Achraf Hakimi only moved to Inter from Real Madrid at the start of the 2020-21 season.

But the future of the Morocco international is already making headlines.

Will Hakimi still be an Inter player at the end of the campaign?

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester City are interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Calciomercato.

Hakimi has established himself as a key player for Antonio Conte's Inter after arriving from Real Madrid.

But Inter – in the spotlight amid reported financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic – are facing a battle to keep Hakimi, with Chelsea and Arsenal also chasing the Morocco international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Napoli want to bring back former head coach Maurizio Sarri. Gennaro Gattuso is under pressure and Sky Sport Italia claims the two parties will part in June. Sarri left Napoli for Chelsea in 2018. Former boss Rafael Benitez has also been linked.

Lionel Messi could help bitter rivals Madrid. According to El Chiringuito, Messi's proposed switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain could aid Madrid in their quest to prise Kylian Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu. Mbappe has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are interested in Erling Haaland, but Borussia Dortmund have no intention of losing both the Norwegian and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho at the end of the season.

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed Premier League champions Liverpool and Chelsea are battling the Bundesliga holders to sign RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, with Rummenigge previously stating Bayern's interest in the France international centre-back as David Alaba prepares to leave Munich on a free transfer at season's end.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with moves for the 22-year-old, who has a release clause.

With Bayern determined to bolster their defence, Rummenigge said the German powerhouse are facing serious competition from England for Upamecano.

"In addition to Bayern Munchen, there are at least two quite attractive clubs interested," Rummenigge told Sky in Germany.

"The fact is that the player is interesting, and the fact is that we will almost certainly lose David Alaba at his position. I can't say if there will be other departures at the position," Rummenigge told Sky.

"You have to let things grow in peace. We have a good relationship with Mr. Struth. The player will know what he wants at some point. We have a good relationship with RB Leipzig as well. I have had a conversation with Oliver Mintzlaff. When things become concrete, we'll talk again.

"The fact that Chelsea and Liverpool are also interested in him proves that he has very good qualities. He can replace David Alaba."

Bayern's interest comes as Alaba looks set to swap the Bundesliga champions for LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

Barcelona have also emerged as a possible destination for the 28-year-old, but Rummenigge hinted at a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.

"I am 99.9 per cent sure Alaba will leave the club at the end of this season," Rummenigge added. "We will part in a friendly way and I hope he can say goodbye to us with more titles.

"He is fully committed to us and he is a nice guy that we all like. He deserves to be treated well until his last day at Bayern.

"David can sign for the club he wants. I do not know if he will arrive at an agreement with Real Madrid, but it is a great club and I can understand that it is interesting for him."

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo has joined Nice on an initial loan deal until the end of the season.

The Ligue 1 club have the option to buy the 21-year-old for €8.5million when the loan concludes, in an agreement that could be worth an additional €7m to Barca in variables.

Todibo joined Barcelona from Toulouse two years ago when he was regarded as one of the brightest young talents in European football.

His two LaLiga games in the Blaugrana's ultimately successful 2018-19 title defence yielded neither a win nor a goal, with a 0-0 draw at Huesca on debut followed by a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo.

This is Todibo's third consecutive January move after he joined Schalke on loan last year, going on to make eight Bundesliga appearances before a €25m purchase option was declined.

Opportunities to progress at Barcelona this season were hindered by a positive coronavirus test in August.

The switch to Nice has been made possible by Benfica agreeing to terminate Todibo's loan without the player making a single appearance in the Portuguese top flight.

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied leaking Lionel Messi's contract details and says the Argentina captain deserves his eye-watering salary.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Sunday reported that the deal Barca captain Messi signed in 2017 could earn him in excess of €555million.

The leak of the mercurial forward's earnings came as it was revealed Barca's debts have reportedly risen above €1.1billion, with the coronavirus pandemic having such a huge impact. 

With much talk of who might have been responsible for passing on such confidential information, Bartomeu says he had nothing to do with it.

He told Esport3: "It's a very serious issue and it's totally illegal to leak professional contracts.

"Speaking on TV and making accusations is easy, but it's not a joke and this will end up in court."

Bartomeu added: "By the way, Leo deserves what he earns. Both for professional and commercial reasons. Without the pandemic, Barcelona could easily pay those figures."

LaLiga president Javier Tebas also said it is unfair to put Barca's financial situation down to Messi's staggering contract, which expires at the end of this season.

He wrote on Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure. The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Will he stay or will he go?

That is the question regarding Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who is a reported target for Real Madrid and Liverpool.

If Mbappe opts to call time on his PSG stall, the French champions are still aiming high.

 

TOP STORY – LIFE WITHOUT MBAPPE IN PARIS?

Paris Saint-Germain are more determined than ever to give head coach Mauricio Pochettino a dream forward line amid doubts over Kylian Mabppe's future, according to Le10 Sport.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid and Premier League holders Liverpool.

If Mbappe does not remain in Paris, PSG will step up their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

Massimiliano Allegri has turned down Roma as he waits for Madrid, repots Todofichajes. Zinedine Zidane is under mounting pressure in the Spanish capital, while it is a similar situation for Roma boss Paulo Fonseca.

Manchester City are willing to sign a striker and Messi this offseason, according to The Athletic. With City yet to offer Sergio Aguero a new deal, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter pair Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku are reported targets as Pep Guardiola's side also eye soon-to-be free agent Messi.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool have agreed to sign Ben Davies from Preston North End ahead of Monday's deadline day. Jurgen Klopp has been eyeing a defender due to the club's injury crisis.

Dele Alli's proposed switch from Tottenham to PSG is not progressing, reports Romano. Struggling for game time at Spurs, Alli has been keen for a loan move to PSG, but Tottenham are unwilling to sanction a departure as Inter block Christian Eriksen's return.

Leicester City are the frontrunners to sign Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles, claims The Mirror.

Barcelona's financial situation is due to the coronavirus pandemic and not Lionel Messi, insisted LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported on Sunday that the deal superstar captain Messi signed in 2017 – due to expire at season's end – is worth more than €555million over four years.

It comes after Messi attempted to leave Camp Nou prior to the 2020-21 campaign and amid Barca's financial woes caused by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

But Tebas wrote via Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure.

"The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Messi, who has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City as his contract expires, scored his 650th Barca goal in Sunday's 2-1 LaLiga victory against Athletic Bilbao.

The six-time Ballon d'Or opened the scoring with a 20th-minute free-kick before Jordi Alba's own goal restored parity, though Griezmann secured maximum points 16 minutes from the end.

Messi has scored two direct free-kick goals from his last four attempts for Barcelona in all competitions, after scoring just one from his previous 62 attempts.

Of Messi's 650 goals for Barcelona, 49 of them have been direct free-kicks – 38 in LaLiga.

Messi has 12 goals and two assists in the league for Barca, who are second and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann labelled Lionel Messi a "legend" after the superstar captain dominated headlines on Sunday.

After details of Messi's Barca contract were reported by El Mundo earlier in the day, the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored another landmark goal as the embattled LaLiga giants beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1.

Messi opened the scoring with a 20th-minute free-kick – his 650th goal for Barca – before Jordi Alba's own goal restored parity, though Griezmann secured maximum points 16 minutes from the end.

After El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017 – which expires at the end of the season – is worth more than €555million, Griezmann was asked about the 33-year-old's value.

"We are enjoying Messi, he's a legend," Griezmann told Movistar.

"Hopefully we can keep enjoying him and he can keep helping us win."

Messi – tipped to leave Barca amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City – has scored two direct free-kick goals from his last four attempts for Barcelona in all competitions, after scoring just one from his previous 62 attempts.

Of Messi's 650 goals for Barcelona, 49 of them have been direct free-kicks – 38 in LaLiga.

Messi has 12 goals and two assists in the league for Barca, who are second and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Griezmann's late winner for Barca maintained his superb record against Athletic.

The France international has now been involved in 15 goals against the Basque side (nine goals and six assists), more than he has achieved against any other team in the competition.

Lionel Messi did not deserve his contract to be leaked to a newspaper, said Ronald Koeman, as the Barcelona head coach claimed there was an agenda to "hurt" the Argentine superstar.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

It was already believed that Messi was on an extraordinary salary at Barcelona, given he is recognised by many as the greatest current player of the world's most popular sport.

The leaking of the exact sums payable to Messi has caused a stir, coming at a time when embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona are reported to have built up debts of over €1billion.

Koeman rejected any suggestion that Messi's contract is in any way connected to Barcelona facing a financial hurdle, insisting he has "helped this club to make it very great".

The club's record scorer, who netted his 650th Barcelona goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, could leave on a free transfer in a matter of months.

And Koeman vowed that if anyone employed by Barcelona was proven to have leaked private details, they would be shown the door.

"If you are part of the club, you have to help the club, the coaches, the players. If someone from the club has leaked this, they cannot have a future at this club," Koeman said.

"They are things that come out, that cannot come out. There are people who are interested in hurting Messi and Barca."

Messi is sure to have been unimpressed by his personal details making it into the public domain, but the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner did not let it impede his performance on the pitch against Athletic.

Speaking after the game, Koeman expressed alarm that anyone would want to cause upset in the ranks, particularly concerning Messi, a player destined to be remembered as an all-time great.

"You have to respect him, I see bad intention and desire to hurt," Koeman said, quoted by Mundo Deportivo.

"We must try to find out how this could have come out in the press and we have to focus on our work, that the team are well, and we cannot allow ourselves to lose focus over this issue."

Ronald Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Lionel Messi after the Argentinian scored another landmark goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Messi was headline news earlier in the day when a report by El Mundo claimed the deal he signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

He proved his worth to Barca with a fine free-kick midway through the first half - his 650th goal for the club - before Jordi Alba's own goal drew Athletic level early in the second half.

Antoine Griezmann secured all three points with the winner 16 minutes from time, though, to help Barca leapfrog Sevilla and Real Madrid into second in LaLiga, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Head coach Koeman was less than impressed with the details of Messi's contract surfacing, but insists the saga did not provide any additional motivation for a player he believes is the world's best.

"We've known, for quite some time, that he's the best in the world," the former Netherlands coach told Movistar Plus.

"He's done a lot for the club. He's decisive during games. You have to respect everything he's done. He's a great player, he gives us creativity in attack. Without Leo, you can't aspire to much."

Koeman added, according to Marca: "He hasn't been more motivated today [because of the reports]. What's happened has been for bad intentions, to cause harm.

"We have to be united and focused. Things that are published have to be put to the side, but it's tough."

It seems unlikely that Barca will rein in Atletico, who can move 13 points clear if they win their game in hand, but Koeman says his improving side have no intention of giving up hope of claiming the title.

"The team is improving," Koeman added. "There's concentration, mentality. I'm not saying we didn't have that before, but we're growing in confidence.

"It's important to be second. We want to be as high as possible. The gap to the leaders is big but we have to keep going."

Griezmann's late winner maintained his superb record against Athletic.

The France international has now been involved in 15 goals against the Basque side (nine goals and six assists), more than he has achieved against any other team in the competition.

The former Atletico Madrid forward was pleased to overcome an obdurate opponent and had words of praise for Ousmane Dembele, whose fine pass played in Oscar Mingueza in the build-up to the winning goal.

Griezmann told Movistar Plus: "Sometimes you play and sometimes you don't but in the end we are all part of this and we need everyone. Ousmane is playing very well, he is taking good care of himself and we try to ensure that he is in the best condition."

Lionel Messi showed exactly why he was given a lucrative contract as his 650th Barcelona goal helped Ronald Koeman's side to a slender 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

He demonstrated his value to this Barca team midway through the first half on Sunday with his 49th successful free-kick strike for the Catalan giants.

Jordi Alba put through his own net early in the second half to draw Athletic level, but Antoine Greizmann ensured Barca leapfrogged Sevilla and Real Madrid into second - 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid - with a close-range finish 16 minutes from time.

Unai Simon twice denied Barca inside the opening seven minutes, first pawing away Messi’s clipped effort from close range before diverting Griezmann’s powerful drive over the crossbar.

There was little the Athletic goalkeeper could do to deny Messi after 20 minutes, the Argentinian whipping a sumptuous free-kick into the top right corner from 25 yards.

Ronald Araujo fizzed an effort wide soon after, while Ousmane Dembele lashed over from a promising position shortly before the interval as Barca dominated.

Athletic drew level four minutes after the interval, however, as Alba turned Raul Garcia's left-wing cross into his own net under pressure from Oscar De Marcos at the back post.

Simon superbly kept out Miralem Pjanic's header shortly before the hour mark, while Griezmann nodded wide from Dembele's teasing cross.

The France international had the final say, though, sliding home Oscar Mingueza's low cross into the roof of Simon's net to seal a fourth consecutive win in all competitions for Barca.

Lionel Messi scored his 650th goal for Barcelona with a sumptuous free-kick against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The Argentina international whipped a shot into goalkeeper Unai Simon's top-left corner from 25 yards midway through the first half to put Barca 1-0 up in their LaLiga clash at Camp Nou.

Messi was in the headlines earlier in the day when leaked details of his eye-watering contract emerged.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored his first goal for Barca in May 2005 at the age of 17, beautifully lobbing Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena.

He has gone on to become far and away the club's record scorer, overtaking Cesar Rodriguez's previous mark of 232 in 2012.

Luis Suarez is hoping his goalscoring streak continues after netting a rare free-kick in Atletico Madrid's 4-2 win over Cadiz.

The Uruguay international found the left corner from a little over 25 yards in Sunday's clash at Estadio Ramon de Carranza and added another goal from the penalty spot.

His opener was just the second direct free-kick Suarez has scored since arriving in Spain from 35 attempts, the other coming for Barcelona against Real Betis in August 2016.

Suarez, who now has 14 goals in 16 league appearances since joining Atletico from Barca for a nominal fee in the close season, is glad his training-ground practice is paying off.

"Having been at Barcelona for a long time, where Leo [Messi] is, I didn't take them, but at Liverpool and with the national team I scored a few," he told Movistar.

"Now I'm taking my chances. Just the other day we practised with a few free-kicks at training.

"When the striker is in form you have to take advantage of the chances. I try to help the team however I can and enjoy the moment."

His latest brace helped Atletico to an eighth successive league win - their best run since a nine-match winning streak in their title-winning campaign seven seasons ago - as they moved 10 points clear at the top with a game in hand.

"It means the team is working well, with the mentality to achieve our aims and that's the way to go," Suarez said.

"They are important numbers, which put us up there. We were missing a few important players and those who came in today did it very well."

Alvaro Negredo cancelled out Suarez's sublime free-kick, but the former Barcelona man doubled his personal tally after Saul Niguez had restored Atletico's lead in the eventful match.

Negredo helped himself to a second to set up what looked like being a nervy finale, only for Koke to fire in a fourth goal for the leaders to make certain of a 15th win in 16 league games.

Despite Atletico's big points advantage on the chasing pack in their quest for an 11th league crown, head coach Diego Simeone is continuing to take it one game at a time.

"All games are an important step to reach the objectives," Simeone said. "It was a difficult, tough game, when we started to see the controlled game we knew we were going to suffer.

"Cadiz are stable, maintain a dynamic game and with the second goal they got fully into the game and made things complicated for us with crosses from the side.

"We care to continue in the way we are and seek to improve. We didn't have [Yannick] Carrasco and [Mario] Hermoso, who were very good for the team, and they all responded very well."

Up next for Atletico is a trip to Granada on February 8 before taking on Levante five days later.

Simeone, now up to fifth on the list of all-time wins for a LaLiga manager, added: "To follow this line we must go match by match, compete better in training sessions and increase competition.

"At the end of February the Champions League arrives, where we hope to be able to compete until the end and we will need everyone.

"I need my players in the best way for whatever comes next."

Luis Suarez scored a set-piece double as Atletico Madrid saw off Cadiz 4-2 to move 10 points clear at the LaLiga summit.

Real Madrid's shock 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday provided Atleti with a chance to extend their lead at the top and they did exactly that with victory at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Diego Simeone's men had trailed in their last two outings, though Suarez opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick in Sunday's clash before Alvaro Negredo equalised.

Saul Niguez's flicked finish and Suarez's penalty gave Atleti some breathing space and, while Negredo's second of the day did make things interesting, Koke finished smartly late on to make certain of an eighth league win in a row.

Anthony Lozano glanced wide from a promising Cadiz opportunity and, less than three minutes later, Suarez sent a 28-yard free-kick up and over the wall and into the left corner to give Atleti the lead.

Cadiz were level almost instantly thanks to Negredo, who curled a fine finish beyond Jan Oblak after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Thomas Lemar.

The visitors had won only one of their last eight league games prior to Sunday and it did not take Saul long to restore Atleti's lead with a rather fortunate goal.

Lemar sent in a cross from the right and Saul stuck out a leg, seemingly in an attempt to help the ball on, but instead succeeding in sending it looping over Jeremias Ledesma.

Atleti survived another scare before half-time when a penalty initially awarded for handball against Koke was overturned by VAR due to the midfielder's arm being on the ground when contact was made.

That proved a big moment as Simeone's side converted a penalty of their own through Suarez five minutes into the second half after Marcos Mauro brought down Lemar.

Suarez blazed over when on for a hat-trick and that nearly proved costly as Atletico failed to deal with a ball into the box and Negredo scrambled past Oblak to give Cadiz hope.

Oblak then had to be alert to keep out Negredo's header, but the next goal went Atletico's way, substitute Angel Correa exchanging passes with Marcos Llorente and squaring for Koke to round off the scoring.

The eye-watering wages Lionel Messi is being paid by Barcelona have been leaked by El Mundo.

The lucrative contract signed by the Argentina international in November 2017, which is set to expire this year, was said to potentially be worth more than €555million.

According to the Spanish newspaper, that includes annual earnings in excess of €138m - dependent on some variables - as well as a renewal fee of over €115m and a loyalty bonus just shy of €78m.

The report says Messi has earned €29.8m of the €73.5m up for grabs in incentives, making the deal ultimately worth €511.5m to the superstar striker.

That would make the 33-year-old the world's best-paid athlete, seeing him bring in around five times the amount NBA great LeBron James makes.

But against a backdrop of financial woes, with Barca's accounts for 2019-20 showing a gross debt of €820m, have the Catalan giants really got value for their money?

We take a closer look at the figures involved behind the deal and provide a breakdown of Messi's worth to the side.

STRIKING IT RICH

Messi's contract renewal was made official on November 25, 2017, six months after reports emerged of the forward having turned down the club's initial offer.

At that point in his career, he had scored 523 goals in 602 appearances for the Catalans in all competitions - a staggering scoring rate that saw him break a number of records.

The Argentinian has continued to feature regularly for Barca since then, playing 152 times in all competitions.

That totals 12,678 minutes of playing time overall which, using the €511,540,548 figure Messi has received, equates to €40,349 per minute across that period - although this will decrease slightly by June as he continues to play.

The Barca number 10 has scored 126 goals in all competitions - 94 in LaLiga, 21 in the Champions League, 10 in the Copa del Rey and one in the Supercopa de Espana.

Using those same reported figures, Messi has therefore been paid €4,059,846 for every goal he has netted since putting pen to paper on his latest contract.

SCORING FIGURES DECLINING

Barcelona have not exactly enjoyed their greatest period on the field during that time, winning just four trophies - LaLiga twice and the Copa and Supercopa once apiece.

No player in LaLiga has scored (94) or assisted (45) more goals since November 2017 than Messi, while the 277 chances he has created is also a competition-high.

However, the one-club man's goalscoring figures have dropped off over the past two seasons.

Messi scored 36 league goals in 2018-19, two more than the previous campaign, compared to 25 last season and 11 in 17 games so far this term.

In terms of assists, he has just two this campaign, which is a huge decline on the 21 supplied last time out - a LaLiga record, surpassing Xavi's 20 in 2008-09.

IMPORTANCE DIMINISHING?

Coach Ronald Koeman has not been afraid to leave Messi out of his starting line-up on occasion this season and the statistics appear to show his importance to the team is dwindling.

Going back to 2017-18, the season in which the forward signed his lucrative deal, Barca's win rate in the league dropped from 81.2 per cent with Messi in the XI to 33.3 per cent without.

That is in stark contrast to the current campaign, in which Koeman's men actually have a better win rate without Messi in their starting line-up, albeit over a smaller number of games.

Barca have won 56.2 per cent of the 16 LaLiga games Messi has started this term, compared to 66.7 per cent of the three games in which he has not featured from the outset. They have not lost any of the matches Messi has missed.

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