LaLiga president Javier Tebas says Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain would be committing "financial doping" if they signed Lionel Messi on similar terms to his previous Barcelona deal.

Argentina captain Messi is a free agent after his Barca contract expired at the end of June.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with City and PSG previously, though he is expected to remain with the Blaugrana despite their financial problems.

Tebas does not see how any club would be able to offer Messi the sort of terms he had been earning, with his last contract reportedly worth in excess of €500million over four years.

Asked if Messi would have to take a pay cut to extend his stay at Barca, Tebas said: "Exactly. He won't be able to sign on the previous conditions, that's impossible.

"But I don't think any European club would be able to pay that amount."

Tebas added: "City have lost €270m [during the coronavirus pandemic] so obviously they wouldn't even consider signing Messi [on the terms he was previously on].

"PSG have had losses, too, so they can't even consider signing Messi.

"If they do, it will be financial doping. It would be incredible if it happened. We need to establish limits. Financial doping is damaging football.

"It's not real money because it's not generated by the clubs. Money not from football causes bad inflation and ruins football because clubs must put in all this effort [to compete], which takes them above their financial capacity.

"We have to fight against this. This is one of the pending issues in European football. If it's not solved, the game will find itself in a very complicated situation."

Will Kylian Mbappe move to Real Madrid?

Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?

The star pair are dominating headlines in the transfer market.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Real Madrid believe they will be able to prise Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain if the Ligue 1 giants sign Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Diario AS.

Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract – has long been tipped to join LaLiga powerhouse Madrid, while Liverpool have also been linked.

Messi is out of contract at Barca and while the Catalan club remain confident of re-signing the superstar captain, PSG and Madrid are hoping to make the most of the situation.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal have joined PSG and Atletico Madrid in the chase to sign Lyon star Houssem Aouar, reports Le10 Sport.

- Calciomercato says Serie A champions Inter and Ligue 1 outfit Lyon are both eyeing Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

Milan have increased their contract offer for star midfielder Franck Kessie, per Gazzetta dello Sport. Having already lost Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, the Rossoneri are keen to re-sign Kessie, who has been linked with PSG, Tottenham, Arsenal and Inter.

Manchester City are interested in Napoli star Piotr Zielinski, according to Tuttosport. Napoli are believed to be willing to listen to offers. Premier League champions City have also been linked with the likes of Tottenham's Harry Kane, Inter forward Romelu Lukaku, Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland and Madrid defender Raphael Varane in the transfer window.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and Varane both moving to Manchester United, while not impossible is "remote in reality", according to Sky Sports.

Lionel Messi hailed "phenomenon" Emiliano Martinez after the Argentina goalkeeper saved three penalties to lead La Albiceleste to the Copa America final.

After Tuesday's semi-final against Colombia ended 1-1 without extra time, Martinez was the hero in the shoot-out, saving penalties from Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona as Argentina earned a blockbuster showdown with defending champions Brazil.

Penalties were needed after Lautaro Martinez's seventh-minute opener was cancelled out by Colombia winger Luis Diaz just past the hour-mark in Brasilia.

Messi will have another chance to claim his first senior international trophy on Saturday as Argentina eye their first title since 1993, and the superstar captain heaped praise on Emiliano Martinez post-game.

"At times it became difficult," said Messi, who provided the assist for Lautaro Martinez and struck the post with nine minutes remaining. "But we have Emi who is a phenomenon.

"We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play every game and now we are going to the final.

"It was very hard, but we deserved it because we wanted it.

"The last cup, the group had already become strong and had left a good image. Now we are going to the final."

Argentina – Copa runners-up in 2015 and 2016 – are in the midst of a 19-match unbeaten streak, dating back to the 2019 semi-final against Brazil at the CONMEBOL tournament.

It is the second longest unbeaten streak among Argentina head coaches, Lionel Scaloni only behind Alfio Basile (33 between 1991 and 1993).

 

"It is a time to celebrate, to enjoy. Tomorrow [Wednesday] we will think about the final," Scaloni told reporters.

"It takes a lot to get here, a lot of work, a lot of time from all the people who accompany us.

"My voice almost broke when talking about this group of players. We have been focused for a long time and they continue to push forward."

Messi finished with a team-high five key passes and a joint team-best three shots against Colombia.

Since 2011, Messi is the Argentina player with the most duels of the ball – averaging 15.7 per game after being involved in 26 in the semi-finals.

"For me, there is no better version of Messi, he is the one that always gives," added Scaloni. "We are very proud of him and of his team-mates."

As for Emiliano Martinez, Scaloni said: "We are very happy with Emiliano's performance, not only because of the penalties, but also because of the security he is transmitting. The group of goalkeepers supports themselves permanently and we like that."

When you take a look at Lionel Messi's trophy cabinet, there isn't much missing.

No player in Barcelona's history has won more titles than Messi at Camp Nou – 10 LaLiga trophies and four Champions League crowns among his club-record haul of 34 pieces of silverware.

That's even before you get to his individual accolades and records… six Ballons d'Or to go with being Barcelona and Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer among other things.

But there is one glaring absence in Messi's trophy cabinet – a senior international title with Argentina. Unlike legendary countryman Diego Maradona and even Portuguese foe Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has never conquered the international stage.

Regarded as one of, if not, the greatest footballer of all time, yet Messi has often been the bridesmaid and never the bride with La Albiceleste following three runners-up medals at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016, while he was left heartbroken in the 2018 World Cup decider.

Such is the pain, there's also been periods of international retirement for Messi. The 34-year-old debating whether to shoulder the load of another drought-ending quest for Argentina, dating back to the 1993 Copa America.

But, thanks to Emiliano Martinez and his heroics, Messi's coveted dream of international glory remains alive as the superstar prepares for a fifth final in Argentina colours.

 

Martinez saved three penalties in the shoot-out to send Argentina through to Saturday's showpiece against defending champions and rivals Brazil at the iconic Maracana after Tuesday's clash with Colombia ended 1-1.

Argentina goalkeeper Martinez came up big when his country needed him most, saving penalties from Davinson Sanchez, Mina and Edwin Cardona. It was the third shoot-out between Argentina and Colombia in Copa history, with the former winning all of them.

Prior to Martinez's herculean effort, magical Messi had pulled the strings for Argentina.

Messi 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.

Not heeding Messi's initial warning, the most-capped player in Argentina's history did create the opening goal three minutes later – twisting away from Mina before lifting his head to find Lautaro for his fifth assist of this year's tournament.

It was a sign of things to come from Messi, who ended the opening half with a flawless passing accuracy – 100 per cent.

 

As has so often been the case during the tournament, Argentina fell away following a bright start and Colombia were unfortunate not to equalise. However, Messi – unsurprisingly – continued to be at the heart of his team's best moments.

The conductor of Argentina's orchestra, Messi was almost unstoppable – it took a third Colombia defender to hack him down. Messi then saw his shot hit the woodwork with nine minutes remaining.

He finished with a team-high key passes and a joint team-best three shots against Colombia. Since 2011, Messi is the Argentina player with the most duels of the ball – averaging 15.7 per game after being involved in 26 in the semi-finals.

Argentina has been the source of great anguish for Messi. But, Lionel Scaloni's men are riding the wave of 19 matches without defeat, dating back to the 2019 Copa semi against Brazil. It is the second longest unbeaten streak among Argentina head coaches, only behind Alfio Basile (33 between 1991 and 1993).

It seems somewhat fitting that Messi – amid talk of a possible seventh Ballon d'Or – has the chance to cap his remarkable career with an international prize against the Selecao in Rio de Janeiro.

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 became a free agent last week.

Initial reports suggested he had agreed to a new two-deal with Barca.

The 34-year-old told Barcelona last year he wanted to leave but opted to remain.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI BEING EYED BY DUO

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are both monitoring Lionel Messi's transfer position after becoming a free agent, according to the front page of Tuesday's Mundo Deportivo.

Messi's Barcelona contract expired on June 30, but he has been widely expected to re-sign with the LaLiga giants, who need to manage their finances.

However, with Messi still unattached, Ligue 1 powerhouse PSG and Premier League champions City are continuing to eye the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Sergio Ramos, fresh from his Real Madrid exit, will have a medical with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday and join as a free agent.

Juventus remain interested in signing France international midfielder Paul Pogba from Manchester United, according to 90min.

- Marca reports United are leading the race to sign Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, ahead of Madrid and PSG.

City may still turn to Barca forward Antoine Griezmann, if they fail to land Tottenham's Harry Kane, claims Mundo Deportivo. City have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter star Romelu Lukaku.

- New Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo is interested in signing Benfica's Haris Seferovic reports the Mirror. Benfica are looking to sell the Swiss striker.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Juventus have not initiated any move for Barcelona's Miralem Pjanic despite links of a return to his former club. Juve continue to be linked with Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli, who is also reportedly wanted by Arsenal.

Brazil superstar Neymar said he wants to face Lionel Messi's Argentina in the Copa America final after the defending champions edged Peru.

Neymar provided the assist for Lucas Paqueta's 35th-minute winner as Brazil saw off 2019 runners-up Peru 1-0 in Monday's semi-final.

Brazil will meet the winner of the Argentina-Colombia semi in Saturday's decider at the iconic Maracana and Neymar is eyeing a blockbuster showdown with La Albiceleste.

South American rivals Brazil and Argentina have not met in a Copa final since 2007, when the Selecao won 3-0.

"I want Argentina, I'm rooting for Argentina," Neymar – a former Barcelona team-mate of Messi – said post-match in Rio de Janeiro.

"I have friends there, then in the final it will be Brazil [laughs]."

 

Neymar was impressive throughout at Estadio Nilton Santos, attempting a team-high four shots to go with two key passes and the decisive assist.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward was also fouled three times. No player has been fouled more often than Neymar (25) during this year's CONMEBOL tournament.

Meanwhile, head coach Tite made history by equalling Mario Zagallo as the Brazil head coach with the longest unbeaten run in Copa America history (12), winning nine games and drawing three fixtures.

The 60-year-old has the fifth-best winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 games in Copa America history – 75 per cent.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 42 clean sheets in 60 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (70 per cent).

After the game, however, Neymar took aim at Chilean referee Roberto Tobar, saying: "The referee cannot do what he did. It's a lack of respect for all the players, the way he talks, the way he looks, what he says on the field to the players. 

"From the very first minute I went to talk to him, and he was very arrogant. Everyone is saying that, I think it's not normal for both teams to complain. 

"Not the way he whistled the match. He can make mistakes, that's part of it, but the arrogance he had in that match... For me, he can't be a referee in a Copa America semi-final."

Just like the quarter-final, Paqueta scored the winning goal for Brazil – who are now eyeing their 10th Copa crown.

Paqueta has scored in back-to-back appearances for Brazil in all competitions for the first time in his career.

"Paqueta is a great player," Neymar said. "Has been growing with each game, with each game he plays for the national team. He had a great season for his club and has shown that he can be a very important player for us in the national team.  I'm happy with his participation, with the game he played. It's always good to meet great players in the national team."

Colombia will look to pull off an upset and reach the Copa America final for the first time outside of their country when they take on a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina on Tuesday.

Los Cafeteros have lost their six previous semi-finals at neutral venues in the competition, with their only two final appearances – in 1975 and 2001 – seeing them play at least one game on home soil.

Reinaldo Rueda's side beat Uruguay on penalties in the quarter-finals – David Ospina saving two spot-kicks in the shoot-out – following a goalless draw after 90 minutes.

A tough match with Argentina in Brasilia awaits and Rueda, who was only reappointed by Colombia in January, is happy with the progress made by his side in that short period.

"We played a very collective game against Uruguay, with a lot of solidarity and the right balance," he said. "All this helps us believe that we can continue with our improvements.

"We will continue to demand more and more from ourselves in each session before the next game."

If Colombia are to have any hope of overcoming Argentina, they will need to do something Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile failed to do by keeping Messi quiet.

He leads the Copa America scoring charts with four goals, including a fine free-kick in the quarter-final win over Ecuador, while also providing a competition-high four assists. 

Messi has never previously won a trophy with Argentina, and that remains the superstar forward's main focus ahead of Tuesday's semi-final showdown.

"I've always said that individual prizes are secondary. We're here for something else," he said. "We have an objective and we're focused on that."

Argentina squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Colombia in their most recent meeting just last month, a game that is still fresh in Messi's memory.

"They denied us in a match that we had under control. That's why we can't take this for granted," Messi added. "We have to play our game and keep hold of the ball."

 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Lionel Messi

With his four goals and four assists so far, Messi has been involved in 80 per cent of Argentina's 10 goals at this edition of the Copa America.

He may not be focused on individual honours, but he is now just one short of Brazil great Pele's all-time goals record (77) for a South American country.

Colombia - Juan Cuadrado

The versatile Juventus winger missed his side's quarter-final with Uruguay after picking up two yellow cards in the group stage, but he is back in contention to face Argentina.

While Cuadrado may not have a goal or assist to his name yet this tournament, he remains one of Colombia's most dangerous players and his fresh legs could come in handy.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina and Colombia will face each other for the third time in the Copa America semi-finals. The first meeting was in 1993, when Argentina won on penalties, and the second one was in 2004 with another win for Argentina. 

- The last time these sides faced each other in the Copa America was in 2019 with a 2-0 win for Colombia.

- Argentina have failed to progress from just one of their last six Copa America semi-finals: against Brazil in 2019 (a 2-0 loss). Argentina have never played a Copa America final on Brazilian soil.

- Colombia are the team with the most recoveries (306), interceptions (74) and fouls conceded (78, alongside Paraguay) in the current Copa America.

Kylian Mbappe has been urged to consider leaving Paris Saint-Germain by Nicolas Anelka if he wants to have the same global impact as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The 22-year-old has spent the past four seasons in the French capital but is out of contract in 2022 and has been strongly linked with Real Madrid, while Liverpool are also rumoured to be interested.

Former Monaco forward Mbappe raised further questions over his future when revealing last month he is unsure whether the Parc des Princes is the best place for him.

Those comments were made on the back of a disappointing 2020-21 campaign for PSG in which they failed to defend their Ligue 1 title and exited the Champions League in the semi-finals, though they did win the Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions.

On an individual level, Mbappe was as prolific as ever with 42 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions last time out, averaging one every 86 minutes for the French giants.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (48) scored more goals in all competitions than Mbappe in 2020-21.

 

But former France international Anelka, who started his career with PSG before joining Arsenal in 1997, believes it is time for his compatriot to seek a new challenge elsewhere if he is to fulfil his career ambitions.

Writing a letter to Mbappe on The Athletic, Anelka said: "You have done so well since coming through at Monaco and taking it to a new level at Paris Saint-Germain. 

"You play at a team that has evolved into a big club capable of winning the Champions League. It seems you will stay for another year, then there is a big choice to make. 

"It is a bit more complicated for you than it was for me. You have at least two choices – stay in Paris or move to Real Madrid. Both of them can win the Champions League these days. When I was at PSG, that wasn't the case.

"That choice depends on what you want to achieve in football. If you want the biggest accolades, you will have to move from PSG at some point. 

"Whatever you do in Paris will be good, but somebody will always say, 'Well, you did great for PSG but it was only in France. The best leagues are in England and Spain, so you didn't compete with the best players in the best league.

"You will have to decide. If you want to win the Ballon d'Or, which is what you should be looking at to echo Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, you will have to compete with the best. 

"You can't say you compete with the best all the time when you are at PSG. The French league is not easy, don't get me wrong, but I think the toughest league is in England. 

"So, if you want to be one of the best, then do what you do in Paris but with Chelsea or United or Arsenal or Manchester City or Liverpool. Or go to Spain to Madrid or Barcelona. Or maybe Italy. Then we can speak about a more global impact."

 

Mbappe endured an underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign in which he failed to find the net in France's four matches before their shock last-16 exit at the hands of Switzerland, a game in which he missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.

He failed to score in the tournament despite taking 14 shots. At the point of France's tournament exit, only Cristiano Ronaldo (five goals from 15 shots) and Alvaro Morata (two goals from 15 shots) had taken more goal attempts.

It is the first time France failed to make it to at least the quarter-finals of a major competition since 2010 but Anelka, who won the European Championship with Les Blues in 2000, does not think the blame should lie with the attacking players.

"Football is a magnificent sport that remains unpredictable," he said. "Even if France had the best team on paper with a team capable of winning again, something was missing in the collective. 

"They had difficulties in defence. This France team was able to score goals at any time but was also able to concede at any time so that's what stopped them from going further in this tournament.

"The World Cup in Qatar is next year so there will be matches for France to try to make the tactical and collective repairs to compete, to win again. 

"France won the World Cup three years ago but the page has turned. This European Championship is another page that has to turn. Some new players might be integrated and this is a new chapter. 

"Many teams want to be world champions but there are not many examples of a country winning the World Cup twice in a row. It is easy to say, not easy to do."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

Mbappe is wanted by Real Madrid as Paris Saint-Germain try to retain the France international.

However, Liverpool are also believed to be circling…

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL POISED TO POUNCE

Liverpool are the leading contenders to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to RMC.

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and he has been tipped to join LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

PSG remain determined to re-sign Mbappe but should the France international not renew in Paris, Liverpool are ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport claims Barcelona will not be afforded an increased salary cap to re-sign superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at Camp Nou and linked with PSG and Manchester City. Barca must reduce their wage bill in order to keep the captain. It comes as Goal says Barca have offered to release Miralem Pjanic and Samuel Umtiti from their contracts to free up space in the club's budget. Pjanic has been linked to Juventus, Inter, MilanTottenham and Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes is pushing to extend the superstar's Juve deal until 2023, per Gazzetta dello Sport. The 36-year-old, who is contracted until 2022, has been linked with United and PSG.

United are progressing in their pursuit to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Fabrizio Romano. A long-term target of United, the 18-year-old France international – who will become a free agent after 2021-22 – has also been linked with PSG, Madrid, Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

- Calciomercato reports Liverpool have enquired about Inter and Italy star Nicolo Barella. Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are eyeing a replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, who joined PSG.

- Juve are due to meet with Sassuolo to discuss a move for Manuel Locatelli, says Calciomercato. The Italy international is also reportedly wanted by Arsenal among others.

"I honestly don't know if he's going to get tired of being praised every day," Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni mused after Lionel Messi's latest masterclass.

Once again, Messi was at the heart of all of Argentina's attacking play, providing two assists before netting a goal of his own with a sublime late free-kick in Saturday's 3-0 Copa America quarter-final win over Ecuador.

The 34-year-old tops the Copa America charts for goals and assists, with four of each.

As Scaloni suggests, it is hard to stop praising him. There arguably are not enough superlatives to describe Messi.

This Copa may have been viewed as the younger Neymar's time, on home soil, but the numbers back up the veteran Messi so far.

On a grander scale, Messi has now scored 76 goals for Argentina, one short of Pele's 77 for Brazil.

Only Pele has scored more goals for a CONMEBOL nation, meaning Messi – who will play his 150th cap for Argentina in the semi-finals – is on the verge of another remarkable feat.

There is no shortage of individual accomplishments which could be listed off for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner but as Argentina progress deeper at the Copa America in Brazil, the question of team success at international level looms for Messi.

He has never won a Copa America, nor the World Cup, coming close to the latter as 2014 runners-up in Brazil.

Fourteen-time winners Argentina, as a nation, have not lifted the Copa America since their second all-time top scorer Gabriel Batistuta helped them to the 1993 title.

Messi is playing at his sixth Copa, with Argentina finishing as runners-up three times during that period.

If La Albiceleste overcome Colombia in the semi-finals, they will likely face nemesis Brazil in the decider at the Maracana, the same venue where they lost the 2014 World Cup final.

The current crop is vastly different to the abundantly talented side from 2014, but Scaloni has made this group tough to break down, with a dependence Messi's individual brilliance in attack.

Scaloni's Argentina have gone 18 games unbeaten now, while they have only conceded once in their past four games at Copa.

This side have also scored in the first half in 11 consecutive matches. On Saturday against Ecuador they dearly clung on to a 1-0 lead for long periods of the second half, repelling several attacks with a resolute appproach as Ecuador had more possession (54 per cent). It is not the first time under Scaloni this has happened successfully.

So is this Messi's best shot at international success? Is it his last chance at the Copa, with the next event scheduled for 2024?

That remains to be seen for the 34-year-old, who is currently a free agent after his Barcelona contract expired on June 30, although he is expected to re-sign and play at next year's World Cup.

But the ingredients are there for that breakthrough success for both Messi and Argentina.

As the list of individual accomplishments and accolades continues to grow, achieving that elusive international team success with Argentina would solidify Messi's legacy. The time is now.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has hailed Lionel Messi as "the best player of all time" after scoring one goal and setting up two others in the 3-0 Copa America quarter-final win over Ecuador.

Messi was the architect as La Albiceleste progressed to the Copa semi-finals where they will take on Colombia on Tuesday in Brasilia.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner set up Rodrigo De Paul for Argentina's 40th-minute opener, before assisting Lautaro Martinez's 85th minute sealer.

Messi grabbed a goal of his own in stoppage-time with a trademark free-kick which took him to 76 international goals in his 149th appearance for La Albiceleste.

"Leo's game, I honestly don't know if he's going to get tired of being praised every day," Scaloni said at the post-game media conference. "The best thing that can happen for us football lovers is that the stars play until any age they can and we enjoy it.

"Messi is enjoyed even by opponents when they play against him. We are talking about the best player of all time.

"It is difficult for a player to be at his level. Neymar may at some point be a similar player but because of what he has done, is doing and will continue to do, we must remember him for who he is."

The win extended Argentina's unbeaten run under Scaloni to 18 games and gives them a shot at ending their 28-year wait for a Copa America title.

La Albiceleste had recorded three wins and a draw in the group stage, including two unconvincing 1-0 victories, and Scaloni was content with a more emphatic result.

"Whoever believes that you can win every game 3-0 easily is wrong especially in this Copa America, which has conditions that are very different," he said.

"I don't know if it's the best moment for the team. It is an instance that we like, it is decisive and we will try to move forward with the utmost humility and work."

Scaloni was wary of semi-final opponents Colombia who won 4-2 on penalties against Uruguay after  a goalless draw to secure their spot in the last four.

"I want to emphasize that in this Copa America any of these teams could push any team in the world," he said.

"The level is quite high, it is not like before where the matches were taken for granted that you would win.

"We have already faced Colombia in the [World Cup] qualifiers. Now they will recover [Juan] Cuadrado, it will be difficult and like all matches.

"We hope to play it with the same intensity and enthusiasm, we have an enormous desire to play in the final."

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.

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 exits 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 Rodrigo 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 Martinez in the 80th minute before Messi found 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.

Lionel Messi is out of contract but tipped to re-sign with Barcelona.

However, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly not prepared to give up on prising Messi to Paris.

Messi's future could become clearer after the Copa America.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STILL DREAMING OF MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are trying to trump Barcelona's offer to Lionel Messi, according to Diario AS.

Messi is officially a free agent following the expiration of his Barcelona contract and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with PSG and Manchester City.

While Messi has been tipped to re-sign at Camp Nou, PSG are reportedly refusing to give up hope on signing the Argentina superstar.

Amid uncertainty over Real Madrid and Liverpool target Kylian Mbappe, PSG have also been eyeing Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Tottenham's Harry Kane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports Manchester United are considering a swap deal involving Paul Pogba and Madrid defender Raphael Varane. The Red Devils are interested in signing Varane to bolster their defence, while Pogba has long been linked with Madrid and Juve.

Barca are stepping up their interest in Sampdoria and Denmark star Mikkel Damsgaard, claims Mundo Deportivo.

- Ajax star Dusan Tadic has emerged as a target for Milan following the departure of Hakan Calhanoglu, says Calciomercato.

Eduardo Camavinga's Rennes departure is inevitable, according to Le Parisien. The France sensation has been linked with Madrid, PSG, United, Arsenal and Bayern Munich among others.

- The Transfer Window Podcast says free agent Sergio Ramos has been offered to Chelsea. After leaving Madrid, Ramos is reportedly poised to join PSG. At Stamford Bridge, Champions League holders Chelsea are eyeing Borussia Dortmund's in-demand forward Erling Haaland.

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