Lautaro Martinez's agent says the striker is not even thinking about leaving Inter as he prepares to hold talks with the club over a new contract on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old has been linked with a move to Tottenham amid growing speculation surrounding Harry Kane's future.

However, the Argentina internatonal's representative, Alejandro Camano, quashed those rumours last week and on Monday reiterated that Martinez is eager to reach an agreement.

"We will do everything possible to stay in the Nerazzurri," Camano told FC Inter News. "Martinez is very well in Milan, he has an excellent relationship with his team-mates and with the new coach [Simone Inzaghi].

"He listened to many things, but in no time did he take them seriously: he believes - and we believe - that there is still life at Inter. He believes in the Nerazzurri project.

"He wants to win the Scudetto again with Inter, play a good Champions League with the Nerazzurri and as I said at the moment he doesn't think at all about leaving Italy."

Martinez joined the Serie A champions from Racing Club in July 2018 and has made 132 appearances for the club.

Only Romelu Lukaku's 60 goal involvements rank higher for the Nerazzurri over that period than Martinez, who has contributed 37 goals and assisted 11 in 100 Serie A games.

Martinez also netted 17 goals in 38 top-flight appearances last term, firing Inter to their first Serie A title in 11 years.

He boasted a return of 0.59 goals per 90 minutes last campaign, bettering his 0.51 average in 2019-20 and 0.4 in his first season at San Siro.

Without Lukaku, who joined Chelsea for a reported club-record £97.5 million fee last week, and under new boss Inzaghi, doubts grew as to whether Martinez would stay.

"No, they are private things, between the two of them," Camano responded when asked about Martinez's reaction to Lukaku's departure. "He didn't tell me anything."

Camano says a pay rise is not the priority for Martinez.

"Lautaro is not talking about money, but about football and playing," he continued. "Money is up to your agent.

"At most Martinez can say how happy he is in Milan and the team. I can tell you that I think you need to adapt your situation…. to the new situation."

Inter have also re-invested since Lukaku's departure, bringing in the Netherlands' Euro 2020 star Denzel Dumfries and experienced forward Edin Dzeko from Roma.

Lautaro Martinez is happy at Inter and intends to stay at the club despite strong rumoured interest from Tottenham, according to the forward's agent Alejandro Camano.

Reports from England on Sunday suggested Spurs are looking to complete a £60million (€70.8m) deal for the 23-year-old.

However, Martinez's agent has distanced the Argentina international – who has two more years to run on his Inter contract – from a move away from the Serie A champions.

"Lautaro is an Inter player and is happy with life in Italy. His decision is to stay," Camano told TyC Sports

"While Lautaro is under contract he will not enter conflict with the club. That will never happen."

Martinez has made 132 appearances for Inter in all competitions in his three seasons at San Siro since joining from Racing Club in July 2018.

He has scored 37 goals and assisted 11 more in 100 Serie A outings – only Romelu Lukaku (60) has been directly involved in more goals for the Nerazzurri over that period.

That includes 17 goals in 38 league appearances last season as Inter won their first Scudetto in 11 years.

Martinez's 0.59 goals per 90 minutes in 2020-21 bettered his return of 0.51 in 2019-20 and 0.4 in his debut campaign outside Argentina.

However, Inter are under pressure to raise funds as they try to ease their financial situation, with Achraf Hakimi already leaving in this transfer window for Paris Saint-Germain and Lukaku expected to sign for Chelsea.

Head coach Antonio Conte has also departed and been replaced by Simone Inzaghi since the end of 2020-21.

With speculation continuing to circulate regarding the futures of Martinez and Lukaku, Inter have been tipped to bring in Joaquin Correa and Edin Dzeko before the window closes.

The reigning Italian champions begin their new Serie A campaign with a home match against Genoa on August 21.

Nuno Espirito Santo plans to talk to Harry Kane "as soon as possible" after the striker returned to Tottenham ahead of the new Premier League season.

Kane's future at Spurs remains in doubt after he made clear his desire to leave the club. Manchester City reportedly had an offer of £100million rejected earlier in the transfer window, though the reigning champions still remain the most likely landing spot for last season's Golden Boot winner.

After playing a key role in England’s run to the Euro 2020 final, the 28-year-old did not report for pre-season training on Monday, as the club expected.

Kane released a statement on social media explaining how he would return for duty on Saturday, making clear that was always the plan while adding: "I wouldn't do anything to jeopardise the relationship I have with the fans who have given me such unwavering support during my time with the club."

While he completes a period of isolation and goes through physical testing, Spurs continued their preparations on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Arsenal.

"Harry is with us," Nuno, who was appointed as Tottenham's new head coach at the end of June, confirmed after the game.

"He has to quarantine at The Lodge, but he has already done his first day with the sports scientists, so he is with us.

"I will speak with Harry as soon as possible."

Whether viewed as a potential replacement or a new strike partner for Kane, Tottenham have been linked with a move for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

The Serie A side have already sold Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain as they look to ease their financial situation in the offseason, while Romelu Lukaku is expected to complete a return to Chelsea in the coming days.

Martinez could be set to follow Inter colleague Lukaku to London, though Nuno was unwilling to discuss potential new arrivals.

Asked about the Argentina international, he replied: "I will not speak about any player. I will only speak about my players, Tottenham players, nothing else."

Son Heung-min scored the only goal against Arsenal, firing past Bernd Leno in the 79th minute after being picked out by Japhet Tanganga's square pass.

Spurs start the new league campaign next Sunday, hosting Manchester City.

Jack Grealish has been holidaying following Euro 2020, but it is now decision time on his club future.

Speculation has mounted over the past few days about a potential move to Manchester City.

City manager Pep Guardiola is a long-term admirer of Grealish, and a big-money bid has apparently been sanctioned by chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.

TOP STORY - GREALISH SET FOR MONDAY TALKS WITH VILLA

Grealish has returned from his off-season holiday and will hold showdown talks with Aston Villa on Monday as a move to City looms, reports The Mirror.

Grealish has been linked with a £100million move to the English champions and is expected to inform Villa of his intention to leave.

Villa have reportedly offered Grealish a bumper new deal worth £200,000-a-week.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have turned their attention to Wolves winger Adama Traore, according to the Daily Mail. Wolves reportedly want £45m for the Spain international, who would be re-acquainted with manager Nuno Espirito Santo. Goal claims Leeds United are also interested in Traore.

Atletico Madrid are preparing for Kieran Trippier to exit the club as links with Manchester United intensify, with the Spanish champions lining up a move for Roma's Alessandro Florenzi, claims AS.

Atletico are also pursuing Inter's Lautaro Martinez and have moved ahead of Arsenal in the race to sign the Argentina international, according to Tuttosport.

- Borussia Dortmund's Denmark international Thomas Delaney is being pursued SouthamptonNorwich City and Crystal Palace, reports Ruhr Nachrichten.

- ABC claims Real Madrid will offer forward Karim Benzema a new one-year contract extension.

It seems clear that Paul Pogba will not remain at Old Trafford for the long haul.

Also clear: Paris Saint-Germain's interest in the France midfielder.

The big question that remains to be answered is the timing of a potential move for the Manchester United man.

 

TOP STORY – PSG WEIGH UP POGBA OPTIONS

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a move for Paul Pogba but are still debating when to make their bid.

According to The Athletic, PSG have begun discussions to determine Pogba's interest in a move but have not made a formal approach to United.

While the report says a bid is expected within the next few weeks, it remains a possibility that PSG could wait until Pogba is out of contract in 2022 and deal with the player directly.

Jack Grealish has been linked with a move away from Aston Villa in the past, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a known long-term admirer.

Grealish is currently on holidays after Euro 2020, but talks of a huge transfer to City have not gone away.

Could the Premier League champions be about to make their move?

 

MAN CITY SET TO TABLE GREALISH BID

Manchester City are set to officially commence their move for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish with a £75m bid, claims the Daily Mail.

According to the report, Villa will hold out for £100m for their star England international.

Villa have no desire to sell Grealish for anything less and will know Guardiola is keen to secure his services.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla about potentially signing French centre-back Jules Kounde, according to The Guardian. The 22-year-old has a release clause worth €80m (£68.4m).

- Arsenal have enquired with Inter about star forward Lautaro Martinez, reports the Telegraph. It is believed Inter may be willing to sell the Argentina striker for €90m (£77m).

- Eurosport reports that West Ham are interested in a move for Manchester United defender Phil Jones who has struggled with injury in recent times.

- Newcastle are closing in on a deal for Arsenal's Joe Willock, and it could be finalised  within the next 48 hours after his loan stint last season, claims Mail Online.

- Liverpool may sign Wolves' Spanish winger Adama Traore in a cut-price £30m deal, according to the Star.

Lionel Messi's long wait for major international honours with Argentina is finally over after playing a starring role in their Copa America triumph, winning the Player of the Tournament prize before the final was even played.

In the age-old – and some might say tiresome – 'greatest of all time' debate, the stick usually used to beat Messi with revolved around his lack of titles with Argentina, but that is no longer relevant and he also played a vital role for La Albiceleste.

It was also an important barrier that Argentina broke down as a team, winning their first major international title since 1993.

Messi's performances see him lead Stats Perform's Opta data-driven Team of the Tournament, and he is joined by some familiar names as well as those who enjoyed breakthroughs over the past month.

 

Goalkeeper – Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

Aston Villa keeper Martinez has enjoyed a remarkable 18 months or so and it's fair to say his form at the Copa America has helped truly cement his place as Argentina's first choice between the posts. His personality proved vital in the penalty shoot-out win over Colombia in the semi-finals as he psyched out Yerry Mina, but he also showed his excellence by finishing with an 85.7 per cent save ratio that was the second best in the tournament, while his four clean sheets was the best tally.

 

Right-back – Juan Cuadrado (Colombia)

Cuadrado can always be relied upon to provide some attacking impetus on the right flank and he certainly didn't disappoint in the Copa, his 18 chances created being the most for Colombia and among the top five of all players. The same could be said of his 22 open-play crosses, while Cuadrado also made 45 recoveries, the second most in Los Cafeteros' squad, highlighting how he was often in the right place to sweep up danger as well.

 

Centre-back – Marquinhos (Brazil)

While Brazil ultimately fell short at the Maracana on Saturday, Marquinhos can leave the tournament with his head held high. His ability to bring the ball out from the back was routinely notable, as highlighted by the fact his 110 carries was bettered by only four players, all of whom are forwards, but he was also a commanding presence at the back, with his 2.8 aerial the most among Brazil players.

Centre-back – Piero Hincapie (Ecuador)

Still only 19, Hincapie showed real promise here. Granted, there were signs that he remains quite raw and naive, as demonstrated by some of his struggles against Argentina in the quarter-finals when he was sent off late on for tugging back Angel Di Maria. Nevertheless, the Lazio-linked talent averaged the most passes per game for Ecuador (52.2) and showed real positivity when in possession, carrying the ball 600.7 metres upfield over the course of the tournament, at least 44m more than any other centre-back.

Left-back – Pervis Estupinan (Ecuador)

Estupinan endured a somewhat underwhelming first season with Villarreal in 2020-21, but in the Copa he showed glimpses of the player that had impressed so regularly with Osasuna the season before. He was consistently a useful outlet on the left and his eagerness to create saw him average more crosses per 90 minutes (9.6) than any other player in the tournament, while his 2.4 key passes each game was the most of all defenders.

Central midfield – Wilmar Barrios (Colombia)

The all-action midfielder performed an important function as Colombia ultimately finished third in the Copa. Barrios was tidy in possession as he looked to keep Reinaldo Rueda's men ticking, completing 88 per cent of his passes, but he was also effective at regaining possession and recovering the ball as he started 76 open play sequences, which only Yoshimar Yotun and Casemiro could better.

Central midfield – Rodrigo De Paul (Argentina)

Get ready to hear a bit more about De Paul over the next few years. While he's by no means an unknown given he's had a strong few years with Udinese, the midfielder is set to join Atletico Madrid and offers the blend of off-the-ball nous and technical ability that should see him thrive under Diego Simeone. His 32 ball recoveries led the way for Argentina while his six key passes was second only to Lionel Messi, with one of those being the glorious long-range pass to release Di Maria for the crucial goal in the final.

Right wing – Lionel Messi (Argentina)

While he may have fluffed his lines at the end of the final, Messi's exploits throughout the tournament previously meant he could be forgiven for that. After all, without his unbeaten four goals and five assists – a high for the tournament – Argentina almost certainly wouldn't have reached the showpiece. He remains one goal behind Pele's record (77) for CONMEBOL nations, but he finally has his first trophy with Argentina, and that's what matters most.

 

Attacking midfield – Neymar (Brazil)

Neymar had a peculiar tournament in some ways. No one would suggest he was poor, because he was routinely the player that provided the spark for Brazil, as evidenced by his tournament-leading 3.5 key passes and 21.6 passes into the final third each game (among players with more than one match played), but he was also wasteful in front of goal, his one non-penalty goal from 5.3 xG giving him the worst xG under-performance (4.3) at the tournament.

 

Left wing – Luis Diaz (Colombia)

Porto's Diaz is an exciting player and showed as much for Colombia as they claimed bronze. He scored more non-penalty goals (four) than any other player and produced some spectacular finishes, such as his remarkable bicycle-kick against Brazil and 30-yard screamer to seal victory in the third-place play-off against Peru. His four goals came from just 10 shots, with that 40 per cent conversion the best among those with three or more goals.

 

Striker – Lautaro Martinez (Argentina)

Despite the presence of Sergio Aguero, Martinez was the man generally chosen to lead the line at the Copa and he did fairly well as he netted three goals, with only Messi and Diaz getting more. While he was guilty of wastefulness at times, his three-goal haul was actually pretty close to his 3.3 xG, showing that for the most part he was dependable. Similarly, only two players averaged more shots on target per 90 minutes (players with more than one match played) than his 1.4. He also improved on his two goals from the 2019 edition, so he's seemingly going in the right direction.

Lionel Messi will lead out Argentina in Saturday's Copa America final aware it could be the last opportunity he has to win silverware with La Albiceleste – and ending that hoodoo against Brazil would be the sweetest prize of all.

Messi holds the records for most caps and goals for Argentina, and his career at club level with Barcelona has ensured his legacy will be intrinsically linked to the sport for the rest of time.

But there remains a niggling frustration with respect to his time with Argentina, given he is yet to win a major international tournament with them. It is arguably the final piece of the puzzle and the one thing that separates him from the others in the 'greatest of all-time' debate.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Diego Maradona – they all enjoyed success on the international stage, and while it would be unfair to suggest Messi's legacy will not match up to theirs without honours with Argentina, it is a fact that would be continuously used to downplay his claim regardless of winning everything at Barca.

 

It is not that Messi has not come close – this will be his fifth major senior final with Argentina, and he's lost the previous four, but will Argentina be considered among the favourites at the World Cup next year? Probably not.

It may be now or never, and standing in the way is his former Barca team-mate Neymar, who will be playing his first major final for Brazil.

The Paris Saint-Germain star has been typically enthralling to watch in the tournament, though Brazil will be hoping his form in front of goal improves. It has not done them much damage thus far given they are in the final, but his one non-penalty goal comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 5.1 – it's two from 5.9 with penalties included.

 

No one else in the tournament has been as wasteful as Neymar, whose eight Opta-defined 'big chances' missed is also the most of anyone at Copa America 2021.

But Messi will know more than most that Neymar rises to the biggest occasions, and few are bigger than a Superclasico in a Copa America final.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Lucas Paqueta

While Paqueta's club career may not have taken off in Europe as he would have liked following his initial move to Milan, it is fair to say this tournament has represented something of a 'coming of age' tale for him on the international stage. With two goals, he heads into the final tied with Neymar as the Selecao's leading goalscorer, while he's also been a creative threat. Granted, he may not have any assists yet, but his 1.56 xA (expected assists) is bettered only by Messi (2.93) and Neymar (2.34). He has been let down by poor finishing, but at least the chances are flowing.

 

Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Along with Messi (four, including one penalty), Martinez (three) is the only player to have scored more than twice at this year's tournament. Although he is slightly underperforming his 3.3 xG and has missed five 'big chances', the Inter striker has been consistently dangerous, with his 0.88 xG per 90 minutes second only to Neymar (1.03) among players to have played at least 180 minutes. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil will be playing their seventh final in the last 11 editions of the Copa America, winning on their most recent five appearances in the showpiece game (1997, 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2019). Their last defeat in a Copa America final was in 1995, losing the title to Uruguay in a penalty shoot-out.

- Brazil have not lost a knockout match at the Copa America (W7 D6) since 2001, when they suffered a 2-0 loss against Honduras. Their eliminations since then came via penalty shoot-outs (2011 and 2015) or in the group stage (2016).

- Brazil have reached the final in all editions of the Copa America played on Brazilian soil (six, including 2021). They won each of the previous five.

- Argentina will be playing their sixth final in the Copa America since 1993. It will be the third time in this period that they have played for the title against Brazil, failing to win against them in the past two deciders between the teams.

- Messi has scored five times against Brazil, making them his joint second-favourite opponent after Ecuador (six goals).

Lionel Messi's Argentina will face Brazil in the Copa America final after overcoming Colombia in a dramatic penalty shoot-out thanks to Emiliano Martinez.

With no extra time, penalties were needed after Luis Diaz equalised in the 61st-minute to cancel out Lautaro Martinez's first-half opener in Brasilia on Tuesday.

Emiliano Martinez was the hero in the shoot-out after the Argentina goalkeeper saved three spot-kicks to send the 14-time Copa winners – eyeing their first major title since 1993 – through to Sunday's blockbuster decider against defending champions Brazil.

Messi, who is craving his first senior crown with La Albiceleste, was brilliant from the outset, the superstar dancing past three players before picking out Lautaro Martinez, but the latter's header sailed just wide of the post in the fourth minute.

Martinez got his goal three minutes later, however, after drilling home past David Ospina – Messi with the presence of mind to twist away from Yerry Mina before lifting his head and finding the Inter star.

Colombia almost celebrated an immediate response, though Emiliano Martinez was on hand to deny Juan Cuadrado – earning his 100th cap – just moments later.

As has so often been the case during the tournament, Argentina fell away following a bright start and Colombia were unfortunate not to equalise.

Colombia came within a whisker of restoring parity in the 37th minute, hitting the woodwork twice within seconds after Mina's header rattled the crossbar from the resulting corner following Wilmar Barrios' deflected shot that struck the post.

On the stroke of half-time, Argentina went close to doubling their lead after Nicolas Gonzalez's header was narrowly pushed onto the roof of the net by Ospina.

Colombia responded well to falling behind and they were eventually rewarded via Diaz's equaliser just past the hour-mark.

Diaz got in behind Argentina's defence following a quick free-kick and the winger somehow managed to beat Emiliano Martinez from an acute angle as Lionel Scaloni's men were caught napping.

Colombia were fortunate to still be on level terms when Ospina came flying out of his penalty area as substitute Angel Di Maria charged through, but Barrios was on hand to make the last-ditch goal-line block, denying Lautaro Martinez in the 73rd minute.

Messi then saw his shot hit the woodwork with nine minutes remaining during a tense finale as the showdown headed to penalties.

Lionel Messi scored one goal and provided two assists as Argentina kept alive their bid to end their 28-year Copa America title wait with a 3-0 quarter-final win over 10-man Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday.

Messi hit the post early before showing composure to find Rodrigo De Paul for his maiden international goal in the 40th minute.

Late on, Messi swooped on a heavy touch from Piero Hincapie to set up Lautaro Martinez – for his second goal in two games - before adding one of his own with a superb free-kick.

Argentina extends their unbeaten run to 18 games under head coach Lionel Scaloni. La Tri exit without a win, despite reaching the knockout stage.

Argentina started strong, with Martinez's angled shot saved, while German Pezzella fired into the side-netting from a Messi corner.

Ecuador had a major let-off in the 23rd minute following Carlos Gruezo's error which allowed Messi in one-on-one, only to shoot into the upright.

Jhegson Mendez tested Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez with a thunderous volley and Enner Valencia glanced a header off target as Ecuador offered some threat in an open game.

But Argentina took the lead in the 40th minute with Messi calmly finding De Paul who picked his spot after Ecuador keeper Hernan Galindez raced off his line to clear a through-ball.

Valencia flicked a header wide on half-time, while the Fenerbahce forward also hit the post early in the second half from a tight angle.

Argentina sat back in the second half, with Gonzalo Plata testing Emiliano Martinez in the 80th minute before Messi found Lautaro Martinez for an easy finish after Hincapie's error.

Hincapie was sent off in stoppage-time for a last-man foul following a VAR check, with Messi stepping up to curl home the free-kick from the edge of the box brilliantly.

What does it mean?

Argentina are into the last four as they target a drought-breaking continental crown. La Albiceleste have not lifted the Copa since Gabriel Batistuta inspired them to victory in 1993, claiming back-to-back titles.

Messi's Argentina have come close in recent times, finishing third in 2019 and runners-up in 2004 (prior to Messi's debut), 2007, 2015 and 2016. They have a great shot at ending that wait.

Fast-starting Argentina

De Paul's 40th-minute strike meant La Albiceleste have scored in the first half in 11 consecutive matches. Prior to Saturday's win, 12 of Argentina's past 13 goals had been scored in the opening 45 minutes of matches.

Ecuador's own drought

The 1993 tournament is also relevant for Ecuador, who finished fourth at that Copa; their best result in recent times.

La Tri have not bettered that performance since, with this being the third campaign they have fallen at the quarter-final stage since. Remarkably Ecuador have only won three Copa games since bowing out in the 2017 quarters.

What's next?

Argentina progresses to face Colombia in the semi-finals in Brasilia on Tuesday, while Ecuador pack their bags, with their next competitive action being 2022 World Cup qualifying in September.

Achraf Hakimi's agent Alejandro Camano said "those who leave Inter are always sad" as the star full-back nears a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG are reportedly closing in on a deal to lure Hakimi to the Ligue 1 giants, despite interest from Champions League holders Chelsea.

After arriving from Real Madrid ahead of 2020-21, Hakimi helped Inter to their first Scudetto in 10 years, but his future has been in doubt amid Inter's financial problems.

With Inter trying to cut costs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Hakimi, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid target Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold following Antonio Conte's departure.

Camano represents both Hakimi and Martinez, and he discussed the pair on Tuesday.

"We talked about several things, we can't say yet that Hakimi is a new PSG player," Camano told Tuttomercatoweb. "We talked about everything.

"Martinez stays here, now he's in Argentina for the Copa America. Lautaro is an Inter player, he has a two-year contract and is happy here.

"If Hakimi is sad to leave Inter? Those who leave Inter are always sad."

Hakimi played in 37 of Inter's 38 Serie A fixtures as the Nerazzurri were crowned Italian champions, making 29 starts. Only Martinez (38) featured in more top-flight games for Inter in 2020-21.

He scored seven league goals, including a double against Bologna in December, a total only bettered in Inter's ranks by Martinez (17) and Lukaku (24), as well as laying on a further eight assists.

Hakimi played 3,216 minutes across 45 appearances in all competitions, and by early February had been directly involved in 10 Serie A goals, becoming the first defender to do so in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21. Maicon – in 2009-10 – was the last Inter defender to score at least six league goals.

He created 46 opportunities, with all but one from open play, while his tally of 12 big chances crafted is a joint team-high alongside Ivan Perisic. Hakimi also delivered 145 crosses from open play, 17 more than any other Inter player, recording an accuracy of 25.52 per cent.

Hakimi is more renowned for his attacking, but helped Inter to eight clean sheets in total – of defenders, Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij (both 14) and Bastoni (15), were involved in more.

Indeed, Hakimi's tally of 38 successful tackles is a higher total than any of his fellow defensive team-mates managed.

Hakimi's ball-carrying ability is another major facet of his play. Over 370 carries, he progressed the ball 4,609 metres, at an average of 12.46m.

Sixteen of the carries resulted in a shot, and of all of the full-backs in Europe's top five leagues, Hakimi is top for carries with goals and assists (four and five respectively).

Lautaro Martinez insists he was not feeling the pressure despite a goal drought that ended with his strike in Argentina's 4-1 Copa America win over Bolivia on Monday.

The win extended Lionel Scaloni's side's unbeaten run to 17 matches – the joint-third longest undefeated sequence in the country's history – yet Argentina came into the game having only scored three goals from as many Copa games.

Inter forward Martinez had drawn a blank in his past five games for Argentina, dating back to November's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Peru.

Martinez was back on the scoresheet against the bottom side in Group A, coming off the bench to strike in the 65th minute in a resounding win.

"I'm calm because the coaching staff and my team-mates trust me," Martinez told TyC Sports.

"The ball sometimes goes in and sometimes it doesn't. Strikers live by goals, but I stayed calm."

Argentina's victory sealed top spot in Group B, locking in a quarter-final date with Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday.

"We will face what comes next in the Copa in the best way; a tough opponent that we already know," Martinez said.

Lionel Messi produced a masterclass with two goals and an assist, making history as Argentina's most capped player in style as he surpassed former team-mate Javier Mascherano's tally with his 148th international cap.

It was Messi's first brace for Argentina in 18 games, dating back to August 2019. The 34-year-old also recorded his second two-goal outing in a Copa fixture.

Martinez added: "I am happy with the team's work, we are growing. Bolivia was already eliminated and we took the game on seriously and responsibly. Every time you play with Argentina you have to go in with everything to win."

Argentina head coach Scaloni said he has the "utmost respect" for Ecuador and would not be drawn on his likely line-up for the game.

"I would be lying if I said who is going to play on Saturday against Ecuador," he said.

Scaloni did clarify defender Cristian Romero was left out against Bolivia as he manages his squad ahead of the Ecuador game, not due to a fresh injury.

"There is no need to worry about Cristian," he said. "He was left off the bench because very difficult games are coming and the idea is that everyone needs minutes."

He added: "We have the utmost respect for Ecuador. They have shown that they are a good team, young, dynamic, with good players and are going to fight."

Lionel Messi produced a masterclass with two goals and an assist as he made history in Argentina's 4-1 victory over Bolivia at the Copa America.

Messi became Argentina's all-time record appearances holder after surpassing former team-mate Javier Mascherano with his 148th international cap in Cuiaba on Monday.

On the field, Messi was in magical form as he scored twice to take his internationally tally to 75, while creating the opener in a devastating first-half display in Argentina's final Group A fixture.

Messi somehow scooped the ball to Alejandro Gomez, who finished on the volley in the sixth minute, before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner stepped up to covert a 33rd-minute penalty and then beat Carlos Lampe with a superb lob nine minutes later.

Erwin Saavedra pulled a goal back for Bolivia in the 60th minute but Lautaro Martinez came off the bench and restored the three-goal advantage minutes later as Argentina sealed top spot to set up a quarter-final showdown against Ecuador.

Argentina were in control against a Bolivia team already eliminated, forcing a superb double-save from goalkeeper Lampe, who showed amazing agility to thwart Sergio Aguero and Angel Correa in the third minute.

Messi took centre stage as Argentina broke the deadlock – the superstar captain providing a highlight moment with a memorable assist as he had his back towards goal while teeing up in-form team-mate Gomez.

Bolivia's Diego Bejarano was penalised for a foul on Gomez inside the box after the half-hour mark and Messi made no mistake with the spot-kick.

After Franco Armani was called into action following a long-range effort from Jeyson Chura, Messi put Argentina 3-0 ahead courtesy of a perfectly chipped shot over Lampe prior to the interval, having been played through by Aguero.

Some complacency crept into Argentina's game in the second half and it was punished by Bolivia on the hour mark after Saavedra finished clinically into the roof of the net following Leonel Justiniano's driving run to the byline.

Martinez was only on the pitch for two minutes when he netted Argentina's fourth goal in the 65th minute and the merciless South American powerhouse should have had more, if not for the efforts of Lampe during the closing stages.

Is Lionel Messi's future close to being resolved?

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move away.

But, if reports are to be believed, the superstar is on the verge of extending his Barca contract.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET TO RENEW AT CAMP NOU

Lionel Messi will renew his contract with Barcelona until 2023, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Messi is out of contract at Camp Nou and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Messi is poised to re-sign, with an official deal reportedly only a matter of time.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are edging closer to signing long-time transfer target and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, reports Bild.

- Diario AS claims Real Madrid are set to rival Arsenal for Real Sociedad star Alexander Isak. The Sweden international appeals as a more affordable option compared to Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and PSG forward Kylian Mbappe.

- Inter star Achraf Hakimi is expected to join PSG, says Romano. Personal terms have reportedly been agreed until 2026. He has also been linked with Chelsea.

- Premier League champions City are willing to wait a year to sign a striker if they are unable to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham, according to ESPN. Kane has been linked with City, United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca amid reports he wants to leave Spurs. With Tottenham unwilling to sell Kane, City are prepared to wait in the transfer market as they also eye Haaland.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Inter want to sign Barca full-back Jordi Alba, with the Serie A holders willing to offer three players – Milan Skriniar, Lautaro Martinez and Marcelo Brozovic.

- Maurizio Sarri's Lazio are close to signing Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira, reports Sky Sport Italia.

West Ham have made a bid to sign Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, says Sky Sport Italia. The Serbia international has previously been linked with Tottenham, United and Milan.

Argentina know they will advance to the knockout stage of the Copa America if they end a four-game winless run in their rivalry with Paraguay on Monday.

La Albiceleste have not beaten Paraguay in six years, although three of the four games in the meantime have ended all square.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has been frustrated by the frequency with which his side have been held.

The team are unbeaten in 15 games going back to the 2019 Copa America, but they have won only eight of those matches alongside seven draws – including a home World Cup qualifier against Paraguay.

A sequence of three stalemates in a row was broken last time out, though, when Argentina defeated Uruguay 1-0 to move level with Chile at the top of Group A.

"I think that the previous games Argentina also deserved to win," Scaloni said following the Uruguay match.

"For small reasons, we were left with three draws that we did not deserve."

Paraguay could leapfrog Argentina and move into position for a potentially easier quarter-final draw with a repeat of their World Cup qualifying win, although Lionel Messi was absent on that occasion in 2016 and should be present for this game.

Eduardo Berizzo's men won their Copa America opener 3-1 against basement side Bolivia.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Martinez scored with 13.6 per cent of his shots for Inter in 2020-21, but he has so far yet to hit the target let alone the net from four chances worth a combined 0.8 expected goals at the Copa America. There were a couple of particularly disappointing misses against Chile, as Martinez was substituted when Argentina needed a goal, while he lasted just 52 minutes against Uruguay. He needs to take his chance.

 

Paraguay – Miguel Almiron

A Premier League regular, Almiron is the biggest name in the Paraguay squad. However, just as his end product has been criticised for Newcastle United, he has too often failed to make the difference at international level. The midfielder has as many red cards for his country as goals (two) and has never netted for the Albirroja in a competitive match. Almiron did assist Paraguay's opener in a draw with Argentina at the 2019 Copa America, however.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Argentina and Paraguay have met 25 times at the Copa America. Argentina have never lost to Paraguay in the competition (W19 D6).
– Paraguay are unbeaten in four against Argentina in all competitions (W1 D3). The last Argentina win against Monday's opponents was in the 2015 Copa America (6-1).
– The record between both teams in their latest six meetings in all competitions is tied, with one win each and four draws. The past two matches finished as 1-1 draws.
– Paraguay's Kaku leads the 2021 Copa America in terms of chances created. He has created 10 chances, tied with Neymar, but Paraguay have played only one game.
– Argentina are the team with the most fouls won at this Copa America (37).

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