Lionel Messi will be the highest-rated player on FIFA 22 after EA Sports revealed the upcoming game's top 22.

The latest edition of the long-running title will be released at the start of October and will see Messi representing a team other than Barcelona for the first time.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August and will give gamers the chance to line up with him, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all in the same front three.

With a rating of 93, Messi will be the game's best player, excluding icons and special Ultimate Team cards.

 

The ratings of Neymar and Mbappe were also among those revealed on Monday, with the pair among five players on 91 – the other three are Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak and Kevin De Bruyne.

Of course, the game will give Manchester United fans the chance to include Ronaldo in their Red Devils side after he completed his return to the club following a 12-year absence.

Messi aside, the only other player to be rated higher than Ronaldo is Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

He broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season in 2020-21 as he netted 41 times en route to the title.

 

But it was not enough to topple Messi.

Even in a season that was largely underwhelming for Barcelona, Messi still managed to score 30 LaLiga goals and he set up another nine – only four players had more assists.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the six-time Ballon d'Or winner just pips Lewandowski to top-billing despite the latter's historic campaign.

FIFA 22's top 22 players:

Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain – 93

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich – 92

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – 91

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – 91

Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 91

Harry Kane, Tottenham – 90

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea – 90

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich – 90

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona – 90

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 89

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain – 89

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 89

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool – 89

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich – 89

Son Heung-min, Tottenham – 89

Alisson, Liverpool – 89

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid – 89

Casemiro, Real Madrid – 89

Ederson, Manchester City – 89

Sadio Mane, Liverpool – 89

Ronald Koeman claimed he has no issues with Barcelona president Joan Laporta after suggestions of a fractured relationship between the pair.

Barca limped to a third-place finish last term in LaLiga – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – and were knocked out in the last-16 stages of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain.

Laporta subsequently undertook a managerial replacement search in June before deciding to stick with Koeman, who said to NOS some of his president's previous comments were "not wise".

However, ahead of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, the Catalan club's head coach offered assurances on his relationship with Laporta.

"Our relationship is good," Koeman told Monday's pre-match news conference. "If there are things, we talk about them.

"We want the best of the club, which is always the most important thing.

"I don't have a problem with the president and we talk about things about the club, a perfect relationship for me. We've had little things, but we're fine."

Koeman, who lost Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi from his squad in August to PSG amid financial complications with LaLiga, has afforded numerous youngsters an opportunity in the opening games.

Indeed, Barca have utilised the most Under-21 players among Spanish top-flight squads so far (eight) as Koeman feels this is his best option with all the financial issues surrounding the club.

"The only thing I have said is that I am a coach who gives opportunities to young players," Koeman responded when asked about his NOS interview.

"You never know if another coach will give as many opportunities as we do. I am a coach and I seek the best for the club.

"We know it is a complicated situation, but we are improving things and one of these is giving opportunities to young people, who are the future of the club."

And after suggesting the club had a future thanks to his work, Koeman backtracked on his comments slightly: "My future is not important, the future of the club and the team is important. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to compete.

"Being a Barcelona coach is winning games and we are at a time when we have to work."

Ronald Koeman insists his work has been paramount in saving Barcelona, but his relationship with club president Joan Laporta is yet to fully recover.

The Catalan club underwhelmed in Koeman's first term last campaign, finishing third – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – in LaLiga and exiting at the Champions League's last-16 stage to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca's problems were further compounded in August, amid financial difficulties and complications with LaLiga, when Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi departed on a free and several players had to take pay cuts to allow registration of new signings.

However, despite Koeman's seemingly fragile relationship with Laporta, who went on an unsuccessful managerial replacement search in June, the Dutchman is enjoying his time at Camp Nou as he looks ahead to a potential new contract.

"It has improved a bit [the relationship with Laporta]," Koeman told NOS. "But when you let things blow a bit as a club and are not clear about the future of a coach, then you get speculation.

"And if you are the one who is the coach, then that is not a nice case.

"Last week there was also something in the media, which I think was not right. That again suggests that the trainer does not have full power.

"He said a little too much. That can be done in private. I like it when a president is committed and also asks questions. Only that it should not be in the press, that was the problem.

"Laporta was not wise on two occasions, let me put it this way. We are also in contact about a new contract now. Thanks to me, this club has a future.

"I see a lot of potential. I am open to stay here, I am enjoying myself here."

Koeman's new-look team, in the absence of Messi, have picked up seven points from their first three matches, with Barca utilising the most under-21 players in their Spanish top-flight matchday squads so far (eight).

Indeed, the former Netherlands manager revealed academy products will always get chances under his stewardship as he warned Barca's financial struggles will have a knock-on impact on their competitiveness in Europe.

"It's not just Pedri," Koeman continued. "There are still four or five players aged 18 or 19 who will be fantastic players for this club in three or four years.

"Accepting things and not being able to do things that maybe they [the club] should. That's the moment. Focus on the youth and give them a chance.

"Barcelona is in debt and therefore has to deal with fair play in Spain. The best players cannot come to Barcelona because they have higher contracts and cost a lot of money, which the club does not have.

"Sportingly, this club will always be good. The question is, can you get back to the level where you will really win Champions Leagues and be the best in Spain for years in a row? That is not the case at the moment. Let's hope that it will come again."

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Cristian Arango scored twice in an historic performance as Los Angeles FC claimed a 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake in a thrilling MLS contest on Sunday.

Arango's brace included the fastest goal in club history for LAFC – who have won four consecutive games against RSL – after opening the scoring just 20 seconds into the match at Banc of California Stadium.

It eclipsed Eduard Atuesta's record – he scored after 85 seconds on April 24 earlier this season.

Real Salt Lake equalised through Damir Kreilach's stunner approaching the half-hour mark, when the Croatian curled a strike into the net from distance.

Visiting RSL were only on level terms for two minutes after Arango restored LAFC's lead with a header, much to the delight of the crowd.

Anderson Julio levelled proceedings three minutes into the second half, finishing past Tomas Romero.

But LAFC had the final say as Toni Datkovic's own goal gifted the home side another lead in the 59th minute, an advantage they did not relinquish.

LAFC are eighth in the Western Conference – adrift of seventh-placed RSL and the play-off spots on goal difference through 23 matches.

Jose Mourinho said he will remember Roma's last-gasp victory over Sassuolo after celebrating his 1,000th career match in wild fashion.

Mourinho's milestone game ended in the Roma head coach sprinting down the touchline to celebrate Stephan El Shaarawy's 91st-minute winner with the Giallorossi fans in Sunday's 2-1 dramatic success at home to Sassuolo.

Former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham boss Mourinho has won 638 of his career matches across all competitions, boasting a 64 per cent winning percentage, to go with 25 titles as a manager.

After Mourinho oversaw Roma's third win from three Serie A fixtures to start the season atop the table, the 58-year-old revelled in the memorable fixture.

"Because during the week I was lying to people, telling everyone this wasn't a special game – perhaps I was trying to convince myself as well," Mourinho, who is in his first season with Roma, said.

"But actually it was – this game had a really special meaning for me. And I am sure I will remember it for the rest of my life, because my 1000th game as a coach was this one.

"I didn't want to lose it, and I was very scared of having that be my lasting memory of the moment. So I was lying to everyone beforehand. It was a very special feeling."

Mourinho – a Champions League, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Primeira Liga winner among other honours – added: "Today it could have finished 6-6 or 7-7, they could have won 2-1, whatever. In the final few minutes Rui Patricio made two or three incredible saves and we missed two or three chances when the goal was gaping. It was an incredible game for the neutral, an absolutely extraordinary match, with so many emotions to it.

"Today I wasn't 58 years old, but 10 or 12 or 14, when you start dreaming about a career in football. Running like I did [down the sideline], I was running like a child. And I apologised to [Sassuolo coach Alessio] Dionisi for that.

"I congratulated him and his players: they played brilliantly. Tonight we won, but if they had won I would not have been able to have any complaints."

It is the first time in Mourinho's illustrious career that he has won the first five games at a club.

"I didn't know that," Mourinho replied when it was put to him. "It's the same as the milestone of 1000 games – I only realised when I was eight or seven short. They are not numbers I'm particularly interested in.

"Obviously I'm happy with the three points, and the great spirit we showed. But we cannot ignore Dionisi and how he must feel: He's a great coach, Sassuolo have a real identity about them – one that comes from De Zerbi, but he has applied his own elements to that. They are a great squad; I realised that as soon as I started studying them.

"These are three massive points for us. Perhaps God decided that I didn't deserve to have a negative memory of this particular game."

Roma, meanwhile, have won six consecutive home games in all competitions for their first time since December 2017 (seven).

Karim Benzema applauded the performance of Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid's 5-2 win over Celta Vigo, labelling the Brazilian a "phenomenon".

Benzema would have been most people's star of the show, the Frenchman scoring a hat-trick and getting an assist.

But Vinicius was Madrid's other key man, scoring the goal that Benzema set up and also winning the penalty that allowed the France international to score his first LaLiga treble since April 2019.

Vinicius frequently ran at the Celta defence and often caused havoc when doing so, tallying 11 dribble attempts – a figure only he (14 vs Real Betis) and Nabil Fekir (14 vs Cadiz) have bettered in a single LaLiga game this term – and completing five of them.

His goal took Vinicius to four for the season, which is already a personal best for an individual campaign at Madrid, and second only to Benzema (five) in 2021-22.

After regularly being seen as a source of frustration, even for his team-mates, the 21-year-old appears to be coming of age and Benzema is relishing his improvement.

"Vinicius is a phenomenon," Benzema told Movistar. "I really like playing with him.

 

"He is young and I talk to him a lot, giving him advice, because I know what he's going through.

"But he helps us a lot. He's a great player and he's showed that he can play for Real Madrid."

Carlo Ancelotti echoed that sentiment but was also eager to share the praise out, with the Italian clearly thrilled by the exhibition produced by his forwards.

"Vinicius is in a spectacular moment and I am happy for him. He is playing with a lot of quality and is at a very high level," Ancelotti said.

"But not only Vinicius. Benzema was also fantastic, [Luka] Modric, Miguel Gutierrez. Everyone in attack was good."

Though Ancelotti did suggest he was a little perturbed by Madrid's sloppiness at the back, with a mix-up between Nacho Fernandez and Casemiro leading to Celta's opener, before the visitors carved them open to then go 2-1 later in the first half.

"I have a good taste in my mouth," he added. "The fans helped us a lot. When we were down on the scoreboard, they pushed us and we felt their encouragement.

"It was a great game, with mistakes and with good things. It had everything.

"Defensively we gave away two goals because we lacked balance. The defensive organisation has to improve. With the ball we are fine but without it we are not as good and that can harm us."

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

Reggae Girlz team manager Jean Nelson has died after a short illness, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) announced on Sunday. Nelson, who was the first official president of the Jamaica Women’s Football Association passed away on Saturday.

Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick and Eduardo Camavinga netted on his debut as Real Madrid marked their return to the Santiago Bernabeu with a thrilling 5-2 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Madrid last played at their iconic home on March 1, 2020, before remodelling work began on the stadium, and fans were treated to a real spectacle.

Twice Celta led in the first half, with Benzema's first strike sandwiched between Santi Mina's opener and Franco Cervi's rather fortuitous tap-in.

But Benzema nodded Los Blancos level again early in the second half before setting up in-form Vinicius Junior with a defence-splitting pass.

Camavinga put the game beyond Celta soon after his introduction from the bench and Benzema completed his treble from the spot after some dazzling play by Vinicius.

Celta stunned Madrid in the fourth minute as Miguel Gutierrez was robbed out wide and neither Casemiro nor Nacho Fernandez could clear, allowing Iago Aspas to nudge the ball on to Mina and he slotted past Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid's response was good, their subsequent dominance rewarded with the equaliser – Benzema driving in a Federico Valverde cut-back from 12 yards.

But the visitors soon restored their lead. Hugo Mallo latched on to Aspas' lay-off and produced a disguised pass to pick out Cervi, whose initial audacious flick hit the post and came back to him for an easy finish.

Marshalling Benzema continued to prove difficult for Celta, however, and the Frenchman got his second of the day just after the restart with a wonderful header from Gutierrez's searching cross.

He then turned provider as Madrid went in front for the first time in the match, pulling out wide and playing a throughball beyond the defence for Vinicius, who capitalised on Jeison Murillo's dozing in the Celta offside trap and calmly stroked past Matias Dituro.

Camavinga got off the mark for his new club six minutes after coming off the bench, burying from a few yards out after Dituro could only parry Luka Modric's shot at the end of a surging solo run.

Vinicius then won a penalty, his feet too quick for Denis Suarez, and Benzema subsequently rounded off an engrossing match by securing his hat-trick with an emphatic finish.

Milan maintained their 100 per cent start to the Serie A season as goals from Rafael Leao and the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed them a 2-0 win over Lazio at San Siro on Sunday.

After winning their opening two games of the 2020-21 campaign against Sampdoria and Cagliari, victory over Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, who had also won their first two games, means the Rossoneri have won their first three league fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Leao's second goal of the campaign set them on their way, although Stefano Pioli's side missed the opportunity to extend their advantage moments before the break when Franck Kessie struck the crossbar with a penalty.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – spared his team-mate's blushes just seven minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute, tapping in as Milan's superb start to the season continued in style.

There was drama at the full-time whistle, with Sarri shown a red card by referee Daniele Chiffi after Ibrahimovic and Lucas Leiva had exchanged heated words.
 

Milan were dominant in the opening stages, taking seven shots by the half-hour mark, yet Pepe Reina had only one save to make in that time.

Davide Calabria was guilty of squandering their best early chance, the full-back lashing wide from 10 yards after being teed up by Ante Rebic.

The hosts did go in at the interval ahead, though, Leao stroking the ball into the bottom-left corner after a one-two with Rebic.

Pioli's men should have doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time, but Kessie struck his spot-kick against the crossbar after Chiffi penalised Ciro Immobile for a foul on the Milan midfielder following a pitchside review.

Milan picked up where they left off after the break and sealed maximum points in the 67th minute when Ibrahimovic stole in unmarked to nudge Rebic's cross into an empty net – the first time the Croatian has supplied two assists in a Serie A game.


What does it mean? Title tilt in Rossoneri’s sights

Their title charge faded in the closing months of the 2020-21 campaign, but Pioli's side have dusted themselves down and look ready to challenge again this term.

Lazio had scored nine goals in their opening two games of the season, yet Sarri’s outfit were swatted aside with the minimum of fuss at San Siro, with the hosts taking a whopping 21 shots to their opponents' eight.

Leao ready to shine

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season and looks set for a breakthrough campaign. The Portuguese prospect was a handful for the Lazio defence throughout and had taken three shots when he was substituted on the hour mark – a tally not bettered by anyone on the pitch by the end of the game.

Immobile sums up Lazio's woes

Immobile scored four goals in Lazio's first two Serie A games this season, but he did not get a sniff against Milan's miserly defence. The Italy international had just one shot and conceded a penalty before his substitution late on.

What's next?

Milan travel to Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday before visiting Juventus in the league on Sunday. Lazio take on Galatasaray in Turkey on Thursday in the Europa League before a home Serie A clash against Cagliari three days later.

Harvey Elliott was taken off on a stretcher after suffering an apparently serious leg injury as Liverpool faced Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday. 

The 18-year-old midfielder was racing down the right flank when he was caught by a dangerous challenge from Pascal Struijk on the halfway line and immediately went down in agony. 

Elliott clutched his lower left leg as Mohamed Salah rushed to his side, beckoning Liverpool physios onto the pitch. 

Struijk was sent off for the lunge by referee Craig Pawson, with lengthy on-pitch treatment for Elliott resulting in a five-minute break in play in the Premier League game. 

The exciting Reds youngster, who spent time on loan at Blackburn Rovers last season, left the pitch to applause from spectators of both teams, with the stricken Elliott responding from his stretcher by clapping the fans. 

Diego Simeone insists the referee was correct to add on 10 additional minutes in Atletico Madrid's dramatic late win at Espanyol due to the home side's time-wasting.

Atleti were heading for a first defeat of the season after Raul de Tomas gave Espanyol the lead through their first LaLiga goal in nine matches.

But Simeone's decision to make a triple substitution at half-time, before also turning to Joao Felix and Matheus Cunha in the second half, paid off for the reigning champions.

Yannick Carrasco fired in an equaliser in the 79th minute – Atleti's 300th LaLiga goal against Espanyol – and then set up Lemar's winner in the ninth of 10 added-on minutes.

Six substitutions were made in the second half and there was a lengthy VAR check for an earlier disallowed goal for Lemar after Luis Suarez was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

Espanyol scorer De Tomas complained about the amount of additional time played, but Simeone believes the hosts were made to pay for deliberately slowing down the game.

"It was a lot of minutes at the end, but I've never seen so much time wasted in a match either," Simeone said at his post-match news conference.

"You should look at what happened during the match."

 

Lemar dropped out of the starting line-up in place of Antoine Griezmann, who was making his second debut for Atleti, but made an impression during his time on the pitch.

Simeone explained after the game that the decision to overlook Lemar for a starting spot was down to fitness reasons following his return from international duty with France.

"Thomas is in a very good moment," Simeone said. "With the national team he had a digestive problem, he lost 3-4 kilos. 

"That is why I had doubts and thought about reserving him instead for Wednesday. I hope he can repeat those scenarios. 

"He was the player we signed from Monaco, the player that the team needs. Verticality he is good, he has a right foot, a left foot, he works had

"He grew a lot last season but lacked goals. Hopefully this season the goals will follow like today."

Atletico's late double came after Griezmann had been substituted off with an hour played following an underwhelming first game back since rejoining from Barcelona.

Griezmann had just four touches in the opposition box and managed only two shots, neither of which were on target, though nobody could match his three big chances created.

Asked what he made of Griezmann's performance, Simeone said: "I saw quite a lot in the first half that was not good from us. Espanyol were better in the first half.

"In the second we changed and looked for other alternatives to what we saw in the first half. The team had an extraordinary second half."

While Atletico have now picked up three wins and a draw from their opening four games, Espanyol remain winless on their return to the top flight.

Despite the controversy surrounding the added time at the end of the game at RCDE Stadium, home boss Vicente Moreno did not feel the need to criticise referee Juan Martinez Munuera.

"I don't think about it. It may seem like more minutes or fewer than expected, but it's down to the referee. Little can change what he saw," Moreno said.

"You rarely see 10 minutes added on in a game, but I am totally respectful. I just hope it's the same when we need a goal.

"As for the other comments made [by Simeone], I am respectful of what everyone says."

Atletico, who had failed to win on their previous three league visits to Espanyol, return to action on Wednesday with a home match against Porto in the Champions League.

Thomas Lemar struck in the 99th minute to complete a dramatic late comeback as Atletico Madrid edged past Espanyol 2-1 at RCDE Stadium on Antoine Griezmann's second debut for the club.

Espanyol had failed to score in their opening three games since returning to the top flight – and a joint-LaLiga record eight matches stretching back into their last campaign at this level – but they took the lead through Raul de Tomas' 40th-minute header.

That was a deserved opener for the hosts in a half they dominated and Diego Simeone responded by making a triple substitution at half-time and changing system.

Simeone's alternations ultimately paid off in an incredible conclusion to Sunday's contest as Lemar – one of those brought on – found a winner deep into added time after Yannick Carrasco had got the champions back on level terms 20 minutes earlier.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has been accused by LaLiga chief Javier Tebas of "psychologically kidnapping" Barcelona in recent years.

Tebas has previously criticised Barcelona for supporting a proposed Super League, which failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of nine of the 12 founding members.

The 59-year-old also more recently hit out at Barca and Madrid for rejecting a €2.7billion arrangement with CVC Capital Partners, a deal that he argued would have allowed the Catalan giants to keep hold of Lionel Messi.

In the latest exchange between two of the most powerful men in Spanish football, Tebas has now claimed Perez swayed Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta's decision to not accept the offer on the table.

"I have the feeling that at Barca there's a 'psychological kidnapping' regarding Florentino, like an inferiority complex," Tebas told Sport. 

"Florentino is a very intelligent guy and Jose Angel Sanchez, his director general, is the most empathetic man in European football. 

"All that glamour and know-how, up against someone (Laporta) who's been outside the world of football for more than 10 years.

"Barca were in favour of the CVC deal right until Real Madrid said no... In the last 72 hours everything changed. I think it was very much connected to the Super League and the strategy that Real Madrid are following."

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barcelona last month when they were unable to offer a new contract to Messi due to LaLiga's financial restrictions.

However, Tebas has reiterated that Barca could well have kept hold of Messi – who has since joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent – had they signed up to the CVC investment.

"Yes, it could have been avoided," he said. "I spoke about it with Laporta personally... I think next season with the figures Barca put out, we'll see if Messi could really have stayed or not.

"It wasn't a financial decision. I know that for sure. If Laporta shook hands with Messi, it was because for a month he had accepted the CVC offer. 

"He was in favour for a month. That's why he said things were going well. He even called me twice to speed up the CVC operation, because Messi was getting nervous."

Losing six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi to Ligue 1 giants PSG is a major blow for LaLiga, even more so than the previous high-profile exits of other big name players and coaches in the view of Tebas.

"Just like when Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho left. We knew that one day this would happen," he said.

"We have had the great luck of having the two best footballers in the world in the two best teams in the world and from LaLiga we have been able to take advantage of this to put ourselves on the world front line. 

"Perhaps Messi's departure has been a bit more painful, because personally I consider him the best in history, and he didn't deserve to leave like that, not only for Barça but for LaLiga as well."

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