is his patience and composure, and a player who leads by example.

"He is so good that he could play as a 'six' or even as a '10'," Zidane added. "You put him in and he adapts. His main virtue is his serenity, he's calm.

"He's not nervous and loves reaching out to shoot from afar as much as taking a back pass. The ease with which he plays with both feet is fascinating to me. You could come to think that he's a natural left-footed player.

"Toni is a very quiet and reserved boy. But when he speaks, he speaks to anyone: coach, managers, teammates. He does not stop. I have seen many discussions in which his participation has ended up being key."

Sergio Gomez has extended his loan spell at Huesca ahead of the new season, Borussia Dortmund have confirmed.

Gomez – a 19-year-old midfielder – spent last season on loan at Huesca, making 36 league appearances in Spain's second tier as the side secured promotion to LaLiga.

However, rather than return to Dortmund, Spanish youth international Gomez will remain at Huesca for 2020-21 campaign.

Huesca also confirmed there is a purchase option included within the deal for Gomez, who signed for Dortmund from Barcelona in 2018.

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