Sergio Ramos endorsed Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or as the Paris Saint-Germain superstar targets a record-extending seventh crown.

Messi is among the favourites for the 2021 Ballon d'Or, which will be announced during Monday's ceremony in Paris.

Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski is expected to provide stiff competition as well as Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho, who celebrated Champions League and Euro 2020 glory.

Ramos has often backed Cristiano Ronaldo for the top gong over the years, given they were Real Madrid team-mates and rivals of former Barcelona captain Messi.

But Ramos now calls PSG home and wants ex-foe Messi to succeed once more following Argentina's drought-ending Copa America triumph.

 

"Yes, of course [I hope he wins]," Spain international defender Ramos told ESPN.

"I'm going to defend the guys in my team. I wish him all the luck in the world.

"He's in good shape, and I think he's the kind of player who really makes a difference. He's a unique player and it's a privilege to have him in the team.

"I think that bit by bit, each of us is going to bring our own quality to make Paris Saint-Germain even greater and achieve the things we want to achieve."

In Sunday's 3-1 win at Saint-Etienne, Messi delivered three assists in a single league game for the third time of his career after March 2016 against Getafe and February 2020 against Betis.

Messi became the first PSG player to achieve the feat in Ligue 1 since Blaise Matuidi against Angers in January 2016.

At 35 years and 243 days, Ramos became the oldest outfield player to make his first appearance with PSG in Ligue 1 since David Beckham (37 years and 298 days against Marseille in February 2013).

Ramos attempted 101 passes against Saint-Etienne – a game-high and the best tally for a PSG player making his Ligue 1 debut since Opta started analysing this data in 2006-07.

Paris Saint-Germain's Sergio Ramos reflected on "another learning experience" after finally making his long-awaited debut for his new club.

Ramos signed for PSG as a free agent in July after ending a trophy-laden 16-year stint with Real Madrid.

However, the 35-year-old was made to wait for his PSG bow, having to first overcome a calf issue that has plagued his year.

After making the bench for Wednesday's Champions League defeat to Manchester City, Ramos started alongside Marquinhos in the heart of PSG's defence on Sunday, helping Mauricio Pochettino's team labour to a 3-1 win over 10-man Saint-Etienne in Ligue One.

It was only the sixth appearance Ramos has made in all competitions across 2021 – the last time the centre-back played was in Madrid's defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals in May. There had even been talk PSG were considering terminating the defender's contract.

Ramos' appearances have totalled just 485 minutes, and he looked understandably rusty at times in the snow against Saint-Etienne.

 

He was at least partly at fault for Denis Bouanga's opener when he failed to attack Wahbi Khazri's cross, though PSG battled back through two Marquinhos goals and Angel Di Maria's strike – all three of their goals teed up by Lionel Messi.

Looking back on his debut, Ramos tweeted: "A win and a return to the pitch. You have no idea how I have longed for this! It has been a difficult few months.

"Lots of uncertainty, lots of changes and, worst of all, the pain of not being able to do what I love most: play football. But that's all behind me now.

"Another learning experience. It's time now to look forward with optimism and ambition.

"Thank you to everyone who has been there with kind words and encouragement, especially my family whose support has always been unconditional. On we go, there's more to come!"

Ramos finished the match with 101 passes, the most of any player, with 95 reaching their target (an accuracy of 94.1 per cent). 

Only Di Maria (113) had more touches than Ramos' 110, while the Spain international won five of his seven duels, made three tackles and a joint team-high two interceptions.

 

At 35 years and 243 days, Ramos became the oldest outfield player to make his first appearance for PSG in Ligue 1 since David Beckham (37 years and 298 days against Marseille in February 2013).

While Ramos appears to have put his injury troubles behind him, PSG were dealt a blow late on, with Neymar having to be taken off on a stretcher.

Replays showed the Brazil forward going over painfully on his left ankle, and he could be facing a long spell on the sidelines.

Neymar suffered a potentially serious injury as Paris Saint-Germain laboured to a 3-1 win over 10-man Saint-Etienne.

Looking for a response after their defeat to Manchester City in midweek, not to mention the speculation over Mauricio Pochettino's future, PSG fell flat for much of Sunday's game but Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos came up with the goods late on.

Marquinhos had earlier cancelled out Denis Bouanga's opener, after Timothee Kolodziejczak was sent off for the struggling hosts.

However, PSG will now hold concern over Neymar, who had to be taken off on a stretcher with an apparent ankle injury between the visitors' late goals.

Sergio Ramos claimed he can "continue playing for four or five years" if he can stay mentally strong as he expects his physical state to hold up.

Ramos moved to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in July, but is yet to make an appearance for Mauricio Pochettino's side due to a knee injury.

The centre-back made a huge step on his road to recovery as he was an unused substitute in Wednesday's Champions League loss against Manchester City.

The former Real Madrid star could be in line for his debut away to Saint-Etienne, where PSG are unbeaten in 12 league games, with their last loss coming in September 2008.

But Ramos feels he can play on for a lot longer if his mental state can hold out, as he believes he is physically fit enough to compete for many more years.

"I think I can continue playing for four or five years," Ramos told Amazon Prime Video in an interview that will be broadcast in full on Sunday. 

"The most important thing is that my head holds. I hope I don't have any more physical problems."

 

The 35-year-old ended a 16-year association with Madrid when he left for France, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League loss against Chelsea in early May.

Numerous reports have suggested an earlier return for Ramos, who signed a two-year contract at Parc des Princes, though Sunday could finally be the day he makes his bow.

When fit, Pochettino will have one of football's best defenders in terms of attacking returns to call upon, but Ramos' comeback will also be a sweet personal victory for the Spain international.

"I believed in myself and in work," he continued. "I focus on giving the club back the trust it has placed in me. I hope to reach my best level.

"At the end are difficult moments, moments of loneliness. Whole hours in the gym with the physiotherapist, with the physical trainer. You constantly have negative thoughts that sometimes make you doubt."

Vinicius Junior has signalled his intent to sign a new long-term deal as he sets out to match the achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos in a Real Madrid shirt.

Brazil international Vinicius is into his fourth season as a Madrid player and has made 135 appearances in all competitions since his debut in September 2018.

Only four Madrid players have featured more times for the club during that period – Luka Modric (138), Thibaut Courtois (142), Casemiro (143) and Karim Benzema (155).

However, Vinicius is still some way short of the 438 appearances made by Ronaldo and the 671 games Ramos played for Madrid before the pair departed for pastures new.

The 21-year-old still has another two-and-a-half years to run on his existing contract and appears happy to stay on beyond that, with talks over a new deal reportedly ongoing.

"I am lucky to have been here for three years and I want to be here for much longer," he told El Larguero. 

"I want to have a great career like Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos did. And also like Marcelo is doing here."

 

Vinicius declined the chance to join Barcelona in favour of signing for fierce rivals Real Madrid in 2017, a decision the Flamengo academy product does not regret.

"The two clubs looked for me and I decided to go to Real Madrid for the project and for what they did for me," he said. 

"I thought it was the best project for me and it was the club with which I had the most affinity. 

"I always loved Real Madrid I always loved Cristiano Ronaldo and all the players. I chose well and I want to stay here for a long time."

Vinicius has enjoyed a fine start to the 2021-22 campaign with 10 goals and five assists in all competitions for Madrid.

Benzema is one of only seven players in Europe's top five leagues to have been directly involved in more goals this term, the prolific striker having scored 14 and set up eight.

The pair have built up a good connection at Madrid and Vinicius believes his team-mate's form across 2021 should see him crowned as the world's best player next month.

"Karim is a great player, I love playing with him," Vinicius said. "He always helps me. I want to continue playing with him to have a great season.

"Now we are playing a lot more time together. We already know what the other one is going to do. I hope he wins the Ballon d'Or."

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed Sergio Ramos is closer to finally making his Paris Saint-Germain debut, four months after arriving from Real Madrid.

The Spain international signed on a free transfer in July but has been sidelined with a knee injury.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Nantes, the PSG head coach said that Ramos is back in training and could be in contention to make the squad.

"Sergio Ramos has been doing well. He has trained with the squad three times and is making good progress. We are pleased and will see if he is available for tomorrow, or for an upcoming game," Pochettino said.

When asked about Ramos's mindset and frustration at not being able to play, the Argentine added: "A World Cup winner like Sergio Ramos with his competitive level and mentality is going to find it difficult to accept not playing as much as he would like.

"But he is very strong. He is working extremely hard, and we think he is making good progress. We have to be patient, as he has been. That speaks to his maturity.

"He is coping well with the [training] workload and that is an important step for him to get closer to playing."

 

A medical update from the club earlier on Friday confirmed Rafinha, Alexandre Letellier, Julian Draxler and Gianluigi Donnarumma will miss the weekend’s game, but Pochettino is expected to have Neymar, Lionel Messi and Leandro Paredes back available, with the latter two both featuring for Argentina during the international break.

On Neymar, Pochettino said: "He has trained well today. I am not certain, but I think he will be able to be in the squad for tomorrow."

The former Tottenham boss was also asked if he felt he has made his mark on this PSG team since arriving in January.

"I think there are many signs of identity that are transmitted based on who we are, and that goes for the coaching staff and the players," Pochettino added.

"Sometimes we speak about identity and philosophy without really knowing what those words mean. It is a very subjective area. I think the team is showing many positive signs. The things we like to see and what we have implemented in the team.

"When you join a club like Paris Saint-Germain as the coaching staff, some characteristics explain why the club would want you because they have seen things that you can transmit to the team. You can get the results that the team needs.

"I think the team has its identity and style of play. It has ideas, so we want to keep improving and helping the squad develop in every area of the game so that we can get the positive results we hope for."

Sergio Ramos has no intention of leaving Paris Saint-Germain and is focused on making his debut for the club as soon as possible, according to the defender's agent.

Ramos has yet to feature for PSG since joining on a free transfer from Real Madrid, where he had spent the previous 16 years.

The 35-year-old suffered a calf injury at the end of July that he has yet to fully recover from, having also missed large parts of 2020-21 with a similar issue.

Indeed, the 15 LaLiga games Ramos started last season was the fewest he managed for the club and a big drop from the 35 games started in the season before.

He has played just five matches in all competitions at club level in 2021, totalling 395 minutes on the field, while his last appearance for Spain was against Kosovo in March.

 

Ramos' injury record, and a continued delay in a return to training, led to reports from France this week that PSG are considering terminating the centre-back's contract.

However, the Ligue 1 giants announced on Friday that Ramos is set to take part in training next week and the player's agent has ruled out an early exit from the Parc des Princes.

"Sergio will play as soon as he can," Ramos' brother Rene told Mundo Deportivo.

"He's no more going to retire than he is going to break his contract. There are no doubts about Sergio."

Ramos, who signed a two-year deal in the French capital, could make his long-awaited bow for PSG in their next league game against Nantes on November 20.

Mauricio Pochettino's side have conceded 13 goals in 13 Ligue 1 games in Ramos' prolonged absence – a tally bettered by three other clubs, albeit with PSG having played a game more than each.

PSG retain a 10-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 after holding on to beat Bordeaux 3-2 on Saturday thanks to a couple of goals from Neymar and one from Kylian Mbappe.

Nuno Espirito Santo's future as Tottenham manager is in doubt after a slow start.

The Portuguese only took over in June but his side are eighth in the Premier League with five losses already.

Spurs were humbled 3-0 at home by under-pressure Manchester United on Saturday.

Supporters made their feelings known at full-time as boos rung out around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

TOP STORY – SPURS READY TO REPLACE NUNO

Tuttomercato claims that Tottenham are working on a deal to have ex-Inter boss Antonio Conte replace Nuno Espirito Santo as manager.

Football Insider also reports that Spurs will sack Nuno this week, with Ryan Mason to be installed as their interim boss again.

The Standard claims that Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao is also under consideration for the job.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Le Parisien reports that Paris Saint-Germain could sensationally walk away from their contract with off-season signing Sergio Ramos, who is yet to debut for the club due to ongoing injury issues from his time at Real Madrid. PSG are said to believe they were misled about his injury status.

- Barcelona are interested in a loan deal for Manchester United's wantaway Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek, reports Sport.

- Real Madrid are considering moves for Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, claims Marca.

- Theo Hernandez will ignore Manchester City 's advances and pen a new deal with Milan, reports Calciomercato.

- Tuttosport reports hot property Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic wants to join Juventus amid interest from Tottenham, among others.

Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Sergio Ramos is expected to rejoin first-team training next week following an injury lay-off, but Marco Verratti will be out of action for roughly a month.

Ramos joined PSG on a free transfer from Real Madrid in pre-season, having spent 16 years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The experienced centre-back was part of something of a squad revolution at the Parc des Princes, with Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi also moving to Paris.

But Ramos is yet to make his PSG debut after suffering a calf injury at the end of July, having also missed large chunks of 2020-21 due to fitness issues, including a previous calf problem.

PSG have been cautious about reintroducing Ramos to training, eager to avoid aggravating the injury, but it appears he is finally close to making his debut.

"Sergio Ramos' recovery programme, coordinated by the medical staff, is evolving as planned," read a medical update on PSG's website.

"He is expected to be able to begin training with the rest of the squad next week."

But Verratti is set for a spell on the sidelines with a hip injury, which the club believe could take a month to recover from.

As such, the Italy international will likely miss their next five matches across all competitions, potentially including PSG's two upcoming Champions League clashes with RB Leipzig and Manchester City.

"After suffering a knock in the last game, Marco Verratti has a deep lesion in the oblique muscles of his left hip. He is expected to be out for four weeks, depending on how the injury evolves," the update added.

PSG also revealed Kylian Mbappe is a doubt for Friday's visit of Lille due to illness – he is to be evaluated over the next couple of days.

Sergio Ramos' debut for Paris Saint-Germain has been pushed back again as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Ramos ended a 16-year association with Real Madrid as he joined PSG in July on a free transfer, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League semi-final loss against Chelsea in early May.

Reports suggested the centre-back, who signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes, could make his debut on Friday against Angers. However, PSG have confirmed that is not the case.

The Ligue 1 champions released an update on Thursday, announcing Ramos is still in individual training with a view to joining the squad in 10 days, which means he will also seemingly miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig and the trip to Marseille for Le Classique on October 24.

When asked about the Spain international's prolonged absence, Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference: "I am convinced he will get back to his best.

"It is clear that every player, in this case Sergio Ramos, does not enjoy the situations when they are out and unable to train with their team-mates and play for such a long time.

"He is suffering but is strong mentally and he is coping with it as well as he can. The performance team are helping him stay at a high level and full of motivation to get over this problem."

Ramos appeared in 469 top-flight games for Madrid – with only three players racking up more appearances in the competition for Los Blancos.

He lifted 22 trophies at the club – with only Paco Gento (23) bettering that haul – and started all of his 129 Champions League matches, the most of any player in the competition without a single substitute appearance.

When fit, Pochettino will not just have a defensive leader to call upon, Ramos is also one of the best defenders in terms of attacking returns.

Since the turn of the century, Ramos is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five leagues, and only three players have netted more headed LaLiga goals in that period than the 35-year-old (39).

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino offered a less assertive assessment of Kylian Mbappe's prospects of remaining with the Ligue 1 giants but said the "situation is open" amid interest from Real Madrid.

Mbappe, who is into the final year of his contract in Paris, has long been courted by Madrid and the French star revealed he wanted to leave PSG for the LaLiga powerhouse at the start of the season.

PSG sporting director Leonardo last week slammed Madrid for their "not respectful" conduct in pursuing Mbappe for the past two years.

Leonardo was confident about the Parisians' chances of extending the 22-year-old's current deal, but Pochettino was less bullish in his assessment of Mbappe's future in the French capital.

"Mbappe is fine, he's a calm boy with a lot of personality and a very sociable character, he is clear about things and loves football, he's very mature for 22-years-old," Pochettino said in an interview with COPE and Radio MARCA.

"Kylian will make the decision he has to make and the club will do everything possible to keep him, because we're taking about one of the best players in the world at 22.

"I'm left with the fact that the situation is open and in the future anything can happen, the position of a few months ago may change in the future, PSG as a club certainly have the ambition and ability to persuade him and offer him things so that he can stay and be happy, the possibilities that he could change his mind are there."

Pochettino also offered an update on former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who joined PSG on a free transfer in the off-season but is yet to debut due to injuries.

The 35-year-old is closing in on a return to fitness after a frustrating start to life in Paris.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG play Angers on Friday, before meeting RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, Ramos hasn't started training with the group yet, but he is close," Pochettino said.

"We're happy with his progression, he's a great champion and someone who isn't going to doubt his qualities and footballing talent, he's not having a good time right now but he is strong."

The transfer window does not close. It slams shut, and on Tuesday, it slammed shut with a flurry of late activity.

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid were heavily involved, with Antoine Griezmann re-joining the club on loan from Barcelona while Saul Niguez left for Chelsea.

It marked the end of a difficult window for Barca, who of course lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, who rounded off a stellar three months by not only keeping Kylian Mbappe, but also adding promising left-back Nuno Mendes.

Earlier in the day, Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Manchester United had been confirmed, perhaps putting the Red Devils right in the mix for the Premier League title, while Chelsea - buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's comeback - cannot be ignored.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the winners, and losers, of what has been a chaotic transfer window.

 

THE WINNERS

Paris Saint-Germain

Let's start with the obvious. Achraf Hakimi, Mendes, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georgino Wijnaldum and, of course Messi. Oh, and PSG kept hold of Mbappe, too, rebuffing three bids - the final one reportedly worth €200m - from Real Madrid for the 22-year-old superstar who is out of contract next year. Speaking of out of contract players, Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Messi were all brought in for combined fees of €0, although their wages are sure to be astronomical even by PSG's standards. In Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, PSG have, on paper, what could be the most feared attacking trident of the modern era, not to mention Angel Di Maria in reserve. Mauricio Pochettino's side look suspect defensively but have Ramos to come in, while Donnarumma will compete with Keylor Navas. If they do not win the Champions League this season, will they ever manage it?

Manchester United

It remains to be seen whether United really needed to go out and buy Ronaldo, but the temptation – and reportedly, the requirement to get one over on noisy neighbours Manchester City – was just too much. However, there is no doubting Ronaldo brings a focal point you could argue was still missing from the Red Devils' attack, though with so much quality at his disposal the pressure will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjer to deliver a trophy. United spent big on Jadon Sancho and also brought in a world class defender in Raphael Varane. A title tilt might not be expected just yet, but silverware in some form must be the goal now. After fan protests during the botched Super League proposals earlier this year, the Glazer family seem to have gone all out to prove they want success.

Chelsea

When it comes to Premier League title contenders, Chelsea have surely put themselves well in the running. The European Champions have brought in two major additions in the form of Lukaku and Saul, both players with a wealth of experience at the highest level, and both on the back of title-winning campaigns last season. The Blues did sell Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, among others, but the strength in depth Thomas Tuchel has to play with is remarkable. A deadline day move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde did not materialise, but Saul adds another fantastic option in midfield to go alongside N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and the in-form Jorginho.

Tottenham

For a long while, it looked as though Tottenham would be one of the big losers from this window. A prolonged managerial search eventually resulted in Nuno Espirito Santo's appointment, but the main saga was over Harry Kane's future. City reportedly made one bid, during Euro 2020, which was dismissed out of hand. The champions never did return with an improved offer, despite huge speculation, and Kane ultimately stayed put. Older players such as Joe Hart, Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko were moved out, while Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini, Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal – a deadline day arrival from Barca – arrived to fill the gaps. Serge Aurier's contract was terminated, while three wins from three means Spurs sat top of the league heading into the international break.

Atletico Madrid

While Saul was a deadline day exit, Atleti have given themselves a great chance of retaining their LaLiga title. With rivals Madrid failing to land Mbappe, as well as losing two of their stalwarts, and Barca seemingly in disarray, there has never been a better opportunity for Diego Simeone's team to really assert themselves as top dogs in Spain. Griezmann's arrival, on a season-long loan with the option for either club to extend the switch, has bolstered a fearsome attack that already included Luis Suarez, Angel Correa, new signing Matheus Cunha and Joao Felix - though the latter may now find chances to play in his preferred position, nominally off the front man, even harder to come by. Saul was struggling to nail down a regular spot in the first team, but Atleti showed greater desire to keep Kieran Trippier, who stayed despite interest from the Premier League. Rodrigo de Paul also arrived from Udinese.

 

THE LOSERS

Barcelona

The chickens have finally come home to roost at Camp Nou. Years of mismanagement, and the impact of COVID-19, has left the club's finances in a shambolic state. Barca had agreed to a new deal with Messi only to then announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles". Barca ended the window by selling promising youngster Ilaix Moriba to RB Leipzig and shipping off Emerson to Spurs. Then, late on Tuesday, Griezmann, who cost Barca €120m in 2019, was sent back to Atleti. Luuk de Jong, a target man Ronald Koeman worked with during his stint as the Netherlands' coach, was drafted in from Sevilla as a replacement. Memphis Depay seems ready to step up after his arrival from Lyon, while Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero also came in on free transfers, though Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were among the players who took pay cuts in order for Barca to register their latest acquisitions.

Inter

Serie A champions Inter were dealt a blow when, just after ending their 11-year trophy drought, coach Antonio Conte left the club. Financial difficulties meant the Nerrazurri had to cash in on prized assets, and Hakimi and subsequently Lukaku followed Conte out of the door. Lautaro Martinez did stay, however, with Inter reinvesting some of the funds to sign Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Lazio forward Juan Correa. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, joined from rivals Milan on loan, though it is difficult to see that being enough for Inter to challenge on all fronts this season.

 

Juventus

While Inter were weakened, it has to be said that Juventus – surely their closest rivals in the Scudetto hunt – also had a disappointing window. Like many European clubs, they have been hit hard by COVID-19, though appeared well set to challenge again after reappointing Massimiliano Allegri. However, Ronaldo decided he wanted out late in the window, and Juve did not stand in his way. An initial fee of £12.86m (€15m), payable over five years, was agreed with United, and Ronaldo left just like that. Moise Kean returned from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy as a replacement, while Manuel Locatelli was their other major acquisition and Weston McKennie's move from Schalke was made permanent. Based on the performance in Sunday's defeat to Empoli, however, Juve are far from the force they were during Allegri's last spell in charge.

Real Madrid

For a time last week, it really did look as though Madrid were going to end the window in sensational fashion. Three bids were lodged for Mbappe, but PSG did not buckle. Madrid did move for another French youngster – Edouardo Camavinga, who joined from Rennes on Tuesday – but overall it must be considered a poor window. Los Blancos allowed Ramos to leave on a free and sold long-time defensive partner Varane - just the eight Champions League winners' medals between them. Martin Odegaard was deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti and sold to Arsenal, though no buyers were found for fringe players Luka Jovic or Dani Ceballos. David Alaba's arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at least softened the blow of Ramos' departure, and Mbappe may well be on board in 2022.

Manchester City

City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, who in turn have made smart acquisitions such as Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. While another attacking midfielder was more of a luxury than a necessity, City did miss out on Kane and then seemingly saw Ronaldo snatched from under their noses by United, though the club have claimed it is they who pulled out of the deal. Pep Guardiola went into the window wanting an out-and-out number nine following Aguero's departure, but for now the Premier League champions will have to carry on with makeshift forwards, it seems. Not that it did them much harm in 5-0 routs of Norwich City and Arsenal last month. Meanwhile, wantaway playmaker Bernardo Silva is still at the club, though he will remain a first-team regular.

Liverpool 

Unlike their league rivals, Liverpool never seemed focused on spending big. The Reds instead turned their attention to tying down the futures of key players, with Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson signing new deals. Ibrahima Konate came in from RB Leipzig to boost the defence – a clear area of weakness last season during an injury crisis – though Jurgen Klopp's squad does seem weaker. They have started the season well, but it remains to be seen how they cope without Wijnaldum and even Xherdan Shaqiri should injuries trouble them again.

Paris Saint-Germain capped a busy transfer window with the loan signing of highly rated left-back Nuno Mendes from Portuguese champions Sporting CP, with Pablo Sarabia moving in the other direction.

Mendes joins PSG on a season-long loan, while the Ligue 1 giants have the option to buy the Portugal international at the end of the season.

The 19-year-old had previously been linked with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but he has made the move to PSG alongside fellow recruits Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum.

A product of Sporting's famed youth academy, Mendes played a key role as the club ended their 19-year title drought last season.

The teenager amassed a total of 47 appearances across all competitions, scoring once and tallying three assists for Sporting, who also won the Taca da Liga in 2020-21.

Last season, Mendes ranked fourth in the league in expected assists (3.44), third in duels won (186) and second in dribbles attempted (88).

Mendes made two Primeira Liga appearances this term, leaving an unbeaten Sporting side second in the standings and two points adrift of rivals Benfica through four rounds.

He joins a PSG team that standing two points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with four wins out of four and craving a first Champions League triumph.

Spain midfielder Sarabia will spend the remainder of the season on loan with Sporting.

The 29-year-old has scored 22 goals and provided 12 assists for PSG since his move from Sevilla in 2019.

Paris Saint-Germain had last played in front of a full Parc des Princes on February 29 last year, a 4-0 win over Dijon. It's unlikely many fans in attendance on that day would have contemplated the idea of Lionel Messi being present upon their next visit.

Yet despite Messi not actually being involved, his presence was certainly felt.

The Barcelona great – like the rest of PSG's new signings – was paraded on the pitch before kick-off of Saturday's visit of Strasbourg, simultaneously setting fans' tongues wagging and surely leaving Ligue 1 defenders quaking in their boots, if they weren't already.

As Messi stood there with a big grin on his face, arm around Sergio Ramos of all people, the sheer nonsense of the situation just set in a little more. Previously two pillars of arguably the most famous rivalry in world football, now they're both party to the same 'galactico' project in Paris.

Understandably, the pre-match show helped stir up an incredible atmosphere, and it all seemed to rub off on the players as well, with PSG 3-0 up inside 27 minutes.

But if there was one thing PSG's eventual 4-2 victory suggested, it was that Ramos' arrival is arguably the more important of the two transfers.

After all, Messi wasn't the only one of their soon-to-be first-choice front three absent; Neymar was sat up in the stands next to him, owing to lack of fitness following his Copa America exploits.

But they still had Kylian Mbappe out strutting his stuff, seemingly relishing all eyes being on him, the France superstar tormenting the Strasbourg defence relentlessly with his direct running and astonishing pace.

Perhaps it was a taste of what life might be like at Real Madrid should he choose not to renew in Paris; he was the main man and the star of the show, whereas he'll soon have to share the spotlight with not just Neymar but his old Barcelona pal as well.

That's not to say Mbappe looked anything other than focused on where he was, in what was his 150th Ligue 1 appearance.

 

Soon after Mauro Icardi – another big name, though one who'll likely be reduced to a back-up role – nodded PSG in front in just the third minute, Mbappe carved open the Strasbourg defence with a disguised pass in from the left, though it was ultimately a little too deceptive as it even caught Georginio Wijnaldum flat-footed.

He was then in the thick of the action as PSG went 2-0 up, cutting in from the left and hammering a ferocious effort that went in off Ludovic Ajorque, and Mbappe did much of the damage to make it 3-0, too.

Stepover. Shimmy. Another stepover and then an explosion of pace. He made himself the tiniest bit of space to squeeze a left-footed cross into the danger zone and Julian Draxler was on hand to tap in.

Mbappe somehow failed to add another himself, shooting at Matz Sels twice after the break. The second of which, in the 62nd minute, was a particularly strong opportunity with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.35 – the one he created for Draxler was 0.90.

By that point Strasbourg had already been given some encouragement, with Kevin Gameiro capitalising on the shoddy awareness of Achraf Hakimi and Thilo Kehrer in the 53rd minute to ghost between them and head in.

Then, swiftly after Mbappe's second miss, Ajorque made a mockery of Presnel Kimpembe as he slashed the deficit to one goal with an emphatic header that also left Keylor Navas helpless.

 

For a significant part of the second half, Strasbourg looked the better team. PSG had seemingly become comfortable with their lead and that complacency was being capitalised on by the visitors.

But two yellow cards in quick succession for Alexander Djiku essentially spelled game over for Strasbourg, and PSG made it 4-2 soon after through Pablo Sarabia.

Majeed Waris should have pulled one back, his shot into the side-netting seeing him waste a chance with an xG value of 0.38, making it the worst miss of the day.

 

Mauricio Pochettino's men ultimately survived this scare, but their second-half drop-off will have been a real worry for the head coach and his staff – had Strasbourg got the score back to 3-3, it would have been utterly humiliating.

While this was of course a PSG without Marquinhos, their defensive frailty and seeming arrogance when thinking the game was won had Ramos' signing looking like an absolute necessity.

Lionel Messi will be given time by Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino to regain his fitness before making his debut following this week's shock switch from Barcelona.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner ended his 21-year association with Barca on Tuesday by penning an initial two-year deal at the Parc des Princes with the option of a third.

Messi has not played since helping Argentina to a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Copa America final on July 10 and has had just two training sessions with his new club.

PSG host Strasbourg at the Parc des Princes in their second Ligue 1 game of the campaign on Saturday, but Pochettino is not prepared to risk using Messi too soon.

"Today was his second training session since the Copa America final," Pochettino said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "The priority for him is to feel better and better.

"Only then will we see if he is ready to play matches."

Messi departed Barcelona having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more in 778 appearances for the cash-strapped Catalan giants across a 17-season stay in the first team.

The 34-year-old's arrival in the French capital has understandably dominated the headlines and Pochettino is just as excited as the PSG supporters with the high-profile signing.

"We share the same feelings that the fans are experiencing, a great positive energy," he said. "Every coach in the world wants to have the best players.

"It's nice to have a roster of excellent players here to increase competition and help us achieve our targets."

 

Questions have been raised as to whether PSG can keep the likes of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on their books without breaching financial fair play regulations.

Mbappe is into the final year of his deal and has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, but Pochettino reiterated the club's stance that the World Cup winner is not going anywhere.

"He is one of our players and will continue to be our player," Pochettino said. "Our president has already said so and this is what counts."

Messi is not the only big name to join PSG in this window, with Sergio Ramos also signing on a free alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi.

However, ex-Real Madrid captain Ramos has yet to play for his new club due to a calf problem that will keep him out of action until after September's international break.

PSG provided the latest update on Ramos' fitness on their official website on Friday, while also confirming full-back Juan Bernat is back in full training.

Asked if integrating the former captains of rivals of Barcelona and Madrid into the same side will be a challenge, Pochettino replied: "They will be like brothers in a PSG shirt.

"It has been like the Big Brother house here this week with all the attention. But Leo has a great relationship with everyone and has had a good welcome."

 

The influx of more superstar players has only increased the pressure on Pochettino to reclaim the Ligue 1 title and win a first Champions League, a challenge that he is up for.

"It's no more or less responsibility than in other projects I've had at Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham," Pochettino said.

"The responsibility here is to win games. If you don't, you're in trouble. The challenge is to make sure the stars that shine on their own can work well as a team."

PSG kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win at Troyes last week.

The Parisiens are unbeaten in their 30 Ligue 1 home games against next opponents Strasbourg (W23 D7), a French top-flight record for one team at home to a specific opponent.

With question marks over the fitness of numerous players, Pochettino is unsure how he will line up on Saturday.

"Let's take it slowly. There are still things to be resolved in terms of who will play. That's something we will establish later," he said.

"The priority tomorrow is to win the game. We need to find the right balance between concentration and the general excitement that has surrounded the club for a few days."

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