Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo believes his "healthy rivalry" with Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi during his time in LaLiga made him a better player.

Both men have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times and are considered to be two of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo spent nine years with Real Madrid prior to joining Juventus in 2018 and Messi recently acknowledged the pair spurred each other on in their quest for individual honours.

The former Manchester United star has echoed those views, telling France Football: "A lot of people said that we fed each other, that being together in Spain made us better.

"That's certainly true. I felt his presence more in Madrid than in Manchester. It was a healthy rivalry. We were the symbols of our clubs.

"It's always nice to be spoken of in a flattering way. It's nice if they say I've been the best, a fantastic player.

"Today, I hear everything they say about me, but when it's all over, at the end of my career, I won't mind because I'll disconnect from everything."

Ronaldo is well known for his dedication to training and insists hard work off the field has helped him to become one of the all-time greats.

"First of all, you need talent, otherwise you won't amount to much," he said. "However, talent is useless without hard work.

"I would never have got to where I am today without the culture of hard work."

Ronaldo recently netted the 700th goal of his career in Portugal's 2-1 defeat to Ukraine, 450 of those being scored during his illustrious spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Asked to pick his favourite ever goal, the 34-year-old went with his overhead kick in Madrid's Champions League quarter-final win against current employers Juventus in 2017-18.

"Reaching 700 goals make me proud - it's an impressive total that few players have reached," he said.

"If I had to choose a favourite, I would say the one against Juventus because it was a goal I'd been trying to score for years."

Carlos Vela would fit in perfectly at LaLiga champions Barcelona, according to his Mexico team-mate and Blaugrana youth product Jonathan dos Santos.

Barca reportedly considered a move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

The short-term switch failed to materialise, however, with the Spanish champions instead signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Should Barca come calling again, though, Dos Santos – whose LA Galaxy side were beaten 5-3 by Vela's Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-final on Friday – believes Vela would have no problems slotting in alongside Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Suarez.

Dos Santos, who played for Barca between 2009 and 2014 after also representing their academy and B team, told reporters: "Vela could fit in at Barcelona. He is a great player with a lot of quality; he has shown it in every team that has been.

"I hope a team like Barcelona is interested in Vela. He would do well surrounded by such excellent players."

Speaking after Friday's game, Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic made headlines by suggesting MLS would be forgotten quickly if he were no longer playing in the league.

Amid rumours the former Sweden international could return to Europe when his contract expires in December, Dos Santos said: "Zlatan is very mysterious. He has not said anything else after the game and if he stays he will help us a lot in the campaign. He is a player of excellent quality."

Diego Simeone says Diego Costa is happy to see Alvaro Morata has found form for Atletico Madrid despite losing his own place in the starting line-up.

Morata came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 1-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday and then got the second in Saturday's 2-0 LaLiga defeat of Athletic Bilbao.

While Morata is seemingly growing in confidence, Costa appears to be struggling for meaningful minutes in 2019-20.

The 31-year-old has scored only once from open play this season and was relegated to the role of substitute for the weekend game at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Simeone, though, has dismissed any suggestion Costa is feeling resentment or frustration at Morata's contrasting form.

"He looks happy that Morata has scored and that he has that consistency in front of goal," the Atleti boss told a news conference on Monday. "They are good team-mates and friends. We keep working with Costa and everyone.

"It's normal for strikers to be worried where goals are coming from. Everyone shows the personality they have on the outside.

"As happens with strikers, [Morata] is much freer, looser as a result of his play."

Atletico can move top of the table with a win at Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday, at least until Barcelona play Real Sociedad a few hours later.

With the Clasico having been postponed last weekend, promoted Granada took the chance to go top after 10 matches by beating Real Betis 1-0.

Simeone thinks the balanced league table at this stage of the season shows how LaLiga teams have begun to improve defensively.

"The numbers from the first 10 matches speak for themselves. Nothing else needs to be said," he added.

"There are very good coaches. In Spain, there have always been good footballers for the associated way of playing and teams have acquired qualities to become better defensively. We see that in a lot of teams."

Rumours linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid are refusing to go away.

Pogba – nursing an ankle injury which is set to keep him sidelined until December – wanted to leave Manchester United in the previous transfer window but a move did not materialise.

With the January window approaching, Madrid are eyeing the French star again.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PLOTTING POGBA PURCHASE

Real Madrid are preparing to make a January bid for Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to OK Diario.

Pogba was wanted by Madrid and former club Juventus in the previous window as he eyed an Old Trafford exit, yet United were unwilling to part with their prized asset.

But with Pogba reportedly set to make it clear he will not renew his United contract beyond 2021, Madrid are lining up a €150million (£129.5m) offer.

 

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- Another Frenchman is also reportedly high on Madrid's radar. AS reports the Spanish powerhouse are hoping to take advantage of a tense relationship between Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and head coach Thomas Tuchel. Madrid are determined to lure Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season.

- Linked with Madrid and LaLiga champions Barcelona, in-demand Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also wanted by Premier League holders Manchester City. Gazzetta dello Sport claims City are set to make an approach for the Spain international.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona are interested in Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca after his agent previously revealed the club's interest in Martinez. Now, Ernesto Valverde's side are eyeing the in-form marksman – who has also reportedly attracted the attention of Manchester United – as Inter pursue Barca pair Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal.

United are prepared to meet Borussia Dortmund's demands for England sensation Jadon Sancho, reports the Mirror. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool and Madrid.

Stefano Sensi's exploits at Inter have not gone unnoticed. On loan from Sassuolo with the option to buy, Sport says there is already contact between Barca, Inter and the player's agent.

Granada moved to the top of LaLiga after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday, less than five months on from their promotion back to the top flight.

Diego Martinez's side took advantage of the postponed Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Alvaro Vadillo's second-half goal sealing all three points at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

The Andalusian side have enjoyed a remarkable return to LaLiga after two seasons in the second tier, winning six of their opening 10 games, including a memorable 2-0 victory over Barca on September 21.

With Barca not playing this weekend after their clash with Madrid was postponed, Granada were able to move a point clear at the top of the table.

Their haul of 20 points from 10 games this season is as many as they managed from all 38 league matches when they were relegated in 2016-17.

They could be dethroned when Ernesto Valverde's side take on Real Valladolid in their game in hand on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Civil unrest in Catalonia forced the first Clasico of the 2019-20 season to be rearranged for December 18.

Lionel Messi conceded his dreams of a fairytale return to Newell's Old Boys are fading as he reflected on the "madness" of Argentina's obsession with football.

Barcelona superstar Messi has long expressed a desire to end his career in his hometown of Rosario, where he played for Newell's as a child.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner left for Europe in his teens and acknowledges it would now be tough to ask his wife and three children to leave behind their life in Catalonia.

"I always say that I don't want to leave here, I have no thoughts of ​​moving," Messi told TyC Sports.

"I have the dream of being able to play for Newell's in Argentina, but I don't know if it's really going to happen because I have a family that is ahead of my desire.

"It's a dream I've had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future.

"We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina.

"I will try to convince the family, because today we have to convince the children too."

Messi's involvement in Argentine club football would invite immense interest and, though he relocated almost two decades ago, the 32-year-old is fully aware of the hostile intensity that surrounds his homeland's strongest rivalries.

According to the Barca captain, his club's encounters with Real Madrid do not stir the same level of manic passion associated with derbies like the Superclasico, contested by Boca Juniors and River Plate.

"I would like to have played in Argentine football in general," he said.

"I always went to the stadium with my old man, the crowd was impressive. Besides, playing in one of those Clasicos must be terrible. It's more or less the same [as in Spain], but people live it differently.

"On a sporting level, the match is the same, but people in Argentina are crazier about that issue. Not winning the Clasico means a lot. Here you want to win but, if you lose, nothing happens. There, you can't leave your house if you lose.

"All of the Clasicos are the same: in Rosario, in Cordoba, River-Boca, Independiente-Racing. In general people live it that way. The daily madness is carried into football and it's a disaster. 

"We go through qualifying [with the national team], although that's something else. We had to go all over South America and it is also brave, they do not let you sleep, they spend the night throwing things at you all in the hotels. Libertadores matches must be much worse still."

Take your pick: Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City?

Napoli star Fabian Ruiz is in demand following his exploits in Serie A since leaving Real Betis in 2018.

LaLiga giants Madrid are keen to bring Spanish midfielder Fabian to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEPPING UP FABIAN INTEREST

Real Madrid are prepared to offer €20million and Isco for Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, according to Mundo Deportivo.

In-demand Napoli star Fabian is wanted by Madrid, LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League holders Manchester City.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and Madrid are determined to bring the Spain international to the Santiago Bernabeu, though Napoli are reportedly uninterested in an exchange and wanted a bigger transfer fee.

 

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- According the Mirror, Manchester United have been given the green light for a £125million double swoop to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller. Havertz is wanted by Europe's elite, while Muller is searching for more game time.

United have been put off signing Real Madrid's Gareth Bale due to his injury record, reports the Daily Mail. Bale's name continues to be mentioned amid Madrid's interest in United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Inter are ready to make January bids for Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal and Manchester United's Nemanja Matic, according to Corriere della Sera. Sport also claims Inter are in talks with Barca for Ivan Rakitic.

- AS claims Barcelona want Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman to replace head coach Ernesto Valverde, who is out of contract at season's end. PSV's Mark van Bommel is also on the list of alternatives.

Manchester City are set to offer Wayne Rooney's son Kai the chance to join their academy, says the Mirror. Kai joined City in 2016 during Wayne's time at Premier League rivals Manchester United.

- Soccer Link reports Lyon are open to selling Manchester United target and star striker Moussa Dembele.

Diego Simeone called on everyone associated with Atletico Madrid to pull in the same direction after his side saw off Athletic Bilbao to return to winning ways in LaLiga.

Atletico snapped a streak of three successive league draws with Saturday's 2-0 home victory thanks to goals from Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata.

Back-to-back wins in all competitions has helped to lift the mood around Wanda Metropolitano, with Koke being greeted warmly against Athletic just four days on from being jeered by the same supporters in the narrow 1-0 Champions League win against Bayer Leverkusen.

Following Atletico's third home match in a week, head coach Simeone paid tribute to the club's fanbase and talked up the importance of showing a united front.

"We have to be together forever," he said at his post-match news conference. "We are a new team, with many new players. Today, for example, we had a backline of new signings.  

"We know what our aim is and we need the fans, directors, players, coaches to be like horses looking forward. 

"Koke may have bad games, but he is always there, he covers well and he is important to the team. 

He added: "The fans were extraordinary again, they are the best around, as I've said before... 180,000 people in three games. 

"It's not easy to come to seven or nine games, but they are always there. We, with total humility, aim to give our best, even though it doesn't always come off."

A second win in seven LaLiga outings lifted Atletico up to second place and level on points with leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand to play against third-place Real Madrid.

Simeone selected Angel Correa over the benched Diego Costa for the comfortable home victory and the versatile Argentine forward repaid that faith by setting up both goals.

"He has always been a striker," Simeone replied when asked about Correa's best position in the side. "We often put him in a place where he doesn't feel comfortable but he puts in a great effort.

"His natural position is a striker. In that position he can better express his dribbling, his power, his turns, like the one for the first goal. He is a player who has done very well."

Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata were on target as Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Wanda Metropolitano to return to winning ways and move up to second in LaLiga.

The home side had drawn three league games in a row - and four of their last five - to lose ground in the title race, but they rediscovered their scoring touch on Saturday.

Saul opened the scoring for Diego Simeone's men with just under half an hour played and Morata grabbed a second 64 minutes in to seal the victory.

A second win in seven league matches lifted Atletico a point above third-placed Real Madrid and behind leaders Barcelona on goal difference alone, though both those sides have a game in hand to play after this week's El Clasico was postponed for safety reasons.

Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid are among a host of major clubs interested in signing Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to the club's owner and president Massimo Cellino.

Tonali, 19, is one of Italy's brightest prospects, having broken into Brescia's first-team picture at the age of 17.

A technically gifted deep-lying playmaker who is often likened to Azzurri great Andrea Pirlo, Tonali made his first appearance for Italy in the Euro 2020 qualifying win over Liechtenstein on October 15.

He played 34 league games last season as Brescia were crowned Serie B champions and earned promotion back to the top flight, with many expecting the midfielder to be snapped up by a bigger club.

Brescia have managed to hold onto him, though, with Cellino suggesting it would take an eye-watering €300million for the club to part with him.

Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport who was interested in Tonali, Cellino said: "All the big Italian clubs. Abroad there's Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, but in my view, he'd be better off remaining a key player with Brescia.

"His agent and his parents were telling me about this €50million evaluation. I replied that for me he is worth €300million, which means I don't want to sell.

"I have a dream. If Sandro accepts, I am ready to make a big financial sacrifice to extend his contract. It's up to him to decide. He can stay here and enjoy his football or go to a big club and risk being left on the bench."

Kylian Mbappe is long admired by Real Madrid and they are again intent on adding the 20-year-old to their front line, it seems.

Mbappe was linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu before opting to stay in Ligue 1 when joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in the 2017-18 season.

The Spanish giants have not forgotten about the France international, though, and are planning to move two superstars on in order to get their man, according to reports.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE BACK ON MADRID'S RADAR WITH BALE AND JAMES TO MAKE WAY

Real Madrid were unable to land Kylian Mbappe a couple of seasons ago, but they are keen to sign him over the next few transfer windows, according to Calciomercato.

Mbappe is one of world football's star names and would fit into the old Galactico culture at Madrid, although Los Blancos would need to offload two star names in order to raise finances and complete a deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

One of those names is Gareth Bale, who is still reportedly unhappy at Madrid, while Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez could also move on having struggled at times to find form this season following a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

It remains to be seen whether any club is willing to pay the substantial transfer fee and wages required to secure either of the duo, but if they do make way then it could pave the way for Mbappe's move.

 

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- Staying in Madrid and ElDesmarque believe Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid in exchange for Gareth Bale and €90million.

- Bleacher Report claim Mesut Ozil's advisors are trying to convince the Arsenal playmaker to make a switch to MLS.

- Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is the number one transfer target for Manchester City, according to Calciomercato.

- Manchester Evening News are reporting City may also take up their option to buy back Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa.

- Frank Lampard is hopefully of securing Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to new contracts at Chelsea, Goal have said.

- Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is a January transfer target for Bayern Munich, say Spox.

- Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez's contract talks with Inter have been put on ice as Barcelona and United circle for the 22-year-old's signature, according to Calciomercato.

Diego Simeone came to Koke's defence after the Atletico Madrid midfielder was singled out for criticism from sections of the Wanda Metropolitano support.

Club stalwart Koke was jeered for his performance during the narrow Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, although he later insisted he has "total confidence" in himself.

Atletico coach Simeone had some words of comfort as they prepared to face Athletic Bilbao in a third consecutive home match, suggesting even he has had to overcome boos at times.

"Of course the fans have jeered me, in the Calderon itself in some games," he told a news conference. "I remember being whistled just because I wasn't doing a good game.

"People are spontaneous, they say what they feel. They are used to a type of situation and that is what they want.

"It is us who have to strive to improve and not have that tension. It's not just Koke - it's everyone's responsibility."

Asked why Koke might now be targeted by fans, Simeone acknowledged the midfielder may need to go back to basics.

"He is occupying too many positions," the coach said. "Maybe he should focus more on his own.

"Often he wants to fix a lot with his tactical ability. He wants to do more than he is responsible for and ends up paying for what is not his responsibility.

"He wants to fix problems in other parts of the field which are not fixable. With the tactical ability he has and the information he has gathered over the years, this makes him want to do more than he has to do.

"He is a great professional and a great player."

As Simeone reflects on criticism of himself and his team, one issue for which Atleti regularly face scrutiny is a lack of threat in the final third.

Asked if this could ever complement the usual defensive stubbornness of his side, Simeone claimed "creativity" was not Atleti's problem.

"I believe that what we need is to be more practical, not to have more creativity," he said. "Creativity is not the only factor that improves you. Creativity is good and practicality is better."

The future of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is once again in the headlines.

Lazio star Milinkovic-Savic has been linked with Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Now another club are reportedly in the mix for the Serbia international midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Chelsea sent scouts to watch Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the Europa League, reports TuttoMercato.

One of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe, Milinkovic-Savic has attracted interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Milinkovic-Savic – who was reportedly set to join United if Paul Pogba left Old Trafford – was watched as Lazio lost 2-1 to Celtic in Glasgow on Thursday.

 

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- Staying at Stamford Bridge and The Sun claims Chelsea are interested in Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

Manchester United have rekindled their interest in Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller, according to Sport BILD. Muller was wanted by former United boss Louis van Gaal before the Dutchman's departure in 2016. Now with Muller seeking a Bayern exit, United and Inter are in the mix for the Germany international.

- The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining Antonio Conte's Inter has hit a snag. According to CalcioMercato, the presence of agent Mino Raiola could cause an issue in talks. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is coming to an end and the veteran has been linked to Napoli and Bologna.

- Sky Sport Italia says free agent Jack Rodwell is set for a shock move to Serie A outfit Roma. The former Manchester City midfielder, who spent time at Blackburn Rovers last season, is poised to undergo a medical.

Rivaldo believes Kylian Mbappe "must leave" Paris Saint-Germain for LaLiga or the Premier League to confirm himself as the heir to superstar Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mbappe has established himself as one of the best forwards in the world, having claimed silverware with Monaco and PSG, while he helped France to World Cup glory in 2018.

The 20-year-old sensation – who has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or – continues to be linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid following his exploits for the Ligue 1 holders in Paris.

While Rivaldo doubts the chances of former club Barcelona signing Mbappe, he called on the Frenchman to leave PSG to fulfil his enormous potential.

"I think it would be tough for Barcelona to sign him in the future, as he is very expensive due to his young age, world champion status and natural ability that makes him one of the biggest prospects in the world of football," Rivaldo told Betfair.com.

"If Barca had so many problems in trying to sign Neymar, just imagine how much PSG would be asking for the Frenchman, so it's almost impossible to bring this excellent player to Catalonia at the moment.

"There's no doubt Mbappe has the qualities to become one of the best in the world, as he is playing great football and has huge potential. He would be able to develop his talent by playing LaLiga or the Premier League. Ligue 1 is clearly below the competitive level of Spain or England.

"With all due respect to PSG, I believe he must leave for a Spanish or big English team in the future to confirm himself as the heir to Messi or Ronaldo. The best players need to play in the best leagues."

Mbappe came off the bench and scored a hat-trick in a devastating performance as PSG routed Club Brugge 5-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The PSG star became the youngest player to score 15 Champions League goals aged 20 years, 306 days, eclipsing Barca's Messi – who was 21 years, 288 days.

Mbappe has scored six goals across all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's PSG this season.

Ryan Giggs described Lionel Messi as a "once in a lifetime player" after being asked for his verdict on the eternal debate over who is better between the Barcelona forward and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The superstar duo dominated the Ballon d'Or voting for more than a decade, winning it five times apiece before Luka Modric broke their stranglehold in 2018.

Messi has spent his entire senior career with Barcelona while Ronaldo has starred for Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus.

Giggs played alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford and said he will always back his former team-mate but could not hide away from the fact a player of Messi's quality is a one-off.

"Obviously I lean towards Ronaldo a little bit because I played with him and saw him develop as a player," he told DAZN. "But Messi is a genius, a once-in-a-lifetime player. It's as simple as that."

Giggs is now in charge of the Wales senior side, where he coaches Ronaldo's ex-team mate Gareth Bale, who is in his seventh season at Madrid. 

Bale came close to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu in the last transfer window, but a move to China collapsed and he has been used seven times in all competitions this season.

Giggs found Bale's situation in the Spanish capital unusual given what he has achieved at the club.

"It's strange. From the outside, it looks strange," he said. "For the quality he possesses and what he's won there: four Champions Leagues.

"I'm his coach for Wales, he's recently been my captain, and is a good professional. He's a player that can turn a game on its head like he did against Liverpool for Madrid."

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