Manchester City are reportedly prepared to offer Jack Grealish as well as a hefty transfer fee to Milan for in-demand forward Rafael Leao.

Leao, 23, has scored six goals with five assists in his 14 Serie A fixtures this campaign, following a 2021-22 season where he contributed 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 league appearances.

Meanwhile, 27-year-old Grealish has been trending in the opposite direction, with the most expensive Englishman in football history only playing a complete 90 minutes in two of his 10 Premier League outings this season.

Chelsea have reportedly already seen a £62million (€70m) bid for Leao brushed off by Milan, who have apparently said they will wait for someone to meet his £133m (€150m) release clause, though a new report suggests City could be ready to make their move for the Portugal international.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PREPARED TO OFFER GREALISH IN BID FOR LEAO

While it remains to be seen exactly what price Milan would be happy to part ways with for their young star, City reportedly feel they have an ace up their sleeve in negotiations due to their willingness to send over a replacement player as part of their offer.

According to Calciomercato, City are willing to offer a package of Grealish plus cash to Milan for Leao, and the same outlet reported on December 6 that Milan had interest in Grealish in the event of Leao's departure.

Further reporting from Football Insider has stated City are looking to recoup £60m of their £100m initially spent on Grealish for a potential pursuit of Jude Bellingham.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to L'Equipe, Napoli are the leading candidates to land 22-year-old Angers midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, while the Express adds Leicester City will also mount a charge for the Morocco standout if Youri Tielemans leaves in January.

– Media Foot is reporting Everton are in discussions with Montpellier about a potential £22m (€25m) move for 20-year-old striker Elye Wahi, who has represented France at the under-19 level.

Manchester United are one of the clubs keeping a close eye on 25-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram after reports the French international will be available for just £10.6m (€12m) in January as he enters the final six months of his contract, per the Daily Mail. 

– Sport Arena is reporting Arsenal have agreed to a five-year contract with 21-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk

– According to Fichajes, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has had a change of heart and would now like to join Man Utd at the end of the season.

Nico Gonzalez is facing a spell on the sidelines after suffering a fractured metatarsal during Valencia's 2-1 LaLiga defeat to Villarreal on New Year's Eve.

The midfielder, who joined Valencia on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona in August, did the damage in the second half of Saturday's game.

On New Year's Day, Valencia revealed the extent of the damage Nico has sustained.

The club said in a statement: "Nico Gonzalez has been diagnosed with a fracture of his fifth left metatarsal, suffered in the LaLiga game against Villarreal CF.

"The player and the Valencia CF medical team will assess treatment options for the injury."

Nico, who turns 21 on Tuesday, has made 13 LaLiga appearances for Gennaro Gattuso's side this season, with just six of those coming as a starter.

He signed a long-term deal with Barca before making a temporary move to their LaLiga rivals.

Lionel Messi signed off for 2022 by hailing the year when he won the World Cup as one he "will never be able to forget".

The Argentina captain is due back at Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the coming week after being granted extended leave following his Qatar 2022 heroics.

His seven goals and three assists on Argentina's route to glory earned Messi the Golden Ball award, and at the age of 35 he finally got to lift the World Cup trophy, his career's crowning moment.

Messi posted to Instagram a series of pictures of himself with wife Antonela and their young family, marking the end of a transformative 12 months.

He wrote: "A year ends that I will never be able to forget. The dream that I always pursued finally came true.

"But that wouldn't be worth anything either if it weren't for the fact that I get to share it with a wonderful family, the best one can have, and some friends who always support me and didn't let me stay on the floor every time I fell."

Messi's magical moment will not have been met with great reverence in Paris, given it was France that Argentina beat on penalties in the final after a remarkable 3-3 draw.

Addressing supporters, Messi made a point of thanking those from Barcelona as well as Paris.

He scored a staggering 672 goals during a Barcelona career that ended with a shock move to PSG in August 2021.

"I also want to have a very special memory for all the people who follow me and support me," Messi wrote. "It is incredible to be able to share this path with all of you.

"It would be impossible to get to where I got without so much encouragement that I received from all the people of my country as well as from Paris, Barcelona and many other cities and countries from which I have been receiving affection.

"I hope that this year has also been wonderful for everyone and I wish you all the health and strength to continue being happy in 2023."

Messi has reportedly agreed in principle to extend his PSG contract, which expires at the end of this season, and putting the finishing touches to a deal will be a priority for the Ligue 1 club in the coming days and weeks.

He will miss Sunday's game against Lens, who sit second in the French top flight, seven points behind PSG after 16 rounds of games.

Jordi Alba and referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz had both "forgotten" about the Barcelona defender's first yellow card prior to his dismissal against Espanyol on Saturday.

Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by their Catalan rivals on what was a bittersweet day for Alba, who became only the 12th different player to make 300 LaLiga appearances for the club.

Alba's landmark outing was marred as the left-back received two yellow cards in the space of five minutes after Espanyol's leveller, with Lahoz losing control of the latter stages.

Lahoz, who was in charge of Argentina's fiery World Cup quarter-final clash with the Netherlands earlier this month, also sent off Vinicius Souza, while only a VAR review saved Leandro Cabrera after he was initially shown a red card for a stamp on Robert Lewandowski.

Alba will now serve a one-match suspension, meaning he will miss Barca's clash with Atletico Madrid at Civitas Metropolitano on January 8.

The Spain international revealed he received his second yellow card after voicing his frustration at a challenge involving Andreas Christensen and Joselu, whose penalty cancelled out Marcos Alonso's earlier header at Camp Nou. 

"I did not understand the expulsion and I told him so," Alba said, in quotes carried by Mundo Deportivo. "I went to Mateu to tell him that Joselu had made [Christensen's] bed, nothing more.

"He thought it was the first yellow, and he showed me the second. For me, it is not even a card.

"I am aware that sometimes I make mistakes and protest too much because I am very impulsive, and I have to correct this aspect, but this time, it was not the case."

Sergi Roberto, who wore the captain's armband during Saturday's derby, concurred, telling Movistar: "Alba had forgotten his first card. We were all a little surprised."

Although Barca returned to the top of LaLiga on goal difference, they were punished for not converting their superiority into maximum points, having enjoyed over three quarters of the possession and registered 21 shots on goal.

"In the second half, we wanted to go for the second goal and to have the game more controlled," Sergi Roberto added. 

"The game stopped a lot with the expulsions, the cards, and then we were not able to play our way anymore."

Xavi refused to blame referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz after Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Espanyol but acknowledged the feisty Catalan derby "totally got out of control."

The Blaugrana were forced to settle for a point on their return to action following the World Cup despite a dominant display at Camp Nou, where Joselu's penalty cancelled out a header from Marcos Alonso.

The contest descended into chaos as Lahoz, who was in charge of Argentina's fiery World Cup quarter-final clash with the Netherlands this month, prolifically handed out cards during the bruising final exchanges.

Jordi Alba was dismissed for two bookable offences on his 300th LaLiga appearance for the Barca, while Vinicius Souza  after, and Leandro Cabrera was fortunate to stay on the field having appeared to stamp on Robert Lewandowski.

But while Xavi, who was booked by Lahoz, was disappointed by the official's performance, the head coach insisted Barca only had themselves to blame for failing to convert their superiority into three points.

"Mateu is a referee who controls the matches, and today escaped him," he is quoted as saying by Marca. "Today, the match has totally got out of control.

"He is a referee who gives you the feeling that he dominates and controls the game. But today, it was not like that. I don't blame him for anything. The tie is our fault. I have to look for my own, for what I can control.

"I can't control the referee. I have said it many times. The referee would have to come out and speak and say what he has seen and what the players have told him. Jordi has told me that he has not said anything to him.

"We have created chances. From the 30th minute, we have slowed down, the intensity. We haven't attacked so well, perhaps. My feeling is that we should have won well. The penalty is an unfortunate move for us.

"We are angry with ourselves. In football, there are times when you are better, and you don't win. The team has generated a lot of danger in corners. It's a pity and we're upset."

Barca are level on points with Real Madrid at the top of the table but have a better goal difference.

Joselu's late penalty denied Barcelona as Espanyol rescued a 1-1 draw during a Catalan derby that descended into chaos towards the end.

The Blaugrana replaced Real Madrid at LaLiga's summit on goal difference but were forced to settle for a point on their return to action despite dominating with over three-quarters of the possession and 21 shots.

Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock with an early header but then conceded the spot-kick that Joselu converted 17 minutes from time.

Both sides ended the game with 10 men after Jordi Alba and Vinicius Souza were dismissed for second bookings as referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz – the man in charge of Argentina's feisty World Cup quarter-final clash with the Netherlands earlier this month – prolifically handed out cards during the bruising final exchanges.

Benfica's Enzo Fernandez starred for Argentina during their triumphant World Cup campaign, prompting speculation of a January transfer.

The 21-year-old was rewarded for his efforts by being named as the Young Player of the Tournament.

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year, signing on a five-year deal that expires in 2027.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO CONVINCE BENFICA ON FERNANDEZ DEAL

World Cup sensation Enzo Fernandez has agreed to join Chelsea, with the Premier League club's next step to convince Benfica to sell him, claims the Metro.

Fabrizio Romano reports the Blues have opened discussions with the Portuguese club about a transfer, with talk the move could be worth £105million due to a release clause.

Benfica have shown little intention of selling Fernandez and Chelsea already have a back-up plan should the move not materialise in the shape of another Argentinian, Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister, according to the Times.

ROUND-UP

– ESPN claims Real Madrid are willing to splash out more than €100m to land Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, who is also being chased by Liverpool .

Barcelona and Newcastle United are interested in Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, but he wants to re-join Napoli when his Blues contract concludes at the end of this season, claims La Repubblica. Chelsea have also reportedly offered him a new deal.

Manchester City have beaten Newcastle to the signature of Velez Sarsfield's 19-year-old midfielder Maximo Perrone, reports Team Talk.

– Gianluca di Marzio claims Milan are interested in a short-term move for Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy amid ongoing injury issues for number one Mike Maignan.

– The Daily Mail claims Wolves will let Mexican forward Raul Jimenez exit in January if they manage to land another striker.

– Unai Emery's Aston Villa are keen on Udinese forward Gerard Deulofeu, according to 90min.

Netherlands great Marc Overmars suffered a "mild stroke" and has been told to limit his Royal Antwerp duties while he recovers.

The health scare was revealed by the Belgian club on Friday, with former Arsenal, Ajax and Barcelona winger Overmars under orders to "take it easy".

Antwerp posted on their social media accounts: "Marc Overmars, director of football affairs at RAFC, became unwell last night and was admitted to hospital with a mild stroke. Marc is doing well in the meantime, but will have to take it easy for a while.

"Marc and his family are focusing on his recovery and do not wish to comment further. RAFC wishes Marc a speedy recovery!"

Antwerp hired Overmars in March, little over a month after he left Ajax after sending inappropriate messages to female colleagues.

Overmars sent messages and photographs to several women who worked at the Dutch club – behaviour he admitted was "unacceptable".

Ajax replied to Antwerp's announcement of Overmars' hospitalisation by posting: "Wishing you strength and strength with your recovery, Marc."

Overmars, 49, scored 17 goals in 86 games for the Netherlands in an international career that ran from February 1993 through to the 2004 European Championship.

Espanyol are furious that Robert Lewandowski could play in Saturday's derby after Barcelona secured a temporary injunction that put his three-match ban on hold.

Poland international Lewandowski was shown two yellow cards in the first half of Barca's last match before the World Cup break – a 2-1 win at Osasuna on November 8.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued Lewandowski with an extended three-game punishment due to an alleged gesture made towards referee Jesus Gil Manzano after being dismissed, although the player said it had been aimed at his own coach, Xavi.

The full ban may yet apply, but for now it is on hold after "the dispute settlement court in Madrid issued a precautionary measure against the suspension imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)" on Friday.

Espanyol are unsurprisingly infuriated such a situation now renders Lewandowski – who has scored 13 goals in 14 LaLiga games this season – eligible to play at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Los Pericos suggested the decision threatens the integrity of the competition because the round of matches has already started, while they are bewildered why such a ruling has been given when Lewandowski's sanction had been supported by three bodies: LaLiga, the appeals committee and CAS.

Espanyol's statement read: "Espanyol finds it unusual that, 24 hours before the match against Barcelona, ​​and after it was rejected by different competent bodies (competition, appeal and CAS), a precautionary measure has been granted to a previously imposed sanction to the Barcelona player, Robert Lewandowski.

"In this sense, as an indirectly involved party, we were only able to have access to the resolution after requesting it from different bodies and not because it was communicated to us, as established by the procedural regulations.

"However, we believe that the requirements are not met to justify the precautionary measure. Specifically, the appearance of good law is particularly indefensible as there are two sanctions of different types, three unfavourable administrative resolutions and an arbitration act with a presumption of veracity that support the sanction.

"Likewise, there is talk of irreparable damage to Barcelona without assessing the irreparable damage to its rivals and the competition without giving the possibility of any recourse.

"The club considers that this last-minute decision completely conditions this matchday, which started yesterday (Thursday), and the team's preparation for this match. RCD Espanyol understands that it is a grievance and an injustice considering the precedents with other clubs.

"Despite this injustice and this unprecedented decision in the competition, our team tomorrow will compete 110 per cent to live up to the trust of our fans."

Sergio Busquets is "fundamental" to Barcelona and head coach Xavi says the club will do what they can to persuade the veteran midfielder to stay at Camp Nou.

The 34-year-old's deal expires at the end of the season, by which point he will have spent a decade-and-a-half with the senior team.

There have been rumours over the past few months that Busquets, who retired from Spain duty following their last-16 exit at the World Cup, will depart the club at the end of the campaign and make a move to MLS in the United States.

Speaking ahead of his side's LaLiga derby with Espanyol, Xavi revealed talks have not been held over an extension so far, but he hopes Busquets will be persuaded to stay.

"We haven't talked about this," he said. "There are six months of matches left, so we will see how it goes. We are focused on what happens this year.

"We cannot make plans for the following season, but we are waiting for him. It is his decision. 

"He has a contract until June and then we will see. It’s more a personal feeling of his. How he sees himself in the team, for me, he is fundamental. It will depend on him, more than on the club and me, but we will try to convince him."

Barcelona resume their domestic season atop LaLiga, with a two-point cushion, though they may have been overhauled by rivals Real Madrid when they take to the field against Espanyol.

After the uncertainty of the past few seasons, Xavi is working towards making Barcelona regular contenders for silverware again and is confident his side will pick up where they left off following the mid-season World Cup break.

"I have good feelings," he added. "People are in rhythm, with a winning mentality. I am happy what I have seen [in training] and I hope that we are at least [at the level again]."

While Robert Lewandowski has been handed a temporary suspension of his playing ban amid an appeal, Xavi is still looking to juggle his forward line around the Poland attacker.

Off-season buy Raphinha has failed to showcase the form he enjoyed at Leeds United, due partly to being played away from his preferred right flank.

Xavi acknowledges the Brazilian is being utilised out of his favoured position, but reiterated he believes he can still deliver on the left wing.

"Raphinha is more comfortable on the right, but he can help us on the left," he added. "He will adapt. I have spoken with him this week, and he is open."

LaLiga leaders Barcelona return to action on Saturday looking to pick up where they left off before the World Cup and end 2023 on a high.

The Blaugrana won each of their last five league games prior to Qatar 2022, leaving them top of the table during the break.

They will be confident of making it six in a row this weekend.

While local derbies can be particularly difficult to predict, Barcelona's duels with Espanyol tend to go one way.

A one-sided derby

This isn't a derby that's been defined by unpredictability in recent years.

Barcelona haven't lost any of their past 24 league meetings with Espanyol (W18 D6), which is their longest run without a defeat against them in the top flight.

Their last such defeat was almost 14 years ago in February 2009 (1-2), a game that the current Barca coach Xavi played in.

Of course, that defeat was a massive shock, with former Barca player Ivan de la Pena scoring both goals as Espanyol won a league game at Camp Nou for the first time in 27 years.

Before the game, there was a whopping 42-point abyss between the two teams, with Barca top and Espanyol bottom – the latter went on to finish 10th.

But since then, Barcelona have won all 12 home games against Espanyol in LaLiga, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process.

In fact, they have won more games at home against Espanyol in LaLiga than against any other opponent (G87 W69 D9 L9).

The form guide

There is every reason to expect Barca's streak in the derby to remain intact this weekend when you take into consideration the two teams' pre-World Cup form.

Barca collected 37 points from 14 games before the season paused (W12 D1 L1), equalling their second-highest tally at this stage of a LaLiga season (also 37 points in 2010-11) and trailing only the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns when they collected 40 points (W13 D1 in both).

By contrast, Espanyol have won only two of their first 14 games this term (D6 L6), equalling their lowest tally of wins at this stage of the season in the top flight (along with eight other instances).

Neither of those two victories came in the five games leading up to the season's hiatus, and Espanyol could only scrape past fourth-tier Atletico Paso 1-0 in the Copa del Rey last week thanks to an 80th-minute winner.

Xavi's miserly defence

Of course, we tend to associate Barca with attacking brilliance, and they've certainly shown signs of that this season.

But defensively they've also been sound.

Xavi's men have already kept 11 clean sheets in LaLiga this season, which is the most of all teams across the top five European leagues.

This is also Barca's biggest clean sheet tally after 14 league matches in a LaLiga season this century.

But they are not entirely bulletproof.

If Espanyol are to breach the Barca defence, their strategy may revolve around an intense start as the Blaugrana have conceded a league-high 60 per cent of their goals this season in the opening 15 minutes of matches (3/5).

Barca's Lewy boost

Espanyol will have prepared for this game confident that Robert Lewandowski's suspension would at least aid their chances of springing a surprise. 

That was until Friday, anyway, when it was revealed the Polish striker would in fact be available.

Lewandowski was sent off for two bookings against Osasuna in Barca's last pre-World Cup game, while a gesture he made while leaving the pitch earnt him an additional two-match ban.

But a "precautionary measure against the suspension imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport" means a final decision on the suspension has been delayed, freeing the Poland star – who has scored 13 goals in 14 league outings this term – to face Espanyol.

The task awaiting Espanyol just got even tougher, and as such the importance of Joselu increased again for Los Pericos.

The striker has been involved in 50 per cent of Espanyol's goals in LaLiga this season (8/16), with Borja Iglesias (eight) the only Spanish player to score more than his seven.

He would surely trade all of those in for a decisive impact in the derby, however, with Barca's remarkable record making them overwhelming favourites once again.

Robert Lewandowski is clear to face Espanyol in Saturday's derby after Barcelona secured a temporary injunction in a Madrid court, putting the striker's three-match ban on hold.

Poland international Lewandowski was shown two yellow cards in the first half of Barca's last match before the World Cup break – a 2-1 win at Osasuna on November 8.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued Lewandowski with an extended three-game punishment due to an alleged gesture made towards referee Gil Manzano after being dismissed, although the player said it had been aimed at his own coach, Xavi.

Lewandowski has claimed the suspension is "too much for what I did", and the former Bayern Munich man said it would be "painful" to sit out three games.

With 18 goals in 19 games this season, to lose Lewandowski for three games would deny Barcelona the services of their deadliest attacking weapon. Only Erling Haaland (26) and Kylian Mbappe (20) have scored more club goals this season, among players in Europe's top five leagues.

The full ban may yet apply, but for now it is on hold, a surprise development, particularly in regard to the timing.

Barcelona said in a statement on Friday: "Lewandowski can play tomorrow against Espanyol after the dispute settlement court in Madrid issued a precautionary measure against the suspension imposed by the court of arbitration for sport."

The Espanyol game is Barcelona's first since the World Cup break, with Xavi's team having sat top of LaLiga heading into the six-week interval, two points clear of a Real Madrid side who were getting their campaign back under way against Real Valladolid on Thursday.

Xavi said: "We have been facing this week different options, taking into account that Robert was not available, but in the end it's fantastic news we will be able to have Robert, although it's not the best situation to know a day before that he's going to be able to play.

"He's surprised about timings, but I've said it plenty of times: it was an unfair suspension, three games for just touching the nose."

Manchester United are set to be busy in the January transfer window following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit in November.

Erik ten Hag's side are in the market to bolster their forward options, having already been linked to a host of players.

But United look set to settle for short-term loan deals with little money available for a transfer fee, limiting their options.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD INTERESTED IN EX-CHELSEA FLOP MORATA

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing Spain international forward Alvaro Morata on loan, according to ESPN.

United missed out on signing Cody Gakpo, who has joined Liverpool, while they face stiff competition to land Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix along with a reported total package worth €22million for six months.

The report claims the Red Devils are hoping Atletico are willing to listen to loan offers, with the 30-year-old having been loaned to Juventus this season.

ROUND-UP

– Media Foot claims Manchester United and Tottenham have both commenced talks with Rennes on £34m-valued striker Martin Terrier.

Chelsea are rapidly closing in on a deal for 21-year-old Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs, with personal terms agreed.

– The Athletic reports that Chelsea have taken positive steps in talks with N'Golo Kante on re-committing to the club on a new deal. Kante's contract expires in June and he has been linked with several clubs in the January transfer window, including Barcelona .

Manchester City will offer Milan forward Rafael Leao a contract worth €12m per season as they bid to lure him to England in January, claims TuttoMercatoWeb.

Borussia Dortmund have joined the race to sign Juventus' United States international midfielder Weston McKennie, according to Tuttosport, with the German club viewing him as a suitable replacement for Jude Bellingham.

– PSG defender Sergio Ramos is being pursued by Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr, claims Marca. Al Nassr are trying to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to join the club, which is their priority move.

Tributes have poured in for three-time World Cup winner Pele following the Brazil legend's death aged 82.

The former Selecao star, widely considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, passed away on Thursday following a battle with colon cancer.

Pele's status as one of football's most recognised figures has drawn the sport together in mourning, with clubs across the globe honouring the late forward.

LaLiga and Champions League holders Real Madrid offered their condolences to the player's family, while paying tribute to the legacy he leaves behind.

"The legend of Pele will remain forever in the memory of all those who love this sport and his legacy makes him one of the great myths of world football," Los Blancos issued in a statement.

Fellow Spanish giants Barcelona said the Brazilian "made football greater than ever", while last season's Champions League finalists Liverpool called him an "icon" of football.

Several teams paid tribute to Pele with statements incorporating some of the game's other greats, such as Benfica, who posted a picture of him alongside late Portugal star Eusebio.

West Ham included former England captain Bobby Moore in their image after their famous battle at the 1970 World Cup, while Ajax featured Johan Cruyff, another of the game's great players, alongside the Brazilian.

Premier League trio Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City recalled their memories of Pele, with the Gunners reflecting on his visit for an encounter over four decades ago following his retirement.

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich paid tribute to "one of the all-time greats" while Serie A champions Milan also offered condolences.

CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, also issued a tribute to the late star, saying: "Thank you for putting South America on top."

Lionel Messi joined the tributes to Pele after the Brazil great and three-time World Cup winner's death on Thursday.

The 82-year-old had been moved to palliative care early in December after his body stopped responding to cancer treatment.

His family subsequently travelled to be alongside him in Sao Paolo prior to Christmas Day before the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital confirmed Pele's passing after multiple organ failure.

Sporting legends, clubs and organisations have all paid tribute to one of football's greatest players and Argentina superstar Messi shared his own post for the Santos hero.

The 2022 World Cup winner simply wrote on social media: "Rest in peace, @pele."

Pele helped Brazil to global success in 1958, 1962 and 1970, with no player in the tournament's history lifting the trophy more.

His 77-goal international haul still stands as a Brazilian record, though Neymar matched that benchmark with a World Cup quarter-final strike against Croatia in Qatar.

While Pele played a part in three World Cup triumphs, fierce rivals Argentina claimed their third crown at the most recent edition of FIFA's showcase tournament.

Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia joined the iconic Messi in paying tribute to Pele.

A statement read: "The AFA, through its president Claudio Tapia, regrets the death of the legendary Brazilian soccer player Pele, one of the best players in history, and sends warmest hugs to his loved ones and to all of Brazil."

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