Lionel Messi did not deserve his contract to be leaked to a newspaper, said Ronald Koeman, as the Barcelona head coach claimed there was an agenda to "hurt" the Argentine superstar.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

It was already believed that Messi was on an extraordinary salary at Barcelona, given he is recognised by many as the greatest current player of the world's most popular sport.

The leaking of the exact sums payable to Messi has caused a stir, coming at a time when embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona are reported to have built up debts of over €1billion.

Koeman rejected any suggestion that Messi's contract is in any way connected to Barcelona facing a financial hurdle, insisting he has "helped this club to make it very great".

The club's record scorer, who netted his 650th Barcelona goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, could leave on a free transfer in a matter of months.

And Koeman vowed that if anyone employed by Barcelona was proven to have leaked private details, they would be shown the door.

"If you are part of the club, you have to help the club, the coaches, the players. If someone from the club has leaked this, they cannot have a future at this club," Koeman said.

"They are things that come out, that cannot come out. There are people who are interested in hurting Messi and Barca."

Messi is sure to have been unimpressed by his personal details making it into the public domain, but the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner did not let it impede his performance on the pitch against Athletic.

Speaking after the game, Koeman expressed alarm that anyone would want to cause upset in the ranks, particularly concerning Messi, a player destined to be remembered as an all-time great.

"You have to respect him, I see bad intention and desire to hurt," Koeman said, quoted by Mundo Deportivo.

"We must try to find out how this could have come out in the press and we have to focus on our work, that the team are well, and we cannot allow ourselves to lose focus over this issue."

Ronald Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Lionel Messi after the Argentinian scored another landmark goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Messi was headline news earlier in the day when a report by El Mundo claimed the deal he signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

He proved his worth to Barca with a fine free-kick midway through the first half - his 650th goal for the club - before Jordi Alba's own goal drew Athletic level early in the second half.

Antoine Griezmann secured all three points with the winner 16 minutes from time, though, to help Barca leapfrog Sevilla and Real Madrid into second in LaLiga, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Head coach Koeman was less than impressed with the details of Messi's contract surfacing, but insists the saga did not provide any additional motivation for a player he believes is the world's best.

"We've known, for quite some time, that he's the best in the world," the former Netherlands coach told Movistar Plus.

"He's done a lot for the club. He's decisive during games. You have to respect everything he's done. He's a great player, he gives us creativity in attack. Without Leo, you can't aspire to much."

Koeman added, according to Marca: "He hasn't been more motivated today [because of the reports]. What's happened has been for bad intentions, to cause harm.

"We have to be united and focused. Things that are published have to be put to the side, but it's tough."

It seems unlikely that Barca will rein in Atletico, who can move 13 points clear if they win their game in hand, but Koeman says his improving side have no intention of giving up hope of claiming the title.

"The team is improving," Koeman added. "There's concentration, mentality. I'm not saying we didn't have that before, but we're growing in confidence.

"It's important to be second. We want to be as high as possible. The gap to the leaders is big but we have to keep going."

Griezmann's late winner maintained his superb record against Athletic.

The France international has now been involved in 15 goals against the Basque side (nine goals and six assists), more than he has achieved against any other team in the competition.

The former Atletico Madrid forward was pleased to overcome an obdurate opponent and had words of praise for Ousmane Dembele, whose fine pass played in Oscar Mingueza in the build-up to the winning goal.

Griezmann told Movistar Plus: "Sometimes you play and sometimes you don't but in the end we are all part of this and we need everyone. Ousmane is playing very well, he is taking good care of himself and we try to ensure that he is in the best condition."

Neymar has given the firmest indication yet that he will sign a new Paris Saint-Germain contract and urged Kylian Mbappe to make the same commitment.

Brazilian superstar Neymar joined after being bought out of his Barcelona contract for 222million Euros 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.

Neymar and Mbappe, a player who has also been linked with both LaLiga giants, are contracted to PSG until the end of the 2021-22 season.

The Brazil forward has been unsettled in the past in Paris but now sees his future in the French capital, as he told TF1's Sept a Huit programme: "Yes, I'm very happy today.

"I feel happy. That's changed a lot. I couldn't say exactly why.

"I don't know if it's me or other things that have changed, but today I feel good. I've adapted, I feel more calm and I'm very happy here.

"I want to stay at PSG and I hope Kylian stays too. Of course, that's the wish of all the fans of Paris.

"We want PSG to be a great team. I want to continue what I've always done in Paris, play football and be happy."

His comments came in an interview conducted ahead of Sunday's shock 3-2 defeat to Lorient, in which Neymar scored two penalties.

That outcome gave new PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino a first defeat, and he will want his side to get back on track against Nimes on Wednesday before facing great rivals Marseille on Sunday.

If Neymar and Mbappe stay, and if rumours of a move for Lionel Messi come to fruition, then the Ligue 1 giants will have the most feared forward line in world football next season.

Since arriving at PSG in August 2017, Neymar has scored 53 goals and provided 29 assists in Ligue 1, while Mbappe has hit 78 league goals and registered 26 assists.

According to Neymar, his and Mbappe's connection could hardly be any closer.

"We have a relationship of brothers. Me, I'm the eldest. We really like playing together," said Neymar.

"I call him 'Golden Boy' because he's really golden. He has a huge heart. As a footballer, everyone knows what he's worth, but even off the pitch he's incredible."

Lionel Messi showed exactly why he was given a lucrative contract as his 650th Barcelona goal helped Ronald Koeman's side to a slender 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

He demonstrated his value to this Barca team midway through the first half on Sunday with his 49th successful free-kick strike for the Catalan giants.

Jordi Alba put through his own net early in the second half to draw Athletic level, but Antoine Greizmann ensured Barca leapfrogged Sevilla and Real Madrid into second - 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid - with a close-range finish 16 minutes from time.

Unai Simon twice denied Barca inside the opening seven minutes, first pawing away Messi’s clipped effort from close range before diverting Griezmann’s powerful drive over the crossbar.

There was little the Athletic goalkeeper could do to deny Messi after 20 minutes, the Argentinian whipping a sumptuous free-kick into the top right corner from 25 yards.

Ronald Araujo fizzed an effort wide soon after, while Ousmane Dembele lashed over from a promising position shortly before the interval as Barca dominated.

Athletic drew level four minutes after the interval, however, as Alba turned Raul Garcia's left-wing cross into his own net under pressure from Oscar De Marcos at the back post.

Simon superbly kept out Miralem Pjanic's header shortly before the hour mark, while Griezmann nodded wide from Dembele's teasing cross.

The France international had the final say, though, sliding home Oscar Mingueza's low cross into the roof of Simon's net to seal a fourth consecutive win in all competitions for Barca.

Lionel Messi scored his 650th goal for Barcelona with a sumptuous free-kick against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The Argentina international whipped a shot into goalkeeper Unai Simon's top-left corner from 25 yards midway through the first half to put Barca 1-0 up in their LaLiga clash at Camp Nou.

Messi was in the headlines earlier in the day when leaked details of his eye-watering contract emerged.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored his first goal for Barca in May 2005 at the age of 17, beautifully lobbing Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena.

He has gone on to become far and away the club's record scorer, overtaking Cesar Rodriguez's previous mark of 232 in 2012.

Mauricio Pochettino gave a damning assessment of Paris Saint-Germain's 3-2 Ligue 1 defeat at Lorient, declaring the performance to be "an accident".

PSG had the chance to return to the top of the table on Sunday and were on course to do so after a Neymar penalty in either half overturned Laurent Abergel's opener.

But Yoane Wissa netted a superb solo strike in the 80th minute before fellow substitute Terem Moffi streamed into the PSG half unchallenged to seal the points after an injury-time breakaway.

"We never got into the rhythm of the match, except when we managed to score the goal for 2-1," Pochettino told reporters.

"We are really sad with the result. We were too slow in the game, we gave Lorient too many options. We wanted to do something else but we did not succeed."

The defeat was PSG's first since Pochettino was appointed as Thomas Tuchel's successor at the Parc des Princes and the former Tottenham boss conceded there is plenty of work ahead as he tries to shape the team to his specifications.

"It is a problem of collective coordination," he said. "At 2-2, we wanted to go for the victory, which caused disorganisation and ended in our defeat.

"We are constantly looking to improve, to work. It's an accident, like can happen in football. We hope to be better in the next game."

PSG's central midfield two of Leandro Paredes and Danilo Pereira struggled to stamp their authority on the contest despite completing 92.2 and 95.5 per cent of their respective passes.

Marco Verratti was unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus but Pochettino refused to cite the Italy international's absence in mitigation

"Of course Marco is an important element, but you have to know how to play without certain players," he added. "It shouldn't be an excuse."

Lille subsequently beat Dijon 1-0 to move three points clear of PSG at the top, with Pochettino's side down in third behind Lyon.

Bayer Leverkusen have confirmed the signing of winger Demarai Gray from Premier League side Leicester City.

Gray joined Leicester from Birmingham City midway through 2015-16 and went on to help the Foxes to a sensational title triumph that season.

He went on to feature 133 times in the top flight, scoring 10 goals and providing nine assists, but never really established himself as a first-team regular under Brendan Rodgers.

With his contract at Leicester having been set to expire at the end of 2020-21, Gray – who was linked with a number of Premier League clubs – has made the move to Germany.

The 24-year-old made just one league appearance this term, totalling 18 minutes, and joins a Leverkusen side who sit fourth in the Bundesliga.

Leverkusen had looked ready to mount a title challenge this season, but a run of just one win in seven games has seen them drop off the pace.

Gray has only committed to Leverkusen until June 2022 but is confident he will flourish in the Bundesliga – a league in which English talents have fared well in recent years.

Jadon Sancho has become a star at Borussia Dortmund, where Jude Bellingham, another former Birmingham youngster, is also impressing, while Reiss Nelson and Ademola Lookman have shone in loan spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig respectively. Lookman struggled after a permanent move, however.

"I saw Bayer playing attacking football, going forward aggressively and dictating the game with possession," Gray said.

"I'll fit in well. I can and would like to develop myself further here and be successful with this attractive team."

WHERE WILL HE FIT IN?

While Gray has had little chance to show his quality this season, he will bring an extra option to a vibrant, youthful Leverkusen attack and could be vying for a place with Leon Bailey.

After struggling for consistency last season, Bailey has enjoyed something of a resurgence this term, scoring four goals and creating five more in 18 Bundesliga games.

Bailey's 26 chances created rank fourth in Leverkusen's squad, with 17-year-old sensation Florian Wirtz (31), Moussa Diaby and Nadiem Amiri (both 27) ahead of him.

Gray may also find himself going up against former Paris Saint-Germain forward Diaby for a starting berth.

The 21-year-old has created a team-high seven big chances for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, however, with his rapid pace a major outlet for Peter Bosz's side.

Gray is Leverkusen's third signing of the January window, following defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jeremie Frimpong, signed from Manchester United and Celtic respectively.

Luis Suarez scored a set-piece double as Atletico Madrid saw off Cadiz 4-2 to move 10 points clear at the LaLiga summit.

Real Madrid's shock 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday provided Atleti with a chance to extend their lead at the top and they did exactly that with victory at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Diego Simeone's men had trailed in their last two outings, though Suarez opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick in Sunday's clash before Alvaro Negredo equalised.

Saul Niguez's flicked finish and Suarez's penalty gave Atleti some breathing space and, while Negredo's second of the day did make things interesting, Koke finished smartly late on to make certain of an eighth league win in a row.

Anthony Lozano glanced wide from a promising Cadiz opportunity and, less than three minutes later, Suarez sent a 28-yard free-kick up and over the wall and into the left corner to give Atleti the lead.

Cadiz were level almost instantly thanks to Negredo, who curled a fine finish beyond Jan Oblak after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Thomas Lemar.

The visitors had won only one of their last eight league games prior to Sunday and it did not take Saul long to restore Atleti's lead with a rather fortunate goal.

Lemar sent in a cross from the right and Saul stuck out a leg, seemingly in an attempt to help the ball on, but instead succeeding in sending it looping over Jeremias Ledesma.

Atleti survived another scare before half-time when a penalty initially awarded for handball against Koke was overturned by VAR due to the midfielder's arm being on the ground when contact was made.

That proved a big moment as Simeone's side converted a penalty of their own through Suarez five minutes into the second half after Marcos Mauro brought down Lemar.

Suarez blazed over when on for a hat-trick and that nearly proved costly as Atletico failed to deal with a ball into the box and Negredo scrambled past Oblak to give Cadiz hope.

Oblak then had to be alert to keep out Negredo's header, but the next goal went Atletico's way, substitute Angel Correa exchanging passes with Marcos Llorente and squaring for Koke to round off the scoring.

Watford have signed Maurizio Pochettino from Tottenham.

Pochettino, son of former Spurs and current Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, will join up with the Hornets' under-23 squad initially.

A 19-year-old winger, Pochettino played eight times this season for Tottenham in Premier League 2 but did not make a senior breakthrough at his father's old club.

Watford have had a busy weekend ahead of Monday's transfer deadline, with former Everton and Newcastle United midfielder Dan Gosling joining from Championship counterparts Bournemouth and Spain international Gerard Deulofeu making his move to Udinese permanent.

Arsenal defender William Saliba admits he was "hurt" after not being given first-team opportunities following his move from Saint-Etienne. 

The 19-year-old arrived at the Emirates Stadium in July 2019 for a reported £27million (€29.7m) fee and was loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 campaign.

He returned to the Gunners ahead of this season and was expected to become part of manager Mikel Arteta's plans after a possible second loan back to Saint-Etienne failed to materialise in October.

However, the France youth international did not make a senior appearance for the Premier League club and was loaned to Nice earlier this month.

Saliba made his fifth appearance for the Ligue 1 outfit in Sunday's 1-0 defeat to his former club Saint-Etienne. 

Despite the result he had an impact at the heart of the backline, making more successful passes (58) and clearances (five) than any other Nice player.

He also gained possession seven times, the joint second-highest of any player on the pitch.

Saliba has opened up on his frustration with life at Arsenal and feels strongly he should have been given a chance to impress in the first team.

"I really, really, really didn't think that I would be transferred for almost €30m," he told TF1.

"To think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me, the fans were excited about me and you find yourself in the reserves, playing zero – nothing in the Europa League or the Premier League.

"I was in the squad once in the EFL Cup. It hurt me, it affected me. I don't think I left too early. When you feel ready you have to go. These things happen. I believe in myself."

While Saliba is enjoying playing first-team football again at Nice, he insists he is not thinking about where he will be next season.

"I have learned now that it is better not to look too far in the future," he added. "I am focused on just these six months to try to give absolutely everything and for the rest we will see.

"For me, the best decision was to join Nice because there is a good project, a good team, a good level of ambition and they like to play in a certain way.

"It feels good to play and to have consistent game time. I am young, I am 19, and it is by playing matches like this that you improve.

"You see what mistakes you make and you correct them for the next match."

Neymar converted a penalty in each half but Paris Saint-Germain collapsed to a sensational 3-2 defeat at relegation-threatened Lorient in Ligue 1

Mauricio Pochettino's first loss as head coach means PSG missed out on the chance to return to the top of Ligue 1 in place of Lyon after sub Terem Moffi broke clear to net a stoppage-time winner.

Lorient were the better team before half-time and led through Laurent Abergel's first goal in almost a year

However, a tale of woe then unfolded for Houboulang Mendes, who conceded 45th and 58th-minute penalties, from which Neymar made no mistake.

Yoane Wissa replaced the embattled right wing-back soon afterwards and levelled with a fine solo effort before fellow sub Moffi snatched glory.

Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain in the future after revealing he has previously discussed a move with Kylian Mbappe.

France international Ndombele joined Tottenham from Lyon for a club-record fee reported to be around £63million in July 2019, ending long-running links with a switch to PSG.

He endured a difficult first campaign in north London but performances have improved in 2020-21, the 24-year-old featuring 26 times for Spurs in all competitions.

Ndombele remains under contract with Tottenham until 2025 and, while not actively seeking a transfer, he is not ruling out the prospect of returning to France with PSG, where ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is now in charge.

"I'm a boy from the Paris region. Wearing the Paris jersey one day? Why not. But today I'm at Tottenham, and it's going well," he told Telefoot.

"I spoke with Kylian about possibly coming to PSG - two or three years in a row we discussed it. It didn't happen and today at Tottenham it's going well, but why not in the future?"

Ndombele was left out of Tottenham's squad on occasions last season, but he has been praised by boss Jose Mourinho for working hard off the field to become a regular.

He ranks particularly high for dribbles, completing an average of 3.02 per game in the Premier League this term.

That places the midfielder behind only Christian Pulisic (3.28), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (3.53), Allan Saint-Maximin (4.66) and Adama Traore (5.24) among those to have played at least 10 games.

With his brace against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup last Monday, Ndombele became the first Spurs player to score at least twice in a match as a substitute since Roman Pavlyuchenko against Birmingham City in May 2011.

Reflecting on a mixed time at Tottenham, Ndombele said: "It was tough. I questioned myself a lot, but now the page is turned.

"It's true that at a certain moment I wanted to leave, I didn't feel in the right place. I told them I wanted out. They didn't want me to go."

Ndombele is hopeful his form could see him earn a first appearance for France since June 2019 with the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament on the horizon.

"Of course I miss the France team," he said. "As a competitor we want to be one of the best.

"The European Championship remains a goal in the back of my mind. If I do well at club level, why not be called up?"

Sami Khedira is in talks with Hertha Berlin over a return to the Bundesliga, the German club's chief executive has confirmed.

Juventus midfielder Khedira is expected to leave the Serie A champions before the transfer window closes on Monday.

The contract extension the World Cup winner signed in 2018 is up at the end of the season, but he is set to depart early having failed to appear in a single matchday squad for Juve this term.

Khedira initially had a big impact after joining the Turin club in 2015, scoring 19 goals in 77 games across three successive title-winning Serie A campaigns.

He has since played just 22 times in the competition, suffering with injuries and falling out of favour entirely under rookie coach Andrea Pirlo.

Khedira spoke of a potential move to the Premier League ahead of January, but Berlin and Hertha – 14th in the Bundesliga – now appears his most likely destination.

Hertha CEO Carsten Schmidt told Sky Sport: "Yes, we are having talks with Sami Khedira. I can confirm that. I also spoke to him on the phone.

"We are dealing with it, but there are still a few things to be clarified, of course. We still have many questions to answer."

But Schmidt would not comment on Hertha's reported interest in Werder Bremen attacker Milot Rashica.

Rashica has been hindered by knee and thigh problems this season, playing just 379 minutes in all competitions and failing to score. He has provided a single assist from five chances created.

Lionel Messi's contract details becoming public knowledge was not the fault of Barcelona, the LaLiga club have claimed.

A report by El Mundo claimed the deal Messi signed at Camp Nou in 2017, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million over the course of four years.

That would mean the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is in possession of the most lucrative contract in sports history - something that jars against Barcelona's worsening financial plight.

Accounts for the 2019-20 season showed the club's gross debt had reached €820m as the coronavirus pandemic began to take a considerable toll on their finances.

A fractious presidential election is set to conclude in March, with a strained relationship between Messi and the former board, headed by ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, having played a part in the superstar forward sensationally trying to force a transfer away from Barcelona last August.

In that context, Barca moved quickly on Sunday to offer assurances to their captain and pledged to take legal action against El Mundo.

"In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties," a statement read.

"FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.

"FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history."

Barcelona return to action on Sunday at home to Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga, where they remain 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid despite a run of four consecutive top-flight wins.

Messi, who was red carded for the first time in his Barca career against Athletic earlier this month, has contributed 15 goals and four assists in all competitions in 2020-21.

Melbourne City missed out on the chance to pull level with the early A-League leaders as they crashed to a 3-1 home defeat against Perth Glory.

Daniel Stynes gave the Glory an early lead courtesy of a deflected effort, although Jamie Maclaren levelled in the 33rd minute when Craig Noone's shot came back off the post.

Dane Ingham headed Perth back in front before the break and another set-piece goal six minutes from time by Nicholas D'Agostino - both of which were assisted by former City midfielder Neil Kilkenny - sealed the points.

Richard Garcia's side are level with Melbourne City on six points after bouncing back from two consecutive defeats.

Wellington Phoenix claimed their first win of the campaign at the fourth attempt thanks to Jaushua Sotirio sealing a late 2-1 triumph at Central Coast Mariners.

Ulises Davila drilled home a crisp left-footed strike after 15 minutes at a soggy Central Coast Stadium, but Alou Kuol nodded in Daniel De Silva's left-wing corner to ensure it was all square at half-time.

The Mariners looked to be on course for the point that would have edged them above Brisbane Roar at the top of the standings, albeit having played a game more.

Sotirio showed he had other ideas when he caught the home defence napping on the end of Alex Rufer's chipped pass and produced a cool finish.

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