Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is a free agent after his time with Barcelona officially ended.

The Argentina international has been heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi is yet to declare his intentions and unlikely to confirm his next move until later this week at the earliest.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD CONSIDERS LAST-MINUTE MESSI MOVE

Manchester United have entered the race for free agent Messi and are considering a late offer to pip PSG, claims the Daily Star.

Messi's exit from Barcelona was confirmed over the weekend, although the 34-year-old refused to declare his next destination amid strong links with PSG.

The report claims United are considering an opportunistic bid, with competition still swirling for Messi's signature and his PSG move unlikely to be progressed until later this week.

However, Ole is reporting that Messi will be in Paris on Tuesday, with the PSG deal almost done.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS claims that Messi's imminent move to Paris Saint-Germain could signal a transfer swoop from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe. PSG and Mbappe appear to have been drifting apart in recent times, with the France international opting not to extend his contract due to expire in 2022.

- Messi's imminent move means PSG have ended their interest in signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba,  according to Le Parisien. The France international's agent Mino Raiola had opened talks with PSG about a switch and Pogba was keen on the move but no offer was made.

- Chelsea and Roma have agreed to Tammy Abraham's transfer terms with the move subject to the player's approval, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. This is part of a cascade of moves as Chelsea are set to land Romelu Lukaku from the Nerazzurri, with Roma striker Edin Dzeko headed to Inter.

- Lyon have submitted a bid for Liverpool's Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, claims L'Equipe. Shaqiri was largely a bit-part player at Liverpool last season.

- Liverpool are also looking to add to their squad as they eye a move for young Belgian talent Jeremy Doku from Rennes, according to Voetbal 24.

On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.

Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.

Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.

Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.

Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.

That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.

An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.

But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?

 

HIS UNITED RECORD

Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.

Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba's 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).

Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories –  a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.

He has missed 56 league games, with United's win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.

It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes' arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.

The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes' goals have come from the penalty spot.

Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman's 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.

Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).

 

PARIS FOR PAUL?

With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.

PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.

Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.

Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder's 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino's midfield.

Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG's best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.

However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries  – could the pair form Pochettino's pivot next season?

While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following Sunday's press conference and farewell.

Paris Saint-Germain have been widely linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The Argentina international admitted that a move to PSG was a possibility but said nothing was confirmed.

TOP STORY - MONDAY PSG MEDICAL FOR MESSI

Messi is scheduled to have a medical with PSG on Monday before he completes his free transfer move from Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

The Argentina international bid farewell to Barcelona on Sunday and the Parisians appear the frontrunners to sign him.

The report says PSG and Messi have almost agreed to all the final details of the contract, with ESPN claiming he will be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Eiffel Tower this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter are targeting Anthony Martial as they look to replace Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to join Chelsea, reports The Sun. Manchester United are believed to be ready to sell him for £50million. Inter want Martial initially on a season-long loan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Jose Mourinho's Roma are plotting a move to sign French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal. The stumbling block may be that Lacazette wants to play Champions League football, which Roma cannot offer this season.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic if they cannot land Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. The Serbian scored 21 league goals for Fiorentina last term.

- Arsenal and Newcastle have agreed to a fee of £25m for English midfielder Joe Willock, claims Sky Sports. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are trying to lure Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back to the club on loan from Liverpool.

 

Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona. The 34-year-old superstar was expected to sign a new contract, but financial restrictions mean his 21-year stint at the club is coming to an end.

Messi, who has been a free agent since the end of June, is now set for pastures new, with Paris Saint-Germain seemingly his destination.

But before potentially linking up with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos and the rest of Mauricio Pochettino's star-studded squad, Messi held a farewell news conference in Barcelona.

He was in tears as he took to the stage in front of the media, his family, club officials and his Barca team-mates, who all gave the six-time Ballon d'Or winner a standing ovation.

Here are the best quotes from Messi's Barca goodbye.

The opening statement...

"These recent days I've been giving lots of thought to what I could say, and the truth is that I can't think of anything. This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life, I'm not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense with the burofax I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say but this year is not the same.

On making Barcelona his home...

"My family and I were convinced I wanted to stay here, that's what we all wanted more than anything. We thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona, today I have to say goodbye to all of this. I've been here so many years, my entire life since I was 13. After 21 years I'm leaving with my wife, my three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can't tell you we won't come back because this is my home, and I promised my children that.

His final farewell...

"I gave everything for this club for this shirt. I'm so grateful for the care that people have shown me. I've never imagined having to say goodbye because I never thought of it. I never imagined it this way. I imagined it with people in this pitch. I leave this club without seeing the fans for a year and a half. If I'd imagined it I'd imagined it with the Camp Nou full and being able to say goodbye properly."

On his favourite Barca memory...

"It is really difficult to choose just one moment. A lot of things I've lived, good things and bad things. Maybe the time when I made my debut. That was my dream come true and everything that came later was amazing, but I'll always remember that moment that everything started."

Where to next?

"When the press release was published, I had a lot of calls, a lot of clubs that were interested. At the minute, I've not got anything closed but we're talking about a lot of things."

Facing Barca with his next club?

"The people in Barca know me, they know I'm a good player and they know I like competing. If I'm going to come here, then like I did here I'll fight to win everything. The last years of my career I'll finish it in my way, competing and fighting for titles, ending my career on a high."

On doing everything to stay...

"What's clear is that I did everything possible, they couldn't do it because of LaLiga. We did everything we could because I wanted to stay. Last year, I didn't want to stay and I said it. This year, I wanted to stay and I couldn't. Everything was arranged with Laporta and the club, but it wasn't possible in the end and that's all there is to it.  A lot was said and from my part, I wanted to stay as well, but it just couldn't be done because of things to do with LaLiga."

On media speculation...

"I offered to reduce my contract, my salary by 50 per cent and they didn't ask for anything else. The news that I asked for 30 per cent more is a lie. I did everything possible, we did everything possible. A lot of what people are saying is not true and like I said, I did everything."

How will Barca look post-Messi?

"Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world, they have an amazing line-up. A lot of players will come and go, and like [club president] Joan Laporta said, this club is more important than any one person. People will get used to it, at first it will be weird but like everything, people will get used to it. They have great players, a great squad and in the end, it will be easy for them."

Any regrets?

"I would have liked to have won another Champions League. We got to the semi-final [in 2019] and were knocked out by Liverpool. That's football. But I don't regret anything. I tried to give my best, sometimes it works out for the better or worst. I'm of the opinion we could have won more, but I achieved my objectives. It's always nice to win more titles but I'm ending my career here with all these titles."

Lionel Messi confirmed he could join Paris Saint-Germain after his reluctant departure from Barcelona.

The 34-year-old Argentine superstar is a free agent after his contract at Camp Nou expired.

Barcelona have said they were unable to extend his deal due to financial constraints, and it means their record scorer, who has made more appearances for the club than any other player, must walk away.

That announcement first came in a club statement on Thursday evening, with sending shockwaves through the game.

He could head straight into the arms of French champions PSG, joining former Barcelona team-mate Neymar amid a squad of superstars at the Parc des Princes.

Asked about possibly joining the Parisians, Messi said in a news conference on Sunday: "That's honestly one possibility, to reach those heights. At the minute I've got nothing confirmed with anybody."

According to Messi, there has been interest from a host of clubs in signing him.

He did not mention any potential suitors, and only the richest clubs in the game are likely to be able to afford to acquire him, given his high wages.

"When the press release was published, I had a lot of calls, a lot of clubs that were interested," Messi said.

"At the minute, I've not got anything closed but we're talking about a lot of things."

Asked about the possibility of facing Barcelona with his next club, he added: "The people in Barca know me, they know I’m a good player and they know I like competing.

"If I'm going to come here, then like I did here I'll fight to win everything. The last years of my career I'll finish it in my way, competing and fighting for titles, ending my career on a high."

Messi said it was a horrifying moment personally when he was told his time was up at Barcelona.

"My blood ran cold because it was really sad, really difficult. Right until now we're still trying to process it all. When I'm going to go home I'm going to still feel pretty bad about the whole thing," Messi said.

"But the important thing is we're still okay, my family and my loved ones. And that I get to keep playing football. I'm sure now it's going to be a bit difficult but we need to move on."

Reports in France have claimed Messi will fly to Paris on Sunday, suggesting PSG will be his likely next club.

After 20 years in Spain, such a move will be a wrench for a player who has made the Catalan region his home.

Messi said: "I've still not quite come to terms with the reality of leaving this club and changing my life completely. Now we're going to change again, it's going to be a difficult change, especially for my family, but I know that we're going to be okay. We need to accept it, take it on and move forward."

Lionel Messi was in tears as he confirmed his departure from Barcelona after 21 years with the club.

Messi was set to sign a new deal with Barca, but is now heading for pastures new – likely Paris Saint-Germain – after the Catalan giants could not afford to fulfill the contract they had agreed.

The 34-year-old took to the stage for a news conference on Sunday, in front of the media, his family, Barca team-mates and club officials.

He was emotional before he even made an opening statement, as he revealed he had never imagined a moment when he would have to leave Camp Nou.

"These recent days I've been giving lots of thought to what I could say, and the truth is that I can't think of anything," said Messi, who subsequently let the tears flow as he received a standing ovation.

"This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life, I'm not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense with the burofax I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say but this year is not the same.

"My family and I were convinced I wanted to stay here, that's what we all wanted more than anything. We thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona, today I have to say goodbye to all of this.

"We've always made this our home, we're at home and we thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona. The time we've had here in the city and the sport has been amazing but today I have to say goodbye to all of this.

"I've been here so many years, my entire life since I was 13. After 21 years I'm leaving with my wife, my three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can't tell you we won't come back because this is my home, and I promised my children that.

"I'm just really grateful for the club, my team-mates all the people by my side. All the people, even though some of them I only met a few times. 

"I want to say to everyone at this house, for the love that I've had to live so many experiences at this club, all of this helped me to grow, helped me to improve and make me into the person I am today.

"I gave everything for this club for this shirt. I'm so grateful for the care that people have shown me. I've never imagined having to say goodbye because I never thought of it.

"I never imagined it this way. I imagined it with people in this pitch. I leave this club without seeing the fans for a year and a half. If I'd imagined it I'd imagined it with the Camp Nou full and being able to say goodbye properly."

England international Kieran Trippier has expressed his desire to return from Spain this off-season.

The Atletico Madrid full-back has spent two seasons in Spain, helping Diego Simeone's side win LaLiga in 2020-21.

A former Burnley and Tottenham defender, Trippier has been pursued by Manchester United who are yet to agree a fee with Atletico.

TOP STORY – ARSENAL ENTER TRIPPIER RACE

Arsenal have joined United in targeting Kieran Trippier, reports The Sun.

The Gunners see Trippier as Hector Bellerin's replacement, with the Spaniard having been linked with Inter as he aims to make a move away from north Lonndon.

Atletico are demanding €40million (£34million) for 30-year-old Trippier.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sunday Mirror are reporting that Harry Kane will need to force through his transfer from Tottenham to Manchester City, after Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's claim the England captain is not for sale. City are reportedly prepared to wait and start the new season without a recognised striker.

- Inter are closing in on a deal for Atalanta's Colombian forward Duvan Zapata, with an offer of €30m on the table, reports Cesar Luis Merlo. Zapata is seen as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, with the Belgium striker set to exit for Chelsea.

- Atalanta are ramping up their move to sign Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham as part of the three-club shuffle. Fabrizio Romano claims the Atalanta board will meet Chelsea in the next 48 hours, with a price tag of around €40m to be discussed.

- Paris Saint-Germain have held advanced talks with the agent of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly about a move, reports Foot Mercato.

- Burnley are struggling to complete a move to sign RB Leipzig's Ademola Lookman on loan, according to The Sun.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted his players were not distracted by Lionel Messi rumours ahead of Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Troyes.

PSG commenced their Ligue 1 campaign with the come-from-behind victory after goals from new signing Achraf Hakimi and Mauro Icardi.

The Parisians have been heavily linked with Lionel Messi in recent days after Barcelona confirmed his departure but Pochettino insisted that had no impact on his team's display.

"No, I don't think so, the players and the team have been focused," Pochettino said at the post-game news conference. "They are professionals.

"His name is associated with different clubs, there are plenty of rumours, but the players have remained committed, they will be until the end of the transfer window.

"We will see what happens in the next few days."

Pochettino admitted it was a "difficult" game for PSG, who are aiming to re-claim the Ligue 1 title after missing out to Lille last season.

“It was a very difficult meeting, we did not start well," the Argentine said. "We conceded an early goal, we have to do a lot better. We conceded too many chances for my liking.

"There were good and not-so-good periods in the game but overall I'm happy. It was very important to get the three points and start the season in this way.

"We have to give credit to Troyes who made the game difficult for us. I hoped for better, but the opponent showed energy.

"We are still at the beginning of the season, still in the process of breaking in. We still hope to win 5-0, but we take this victory as it is."

PSG return to action on Saturday against Strasbourg.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the newly promoted hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

What does this mean? PSG off on the right track

A good start to make amends for last season's underwhelming campaign was vital for Pochettino and they began in positive fashion despite an initial blip.

While PSG had lost just one of their previous nine opening games in Ligue 1 (W5 D3), they were beaten by Lens to open the 2020-21 season. However, Saturday's win sets the visitors off in the right direction to reclaim their crown.

Hakimi's happy debut

Hakimi's equaliser rapidly removed any nerves for the away side, smashing in to become the first player since Metehan Guclu in 2019 to score on his top-flight debut for PSG.

Since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, only Robin Gosens (34) has more goal involvements for a defender across Europe's top five leagues than Hakimi (31), while his goal here saw him become just the second Moroccan to score in Ligue 1 for the club.

Tough outing for Touzghar

Yoann Touzghar almost profited from Kimpembe's early error to square across Navas' goal, though his performance declined from there on in.

The forward cut an isolated figure up top, winning just 33.3 per cent of his duels as he touched the ball just 20 times – the lowest figure for any player who started the game.

What's next?

PSG host Strasbourg next Saturday - could Messi be part of the squad by then? As for Troyes, they travel to Clermont Foot the day after.

Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 victory despite suffering an early scare against Troyes.

Oualid El Hajjam's ninth-minute header had the hosts on top but their delight was cut short 10 minutes later when Achraf Hakimi smashed in a first goal for his new club.

Mauro Icardi doubled the blow two minutes later with what proved to be the winner, poking past goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon after good work by Kylian Mbappe.

Amid speculation over the possible arrival of Lionel Messi in Paris, Mauricio Pochettino's side started positively on the field as they look to recapture a Ligue 1 crown which they have claimed in seven of the past nine seasons.

Thilo Kehrer's last-ditch intervention made amends for centre-back partner Presnel Kimpembe's early mistake as Troyes threatened, though PSG did not escape so lightly from the resulting corner. El Hajjam greeted Dylan Chambost's inswinging delivery as the centre-back nodded past Keylor Navas.

Ander Herrera sent a rising effort into the side netting but shortly after Hakimi restored parity, powering onto Herrera's pass before blasting a right-footed volley into the roof of the net.

Things rapidly worsened for the hosts when Icardi added a second, the forward prodding home after Mbappe's cutback found his team-mate inside the area.

Mbappe thought he had scored himself when he rounded Gallon and curled towards goal, only to be denied by Jimmy Giraudon's goal-line clearance.

Renaud Ripart induced a smart reflex save from Navas to keep out a drilled strike that seemed destined for the net, while Mama Balde's audacious acrobatics had the PSG goalkeeper scrambling after the break.

Back-to-back opportunities followed for the away side to finish the game off but neither went in, Icardi flicking a header wide and Mbappe bending a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

Lionel Messi will appear at a news conference at Camp Nou on Sunday, Barcelona have announced.

The Argentine forward is widely expected to join Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days after Barcelona said they could not afford to retain him.

That means Messi, 34, is likely to share his perspective of the departure that has stunned world football.

His contact expired at the end of June and both parties had agreed fresh terms, only for Barcelona to announce the bombshell news on Thursday that they could not proceed due to "financial and structural obstacles".

The club's all-time record scorer, who has made more appearances for Barcelona than any other player, recently won the Copa America with Argentina.

He landed the Copa del Rey with Barcelona last season, adding to an array of trophies. During his time at Barcelona, the only club of his professional career, Messi has helped the team win 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues, while he has been awarded the Ballon d'Or a record six times.

Barcelona said Messi would address media in the Auditori 1899, a large function room at the stadium, at 12:00 local time on Sunday.

The club added: "On Thursday 5 August, it was announced that the Argentine star will not be staying at FC Barcelona, where he has set club records for appearances, goals and official titles."

There has been no indication of a change in Barcelona's stance, with seemingly little prospect of a U-turn.

Barcelona's announcement of Messi's departure stated it was a move that "both parties deeply regret", with the club citing "Spanish LaLiga regulations on player registration" as preventing them from handing him a new contract.

Like many clubs, Barcelona have been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, while heavy spending on players in recent seasons has largely not paid off, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid winning the most recent two LaLiga titles. 

What Messi has to say about the recent chain of events is keenly awaited.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Friday: "There was a moment when La Liga insinuated to us that the proposed contract could suffice, but after a technical analysis by its financial commission, they then informed us that wouldn't fully suffice either."

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

Mauricio Pochettino admits Paris Saint-Germain are "working hard" to improve the team amid strong links to free agent Lionel Messi.

PSG open a new Ligue 1 season with a trip to Troyes on Saturday, though Pochettino's pre-match media conference understandably saw a focus on the possibility of a big-name arrival in the French capital.

Messi is looking for a new team after Barcelona confirmed they will not be signing the Argentina superstar to a new deal on Thursday, ending his long association with the club as they grapple with financial issues and LaLiga salary restrictions.

The 34-year-old was said to be a target for PSG a year ago when he wanted to leave Camp Nou, only to end up staying put to play out the final year of his contract.

Pochettino confirmed sporting director Leonardo and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi are looking into making further additions to the first-team squad.

"As I said before, we are focused on the start of the season," the PSG boss said.

"At the same time, the club is working hard and discreetly in the transfer window to improve the team in order to reach the goals set for this year.

"Regarding Messi, we know what happened yesterday, but we are focused on the Troyes game and the desire to have a good game to start the season.

"Leonardo and our chairman are working to improve the team."

When the subject of Messi was raised again later, Pochettino replied: "In Messi's case, it's the quality of a player of this caliber that counts.

"The club works hard, assesses options and of course Messi is one. But our priority is to prepare well for the match against Troyes."

PSG have already had a busy window, bringing in goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, centre-back Sergio Ramos and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum on free transfers, as well as signing Achraf Hakimi from Inter.

Not all the new faces will be involved against Troyes, with Pochettino confirming Ramos will have to wait to make his debut as the Spaniard recovers from a calf injury.

Kylian Mbappe could feature from the outset, however, having missed the Trophee des Champions defeat to Lille last weekend.

The France international's own future at PSG is the subject of much speculation as he moves into the final year of his current deal, with Real Madrid reportedly determined to sign the former Monaco star.

"He is at the disposal of the team," Pochettino said. "There is a high percentage chance that he will start the game."

So now we know: Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona.

Having pushed hard to force through an exit a year ago, the Argentina superstar appeared set to commit his long-term future to the Spanish club by signing a new deal this offseason.

However, his Camp Nou days now appear over due to "economic and structural obstacles", despite reportedly agreeing to take a 50 per cent wage reduction. Put simply, the dire financial situation means Barca cannot keep their prized asset.

Unless there is another dramatic twist to the saga (and we definitely should not rule that out just yet), Messi must find a new home.

So where could the six-time Ballon d'Or winner end up? The list of options appears to be short, albeit varied.

Hello, Paris!

Paris Saint-Germain are the early front-runners in this unexpected race, and rightly so. Thanks to owners Qatar Sports Investments, the Ligue 1 side have the financial backing to make Messi a tempting offer, plus they would give him a chance of Champions League glory once again – they were beaten finalists in 2020, then knocked out in the last four the following season.

Compatriot Mauricio Pochettino is there, as too are international team-mates Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria. When you add in another familiar face in former Barca colleague Neymar, it suddenly seems like a cosy, obvious fit. Such a signing could also help sway Kylian Mbappe to sign a new contract, or at least make it far more palatable to consider cashing in on the Frenchman before his deal runs out.

The Pep reunion tour

A year ago, when Messi made us look up exactly what a burofax is, Manchester City appeared the likely landing spot. A once rock-solid relationship with Barca appeared in tatters, amid disgruntlement over what was happening both on and off the pitch. Moving to England would have finally answered the old line of, 'Yeah, but can he do it on a wet Tuesday in [insert team here]?', as well as reuniting him with Pep Guardiola, the coach who twice steered Barca to Champions League glory.

However, City have seemingly moved on since missing out on Messi. Not so long after Barca's statement was released, the Premier League champions confirmed the signing of Jack Grealish for £100million. Harry Kane has also been heavily linked with them, and the England captain will not come cheap (certainly if Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has anything to do with it). Even with City, there is a limit to how much you can spend.

Made in Chelsea

So how about Messi moves to the Premier League anyway, but just not to the club where everyone once expected? Chelsea have not been mentioned too much as a possible destination, either last year or now, but they have the resources and are seemingly keen to add to their attacking options, considering rumours of moves for Erling Haaland and, more recently, Romelu Lukaku. Unlike that duo, Messi is unattached and available for nothing (in terms of a transfer fee at least).

However, those links to central strikers suggest head coach Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea hierarchy have a certain idea of what they want to add to the squad – and it may not be a 34-year-old who would require a rethink over the entire structure of the team. While Messi would no doubt enhance the Blues, west London appears unlikely to be welcoming him into the neighbourhood.

ML-YES!

Could Messi be set to take the well-trodden path from Europe to the United States? MLS has appeared a viable option for him at some stage in his playing days – he even said so himself in an interview with La Sexta in December 2020: "I would like to play in the United States someday, it's always been one of my dreams... but I don't know if it will happen!" Well, that dream could now become a reality, with the competition having a history of attracting big names in the twilight stages of their careers.

David Beckham did just that, and now he is heavily involved with Inter Miami – perhaps the leading MLS option for Messi. New York and Los Angeles could factor into consideration, with the chance for a global superstar to take the plunge in a major market. In truth, though, it seems this idea could come to fruition further down the line, rather than in the coming weeks.

No place like home…

While he has been at Barcelona since his teenage years, coming through the famous La Masia youth academy, Messi started out with Newell's Old Boys in Argentina. A move back to his hometown of Rosario would be a wonderful way to bookend his illustrious playing days. However, having scored 30 goals in 35 LaLiga games last term, he shows no signs of his ridiculously lofty standards slipping just yet.

Diego Maradona did have a brief stint there, with Messi revealing a Newell's number 10 shirt after scoring against Osasuna to pay tribute to the Argentina legend, who died in November 2020. Still, after finally securing a first international trophy with the national team, winning this year's Copa America on Brazilian soil, a return to his roots appears unlikely.

Where will Lionel Messi land?

Barcelona's shock announcement of his departure set rumours flying.

Will it be Paris, Manchester or somewhere else?

 

TOP STORY - MESSI ON THE MARKET

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are rumoured to be the top suitors for Lionel Messi.

The French giants have already made contact with Messi's representatives, according to Fabrizio Romano, and are seen in many quarters as the favourites to land the Argentine forward.

It remains to be seen wherher PSG can take on Messi after making several major moves during the transfer window, while City may be in a similarly difficult situation after finalising their £100million deal for Jack Grealish on Thursday.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola may still be a possibility, though, especially if Tottenham refuse to engage in talks around a Harry Kane deal.

Major League Soccer could also be a possibility, though Messi is expected to remain in Europe for at least a few more years.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have not given up on a move for Kieran Trippier, though they have not come close to Atletico Madrid's £34million demands for the England international, The Sun says.

- West Ham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, Fabrizio Romano reports, with the Serie A side eyeing Matija Nastasic of Schalke as a replacement.

- Arsenal have bid £17m for Lazio striker Joaquin Correa, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Juventus are interested in bringing back Barcelona's Miralem Pjanic on either a loan or a permanent deal, says Calciomercato.

- Roma are lining up a £21m bid for Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, says Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Crystal Palace are among multiple clubs hoping to lure Adam Armstrong from Blackburn, with the Daily Mail saying they are favoured ahead of Norwich City and Southampton.

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