Kylian Mbappe refused to confirm his future lies at Paris Saint-Germain after his stunning hat-trick decimated Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 first leg.

Mbappe took his career Champions League tally to 24 goals with a devastating treble in PSG's 4-1 rout after Ronald Koeman's side had taken the lead at Camp Nou.

The 22-year-old lashed in an equaliser five minutes after Lionel Messi's penalty put Barca in front and added a pair of clinical second-half strikes either side of Moise Kean's goal.

Less than 24 hours earlier, reports in Spain suggested an unsettled Mbappe would not force an exit from PSG but would not sign and extension to his contract that expires in June 2022.

"It would be stupid to decide my future on a single match," Mbappe told RMC.

"The truth is that it is about reflecting for the long term.

"I have always said that I am happy here. This sort of match makes me even happier."

The French World Cup winner has netted 21 goals in 29 games during his fourth season playing for his hometown club, as PSG sit second in Ligue 1, one point behind leaders Lille.

Mbappe and his side were on the losing end in last year's Champions League final and the 39-cap international insists he is happy to focus on the club's battles to lift trophies.

"We are very happy. It was a very important game for us. We wanted to come here and win. We did it with style," Mbappe said.

"Now we have an important game on Sunday in the league. Tonight is beautiful but we won nothing.

"I am happy. I always wanted to give the best of myself. There has not always been success. But never in my life will I hide. Today I am paid for the hard work."

Mauricio Pochettino's team now turn their attentions back to the league and a match against Mbappe's former club, fourth-placed Monaco, at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe can go on to be the equal of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after his hat-trick saw Paris Saint-Germain destroy Barcelona 4-1 in the Champions League.

That was the gracious take of Mbappe's France team-mate Antoine Griezmann, who was on the receiving end of his countryman's heroics at Camp Nou in Tuesday's last-16 first leg.

Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot to score in Europe's top competition for a 17th consecutive season, matching a record set by Real Madrid great Raul.

From then on, however, it was the Mbappe show as Barcelona suffered another humiliating outing on the biggest stage.

A superb equaliser created by Marco Verratti meant it was all square at the interval and Mbappe fired Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead after the hour and completed the rout with a sumptuous finish into the top corner after Moise Kean headed home Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

"PSG have a very big star of the future who will be at the level of Leo and Cristiano," Griezmann told RMC sport.

"I can only congratulate him."

Mbappe became the third player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick against Barcelona and the first for almost a quarter of century after Newcastle United's Faustino Asprilla and Dynamo Kiev's Andriy Shevchenko both achieved the feat in 1997.

It was a sensational all-round performance from the 22-year-old, who also made four key passes to create chances for his team-mates.

"We needed to have a perfect match. We didn't and they did. It's a big defeat," Griezmann said.

"We were ready, we wanted to play a big game, but they were better than us. There is nothing to say. Kylian was having a great night."

Barca need an improbable repeat of the heroics that saw them overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG at the same stage in 2017 when they head to Paris for the return next month.

Despite the odds being stacked heavily against Ronald Koeman's side, Griezmann is not giving up.

"You have to go there to win and turn the situation around. We're not going to go there as tourists," he added.

Kylian Mbappe proved he is already one of the world's greatest players after netting a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 win over Barcelona, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

PSG battered Barca in Camp Nou on Tuesday, the Parisian's taking an emphatic away win into the second leg at the Parc des Princes next month.

While all eyes were on PSG-linked Messi before the game, Mbappe showed why he is regarded by many as the Argentinian's heir to the 'best player in the world' label.

After Messi opened the scoring from the spot, Mbappe went on to net a stunning treble that was completed late on with a gorgeous first-time effort that found the top-right corner, in doing so becoming the first away player to net a Champions League hat-trick in Camp Nou since Andriy Shevchenko in 1997.

Pochettino championed the Frenchman at full-time, but also urged his team to remain humble.

"We have no doubt that Kylian is one of the greatest players in the world despite his youth," Pochettino told RMC Sport.

"He has already done extraordinary things, but we must remain humble. There are 90 minutes left and they have great players. There is still a second leg."

The result gives PSG a massive advantage ahead of the second leg, though they of all clubs will be aware of what can happen when complacency sets in.

This was PSG's first trip to Barcelona since the 2017 humiliation, when they surrendered a 4-0 first-leg lead by losing 6-1 in the return leg.

As such, Pochettino was keen to stress PSG cannot get absorbed in any talk about their performance in Camp Nou being "perfect".

"There is no such thing as perfection," he added. "I am happy with the result and how we played, but we have to remain humble.

"On Sunday we have a big match against Monaco, we are already looking towards this match."

This was the first time Barcelona have conceded four goals in a home Champions League knockout match in over 23 years.

They have never progressed in a European knockout tie when losing their first game at home.

Returning from knee ligament damage two months ahead of schedule having not played since November, Gerard Pique probably wanted to ease his way into proceedings.

Inside the first minute, Paris Saint-Germain's masterful playmaker Marco Verratti floated a ball over the top of the Barcelona backline and Kylian Mbappe already had Pique in his rear-view mirror.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen tore out of his penalty area and ultimately averted the danger by careering in to make a wild, sliced clearance.

Welcome back to the Champions League, Gerard.  All the best.

As a high-octane first half unfolded in the plum Champions League last-16 tie, Ronald Koeman's gamble in wheeling out his most experienced centre-back began to make sense. Maybe delaying the inevitable in a 4-1 shellacking was the best he could hope for.

PSG racked up six corners before the interval. As the players in the box awaited each delivery, Pique's voice was typically heard above all other, booming around a cavernous Camp Nou.

Generally, he was in the right place to deal with them. Four clearances were more than any of his Barca team-mates at the halfway stage.

Doubts over his overall mobility did not prevent an ever-smooth footballer completing all 71 of his passes on the night, while fellow old timer Sergio Busquets found the target with 45 of 48. The final analysis showed this sorry Barcelona need much more than lingering competence.

Barca fall flat with the band back together

Koeman's tenure has come to feel like one of transition, with Pedri making a wonderful first-team breakthrough and Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann becoming more prominent figures.

But here were Pique, Busquets and Lionel Messi - three of the most decorated players in football history - pressed into action together in a match where Barca had to be content with hanging on to PSG's coattails, even if they threatened sporadically to disrobe their well-heeled opponents.

Pique and Clement Lenglet shifted the hosts' backline a touch deeper after their early scare and Barcelona initially had a counter-attacking threat to match that pragmatism.

Before the half hour, they led. Layvin Kurzawa got caught under Pedri's raking pass and accidentally tripped De Jong. Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot and Messi rifled unerringly into the top-right corner.

Kurzawa was keen to make amends and found assistance in Ousmane Dembele's laissez-faire approach to tracking back. The full-back arrowed a ball into the Barca box, where a majestic, silken touch from Verratti picked the lock.

Pique would sooner have seen Mbappe at close quarters than in the wide-open spaces, but Verratti's pass combined with the forward's supreme awareness and fast-twitch capabilities meant there was enough room to lash beyond Ter Stegen.

Griezmann collected a Messi pass and almost converted at the end of a wonderful solo run to restore the lead but those moments of defiance became increasingly fleeting.

PSG, with Verratti and Leandro Paredes pulling the strings, were the bosses at the ground where they suffered an unparalleled humiliation in 2017.

Messi's devastating new normal

Recent history shows that incredible 6-1 win was the exception for Barca towards the end of an imperial period that has unquestionably passed. The 4-0 defeat they needed to overturn four years ago is the norm.

Juventus 3-0, Roma 3-0, Liverpool 4-0, Bayern Munich 8-2. Knockout ties where they are comprehensively outplayed by high-class opponents. Here was another.

Mbappe had never played Barcelona before Tuesday. He will barely be able to contain himself waiting for the return after a hat-trick of the highest order. Neymar might even be fit by the time his bedraggled former employers arrive in Paris.

Pique was scampering around on the goal line just in case when Moise Kean's deflected effort was kept out by Ter Stegen. Barca might well have been in Bayern territory again but for their keeper's four impressive saves.

The experienced defender was unable to jam another finger it the dam when he half-cleared Alessandro Florenzi's cross - Paredes' pass to release the full-back was sumptuous - and crumped into a net rippled by a thumping Mbappe finish.

Kean headed in a Paredes free-kick to make it three and Pique and Busquets had been substituted by the time Mbappe whipped an effervescent strike into the top corner to claim the matchball.

Messi trudged sad and alone, as he so often has through these all-too-frequent humiliations. End-of-era defeats are supposed to be one-off events but his Barcelona have a catalogue of them. It really is over this time.

Defenders in blue and red chased shadows as Mbappe fired himself and his team-mates into the stratosphere. If they look far enough back into the past, Messi, Pique and Busquets will see a time when they were the future. They'll have to squint hard, but that is preferable to lingering too long on their sorry present.

Kylian Mbappe scored a remarkable hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to batter Barcelona 4-1 away from home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The Parisians were back at Camp Nou for the first time since their humiliating Champions League collapse in 2017 when they were thumped 6-1 after winning the first leg 4-0, and they got a semblance of revenge with an emphatic victory.

Lionel Messi reached 20 goals for a 13th successive season when putting Barca ahead just before the half-hour mark with a penalty, but PSG were far more of a threat in attack and fully deserved the equaliser that Mbappe netted with aplomb.

Mbappe doubled his personal tally in the second half and the similarly lively Moise Kean got PSG's third soon after, before the France star completed his treble with a sumptuous finish on the break that will likely put the tie beyond Barca, though they have pulled off more unlikely comebacks before.

The early exchanges passed with little drama as the two sides respectably sparred, but the contest burst into life when Barca then opened the scoring in the 27th minute, Messi finding the top-right corner with a penalty awarded after Layvin Kurzawa accidentally tripped Frenkie de Jong.

But PSG soon levelled as Mbappe brought down Marco Verratti's flicked pass and lashed in after evading Clement Lenglet.

Antoine Griezmann could not restore Barca's lead when he shot wide after a long solo run, though it was PSG who finished the half on top.

Moise Kean and Kurzawa both forced fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Mauro Icardi headed agonisingly wide on the stroke of half-time.

PSG carved Barca open again early in the second half, Icardi teeing up Kean with a clever flick only to see Ter Stegen make a fingertip save to deny him.

The visitors finally went in front, and deservedly so, with 25 minutes to go – Mbappe slamming in from about 10 yards after Alessandro Florenzi's cutback was deflected into his path by Gerard Pique.

It quickly got worse for Barca, as Kean nodded in Leandro Paredes' inviting free-kick delivery to give Ronald Koeman's men a mountain to climb.

Mbappe rounded off an incredible night for PSG five minutes from time, curling a gorgeous first-time effort into the top-right corner after Julian Draxler led a devastating counter.

Lionel Messi equalled a record set by Real Madrid great Raul as his penalty against Paris Saint-Germain saw him net in the Champions League for a 17th successive year.

All eyes were understandably on Messi for visit of PSG, given the speculation linking him with a future move to the Parisians, and he took a back seat for a while on Tuesday.

But after Frenkie de Jong was accidentally tripped by Layvin Kurzawa when trying to latch on to a pass from Barca's captain, referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot – Messi did the rest.

He casually picked out the top-right corner of the net, giving Keylor Navas no hope, bringing himself level with Raul for the consecutive goal-scoring years in Europe's elite competition.

Messi's first was in 2005 – Raul's goals spanned 1995-2011.

Additionally, it was Messi's 20th goal of the season across all competitions, remarkably making it the 13th season in succession that he has reached that mark.

But Kylian Mbappe soon hit back for the visitors, getting them a vital away goal.

It was his 15th away Champions League goal out of a total 22 – this is the greatest proportion (68 per cent) of goals scored on the road among players with at least 20 in the competition.

Tuesday sees the return of the Champions League as the first two last-16 ties get started, including arguably the pick of the bunch; Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain.

While we have been robbed of the Messi v Neymar narrative after the Brazilian was ruled out for four weeks with an adductor injury last week, there should still be plenty of talent on display.

Messi can still expect to be the focus, given the strong transfer links to PSG, while the Parisians will be hoping for a hint of revenge for the famous 'Remontada' of 2016-17.

Also in action on Tuesday are Liverpool and RB Leipzig, with the Germans' home leg taking place in Budapest due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions imposed in Germany.

Ahead of the two tantalising fixtures, here are the key stats for both games…

Barcelona v PSG

4 – Barca and PSG last met at this same stage in 2016-17, when the Catalans became the only team to ever qualify for the next round in the Champions League after losing by at least four goals in the first leg. They won the second leg 6-1 in Camp Nou.

14 – Barca are hoping to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the a record 14th consecutive campaign. They were last eliminated at this stage in 2006-07 by Liverpool.

10 – While PSG have only one away win against Spanish opposition (Valencia) in the Champions League knockout phase, Barca have never lost at home to a French side in 10 such games in this competition.

2 – Antoine Griezmann has more yellow cards (two) than he has Champions League goal involvements (one assist) for Barca at Camp Nou in seven appearances.

1 – Kylian Mbappe has scored only one goal in his nine Champions League knockout games with PSG. He had found the net six times in six knockout games with Monaco.

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

0 – RB Leipzig have played 22 matches in the Champions League – none have ended goalless.

8.9 – While Liverpool are known for their effective pressing, Leipzig are even more aggressive. The German have allowed their opponents just 8.9 passes on average before intervening defensively in the competition this season, the lowest figure of any side in 2020-21.

1 – Roberto Firmino has scored only one goal in his previous 16 Champions League games. That came in last season's last-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid.

6 – Leipzig wing-back Angelino has contributed three goals and three assists in the Champions League this term – Alvaro Morata (six goals, one assist) is the sole Spaniard with more goal involvements in 2020-21.

45 – Liverpool were the only team not to concede a single goal in the first 45 minutes of matches in the group stage.

With Lionel Messi's future far from certain at the end of the season, his former team-mate Neymar has apparently reached out to the Barcelona captain about a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazilian superstar Neymar played alongside the six-time Ballon d'Or winner for four LaLiga seasons between 2013 and 2017, before sealing a world-record transfer to Ligue 1 giants

It is understood Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are ready to make a play to bring Messi to the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino's PSG appear to be taking the direct approach.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PUTS IN A CALL TO MESSI

Lionel Messi's contract at his boyhood club expires in the off-season, less than a year after the Barcelona superstar sensationally tried to leave Camp Nou but found his exit plans blocked.

According to L'Equipe, Neymar – who is set to miss the Champions League trip to the Barcelona on Tuesday – has put in a call to convince Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi will lead out Barca in the first leg of the last-16 tie, having stated he will wait until the end of the current campaign before making a decision on where he will play in 2021-2022.

ROUND-UP

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe has decided to stay put this off-season but is not planning on extending his current contract, which expires in 2022, claims ESPN.

Liverpool are looking for defensive reinforcements and they are monitoring Aston Villa's England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa, according to The Athletic.

- Bayern Munich's free-agent defender David Alaba has already agreed to join Real Madrid at season's end, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Premier League action coincided with Valentine's Day this weekend and Southampton ended a long drought of a particular kind on the most romantic day of the year.

There was also an impressive scoring feat for an Arsenal striker to enjoy on February 14, as the Gunners sent the White Roses of Leeds United back to Yorkshire with their tails between their legs.

A Valentine's Day chocolate variety set was the only box Harry Kane got near this weekend after a tricky time of it against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, as Ilkay Gundogan continued his remarkable run.

All the above feature in our quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action!

SAINTS' VALENTINE'S CARD AND AUBA'S RETURN TO FORM

It's usually nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day – the only exceptions are if they're tokens of sympathy from your mother, or handed out to you by a referee.

Until this year, Southampton were the only Premier League side to play a match on Valentine's Day and not receive a card, but that changed when Graham Scott booked Oriol Romeu in Saints' 2-1 defeat to Wolves. Coincidentally, that was the Spaniard's 51st Premier League yellow card since the start of 2015-16, 11 more than any player.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a rather more enjoyable Valentine's Day, however, as the Arsenal man scored his first Premier League hat-trick in their 4-2 defeat of Leeds United.

He joined Michael Owen and Matt Le Kissier, sorry, Le Tissier as the only players to net trebles in the Premier league on Valentine's Day.

GUNDOGAN GUNNING FOR GOALS

To say anyone predicted Ilkay Gundogan establishing himself as one of the Premier League's deadliest marksman would be a heinous lie… Yet, here we are – he is.

In fact, the German's form isn't bettered by anyone else across Europe's top five leagues in 2021, as his brace against Tottenham took him to nine goals since the turn of the year.

Andre Silva of Eintracht Frankfurt is the only player to match that haul across the same period, but his conversion rate is nothing compared to Gundogan's.

The City star, who has been playing a more advanced role lately, has converted 47.4 per cent of his shots since January 1 – among players to have scored at least five times this year, that is the fifth highest. It is a better record than those of Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

Given the rate he's going at, Gundogan may now have an eye on the all-time record for German players in a single Premier League season – Jurgen Klinsmann (20) and Uwe Rosler (15, both in 1994-95) are the only ones to score more than 11.

KANE FORCED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

It was another miserable outing for Tottenham at the weekend as their 3-0 loss at City consigned them to a fourth defeat in five Premier League games, as many as they had suffered in their previous 28.

Harry Kane endured a particularly frustrating day, as he was starved of service and found himself roaming as a result, hardly conducive to getting opportunities in the danger area.

In fact, he failed to touch the ball once inside the penalty area, which is practically unheard of for Kane.

It was only the fourth occasion of Kane failing to touch the ball in the box in a league game he started.

SAKA'S TEENAGE KICKS

Bukayo Saka has been a standout performer for Arsenal for quite a while, not just this season. However, in 2020-21 he has arguably taken his influence up a level.

He was a livewire against Leeds at the weekend, winning Arsenal's first-half penalty shortly after he was perhaps cruelly denied another by the VAR.

His performance further highlighted how much influence he has despite not turning 20 for more than six months – he is the youngest player in the Premier League this term to score five goals, be involved in at least seven goals, create 25 chances and complete 30 dribbles.

There has been plenty of talk recently about whether he will get himself into the England squad for the delayed Euro 2020 later this year – at the moment, you'd have to say he'd be unlucky to miss out.

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and players of their ilk should be protected by referees, according to Ronald Koeman, who hopes the Paris Saint-Germain star can face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

Barca host PSG in the first game of their last-16 contest on Tuesday, but Neymar – who spent four years at Camp Nou – will be absent due to an adductor injury suffered against Caen last week.

The Brazil international is expected to be out for four weeks, in theory ruling him out of the return leg against Barca at the Parc des Princes, where he has scored as many Champions League goals (16) as he did at Camp Nou but from six fewer games (14).

The second leg comes around on March 10, just before the predicted four-week absence period is due to end, so there remains a glimmer of hope for Neymar, and Barca coach Koeman would like for the PSG talent to be involved.

"To see the best game, you always have to have the best players on the field of play," Koeman told reporters on Monday.

"You never know how a team reacts if they lack a player like Neymar. Both teams have casualties. I hope in a couple of weeks everyone can be there to find out who is the best.

"I think we must always protect this type of player, players like Neymar, Messi, Cristiano, because they let us enjoy their quality a lot.

"And in this respect, the referees have to defend them, but in football there is contact and the players have to know that when they play one-on-one, and the referees have to decide when it is an ugly foul, but football is still a contact sport."

Given the tie had been billed as something of a duel between Messi and Neymar, understandably much of the focus from a PSG perspective has switched to Kylian Mbappe, despite the France forward netting only once in his nine Champions League knockout games for PSG

Koeman acknowledged Mbappe's talents but was keen to stress there is more to both teams than a single player.

"It is not a duel between Messi and Mbappe," he continued. "It is a duel between two teams played on one side by Leo Messi, the best player in the world and whom we need in his best form to win the tie, and similarly PSG with Mbappe.

"He is a very fast player who can complicate things a lot. It will be a beautiful game and these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan."

While Koeman suggested he hoped Neymar could feature in Paris next month, Jordi Alba – a former team-mate of the PSG talisman – was brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.

"I am not going to deceive you, personally, it is better that players like Ney do not play in the opposing team," he added. "He is an important loss for them, like [Angel] Di Maria, who defensively and offensively contributes a lot.

"PSG has important players and I am sure that the people who replace them will have the same or similar level. It will be a contested tie that'll be decided by small details. We also have significant casualties from great players but the people who come in are doing well."

Barca are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for a record 14th successive season, and the omens are not great for PSG, who have only ever won once away to Spanish opposition in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Lionel Messi has proven with his recent form that he is committed to Barcelona despite significant uncertainty surrounding his future and links to Tuesday's Champions League opponents Paris Saint-Germain, according to Jordi Alba.

Messi rocked world football in pre-season when declaring his desire to leave Barcelona after spending his entire professional career at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had grown disillusioned with the state of the club under previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom Messi subsequently accused of reneging on an agreement to let him leave on a free transfer.

Messi ultimately decided to stay put, uncomfortable with the idea of dragging Barca through the courts, leaving the possibility for him to depart at the end of his contract in 2021.

While Barca have made no secret of their desire to renew his deal, a situation that is dominating the lead-up to next month's presidential election, PSG are apparently eager to bring Messi to France and even some of their players have openly addressed the prospect.

With PSG up next on Tuesday, attentions understandably turned to Messi's future in the pre-match news conference, and Alba insisted his illustrious team-mate had shown his professionalism with his haul of nine goals in as many games.

"The decision he makes will be well thought out and well-considered," Alba said. "I have said many times that I am a better player on the field when he is on the field.

"It is his decision and it will have to be respected whatever he makes, but now his thoughts are at Barca and you see that in every game.

"Even if he had decided, he wouldn't say whether he is going to stay. He already said before what intention he had.

"Today he is 100 per cent committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season.

"What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word."

Ronald Koeman, who addressed the media after Alba, was a little less willing to discuss Messi, yet he reiterated he is optimistic Barca's captain will remain with them after the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know if it was the intention from [the media] to talk a lot about Messi, my idea is to prepare the team and the players for an important game," he said.

"Messi is a Barca player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barca player."

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Lionel Messi would be perfectly suited to Manchester City amid ongoing doubts over his future at Barcelona, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Barca superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants City.

A move to City for Messi would mean a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola – the pair teaming up to win two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns among other honours between 2008 and 2012.

Ex-City and Argentina full-back Zabaleta backed countryman Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.

"If Lionel Messi ­decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta told The Mirror.

"It is something that will ­interest him – because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.

"Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge ­attraction for him to experience English football. And Manchester City offer the ­perfect conditions.

"He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano – and also Kun Aguero.

"It would be a big ­decision if Leo leaves ­Barcelona. But if that's what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle

"When you have been at one club for so long, moving ­somewhere new can be very strange.

"I am sure clubs like ­Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus would also be ­interested in signing him, but it is my opinion that City would be the best place to go after Barcelona."

Ronald Koeman felt Lionel Messi was incorrectly denied a goal by VAR in Barcelona's 5-1 victory over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

After Francisco Trincao's opener at the end of a 35-pass move, Messi put the ball in the back of the net after Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco denied Antoine Griezmann in a one-on-one.

However, Griezmann was deemed to have been offside when played in by Sergio Busquets and the goal was disallowed, with referee Jorge Figueroa Vazquez warning Koeman about his remonstrations on the touchline.

Messi, who equalled Xavi's record of 505 LaLiga appearances for Barca, got on the scoresheet with a fine strike on the stroke of half-time, but Luis Rioja pulled Alaves back into the game in the 57th minute.

Trincao doubled his tally in the 74th minute and Messi fired a stunning 25-yard effort into the top-left corner 83 seconds later, with Junior Firpo wrapping up the win in the 80th minute.

Despite the result, Koeman was still irked by the decision to take away a goal from Messi, who now has 12 in 11 LaLiga appearances against Alaves – no player has scored more against them in the competition's history.

"I'd better not talk about VAR anymore. You have to have a magnifying glass to see whether or not it is offside," said Koeman.

"I have seen the image several times and for me it is not offside."

Having lost the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla 2-0 in midweek, Barca getting back on track ahead of the opening match in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain was a boost for Koeman.

"The team is doing well. We are confident we can win the tie, knowing that we play against a strong block," said Koeman, whose side have won six straight LaLiga games.

"They have injuries, but so do we. The tie is even. We have to do well to progress. We are in a good moment, we have a good winning streak. We are confident."

Messi's two goals were scored from outside the box, making it just the seventh time he has done that in a LaLiga game and the first since a clash with Real Mallorca in December 2019.

Koeman said: "Messi is very important. He is in a fantastic moment. We know that he is decisive – he has been like this for a long time.

"He is very involved, he is happy, he is effective. With him, everything is easier. To win against PSG we need Leo and the rest of the players in their prime."

Alaves' goal came after an errant pass from 18-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba, who set up Trincao's first goal as he made his LaLiga debut alongside Riqui Puig and Sergio Busquets.

"I'll talk to him. He must know the pass cannot be made horizontally but he is young and will learn," said Koeman.

"Riqui Puig is improving a lot of things. He's always shown a lot of confidence and put a lot of energy in. He had a very good game."

Lionel Messi marked a milestone Barcelona appearance with a fantastic double in an emphatic 5-1 victory over Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Barca captain Messi made his 505th LaLiga appearance for the Catalan giants, drawing level with the club record set by Xavi, and reached 459 goals in the competition with a pair of stunning 25-yard efforts.

At the other end of the scale, two players making their first LaLiga starts combined for the opening goal: Ilaix Moriba marking his league debut for Barca by setting up Francisco Trincao.

Luis Rioja pulled one back for Alaves in the second half but Trincao and Messi struck within 83 seconds of one another and Junior Firpo completed the scoring at the end of a wonderful move.

Barca struggled to create early openings, but, after Marc-Andre ter Stegen got down to Rodrigo Battaglia's volley, they took the lead when Ilaix showed great composure with a patient cutback to tee up Trincao.

After seeing one goal chalked off by VAR for an offside against Antoine Griezmann, there was no doubt about Barca's second when Messi cracked a wicked 25-yard effort in off the post on the stroke of half-time.

Barca had looked vulnerable defensively and Rioja intercepted a pass from Ilaix and raced forwards to reduce the arrears with a confident finish before the hour mark.

Fernando Pacheco kept out Trincao but the Portugal international swept home the loose ball after Messi failed to round the Alaves goalkeeper following a sumptuous pass from substitute Pedri.

Messi made no mistake with his next chance, leaving Pacheco no chance with a fantastic left-footed effort that flew into the back of the net.

The Argentina international then scooped a pass over the defence for Griezmann, whose delivery across the face of goal was steered into the roof of the net by Junior.

Trincao slotted home another fine pass from Messi at the death but was denied his hat-trick by the offside flag.

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