Kylian Mbappe refused to confirm his future lies at Paris Saint-Germain after his stunning hat-trick decimated Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 first leg.

Mbappe took his career Champions League tally to 24 goals with a devastating treble in PSG's 4-1 rout after Ronald Koeman's side had taken the lead at Camp Nou.

The 22-year-old lashed in an equaliser five minutes after Lionel Messi's penalty put Barca in front and added a pair of clinical second-half strikes either side of Moise Kean's goal.

Less than 24 hours earlier, reports in Spain suggested an unsettled Mbappe would not force an exit from PSG but would not sign and extension to his contract that expires in June 2022.

"It would be stupid to decide my future on a single match," Mbappe told RMC.

"The truth is that it is about reflecting for the long term.

"I have always said that I am happy here. This sort of match makes me even happier."

The French World Cup winner has netted 21 goals in 29 games during his fourth season playing for his hometown club, as PSG sit second in Ligue 1, one point behind leaders Lille.

Mbappe and his side were on the losing end in last year's Champions League final and the 39-cap international insists he is happy to focus on the club's battles to lift trophies.

"We are very happy. It was a very important game for us. We wanted to come here and win. We did it with style," Mbappe said.

"Now we have an important game on Sunday in the league. Tonight is beautiful but we won nothing.

"I am happy. I always wanted to give the best of myself. There has not always been success. But never in my life will I hide. Today I am paid for the hard work."

Mauricio Pochettino's team now turn their attentions back to the league and a match against Mbappe's former club, fourth-placed Monaco, at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe can go on to be the equal of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after his hat-trick saw Paris Saint-Germain destroy Barcelona 4-1 in the Champions League.

That was the gracious take of Mbappe's France team-mate Antoine Griezmann, who was on the receiving end of his countryman's heroics at Camp Nou in Tuesday's last-16 first leg.

Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot to score in Europe's top competition for a 17th consecutive season, matching a record set by Real Madrid great Raul.

From then on, however, it was the Mbappe show as Barcelona suffered another humiliating outing on the biggest stage.

A superb equaliser created by Marco Verratti meant it was all square at the interval and Mbappe fired Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead after the hour and completed the rout with a sumptuous finish into the top corner after Moise Kean headed home Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

"PSG have a very big star of the future who will be at the level of Leo and Cristiano," Griezmann told RMC sport.

"I can only congratulate him."

Mbappe became the third player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick against Barcelona and the first for almost a quarter of century after Newcastle United's Faustino Asprilla and Dynamo Kiev's Andriy Shevchenko both achieved the feat in 1997.

It was a sensational all-round performance from the 22-year-old, who also made four key passes to create chances for his team-mates.

"We needed to have a perfect match. We didn't and they did. It's a big defeat," Griezmann said.

"We were ready, we wanted to play a big game, but they were better than us. There is nothing to say. Kylian was having a great night."

Barca need an improbable repeat of the heroics that saw them overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG at the same stage in 2017 when they head to Paris for the return next month.

Despite the odds being stacked heavily against Ronald Koeman's side, Griezmann is not giving up.

"You have to go there to win and turn the situation around. We're not going to go there as tourists," he added.

Kylian Mbappe proved he is already one of the world's greatest players after netting a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 win over Barcelona, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

PSG battered Barca in Camp Nou on Tuesday, the Parisian's taking an emphatic away win into the second leg at the Parc des Princes next month.

While all eyes were on PSG-linked Messi before the game, Mbappe showed why he is regarded by many as the Argentinian's heir to the 'best player in the world' label.

After Messi opened the scoring from the spot, Mbappe went on to net a stunning treble that was completed late on with a gorgeous first-time effort that found the top-right corner, in doing so becoming the first away player to net a Champions League hat-trick in Camp Nou since Andriy Shevchenko in 1997.

Pochettino championed the Frenchman at full-time, but also urged his team to remain humble.

"We have no doubt that Kylian is one of the greatest players in the world despite his youth," Pochettino told RMC Sport.

"He has already done extraordinary things, but we must remain humble. There are 90 minutes left and they have great players. There is still a second leg."

The result gives PSG a massive advantage ahead of the second leg, though they of all clubs will be aware of what can happen when complacency sets in.

This was PSG's first trip to Barcelona since the 2017 humiliation, when they surrendered a 4-0 first-leg lead by losing 6-1 in the return leg.

As such, Pochettino was keen to stress PSG cannot get absorbed in any talk about their performance in Camp Nou being "perfect".

"There is no such thing as perfection," he added. "I am happy with the result and how we played, but we have to remain humble.

"On Sunday we have a big match against Monaco, we are already looking towards this match."

This was the first time Barcelona have conceded four goals in a home Champions League knockout match in over 23 years.

They have never progressed in a European knockout tie when losing their first game at home.

Returning from knee ligament damage two months ahead of schedule having not played since November, Gerard Pique probably wanted to ease his way into proceedings.

Inside the first minute, Paris Saint-Germain's masterful playmaker Marco Verratti floated a ball over the top of the Barcelona backline and Kylian Mbappe already had Pique in his rear-view mirror.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen tore out of his penalty area and ultimately averted the danger by careering in to make a wild, sliced clearance.

Welcome back to the Champions League, Gerard.  All the best.

As a high-octane first half unfolded in the plum Champions League last-16 tie, Ronald Koeman's gamble in wheeling out his most experienced centre-back began to make sense. Maybe delaying the inevitable in a 4-1 shellacking was the best he could hope for.

PSG racked up six corners before the interval. As the players in the box awaited each delivery, Pique's voice was typically heard above all other, booming around a cavernous Camp Nou.

Generally, he was in the right place to deal with them. Four clearances were more than any of his Barca team-mates at the halfway stage.

Doubts over his overall mobility did not prevent an ever-smooth footballer completing all 71 of his passes on the night, while fellow old timer Sergio Busquets found the target with 45 of 48. The final analysis showed this sorry Barcelona need much more than lingering competence.

Barca fall flat with the band back together

Koeman's tenure has come to feel like one of transition, with Pedri making a wonderful first-team breakthrough and Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann becoming more prominent figures.

But here were Pique, Busquets and Lionel Messi - three of the most decorated players in football history - pressed into action together in a match where Barca had to be content with hanging on to PSG's coattails, even if they threatened sporadically to disrobe their well-heeled opponents.

Pique and Clement Lenglet shifted the hosts' backline a touch deeper after their early scare and Barcelona initially had a counter-attacking threat to match that pragmatism.

Before the half hour, they led. Layvin Kurzawa got caught under Pedri's raking pass and accidentally tripped De Jong. Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot and Messi rifled unerringly into the top-right corner.

Kurzawa was keen to make amends and found assistance in Ousmane Dembele's laissez-faire approach to tracking back. The full-back arrowed a ball into the Barca box, where a majestic, silken touch from Verratti picked the lock.

Pique would sooner have seen Mbappe at close quarters than in the wide-open spaces, but Verratti's pass combined with the forward's supreme awareness and fast-twitch capabilities meant there was enough room to lash beyond Ter Stegen.

Griezmann collected a Messi pass and almost converted at the end of a wonderful solo run to restore the lead but those moments of defiance became increasingly fleeting.

PSG, with Verratti and Leandro Paredes pulling the strings, were the bosses at the ground where they suffered an unparalleled humiliation in 2017.

Messi's devastating new normal

Recent history shows that incredible 6-1 win was the exception for Barca towards the end of an imperial period that has unquestionably passed. The 4-0 defeat they needed to overturn four years ago is the norm.

Juventus 3-0, Roma 3-0, Liverpool 4-0, Bayern Munich 8-2. Knockout ties where they are comprehensively outplayed by high-class opponents. Here was another.

Mbappe had never played Barcelona before Tuesday. He will barely be able to contain himself waiting for the return after a hat-trick of the highest order. Neymar might even be fit by the time his bedraggled former employers arrive in Paris.

Pique was scampering around on the goal line just in case when Moise Kean's deflected effort was kept out by Ter Stegen. Barca might well have been in Bayern territory again but for their keeper's four impressive saves.

The experienced defender was unable to jam another finger it the dam when he half-cleared Alessandro Florenzi's cross - Paredes' pass to release the full-back was sumptuous - and crumped into a net rippled by a thumping Mbappe finish.

Kean headed in a Paredes free-kick to make it three and Pique and Busquets had been substituted by the time Mbappe whipped an effervescent strike into the top corner to claim the matchball.

Messi trudged sad and alone, as he so often has through these all-too-frequent humiliations. End-of-era defeats are supposed to be one-off events but his Barcelona have a catalogue of them. It really is over this time.

Defenders in blue and red chased shadows as Mbappe fired himself and his team-mates into the stratosphere. If they look far enough back into the past, Messi, Pique and Busquets will see a time when they were the future. They'll have to squint hard, but that is preferable to lingering too long on their sorry present.

Kylian Mbappe scored a remarkable hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to batter Barcelona 4-1 away from home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The Parisians were back at Camp Nou for the first time since their humiliating Champions League collapse in 2017 when they were thumped 6-1 after winning the first leg 4-0, and they got a semblance of revenge with an emphatic victory.

Lionel Messi reached 20 goals for a 13th successive season when putting Barca ahead just before the half-hour mark with a penalty, but PSG were far more of a threat in attack and fully deserved the equaliser that Mbappe netted with aplomb.

Mbappe doubled his personal tally in the second half and the similarly lively Moise Kean got PSG's third soon after, before the France star completed his treble with a sumptuous finish on the break that will likely put the tie beyond Barca, though they have pulled off more unlikely comebacks before.

The early exchanges passed with little drama as the two sides respectably sparred, but the contest burst into life when Barca then opened the scoring in the 27th minute, Messi finding the top-right corner with a penalty awarded after Layvin Kurzawa accidentally tripped Frenkie de Jong.

But PSG soon levelled as Mbappe brought down Marco Verratti's flicked pass and lashed in after evading Clement Lenglet.

Antoine Griezmann could not restore Barca's lead when he shot wide after a long solo run, though it was PSG who finished the half on top.

Moise Kean and Kurzawa both forced fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Mauro Icardi headed agonisingly wide on the stroke of half-time.

PSG carved Barca open again early in the second half, Icardi teeing up Kean with a clever flick only to see Ter Stegen make a fingertip save to deny him.

The visitors finally went in front, and deservedly so, with 25 minutes to go – Mbappe slamming in from about 10 yards after Alessandro Florenzi's cutback was deflected into his path by Gerard Pique.

It quickly got worse for Barca, as Kean nodded in Leandro Paredes' inviting free-kick delivery to give Ronald Koeman's men a mountain to climb.

Mbappe rounded off an incredible night for PSG five minutes from time, curling a gorgeous first-time effort into the top-right corner after Julian Draxler led a devastating counter.

Lionel Messi equalled a record set by Real Madrid great Raul as his penalty against Paris Saint-Germain saw him net in the Champions League for a 17th successive year.

All eyes were understandably on Messi for visit of PSG, given the speculation linking him with a future move to the Parisians, and he took a back seat for a while on Tuesday.

But after Frenkie de Jong was accidentally tripped by Layvin Kurzawa when trying to latch on to a pass from Barca's captain, referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot – Messi did the rest.

He casually picked out the top-right corner of the net, giving Keylor Navas no hope, bringing himself level with Raul for the consecutive goal-scoring years in Europe's elite competition.

Messi's first was in 2005 – Raul's goals spanned 1995-2011.

Additionally, it was Messi's 20th goal of the season across all competitions, remarkably making it the 13th season in succession that he has reached that mark.

But Kylian Mbappe soon hit back for the visitors, getting them a vital away goal.

It was his 15th away Champions League goal out of a total 22 – this is the greatest proportion (68 per cent) of goals scored on the road among players with at least 20 in the competition.

Gerard Pique was named in Barcelona's starting line-up for Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

The experienced centre-back had not played for almost three months since being replaced in the LaLiga defeat to Atletico Madrid on November 21, in which he damaged knee ligaments.

His return to partner Clement Lenglet was timely given the injury absence of in-form young defender Ronald Araujo.

Elsewhere, Pedri was also named in Ronald Koeman's starting XI, with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele lining up in attack.

PSG, without the injured Neymar, named a front three of Kylian Mbappe, Moise Kean and Mauro Icardi for the clash at Camp Nou, with Marco Verratti deployed in the number 10 role.

Barca and PSG last met in the Champions League last 16 in 2016-17, when the Catalans recovered from a 4-0 first-leg loss to progress after winning the return leg 6-1.

Gerard Pique is in contention to face Paris Saint-Germain after being named in the Barcelona matchday squad.

Barca host PSG at Camp Nou on Tuesday as their huge Champions League last-16 tie gets under way.

Pique has not played for almost three months since being replaced in the November 21 defeat to Atletico Madrid in LaLiga.

He suffered a sprain to his right knee and partial damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.

But the defender has been named in a 21-man squad on the morning of the game, from which head coach Ronald Koeman will pick his team.

Barca followed the announcement with an excited tweet declaring Pique "is back".

As well as Pique, forward Martin Braithwaite is included after being medically cleared.

Ronald Araujo is still out, so the potential involvement of Pique alongside Clement Lenglet at centre-back will come as a big boost to Barcelona.

While former Barca star Neymar is ruled out, PSG still boast a host of attacking talent including Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and in-form Moise Kean.

Tuesday sees the return of the Champions League as the first two last-16 ties get started, including arguably the pick of the bunch; Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain.

While we have been robbed of the Messi v Neymar narrative after the Brazilian was ruled out for four weeks with an adductor injury last week, there should still be plenty of talent on display.

Messi can still expect to be the focus, given the strong transfer links to PSG, while the Parisians will be hoping for a hint of revenge for the famous 'Remontada' of 2016-17.

Also in action on Tuesday are Liverpool and RB Leipzig, with the Germans' home leg taking place in Budapest due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions imposed in Germany.

Ahead of the two tantalising fixtures, here are the key stats for both games…

Barcelona v PSG

4 – Barca and PSG last met at this same stage in 2016-17, when the Catalans became the only team to ever qualify for the next round in the Champions League after losing by at least four goals in the first leg. They won the second leg 6-1 in Camp Nou.

14 – Barca are hoping to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the a record 14th consecutive campaign. They were last eliminated at this stage in 2006-07 by Liverpool.

10 – While PSG have only one away win against Spanish opposition (Valencia) in the Champions League knockout phase, Barca have never lost at home to a French side in 10 such games in this competition.

2 – Antoine Griezmann has more yellow cards (two) than he has Champions League goal involvements (one assist) for Barca at Camp Nou in seven appearances.

1 – Kylian Mbappe has scored only one goal in his nine Champions League knockout games with PSG. He had found the net six times in six knockout games with Monaco.

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

0 – RB Leipzig have played 22 matches in the Champions League – none have ended goalless.

8.9 – While Liverpool are known for their effective pressing, Leipzig are even more aggressive. The German have allowed their opponents just 8.9 passes on average before intervening defensively in the competition this season, the lowest figure of any side in 2020-21.

1 – Roberto Firmino has scored only one goal in his previous 16 Champions League games. That came in last season's last-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid.

6 – Leipzig wing-back Angelino has contributed three goals and three assists in the Champions League this term – Alvaro Morata (six goals, one assist) is the sole Spaniard with more goal involvements in 2020-21.

45 – Liverpool were the only team not to concede a single goal in the first 45 minutes of matches in the group stage.

With Lionel Messi's future far from certain at the end of the season, his former team-mate Neymar has apparently reached out to the Barcelona captain about a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazilian superstar Neymar played alongside the six-time Ballon d'Or winner for four LaLiga seasons between 2013 and 2017, before sealing a world-record transfer to Ligue 1 giants

It is understood Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are ready to make a play to bring Messi to the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino's PSG appear to be taking the direct approach.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PUTS IN A CALL TO MESSI

Lionel Messi's contract at his boyhood club expires in the off-season, less than a year after the Barcelona superstar sensationally tried to leave Camp Nou but found his exit plans blocked.

According to L'Equipe, Neymar – who is set to miss the Champions League trip to the Barcelona on Tuesday – has put in a call to convince Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi will lead out Barca in the first leg of the last-16 tie, having stated he will wait until the end of the current campaign before making a decision on where he will play in 2021-2022.

ROUND-UP

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe has decided to stay put this off-season but is not planning on extending his current contract, which expires in 2022, claims ESPN.

Liverpool are looking for defensive reinforcements and they are monitoring Aston Villa's England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa, according to The Athletic.

- Bayern Munich's free-agent defender David Alaba has already agreed to join Real Madrid at season's end, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti will train ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona, which Mauricio Pochettino is approaching with calm despite the weight of history on his team's shoulders.

Last season's finalists will face Barca at the Camp Nou for the first time since their collapse in the second leg of the last-16 tie between the two teams in 2017.

PSG led 4-0 from the first leg at the Parc des Princes but astonishingly lost 6-1 in the second as Barca pulled off the greatest comeback in Champions League history.

The cast of characters has changed significantly for both clubs since then. Neymar scored twice that night but is now in his fourth season with PSG, though he will miss this meeting with a groin injury.

Angel Di Maria came off the bench for the PSG in the 6-1 defeat but is also out with a thigh problem.

Verratti also featured for a side then coached by Unai Emery and, despite a hip issue, appears poised to play a part in the first leg.

"We are taking it step by step with Marco Verratti," Pochettino told a pre-match media conference. "He is going to train today [Tuesday] and it won't be a particularly demanding one as it is the day before the match.

"We have a strategy and a gameplan that, depending on who is available, will affect our decision."

History suggests having Verratti available will boost PSG's chances.

Their win percentage in the 56 Champions League games he has started since joining from Pescara in 2012 is 60.7, compared to 56 in the 25 games he has either missed or been named on the bench.

Despite their injury concerns and the mystique around the fixture, Pochettino is confident his players can write a new positive chapter in the history between PSG and Barca.

"It is an obvious target for PSG to win the Champions League. That is our responsibility," said Pochettino.

"I always feel my team is ready. The conditions are the conditions. The situation is the reality and we will try to compete at our best tomorrow.

"I am very calm. History is in the past and we are now in a different reality with different players. Whatever happened in the past is behind us and can be removed."

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and players of their ilk should be protected by referees, according to Ronald Koeman, who hopes the Paris Saint-Germain star can face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

Barca host PSG in the first game of their last-16 contest on Tuesday, but Neymar – who spent four years at Camp Nou – will be absent due to an adductor injury suffered against Caen last week.

The Brazil international is expected to be out for four weeks, in theory ruling him out of the return leg against Barca at the Parc des Princes, where he has scored as many Champions League goals (16) as he did at Camp Nou but from six fewer games (14).

The second leg comes around on March 10, just before the predicted four-week absence period is due to end, so there remains a glimmer of hope for Neymar, and Barca coach Koeman would like for the PSG talent to be involved.

"To see the best game, you always have to have the best players on the field of play," Koeman told reporters on Monday.

"You never know how a team reacts if they lack a player like Neymar. Both teams have casualties. I hope in a couple of weeks everyone can be there to find out who is the best.

"I think we must always protect this type of player, players like Neymar, Messi, Cristiano, because they let us enjoy their quality a lot.

"And in this respect, the referees have to defend them, but in football there is contact and the players have to know that when they play one-on-one, and the referees have to decide when it is an ugly foul, but football is still a contact sport."

Given the tie had been billed as something of a duel between Messi and Neymar, understandably much of the focus from a PSG perspective has switched to Kylian Mbappe, despite the France forward netting only once in his nine Champions League knockout games for PSG

Koeman acknowledged Mbappe's talents but was keen to stress there is more to both teams than a single player.

"It is not a duel between Messi and Mbappe," he continued. "It is a duel between two teams played on one side by Leo Messi, the best player in the world and whom we need in his best form to win the tie, and similarly PSG with Mbappe.

"He is a very fast player who can complicate things a lot. It will be a beautiful game and these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan."

While Koeman suggested he hoped Neymar could feature in Paris next month, Jordi Alba – a former team-mate of the PSG talisman – was brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.

"I am not going to deceive you, personally, it is better that players like Ney do not play in the opposing team," he added. "He is an important loss for them, like [Angel] Di Maria, who defensively and offensively contributes a lot.

"PSG has important players and I am sure that the people who replace them will have the same or similar level. It will be a contested tie that'll be decided by small details. We also have significant casualties from great players but the people who come in are doing well."

Barca are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for a record 14th successive season, and the omens are not great for PSG, who have only ever won once away to Spanish opposition in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Lionel Messi has proven with his recent form that he is committed to Barcelona despite significant uncertainty surrounding his future and links to Tuesday's Champions League opponents Paris Saint-Germain, according to Jordi Alba.

Messi rocked world football in pre-season when declaring his desire to leave Barcelona after spending his entire professional career at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had grown disillusioned with the state of the club under previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom Messi subsequently accused of reneging on an agreement to let him leave on a free transfer.

Messi ultimately decided to stay put, uncomfortable with the idea of dragging Barca through the courts, leaving the possibility for him to depart at the end of his contract in 2021.

While Barca have made no secret of their desire to renew his deal, a situation that is dominating the lead-up to next month's presidential election, PSG are apparently eager to bring Messi to France and even some of their players have openly addressed the prospect.

With PSG up next on Tuesday, attentions understandably turned to Messi's future in the pre-match news conference, and Alba insisted his illustrious team-mate had shown his professionalism with his haul of nine goals in as many games.

"The decision he makes will be well thought out and well-considered," Alba said. "I have said many times that I am a better player on the field when he is on the field.

"It is his decision and it will have to be respected whatever he makes, but now his thoughts are at Barca and you see that in every game.

"Even if he had decided, he wouldn't say whether he is going to stay. He already said before what intention he had.

"Today he is 100 per cent committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season.

"What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word."

Ronald Koeman, who addressed the media after Alba, was a little less willing to discuss Messi, yet he reiterated he is optimistic Barca's captain will remain with them after the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know if it was the intention from [the media] to talk a lot about Messi, my idea is to prepare the team and the players for an important game," he said.

"Messi is a Barca player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barca player."

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Lionel Messi would be perfectly suited to Manchester City amid ongoing doubts over his future at Barcelona, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Barca superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants City.

A move to City for Messi would mean a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola – the pair teaming up to win two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns among other honours between 2008 and 2012.

Ex-City and Argentina full-back Zabaleta backed countryman Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.

"If Lionel Messi ­decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta told The Mirror.

"It is something that will ­interest him – because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.

"Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge ­attraction for him to experience English football. And Manchester City offer the ­perfect conditions.

"He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano – and also Kun Aguero.

"It would be a big ­decision if Leo leaves ­Barcelona. But if that's what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle

"When you have been at one club for so long, moving ­somewhere new can be very strange.

"I am sure clubs like ­Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus would also be ­interested in signing him, but it is my opinion that City would be the best place to go after Barcelona."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.