Antoine Griezmann scored an acrobatic late winner to salvage Barcelona a 1-0 win at bottom side Eibar in their final game of the LaLiga season.

Barca were unable to catch Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid in the top two positions on Saturday following a three-game winless run that has increased the pressure on Ronald Koeman.

Without rested skipper Lionel Messi for their final-day trip to Ipurua, the Catalans badly struggled for creativity against their relegated opponents.

However, Griezmann acrobatically fired in nine minutes from time to earn a barely deserved win for Barca that made certain of third place ahead of Sevilla's meeting with Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

 

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

Harry Kane's reported desire to leave Tottenham has created a race for his signature.

A lack of silverware is believed to be behind Kane's alleged urge to move on, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea the leading suitors.

In the post-COVID world where club finances have been hit hard, some clubs are getting creative.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA'S PLAYER-PLUS-CASH SWAP DEAL

Chelsea are launching a player-plus-cash swap deal to land Kane from Tottenham involving goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and forward Tammy Abraham, claims ESPN.

Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris is expected to leave the club, hence the lure of Kepa who has been back-up to Edouard Mendy, while Abraham, who is not a regular starter for the Blues, could help to fill the void left by Kane.

Kane is contracted with Tottenham for another three seasons and Spurs are believed to want a transfer fee of £150 million, so the addition of players would drop that figure down to an affordable level.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian reports that Sergio Aguero has agreed to a two-year deal with Barcelona, with his departure from Manchester City this off-season already confirmed.

- Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac will leave the Gunners, with Schalke 04 and Lazio circling for the Bosnian's signature, reports Football London.

- Fernandinho was set to exit Manchester City, but The Times claims he will renew with the club on a one-year deal.

- The manager merry-go-round is in full swing, with The Mirror claiming that Wolves are looking at ex-Roma boss Paulo Fonseca, while The Sun reports that Tottenham will try to convince Brendan Rodgers to join the club if Leicester City fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Things aren't always as they seem.

A tired old cliche it may be, but for Marcos Llorente such a notion is one that ultimately he believes "literally changed my life".

The date was March 11, 2020, back at a time when the world was changing, or about to change, for everyone due to the coronavirus pandemic. For Llorente things changed because of a Diego Simeone masterstroke.

Atletico Madrid were losing 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League last-16 second leg, which left the teams locked at 1-1 on aggregate.

With 56 minutes gone, Llorente entered the fray for Diego Costa. To most observers this was Simeone trying to close the door, put on a defensive-minded midfielder, head to extra time, maybe sneak a goal on the counter or win on penalties.

But it was almost a butterfly-effect moment. Yes, the match did enter additional time, but Llorente – employed in a more attack-minded role – scored twice after Roberto Firmino put Liverpool in front. Alvaro Morata's late third secured Atleti's progression.

"The match at Anfield was a great turning point for my career, indeed it literally changed my life," Llorente said back in November.

"I always say, however, that in football you have to confirm yourself every day. I know that I had a good performance against Liverpool, but the important thing is to maintain this continuity of performance over time. I am succeeding and I am very happy with what I am doing."

Since that night, the forgotten man of Real Madrid has become one of the most important cogs in Simeone's tactical machine – one that stands a single victory away from being crowned champions of LaLiga for the first time since 2013-14, and for only the second since 1996.

A PLAYER TRANSFORMED

This season alone has highlighted Llorente's transformation. Among midfielders in LaLiga, only Jose Luis Morales (13) has managed more goals than Llorente (12). His 11 assists, the most of any LaLiga midfielder, puts him on 23 direct goal involvements in 2020-21 – again, the best return in the division in his position.

In creating chances from open play, Llorente (42) is behind only Lucas Vazquez (44) and Frenkie de Jong (48). Additionally, he is joint-fifth for total shots (47) and third for shots on target (22).

For a direct comparison, over the course of Llorente's final season at Real Madrid in 2018-19, he had two goals, zero assists, six chances created from open play, seven shots and four on target.

Llorente's passing success rate in the final third during that campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu is down from 86.17 per cent to 77.83. But he has had 351 successful passes in the opposition third this term compared to 40 in the whole of his last at Madrid – showing he is contributing much more frequently further up the pitch, where play is more congested. It's only natural for his pass completion to have suffered a little.

What truly sets Llorente apart is the fact his attacking output is surpassing expectations. This season, his 12 league goals have come from an expected goals (xG) of just 3.34, giving him a differential of 8.66. Across Europe's top-five leagues, only Robert Lewandowski – who has scored a record-equalling 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season with one game to go – has a better xG differential (9.83).

It's a similar story in setting up goals. Llorente's 11 LaLiga assists come from an expected assists (xA) of 5.34; his differential of 5.66 is the highest of any player in Spain's top flight this term.

Numbers such as these are not necessarily sustainable in the long term, but they do highlight Llorente's impact in the final third – and how important he has been in this title race.

THE INFLUENCER

A deeper dive into the numbers shows just how influential Llorente has become as an attacking force to Atleti.

His 132 involvements in a sequence ending in a shot is 10th in LaLiga among midfielders but the highest of any Atleti player, with Luis Suarez the nearest to him on 125. When looking at involvements in a sequence ending in a goal, Llorente's 29 is the third-best in the division, behind only Karim Benzema (33) and Lionel Messi (39).

Llorente has started 25 of those shot-ending sequences, the ninth-most among LaLiga midfielders and level with Luka Modric. He has started six sequences that have resulted in a goal for his team, a figure behind only Toni Kroos (seven) and Casemiro (eight).

Llorente has also created 16 goalscoring chances from carries, instances where a player moves the ball five metres or more. No midfielder has managed more in LaLiga this season. Added to that, three of his carries have led to him scoring – again, the joint-highest among midfielders.

Atleti head into Saturday with everything in their own hands: beat Real Valladolid, and the title is theirs.

It's the chance for Simeone to become just the third Atleti head coach to win two titles, after Ricardo Zamora (1940 and 1941) and the great Helenio Herrera (1950 and 1951).

And for Llorente, it is an opportunity to underline his evolution since that fateful night at Anfield.

Gianni Infantino has denied FIFA colluded with clubs on the controversial Super League but stopped short of saying there had been no talks about the project.

The president of world football's governing body spoke out on Friday after the FIFA congress, describing the Super League attempted breakaway as "a rupture" in the game.

Asked whether FIFA had any involvement in the Super League planning or if it had offered support, Infantino gave a nine-minute response in which he said it was his job to always listen to anybody in the game considering a new format.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently accused Infantino of encouraging the Super League, but the FIFA chief rebutted that claim.

"Let me tell you that when we are analysing these questions, we should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts," Infantino said.

The proposed new competition was announced and quashed in the space of around 48 hours in April, a breath-taking episode that saw players, coaches, supporter groups, national associations, politicians and even royalty express dismay at the closed-door concept.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham announced they would be taking part, as did Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from LaLiga, and Serie A giants Juventus, Milan and Inter also signed up. The project, a major threat to the UEFA Champions League, collapsed dramatically, but there are some who expect it to be revived.

"I know many clubs," Infantino told reporters in a conference call. "I speak with clubs for many years, since my days at UEFA, and when speaking to European clubs the Super League topic always is a topic for discussion.

"Everyone in football knows that, so let's not play games here. Everyone in football knows for years clubs have been studying and preparing for this or similar projects.

"In the 16 years I was in UEFA we always managed that, and I can tell you there were projects that were far more advanced than the one we have seen recently.

"At FIFA it is also my responsibility and our responsibility to discuss with football stakeholders. Now to listen to some clubs and to speak with some clubs doesn't certainly mean in any way whatsoever that FIFA was behind, was colluding, was plotting or I don't know what words you used for any Super League project."

Infantino pointed to a FIFA statement issued in January that said a breakaway competition would not be recognised by the world body.

"In that moment, the rupture was of course becoming inevitable and the rupture is never good, it's not good for anyone," Infantino said on Friday. "No war is good – never. We are ready to defend football from projects we know are wrong."

He added: "I don't close the doors to any discussion with anyone – never – about new formats, new ideas, new competitions. I'm ready to listen to everyone.

"This is my job ... the way I live the presidency of FIFA.

"I'm aware some people prefer to spin these discussions in a different way and I can understand that attacking me or FIFA is a good way to divert the attention from real problems that have never been addressed in the last years."

Infantino did not specify his target for that remark, but said: "I hope that as of today we can move to the real issues that football is facing."

One round remaining, two teams involved, and just two points separate them.

LaLiga's title race has been at its most gripping in years this term, arguably capturing the imagination more than any since 2006-07.

Back then, there were three teams in with a chance of taking home the title on the final day of the season: Real Madrid and Barcelona, of course, plus Juande Ramos' Sevilla.

As it was, Madrid and Barca won on the last day whereas Sevilla – who needed a win and for the other two to lose – lost at home to Villarreal.

Madrid finished top by virtue of a better head-to-head record over Barca, who were essentially denied the title by their local rivals Espanyol, slumping to a 2-2 draw with them on the penultimate day to hand Los Blancos the initiative.

This time there are only two teams left in the hunt on the final day, with Sevilla and Barcelona bowing out of what was, for a while, a four-way tussle at the summit.

Now it's between Atletico and Madrid, the two city rivals hoping to leave the other wallowing in misery.

Diego Simeone's side looked certainties for the title not too long ago: at the start of February, they were 11 points clear, but their form in the second half of the season has been a little underwhelming.

Having accumulated 50 points in their first 19 league matches, that haul has plummeted to 33 in the 18 matches since, hence why as many as three other teams have threatened to overtake them.

There have been thrills and spills, particularly in the past few weeks, with Atletico securing a dramatic 2-1 win over Osasuna last weekend despite falling behind in the 75th minute. Any result other than a win would have allowed Madrid to go into the final weekend top.

Yet, remarkably, the title is still in Atletico's hands thanks to Luis Suarez's 88th-minute winner on that occasion, meaning they hold the advantage heading into the final weekend.

Atletico go to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid, while Madrid host Villarreal. Who will prevail?

 

How does the predictor work?

First of all, here's how we got the data...

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality. Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly. All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Let's see how the model now predicts the final league table will look...

 

Atletico take the crown

All signs point to Atletico sealing the title, their second league crown under the guidance of Simeone and first since 2014, when they also clinched it on the final day.

Our model gives Atletico a 73.9 per cent chance of finishing top – after all, they have won 89 per cent (8/9) of their league meetings with Pucela under Simeone, a record they can only better against Elche, Las Palmas (both 100 per cent) and Osasuna (91 per cent).

Our predictor does expect Madrid to beat Villarreal, as its most likely outcome sees Los Blancos finishing with 83 points, but Atletico know their rivals' result will be irrelevant if they go to Valladolid and win.

Nevertheless, Madrid do still have a 26.1 per cent chance of successfully defending their crown, no doubt helped by the fact they boast a better head-to-head record against Atletico.

If they are ultimately successful, it will be Madrid's 35th league title and their first successive LaLiga crowns since 2006-07 and 2007-08, while Zinedine Zidane would be the first Blancos coach since Leo Beenhakker (three – 1987, 1988 and 1989) to win consecutive titles.

The omens are good for Madrid in terms of them fulfilling their end of the bargain, as Yellow Submarine coach Unai Emery has lost eight of his nine LaLiga matches away to them.

Atletico's result will also help finalise matters near the bottom of the table as well, as Valladolid need to win to avoid the drop, though even that may not be enough to save them.

The predicted table has Valladolid and Huesca – due to their inferior head-to-head record against Elche – following Eibar into La Segunda.

Gareth Bale has been given a rave review by Ryan Mason – but Tottenham's interim boss cannot say if the Wales winger will return to north London next season.

After losing his place at Real Madrid, Bale rejoined Tottenham last September on a season-long loan, but he is due to return to the Spanish capital once the Premier League campaign ends.

Asked whether Bale could stay with Spurs for 2021-22, Mason said: "I am not sure, I have not had those conversations.

"The club will have those conversations at the end of the season. After this game at the weekend he goes back to his parent club. He is a Real Madrid player.

"These conversations, these situations, I am not sure of. I just know hopefully he's going to help us at the weekend."

A report in Spanish newspaper AS on Friday claimed Bale is focused on spending next season with Madrid, before retiring afterwards when his lucrative contract expires.

There has been no indication from Bale that he intends to follow that path, and his playing prospects at Madrid could depend on who coaches the team next term, after the 31-year-old fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

Mason has had no doubts about Bale's recent commitment to Tottenham, and he frowned on any suggestions the Wales international might be holding something back for Euro 2020.

"I completely disagree with that personally. I can only speak of my experience in this last five weeks with Gareth. He's scored four goals for this football club in that time. He's been excellent," Mason said, speaking ahead of Tottenham's season finale at Leicester City on Sunday.

Bale has not completed a full 90-minute game in the Premier League since embarking on his second spell at the club, but in 19 appearances, of which just 10 have been starts, he has scored nine goals in the competition, with only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ahead of him at Spurs.

He has significantly exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 4.8, and Kane (22 goals from xG of 16.76) and Son (17 from xG of 8.86) have done likewise.

Looking at Bale, and his performance in the 2-0 win against Wolves, Mason said:  "Last weekend I think was the most minutes he's played in the Premier League all season, pushing close to 90 minutes.

"I think if you were to look at Gareth in that moment he looked fit, he looked strong, he was brave, he added a different dimension for us and he has severe quality as well.

"In terms of him thinking about this summer, I don't believe so because he was out there the other night playing through some pain, playing through a problem he had, for me, for himself and for the football club.

"In terms of Gareth's commitment and Gareth's quality, I think his commitment has been fully there in this moment that I've been here and in terms of his quality, his quality is never going to leave him. I think you see that every time he's on the football pitch."

Diego Simeone expects Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid to "give their lives" in a decisive final match in the LaLiga season.

Atleti head into Saturday's contest with a two-point lead over city rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table.

They know that a victory will guarantee their first top-flight title since 2013-14, when a 1-1 draw at Barcelona on the final day denied the Catalans the trophy.

However, the stakes are also high for Valladolid, who must win to stand a chance of avoiding relegation to the second tier.

History is on Atleti's side: Valladolid have not won any of their past 11 league meetings and failed to score in seven of the previous eight, while Sergio Gonzalez has gone eight LaLiga games without defeating Simeone, more than he has against any other head coach.

Simeone could become only the third Atletico coach to deliver two top-flight titles after Ricardo Zamora (1940 and 1941) and Helenio Herrera (1950 and 1951), so he could be forgiven for feeling the pressure.

However, the former midfielder says preparation for this weekend has been no different from the rest of the season.

"We've worked like every other week," he said on Friday. "We're concerned about the game against Valladolid, against an opponent who have their own needs and who will look to play a game like always.

"We understand that anything is possible in a game, and it's evident Valladolid's needs are different to ours, but they're the same in terms of being important objectives.

"We've always tried to be immersed in deciding our game, which is the only thing that concerns us and the only thing that depends on us.

"All the teams have gone through different situations to get here. We're two fighting for the league, three against relegation and three for the Europa League. That's the Spanish league: game by game, you have to put in your utmost, hoping for the best in the end.

"It's a final. Two teams are fighting for different goals and each will give their lives for that goal."

Simeone would not offer any clues as to his starting line-up but did confirm there are some players facing late fitness tests.

"First, let's see how two or three players under observation are doing and if they can start and, from there, tomorrow morning, we'll decide the plan," he added.

Zinedine Zidane feels flattered that Real Madrid's stars want him to stay at the club but claimed the team might be capable of hitting greater heights without him.

The Frenchman is widely expected to step down as Madrid coach during the close season, and confirmation of that could come as soon as Saturday.

Villarreal, who will face Manchester United in the Europa League final next Wednesday, provide the opposition for Madrid's final match of the campaign.

There is a chance Madrid could finish as LaLiga champions, but they head into the fixture with a two-point deficit to Atletico Madrid, who travel to Real Valladolid.

That would be an ideal way for Zidane to bow out of his second spell in charge of Los Blancos, although the most likely outcome is that his team finish runners-up.

When it was mentioned to Zidane in his pre-match news conference that the players would welcome him staying on, the 48-year-old said: "I love my players very much. They have saved me on the pitch, in the sense that they have always given everything in every game.

"That they think that for me is very nice as a coach."

Three-time FIFA world player of the year Zidane has won three Champions League titles with Madrid and LaLiga twice.

Asked whether Madrid could be a better side without him, Zidane gave a surprising response, saying: "Sure, sure."

He repeatedly refused to answer whether his mind was made up on his future.

"We are going to play tomorrow, that's the important thing. We have time to talk about that. This is not the time," Zidane said. "We must put all the energy into tomorrow's game After 37 matchdays we are not going to waste time talking about next year. We are only focusing on tomorrow's game.

"The important thing is not what I am going to do, but the team. I repeat myself, I'm sorry."

A barren season on the trophy front would be a sorry way for Zidane, the galactico turned superstar boss, to make his exit.

He could yet become the first Real Madrid manager to win two league titles in a row since Leo Beenhakker's three between 1987 and 1989, and Zidane may hope Villarreal's focus is on their European final.

However, Villarreal, who sit seventh heading into the weekend, will want to guarantee a place in next season's European competitions through their league placing, so it is not a dead game for them either.

Madrid have only won two of their last seven meetings with Villarreal in LaLiga (D4 L1). However, promisingly for Zidane, both of those wins came in their past two home league games (3-2 in May 2019 and 2-1 in July 2020).

If Madrid miss out on the title, Zidane accepts there will be disappointment, but he said: "My players cannot be blamed for anything. Injuries, COVID, there have been many things.

"You can always do better and I am always critical of myself. I am a winner and I don't like to lose. In my life I fight and I give everything to win. And the players also want to win."

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will be fit for a decisive weekend in LaLiga's title race, news that also hands Spain a major boost for Euro 2020.

Eden Hazard, though, has sustained an injury that will rule him out on Saturday, after head coach Zinedine Zidane delivered a pre-match injury update at his news conference.

Real Madrid are two points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico Madrid ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Atleti travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid while Real Madrid are at home to seventh-placed Villarreal.

If Atleti are crowned LaLiga champions it means Madrid will end the season without a major trophy, and there has been speculation that Zidane will quit as head coach.

But the presence of Ramos, who has been restricted to 15 top-flight appearances after sustaining a series of injuries this season, will lift the spirits of Madrid as well as giving Spain cause for cheer.

The defender has been out since he suffered a hamstring injury against Chelsea on May 5. That had been his first Madrid appearance for seven weeks after a previous absence.

"Yes, tomorrow he will be with us," Zidane said about Ramos. "Then, in the team, you will see him.

"I would always take Sergio [to the Euros if I was in charge] – always, whatever happens. He is one who always gives everything.

"Hazard has something. Not much, but we don't want to risk. If he doesn't train with the team, it's because something's wrong with him. That's it. So, he won't be there.

"It is a special day; it is the last game of a league with difficulties. We know who we are going to play against, a team that is doing very well. We are going to strive to get the three points."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman does not know if he will still be in charge of the club for next season.

The Catalan giants head into Saturday's final LaLiga match of 2020-21 against Eibar knowing they cannot finish any higher than third place.

After a mixed start to the season, a 19-match unbeaten run in the top flight propelled Barca back into title contention as leaders Atletico Madrid began to falter.

However, Koeman has overseen just three wins from their past eight league games, meaning they are five points behind Real Madrid and seven adrift of Atleti heading into matchday 38.

Barca's recent league form, coupled with their Champions League last-16 exit to Paris Saint-Germain, has left Koeman facing serious questions over his future despite winning the Copa del Rey in April.

President Joan Laporta has reportedly decided to appoint a new coach for next season after becoming frustrated with the way Barca allowed their promising title challenge to collapse in recent weeks.

Koeman expects to speak with Laporta after the game at Ipurua but, although he wants to stay on at Camp Nou, he knows matters are largely out of his hands.

"I don't know if I will continue," he said on Friday. "I haven't spoken with the president. We've agreed to do so after the end of the season. 

"We'll see. I want to stay and complete my contract. Things have to change. The president has the last word.

"I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I will speak with the president. I love the club a lot and if the club thinks I'm not the one to lead the team, they say so.

"I give my opinion and that's it. Until I talk with [Laporta], I can't answer more.

"It's the last month. You have to respect the coach and the players more. I understand they're bothered because in the last few days they haven't deserved the treatment the press has given them."

Koeman went on to suggest he has not felt as though he has had the full backing of the club during a recent run of one win in five games, which culminated in a shock 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo that killed Barca's remaining title hopes.

"In the final part of the season, I haven't felt [that support] because we haven't spoken about the future. I understand where I am, at a club like this," he said.

"Despite the changes we're making, I've always stood up. I've been the only spokesman on the club's behalf in many moments and that should be recognised. If, in the end, we think we need a new coach or new players, perfect, but you have to communicate."

Lionel Messi will sit out Barcelona's final match of the LaLiga season against Eibar.

The club confirmed their captain has been granted permission to start his holidays early before he begins preparations for the Copa America with Argentina.

Midfielder Pedri will also skip the game at Ipurua after a hectic season, with Barca unable to finish any higher than third in the table.

Messi has played in all but two of Barca's league games in 2020-21, making 47 appearances in all competitions.

He leads the goalscoring charts in LaLiga with 30, seven clear of nearest rival Gerard Moreno, meaning he is almost certain to win the Pichichi trophy for the eighth time in his career.

It is unclear whether Messi will play for the Catalans again. The 33-year-old's future at Camp Nou remains in doubt, with his contract expiring in June and no agreement yet reached on an extension.

Messi attempted to leave last year, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain said to be interested, but he was thwarted by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The return of Joan Laporta, who has a good relationship with Messi, as Bartomeu's successor this year could play a part in the player's decision over his future.

Laporta is reported to have sanctioned a 10-year contract offer for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while Barca have also been tipped to sign Messi's Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero on a free transfer after he leaves City.

Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville shot down rumours claiming the MLS side are trying to sign Real Madrid star Marcelo.

Marcelo is out of contract in 2022 but the 33-year-old Madrid left-back is facing an uncertain future with the LaLiga giants due his form and advancing years.

Inter Miami, who are co-owned by former Madrid star David Beckham, have emerged as an option for Marcelo – ex-Los Blancos forward Gonzalo Higuain and World Cup-winning midfielder Blaise Matuidi headline the squad.

Current Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, is also reportedly on Inter Miami's radar.

However, Neville poured cold water over the speculation linking Brazilian veteran Marcelo with Inter Miami.

"I don't need another left-back," ex-Manchester United utility Neville told reporters. "I've got more left-backs than yellow taxis, you know what I mean. We could do with a few more positions but no. 

"I think it shows the level of the club and interest in the club, yes. But ultimately, I think what I want for us is pure stability. So when they have all these stars that are being linked with Inter Miami it's brilliant, shows that the people do want to come to Inter Miami. 

"But ultimately, I want us to have stability here, I want players to be here for a long time. You think about every time somebody gets mentioned, somebody in this football club, somebody in this team, in my team will feel, even if it's point one percent unnerved by it, that's not good for us, it is not good for the player.

"What I would say is, and me and Chris Henderson talk about this all the time, is that the most successful teams, you think about the Seattle team, Chris Scott first and experienced of it, stability is the key. The great team that I played in Manchester United, you had the core of a team that was together for four or five years before Sir Alex [Ferguson] rebuilt it.

"Yes, you sprinkle around the edges and you tweak here and there you introduce new players around the edges, but you're gonna have eight, nine players that are going to be here for the next three or four years to get that stability and I'm talking about the DP [designated] players as well they need stability. You know the worst thing that can happen is them reading the newspaper every single day thinking about who's coming to the club.

"We believe in the players that we've got, we've, the ownership have invested so much money in this football team. And now I think stability is the only way we'll get success that's what the best team in this league have had that's what the best teams in football, have had success on, stability.

"We're never going to stop you guys speculating and, you know, an agent's putting in players because this is a place that a lot of players will want to come, but ultimately I'm happy with the squad that I've got, I want stability around this place."

Marcelo has called Madrid home since 2007, winning five LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies among other honours.

Meanwhile, Inter Miami – into their second MLS season and first under Neville – have won two of their opening six matches to sit seventh in the 14-team Eastern Conference.

Zinedine Zidane should be spared any blame if Real Madrid fail to win LaLiga this season, according to the club's former goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Madrid are two points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Atleti travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid while Madrid are at home to seventh-placed Villarreal.

If Atleti are crowned LaLiga champions it means Madrid will end the season without a major trophy, and there has been speculation in Spain that Zidane will quit as head coach.

Casillas, however, claimed his former Madrid team-mate should not be vilified if they end up without any silverware this season, given his previous achievements.

Zidane has twice won LaLiga and landed a hat-trick of Champions League titles as Madrid boss in addition to winning the Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup all on two occasions.

"Zidane can't be criticised for anything," Casillas, who made 510 LaLiga appearances for Madrid, told Radio Marca.

"What he has achieved is incredible, and is only in the reach of very few or even a single person.

"I would have preferred Real Madrid to be sat in first, but I hope that Real Valladolid can help us win this weekend. I wish everyone luck, but let's see if we have a little more ourselves and we can win LaLiga."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen has undergone treatment on a knee injury, Barcelona have announced.

The Germany international has had what Barcelona described as a "therapeutic procedure" on the patellar tendon of his right knee.

Ter Stegen announced on May 17 that he would miss the Euro 2020 finals in order to make a full recovery.

His decision came after Barca's shock home defeat to Celta Vigo meant they could no longer win the LaLiga title.

"I have decided together with the medical team of the club that I will do a complementary intervention on my knee," Ter Stegen said via an Instagram post.

"I'm sad that I will miss Euro 2020 this summer with Germany. For the first time in many years I will be a fan at home supporting my country, I hope we win it!

"After the summer break, when we are back on the pitch I hope to be able to play with fans [in attendance] once again, I miss it!

"Thank you for your support throughout a difficult season and stay healthy!"

Earlier, Barca also announced midfielder Pedri will miss the final match of the season against Eibar on Saturday after being given permission to start his holidays early.

The 18-year-old has played 52 times in all competitions under Ronald Koeman this season, making him the second-youngest in history to reach a half-century of appearances for the club, behind only Bojan Krkic.

Since 2013-14, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic have been the only two other players to have appeared in 50 games in their first campaign at Barca.

Pedri has played in all 37 of Barca's previous league games this season, starting 28 times.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.