Lionel Messi has set a new club record for Barcelona, after making his 768th appearance for the Spanish giants.

Messi matched his former team-mate and fellow Blaugrana legend Xavi when he played against Huesca last Monday, taking him to 767 games for the club he first joined as a 12-year-old.

The 33-year-old and former midfielder Xavi are the only players in the club's history to have surpassed 700 games for the Catalans, with Andres Iniesta next on the all-time appearance list on 674.

Messi already boasts the record for the most trophies won (34) and highest goal tally (658) for Barca, and marked the record-equalling appearance in typical style, netting a sensational opener before laying on an assist and then rounding off the scoring himself in a 4-1 victory.

He also became the first player to score 20 or more goals in 13 successive LaLiga campaigns in the process and, on Sunday, he took the outright record for Barca appearances when he started against Real Sociedad. 

To date, Messi has featured in 511 LaLiga matches, while playing 149 Champions League fixtures, 79 Copa del Rey games, 20 in the Supercopa de Espana, five in the Club World Cup and four in the UEFA Super Cup.

Messi tops LaLiga's goalscoring charts this season with 21 goals, as Barca look to close within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Deportivo Alaves 1-0.

The Argentina great has been involved in 21 goals in 22 games against La Real in LaLiga (14 goals and seven assists), scoring and or assisting in 14 of them.

Barca have won their last eight games away from home in LaLiga, keeping six clean sheets. They could level their third-best consecutive winning run on the road, and would only be behind their 12 wins in a row between May 2010 and January 2011 and 10 between August 2012 and January 2013.

Messi has yet to sign a new contract with Barca which means, as it stands, he may be down to his last 11 games in all competitions with the club following Sunday's meeting with La Real.

Ronald Koeman's team have 10 LaLiga fixtures remaining following the international break, while they will also take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final next month.

Luis Suarez has reached 500 career goals for club and country after scoring Atletico Madrid's winner against Deportivo Alaves.

The Uruguay forward nodded in Kieran Trippier's right-wing cross with 54 minutes gone at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday to bring up a significant personal milestone. 

Alaves thought they would restore parity late on, but Jan Oblak made a superb save from Joselu's penalty, ensuring Suarez's goal proved enough.

Since starting his professional career with Nacional in his homeland and finding the back of the net on 12 occasions, Suarez has represented a further five clubs across Europe.

He has proved prolific at each one, scoring 15 goals for Groningen, 111 for Ajax, 82 for Liverpool, 198 for Barcelona, and now 19 for Atletico.

With a further 63 goals to his name for the Uruguay national team, the 34-year-old is now on 500 in the professional game.

They have come in just 794 appearances – a rate of a goal every 1.5 games.

Suarez's goals have helped him win league titles in Uruguay, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as the Champions League and Copa America.

He is hoping to add another LaLiga title to his honours list this term, with Atleti leading both Barcelona and Real Madrid going into the final stages of the campaign.

Luis Suarez scored the 500th goal of his professional career but Atletico Madrid had to rely on a late penalty save by Jan Oblak to beat Deportivo Alaves 1-0 and not have their position at LaLiga's summit weakened further.

Diego Simeone's men had won just two of their previous five league games before Sunday - form that has seen Real Madrid and Barcelona close the gap on them - and they looked destined to drop points yet again when Alaves were awarded a spot-kick in the closing stages.

But Oblak produced a wonderful save to deny Alaves a share of the spoils, sparking relieved celebrations among Atletico's players and coaching staff.

The goalkeeper's crucial stop ultimately meant Suarez's 500th professional goal at club and international level, scored from a fine Kieran Trippier cross in the 54th minute, sealed three points to keep Atletico's title push on track.

 

 

Ronald Koeman and new president Joan Laporta will map out Barcelona's future during the international break, and going Dutch would be in keeping with Camp Nou tradition.

The club which has been a magnet to Netherlands greats of the past may see more Oranje stars arriving, with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said to be a prime target.

According to the Sunday Times, Wijnaldum has a pre-contract agreement to move to Barcelona when his Anfield deal expires at the end of the season.

Reuniting with former national team coach Koeman would hold obvious appeal to Wijnaldum, who has been circumspect about his Liverpool future.

But what would Wijnaldum bring to a team already in the hunt for a domestic double? At the age of 30, would this signing make sense for Barca?


What options do Barcelona already have?

It may not be a vintage midfield of the type Pep Guardiola was blessed with, Sergio Busquets being the last survivor of that era in the centre of the pitch, but Barca are not badly off for talent.

Busquets and Miralem Pjanic bring the experience, Pedri the youthful exuberance and Frenkie de Jong is proven quality as he approaches his mid-20s.

They have the attacking option of Philippe Coutinho – who has been out injured since December – while Riqui Puig is a talent who Koeman appears unsure about.

Busquets and De Jong look a strong midfield pair, covering plenty of the pitch, with De Jong the likelier to roam away from the central channel.

 

What difference would Wijnaldum make?

At the age of 30, 'Gini' would not be bringing down the average age, even though that must surely soon become a priority for Koeman.

The head coach knows all about Wijnaldum's game from their time together in the Dutch national set-up, so there is a trust factor there, and to get an international player on a free transfer, albeit with high wages, could be seen as a good deal.

Yet to delve into this season's data, there appear to be very few areas where Wijnaldum excels above Barcelona's current crop.

Three goals and zero assists in 40 matches from Wijnaldum pales against what Pedri (three goals, six assists) and De Jong (six goals, five assists) have achieved from a similar number of games; however, it puts him ahead of Busquets (no goals, two assists) and Pjanic (no goals, no assists).

Wijnaldum's 18 chances created is fewer than what each member of that Barcelona quartet has achieved (Pedri 49, De Jong 38, Busquets 30, Pjanic 20), and although he is considered strong in the air, his 36 aerial battles won is bettered by De Jong and Busquets (both 45).

The former Newcastle United and PSV man has taken more shots (31) than any of that Barca midfield four, with Pedri (27) leading the way among those Blaugrana players, but he has too often failed to be clinical.

There are defensive qualities to Wijnaldum's game, and he has made 201 ball recoveries for Liverpool. Busquets (203), De Jong (234) and Pedri (173) suggest Barca are already handily equipped on that front.

If Wijnaldum is being signed as a replacement – say, if Pjanic is moved on to bring in such much-needed funds – then there could be merit in his arrival.

Otherwise, he looks to be just extra midfield stock.

 

Tackling a big issue

Wijnaldum's tackle success rate has nosedived in the 2020-21 season, having already been on a gradual decline during his career in England.

During his year at Newcastle in the 2015-16 season, Wijnaldum won 84.21 per cent of his tackles, and after three seasons of 60-plus percentage success with Liverpool, his rate dipped to 53.19 last term, though in a championship-winning campaign that hardly felt significant.

This season, however, it has crashed to 29.63 per cent, with his performance indicative of Liverpool's lame follow-up to their Premier League title triumph.

Such a rate would not cut it at Barca, where Puig (37.5 per cent) is the only midfielder with tackling success under 50 per cent this season. Busquets (58.46 per cent), De Jong (58.33) and Pedri (57.89) are the engine room players who have done most of the heavy lifting, setting the sort of standard any newcomer must expect to achieve.

Koeman favourite he may be, but Wijnaldum, a Champions League and Premier League winner with Liverpool, cannot live off past glories.

Barcelona will need an upswing to follow that downswing. After all, when Koeman said he wanted to bring a lad in, he really meant a Gini with bottle.

Could Manchester United turn to a Wolves star?

United have long been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.

But the Red Devils are reportedly interested in Pedro Neto.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PLAN NETO SWOOP

Manchester United are considering a £50million move for Wolves star Pedro Neto , according to The Sun.

Borussia Dortmund's  Jadon Sancho  has topped United's list of attacking targets – the Premier League giants almost signed the England international at the start of the season.

But United see Portuguese winger Neto as an alternative at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Serie A leaders Inter have joined the chase for Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero , who is out of contract at season's end. City's all-time leading goalscorer has been linked with Barcelona , Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea . The Nerazzurri are also reportedly monitoring Edinson Cavani 's situation. The United forward, who signed a one-year deal at the start of the season, is rumoured to be talking to Boca Juniors .

Real Madrid will pay David Alaba , his father and agent €20m if he arrives from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, claims Mundo Deportivo. Alaba's contract will expire at the end of the season and the Austria international has been tipped to move to the Santiago Bernabeu. However, Barca , Liverpool and PSG have also been linked.

- Calciomercato says Roma , Inter and Milan are interested in Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso .

Milan are considering a move for CSKA Moscow star Nikola Vlasic  should Hakan Calhanoglu leave on a free transfer, reports Calciomercato. While the Croatia international has a €35m release clause for foreign clubs, Russian giants CSKA could settle for €28-30m.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui was thrilled to see goalkeeper Yassine Bounou make history with his last-gasp goal against Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Bounou scored an incredible 94th-minute equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw for visiting Sevilla at Valladolid on Saturday.

Seeking a late leveller, Sevilla sent goalkeeper Bounou forward and the Morocco international smashed home the equaliser at the death following a corner.

Bounou became the first goalkeeper in Sevilla's history to score in LaLiga – Andres Palop netted for the club in the UEFA Cup in 2007 – while the previous shot-stopper in the Spanish top flight to score from a non-penalty situation in the 21st century was Deportivo La Coruna's Dani Aranzubia in 2011.

Lopetegui – a former goalkeeper for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Spain and Rayo Vallecano – praised the 29-year-old Bounou.

"I've never scored a goal, not even in training but obviously it's a great goal from our goalkeeper today," Lopetegui told reporters post-match.

"It's not normal but it gave us some joy at the end of the game when we could have got three points, but it looked like we were going to come away empty handed.

"I just managed to speak to Bono after the game and obviously congratulate him. I am sure there were a few jokes in the dressing room surrounding Andres Palop's goal [for Sevilla] because everyone remembers that and it was obviously a very, very important goal in the Europa League and today was a very important goal for us as it came in the final minutes of the game and it helped us rescue a point.

"We're very satisfied that we didn't give up and we kept fighting to try and get back in the game. We kept on pushing and that is one of the characteristics of our team, and we got our reward." 

Bounou added: "The goal fell to me and I am grateful… the feeling is difficult to describe because I didn't know how to celebrate it.

"It's very strange, but hey, the team-mates were happy because we deserved more."

Zinedine Zidane is baffled by Karim Benzema's continued absence from the France squad after the striker scored twice to help Real Madrid record a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.  

The Frenchman managed a brace inside the opening 30 minutes to put Los Blancos 2-0 up, then turned provider for Marco Asensio's late third after Santi Mina had pulled one back for the hosts.  

Benzema has scored in each of his last six games in all competitions (nine goals), equalling his best scoring streak for Madrid (also six games between January and February 2016). 

It was his fifth LaLiga brace of the season, just one behind the six he achieved in 2011-12. 

Benzema has not represented his country since 2015 after being investigated in relation to an alleged attempt to blackmail his international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.  

"For people who like football, seeing Karim is a luxury because we enjoy him and his team-mates do too," Zidane told a media conference.

"How can we understand why Karim doesn't go with the national team? There are many who don't understand it. 

"But it's better for me as the coach of Madrid that he stays. He has done a great job for us." 

The result moved Madrid above Barcelona into second, three points behind Atleti, but Diego Simeone's men can restore the six-point advantage over their neighbours if they overcome Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. 

Madrid's unbeaten LaLiga away run now stands at 10 games – the first time they have achieved this since May 2016 when they went 11 without defeat on the road – and Zidane was pleased with how his side navigated a potentially tricky fixture.   

"It's not easy. You can't think you're going to score four, five or six goals," he added. 

"It's getting more and more complicated. In the end, I'll stick with the game we played, suffering in the second half but controlling the game. There was a rival and we controlled them well. We deserved the triumph.  

"We have to continue with what we are doing. We are in a good moment and we enter the final stretch where everything is played." 

Madrid host Eibar in LaLiga on April 3 following the international break.

Real Madrid kept up the pressure on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as a brace from Karim Benzema helped seal a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Benzema produced two clinical finishes inside the opening 30 minutes to put Madrid 2-0 up at Balaidos, although Santi Mina pulled one back for the hosts against the run of play before half-time. 

Despite plenty of pressure from Eduardo Coudet's side in the second half, Madrid held firm and secured the victory late on through Marco Asensio to extend their unbeaten LaLiga away run to 10 games – the first time they have achieved this since May 2016 when they went 11 without defeat on the road. 

The result moved Zinedine Zidane's men above Barcelona into second, three points behind Atleti, but Diego Simeone's men can restore the six-point advantage over their neighbours if they overcome Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

Madrid went ahead with their first shot on target in the 20th minute, Benzema superbly steering into Ivan Villar's bottom-left corner after a neat turn and pass from Toni Kroos.

Vinicius Junior then inexplicably chested over from four yards with the goal at his mercy, but his blushes were spared on the half-hour mark when Benzema grabbed his second.

Kroos was again the provider, the German picking Renato Tapia's pocket on the edge of the area and feeding Benzema, who slotted past Villar for his 17th LaLiga goal of the season.

Celta clawed their way back into the game five minutes before the interval when an unmarked Mina headed beyond Thibaut Courtois from Denis Suarez's free-kick.

Courtois had to be alert shortly after the hour mark to repel Iago Aspas' effort from distance as Celta pushed forward in search of a leveller. 

Aspas then struck the post with a deflected free-kick inside the final 10 minutes but it was Madrid who had the final say, substitute Asensio guiding Benzema's cross home deep into stoppage time.

 

 

Ronald Koeman hopes Lionel Messi can stay out of disciplinary trouble for the rest of the season as the Barcelona superstar teeters on the brink of suspension.

Barcelona have strung together a 17-game unbeaten run in LaLiga to transform their prospects, closing the gap on wobbling leaders Atletico Madrid to four points.

Messi, however, is just one yellow card away from a one-game ban, having been booked four times already, and an April 10 Clasico against Real Madrid is looming large.

It would suit Koeman if Messi could avoid any further bookings, but the coach will not let his team selections be ruled by the possibility of the Argentinian missing a future game.

Frenkie de Jong is in the same precarious position, and Koeman said: "We know they are one card away from the sanction, but it is what it is.

"I will not keep anyone in reserve. I hope they do not see a card. If they get it, another will play."

Messi has gone beyond 20 goals in LaLiga for a 13th consecutive season, the only player to do so in the competition's history, and he looks sure to start against Real Sociedad on Sunday.

It would be his 768th appearance for Barcelona, making him the outright all-time leader after drawing level with Xavi's total when he scored twice in a 4-1 win over Huesca on Monday,

With Barcelona already through to a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, and on a charge in the league, talk has turned to the prospect of silverware.

Koeman's first season as head coach has been turbulent at times but could yet end in a domestic double.

The Dutchman is not interested in such discussions, though, saying on Saturday: "I don't like to talk about a double.

"This changes very quickly. Not long ago we were bad. We have to go game by game and we are four points behind and the calendar is very difficult.

"We have a final against a very difficult opponent. There is a long way to go to win things."

Koeman warned of the danger of any slip-up, saying that "each defeat can be expensive" as he complimented Real Sociedad and their "great coach" Imanol Alguacil.

One player Koeman has not been able to count on recently has been young forward Ansu Fati, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since November.

Barcelona hoped to have Fati back by around this stage of the season, but Koeman said of the 18-year-old Spain international: "He is taking longer than we expected.

"In a few weeks he will be training out on the field again, but he is young and strong. We are not in a hurry."

Ronald Koeman will head into important talks with new Barcelona president Joan Laporta during the international break.

Head coach Koeman declared that was the plan as he spoke on Saturday, a day ahead of the trip to face Real Sociedad in LaLiga.

The Dutchman's future was a major topic of discussion during the club elections, but there are a range of major issues that must be resolved between the dressing room and the boardroom.

Not least among those is the future of captain and record goalscorer Lionel Messi, whose contract expires in June, while the club's transfer budget and ambitions are also vital matters ahead of the close season.

Koeman was appointed last August on a two-year contract, and a failure to get past the last-16 stage in the Champions League was a major disappointment.

Barcelona remain in the hunt for domestic league and cup glory, though, and Koeman is keen to hear in the coming fortnight what Laporta is planning for the team's future.

Koeman said: "After tomorrow's game we have a break and we will have time to talk about the future of this team.

"We will take advantage of these two weeks to talk about players, signings and get to know each other. It is a time to be more together."

That was an answer given in response to the question of whether he was intending to meet with Laporta again, having already had brief talks.

Koeman said it was "important" to have an established figurehead at the club, after the reign of previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu dissolved amid considerable acrimony last October.

"It is reassuring to have someone who is the face of the club, but nothing changes for our work," Koeman said.

Laporta this week backed Koeman, saying: "Ronald, you have our confidence. We want to go back to that success story between Barca and the Champions League. This year we have to go for LaLiga and for the cup."

That simply confirmed what Koeman had already been told privately in the wake of the Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain.

"We must continue in this way so that the results reinforce it. Hopefully it will last for a long time."

The impending talks mean Sunday's clash at Anoeta is one that may take on extra significance for Koeman.

Should Barcelona win, that would ramp up pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid, who face Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. The closer they get to Atletico, the more impressive Koeman's leadership appears.

Barcelona are unbeaten in 17 games in LaLiga and have crept from mid-table to the point where they are just four points behind Atletico.

Koeman may privately ask Laporta about the prospects of signing Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund's free-scoring Norway international who has also been linked to Real Madrid.

But Haaland is not a player that Koeman is prepared to discuss in public, no matter how the question is put to him.

When asked on Saturday how he rated Haaland, and whether he was a player he would like to coach, Koeman pulled down the shutters, saying: "Out of respect I will not talk about a player who is not ours."

Real Madrid are hatching a plan to land former star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Los Blancos' transfer priorities this upcoming off-season appear to be Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Madrid's financial might but Ronaldo remains on their radar.

 

TOP STORY - REAL PLOT 'SYMBOLIC PRICE' FOR RONALDO

Real Madrid are considering a one-year contract for Cristiano Ronaldo for a "symbolic price", according to Cuatro.

The 36-year-old appears set to leave Juventus in the off-season after three years in Turin.

Madrid have reportedly started working on an economic plan to land Ronaldo should their other priorities not eventuate.

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims that Paris Saint-Germain are set to agree terms with Brazilian superstar Neymar on a fresh deal which would secure his signature until 2026.

- Manchester United's Diogo Dalot is keen to make his loan stay at Milan permanent, according to Todo Fichajes.

- Todo Fichajes is also reporting that 43-year-old Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is looking to finish his career at Parma.

Juventus are monitoring Paul Pogba's contract situation at Manchester United amid talk of a move, according to Calciomercato.

- GiveMeSport claims Leicester City will make an eight-figure bid for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard with their interest in him previously well known.

Neymar will be reunited with Lionel Messi at Camp Nou, according to the Brazilian's former agent and ex-Barcelona scout Andre Cury.

Cury spent a decade with Barcelona working as their Brazilian scout and played a key role in Neymar's move to the Catalans in 2013.

After forging a fruitful partnership with Messi, with Barca winning LaLiga in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and three straight Copa del Rey crowns, Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 but Cury said the pair could be reunited.

Messi has been linked with a move away from Barcelona, including to PSG or Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, but Cury said he felt the reunion would occur with the Catalans.

"Two years ago, Neymar formally asked me to return to Barcelona, we tried and we were really close to getting him out of Paris, but because of details, it didn't happen," Cury told Argentine outlet El Litoral.

"[New Barcelona president Joan] Laporta is the only one who can bring them back together again, Messi won't leave Barcelona, he decided that his history is in Barcelona and I'm very clear on that.

"Neymar will play with Messi again, but in Barcelona."

The 29-year-old Brazil international has enjoyed a successful three and a half seasons in Paris, winning three Ligue 1 titles, numerous cups and finishing as 2019-20 Champions League runners-up, although injuries have affected his impact at times.

"Neymar has an open door at Barcelona, their fans know he made a mistake and even he recognised it some time later," Cury said.

Zinedine Zidane believes Liverpool are capable of two top performances against Real Madrid, even if the Premier League champions are struggling domestically.

Liverpool have lost eight games in the Premier League since the turn of the year, slipping from the top of the table down to sixth place.

With their title aspirations well and truly over, as well as their campaigns in both domestic cup competitions, the Reds' only chance of silverware this season is the Champions League.

Standing in their way of a place in the semi-finals are Zidane's Madrid, who won in the last meeting between the teams in the competition – Gareth Bale inspiring Los Blancos to a 3-1 victory in the 2017-18 final.

Madrid and Liverpool will face each other in a two-legged knockout tie for only the second time – the first saw the Reds inflict Los Blancos' biggest-ever Champions League aggregate defeat (5-0) in 2008-09.

Despite Liverpool's struggles in the Premier League, Zidane is anticipating a stern quarter-final challenge for his team, who are six points off the pace in the Spanish title race.

"We cannot say that it is a bad draw or that it is good, because what happens throughout the season does not matter," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.

"It doesn't matter how Liverpool are in their league today because at any time, in a tie, they can play their cards without looking at how they are doing in their championship.

"We know who Liverpool are and that is not going to change. It's like us, who have been on the edge of the precipice, but we are alive in both competitions.

"It will be a match between two teams that have won many Champions League [trophies], a very complicated tie. At that level it is always very difficult to win."

There has been some doubt over Zidane's future at Madrid. The Frenchman left his post as head coach in the aftermath of Los Blancos' last victory over Liverpool – their third straight Champions League success – only to return for a second spell in March the following year.

Zidane's deal runs out at the end of next season, but he affirmed he is content to focus on the here and now, rather than his future.

"The world of football is what it is, I am not going to change anything. I enjoy being here every day, I don't care what is said from the outside," he added.

"We have to enjoy every day because this will end one day. We are alive in both competitions, that is what motivates us. The players have the ambition to show that they are the best.

"I look no further. I don't plan anything. You can sign for 10 years and be out tomorrow, and vice versa, you can sign a year and be here a long time. I cannot say anything."

Roberto Martinez remains "very positive" Eden Hazard will be fit and firing in time for Euro 2020 despite missing out on Belgium's latest squad.

And the Red Devils coach called on club side Real Madrid to join the national team in taking "responsibility" for Hazard's recovery.

The winger returned from a six-game absence in LaLiga to appear as a second-half substitute in Madrid's win against Elche last weekend.

However, Hazard had to miss training on Monday due to a damaged hip flexor and could not face Atalanta in the Champions League the following day.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane fumed at the repeated "inexplicable" issues that have restricted Hazard to just 36 appearances and 29 starts since his €100million transfer in June 2019.

Hazard has scored only four times for Los Blancos, providing five assists from 38 chances created.

But he remains a key man for Belgium, with five goals, seven assists and 34 chances created in eight European Championship qualifying outings and is set to captain the side at the finals, if he can recover in time.

Martinez is staying patient, revealing the player - in "good spirits" - will not undergo surgery and explaining: "I think there is still a long, long, long, long way to go [to the Euros].

"Rather than setting a timeline, all that matters is to measure every day and to see that Eden is on the right path to get back to full fitness.

"It would be wrong and it would be gambling, by anyone, to imagine if Eden will be fully fit or not.

"I feel this situation can be solved a lot earlier than the Euros, but only when Eden goes from day to day will we see the final answer.

"Knowing Eden, what we're dealing with is a player that has never been injured in his career. This is a real shock, something new. There is a lot of uncertainty around that.

"But in terms of the injury, I feel very positive that we can get to see the best Eden Hazard well before the Euros."

While Zidane had no explanation for Hazard's woes, Martinez added: "This is a situation with Eden Hazard. We're dealing with the same problem. There's been a lot of different niggles and different problems, but everything comes from the same previous problem.

"Now is the moment to forget about any deadlines, any times, it's about Eden Hazard, giving him what he needs and getting him fully recovered and making sure he's back on the football pitch.

"We all need to take that responsibility, between the Belgian federation and the club where he's playing his football."

While Hazard will play no part in Belgium's March World Cup qualifiers against Wales, Czech Republic and Belarus, Romelu Lukaku has been included, despite a coronavirus breakout at Inter.

There are also first senior nods for midfielders Albert Sambi Lokonga and Orel Mangala.


Belgium squad in full:

Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Thomas Kaminski (Blackburn Rovers), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge); Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Thomas Foket (Reims), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica); Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Albert Sambi Lokonga (Anderlecht), Orel Mangala (Stuttgart), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Alexis Saelemaekers (Milan), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge); Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Charles De Ketelaere (Club Brugge), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht).

Where will Jack Grealish play his football next season?

It is one of the big questions in English football right now and Manchester City have joined the conversation.

City are reportedly emerging as the favourites to sign the Aston Villa captain.

 

TOP STORY – CITY LINE UP GREALISH SPLASH

Manchester City appear best placed to sign Aston Villa's £100million-rated captain Jack Grealish, according to the Daily Mail.

Grealish reportedly came close to joining Manchester United last year, but the Red Devils could not come up with the funds to seal the deal.

City manager Pep Guardiola is a well-known admirer of Grealish, previously calling him "an exceptional player".

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Liverpool have joined the queue chasing Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni, with a reported £43m (€50m) move. European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Barcelona are also allegedly keen on the 21-year-old Italy international.

Tottenham are likely to opt out of exercising the £36m (€42m) option-to-buy Carlos Vinicius, who is on loan at Spurs from Benfica according to the Daily Mail. The report claims Spurs are only willing to pay more than half that amount for the Brazilian.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are considering a move for Arkadiusz Milik, who they have previously been linked with as they prepare for the possible departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala. Juve are reportedly set to revive their interest in Milik, with the Poland international on loan at Marseille from Napoli.

- Football Insider reports that United are plotting a move for Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez amid doubts over star David de Gea and Dean Henderson. They have also been linked with Milan sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Real Madrid are keen to bring back Levante winger Jorge de Frutos to the Santiago Bernabeu, according to Marca.

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