Manchester City top FIFA's list of the biggest spenders on internationals transfers in the past decade.

The world governing body on Monday revealed $48.5billion worth of player trading was done between 2011 and 2020.

Premier League champions City have spent big on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ruben Dias during that period, so it is no surprise they top the list.

Chelsea and Barcelona are second and third respectively on the list - which does not state how much each club spent in total.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid make up the top five, while 12 of the top 30 clubs, who alone have spent €19.3billion in the time period, are from England.

Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG was for a world record fee of €222m, while Madrid brought in Eden Hazard from Chelsea for a deal that could reportedly climb to €175m (£150m).

Barcelona have the next two largest transfers, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele joining from Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Argentina forward Angel Di Maria also holds two slots in the top 10 of the highest individual transfers, his deal to join Manchester United from Madrid in 10th with his subsequent move to PSG a place higher.

Players of 204 different nationalities have been transferred since 2010-11, Brazil way out in front with 15,128 moves.

Agents have played a hugely increasing role in international transfers, with their involvement growing 69.1 per cent from 2011 to 2020.

From €131.1m worth of commissions in 2011 to €640.5m in 2019, a total of €3.5bn was paid for agents' commissions in international transfers over the course of the decade. 

Lionel Messi is poised to make a brief Paris Saint-Germain debut after being left on the bench for their Ligue 1 game at Reims.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the latter heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, were both included in Mauricio Pochettino's starting XI at the Stade Auguste-Delaune.

Pochettino opted to leave Messi out of PSG's win over Brest last time out despite the former Barcelona star training with his new team-mates following his sensational exit from Camp Nou.

However, he confirmed to Amazon Prime on Sunday that Messi would at least play a cameo role against Reims.

He said: "He's [Lionel Messi] is going to be on the bench.

"He arrived late in the pre-season. He's working hard, he can have a few minutes today to start helping the team."

Kylian Mbappe is at the centre of one of the biggest transfer stories as the deadline approaches, but he was still named in Paris Saint-Germain's squad on Sunday as Lionel Messi looks set for his debut.

Mbappe has been the subject of two bids from LaLiga giants Real Madrid, though PSG are reportedly refusing to enter negotiations for the 22-year-old, who only has a season left to run on his deal.

Whether PSG buckle before Tuesday's deadline remains to be seen, but Mbappe trained as usual this week and Mauricio Pochettino insisted on Saturday that the France star had not told him he wished to leave the club.

Pochettino also confirmed Mbappe, along with Messi and fellow superstar forward Neymar, would travel for the clash with Reims and all three were subsequently named in the 22-man squad revealed on Sunday.

Mbappe scored his first goal of the Ligue 1 season in last week's 4-2 win over Brest, while Messi is still awaiting his debut since a shock move from Barcelona earlier this month.

Neymar, who guided Brazil to the Copa America final – a clash that Messi's Argentina won 1-0 – also makes his return to the fold having missed PSG's first three matches this season.

Angel Di Maria scored Argentina's winner against Brazil and also netted on his comeback against Brest, and with Mauro Icardi injured, Pochettino seems likely to pick three of the aforementioned players to start at Stade Auguste-Delaune.

"Kylian Mbappe is working very hard and is preparing for [Sunday's] game," Pochettino said on Saturday.

"In terms of communications with our president and sporting director, they have made it clear what the club's stance is in this regard."

Asked for an update on the situation after Madrid's win over Real Betis, Carlo Ancelotti told reporters: "We should stick to talking about the game because the rest is a matter for the club, who are working on it.

"I don't know the details at this stage."

Lionel Messi could be in line to make his Paris Saint-Germain debut as Mauricio Pochettino confirmed the former Barcelona star will be in the squad for Sunday's meeting with Reims.

PSG, who have won their opening three Ligue 1 fixtures, travel to Reims for their final match before the international break.

Messi, signed on a free transfer from Barcelona earlier this month, did not feature against Brest last time out despite having trained with his new team-mates, while Neymar was also absent.

As speculation continues over the future of Kylian Mbappe amid interest from Real Madrid, Pochettino confirmed that Messi, Neymar and the aforementioned France star would all be involved in some capacity on Sunday.

"They will certainly all be in the squad, so we will see if they are in the starting 11 tomorrow," Pochettino told a news conference.

"We will assess how he is doing and then see if he is in the squad or not. I haven't given a precise answer yet, so I think it is normal for there to be doubts about that.

"When we sign a player, we try not to have big expectations, but to discover and find out information when we are together. Every club is different so you cannot make comparisons.

"What we are finding out about Leo is that he is a professional and a great player, although we do not need to say that. He is adapting very well to his new club, new team-mates and a new environment."

 

Asked how Messi will fit into PSG's style of play, Pochettino said: "We are a team that likes to play on the front and keep possession. So, I think that is also what he is used to doing.

"For a player like him, he will certainly play a key role in the French league – regardless of the different attributes that the league has compared to England and Spain – because we are talking about one of the best if not the best player in the world.

"I don't think there will be any issues of him settling in, and he is looking forward to making his debut and helping the team reach its objectives."

With Messi and Neymar waiting to feature, Mbappe opened his account for the season in the 4-2 win over Brest. The 22-year-old has been involved in four of PSG's past seven goals against Reims in Ligue 1 (two goals, two assists).

While goals had escaped him until last week, Mbappe has attempted (25) and completed (13) the highest tally of dribbles in Ligue 1 so far this term, as PSG look to extend an unbeaten run on the road in the league to 11 matches.

Paris Saint-Germain "must build a team" from their vast array of talent, so says Mauricio Pochettino.

Lionel Messi has headlined five new star recruits at PSG this transfer window, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum also linking up with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Co.

Messi has trained this week, but he and Neymar were not involved as PSG beat Brest 4-2 on Friday.

However, it was once more the absence of Marquinhos - who was on the bench after his break following the Copa America - and Ramos, who will not be available until September, which was felt the most as PSG conceded twice for the second match running. In total, they have now let in five goals across their three games.

Though it has not stopped them taking all nine points on offer so far, Pochettino knows he has to strike a balance.

"It was a very close match. We started well, we led 2-0 by dominating the match," he told a news conference.

"We should have scored one more goal, it was an open game that gave the opponents some chances. We suffered in the last 10 minutes. I'm very happy to take three points on difficult ground, against a team that has started the season well. 

"We are at the start of the season, we can see how difficult it is for all the teams to win a game. There are things to improve. In defence, we have to prevent the transition play which can hurt us.

“We have a lot of names of players that shine, but we have to build a team, that's the challenge. It won't be easy, we have to find a balance between the talents that we have. It will take time."

It was a sentiment echoed by Presnel Kimpembe, who put in a disjointed display at the back while wearing the captain's armband.

"We know that we were playing an away game against a team not easy to play," the France international told Amazon Prime Video.

"The team is not yet complete, we still have links to create. There are new players, we have to adapt."

One major bonus from Friday's win was Mbappe getting his first goal of the campaign, nodding in what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1, and his first in the competition since March 2017.

Angel Di Maria also made a goalscoring return, with the Argentina playmaker lobbing in PSG's fourth to settle the contest just nine minutes after his introduction.

Mauro Icardi trudged off injured late on, which may well open the door for the formidable front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe to start against Reims next week.

"The week [of training] has been very good for Leo, so we hope that next week he will already be part of the team," said Pochettino, who also confirmed Icardi would undergo scans over the weekend.

Kylian Mbappe opened his account for the 2021-22 season as Paris Saint-Germain, still without Neymar or Lionel Messi, defeated resilient Brest 4-2.

With Messi and Neymar not judged ready for Friday's game by Mauricio Pochettino, Mbappe scored his first of the season with what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1.

Mbappe put PSG 2-0 up, with Ander Herrera having opened the scoring, but Keylor Navas' error handed Brest a reprieve.

Idrissa Gueye's long-range strike seemed to have settled the contest, though it was ultimately substitute Angel Di Maria who had to wrap up the points after Steve Mounie had pulled another one back.

Mbappe's six attempts across the opening two Ligue 1 games failed to yield reward and the France star might have done better in the fourth minute, with his close-range shot saved well by Marco Bizot, though an expected goals (xG) figure of 0.065 suggested it was a difficult chance.

With Marco Verratti also going close, PSG's dominance told when Herrera tried his luck with a volley which crept in under Bizot, who did better to stop Achraf Hakimi doubling PSG's tally.

Little blame could be attached to Bizot soon after, however, with Mbappe charging in to get his head on a loose ball and divert a looping effort into the right-hand corner.

Navas had to hold his hands up at the other end before half-time, with PSG's shot-stopper failing to prevent Franck Honorat, the benefactor of Romain Faivre's exquisite flick, scoring despite getting a hand on the shot.

PSG's frustrations grew as they looked to add to their lead, yet Bizot's vulnerability from long shots came to the fore again as Gueye's dipping effort from 35-yards out evaded his grasp.

Navas atoned for his earlier mistake by denying Ronael Pierre-Gabriel, though Mounie did set up a grandstand finish with a cool 85th-minute finish.

There would be no fairytale comeback, however, with Di Maria – just nine minutes into his return – lobbing Bizot on the break to seal the points.

What does it mean? Defence a major concern for Pochettino

It is hard to imagine PSG not storming to the title this season, given the supreme quality at Pochettino’s disposal, yet first the former Tottenham boss simply has to get things sorted at the back.

PSG were, once more, all at sea defensively. Without Marquinhos, who has only just returned to the squad, Presnel Kimpembe delivered a performance hardly representative of his experience, while Thilo Kehrer looked out of his depth in the middle.

Five goals conceded in three games is a huge warning sign, and while Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos will no doubt help matters, Pochettino has to get the balance right.

Mbappe gets his head up

Mbappe thought he had opened his account for the season last week, only for his goal to be retrospectively put down as an own goal from Strasbourg's Ludovic Ajorque.

However, he got on the goal trail on Friday with what was his first headed goal for PSG since October 2019, and his first in Ligue 1 since March 2017, when he nodded in for Monaco.

Navas feeling the pressure?

Given Navas has been such an excellent signing for PSG, it was no surprise to see eyebrows raised when they moved to secure Gianluigi Donnarumma. However, the Italy goalkeeper was on the bench on Friday, and his hopes of immediately usurping the Costa Rican as first choice may have been boosted.

Though Honorat's chance for Brest's goal late in the first half was a good one (an xG of 0.353 means that, at that stage, it was the second-best opportunity in the game), Navas got down to what was a relatively weak shot, only to flap at it. With such an exceptional goalkeeper in reserve in the form of Donnarumma, the former Real Madrid man must do better to keep his place.

Fortunately for Navas, his blushes were somewhat spared by Bizot, who should have done far better for two of PSG's strikes. Indeed Gueye's winner had an xG of just 0.015 – the lowest of any attempt all game.

What's next?

PSG are away again – at Reims – before the international break, meaning Messi's debut may still well come on the road. It seems likely, with Mauro Icardi having gone off injured late on. Brest face Strasbourg in their next outing.

Lionel Messi will not make his Paris Saint-Germain debut against Brest on Friday after being left out of the travelling squad.

Messi has been training this week alongside former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, but neither have made the group for PSG's third Ligue 1 match of the season.

The wait for free signing Messi's PSG bow will now extend at least until next week's trip to Reims, the club's final match before the first international break of the 2021-22 campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino has still been able to call upon a stronger, more experienced squad than in previous weeks, though.

Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma is included for the first time since his own free transfer from Milan, although he has competition from regular goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Club captain Marquinhos, midfielder Marco Verratti and creator Angel Di Maria are also all back involved again.

The wait is over. A week-and-a-half after joining Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi could be set to make his debut against Brest on Friday.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi became the Ligue 1 giants' fifth major signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

Messi, alongside his former Barca star Neymar, has been training this week, and though Pochettino refused to confirm his squad during Thursday's news conference, it is expected the duo will play a part.

With Kylian Mbappe already back, here's how Pochettino could set out at Brest.

 

GK: Keylor Navas

Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. Gianluigi Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option, but after only just returning to training, it is likely Pochettino will stick with the former Real Madrid goalkeeper for Friday's game, though the ex-Spurs boss did suggest Donnarumma may be available. 

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30), who scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance.

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men. Even though he has just returned from an extended break following Brazil's Copa America exploits, it would not be surprising to see the former Roma man thrown straight back into the fray given PSG have conceded three times across their opening two matches.

CB: Presnel Kimpembe

Sergio Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. However, the 36-year-old will not be available until September, meaning France defender Kimpembe is likely to continue in the heart of defence for now. He made a game-high four clearances in last week's 4-2 home win over Strasbourg.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order, while he also assisted Mauro Icardi's opener against Strasbourg.

CM: Ander Herrera

At the end of a season in which Marco Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. However, it seems likely we will have to wait to see the playmaker link up with Messi, as he too is only just easing his way back into training. In his place, Herrera seems set to carry on in midfield and, in truth, is a more than able back-up. He attempted 100 passes on matchday two, completing 94 of them.

CM: Danilo Pereira

Leandro Paredes, Messi's international colleague, was trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. However, he has just returned to training after helping Argentina win the Copa America, while Idrissa Gueye has been out due to COVID-19 protocols. Youngster Eric Ebimbe started against Strasbourg but was replaced by Pereira after an hour, and the towering Portuguese would add some presence in the middle of the park.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria would be very unfortunate to miss out on a full-strength XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play even with Messi in place, but he too is only just back from international duty. Wijnaldum has featured in both of PSG's Ligue 1 games so far and across his Liverpool Premier League career, led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio, which of course Neymar was also part of.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co, and a video of the two stars linking up in training went viral this week. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career-high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term. He already has two Ligue 1 assists to his name this season, and that is without playing alongside two of the world's best players.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions, and surely the chance to have this sensational front three starting together will be too tempting for Pochettino to turn down – even if it is harsh on the in-form Icardi.

Lionel Messi and Neymar have been training together for Paris Saint-Germain, but Mauricio Pochettino refused to comment whether the pair would feature against Brest.

PSG travel to Brest on Friday fresh from back-to-back Ligue 1 wins against Troyes and Strasbourg, the first time in three years they have begun a new domestic season in such fashion.

Despite a positive start to their campaign, interest continues to centre around Messi, who arrived in Paris after a shock exit from Barcelona amid the club's financial difficulties in August.

However, it remains unclear whether the highly anticipated pairing of Messi and Neymar will be reunited to form a formidable trio with Kylian Mbappe at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

"We haven’t decided the squad yet but we will do so shortly," Pochettino responded in Thursday's news conference when asked about Messi.

"We will analyse whether he can be in the squad. In terms of what Lionel Messi brings, everybody knows that.

"His presence here in terms of what he represents is something we have talked about a lot in recent days.

"I am pleased with how he has settled in and how he has connected with squad. When you have talent at this sort of club, the understanding is not just in the dressing room but also on the pitch."

 

As part of a fearsome frontline with Luis Suarez at Barcelona between 2014 and 2017, Messi and Neymar between them created 2.1 chances for one another per 90 minutes, resulting in 22 assists for the duo.

But, like Suarez when he moved to Barcelona, it is Messi who will have to quickly link-up with an already established pairing, Mbappe and Neymar.

Neymar's injury troubles have meant that he and Mbappe have only played 3,552 minutes together – less than half as many as Messi and Suarez – though they have combined for 102 chances (2.6 per 90) and 21 assists (one every 169 minutes).

However, as with questioning over Messi's inclusion, Pochettino kept his cards close to his chest as to whether Neymar would feature.

"As I said, we are assessing that and of course, we take physical and footballing attributes into account," the head coach reiterated. "Within the squad, we have to find the right balance."

Mbappe, who is the only player to have recorded more than one assist following a ball carry in Ligue 1 this term (two), is the third part of Pochettino's forward puzzle, but his future remains in question.

With just a year left on his current deal, links to Real Madrid were expected to be quashed by Messi's arrival as the Frenchman realises his opportunity to challenge for Champions League glory at the Parc des Princes.

"I think he [Kylian Mbappe] is very motivated and working hard ahead of this season," the former Tottenham boss added. "We are thinking the same things we have been thinking in recent weeks. He is our player and I want him to be here this season."

"The most important thing is Kylian Mbappe is calm and knows what he is doing. He knows what he wants to do. We know that he is our player. We want him to be here.

"My conversations with Kylian Mbappe are all about football. He has another year on his contract and even if he doesn’t renew, he is still a PSG player and we are pleased with him, and from what I understand, he is pleased with us."

Paris Saint-Germain had last played in front of a full Parc des Princes on February 29 last year, a 4-0 win over Dijon. It's unlikely many fans in attendance on that day would have contemplated the idea of Lionel Messi being present upon their next visit.

Yet despite Messi not actually being involved, his presence was certainly felt.

The Barcelona great – like the rest of PSG's new signings – was paraded on the pitch before kick-off of Saturday's visit of Strasbourg, simultaneously setting fans' tongues wagging and surely leaving Ligue 1 defenders quaking in their boots, if they weren't already.

As Messi stood there with a big grin on his face, arm around Sergio Ramos of all people, the sheer nonsense of the situation just set in a little more. Previously two pillars of arguably the most famous rivalry in world football, now they're both party to the same 'galactico' project in Paris.

Understandably, the pre-match show helped stir up an incredible atmosphere, and it all seemed to rub off on the players as well, with PSG 3-0 up inside 27 minutes.

But if there was one thing PSG's eventual 4-2 victory suggested, it was that Ramos' arrival is arguably the more important of the two transfers.

After all, Messi wasn't the only one of their soon-to-be first-choice front three absent; Neymar was sat up in the stands next to him, owing to lack of fitness following his Copa America exploits.

But they still had Kylian Mbappe out strutting his stuff, seemingly relishing all eyes being on him, the France superstar tormenting the Strasbourg defence relentlessly with his direct running and astonishing pace.

Perhaps it was a taste of what life might be like at Real Madrid should he choose not to renew in Paris; he was the main man and the star of the show, whereas he'll soon have to share the spotlight with not just Neymar but his old Barcelona pal as well.

That's not to say Mbappe looked anything other than focused on where he was, in what was his 150th Ligue 1 appearance.

 

Soon after Mauro Icardi – another big name, though one who'll likely be reduced to a back-up role – nodded PSG in front in just the third minute, Mbappe carved open the Strasbourg defence with a disguised pass in from the left, though it was ultimately a little too deceptive as it even caught Georginio Wijnaldum flat-footed.

He was then in the thick of the action as PSG went 2-0 up, cutting in from the left and hammering a ferocious effort that went in off Ludovic Ajorque, and Mbappe did much of the damage to make it 3-0, too.

Stepover. Shimmy. Another stepover and then an explosion of pace. He made himself the tiniest bit of space to squeeze a left-footed cross into the danger zone and Julian Draxler was on hand to tap in.

Mbappe somehow failed to add another himself, shooting at Matz Sels twice after the break. The second of which, in the 62nd minute, was a particularly strong opportunity with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.35 – the one he created for Draxler was 0.90.

By that point Strasbourg had already been given some encouragement, with Kevin Gameiro capitalising on the shoddy awareness of Achraf Hakimi and Thilo Kehrer in the 53rd minute to ghost between them and head in.

Then, swiftly after Mbappe's second miss, Ajorque made a mockery of Presnel Kimpembe as he slashed the deficit to one goal with an emphatic header that also left Keylor Navas helpless.

 

For a significant part of the second half, Strasbourg looked the better team. PSG had seemingly become comfortable with their lead and that complacency was being capitalised on by the visitors.

But two yellow cards in quick succession for Alexander Djiku essentially spelled game over for Strasbourg, and PSG made it 4-2 soon after through Pablo Sarabia.

Majeed Waris should have pulled one back, his shot into the side-netting seeing him waste a chance with an xG value of 0.38, making it the worst miss of the day.

 

Mauricio Pochettino's men ultimately survived this scare, but their second-half drop-off will have been a real worry for the head coach and his staff – had Strasbourg got the score back to 3-3, it would have been utterly humiliating.

While this was of course a PSG without Marquinhos, their defensive frailty and seeming arrogance when thinking the game was won had Ramos' signing looking like an absolute necessity.

Lionel Messi will be made to wait for his Paris Saint-Germain debut after being left out of Mauricio Pochettino's 22-man squad for Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Strasbourg.

The Argentina international completed a shock move from to PSG on Tuesday, having left Barcelona, but has not played since the Copa America final on July 10 and has only trained twice with his new team-mates.

Pochettino suggested on the eve of the game with Strasbourg that he would not take any risks regarding Messi's fitness and it has now been confirmed the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will play no part at the Parc des Princes.

Neymar is also not included in the squad as he builds up his fitness following his own participation at the Copa America with beaten finalists Brazil, while Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria are other high-profile omissions.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Friday that Sergio Ramos, signed on a free transfer from Real Madrid last month, will be out of action until after September's international break through injury.

Kylian Mbappe is in contention to play a part against Strasbourg, however, and the France star will make his 150th league appearance for PSG and Monaco should he feature.

The World Cup winner has scored 107 goals across that period – only Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted more in this first 150 appearances over the last 40 campaigns (113 goals in 122 games).

PSG kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win at Troyes last week and are seeking back-to-back wins to begin a new league season for the first time in three years.

Pochettino's men are unbeaten in their 30 Ligue 1 home games against Strasbourg (W23 D7), which is a French top-flight record for one team at home against a specific opponent.

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has accused successor Joan Laporta of badly managing the club's finances as the fallout surrounding Lionel Messi's departure continues.

Bartomeu, who stepped down as Barca chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role, also questioned why Barca reached an out-of-court settlement with former player Neymar over money owed in an open letter to his successor.

Laporta pointed the blame at Barca's former board for leaving the club in such a bad financial mess that they were not able to fulfil an agreement with star player Messi over a new long-term deal.

However, commenting on Messi's high-profile exit for the first time, Bartomeu has insisted his planned economic measures would have helped Barcelona through the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as he switched the focus of the blame to Laporta.

"As is known, our board of directors planned to call elections on March 21, within the statutory period at the end of our mandate, which would have allowed us to take on and carry out the settlement of the 2020-21 season accounts," Bartomeu said. 

"We would then have taken the decisions necessary to avoid arriving at the current financial situation.

"We would have been the only ones responsible for the closure [due to the pandemic] and its consequences, a decision that the new board has not taken throughout these past months, making clear their inaction."

Bartomeu went on to suggest that the club could possibly have stayed within LaLiga's salary cap limit, and therefore prevented Messi from joining Paris Saint-Germain, had they accepted external support.

"From April 2020 we began the Barcelona Corporate project, consisting, in summary, of the entry of four strategic partners," Bartomeu said.

"If [Laporta's] board had approved the [Barcelona Corporate] project, it would have meant a capital injection of at least 220 million euros with the aim of reducing the income losses caused by COVID...which in 2020-21 could be 375 million.

"If to those 220 million euros we had added the necessary 20 per cent salary reduction (90 million euros) from the players' contracts, essential from March 21, 2021, when the worst expectations were confirmed, the salary ratio dictated by LaLiga would have been complied with, allowing for players to be registered."

Bartomeu then switched focus to the recent news that Barcelona had reached an amicable agreement to end their long-running dispute over Neymar's move to PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in August 2017.

The Brazil international had claimed he was owed €43.6million in unpaid bonuses by Barca, but the LaLiga giants counter-sued for a breach of contract and a judge ruled in the club's favour, ordering Neymar to pay €6.7m.

Bartomeu added: "Also surprising is his decision to forgive former player Neymar in the framework of a litigation where the expectations in favour of FC Barcelona were quite clear and the auditor did not oblige, in any case, to supply any amount.

"Why did you make this decision contrary to the interests of the club?"

For Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League rivals, the most daunting thing is that they have seen this all before.

Lionel Messi has been unveiled as the Ligue 1 giants' latest superstar signing, reuniting him with friend and former team-mate Neymar at the Parc des Princes.

As Barcelona did between 2014 and 2017, though, PSG have more besides the great Argentina and Brazil number 10s.

At Camp Nou, Luis Suarez arrived from Liverpool to quickly link up with his two fellow forwards and fire Barca to European glory.

This time, Kylian Mbappe, already at PSG, is the third man in a frightening front line.

On paper, it is a terrifying prospect, but can the PSG trio work together as Barca's famous 'MSN' did for three years?

Goals and assists galore

Across the three seasons Messi, Suarez and Neymar played together in Catalonia, the three players ranked first (149), third (128) and joint-sixth (89) for goal involvements in Europe's top five leagues.

Only four players registered both 30 goals and 30 assists in that period and three of them played for Barca. Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, was the other.

Barca and Ronaldo's Real Madrid accounted for six of the 10 highest-scoring LaLiga seasons by a team in the competition's history over the space of those three years.

Spanish football has never before or since been as exciting – and Messi, Suarez and Neymar (and Ronaldo) were at the forefront, pushing one another on.

In that time, Messi and Suarez combined for a goal every 198 minutes in the league (36 in total from 144 chances created together). Messi and Neymar between them created 2.1 chances for one another per 90 minutes, resulting in 22 assists, while Suarez and Neymar were also an effective combination with 26 assists.

 

Messi and Neymar had already had a single season together in 2013-14, so it was Suarez's seamless introduction that was most impressive. His 43 assists over those three years tied with Messi and trailed only Kevin De Bruyne (47).

This time it is Messi's turn to join an established duo, with Neymar and Mbappe setting an alarming standard in their limited time together on the pitch.

Injuries to Neymar have limited them to 3,552 minutes – less than half as many as Messi and Suarez over a longer period – but they have combined for 102 chances (2.6 per 90) and 21 assists (one every 169 minutes).

Missing the middle man

The similarities in this context are clear, but Mbappe and Suarez are very different players in a number of ways, including their positioning. Messi and Neymar have changed their roles since they first combined, too, and that is why this front three might require a little work at first.

In 2014-15, their first season together at Barca, the Blaugrana trio's touch maps told the tale of a balanced forward line.

A huge 60.1 per cent of Neymar's touches were on the left flank in the attacking half, with 33.4 per cent concentrated in an area just outside the box.

With the former Santos man staying left, Messi and Suarez were able to link up across the rest of the final third. Messi started from the right but took 22.5 per cent of his touches in the very centre of the attacking half, the same zone in which Suarez enjoyed 17.9 per cent of his touches.

Suarez, with 20.4 per cent of his touches on the left wing in the final third and 23.1 per cent on the right, was capable of drifting out to either side to create space but would rarely occupy these spaces for an extended period. That is a crucial contrast to Mbappe.

Mbappe last season took 57.9 per cent of his touches on the left flank in the attacking half, with only 11.6 per cent on the right. That left-sided share actually dwarfed Neymar's 46.3 per cent in the same position, indicating both their lack of playing time together and a slightly freer role for the world's most expensive player.

 

Indeed, the natural striker is the one of the three PSG forwards who uses the least of his touches through the centre. Messi, like Neymar, has become even more of a central figure since breaking away from the 'MSN' attack, last term taking 25.1 per cent of his touches in a central position just outside the box.

These touches speak to a fluid PSG approach, but they may need Mbappe to stretch the play down the middle and provide a focal point – something Suarez did that suits neither Messi nor Neymar.

Pressing from the front

Barca's front three of 2014-15 were not just brilliant in possession, they were also an effective force without the ball, winning it back to quickly get on the attack once more.

Luis Enrique's men allowed just 7.0 passes per defensive action (PPDA), not letting their opponents rest and forcing 370 high turnovers that contributed to starting their attacks 44.7 metres upfield on average.

PSG are starting from a slightly lower, if still impressive, base in a pressing sense this season. They allowed 8.9 PPDA and forced 337 high turnovers to start attacks 43.7 metres upfield on average.

It is likely Mauricio Pochettino, who employed a pressing game at Tottenham, will want to move up another gear in his first full season at the club, but that might be easier said than done with the players at his disposal.

In 2014-15, Messi led all LaLiga forwards in winning possession 37 times in the final third. Neymar (26) was second and Suarez (16) joint-11th. Across Europe's top five leagues, only Karim Bellarabi (also 37) could match Messi in this regard.

Messi has never since tallied as many final-third recoveries, with that rate of 1.0 per 90 now halved to 0.5 at the age of 34.

Neymar, in limited minutes, reached a new high by winning possession 1.3 times per 90 in 2020-21, yet his tackle rate of 0.9 is considerably down on 2014-15's high of 1.5.

Mbappe twice recovered the ball in the final third in PSG's opening league game of this season against Troyes and last year peaked with 23 such examples across the campaign, but they counted among 59 total possession gains – Messi and Neymar each passed 100 in 2014-15.

So, a revival of that devastating Barca press in Paris seems unlikely at this stage, even if Messi and Neymar, with a new partner, look primed to thrill again.

Whether the silky interplay is as effective without the other side of the game is a query that should be answered by May.

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Lionel Messi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year deal after calling time on his 18-year Barcelona career.

Messi became arguably the greatest footballer of all time at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his prolific spell came to an end after Barca's dire financial situation forced the club's hand.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been a free agent since July 1, though the expectation was for him to sign a new contract at the Catalan club.

However, last Thursday's announcement he would not re-sign with Barca due to "financial and structural obstacles" prompted PSG to move quickly.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target a year ago when he stated his desire to leave, but ended up staying and playing out the final year of his contract.

Having teased the signing throughout the day on social media, PSG finally confirmed it with a video that included footage of their new recruit standing in the centre circle of the Parc des Princes. 

He will wear the number 30 shirt and while PSG confirmed the initial contract length, it is widely reported there is an option in place for a further year.

Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record deal in 2017, and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, with that trio set to form a devastating forward line.

Mbappe's future is in doubt with the France star having only one year left on his contract, though there has been talk that Messi's signing could convince him to agree new terms with PSG.

During his time at Barcelona, Messi claimed four Champions League triumphs alongside 10 LaLiga titles.

The forward finally won a senior international trophy in July, firing in four goals and adding five assists to secure Argentina's first Copa America success since 1993.

Messi's acquisition marks the culmination of a transfer window that has seen PSG add significantly to their squad, signing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi after missing out on the Ligue 1 title and losing in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

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