Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno says Chelsea are the "best team in the world" following the European champions defeat over the Spaniards in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

Chelsea won 6-5 over penalties after a 1-1 draw with Villarreal across 120 minutes at Belfast's Windsor Park.

Moreno scored Villarreal's 73rd-minute equaliser after Hakim Ziyech had opened the scoring in the 27th minute.

Chelsea's victory extended the run of eight of the past nine Champions League winners lifting the Super Cup.

The Spanish forward was full of praise for Chelsea, who had more possession and generated 20-12 shots and 7-5 shots on target.

"[We’re] now competing with the best," Moreno said post-game. "Chelsea were the favourites.

"I don’t know what the difference in budget is, but for me they’re the best team in the world."

Villarreal head coach Unai Emery beamed with pride in his side after the game.

"It’s a pride to represent this club, Villarreal and La Liga on a day like today," Emery said post-game.

"You cannot blame the players for anything because they’ve made a fantastic effort."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel becomes the third consecutive German coach to win the Super Cup, while he extends his unbeaten run against Spanish opposition to nine games.

Romelu Lukaku's final kick of his first spell at Chelsea came in a Super Cup.

On August 30, 2013, the Belgian – then 20, still young, albeit one with the physical stature of a player much further on in his career – missed the decisive penalty as Chelsea became the first team to lose successive Super Cup fixtures, going down in a shoot-out to Bayern Munich.

Not long after that game, Lukaku headed to Everton, initially on a loan deal before he made a permanent move to Goodison Park a year later. A return to Chelsea, however, has always seemed a possibility for the striker who stormed onto the scene with Anderlecht in his teens.

Whereas a Super Cup marked the end of his first spell in London, Wednesday's meeting with Villarreal showed just why the Blues are set to break their transfer record to sign the 28-year-old, who arrives back at the club a Serie A winner and one of Europe's leading forwards.

This time, Lukaku watched on from afar as Chelsea, defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2019 edition, clinched victory in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Belfast – Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on to be the hero.

 

ROM THE REMEDY

It seems wrong to be too critical of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, given their remarkable success in his short time at the club. They went unbeaten in their first 14 games under the German, secured a top-four finish, reached the FA Cup final and, of course, won the Champions League.

Yet from Tuchel's appointment until the end of last season, Chelsea scored only 38 goals in all competitions.

The chances were being created - it would be difficult for players such as Mason Mount, who crafted the second-most opportunities in the Premier League last season, Hakim Ziyech, who opened the scoring in Belfast before going off injured, Christian Pulisic and Champions League final goalscorer Kai Havertz not to fashion their fair share.

Much was made of Timo Werner's first season at the club too, as the former RB Leipzig forward fluffed his lines time after time. He finished with six league goals but from 79 attempts, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent, while he only netted five of the 23 'big' chances, as defined by Opta, that came his way.

Up until the 27th minute at Windsor Park, when Ziyech tucked in from Havertz's centre, it was all Chelsea, but the same issues which had plagued their frontline last season were present once more.

In the sixth minute, Marcos Alonso's brilliant cross caught Werner on his heels. It would have been a gift for Lukaku. Werner forced a great save from the resulting corner, though that was the only shot he managed in his 65 minutes on the field.

More issues came after Ziyech's opener, as Chelsea (who had 67.9 per cent possession before the break) failed to add to their lead and let Villarreal – who levelled through Gerard Moreno – claim control.

Lukaku's imminent arrival, however, should ensure this profligacy, demonstrated again by Pulisic's 100th-minute miss from close range, is not repeated throughout the coming campaign.

Chelsea ended the game against Villarreal with 20 attempts, of which seven were on target. Had Lukaku's signing come in time, it is hard to imagine penalties would have been required at all to decide the outcome.

KEPA THE HERO

While Chelsea's forwards toiled, it was forgotten man Kepa who came on to be the difference.

In the 119th minute, Edouard Mendy made way for the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper – just over 17 minutes after that change, Kepa dived low to his right to keep out Raul Albiol's weak effort and ensure the Champions League holders have now lifted the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons.

It was a brave call by Tuchel, who follows in the footsteps of compatriots Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick in winning the Super Cup – German coaches having triumphed in the last three editions.

With Lukaku soon to be back on board, it could – and perhaps should – be the first trophy of many for the Blues this term.

For now, though, this was just a nice story for Kepa, the keeper who once refused to be taken off in a cup final had come on late to help decide the outcome in his team's favour.

Romelu Lukaku's final kick of his first spell at Chelsea came in a Super Cup.

On August 30, 2013, the Belgian – then 20, still young, albeit one with the physical stature of a player much further on in his career – missed the decisive penalty as Chelsea became the first team to lose successive Super Cup fixtures, going down in a shoot-out to Bayern Munich.

Not long after that game, Lukaku headed to Everton, initially on a loan deal before he made a permanent move to Goodison Park a year later. A return to Chelsea, however, has always seemed a possibility for the striker who stormed onto the scene with Anderlecht in his teens.

Whereas a Super Cup marked the end of his first spell in London, Wednesday's meeting with Villarreal showed just why the Blues are set to break their transfer record to sign the 28-year-old, who arrives back at the club a Serie A winner and one of Europe's leading forwards.

This time, Lukaku watched on from afar as Chelsea, defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2019 edition, clinched victory in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Belfast – Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on to be the hero.

 

ROM THE REMEDY

It seems wrong to be too critical of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, given their remarkable success in his short time at the club. They went unbeaten in their first 14 games under the German, secured a top-four finish, reached the FA Cup final and, of course, won the Champions League.

Yet from Tuchel's appointment until the end of last season, Chelsea scored only 38 goals in all competitions.

The chances were being created - it would be difficult for players such as Mason Mount, who crafted the second-most opportunities in the Premier League last season, Hakim Ziyech, who opened the scoring in Belfast before going off injured, Christian Pulisic and Champions League final goalscorer Kai Havertz not to fashion their fair share.

Much was made of Timo Werner's first season at the club too, as the former RB Leipzig forward fluffed his lines time after time. He finished with six league goals but from 79 attempts, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent, while he only netted five of the 23 'big' chances, as defined by Opta, that came his way.

Up until the 27th minute at Windsor Park, when Ziyech tucked in from Havertz's centre, it was all Chelsea, but the same issues which had plagued their frontline last season were present once more.

In the sixth minute, Marcos Alonso's brilliant cross caught Werner on his heels. It would have been a gift for Lukaku. Werner forced a great save from the resulting corner, though that was the only shot he managed in his 65 minutes on the field.

More issues came after Ziyech's opener, as Chelsea (who had 67.9 per cent possession before the break) failed to add to their lead and let Villarreal – who levelled through Gerard Moreno – claim control.

Lukaku's imminent arrival, however, should ensure this profligacy, demonstrated again by Pulisic's 100th-minute miss from close range, is not repeated throughout the coming campaign.

Chelsea ended the game against Villarreal with 20 attempts, of which seven were on target. Had Lukaku's signing come in time, it is hard to imagine penalties would have been required at all to decide the outcome.

KEPA THE HERO

While Chelsea's forwards toiled, it was forgotten man Kepa who came on to be the difference.

In the 119th minute, Edouard Mendy made way for the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper – just over 17 minutes after that change, Kepa dived low to his right to keep out Raul Albiol's weak effort and ensure the Champions League holders have now lifted the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons.

It was a brave call by Tuchel, who follows in the footsteps of compatriots Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick in winning the Super Cup – German coaches having triumphed in the last three editions.

With Lukaku soon to be back on board, it could – and perhaps should – be the first trophy of many for the Blues this term.

For now, though, this was just a nice story for Kepa, the keeper who once refused to be taken off in a cup final had come on late to help decide the outcome in his team's favour.

Thomas Tuchel explained his extra-time goalkeeper substitution was based on statistical data, not spontaneity, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two shoot-out saves to win the Super Cup for Chelsea.

Gerard Moreno's second-half strike cancelled out Hakim Ziyech's opener at Windsor Park and, with penalties looming, Tuchel sent on Kepa for Edouard Mendy in the closing minutes.

The Spain goalkeeper denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol in the shoot-out, ensuring a 6-5 penalties win for Chelsea after a 1-1 draw to secure their second Super Cup.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Tuchel explained his decision to bring on Kepa was pre-discussed and based on data introduced to him by his analysts and goalkeeping coaches.

"It was not spontaneous," Tuchel responded when asked about the extra-time change. "We talked about it with the goalkeepers after the first cup game against Barnsley. We had some statistics. We were well prepared."

"Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties. We spoke to the players that this could happen when we play in knockout games. It's fantastic how Edouard [Mendy] accepted it.

"There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline. They're team players. Edouard does not show the pride to not step off the field. He was happy to do it for the team and take this for the team."

It was a strange reversal of roles for the former Athletic Bilbao man – the world's most expensive goalkeeper – who in the 2019 EFL Cup final refused to go off when then-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri attempted to bring on Willy Caballero. Chelsea went on to lose on penalties to Manchester City.

However, Kepa's heroics in Belfast banished any potential Super Cup demons for Chelsea, who picked up their first triumph since 1998, having lost to Atletico Madrid in 2012 and suffered shoot-out heartbreak against both Bayern Munich and Liverpool in 2013 and 2019.

Wednesday's win also ensured Tuchel, the third German coach in a row to lift the Super Cup after Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick, maintained his perfect record against Spanish opposition, winning four and drawing five of nine games.

It was not all good news after Chelsea's win, however, with Hakim Ziyech's shoulder injury marring another memorable European outing for Tuchel's men.

Ziyech did return to the stands in the second half with his arm in a sling, though Tuchel conceded "if you take a player out during the first half it's serious."

Chelsea will await news on the extent of Ziyech's injury while their attention now turns to hosting Crystal Palace in their Premier League opener on Saturday.

Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy credited one another after the former was introduced in extra-time and produced shoot-out heroics to ensure Chelsea's first Super Cup win since 1998.

Penalties were required after Gerard Moreno cancelled out Hakim Ziyech's opener and, in the closing minutes of extra-time, Thomas Tuchel sent on Kepa at Windsor Park.

The Spanish goalkeeper stepped up to the plate, denying both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol, to secure a 6-5 shoot-out victory and Chelsea's second Super Cup success at the fifth time of asking.

While Tuchel hailed his analysts and backroom staff for the decision based on statistics after the game, the two goalkeepers rejoiced together when speaking to BT Sport.

"It's not a typical situation but we arrived to penalties after Edouard did a fantastic job," Kepa said. "Finally we won and we are so happy.

"I was ready because I knew this could happen. I tried to be ready mentally and physically."

Kepa, who had been pre-warned that this could be the case should the final go to penalties, is simply statistically better at saving penalties according to Tuchel, hence why the decision was made.

Mendy's saves against Boulaye Dia and Gerard Moreno kept Chelsea in front and, despite conceding later on and being removed with minutes to go, he also echoed similar sentiments stood alongside his fellow goalkeeper.

"I'm happy because we won," the former Rennes man added. "I knew since last year that if Kepa came on the pitch he would help the team.

"It's a team effort. We play for Chelsea and for success. We did this today together."

While the pair enjoyed the collective effort that secured the win, it was not all positive news for Chelsea, who lost Hakim Ziyech to a shoulder injury in the first half.

The Moroccan playmaker returned to the stands before the second half with his arm in a sling and Chelsea now await an update as they prepare for their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace on August 14.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was the hero as Chelsea secured their first Super Cup triumph since 1998, running out 6-5 winners in a penalty shoot-out against Villarreal following a 1-1 draw in Belfast.

Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring after good work down the left flank from Kai Havertz before the former Ajax man's shoulder injury marred an entertaining first half.

Alberto Moreno and Gerard Moreno both hit the woodwork either side of half-time, though the latter restored parity with a fine finish to send the final to extra time.

Kepa, who was brought on in the closing minutes solely for penalties, denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to make sure Chelsea came out on top.

The Champions League holders had started proceedings impressively too, Timo Werner forcing the first save as Sergio Asenjo had to react quickly to parry away a close-range effort from Havertz's inswinging corner.

Asenjo, though, was no match for Ziyech's sweeping finish after Havertz found space on the left and drilled towards his team-mate near the penalty spot.

Ziyech's injury, suffered while defending a set-piece situation, offered Thomas Tuchel a reason to be concerned, with Alberto Moreno then smashing an effort onto the crossbar.

Gerard Moreno was also denied in similar circumstances after the break, capitalising on Edouard Mendy's wayward clearance before seeing his low strike smack the post.

However, the Villarreal forward quickly made amends, exchanging a one-two with Boulaye Dia before lifting over Mendy for his 23rd goal of 2021, ranking him fifth across Europe's top-five leagues.

Both Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount could not find extra-time winners and, with a shoot-out in sight, Tuchel sent on Kepa.

Opposite number Asenjo drew first blood with a stop against Havertz, but that advantage faded away when Kepa saved for the first time.

With no further misses between the other eight takers, sudden death kicks were necessary. After Antonio Rudiger rolled in his attempt, Kepa guessed the right way to deny Villarreal captain Albiol.

Chelsea's goalscorer Hakim Ziyech was forced off with a shoulder injury during the Super Cup contest with Villarreal, causing Thomas Tuchel reason for concern ahead of their Premier League opener.

The former Ajax man had opened the scoring for the Blues in Belfast when he tucked in from Kai Havertz's cross in the 27th minute – Chelsea having dominated proceedings up until that point.

Ziyech, who scored twice in 23 Premier League appearances last season, had also created a game-leading four chances before he went down clutching his right shoulder in the 39th minute after helping to defend a Villarreal corner. 

Chelsea's medical team rushed on to tend to the Morocco playmaker, providing him with an inhaler before Christian Pulisic was introduced in his place.

While the extent of his injury remains unclear at this moment, Tuchel would seem likely to be without Ziyech, who had to use his shirt as a makeshift sling as he walked off, for Chelsea's meeting with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Ziyech returned from the dressing room with his arm in a sling as he took his spot behind the Chelsea bench for the second half. Villarreal's Alberto Moreno had struck the crossbar just before half-time, with the Blues still leading 1-0.

Inter Milan have their eye on a Premier League forward. 

With Romelu Lukaku heading back to England, the Nerazzurri are eyeing Anthony Martial.

However, Manchester United do not appear willing to let him go.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED WANT TO KEEP MARTIAL

Inter Milan want Anthony Martial to bolster their attack, according to multiple reports, but it does not sound like he is available. 

The Mail claims United are prepared to reject a £50million offer for the 25-year-old, who is still easing his way back in after injuring his knee in March.

Martial is under contract until 2024, with an option for an additional year at Old Trafford, so there is no urgency for United to move him on. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko's move from Roma to Inter is "imminent" according to Fabrizio Romano, with the 35-year-old set to sign through to 2023. 

- United and Arsenal have interest in Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, according to a Bild report, with Juventus and West Ham also rumoured to be possibilities for the Fran. 

- Bild also says Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are eyeing Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria

- Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga is on United's radar but FootMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain could swoop for the 18-year-old despite a need to balance the books following Lionel Messi's addition.

- Leicester City and Sevilla could be set to bid for Schalke defender Ozan Kabak, according to Calciomercato.

- Veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero is set to join Granada on a free transfer, as per Romano. 

- Everton are considering a move for 24-year-old Antwerp right-back Aurelio Buta, the Sun reports, saying the Belgian club want £3m. 

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is a free agent after his time with Barcelona officially ended.

The Argentina international has been heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi is yet to declare his intentions and unlikely to confirm his next move until later this week at the earliest.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD CONSIDERS LAST-MINUTE MESSI MOVE

Manchester United have entered the race for free agent Messi and are considering a late offer to pip PSG, claims the Daily Star.

Messi's exit from Barcelona was confirmed over the weekend, although the 34-year-old refused to declare his next destination amid strong links with PSG.

The report claims United are considering an opportunistic bid, with competition still swirling for Messi's signature and his PSG move unlikely to be progressed until later this week.

However, Ole is reporting that Messi will be in Paris on Tuesday, with the PSG deal almost done.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS claims that Messi's imminent move to Paris Saint-Germain could signal a transfer swoop from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe. PSG and Mbappe appear to have been drifting apart in recent times, with the France international opting not to extend his contract due to expire in 2022.

- Messi's imminent move means PSG have ended their interest in signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba,  according to Le Parisien. The France international's agent Mino Raiola had opened talks with PSG about a switch and Pogba was keen on the move but no offer was made.

- Chelsea and Roma have agreed to Tammy Abraham's transfer terms with the move subject to the player's approval, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. This is part of a cascade of moves as Chelsea are set to land Romelu Lukaku from the Nerazzurri, with Roma striker Edin Dzeko headed to Inter.

- Lyon have submitted a bid for Liverpool's Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, claims L'Equipe. Shaqiri was largely a bit-part player at Liverpool last season.

- Liverpool are also looking to add to their squad as they eye a move for young Belgian talent Jeremy Doku from Rennes, according to Voetbal 24.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following Sunday's press conference and farewell.

Paris Saint-Germain have been widely linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The Argentina international admitted that a move to PSG was a possibility but said nothing was confirmed.

TOP STORY - MONDAY PSG MEDICAL FOR MESSI

Messi is scheduled to have a medical with PSG on Monday before he completes his free transfer move from Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

The Argentina international bid farewell to Barcelona on Sunday and the Parisians appear the frontrunners to sign him.

The report says PSG and Messi have almost agreed to all the final details of the contract, with ESPN claiming he will be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Eiffel Tower this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter are targeting Anthony Martial as they look to replace Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to join Chelsea, reports The Sun. Manchester United are believed to be ready to sell him for £50million. Inter want Martial initially on a season-long loan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Jose Mourinho's Roma are plotting a move to sign French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal. The stumbling block may be that Lacazette wants to play Champions League football, which Roma cannot offer this season.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic if they cannot land Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. The Serbian scored 21 league goals for Fiorentina last term.

- Arsenal and Newcastle have agreed to a fee of £25m for English midfielder Joe Willock, claims Sky Sports. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are trying to lure Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back to the club on loan from Liverpool.

 

England international Kieran Trippier has expressed his desire to return from Spain this off-season.

The Atletico Madrid full-back has spent two seasons in Spain, helping Diego Simeone's side win LaLiga in 2020-21.

A former Burnley and Tottenham defender, Trippier has been pursued by Manchester United who are yet to agree a fee with Atletico.

TOP STORY – ARSENAL ENTER TRIPPIER RACE

Arsenal have joined United in targeting Kieran Trippier, reports The Sun.

The Gunners see Trippier as Hector Bellerin's replacement, with the Spaniard having been linked with Inter as he aims to make a move away from north Lonndon.

Atletico are demanding €40million (£34million) for 30-year-old Trippier.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sunday Mirror are reporting that Harry Kane will need to force through his transfer from Tottenham to Manchester City, after Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's claim the England captain is not for sale. City are reportedly prepared to wait and start the new season without a recognised striker.

- Inter are closing in on a deal for Atalanta's Colombian forward Duvan Zapata, with an offer of €30m on the table, reports Cesar Luis Merlo. Zapata is seen as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, with the Belgium striker set to exit for Chelsea.

- Atalanta are ramping up their move to sign Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham as part of the three-club shuffle. Fabrizio Romano claims the Atalanta board will meet Chelsea in the next 48 hours, with a price tag of around €40m to be discussed.

- Paris Saint-Germain have held advanced talks with the agent of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly about a move, reports Foot Mercato.

- Burnley are struggling to complete a move to sign RB Leipzig's Ademola Lookman on loan, according to The Sun.

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

So now we know: Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona.

Having pushed hard to force through an exit a year ago, the Argentina superstar appeared set to commit his long-term future to the Spanish club by signing a new deal this offseason.

However, his Camp Nou days now appear over due to "economic and structural obstacles", despite reportedly agreeing to take a 50 per cent wage reduction. Put simply, the dire financial situation means Barca cannot keep their prized asset.

Unless there is another dramatic twist to the saga (and we definitely should not rule that out just yet), Messi must find a new home.

So where could the six-time Ballon d'Or winner end up? The list of options appears to be short, albeit varied.

Hello, Paris!

Paris Saint-Germain are the early front-runners in this unexpected race, and rightly so. Thanks to owners Qatar Sports Investments, the Ligue 1 side have the financial backing to make Messi a tempting offer, plus they would give him a chance of Champions League glory once again – they were beaten finalists in 2020, then knocked out in the last four the following season.

Compatriot Mauricio Pochettino is there, as too are international team-mates Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria. When you add in another familiar face in former Barca colleague Neymar, it suddenly seems like a cosy, obvious fit. Such a signing could also help sway Kylian Mbappe to sign a new contract, or at least make it far more palatable to consider cashing in on the Frenchman before his deal runs out.

The Pep reunion tour

A year ago, when Messi made us look up exactly what a burofax is, Manchester City appeared the likely landing spot. A once rock-solid relationship with Barca appeared in tatters, amid disgruntlement over what was happening both on and off the pitch. Moving to England would have finally answered the old line of, 'Yeah, but can he do it on a wet Tuesday in [insert team here]?', as well as reuniting him with Pep Guardiola, the coach who twice steered Barca to Champions League glory.

However, City have seemingly moved on since missing out on Messi. Not so long after Barca's statement was released, the Premier League champions confirmed the signing of Jack Grealish for £100million. Harry Kane has also been heavily linked with them, and the England captain will not come cheap (certainly if Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has anything to do with it). Even with City, there is a limit to how much you can spend.

Made in Chelsea

So how about Messi moves to the Premier League anyway, but just not to the club where everyone once expected? Chelsea have not been mentioned too much as a possible destination, either last year or now, but they have the resources and are seemingly keen to add to their attacking options, considering rumours of moves for Erling Haaland and, more recently, Romelu Lukaku. Unlike that duo, Messi is unattached and available for nothing (in terms of a transfer fee at least).

However, those links to central strikers suggest head coach Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea hierarchy have a certain idea of what they want to add to the squad – and it may not be a 34-year-old who would require a rethink over the entire structure of the team. While Messi would no doubt enhance the Blues, west London appears unlikely to be welcoming him into the neighbourhood.

ML-YES!

Could Messi be set to take the well-trodden path from Europe to the United States? MLS has appeared a viable option for him at some stage in his playing days – he even said so himself in an interview with La Sexta in December 2020: "I would like to play in the United States someday, it's always been one of my dreams... but I don't know if it will happen!" Well, that dream could now become a reality, with the competition having a history of attracting big names in the twilight stages of their careers.

David Beckham did just that, and now he is heavily involved with Inter Miami – perhaps the leading MLS option for Messi. New York and Los Angeles could factor into consideration, with the chance for a global superstar to take the plunge in a major market. In truth, though, it seems this idea could come to fruition further down the line, rather than in the coming weeks.

No place like home…

While he has been at Barcelona since his teenage years, coming through the famous La Masia youth academy, Messi started out with Newell's Old Boys in Argentina. A move back to his hometown of Rosario would be a wonderful way to bookend his illustrious playing days. However, having scored 30 goals in 35 LaLiga games last term, he shows no signs of his ridiculously lofty standards slipping just yet.

Diego Maradona did have a brief stint there, with Messi revealing a Newell's number 10 shirt after scoring against Osasuna to pay tribute to the Argentina legend, who died in November 2020. Still, after finally securing a first international trophy with the national team, winning this year's Copa America on Brazilian soil, a return to his roots appears unlikely.

Jack Grealish's mooted move to Manchester City appears set to imminently go through.

City manager Pep Guardiola has long admired the 25-year-old England midfielder.

English champions City have also been linked with Harry Kane as they chase an elusive Champions League crown.

TOP STORY - GREALISH BOOKED IN FOR MAN CITY MEDICAL

Aston Villa's Grealish is on the cusp of completing his £100million transfer to join Manchester City, according to the Birmingham Mail.

The report claims Grealish was due to arrive in Manchester on Wednesday, with a medical booked in.

Grealish returned from a holiday after Euro 2020 this week and was spotted at Villa training on Wednesday but has since reportedly headed north.

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sports claims Aston Villa are lining up a move for Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell as they prepare for Grealish to depart.

- Tottenham are plotting moves for PSV's Noni Madueke and Denmark's Euro 2020 star Mikkel Damsgaard according to the Evening Standard, as they plan their windfall from Harry Kane's potential sale to Manchester City.

- Fresh from Danny Ings leaving for Villa, Southampton are closing in on Blackburn forward Adam Armstrong, reports Football League World.

- The Sun claims Norwich City are looking to launch a £15m bid for Blackburn's Armstrong too. Irish prospect Adam Idah could be included in a player-plus-cash deal.

- Atalanta are set to hold talks with Chelsea for a move for striker Tammy Abraham according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

A Tottenham side deprived of the services of star man Harry Kane fought back after two Hakim Ziyech goals to earn a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Goals either side of half-time from Ziyech gave Chelsea a well-deserved two-goal lead but Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn cancelled out the Blues' advantage with second-half finishes of their own.

Having paraded their Champions League trophy in front of the near-capacity crowd prior to kick-off, Chelsea got off to an emphatic start with Ziyech blasting in low from the edge of the area to capitalise on Lucas' laziness in possession.

Timo Werner thought he had added a second after rounding Pierluigi Gollini, though the offside flag denied him – with no VAR in operation, the Germany forward could not argue with the decision, despite seemingly looking onside.

Tottenham, who were still without the absent Kane amid his apparent desire to leave, named a strong starting-11, including Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli, but fell two behind when Ziyech drilled in a second just two minutes after the break.

Lucas responded for Nuno Espirito Santo's side, netting a third in pre-season courtesy of a fortuitous looping deflection off Antonio Rudiger wrong-footing Edouard Mendy.

Bergwijn levelled things up 14 minutes later with a thumping finish past Mendy after smart link-up play down the left flank by Moura and Son.

Having dominated for large periods the draw may frustrate Chelsea, who next face Villarreal in the European Super Cup on August 11, while Tottenham round-off their pre-season preparations against Arsenal three days before.

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