Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches after Lautaro Martinez secured a 1-0 victory over Peru in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's 43rd-minute header settled the contest as Argentina stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 on Thursday.

Peru had the chance to snatch a point away from home, but Yoshimar Yotun's 65th-minute penalty cannoned off the woodwork in Buenos Aires.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – second in the standings – temporarily moved within three points of leaders Brazil through 11 qualifying fixtures.

Argentina made a bright start to proceedings at the Monumental, with Rodrigo De Paul in the thick of the action as the hosts saw two shots flash across goal inside four minutes.

Gianluca Lapadula's free-kick forced in-form Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez into an early save, while La Albiceleste found the back of the net in the ninth minute, but Cristian Romero's header was ruled offside following a lengthy VAR review.

In a team headlined by Lionel Messi, De Paul continued to pull the strings with some wonderful passing and he was the centre of Argentina's opener prior to half-time.

De Paul played a neat one-two with Nahuel Molina and the latter picked out Lautaro Martinez, whose wonderful header beat Pedro Gallese two minutes before the break.

Jefferson Farfan came off the bench to make his 100th international appearance – the 36-year-old becoming the sixth Peru player to reach the century club.

He made an immediate impact, earning a penalty after being brought down by Emiliano Martinez but Yotun rattled the crossbar with his spot-kick.

Messi was largely subdued by Peru, though his free-kick 20 minutes from the end forced a save from Gallese.

What does it mean? Argentina go from strength to strength

Argentina were on their knees when Scaloni took charge of the embattled South American giants. Now Copa America champions, Argentina have not lost since July 2019.

De Paul enhances reputation

The Atletico Madrid midfielder has quickly become a key part of Scaloni's XI. De Paul dazzled in the first half with 63 touches of the ball – the most among both teams. He also earned four fouls while completing 36 passes and four crosses in the opening 45 minutes.

Peru's drought continues

Peru have not gone 17 matches without winning against Argentina in World Cup qualifiers, dating back to 1985. The result condemned Peru to back-to-back defeats as they fight to qualify for next year's showpiece.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action next month when they travel to Uruguay on November 10, while Peru welcome Bolivia on the same day.

Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose is optimistic Erling Haaland will return to action this weekend, though he will not take any unnecessary risks regarding his star forward.

Haaland has missed three consecutive league games due to a thigh injury as Dortmund prepare for Saturday's Bundesliga clash with Mainz, while he was also absent for Norway during the international break.

As Haaland nears a comeback, Rose told reporters: "One by one, the boys are coming back. As a matter of fact, we don’t have [exact] comeback dates for certain players.

"Erling is in a sort of integrative training. We will see how the situation will be on Saturday. We will try everything and Erling wants to play so bad. But time is running thin.

"Our game changes substantially when Erling is not with us, that's for sure. But we could already win a Champions League game and a Bundesliga game without him. So we were capable of compensating for his absence. Still, it is very important that he comes back because he gives us a lot. Especially goals, they are very important.

"We will see how it will be on the weekend. We won't complain - we will be happy with whatever is possible. If Erling is not ready to start on the pitch, he will start on the bench. That's not an issue. For him, it is about the fact that he wants to help the team and enter the pitch.

"For Saturday, we will see what is possible. When he can start, he will start. We would be happy about that. If [he's not feeling fit] enough yet but he is feeling well for a few minutes, we will have him on the bench. If he can't play at all, we'll leave him out. This should not be an issue here."

Haaland has scored 68 goals in 67 appearances for Dortmund since arriving from Salzburg in January 2020.

The in-demand Dortmund star opened the season by scoring 11 goals across seven games in all competitions.

Dortmund are third in the Bundesliga standings, a point behind defending champions Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen.

Rose's Dortmund have won each of their last eight Bundesliga matches at Signal-Iduna-Park, scoring at least twice in each. The last time the club celebrated more consecutive league victories at home was in 1994 under Ottmar Hitzfeld (12 – club record).

If his side beat Mainz, Rose would become the first Dortmund coach ever to win each of his first five Bundesliga home games in charge of the team.

Neymar claimed the injury he suffered in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup was one of the worst moments of his career.

During the making of an exclusive new documentary entitled 'Neymar and The Line of Kings', the 29-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star has seemed to suggest his playing days are winding down.

"I think it's my last World Cup," Neymar told DAZN when asked about next year's showpiece in Qatar. He will turn 31 seven weeks after the final of the tournament, scheduled for December 18, 2022.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino, Brazil boss Tite and compatriot Thiago Silva have been among those offering their support to Neymar, who claims he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer.

And, in another excerpt from the documentary, Neymar revealed one of the toughest incidents he has gone through to date, and just how close he was to suffer an injury with serious consequences.

Neymar, aged 22, was Brazil's poster boy heading into the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Only a year on from his move from Santos to Barcelona, the forward was the nation's great hope as it hosted FIFA's flagship tournament.

He scored four goals – including a double in the opening game against Croatia – as Brazil finished top of Group A.

 

However, Neymar's tournament was ended in the quarter-finals, when Colombia's Camilo Zuniga barged into his back, fracturing a vertebra.

"It was one of the worst moments of my career. It destroyed my dream to keep playing in the World Cup," reflects Neymar in the documentary.

"When I felt that pain in my back, I remember that Marcelo wanted to help me up, but I was really in pain.

"I then tried to move my legs, but I wasn't able to. I didn't have the strength to get up. I told them: 'I can't, I can't, I can't feel anything'.

"The doctor told me, 'I have good news and bad news'. I asked him to tell me the bad news first. He said, 'your World Cup is over'.

"I started sobbing, and asked him, 'and the good news?' – he said: 'you were two centimetres away from not being able to walk anymore'."

Brazil held on to progress to the semi-finals, yet without Neymar, capitulated 7-1 to Germany in one of the most humiliating results in World Cup history.

Neymar, fortunately, recovered, going on to help Barca win a treble in 2014-15, before becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined PSG in 2017.

He also helped Brazil win Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, a crown that was retained at Tokyo 2020.

Atletico Madrid's "world class" strike force of Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Angel Correa and Joao Felix will help the club to finish above Real Madrid, Barcelona and any other challengers in the LaLiga title race.

That is the view of ex-Valencia, Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza defender Jose Enrique, who told Stats Perform he also expects Atleti to put up a fight for the Champions League under "annoying" boss Diego Simeone.

The reigning Spanish champions are level on points with city rivals Madrid at LaLiga's summit after eight matches thanks to a 2-0 win over Barcelona – who are five points worse off in ninth with a game in hand – prior to the international break.

Atleti have been far from perfect at the start of their title defence, though, having dropped points against Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo Alaves this term, losing 1-0 to the latter in the shock of the season so far.

Simeone's side have also had to ride their luck at times, with three of their 11 league goals coming in added time and another two arriving in the 78th and 79th minute.

Suarez leads the way with four goals, including a strike against former side Barca two weeks ago, while Correa has three to his name.

With that goal against Barca, the Uruguay international completed the set by scoring against all 31 teams that he has faced in the Spanish top flight.

 

Joao Felix has yet to get off the mark for the LaLiga campaign, though, and Griezmann is also goalless in the league since rejoining from Barcelona at the end of the most recent transfer window.

Yet while Madrid have double the number of goals as Atleti, Jose Enrique rates Los Rojiblancos' attack as the best around and cannot see past them finishing top for a third time in nine seasons this time around.

"I think it will be Atletico," the Spaniard, who also spent eight years in the Premier League with Newcastle United and Liverpool, said when asked who he expects to win the title.

"I know there been some games where they had to struggle in terms of scoring, with 90-something minute winners or whatever. 

"But what they have in the players they have is just incredible. You see the strength of the squad they have. They just signed Griezmann and they have Suarez, Joao Felix, Correa. 

"You talk about those four and for me that could be in any team in the world, and the four of them are strikers.

"Correa can play out on the wing sometimes, Joao Felix as well. But you're talking about four world-class strikers in my opinion. So, for me they are amazing. 

"It is true that that defensively, maybe there's a little bit more. But this is a team that I really believe is going to win the league this year.

"In the Champions League they're going to be annoying again, because Simeone is very, very annoying, always."

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu defended his Camp Nou tenure by insisting that he oversaw a "serious and responsible" period at the club.

Bartomeu stepped down as Barcelona chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership.

Barca won numerous major honours during that era, including their most recent Champions League in 2015, by which point concerns were growing over the club's transfer policy.

There has been a steady decline in recent years and the Catalan giants' financial problems have been laid bare since Laporta took over from Bartomeu in March.

The club's total debt has spiralled to the €1.35billion mark and they were unable to fulfil a contract that had been agreed with Lionel Messi in the most recent transfer window.

On the back of Messi's shock departure in August, Laporta alleged that Bartomeu was to blame due to his "disastrous" running of the club.

However, in his first interview since departing the club, Bartomeu has highlighted some of the positives from his tumultuous tenure. 

"Has our management been disastrous? I know it's a phrase that's been running but our management has been very serious and responsible," he told Mundo Deportivo.

"It was rigorous with a project and strategic plan that was established in 2015.

"Sports management and the entire heritage project prevailed, economically and socially. We've done many projects and we're the board that's been most active.

"But as of March 2020, that serious and rigorous management was truncated by the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, which drastically decreased revenues. 

"From then on we suffered from a deep cut."

Asked again about Laporta's comments, Bartomeu said: "It has not been disastrous. There have been benefits of about €185m. It has been a good management.

"Forbes magazine said that in 2020 the club was the most valuable in the world."

Bayer Leverkusen wonderkid Florian Wirtz has been named as September's Bundesliga Player of the Month after a series of outstanding performances.

The 18-year-old scored three goals and registered two assists in three league games last month, helping Leverkusen to second in the table - behind Bayern Munich only on goal difference.

Wirtz has already managed four goals and leads the Bundesliga charts for assist (five) in just six appearances. In total, the versatile attacker has been involved in a goal every 47 minutes across all competitions, the best minutes per goal involvement ratio of all players in Europe's top five leagues to play at least 500 minutes.

The attacking midfielder's winner against Mainz also made him the youngest player to reach double figures for goals in the German top-flight, doing so at 208 days younger than Lukas Podolski (18 years, 353 days for Cologne in 2004).

 

Leverkusen sporting director and former midfielder Simon Rolfes praised the teenager's talent and willingness to better himself, comparing him to Kai Havertz, who was sold to Chelsea in 2020 after a similarly meteoric rise.

"The attitude is very good," Rolfes said to Stats Perform. "With players and we could see it with Kai Havertz, they know their quality. They are 18 and self-confident because they know about their quality.

"Special players have that – they can feel that, feel it directly on the pitch. Playing with other good players, they're able to handle it and adapt to the different speed of the game.

"He will improve year by year. Although he already has a high level. His biggest strength and you could see that in all the years in the youth team, is that he gives his best in each game.

"Doesn't matter where he was playing or which team-mates he was playing with. The first team, U19, U13 etc, he was always giving his best. That is a key element in his development that he is able to adapt at higher levels but he has the ambition to always improve and you have to improve."

Leverkusen captain and first-choice goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, 31, echoed Rolfes' sentiments as he hailed the work of the youngster following his individual accolade.

"Florian is a great player," Hradecky said to the Bundesliga's official website. "He’s doing an outstanding job and works hard on himself."

Wirtz will be hoping to maintain his streak of scoring or assisting in every Bundesliga appearance so far this season as Leverkusen host league leaders Bayern on October 17.

Sergio Ramos' debut for Paris Saint-Germain has been pushed back again as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Ramos ended a 16-year association with Real Madrid as he joined PSG in July on a free transfer, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League semi-final loss against Chelsea in early May.

Reports suggested the centre-back, who signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes, could make his debut on Friday against Angers. However, PSG have confirmed that is not the case.

The Ligue 1 champions released an update on Thursday, announcing Ramos is still in individual training with a view to joining the squad in 10 days, which means he will also seemingly miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig and the trip to Marseille for Le Classique on October 24.

When asked about the Spain international's prolonged absence, Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference: "I am convinced he will get back to his best.

"It is clear that every player, in this case Sergio Ramos, does not enjoy the situations when they are out and unable to train with their team-mates and play for such a long time.

"He is suffering but is strong mentally and he is coping with it as well as he can. The performance team are helping him stay at a high level and full of motivation to get over this problem."

Ramos appeared in 469 top-flight games for Madrid – with only three players racking up more appearances in the competition for Los Blancos.

He lifted 22 trophies at the club – with only Paco Gento (23) bettering that haul – and started all of his 129 Champions League matches, the most of any player in the competition without a single substitute appearance.

When fit, Pochettino will not just have a defensive leader to call upon, Ramos is also one of the best defenders in terms of attacking returns.

Since the turn of the century, Ramos is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five leagues, and only three players have netted more headed LaLiga goals in that period than the 35-year-old (39).

Karim Benzema remains hopeful of one day linking up with France team-mate Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid.

Madrid are reported to have had three bids for Mbappe rejected by Paris Saint-Germain during the most recent transfer window, the biggest of which was said to be worth €200million.

The 22-year-old, whose current contract expires at the end of the season, revealed last week he asked to leave the Parc des Princes when Madrid's interest became apparent.

PSG publicly remain confident of convincing him to stay, though Madrid president Florentino Perez has hinted the Spanish giants may look to strike a deal with Mbappe in January when the prolific striker is free to open talks with foreign clubs.

Benzema has previously stated he has no doubt Mbappe will one day join Madrid and reiterated his desire to play alongside his compatriot at club level.

"Do I want to play with Kylian at Madrid? I've said it before, and if you want, I'll say it again. Of course, one day," he told RTVE.

"He is a great player, but you have to respect PSG."

Unlike Benzema, Mbappe has made an underwhelming start to the 2021-22 campaign with just four goals in his first 11 appearances for PSG.

That includes a run of 17 shots without scoring in Ligue 1 since netting against Clermont Foot on September 11.

However, Mbappe's 136 goals in 182 games since joining PSG in August 2017 is a tally bettered by only Cristiano Ronaldo (149), now team-mate Lionel Messi (163) and Robert Lewandowski (191) across that period among players from Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

The former Monaco man's 61 assists over the same timeframe is the sixth-highest total, meanwhile, with Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller leading the way on 75.

 

Mbappe was last week named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or, an award that Benzema is among the favourites for in what has been a prolific year in front of goal.

Benzema has a combined 17 goals and assists for Madrid this campaign – 10 goals of his own and a further seven assists – which is three more than next best, Erling Haaland and Lewandowski.

And the Frenchman has been backed by Brazil great and former Madrid striker Ronaldo to see off the likes of Haaland, Lewandowski, Jorginho, Ronaldo and Messi to win the most prestigious individual accolade in football.

"Without a doubt, my candidate for the Ballon d'Or is Benzema," Ronaldo posted on his personal Instagram page on Thursday. 

"He is the best striker, who has played at a brutal level for 10 years and is a champion above all. Don't you think?"

Neymar will find all the support he needs at Paris Saint-Germain after the Brazil superstar questioned his long-term future in football, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has promised.

In May, Neymar signed a new contract to stay with PSG until 2025, and this season he has been joined by Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes.

Along with Kylian Mbappe, they could forge one of the great strike forces in the game, although at this stage the trio are still finding their way as a combination.

Despite the challenge of making such an exciting alliance work, Neymar has said he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer and would likely play his final World Cup in Qatar next year.

"Neymar is an honest person and a player who expresses his feelings quickly," PSG boss Pochettino told a news conference on Thursday.

"But I think his mental strength, considering he has been playing football since a very young age and has always had the media spotlight on him, I don't think there are any problems.

"Sometimes things are taken out of context, but I have no doubt he enjoys his football and I'm sure he will play for many years. I don't have any doubts about that."

Asked about mental health in football, in relation to Neymar's comments, Pochettino said: "This is something that exists in high-level sport. As the coaching staff it is our job to have certain tools in place to help our players.

"But I also don't like talking about this in such a surface-level way, because I think it is much more complicated than that. Certain things cannot be taken out of context and we can't simplify these situations, particularly ones that we are not going through ourselves.

"We are always very worried about our players' physical and mental well-being, so we are always available to help them."

 

Focusing on Neymar, Pochettino said: "His passion for football is on display with us every day so I have no doubts about that."

The former Barcelona forward has experienced a slow start to the campaign in terms of his productivity, scoring only once and having just two shots on target in his first seven club games of the season across all competitions.

Yet only Pele (77) has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with his country, along with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

His suggestion that the 2022 World Cup may be his last also reflects that Neymar will be 34 by the time the 2026 tournament comes around.

It remains to be seen how PSG are as a force by then, but for now they are expected to win every game, which made the 2-0 loss to Rennes before the international break such a surprise.

That shock reverse followed on from a victory by the same scoreline against Manchester City in the Champions League, and Pochettino reflected on the Rennes game again on Thursday, choosing to describe it as "a slip-up".

On Friday, his team tackle Angers at the Parc des Princes, when they will be expected to get back on track, albeit hampered by absences caused by stars such as Neymar being on World Cup qualifying duty this week in South America.

PSG are unbeaten in their past 21 Ligue 1 games against Angers (W14 D7), which is their longest run without defeat against a single top-flight opponent.

After his Nations League efforts for France, PSG will hope to have a firing Mbappe on the pitch. The striker has failed to score in his previous four Ligue 1 games, his longest top-flight drought since March-May 2018 (six games). None of his past 17 shots in Ligue 1 has found the net.

Spain midfielder Pedri has signed a new long-term contract with Barcelona.

The 18-year-old had less than 12 months remaining on his previous deal – though the club did have the option to extend that by a further two seasons.

Nevertheless, they have instead opted to push ahead and secure him to entirely fresh terms, with the talented midfielder committing himself to the Catalans until 2026.

A Barca statement read: "FC Barcelona and the player Pedro 'Pedri' Gonzalez have reached an agreement to renew his contract until June 30, 2026 . The termination clause is set at €1billion."

Pedri has experienced a rapid rise since joining Barca from Las Palmas last year, establishing himself as a key player after initially being signed for the Blaugrana's B team, stepping up to the senior side after impressing Ronald Koeman in his first pre-season.

Indeed, Koeman used Pedri in 37 top-flight games last term, with only Frenkie de Jong (also 37) playing as many matches for the Catalan club.

He ranked seventh among outfield players at the club in terms of LaLiga minutes as well (2,428), while De Jong (3,159) and Sergio Busquets (2,527) were the only midfielders to spend longer on the pitch for Barca.

Many comparisons have been drawn between Pedri and Barca great Andres Iniesta due to the former's nimble stature and passing ability.

Only four team-mates – Lionel Messi, De Jong, Busquets and Jordi Alba – completed more opposition-half passes than Pedri (1,100).

The teenager playmaker has also shown his class at international level, impressing for Spain at Euro 2020 and going on to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

At both tournaments, the Tenerife-born prospect completed more passes ending in the final third than any other player – making 83 in Japan and 177 in his first senior major tournament.

In fact, at Euro 2020 Pedri became only the second European player aged 18 or younger to start as many as five matches in a major tournament, and his last-16 appearance against Croatia made him the youngest player to ever start a knockout game in the European Championship.

Barca, now they have tied down one of their key assets, will be hoping to also agree new long-term deals with the likes of Ansu Fati, Gavi and Ronald Araujo as they look to youth amid a rebuild.

Spain midfielder Pedri has signed a new long-term contract with Barcelona.

The 18-year-old had less than 12 months remaining on his previous deal – though the club did have the option to extend that by a further two seasons.

Nevertheless, they have instead opted to push ahead and secured him to entirely fresh terms, with the talented midfielder committed himself to the Catalans until 2026.

Pedri has experienced a rapid rise since joining Barca from Las Palmas last year, establishing himself as a key player for the Blaugrana.

The teenager playmaker has also shown his class at international level, impressing for Spain at Euro 2020 and going on to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Julian Nagelsmann fired a warning to defences across Europe by claiming Robert Lewandowski has a long time left at the top level – insisting the Ballon d'Or should come his way this year.

Although Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski turned 33 in August, there is no indication age is catching up with the Poland international.

His record haul of 41 Bundesliga goals last season came at a rate of one every 60.07 minutes.

That was the fastest rate of scoring across a campaign, in terms of minutes per goal, for any player with 10 or more goals in a Bundesliga season since the league was founded in 1963.

After missing out on Ballon d'Or recognition last year, when the award was cancelled due to the pandemic's impact on the global game, there is little doubt Lewandowski is a serious contender this time.

Bayern did not match up to their 2019-20 treble-winning feats, but they carried off a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title and Lewandowski was their spearhead.

"He deserves the Ballon d'Or – and in my opinion he has to win the award, because he has played more consistently than anyone else over the past three years," Bayern head coach Nagelsmann said.

Speaking to Munich newspaper Abendzeitung, Nagelsmann predicted Lewandowski would continue to thrive at the highest level into his late thirties.

"If Robert Lewandowski's body stays like this, it is far from over," said Nagelsmann.

"He is extremely dynamic, has no injuries, he can train a lot: I definitely trust him to play at the top, top level for a few more years – also because he aligns everything in his life accordingly, to be in the best physical condition."

 

In Bayern's triumphant 2019-20 Champions League campaign, Lewandowski netted 15 times, scoring on average once every 59.13 minutes. This term, he has four goals already in that competition from just 169 minutes on the pitch.

Lewandowski has said it "would mean a lot" to scoop the individual honour, and after being shortlisted his chief rival appears to be six-time winner Lionel Messi, who helped Argentina to Copa America glory.

Nagelsmann, meanwhile, is sitting tight when it comes to the future of Bayern defender Niklas Sule, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

Sule has been linked with Chelsea and Newcastle United, and Nagelsmann is taking a wait-and-see approach to what comes next for the Germany international.

"It depends on his development and also on the market situation whether he wants to extend the contract or not," Nagelsmann said. "Then we'll see if it works for both sides.

"Niki still has to develop a little with his potential and then make the most of it as a very good central defender."

Sergio Aguero needed Lionel Messi to tell him why he was being continually overlooked for Ballon d'Or honours.

Despite scoring a record 260 goals for Manchester City, Argentine striker Aguero has never come close to winning the trophy that Messi has carried off six times.

Being repeatedly overlooked began to trouble Aguero, but when Messi spelled out what he was lacking, it all made sense.

Now at Barcelona, Aguero looks back on his City career and appreciates why his feats fell short of making him a major contender for a prize Messi has won more than anyone else.

"Many times I thought about what was missing," Aguero told Spanish newspaper El Pais. "And one day I asked Leo. He told me that to have a chance to win the Ballon d'Or I had to win the Champions League. And he is right.

"The subject of trophies with the national teams is also important. Take [Fabio] Cannavaro's case, for example, when he won the World Cup in 2006."

Cannavaro took home the Ballon d'Or that year, with Italy team-mate Gianluigi Buffon in second place.

"I played great seasons, scored many goals and won many titles," Aguero said, "but I was not in the Champions League final. And last year when we reached the final, I had a knee problem, COVID and different injuries."

 

In 10 years at City, Aguero hit at least 20 Premier League goals in a season on six occasions, and only in one campaign (2012-13) did his minutes-per-goal record in the competition creep above one goal every 140 minutes.

That is a record that attracted Barcelona, with Messi's run of form over the same period having seen him score at between one every 57 minutes (2012-13) and one every 143.1 minutes (2006-07) in LaLiga.

Aguero has recovered from a calf injury and on Wednesday he featured in a training game for Barcelona against UE Cornella, meaning a competitive debut could be just around the corner.

It remains to be seen whether Aguero will be fit enough to play a part in Sunday's LaLiga match against Valencia, as Barca look to get their season on track.

A home fixture follows against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League; then comes the first Clasico of the season, with Real Madrid visiting Camp Nou on October 24.

Long-time Argentina team-mate Messi was at Barcelona when Aguero arrived, but he has since departed for Paris Saint-Germain.

Aguero recalled visiting Messi when it emerged he would be forced to leave Barcelona.

"It was a moment of shock. He was in a very bad way. When I found out I couldn't believe it. That Saturday I went to see him at his house," Aguero explained.

Aguero said he attempted to cheer up Barcelona's record goalscorer.

Now there will be expectations on Aguero's shoulders, and despite losing Messi, he says moving to Barcelona was the right choice once his City contract expired.

"Let's be honest. What player does not want to be at Barca?" Aguero continued.

"The majority of footballers would like to wear this shirt, no matter how good or bad Barca is. I arrived with the expectation of playing with Leo and that a good team would be put together, which was what the club tried to do. When they called me, I thought: 'I don't care what they pay me. I'm feeling good and I'm going to help the team as much as I can.'"

Eden Hazard is "medically perfect" but there is concern about the Belgium star's injury problems, according to national team boss Roberto Martinez.

The playmaker has endured a miserable time in Spain due to persistent physical issues since his move from Chelsea in 2019 for a reported €100million (£88.5m).

Hazard has only completed four matches for Los Blancos in all competitions, scoring just five goals in 51 appearances in total, as patience over his lack of availability runs thin among fans and local media.

The 30-year-old impressed in the first half of the Nations League semi-final against France last week, as Belgium took a 2-0 lead into half-time, but he was taken off in the 74th minute as Martinez's side went on to lose 3-2 to the world champions.

Hazard sat out the 2-1 third-place play-off defeat to Italy, Martinez saying he was suffering from "muscle fatigue" but adding he did not know how long the former Lille star would need to recover.

Indeed, Martinez has found it difficult to determine why Hazard, a player he believes can still challenge for the Ballon d'Or, has endured so many injuries since his move to Spain two years ago.

"It's certainly true that Eden is not now in a physical situation to be at 100 per cent for 90 minutes," Martinez told El Larguero. "What's important now is to have patience, to work well and try to get Hazard, bit by bit, to get back to that level he's always had.

 

"His situation in Spain is very atypical. He found a situation that's new for him, because he was never injured and suddenly finds himself over the course of two years with no explanation for so many injuries.

"We're all worried and I'm sure Real Madrid are as well. He's a player who needs the ball, needs to dribble, and in order to reach his maximum physical level, he needs to play games.

"What I've seen is that he is medically perfect. The first 45 minutes [against France] were really enjoyable. We hope that, between Real Madrid and the national team, we can help him so he can get the minutes he needs. If he's at the level of those 45 minutes against France, I'm sure he'll bring a lot of success to Belgium, but especially to Real Madrid."

Martinez's future has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following reports he was a prime candidate to take over from Ronald Koeman as Barcelona head coach.

That was until Barca president Joan Laporta insisted he would give Koeman time to turn things around amid a run of just two wins in eight matches in all competitions.

Regardless, Martinez says he has not spoken to the club and has not yet decided if he will commit to the Belgium job beyond next year's World Cup in Qatar.

"It's been a difficult period because it seems like you don't want to answer, but the truth is they've not had any contact with me," he said.

"You know how rumours with coaches work. It's nothing more than an anecdote that helps me start the day with a smile.

"I still haven't decided [if I will stay after the World Cup]. Whenever I talk about my future, I don't usually clarify it.

"We're continuing a really beautiful, ambitious project and you have to think day by day. I've learned that the emotional side of a national team is on another level to what happens at a club."

Newcastle have the wealthiest owners in the world following their £300million takeover last week.

The Magpies have since been linked to a host of top players including Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho, with Timo Werner now joining that list.

The Premier League club are 19th in the table, winless this season with only three points from seven games, which suggests they need significant strengthening.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE KEEN ON GERMAN STRIKER

Newcastle are set to splash the cash and could make a bid to sign Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner, says Bild.

The report claims Newcastle have been "in regular contact" with Werner's agent ahead of the January transfer window.

Werner joined Chelsea in a £47.5million deal in June last year from RB Leipzig.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are willing to sell France international midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Newcastle linked as a suitor, as they raise funds for moves for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni and Manchester United's Donny van de Beek.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are looking to sign Chelsea's Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Liverpool are open to the idea of bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield from Barcelona in January, claims the Express.

- Fichajes claims Liverpool are also considering a £68million (€80m) swoop for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, while they also progress contract talks with Mohamed Salah.

- Barcelona and Milan are top of the queue in the pursuit to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of this season, according to the Daily Mail.

- Phil Foden has agreed terms on a new six-year contract with Manchester City, reports Goal.com.

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