Manchester City are reportedly yet to begin talks over a move for Lionel Messi, while Erling Haaland is Barcelona's ideal signing.

Messi's future continues to be a major talking point as the star's contract at Barcelona expires at the end of the season.

City have been one of the clubs most strongly linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, but it seems the Premier League giants are waiting.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY YET TO BEGIN MESSI TALKS

Manchester City are yet to open talks with Lionel Messi, according to ESPN.

The report says City will wait until the Argentina international has decided his Barcelona future before considering negotiations.

It comes after claims the Premier League side had already tabled an offer to Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland is wanted by numerous European giants. Mundo Deportivo reports the Borussia Dortmund star would be Barcelona's ideal signing, but the LaLiga side are considering more affordable options.

- Manchester United were seemingly keen to land Barcelona forward Ansu Fati last year. Mundo Deportivo says a £129.7million (€150m) bid from United for the 18-year-old was rejected ahead of 2020-21.

- With Tottenham slipping to ninth in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho has come under fire. ESPN reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will wait until the end of the season to make a decision on the head coach.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Gianluigi Donnarumma is yet to agree to a new deal with Milan. 90min claims the 21-year-old wants to succeed Manchester United shot-stopper David de Gea as the highest paid goalkeeper in the world, although he is prepared to take reduced terms at Milan.

- Thierry Henry could be set to take over at Bournemouth. talkSPORT reports the Championship club have requested permission from CF Montreal, where Henry is currently in charge, to talk to the Arsenal great.

Carlo Ancelotti dismissed rumours James Rodriguez could leave Everton, insisting the playmaker was "happy" at the club.

A report suggested James, who joined Everton from Real Madrid in September last year, was unhappy and could consider a switch to Atletico.

But Ancelotti played down that talk ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Liverpool.

"He is okay, he has no problem. I talk to him every day, he is happy here, confident, motivated," the Everton manager told a news conference.

"He had a little problem in the last few games with his calf. But now he is in good condition. He really feels good here because everyone takes care of him, and that's it.

"I don't know if he complains about the weather, but the weather we know that it is not the best weather ever, but there are a lot of things good in this area."

James has scored five goals and provided three assists in 17 Premier League games this season.

No Everton player has created more chances than his 30, 22 of which have been in open play, or his eight big chances.

Everton are seventh in the table and three points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, although they have a game in hand.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes any club signing Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland would become a "super team".

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland have been linked to numerous European giants.

Real Madrid have been credited with an interest in both and coach Zinedine Zidane talked up the duo's talent on Friday.

Simeone feels the pair could work together, and said they could create an incredible team.

"They are two great players who have different characteristics. They can be compatible playing together," he told a news conference.

"And the team who can afford to have them both together, they would have a super team."

Atletico are six points clear atop LaLiga and have a game in hand ahead of hosting Levante on Saturday.

Club Brugge's midfield prodigy Charles De Ketelaere has been linked with Milan and Lazio and admits he dreams of testing himself in a foreign league.

De Ketelaere broke into Brugge's first team in 2019-20 and was named the 2020 Belgian Promising Talent of the Year last December, one month after making his senior international debut.

The 19-year-old also finished fifth in the voting for the Belgian Golden Shoe, which is awarded to the best player in the country's top flight.

De Ketelaere has a contract with Brugge until June 2023 and is interested in challenging himself abroad, though he is no rush to leave Belgium.

"Honestly, I do dream of an adventure abroad, but I don't have to right now," he told Krant van West-Vlaanderen.

"I will always make a healthy choice. Only sporting ambitious count. You always want to improve.

"There is no concrete career plan. A few foreign clubs were interested, but if I say that I want to stay at Club Brugge for another three years I would be very happy with that."

 

Brugge sit top of the Belgian Pro League and 13 points clear of second-placed Royal Antwerp.

The impressive De Ketelaere has only started 15 of their 26 league fixtures this season, but he has certainly made his impact felt.

De Ketelaere has supplied 35 key passes, which is the most of any player under the age of 21, and just under half of those have come following a carry.

His tally of 16 carries with a chance created is bettered only by Stef Peeters (18), Francis Amuzu (18) and Xavier Mercier (19).

The teenager is averaging two key passes per 90 minutes in the Pro League this season, as well as one interception, 4.8 recoveries and 1.9 tackles.

Manchester City have denied reports of a £433million package being proposed to lure Lionel Messi to the Premier League.

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of this season, having tried to engineer a departure from Camp Nou last August.

During that time, he was heavily linked to City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola, while Barca's appeal to the superstar forward arguably suffered another heavy blow as they were thrashed 4-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this week.

On Friday, The Sun reported Messi had a five-year proposal worth £606m put to him by City before the current campaign, although this figure has been revised due to the wider financial climate of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will be 34 in June.

However, a club spokesperson told Stats Perform no such offer has been made, nor are there any talks currently ongoing.

Were Messi to sign for City, it looks increasingly likely he would be joining a title-winning side.

Guardiola's men extended their record-breaking winning run for an English top-flight team to 17 matches across all competitions by beating Everton 3-1 in midweek, a result that stretched their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said he felt City were "impossible" to play against after a dazzling second-half showing at Goodison Park, where fine strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva - both players adept in the right-sided attacking roles Messi has filled for large chunks of his career - saw the visitors pull clear.

"I appreciate it, but I don't agree with Carlo, absolutely I do not agree," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal.

"We can lose, the opponents are good and we try to do better than them every single game. This is the only target.

"I love Carlo, he is an incredible inspiration for me as a manager, for many things, but I don't agree with him."

Ilkay Gundogan sat out the Everton game with a groin complaint and Guardiola will make a late call on the Germany playmaker, who has been in sparkling form of late with nine goals in as many Premier League games since the turn of the year.

Gundogan's performances meant Kevin De Bruyne's absence with a hamstring injury was not felt as keenly as might have been expected.

The Belgium star returned from the bench versus Everton and came through will no ill-effects, leaving defender Nathan Ake (hamstring) as City's only remaining senior absentee.

"Nathan is back training on the pitch alone but is closer to coming back with us," Guardiola added.

"Gundo trained just part of the training session today, we'll see how he feels. The rest are fit."

Zinedine Zidane enjoyed watching Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in Champions League action, though he refused to be drawn over his preference amid links to Real Madrid.

Mbappe lit up the start of the knockout stages of the European competition with a hat-trick for Paris Saint-Germain against Madrid's domestic rivals Barcelona on Tuesday, helping the French club record an outstanding 4-1 triumph at Camp Nou.

Just 24 hours later, Haaland continued his astonishing scoring exploits in the Champions League, becoming the fastest player to reach 10 goals for one club as he struck twice for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-2 victory away to Sevilla in the last 16.

Both young forwards have been rumoured as transfer targets for Madrid, so it was hardly surprising they were a topic of discussion for Zidane during his pre-match media conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga trip to Real Valladolid.

Asked for his assessment of fellow Frenchman Mbappe, he replied: "I think the performance he put in earlier this week was marvellous. 

"I loved seeing what he did because we know each other from France.

"It's very good for football, I watched the game as a fan. I had a very good time watching it. He has a lot of good movement, a lot of good play."

French media has claimed Mbappe has been offered a new long-term deal to remain at PSG. The 22-year-old's current contract runs until 2022, which is the same year Haaland can leave Dortmund for €75million (£65m), according to a reported agreement with the Bundesliga club.

Madrid head coach Zidane, however, was not interested in revealing which of the duo he ranked higher.

"Like I said, what I like is just watching football. I just like watching good football, good players on the pitch," he said. 

"Two tremendous players, for now and the future. That's it. I'm not going to say who I prefer over the other. Everyone has their opinion."

The continued rise of Mbappe and Haaland as superstars has led to suggestions they can step in and become the next great pairing, taking over from the longstanding rivalry between Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona captain Lionel Messi.

"They are quality players both of them, just like Messi and Cristiano," Zidane said. "Neymar, all these world class players, they're just like them.

"They're younger, they're demonstrating they are not just players for the future but players for the present."

 

Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Mauricio Pochettino believes Kylian Mbappe’s uncertain future will "be clarified soon" following reports linking the superstar striker with a move away from Paris Saint-Germain.

France international Mbappe lit up the Camp Nou with a devastating hat-trick to crush Barcelona in PSG’s 4-1 Champions League last-16 win on Tuesday.

Following his starring performance, the 22-year-old said: "It would be stupid to decide my future on a single match," sparking speculation about his long-term plans with his hometown club.

Mbappe’s contract expires in June 2022 and some of Europe’s biggest club are rumoured to be circling if the French champions cannot not lock down the World Cup winner to a new deal.

Last year’s losing Champions League finallists, PSG, are currently second in Ligue 1 and Argentine coach Pochettino believes Mbappe can achieve it all at the Parc des Princes.

"PSG can give Mbappe all the tools he needs to be happy," Pochettino told Catalunya Radio program Tot Costa.

"I think it'll be clarified soon."

Mbappe has scored 21 goals in 29 games this season, taking his tally for the club to 116 goals in his four seasons in the French capital since making the move from Monaco in August 2017.

“We have no doubt that Kylian is one of the greatest players in the world despite his youth," Pochettino said after the thumping win against the Catalans.

"He has already done extraordinary things."

Barcelona may be in a financial position to move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland at the end of the season, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Haaland's stock continues to rise following Wednesday's double for Dortmund in their 3-2 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Sevilla.

That made the Norway international the quickest player to reach double figures for goals in the competition for a single club, doing so in just seven matches - three games fewer than Roy Makaay for Bayern Munich between 2003 and 2004.

He has now scored a double in three successive Champions League games, having also netted twice against Club Brugge in the group stage.

Former Salzburg star Haaland has 18 goals in 13 games in the competition overall, which is a tally only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski can match since the start of 2019-20.

That type of scoring form has seen Haaland strongly linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and Barcelona.

Despite Barca's well-known financial struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic, Laporta - who has close links to Haaland's agent Mino Raiola - is not ruling out a possible move.

"If we have to improve the football team, I have the cards and I'm ready to play them," he said in direct response to the links with the 20-year-old attacker.

"It's because of the experience and the knowledge I have of the people who could intervene in all these situations.

"I want to send a message of calm to the Barcelona fans - we will be economically sustainable again."

Laporta is one of three remaining candidates in the running to take over as Barca's next president, along with Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

The elections were originally due to take place in January but had to be pushed back to March 7 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kylian Mbappe's future is in his own hands after showing the world what he is capable of while scoring a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 Champions League demolition of Barcelona.

With his contract in the French capital set to expire in June 2022, Mbappe ultimately has the choice of either signing a new deal or leaving his hometown team – and the World Cup winner has been non-committal so far.

Should the 22-year-old sensation decide to take his career abroad, there will be no shortage of suitors, with four European giants ready to swoop.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER CITY, REAL MADRID, JUVENTUS EYE IN-DEMAND MBAPPE

If PSG cannot persuade Mbappe to sign a long-term extension, they will not want to lose a world-class talent without a fee, so the Ligue 1 champions have placed a €200million (£173m) tag on his head, according to Le Parisien.

Le Parisien reports the price may not deter the Frenchman's admirers, who include Premier League rivals Manchester City and LiverpoolReal Madrid and Juventus.

While those clubs may want him, it is unclear if all of them would be able to afford Mbappe, who is set to make more than €30m per year gross on his next contract. Reports claim PSG will aim to price their Champions League rivals out of a deal.

Lionel Messi is not motivated by money as he eyes titles amid uncertainty over his Barcelona future, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The record six-time Ballon d'Or winner tried to leave Camp Nou at the start of the 2020-21 campaign before opting to stay.

As doubts remain over Messi following Barcelona's 4-1 rout at the hands of PSG in the first leg of the blockbuster last-16 tie on Tuesday, Laporta – one of the remaining candidates in the running for the presidency – remains hopeful of keeping the 33-year-old.

"Giving him affection is very important," Laporta told Sky Sport Italia. "The love story between Messi and Barcelona is one of the most beautiful stories in football.

"He has to be loved. He deserves it. And he has to be valued with an economic offer that makes him feel valued, but he's not led by money.

"I know him, I have a good relationship with him and a lot of respect.

"He's a winner. What he wants is to win again, with Barcelona. I'm going to do everything I can to keep him. Our competitors are state clubs, they are making offers.

"We have to be clear that money doesn't guarantee titles, and Leo is more about winning titles than making money."

Laporta added: "He makes more money than he costs, much more. Messi's cost represents eight percent of the club's total income, while he generates around 30 percent of the income.

"Messi is very profitable for Barcelona, but the most important thing is the emotional return he gives us.

"It's priceless when you ask a young boy or girl who their favourite player is and they immediately say Messi."

Messi's opening goal against PSG was his 20th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions – it is the 13th consecutive campaign he has scored 20-plus goals for the club.

The Barca captain has scored in the Champions League in each calendar year since 2005. This run of at least one goal in 17 consecutive years is the joint-longest run in the competition's history alongside Raul (1995-2011).

Kylian Mbappe is "further away from Real Madrid than ever before" despite slaying Barcelona, according to former Santiago Bernabeu sporting director Jorge Valdano.

Mbappe netted a stunning hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed an overmatched Barca 4-1 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Such a performance will undoubtedly further endear the France forward to the Madrid faithful and he has been frequently linked with a move to the Spanish capital.

The 22-year-old's contract at PSG expires at the end of next season, however Valdano believes his Camp Nou heroics have given him leverage to demand the sort of wage only the Ligue 1 giants are in a position to afford.

"After this, Mbappe is further from Real Madrid than ever before," the ex-Argentina international told Onda Cero.

"He can ask for a €30million salary, the same as Neymar, and only PSG can offer that amount."

Another factor in Mbappe's favour, Valdano suggested, was that a forlorn Lionel Messi - who opened the scoring from the penalty spot - might now hold less appeal when his Barca deal expires in June and PSG consider how they might fill their ample budget.

"I don’t see PSG very interested right now in swapping Mbappe for Messi," he said. "Mbappe changed the scale of values ​."

Valdano feels Madrid should turn their attention to Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, whose prolific exploits remind him of Argentina's 1978 World Cup hero.

"Mbappe is more complete than Haaland, but I think Madrid needs a scorer like the Norwegian," he added.

"Haaland is the Mario Kempes of the 21st century."

Marco Rose has offered assurances he will not try to take any Borussia Monchengladbach players with him when he joins Borussia Dortmund next season.

It was confirmed on Monday that Rose had made use of an exit clause in his Gladbach contract and agreed to take over at Signal Iduna Park from the 2021-22 campaign.

Dortmund have also been linked with a move for Germany international Florian Neuhaus, who has established himself as a key figure under Rose at Borussia Park.

However, Rose ruled out the possibility of any players following him to Dortmund.

Asked specifically if he would oppose the BVB hierarchy if they wished to sign a Gladbach player, he said: "Yes, I would say that.

"If Marco Rose says he won't take a player to Borussia Dortmund, then he won't take a player to Borussia Dortmund. Period."

He added: "Despite my move in the summer, 100 per cent of my energy is in my work here. There had been pressure growing, so I had to make a gut decision and the challenge in Dortmund is what appeals to me.

"I'm very happy to be here and want to carry on until the summer. It was not an easy decision to leave, but one I had to make to calm the situation.

"I completely understand the fans' disappointment. It was a personal decision, but I have always given my best here and will continue to do so until the summer."

Gladbach are in the hunt for a top-four finish in the Bundesliga and have a Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester City approaching.

Sporting director Max Eberl is confident Rose's departure will not be the catalyst for a mass exodus at Gladbach.

"Every player wants to know who his coach will be in the future. We will continue the current discussions with the players and I am convinced that we will continue with them successfully," said Eberl.

"[The club is] not dependent on individual people. I am almost dismayed that it seems that people do not trust that the club will emerge from this situation even stronger."

Jesse Marsch has been tipped to replace Rose at Gladbach, having also succeeded him at Salzburg in 2019, but Eberl was unwilling to comment on the rumours and said there is no rush to appoint a new head coach.

"We will start to take a close look at which coaches could suit Borussia. I will go about by my job in time, but I definitely won't be commenting on any names that we have been linked with," said Eberl.

Manchester United are making plans for Paul Pogba's departure and may have already identified the Frenchman's replacement in Real Madrid's Federico Valverde.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries this season, while veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been in vintage form for LaLiga's champions.

Valverde has only started 12 games in all competitions this season, but the Uruguayan has impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enough for United to step up their efforts to bring him to Old Trafford this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE VALVERDE TO PLUG MIDFIELD

Valverde has shown his class while featuring in 89 games during his three seasons in the Spanish capital and has turned heads at United.

The Red Devils are said to admire his energy and box-to-box qualities as they seek a long-term solution to lock down a place in the centre of Solskjaer's midfield, according to The Sun.

One snag in the recruitment drive could be the Uruguay international's buy-out clause of a staggering £148million, though United can offer him a major improvement on his current £120,000 per week wage.

David Alaba has confirmed he will leave Bayern Munich when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Versatile defender Alaba came through the youth ranks at Bayern but will end his 13-year association with the club after the 2020-21 campaign.

The 28-year-old announced his decision at a news conference on Tuesday, though he did not disclose what his next destination would be.

Alaba has been heavily linked with a switch to Real Madrid, while Premier League giants Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have also been credited with an interest.

"I've decided for me personally to do something new after this season," Alaba told a news conference.

"I will leave the club and it was not an easy decision, it was very difficult because I have been here for 13 years and I really identify with this club, it's close to my heart and I'm very grateful to the club for everything.

"I have not decided which club I'm going to join yet. This will happen in the future.

"In the 13 years I experienced incredibly beautiful moments, the treble in 2013, my debut, the treble last season. These are all moments that are very difficult to describe.

"The 13 years behind me are difficult to summarise in words. It's been an incredible, beautiful and intense time and I'm really grateful."

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of entering the pitch.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 415 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 33 goals and supplying 44 assists in all competitions.

He insisted his relationship with Bayern was still strong and rejected that money was his motivation for leaving despite whet became a public contract negotiation.

"No [it was not financial]," Alaba said. "I have four, five, six, seven years left and that's what I thought about. What is the next step going to be in my career? That's what I based my decision on.

"Internally I always had a good relationship with the responsible people and I still do. This club is my family.

"I didn't worry about that [my contract compared to senior team-mates] at all. We still had several talks following the withdrawal of the contract offer.

"Of course there was a development and the situation evolved, but I decided what I want my path to be.

"Everyone did [fight for me to stay]. Really. Everyone. That's why I'm so grateful. And that's why it was really, truly, a really difficult decision. 

"That's why I did want to take my time to make my mind up. You can't decide it on a whim. I've been here for 13 years and I've been at home here." 

Alaba has racked up 24 trophies, lifting the Bundesliga trophy nine times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

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