Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman remains hopeful Lionel Messi will opt to stay at Camp Nou, but is "not confident" about that outcome.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 33-year-old wanted to leave last season after the club finished without a trophy and he fell out with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi agreed to stay for the last year of his contract when Barca refused his request and has impressed under Koeman, scoring nine goals in his last 10 games.

But Koeman is not convinced a happier Messi this season will result in him remaining with the club for the long term.

"I'm not confident about that," Koeman said to The Athletic.

"I'm hopeful, yes, about this because he's still a great player and he's still winning matches for us, for the team. 

"I'm enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it's incredible. 

"Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don't see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt."

Messi reached 650 Barca goals in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

After the match, Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Messi as he reflected on a leak by El Mundo which claimed the deal his captain signed in 2017 is worth more than €555million.

Koeman was thrilled to get the Barcelona job ahead of 2020-21 but reflected on how tough it had been to immediately handle the Messi saga, which was already under way and has raged on since.

"It was a difficult time because he's still the best player, but he was angry about some situations in the club," added Koeman. 

"And he was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League. 

"Of course, he was angry, he had to leave, he wanted to leave the team.

"First of all, what I said to the club was, 'OK, it's not my problem. It's a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that'. 

"Finally, the club said, 'We don’t make a transfer for him. He needs to stay'. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted it."

Koeman has not had any issues with Messi's attitude.

The former Netherlands head coach added: "I spoke to him in his house before we started the season and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic.

"I knew that he had some problems with the club and I was out of that.

"I said to Leo, 'I'm really happy if you stay. If you don't stay, it's your decision and it's what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team and this will be your position to get all the best out of yourself'. 

"Little by little, he accepted that situation. And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. 

"But nobody knows what will happen in the future."

Achraf Hakimi only moved to Inter from Real Madrid at the start of the 2020-21 season.

But the future of the Morocco international is already making headlines.

Will Hakimi still be an Inter player at the end of the campaign?

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester City are interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Calciomercato.

Hakimi has established himself as a key player for Antonio Conte's Inter after arriving from Real Madrid.

But Inter – in the spotlight amid reported financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic – are facing a battle to keep Hakimi, with Chelsea and Arsenal also chasing the Morocco international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Napoli want to bring back former head coach Maurizio Sarri. Gennaro Gattuso is under pressure and Sky Sport Italia claims the two parties will part in June. Sarri left Napoli for Chelsea in 2018. Former boss Rafael Benitez has also been linked.

Lionel Messi could help bitter rivals Madrid. According to El Chiringuito, Messi's proposed switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain could aid Madrid in their quest to prise Kylian Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu. Mbappe has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are interested in Erling Haaland, but Borussia Dortmund have no intention of losing both the Norwegian and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho at the end of the season.

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed Premier League champions Liverpool and Chelsea are battling the Bundesliga holders to sign RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, with Rummenigge previously stating Bayern's interest in the France international centre-back as David Alaba prepares to leave Munich on a free transfer at season's end.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with moves for the 22-year-old, who has a release clause.

With Bayern determined to bolster their defence, Rummenigge said the German powerhouse are facing serious competition from England for Upamecano.

"In addition to Bayern Munchen, there are at least two quite attractive clubs interested," Rummenigge told Sky in Germany.

"The fact is that the player is interesting, and the fact is that we will almost certainly lose David Alaba at his position. I can't say if there will be other departures at the position," Rummenigge told Sky.

"You have to let things grow in peace. We have a good relationship with Mr. Struth. The player will know what he wants at some point. We have a good relationship with RB Leipzig as well. I have had a conversation with Oliver Mintzlaff. When things become concrete, we'll talk again.

"The fact that Chelsea and Liverpool are also interested in him proves that he has very good qualities. He can replace David Alaba."

Bayern's interest comes as Alaba looks set to swap the Bundesliga champions for LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

Barcelona have also emerged as a possible destination for the 28-year-old, but Rummenigge hinted at a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.

"I am 99.9 per cent sure Alaba will leave the club at the end of this season," Rummenigge added. "We will part in a friendly way and I hope he can say goodbye to us with more titles.

"He is fully committed to us and he is a nice guy that we all like. He deserves to be treated well until his last day at Bayern.

"David can sign for the club he wants. I do not know if he will arrive at an agreement with Real Madrid, but it is a great club and I can understand that it is interesting for him."

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

Southampton have signed Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Liverpool sanctioned a deadline-day temporary move for Japanese star Minamino on Monday after Southampton allowed Shane Long to join promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth on loan.

Minamino has made 31 appearances and scored four goals for Premier League champions Liverpool since arriving from Austrian giants Salzburg in January last year.

The 26-year-old Japan international has scored one goal in nine Premier League matches this season, and four across all competitions.

"I am very pleased to welcome Takumi to our squad for the rest of this season," said Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

"He will help provide another good attacking option, and is importantly the right profile of player for us.

"This will give us some additional depth in our squad at an important time, and I am looking forward to beginning work with him on the training pitch."

Southampton are 11th in the Premier League, 11 points behind third-placed Liverpool – who are four points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

England international Ainsley Maitland-Niles has joined West Brom on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season, with Joe Willock making a similar switch to Newcastle United.

Maitland-Niles was part of the Gunners side that lifted the FA Cup and Community Shield last year, with his performances at wing-back earning a call-up to Gareth Southgate's England squad.

The 23-year-old Maitland-Niles made five appearances for the Three Lions across this season's three international breaks to date, although he has only managed the same number of Premier League starts in 2020-21.

Maitland-Niles, who has played 121 times for Arsenal and became the second youngest player in the club's history after Jack Wilshere when he turned out against Galatasaray in the Champions League aged 17 years and 102 days, is now poised for a relegation fight under Sam Allardyce at second-bottom West Brom.

"Ainsley is a very talented player and we are proud of his hard work and development with us," said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who also sanctioned the departure of Shkodran Mustafi to Schalke on a permanent deal amid a flurry of late deadline day activity at Emirates Stadium.

"This decision to go on loan to West Bromwich Albion for the rest of this season is to support Ainsley and his growth further.

"He will be working at a very good club in the Premier League and we all wish him the best of luck during his time at the Hawthorns."

Willock, whose 17 outings in all competitions this season are just four fewer than Maitland-Niles, will now also be concerned with matters at the other end of the Premier League table.

The 21-year-old midfielder bolsters a Newcastle squad who occupy 15th position, eighth points clear of the drop zone after a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Everton.

"Joe is a young player with great ability who is progressing very well and we are happy with his continued development," Arteta said of the England Under-21 international.

"At this moment in his career, Joe needs to be playing regularly. At Newcastle United, he is going to a very good club with a top quality manager and staff."

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe said Neymar is the centre of the club's project as he hailed the Brazilian star.

Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in a world-record € 222million deal in 2017, but he has been repeatedly linked with a return to his former club or LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The PSG forward pledged to remain in Paris alongside Mbappe prior to Sunday's shock 3-2 Ligue 1 defeat to Lorient.

Mbappe – who is also out of contract in 2022 – has similarly been tipped to leave PSG for Madrid amid doubts over his future but talked up his relationship with superstar team-mate Neymar.

"I've always thought that great players were made to play together - and that's clear between us two," Mbappe told France Football.

"Our roles were established when I arrived in Paris: Neymar is the centre of the project and I'm here to help him.

"[This is] because when I arrived at PSG, I was only an emerging star and I had to prove myself on the pitch."

Mbappe has scored 106 goals and set up a further 54 in 148 appearances for PSG.

Since his debut for the club on September 8, 2017, the only players in the top five European leagues to have registered more goal involvements are Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (186) and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (206).

Neymar, meanwhile, became the first PSG player since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2015 to convert two penalties in the same game as the French giants fell to Lorient on Sunday.

It was only the second time in Neymar's career he has converted more than one penalty in the same game in the top five European leagues, having achieved the feat with Barca in October 2015.

"Neymar knows how to do everything," Mbappe added. "He's the best in the world.

"When he arrived in Paris, we realised everything he could do. He's not a player simply for putting on a show and dancing when you're winning 5-0. He also knows how to do spectacular things at 0-0.

"I don't know if everyone is aware, but Neymar understands everything. He has an instinct that makes him know how to do everything straight away."

Liverpool have made their second defensive signing of transfer deadline day by bringing in Ozan Kabak from Schalke on loan.

The 20-year-old has joined the Premier League champions until the end of this season, subject to international clearance.

His move follows the arrival at Anfield earlier on Monday of fellow central defender Ben Davies from Championship side Preston North End for a reported £1.6m.

Kabak started his career with Galatasaray before joining Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart in January 2019.

He was unable to prevent his new side from suffering relegation and was duly snapped up by Schalke after they activated the €15m release clause in his contract. 

He impressed across 28 appearances in all competitions last season, but he has struggled this term with Schalke sitting rock bottom of the Bundesliga after just one win in 19 games. 

They let in a whopping 38 goals in Kabak's 14 Bundesliga appearances, while the Turkey international conceded the second-highest number of fouls (21) and is the only Schalke player to have been dismissed in the league. 

He did, however, won more duels (99) than any of his team-mates.

Kabak completed his move while still in Germany and will travel to Merseyside later this week.

Jurgen Klopp's side host Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday before welcoming league leaders Manchester City to Anfield for a crunch clash this weekend.

Liverpool defender Joel Matip has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury.

Matip sustained the blow, which robs Liverpool of another key player at the back, in their 3-1 win at Tottenham on Thursday.

The Reds were already without long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, with Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips pressed into service at the heart of defence as Liverpool beat West Ham 3-1 on Sunday.

Moves to address the lack of defensive options were made on Monday's transfer deadline day, Liverpool signing Ben Davies from Preston North End and Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke until the end of the season.

On Matip's injury, manager Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's official website: "It was really unlucky because it was a brilliant challenge he made actually, he saved our life in that moment in the Tottenham game when he won the challenge against Son [Heung-min].

"But he injured his ankle and played the game on and now is out for the season, so you can imagine how much he tried to stay on the pitch and tried to help us.

"We will wait for him. He has now the rest of this season, then the summer, then the pre-season to get ready again and he will be ready again."

Speaking about Kabak, Klopp added: "He came very young to Germany and everybody was clear he was a massive talent.

"He is only 20 now. He plays in his second club [in Germany]; he is at Schalke and unfortunately they are in a bad position in the moment. For him, I think it's a really good moment to make the move because, like each player in the world, you need a stable team around you and that's what we can deliver.

"We deliver a stable team and you can play your position, you don't have to be 20 with pretty much everything on the pitch and not allowed to make mistakes anymore.

"He's really a big, big talent and we are really looking forward to working with him."

Shkodran Mustafi has signed a short-term contract at Schalke after leaving Premier League side Arsenal.

Mustafi's deal at Emirates Stadium was due to expire in June and the Germany defender will now play out the remainder of the current campaign back in his homeland with Bundesliga strugglers Schalke.

The 28-year-old joined the Gunners from LaLiga outfit Valencia in 2016 and leaves with two FA Cup winners' medals.

However, Mustafi fell down the pecking order at Arsenal and only three of his 2020-21 appearances have come in the Premier League after recovering from hamstring surgery.

"Musti has been a key player for us for a long period of time," said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

"He played a very important part in my first season as manager and I'd like to thank him for his professionalism and for always being ready when called upon.

"Everybody at Arsenal wishes Musti well at Schalke."

Mustafi will be reunited with Sead Kolasinac, who is on loan at Schalke and embroiled in the fight to help the Bundesliga's bottom club avoid relegation.

A World Cup winner in 2014, Mustafi arrives in Gelsenkirchen as a replacement for Ozan Kabak in Christian Gross' squad after the Turkey international joined Premier League champions Liverpool on loan until the end of the season.

Juventus defender Daniele Rugani has joined Cagliari on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. 

Rugani spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Ligue 1 outfit Rennes but he made just two appearances.

The 26-year-old has appeared 101 times across all competitions for the Bianconeri, winning the Italian title five times and the Coppa Italia on three occasions.

He has made seven appearances for Italy, the last of which came in a friendly against Netherlands in June 2018.

Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo has joined Nice on an initial loan deal until the end of the season.

The Ligue 1 club have the option to buy the 21-year-old for €8.5million when the loan concludes, in an agreement that could be worth an additional €7m to Barca in variables.

Todibo joined Barcelona from Toulouse two years ago when he was regarded as one of the brightest young talents in European football.

His two LaLiga games in the Blaugrana's ultimately successful 2018-19 title defence yielded neither a win nor a goal, with a 0-0 draw at Huesca on debut followed by a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo.

This is Todibo's third consecutive January move after he joined Schalke on loan last year, going on to make eight Bundesliga appearances before a €25m purchase option was declined.

Opportunities to progress at Barcelona this season were hindered by a positive coronavirus test in August.

The switch to Nice has been made possible by Benfica agreeing to terminate Todibo's loan without the player making a single appearance in the Portuguese top flight.

Liverpool have made their second defensive signing of transfer deadline day by bringing in Ozan Kabak from Schalke on loan.

Jurgen Klopp is excited by Ben Davies' potential following his surprise switch from Preston North End, but concedes the move only happened due to Liverpool's injury problems in the centre of defence. 

Davies joined the Premier League champions on Monday in a long-term deal reportedly worth £1.6million.

The 25-year-old made his Preston debut in January 2013 before spending time on loan at York City, Tranmere Rovers, Southport, Newport County and Fleetwood Town. 

His arrival goes some way to resolving the Reds' issues in the heart of defence. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees, while converted midfielder Fabinho and Joel Matip are struggling with injuries.

That led to Jordan Henderson and the inexperienced Nat Phillips pairing up at the back for Sunday's 3-1 win over West Ham.

While Klopp admits there is an element of good fortune for Davies that Liverpool came calling, the German does believe he has signed a "quality" player.

"What I like about Ben is it just shows that each situation creates opportunities," the German told Liverpool's official website. 

"I think it's probably clear that in a normal transfer window, without any issues, we would not look at Preston to see if there's a player for us or something like that. It's not really likely. 

"But since we saw him and since our situation got clearer and clearer – the problems we had – when we saw him we got really excited about it and thought: 'Wow.' 

"We see the potential really. We see the quality and we see the potential as well because he's 25 and there's a lot to come for him.

"I love a lot about his play. He's a really good footballer, looks like a proper leader in this Preston team, good in challenges, looks football smart, can play different positions because he played in a back three and a back four and all these things. 

"That makes him really interesting so I'm really looking forward to working with him. I know for him it's an opportunity and I see it exactly the same for us, that it's a really good thing to do."

Mauricio Pochettino is convinced star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will still be at Paris Saint-Germain next season. 

Brazil superstar Neymar joined after being bought out of his Barcelona contract for €222million in 2017, making it the most expensive transfer in football history.

He has been repeatedly linked with a return to Spain, either at Barcelona or Real Madrid, but the prospects of such a move now appear remote as those clubs battle with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Madrid have also been linked with a move for World Cup-winning attacker Mbappe, whose contract with PSG is due to expire at the end of next season.

Neymar's deal runs out at the same time but Pochettino, who took over from Thomas Tuchel last month, believes PSG are doing everything in their power to ensure the pair will be lining up for the French champions at the start of the 2021-22 campaign. 

"I believe that both will stay, and will stay a long time at PSG," he told RMC Sport. "And I have no doubts, I am very optimistic. The club is working to succeed in keeping them with us."

Asked if he knew this for certain or whether it was just a feeling, the former Tottenham boss responded: "It's a feeling, but it's also what I see. Neymar and Kylian are happy. They are having fun here and I also believe the club is working to keep them."

Mbappe has scored 106 goals and set up a further 54 in 148 appearances for PSG. Since his debut for the club on September 8, 2017, the only players in the top five European Leagues to have registered more goal involvements are Robert Lewandowski (186) and Lionel Messi (206).

Pochettino was full of praise for the France international, who he says has the football intelligence of someone much older than 22. 

"The other day I was talking to one of his team-mates about him and we were like: 'Who doesn't love Kylian? His smile, his energy' 

"He's young, a world champion at 19. With the talent he has, it's normal to be in love with Kylian. Everyone around him loves him. 

"He's only 22 but he's a very mature boy. He looks like a 35-year-old trained man already. He's very mature and very intelligent, very intuitive, and he understands that there are periods in football, ups and downs. 

"You have to be positive and you have to keep working to change those difficult times. But we have no doubts. Obviously we are talking with Kylian, but we are talking also to all other players."

PSG will hope to bounce back from Sunday's embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Lorient when they host Nimes on Wednesday.

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