Manchester City are preparing long-term plans for Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, is coming out of contract at Barcelona at the end of the season and is linked with a move, having sensationally requested a transfer ahead of 2020-21.

Strongly linked with Messi, City are making long-term plans for the Argentina star.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PREPARE 10-YEAR PLAN FOR MESSI

Manchester City are preparing a 10-year plan for Barcelona star Messi, according to The Times.

The report says the Premier League club are expected to launch another attempt to sign the superstar at the beginning of 2021 and will offer him opportunities with the City Football Group (CFG) after he plays for City.

Messi has scored six goals in 11 games for Barcelona this season.

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- Amid an injury crisis in defence, Barcelona's priorities have changed. Goal reports the LaLiga giants are focusing on Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and not Lyon star Memphis Depay, following the knee injury suffered by Gerard Pique.

- Thiago Silva has made quite an impression at Chelsea. The defender signed a one-year deal ahead of this season and Tuttomercatoweb reports there have already been initial contacts to extend his contract until 2022.

- The news is a little different for Jerome Boateng. Sport Bild reports Bayern Munich have already decided not to extend the defender's contract, which expires at the end of the season.

- Valencia's 17-year-old midfielder Yunus Musah appears to be catching the eye. 90min reports Arsenal are among the Premier League sides monitoring the teenager. The two-time United States international came through Arsenal's academy before joining Valencia in 2019.

Manchester City will reportedly opt against making a move for Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barca during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

Still, talk about his future continues, with City the most strongly linked.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY WON'T TRY TO SIGN MESSI

Manchester City will not try to sign Barcelona star Messi, Spanish football expert Semra Hunter told Sky Sports News.

The report says Messi's age and wage demands are a major reason the Premier League giants will not pursue him.

Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, is out of contract at the end of the season.

 

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- Are Real Madrid looking for a replacement for 35-year-old midfielder Luka Modric? Fichajes.net reports Madrid see Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as the ideal replacement for Croatia star Modric.

- Barcelona will try to sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia in January amid an injury crisis in defence, according to Sport. Gerard Pique (knee) and Sergi Roberto (thigh) are both set for spells on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Marca says Barcelona are set for a meeting to decide whether they should sign a replacement for Pique.

- Fabian Ruiz has impressed for Napoli, leading to interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain are still targeting the midfielder.

- Amid uncertainty over his future at Inter, Christian Eriksen is linked with a return to the Premier League. Corriere dello Sport reports Manchester United and Arsenal are considering the former Tottenham star.

- With Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele linked with moves, Lyon may be eyeing replacements. Le 10 Sport says Reims and Senegal forward Boulaye Dia and Leicester City forward Islam Slimani are both targets.

Is Kylian Mbappe's future in Paris?

Mbappe has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid, while Liverpool have also emerged as a possible destination.

But Mbappe could extend his Paris Saint-Germain contract under one condition.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE READY TO RENEW IN PARIS

Kylian Mbappe will re-sign with Paris Saint-Germain but there is a catch, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has been tipped to swap Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Real Madrid, while Liverpool are another possible destination.

The France star has reportedly rejected three contract offers from PSG, though he could be prepared to renew if a minimum-fee release clause was inserted in the deal.

 

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- AS also says Madrid and Sergio Ramos are set to provide an update on his contract situation. The Los Blancos captain is out of contract at the end of the season. El Chiringuito claims Juventus, PSG, Manchester United and Manchester City have made approaches.

- Sport, meanwhile, claims Madrid are eyeing potential replacements if Ramos does not extend his deal in the Spanish capital. Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Villarreal defender Pau Torres and City's Eric Garcia are reportedly being considered by Zinedine Zidane.

Alaba has also been linked with a move to Serie A champions Juventus, reports Tuttosport. The front page of the newspaper adds that Juve are also targeting midfielders, with Lyon star Houssem Aouar atop the list, while Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch is wanted in Turin. Aouar has also been heavily linked with Arsenal, Barcelona and City.

- The Express says Premier League champions Liverpool are prepared to splash the cash on a centre-back in January. It comes after Joe Gomez joined Virgil van Dijk on the sidelines through injury.

- Inter star and Barca target Lautaro Martinez will reject a renewal with the Serie A side if they remove his release clause, according to Sport.

Neymar is again being linked with a return to Barcelona.

The Brazil forward left the LaLiga giants for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million deal in 2017.

But rumours of a return to Camp Nou refuse to go away.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CONTACTED OVER BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar has been contacted by different Barcelona presidential candidates over a return to the club from PSG, according to Sport.

It says Neymar, who was recently said to be happy to renew a PSG deal that expires in 2022, does not want to extend at the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar has battled injuries since moving to the French capital, making 30 or fewer appearances in each of his three seasons at the club heading into 2020-21.

 

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- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports Lyon star Memphis Depay has a four-year agreement with the Catalans. It comes days after Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas ruled out a January exit for the forward. Depay is out of contract at season's end and Mundo Deportivo says he could make a January move for €5m or €6m.

- Dominik Szoboszlai sent Hungary into Euro 2020 on Thursday, and the Salzburg star is wanted across Europe. AS says Real Madrid are following the midfielder, who it says is valued at around €25m and also wanted by Arsenal, Milan and RB Leipzig.

- Also at Real Madrid and AS reports Martin Odegaard could play a key role in helping the LaLiga champions land his Norway team-mate Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund in 2022.

- After playing just 33 Premier League minutes for Chelsea this season, Olivier Giroud is again linked with a move. CalcioMercato reports Inter are set to go back in for the forward in January.

- Amid their defensive crisis with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez facing long spells on the sidelines, Liverpool are likely to look for a centre-back in January. TeamTalk reports the Premier League champions have been offered former Newcastle United and Watford defender Daryl Janmaat.

Memphis Depay has talked up his transfer link with Barcelona, acknowledging any player would want to play for the Catalan giants.

Speculation around Barca's interest in the Lyon forward has been particularly strong since Depay's former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman arrived as the club's new coach in August.

Depay remained with Lyon when the transfer window closed in early October, but his contract expires next year.

While Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has insisted he will not sanction a deal in January, as he is not prepared to miss out on European football for a second successive season, Barca may opt to test his resolve as the Ligue 1 side face missing out on a transfer fee.

Failing to earn a move to Barca for this season does not appear to have impacted Depay negatively, however – he has been involved in eight goals (five scored, three assists) in Ligue 1 this term, a figure only Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe can match (seven goals, four assists), while he is level with Leo Dubois for the most goalscoring chances created (27).

Depay continues to stress his focus is on Lyon and the Netherlands, though he did not shy away from a desire to play for Barca.

"Who wouldn't like to go to Barcelona? It's a top club," he said after wearing the captain's armband in the second half of the Oranje's 1-1 draw with Spain on Wednesday.

"We'll see what the future holds for me. Barca is one of the biggest clubs and everyone would like to play there, but I'm focused on my club and the national team."

With regards to whether a January move is an option, despite Aulas' recent comments, Depay added: "I don't know. The transfer window is not open.

"I don't have the focus on that at the moment. I am training well and focusing on being a better player. There is a lot of speculation, but my head is not there at the moment."

Depay's last venture at one of Europe's elite, Manchester United, did not go as expected, the forward struggling to adapt.

He was eventually sold to Lyon in January 2017, and it is fair to say he has rediscovered the form that made him one of Europe's most promising young players at PSV.

Depay has set up 35 league goals since his Lyon debut on January 22, 2017, level with Angel Di Maria for the most in Ligue 1 in that time.

Similarly, Mbappe (110) is the only player to have been involved in more goals than Depay (83) across the same period.

Ronald Koeman is backing Antoine Griezmann to find consistent form for Barcelona but will not rule out a bid to sign Memphis Depay.

France star Griezmann, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, has struggled to impress on a regular basis alongside Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

The forward, who missed a penalty against Real Betis last week before scoring in Barca's 5-2 victory, has just two goals, one assist and four chances created to his name in seven LaLiga appearances this season.

Koeman thinks the 29-year-old is bound to hit top gear, though, as long as he maintains his strong work ethic.

"He needs a bit more confidence and scoring goals always gives you that confidence," Koeman told Mundo Deportivo.

"You can't say he doesn't work, he works a lot, but maybe he feels a little more free when he's with the national team, having been with them a long time and always playing in the same position.

"There's are many more things besides, but a player who is working and trying so much to change things, I think in the end he'll get to where he wants to be.

"His best position is maybe more central, as a number nine, a number 10 behind a nine, with a lot of freedom on the right wing cutting in, with [Ousmane] Dembele playing more outside.

"They're positions in which he can give a lot to this team."

With Griezmann out of sorts and Ansu Fati sidelined for four months after meniscus surgery, Barca have been tipped to make a new move for Lyon forward Depay.

The Catalans agreed terms with Depay during the previous transfer window but a deal could not be struck between the clubs, and the Ligue 1 side's president Jean-Michel Aulas insists they will not sell the player in January even though his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, Koeman will not discount the prospect of signing the Netherlands international, with whom he worked while in charge of the national side and who has been directly involved in eight goals in Ligue 1 this season, a tally bettered only by Kylian Mbappe.

"Now is not the moment to talk about players who aren't here. For me, it's not good," he said.

"It's true his name has come out and he's played every game with our national team as a number nine.

"Everyone can have their opinion, but not here, and we'll see what happens in the future."

Koeman also suggested a deal could yet be struck to sign Eric Garcia from Manchester City, adding: "Well, I don't know. It depends on Manchester City."

Speaking to Sport, Koeman admitted captain Lionel Messi had been "unhappy" when he first arrived at the club, the forward having tried unsuccessfully to leave in the wake of the 8-2 Champions League destruction by Bayern Munich, a club-record defeat in the competition. 

Messi's form has been questioned in 2020-21, the Argentina star having failed to score from open play or register an assist in his first six LaLiga matches.

He produced a star turn off the bench against Real Betis, however, scoring twice, assisting another and playing a key role in Griezmann's goal as Barca claimed a 5-2 victory.

"I spoke to him on the first day, totally frankly, and I've never doubted him," Koeman said of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I see him training every day and enjoying playing. I said on the first day that he's the best player in the world and of course I prefer to have the best in the world in my team.

"As I said after the game against Betis, if he's well, he'll always start."

Memphis Depay will not leave Lyon in the January transfer window despite Barcelona maintaining their interest in the attacker, according to Jean-Michel Aulas.

Barca were heavily linked with a move for Depay after former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman took over in August, but the ex-Manchester United forward remained at the Ligue 1 side.

The Catalan giants are said to be looking to step up their efforts to sign the 26-year-old after Ansu Fati was ruled out for around four months with a knee injury.

Depay's contract with Lyon is set to expire in June and club president Aulas insists he will not be allowed to depart beforehand.

"Memphis is an exceptional player. It is him who is pulling the club, along with a number of other players," Aulas said on RMC.

"I was the first to say he would not go to Barcelona. Nobody listened to me during the transfer window because everybody thought he would leave.

"From the start, I told you, they will not leave because in a year when we were unfairly deprived of European competition, we absolutely have to make a success of the season. So, he will stay."

Depay has continued to perform in Ligue 1 despite failing to complete his move to Barca.

He has been involved in eight goals (five scored, three assisted) in the top flight this season, a tally that can only be bettered by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (seven scored, four assisted).

Furthermore, no player has created more chances in Ligue 1 than Depay, who has a league-leading 27 alongside Leo Dubois.

Depay has set up 35 league goals since his Lyon debut on January 22, 2017, level with Angel Di Maria for the most in the division in that time. Mbappe (110) is the only player to have been involved in more goals than the Dutchman (83) in the same timeframe.

Memphis Depay has told Lyon to make the most of him while they can as he is unsure if he will still be at the club after January amid persistent links with Barcelona.

Barca boss Ronald Koeman has made no secret of his desire to sign Depay, with whom he worked as head coach of the Netherlands national side.

A deal failed to materialise late in the recent transfer window, despite the 26-year-old agreeing personal terms with Barca, but a fresh approach is expected in the new year.

Depay is out of contract at the end of 2020-21 and says he cannot guarantee he will even see out the remainder of the campaign at the Groupama Stadium.

"You ask me about this a lot. But I'm not going to make promises that I'm not sure I can keep," he told Telefoot when asked if he will swap clubs in January.

"I think Lyon has to take advantage of my presence here now. And I have to take advantage of being here.

"That's what I try to do every day. You can ask those around me: I like to train, and I try to be positive every day."

Depay was involved in Lyon's 2-1 win over bitter rivals Saint-Etienne on Sunday, a win that lifted Rudi Garcia's side up to fifth in Ligue 1 with 10 games played.

The forward has featured in each of those matches, scoring five times and setting up three more.

Since joining Lyon from Manchester United in January 2017, Depay has been directly involved in 83 Ligue 1 goals in 111 appearances, putting him level with Edinson Cavani - who played in 26 fewer games - and behind only Kylian Mbappe (110 goal involvements in 100 matches).

For comparison, Luis Suarez scored and assisted a combined 112 goals in 112 appearances for Barcelona over the same time frame, while Lionel Messi is way out in front with 173 goal involvements in 129 matches.

Speaking earlier this week, Depay hinted he is frustrated at Lyon as his side already trail leaders Paris Saint-Germain by seven points.

"The title should be our aim," he said. "Even if I cannot say everything going through my head right now, in terms of what's happening, what I am seeing at the club, there are things that I honestly can't say."

David Beckham reportedly dreams of signing Sergio Ramos at Inter Miami, while Phil Foden seems set for a new deal at Manchester City.

Ramos, 34, is out of contract at Real Madrid at the season's end, leading to speculation over his future.

While the Madrid captain has been expected to re-sign, the defender is unsurprisingly attracting plenty of interest.

 

TOP STORY – BECKHAM DREAMS OF RAMOS AT INTER MIAMI

Inter Miami co-owner Beckham wants Real Madrid star Ramos to join the MLS club, according to AS.

Ramos and Beckham were team-mates at the Santiago Bernabeu for two seasons between 2005 and 2007.

The report says while Ramos likes Miami, the defender is likely to stay in Europe, with Madrid apparently offering him a two-year deal.

Ramos netted his 100th Madrid goal in all competitions in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League win over Inter, with 55 of those headers.

 

ROUND-UP

- Foden is set to be rewarded for his form at Manchester City. The Mirror reports the midfielder is set for a big pay rise as he is expected to sign a new contract early next year. Foden's current deal runs until 2024.

- Previously linked to Manchester United, Lyon forward Moussa Dembele is apparently wanted by West Ham. The Ligue 1 club are reportedly prepared to sell Dembele and West Ham are interested, according to the Mirror, which says a bid of about £30million (€33.2m) could be enough. Dembele has made just four Ligue 1 starts for Lyon this season.

- Another forward with an uncertain future is Luka Jovic. Marca reports the 22-year-old, who is without a goal in four games for Real Madrid this season, is considering his future.

- Sergio Romero is expected to leave Manchester United. The Sun says the goalkeeper, whose deal expires at the end of the season, is training alone and hopes to leave the Premier League club for free in January.

Barcelona's finances are reportedly precarious amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wage cuts have been flagged, but the LaLiga powerhouse are also eyeing further sales.

Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti could be among the players to depart Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE AND CO. HEADING FOR EXIT

Barcelona are ready to sell five players during the January transfer window, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Carles Alena, Martin Braithwaite and Junior Firpo are the quintet up for sale as embattled LaLiga giants Barca look to raise funds.

Dembele was linked with Manchester United before the previous window closed.

 

ROUND-UP

- Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has twice snubbed Barca as he eyes the United job amid speculation over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future, says the Daily Star.

Barcelona have been linked with a move for Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram, according to Bild. Thuram's father, Lilian, played for Barca and Juventus, who are believed to be eyeing the Frenchman. Real Madrid have also been linked.

- OK Diario claims Madrid are interested in Rennes teenager Jeremy Doku. The 18-year-old has caught the eye of Madrid, who have also made Eduardo Camavinga one of their top targets.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu and OK Diario says soon-to-be free agent and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba must lower his wage demands if he wants to play for Madrid. The Austria international has also been linked with PSGManchester City and Barca.

- Tuttosport says Antonio Conte wants Chelsea trio Olivier Giroud, Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso at Inter.

- Lille star Renato Sanches is wanted in Italy. Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Juventus, Milan, Inter, Napoli and Roma are monitoring the former Bayern Munich midfielder.

- Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai is a serious January target for Arsenal, according to Index. The Hungarian has emerged as an alternative to Lyon star Houssem Aouar.

Erling Haaland is reportedly being lined up as a target for Real Madrid in 2022, while Manchester United are eyeing Mauricio Pochettino.

Haaland, 20, is widely regarded as one of the best forwards in Europe as he continues to star for Borussia Dortmund.

Madrid have plans for the Norway international.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE HAALAND IN 2022

Real Madrid are convinced Dortmund star Haaland is their man in 2022, according to AS.

Haaland has scored 10 goals in 10 games in all competitions for Dortmund this season.

The former Salzburg talent, Mino Raiola - his agent - and Dortmund reportedly have an agreement that a transfer away from BVB will be facilitated in 2022, though there is not thought to be a specific fee in mind yet.

Haaland has begun 2020-21 in fine form having netted five goals in as many Bundesliga games, picking up where he left off last term as he scored 13 in 15 league matches for Dortmund.

While early in the campaign, Haaland's shot conversion rate – excluding blocks – in the league this season (31.3 per cent) is lower than last term (52), but his big chance conversion is slightly higher (from 62.5 per cent to 66.7).

Seemingly flowing with confidence from last season, Haaland is averaging more shots in 2020-21 as well. Per 90 minutes, the striker is attempting 3.7 attempts from inside the box (including blocks) compared to 2.8 in 2019-20.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under pressure, Manchester United have approached former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to potentially become manager, according to the Manchester Evening News. United are 15th in the Premier League ahead of visiting Everton on Saturday.

- In good news for Barcelona, Sport reports goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is completely committed to the Spanish giants amid links to Bayern Munich. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, says Barca could sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Lyon star Memphis Depay for free next year, allowing them to potentially negotiate lower fees in January.

- Amid expectations he will leave Bayern Munich, David Alaba has been offered to Real Madrid, according to Marca. The defender is out of contract at season's end.

- Staying with Madrid – full-back Dani Carvajal is close to agreeing to a new contract until 2024, according to Marca.

- While he is contracted at Liverpool until 2023, Fabinho could be set for a renewal. Fabrizio Romano reports the midfielder is in talks to extend his deal through to 2025.

Lyon boss Rudi Garcia says he "will tackle Ronald Koeman when the time is right" over the Barcelona head coach's public courting of Dutch forward Memphis Depay.

Koeman made no secret of his desire to sign the Netherlands international during the recent transfer window but a deal failed to materialise, despite the player agreeing personal terms.

The ex-Netherlands boss revealed earlier this month he remains hopeful of signing Depay, describing the attacker as a "great player" who can provide Barca with something different.

However, Garcia has not taken kindly to Koeman's comments over a player who remains under contract with the Ligue 1 side until the end of the campaign.

"Remind me to tackle Koeman when the moment is right," he said at a news conference on Friday ahead of Lyon's league trip to Lille this weekend. 

"It's not the right moment yet, but when it is, I'll do it. We'll see what happens."

Barca have been tipped to make a fresh approach for Depay when the transfer window reopens in January.

He has been directly involved in eight Ligue 1 goals in eight outings this term - three more than any other player - and only team-mate Leo Dubois has created as many chances (24).

Since making his Ligue 1 debut in January 2017, meanwhile, only Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe has scored and assisted more times (108) than Depay's 83 goal involvements.

Asked if Depay will move on in a little over two months' time, Garcia said: "We'll have to wait and see how things go. 

"He's not leaving for definite, but there will probably be clubs in for him soon."

Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho will not return to fitness before the November international break, according to the Brazil national team.

Coutinho suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday's defeat to Real Madrid despite completing the full game at Camp Nou.

Barca said a timescale for the former Liverpool man's return "depends on how the injury evolves", but Brazil's doctors have also now assessed the player.

Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar believes "there is not enough time for the recovery of the player for his participation in the next two rounds of [2022 World Cup] qualifiers", a statement read.

Brazil have therefore called up Lyon's Lucas Paqueta in his place for the fixtures against Venezuela and Uruguay on November 13 and 17.

Should Coutinho be available for Barca again following the break, he would make his return against Atletico Madrid almost a month on from the initial issue.

Coutinho is set to be joined in missing Brazil's qualifiers by Liverpool's Fabinho.

The midfielder, who has been playing in defence for the Reds since Virgil van Dijk's injury, sustained a hamstring problem in Tuesday's Champions League win over Midtjylland.

Liverpool were waiting for a scan on the injury on Wednesday, but Jurgen Klopp suggested Fabinho's absence would not represent a major blow for Brazil, as he has earned just 12 caps for his country and started on five occasions.

"I'm not sure if Tite's too worried because he plays him never, so he will probably now not sit on the bench for the next [two] international games," Klopp said.

Dayot Upamecano is a player in demand following his exploits for RB Leipzig.

Upamecano attracted plenty of interest before re-signing at Bundesliga side Leipzig in July.

Manchester United have been linked previously and are reportedly plotting another move.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT UPAMECANO

Manchester United will pursue a cut-price deal for RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano, according to The Times.

United have been keen to bolster their defence and the Red Devils were previously linked to France centre-back Upamecano, who has also caught the eye of the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Upamecano signed a new deal in July, though the contract reportedly includes a release clause of around £38million (€42m) at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports a third round of negotiations regarding a new contract for Bayern star David Alaba failed. Alaba will become a free agent at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Barca are believed to be interested.

Milan are interested in Schalke centre-back Ozan Kabak and Hellas Verona's Matteo Lovato, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Kabak has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool.

- Tuttosport reports Barca and Juventus could be involved in another swap deal. After exchanging Miralem Pjanic and Arthur at the start of the season, Juve's Federico Bernardeschi and Barca forward Ousmane Dembele could also move in opposite directions.

Barca could raid PSV for Donyell Malen as an alternative to Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Barca tried to sign Depay in the previous transfer window but a move did not material as his contract expires at season's end.

Samuel Umtiti has revealed he held talks with Lyon during the transfer window but did not want to leave Barcelona on bad terms.

After a promising start at the club following his 2016 switch from Lyon - where he had spent the previous 14 years - Umtiti has struggled for form and fitness, particularly since the start of 2018-19.

He has made 77 LaLiga appearances for the Catalan giants and ranks highly for interceptions since 2016-17 began, averaging 1.73 per game - behind only Jordi Alba (2.09) among those still at the club.

A return to Lyon was on the cards during the close season but Umtiti would rather turn things around at Camp Nou first.

"Everything was possible during the transfer window," he told Canal+. "Lyon is my club and my city. They gave me the opportunity to be seen.

"There were discussions, but it was quick, nothing concrete. I had to be able to speak with a club. I'll be honest: Barcelona is Barcelona.

"I don't want to leave Barcelona and even less like that."

Umtiti has been blighted by persistent knee problems over the past couple of seasons and has yet to feature under new Barca boss Ronald Koeman.

However, the 26-year-old is hopeful his injury issues are now a thing of the past after a change of lifestyle.

"The last two years have been the most complicated of my career," he said. "Sometimes I got really sick of it. I relapsed each time, and with different injuries because I was trying to compensate.

"It wasn't a knee problem, it was that I had a total imbalance. I had to start over. I stopped eating meat, fish and milk. I feel better, I sleep better. I have never felt so good physically.

"My body has also changed. I have lost three kilos. I have recovered. I have never worked so hard. And I'm happy about it."

Umtiti now intends to rival fellow France international Clement Lenglet for a regular starting spot alongside Gerard Pique in the heart of Barca's backline.

"He occupies my position for Barcelona and the French team," he said. "It doesn't bother me at all. On the contrary - I encourage him and there is a very good understanding between us.

"We could play together. But, I think he knows it: when I come back, I will do anything to get back to my place and to play. But there is no jealousy between us."

Umtiti is not the only French player struggling to make an impact in Catalonia, with Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele also facing regular criticism.

"We have all lived through complicated times," the defender said. "Everyone puts knives behind our backs and wants to kill us. But, between us, we try to laugh in order to smile again."

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