Before every major tournament, eyes are trained on the next generation of stars set to take the football world by storm.

This year's rescheduled Copa America is no different with the likes of Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, Brazil right-back Emerson Royal and Colombia forward Jaminton Campaz on the scene.

But there is still no changing of the guard as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, among others, continue to dominate on the international stage.

Stats Perform looks at six players above the age of 30 and their eye-catching numbers heading into the 47th edition of the Copa America.

 

Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina

Messi enters the showpiece South American tournament on the back of another impressive club campaign. With 30 league goals in 2020-21, Barcelona superstar Messi has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons. Craving senior international silverware with La Albiceleste following runners-up appearances at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup in 2014, Messi scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. Following a third-placed finish in 2019, Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, while only Javier Mascherano (147) has earned more caps than the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (144) – will be hoping this year's tournament delivers that much-coveted international prize. Argentina are in Group A alongside matchday one opponents Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Luis Suarez, 34, Uruguay

Suarez upstaged close friend Messi in 2020-21 after swapping Barca for Atletico Madrid. Having been forced out of Camp Nou amid concerns his best years were behind him, veteran forward Suarez found vindication and the ultimate revenge by leading to Atletico Madrid to LaLiga glory. His 21 goals were worth 21 points last season – the most of any player in the competition. Since 2011-12, only Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top-five leagues than Suarez (325 – 233 goals and 92 assists). Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer (63), Suarez is far from a spent force as Oscar Tabarez's side – who are scheduled to open their campaign against Argentina – fight to win a first Copa America crown since 2011. Suarez has been directly involved in nine goals in 10 games at the Copa America (six goals and three assists).

Edinson Cavani, 34, Uruguay

Cavani and Suarez are the face of a generation that delivered the 2011 title, finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals at Russia 2018. Cavani joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2020-21 and made an immediate impact at Old Trafford, finishing the season with 10 Premier League goals and 17 across all competitions – his minutes per goal ratio both in the Premier League and in all competitions the best among his team-mates (137 and 128). In the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Cavani became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European decider for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12. Only Suarez has scored more goals for Uruguay than Cavani (51 in 118 appearances), who earned a new deal in Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez, 32, Chile

Sanchez's club career had been on a steep decline since he left Arsenal for Premier League rivals United in 2018. But the Chile star has enjoyed success at Inter. Although a squad player under former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez – who joined Inter permanently last year – scored seven goals and supplied five assists in just 12 starts last term. An option in place of regular starting duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez ranked better in shooting accuracy excluding blocks (69.6 per cent), passing accuracy (80.0), passing accuracy ending in the final third (73.5) and dribbled success rate (60.0) than both men. His big chance conversion rate (50.0) was only second to Lukaku, likewise his shot conversion rate (24.1). At international level, there is no disputing his role for Chile after leading La Roja to Copa America success in 2015 and 2016. Chile's most capped player (138) and leading goalscorer (46), Sanchez will once again carry the weight of his country this month.

Marcelo Martins, 33, Bolivia

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Currently playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. With their talisman leading the line, Bolivia – who won their only Copa America title on home soil in 1963 and lost the final when they hosted again in 1997 – are seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time since 2015. They start against Paraguay.

Paolo Guerrero, 37, Peru

Like Martins in Bolivia, Guerrero epitomises Peruvian football. The success of Peru has long been linked to the striker, who is in the history books for the most goals (38) for La Blanquirroja. Having debuted in 2004, this will be the captain's sixth Copa America appearance, having guided two-time winners Peru to third place in the 2011 and 2015 editions before securing a runners-up medal in 2019 – finishing as top scorer in all three of those tournaments. Guerrero is now the leading Copa America scorer in among active players (14) and only three shy of the all-time record (Norberto Mendez and Zizinho, both 17). While in the twilight of his career, Ricardo Gareca and Peru – who will come up against Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela – will be leaning on his experience across the border in Brazil.

Thiago Silva, 36, Brazil

There were some doubts about Silva's suitability to the Premier League when he saw out his PSG contract and opted to test himself with Chelsea. But the star centre-back did not look out of place in England, despite his advancing years, ending the campaign as a Champions League winner for the first time in his career. In all competitions in 2020-21, Silva led Chelsea in passing accuracy (93.0 per cent). He became Chelsea's oldest player (36 years and 249 days) to appear in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele against United in the 2008 Champions League decider (35 years and 93 days) as the Blues trumped Manchester City in Porto. The Selecao captain now turns his attention to Brazil's bid to claim back-to-back Copa America trophies. They have won five of the past nine.

Lionel Messi scored as Argentina resumed their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Chile.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the football calendar, with the road to Qatar 2022 postponed due to the COVID-19 health crisis until Thursday's clash in Santiago del Estero.

Argentina hit the front behind closed doors through Messi's 24th-minute penalty after Lautaro Martinez was fouled by Guillermo Maripan.

Chilean star Alexis Sanchez equalised 12 minutes later but La Albiceleste still remain unbeaten through five games in qualifying.

While Chile had played a friendly in March, Argentina were returning to action for the first time since November last year – a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Peru.

With both nations also gearing up for the looming Copa America – scheduled to start in Brazil on June 14 – visitors Chile made a bright start in a physical opening, veteran forward Eduardo Vargas flashing a shot just wide of the post in the 15th minute.

That seemed to trigger Argentina, who went up the other end and earned a penalty. Maripan's challenge on Martinez initially went unpunished but the referee pointed to the spot after VAR recommended a review.

The outcome was predictable as Messi stepped up to convert, sending Claudio Bravo the wrong way for his 72nd international goal.

Argentina's lead lasted just 12 minutes as Chile responded through Sanchez, who made no mistake from close range after a free-kick was whipped into the back post and Gary Medel kept the ball alive by heading it across the six-yard box for his team-mate.

Messi also restored Argentina's lead in the first minute of stoppage time, but Chile goalkeeper Bravo made a fine save to thwart the superstar.

After a long domestic club campaign, the quality began to drop, though Chile looked the more threatening in the second half.

Just as Argentina looked off the pace and vulnerable defensively, Messi came within inches of putting the home side ahead after his free-kick struck the post inside the final 10 minutes.

 

What does it mean? Argentina extend streak

Not since the 2019 Copa America in July have Argentina tasted defeat. Scaloni's men are now 12 games unbeaten – dating back to the 2-0 semi-final loss to Brazil – with this year's scheduled Copa America looming on June 14.

Chile impress under new boss

Martin Lasarte replaced Reinaldo Rueda in February and his first qualifying fixture should provide optimism among Chile fans. Having only won one of their four 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Chile took the game to Argentina.

Di Maria poor

Given a starting berth by Lionel Scaloni, Angel Di Maria had a chance to stake his claim ahead of the Copa America. However, the Paris Saint-Germain star did not have much of an impact and was withdrawn just past the hour.

 

What's next?

Argentina will continue their road to Qatar 2022 at Colombia on Tuesday, while Chile host Bolivia on the same day.

Inter notched up a club record 14 consecutive home wins in Serie A as two goals from Alexis Sanchez gave them a 5-1 win over Sampdoria on Saturday.

The recently-crowned Serie A champions took the lead in the fourth minute when Roberto Gagliardini guided the ball beyond Emil Audero.

Sanchez gave a reminder of his quality with a classy finish to increase Inter's lead before ex-Inter man Antonio Candreva pulled a goal back for Sampdoria.

Another fine finish from Sanchez made it 3-1 heading into half-time before Antonio Conte's side put a deserved gloss on the result with a clinical goal from Andrea Pinamonti and a Lautaro Martínez penalty.

Inter were serenaded by their fans outside San Siro and given a guard of honour by Sampdoria's players before kick-off having secured their first Scudetto in 11 years last weekend.

The Nerazzurri were quickly into their stride on the pitch and went ahead when Matias Vecino stole possession to setup a counterattack which culminated in Gagliardini sliding in to direct Ashley Young's cross into the net.

Achraf Hakimi almost scored a dazzling individual goal with a run from his own penalty area only to be denied by a fingertip save by the diving Audero.

Inter's second goal arrived just before the half hour when Sampdoria were again caught on the break as Gagliardini's clever pass found Sanchez who steered the ball home in style.

Sampdoria pulled a goal back moments later when Samir Handanovic was deceived by Candreva's miscued shot and tamely allowed the ball over the line.

Inter responded immediately with a piece of precise finishing from Sanchez, who met Hakimi's cross and found the corner of the net with a clipped finish from the just inside the box.

Conte's men were ruthless after the break as Pinamonti scored his first Inter goal in Serie A when he controlled an awkward ball and crisply dispatched it beyond Audero.

Sampdoria's Adrien Silva was deemed to have handled inside the area following a VAR check and Martinez fired the resulting spot-kick high into the net.

Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini hailed the impact of substitutes Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez in the Serie A leaders' 2-1 win over Torino on Sunday. 

The Nerazzurri's winning streak looked in danger when Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Romelu Lukaku's 62nd-minute penalty – Inter's first shot on target – 20 minutes from full-time. 

Lautaro Martinez sealed all three points for Inter, though, heading home a teasing cross from Sanchez in the 85th minute. 

Stellini – in charge due to Antonio Conte serving a one-match suspension – praised the contribution of the Chile international and Eriksen, who had been linked with a move away from San Siro in the mid-season transfer window. 

"This win was crucial against a team that sits back. They don't concede a lot," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"We needed an episode to break the deadlock. We were lucky to get that penalty kick and then we did well when we scored that second goal.

"Sanchez and Eriksen changed the game. We knew it. Eriksen was ready, albeit with some physical problems. We had prepared it this week. We knew they could be dangerous coming off the bench.

"Christian has changed his performances. He's always tried hard. In the beginning, it could be challenging to adapt to a different kind of football, but now he's settled in well.

"Lautaro and Lukaku have many qualities, they are solid, they complete each other, and they sacrifice for the team.

"Sometimes we have to stop them, telling them they can't train too much. Now we can breathe a little bit, and we can take care of every detail."

Martinez's winner means he is up to 14 goals in 27 Serie A matches this season, equalling his best-ever return in the Italian top flight.

It was the fourth consecutive game against Torino in which he has scored and the Argentina striker said Inter needed "heart and soul" to edge past Davide Nicola's side. 

"We knew Torino needed points, but we needed them too. It was a tough game, but we managed to win, and we are so happy," he said.

"We train every day to do the right things. We prepared the game differently. We needed quality, heart and soul. We proved we aim for something important.

"We want to win, it doesn't matter who scores. It's important to find the net, I am happy to score and I am happy."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a "caged tiger".

Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri's weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday. 

The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. 

Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions. 

He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings. 

"He is in the best condition we've ever seen him at the moment," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.

"He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. 

"It's important for us to create these situations with competition for places.

"Don't forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he's now in Serie B at Venezia."

Sanchez agreed with Conte's assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time. 

"I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy," he said. 

"I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That's always been the case since I started playing football.

"I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We've all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new."

The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era. 

They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.

"We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone," he added. "That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.

"We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we'll be very happy and proud, because it'll mean we've made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time."

Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.

Inter moved six points clear at the Serie A summit as a brace from Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-1 win away at struggling Parma on Thursday.   

Scudetto rivals Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday and Antonio Conte's side took full advantage of that slip up to move closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 campaign.   

Sanchez, who scored in the weekend win over Genoa, set Inter on their way to a sixth consecutive top-flight win with his fourth league goal of the campaign nine minutes into the second half.   

The former Manchester United player added another eight minutes later as Inter, who gave the hosts hope of salvaging a draw when Hernani scored 19 minutes from full time, claimed yet another three points to pull away from their neighbours at the top of the table.

Parma carved out the first clear sight of goal in the contest, Samir Handanovic pawing away Jasmin Kurtic's header in the 15th minute.   

A sluggish Inter did not have a shot on target until the 33rd minute when Milan Skriniar's effort inside the six-yard box was well kept out by Luigi Sepe.   

The Parma goalkeeper then thwarted Romelu Lukaku after he had been played in by Marcelo Brozovic, while the Belgium international also headed wide before the interval.   

However, Inter started the second half brightly and went ahead in the 54th minute when Sanchez's strike from eight yards proved too powerful for Sepe, creeping over the line before Riccardo Gagliolo could clear.   

The Chile international claimed his second in the 62nd minute, sliding his finish past an exposed Sepe after a barnstorming run from Lukaku created the opportunity for his team-mate.   

Hernani set up a tense finale with a controlled volley from 10 yards from Giuseppe Pezzella's cross in the 71st minute, yet Inter held on to take another significant step towards the title.

Inter never came close to completing a swap deal for Edin Dzeko and are not expecting any departures before the transfer deadline, Giuseppe Marotta has revealed. 

Media speculation suggested the Nerazzurri could be set to bring in striker Dzeko in a player exchange with Roma, who would get Alexis Sanchez in return.

However, the switch will seemingly not be happening this month and, according to Marotta, talks never actually reached an advanced stage. 

Dzeko's future in Rome remains unclear amid a reported disagreement with coach Paulo Fonseca. He has scored seven league goals in 15 appearances this season but has not featured for the first team since coming on as a late substitute in the Coppa Italia tie against Spezia on January 19. 

"It was a bit of audacity on the part of the agents of the two players," Inter CEO Marotta told the media on Monday about the rumoured Dzeko-Sanchez switch.  

"Apart from a meeting between the directors, we never got into the heart of the negotiations."

Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen and Ivan Perisic - a reported target for Everton - are set to remain at Inter, meaning Antonio Conte will continue to work with the squad he has at his disposal.

Marotta pointed to the financial impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as a need to be cautious in the transfer market.

Asked if the club are now closed for business in this window, he replied: "Yes.

"We are faced with an extraordinary event. The pandemic has had a strong impact and the model of the past is not sustainable.

"At this moment, we have to deal with the cost of labour - it must be reviewed in order not to risk a default. 

"We will not entertain any negotiations for big transfers and big salaries."

Inter sit second in Serie A, two points behind leaders Milan. They are also through to the last four of the Coppa Italia, where they will go up against Juventus.

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

For so long, Real Madrid have been favourites to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Premier League champions Liverpool are believed to be stepping up their pursuit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL FRONTRUNNERS FOR MBAPPE

Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid in the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe , according to Canal+ show Late Football Club.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid at the end of the season.

But Liverpool are reportedly the frontrunners to prise the France World Cup winner to Anfield amid doubts over Mohamed Salah 's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are preparing for the departure of Sergio Ramos as their star captain nears an exit. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with the likes of PSG , Juventus , Manchester United and Manchester City .

- Will Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Inter's Alexis Sanchez swap clubs? Sky Sport Italia reports an exchange deal could be set to collapse. City reportedly turned down a chance to re-sign Dzeko, who has a fractured relationship with Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Milan are continuing to target Palmeiras and Uruguayan defender Matias Vina , says Calciomercato.

- Cadena Cope reports PSG want to sign Barcelona defender Emerson , who is on loan at Real Betis.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk says United are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano , but Bayern Munich lead the race to secure his services at season's end. Upamecano has also been linked to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool .

- Falk also confirmed that Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate has a release clause in excess of €40million (£35m) amid interest from United , Liverpool and Tottenham .

United are eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele if Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho does not arrive ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, according to Falk.

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