Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Marco Verratti said it is easy to forget the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is a "perfectly normal person".

Messi's arrival at PSG garnered huge fanfare and interest and Verratti admitted players treated the Argentinean as the "king of the locker room" upon his arrival.

However, the Italy international said now he had got to know Messi, he had realised he is a "simple guy".

"We forget at times that Messi is a perfectly normal person like everyone else," Verratti told Sky Sport Italia ahead of PSG's clash with Manchester City on Wednesday.

"It was a difficult start for him, he is settling in more and more, we welcomed him like a king to the locker room and it’s a privilege to play alongside him.

"He's spectacular and enjoys himself in training too. He's a really simple guy without airs and I like people like him, because I am the same. We get along both on and off the field."

Messi scored a Barcelona club-record 672 goals across 778 appearances, and has netted four goals in nine games in all competitions for PSG since his August move.

Sergio Ramos was another big off-season addition for PSG, signing as a free agent from Real Madrid and he is homing in on his long-awaited debut after a calf injury.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted former Madrid captain Ramos is in contention to debut against City midweek, and Verratti was excited about his potential impact.

"Sergio Ramos is a player who needs no introduction," Verratti told reporters. "He has done great things with Real Madrid for many years.

"When we played against him, it was difficult to counter him because he is a player with a great personality, who understands the game well, what he has to do.

"He is a dangerous player in attack, he is a player who defends well, he is a complete player.

"He has shown that throughout his career. We are happy that he can return to the group. It was already a pleasure to train with him during the week. I think that when he's at his best, he can help us a lot."

Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Marco Verratti says it is easy to forget the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is a "perfectly normal person".

Messi's arrival at PSG garnered huge fanfare and interest and Verratti admitted players treated the Argentinean as the "king of the locker room" upon his arrival.

However, the Italy international said now he had got to know Messi he had realised that he is a "simple guy".

"We forget at times that Messi is a perfectly normal person like everyone else," Verratti told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was a difficult start for him, he is settling in more and more, we welcomed him like a king to the locker room and it’s a privilege to play alongside him.

"He’s spectacular and enjoys himself in training too. He’s a really simple guy without airs and I like people like him, because I am the same. We get along both on and off the field."

Messi scored a Barcelona club-record 672 goals across 778 appearances, and has netted four goals in nine games in all competitions for PSG since his August move.

Sergio Ramos was another big off-season addition for PSG, signing as a free agent from Real Madrid and he is homing in on his long-awaited debut after a calf injury.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Ramos is in contention to debut against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday and Verratti was excited about his potential impact.

"Sergio Ramos is a player who needs no introduction," Verratti added. "He has done great things with Real Madrid for many years.

"When we played against him, it was difficult to counter him because he is a player with a great personality, who understands the game well, what he has to do. He is a dangerous player in attack, he is a player who defends well, he is a complete player.

"He has shown that throughout his career. We are happy that he can return to the group. It was already a pleasure to train with him during the week. I think that when he's at his best, he can help us a lot. "

Lionel Messi is set to make his first appearance in the Champions League with Paris Saint-Germain after being included in the squad to face Club Brugge on Wednesday.

The Argentina superstar made a shock move to the Parc des Princes on a free transfer last month after Barcelona were unable to meet LaLiga's financial requirements to offer him a new contract.

So far, Messi has played only 24 minutes of football for PSG, that coming as a substitute in the 4-0 rout of Reims before the international break. 

It remains to be seen if Messi will start against Brugge but he is in the travelling party for the trip to Belgium.

Messi is one of the most decorated players in Champions League history, having won the competition four times with Barca.

It he does play, it would represent a landmark 150th appearance for Messi in Europe's premier competition, and first not playing for Los Cules.

He has scored an incredible 120 Champions League goals, a tally surpassed only by the 135 of Manchester United star and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

During their time together at Barcelona, Messi and Neymar combined for nine Champions League goals in 33 appearances alongside one another (five Messi goals, four Neymar goals). Since 2003-04, only six duos have combined for 10 or more goals in the competition, with three of those pairs involving Messi – 15 with Andres Iniesta, 12 with Luis Suarez and 10 with Dani Alves.

However, centre-back Sergio Ramos must continue his wait to make his debut for PSG. Signed on a free transfer from Real Madrid, the Spain legend remains absent with a left thigh injury.

Ramos is also a four-time winner of the Champions League, lifting the trophy three years in succession between 2016 and 2018.

Mauricio Pochettino admitted he is lost for words when it comes to describing Lionel Messi but said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has settled in quickly at Paris Saint-Germain ahead of his Champions League debut for the club.

PSG signed Messi in August when financial issues left Barcelona unable to retain him, and he played 24 minutes of his new club's Ligue 1 victory over Reims before the international break.

Messi, who won the Champions League four times with Barcelona, is set to make his bow in the competition for PSG against Club Brugge on Wednesday, and Pochettino told UEFA.com that he is preparing well.

When asked to describe his compatriot, Pochettino said: "I may not be the most appropriate person to describe him. There are many more people who have a wider vocabulary to describe him closer to the reality Leo deserves.

"He will always be considered among the best in the world. Since he arrived, he has really adapted very quickly and he's been training very well, trying to achieve his highest level as soon as possible to compete at his best.

"I didn't think it was possible [that he would sign for us], and when an opportunity appears and everything goes so fast, you can't immediately process it. However, there's that connection: we both are Argentinian, we both support Newell's [Old Boys], we both come from Rosario.

"I have also admired him for a long time when facing him as an opponent, so having him now training with us is really nice. We hope that, together, we will be able to achieve what the club desires."

Messi's experience in the Champions League is matched by team-mate Sergio Ramos, who won the competition four times before joining PSG from Real Madrid in July.

Pochettino, who admitted that most of the players in his squad deserve to be in his starting line-up, said Ramos would be able to guide younger colleagues through the pressurised environment of Europe's top competition.

"Sergio is also a player that we think can, given the possibility, convey his experience, his competitiveness," said Pochettino.

"He's a player that has also won everything, just like Leo.

"It's good having him at the club for all that he can share with his team-mates: all that experience he gained at Real Madrid."

Carlo Ancelotti is back in charge of Real Madrid and has plenty on his plate after succeeding Zinedine Zidane.

The Italian called time on an 18-month stay at Everton in order to return to the club where he won the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup in a spell between 2013 and 2015.

However, Ancelotti inherits a Real squad with plenty of question marks over it.

The Spanish giants have just endured their first trophyless season since 2009-10 and so there is plenty for the 61-year-old to consider as he starts his second stint.

Sergio Ramos' future

Ancelotti joins a Madrid side who are on the cusp of losing captain Sergio Ramos for nothing. The Spaniard has long been in talks over a new deal but, with his current contract days from expiry, no breakthrough seems imminent.

Although his last season was hampered by injury that has cost him a place at Euro 2020 with Spain, Ramos still proved his worth time and time again.

Looking at his performances in LaLiga, the 35-year-old posted better statistics in tackle success rate (80 per cent) and tackles won per 90 minutes (0.85) than any of his fellow Real centre-halves.

He was also dribbled past fewer times per 90 minutes (0.28) than Raphael Varane (0.3), Eder Militao (0.48) and Nacho (1.03).

These statistics could well be enough to convince Ancelotti to keep him around.

Does Hazard have a role?

With 21 appearances, four goals, and further injury issues all Eden Hazard has to show for last season, it has been suggested a departure could be the best outcome for all parties.

But Ancelotti will no doubt be tempted to try and get the best out of the Belgian as he looks to fix an attack that needs to offer a wider threat.

Karim Benzema remains from the Italian's first stint, but no other Madrid player got close to the French striker's 23 goals in LaLiga last term, with Casemiro (6), Marco Asensio and Luka Modric (both 5) next best.

Hazard could be key to bridging that gap if he can stay fit for long enough periods.

What next for returning loanees?

One man who could help on the goal front is Gareth Bale, who scored 11 times in 20 Premier League appearances for Tottenham during a season-long loan stay in 2020-21.

The Welshman first joined Real under Ancelotti in the summer of 2013 and could be more open to staying put with a manager who has faith in him after becoming frustrated under Zidane.

It remains to be seen what happens with Martin Odegaard, who will return from a loan spell at Arsenal where he impressed but perhaps not to the degree necessary to earn a starting place in Madrid.

The futures of Luka Jovic and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain as they return from Eintracht Frankfurt and Milan respectively.

One big sale?

With Real feeling the pinch of a season without supporters, it is likely that the new manager will have to generate his own funds in the transfer market.

And, with moving on fringe players likely to be tricky, the possibility of selling a more in-demand asset increases.

Raphael Varane is one possible contender as he heads into the final year of his contract amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester United.

The Frenchman established himself as a regular starter in Ancelotti's second season and has missed just 68 of the 266 league games played since that point.

Real conceded an average of 1.1 goal per game without Varane across the past seven seasons, and 0.9 in the fixtures in which he featured.

Interestingly, though, their win percentage rose to 73.5 per cent without him in the side from 66.2 per cent with - will these statistics inform the manager's decision?

One big signing?

Money may be tight at Real Madrid, but that won't stop them being linked to the biggest names in world football.

Kylian Mbappe is one of them, the Frenchman having enjoyed another remarkable season in which he scored more goals (21) and landed more shots on target (55) than anyone else in Ligue 1.

The 22-year-old also converted 60.5 per cent of his big chances - a rate that would help ease Real's problems with lack of goals outside of Benzema.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Ancelotti can pull together the funds to start off his reign with such a high-profile signing.

Aymeric Laporte is set to represent Spain at Euro 2020 after switching his allegiance from France.

Manchester City centre-back Laporte has represented Les Bleus 51 times in total across the under-17 and under-21 age groups.

However, the 26-year-old was never handed his senior debut, despite being called up three times by Didier Deschamps.

Laporte came through the youth ranks at Athletic Bilbao and made 222 appearances for the Basque club until joining City in January 2018.

He was granted Spanish citizenship earlier this week and FIFA has confirmed he can play for Spain with "immediate effect".

A report by Marca earlier this week claimed Spain boss Luis Enrique lobbied the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to look into the possibility of Laporte changing allegiance, so it feels safe to assume he will be a key part of the former Barcelona head coach's plans for Euro 2020.

But how does Laporte compare to Spain's other options at centre-back?

Regular game time

Despite scoring the winner in last month's EFL Cup final against Tottenham and collecting a third Premier League title in four seasons at City, it has been a mixed campaign for Laporte on a personal level.

He went into 2020-21 as Pep Guardiola's go-to centre-back but the arrival of Ruben Dias and John Stones' resurgence means he is no longer first choice at the Etihad Stadium.

Nevertheless, the packed schedule undertaken across all competitions by the Champions League finalists means he has still played 27 games, starting 24 and completing 2,250 minutes.

Of centre-backs used by Luis Enrique this season, that places Laporte third behind Villarreal's Pau Torres (41 games, 3,675 minutes) and Athletic's Inigo Martinez (32 games, 2,914).

Sergio Ramos, who is now widely expected to have a new centre-back partner for La Roja, has been restricted to 21 games and 1,790 minutes by injuries this season, while Diego Llorente (14 games, 1,160) was compromised by a serious groin injury after joining Leeds United.

One would-be international colleague Laporte knows very well is club team-mate Eric Garcia. The 20-year-old is set to leave City after declining to sign a new contract last term.

While running down the clock to his anticipated move to Barcelona, Garcia has become a marginal figure in Manchester, despite Guardiola continuing to profess his admiration of his talents.

His 10 appearances and eight starts amount to 693 minutes, not significantly more than 514 minutes across seven caps for Spain this season.

Indeed, Luis Enrique started Garcia in all three of the March internationals, suggesting his lack of club action is not overly hindering his case.

Keeping it tight in Manchester

City's defensive improvements have been central to their success this season and, although no longer an automatic selection, Laporte has more than played his part.

The 14 goals conceded with him on the field are just four more than Guardiola's side have let in amid Garcia's sporadic outings. Only Torres (13) has amassed more than his 12 clean sheets.

Laporte ranks well across all of the key defensive metrics this season, with 18 tackles placing him level with Ramos and Torres.

Martinez has made 24, while Marcelo Bielsa's famously intense style of play might be largely responsible for Llorente going into 31 tackles during his relatively smaller workload.

Laporte's duel success rate of 63.7 per cent is the best of the bunch, with Martinez contesting and winning the most overall (263 and 149), while Torres is out in front in terms of recoveries (232).

In the air and on the ground

Standing at 6ft 3ins, Laporte will provide the kind of imposing presence Spain have perhaps lacked.

He has contested 100 and won 69 aerials, similar numbers to the 103 and 62 returned by Torres, who is of similar stature. Martinez's 136 contested and 82 won again show the Athletic man getting through plenty of work.

Perhaps Laporte's most celebrated quality is his capacity to start moves from the back via his superb left foot.

Centre-backs completing a high proportion of their passes is not unusual, given the generally simple nature of them, but Laporte generally plays in a notably progressive manner.

He has made 244 passes into the final third this season, more than any of the Spain centre-backs mentioned (Torres 240, Martinez 235), a trait that is sure to be welcomed by the attacking talents in Luis Enrique's squad.

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