Could Lionel Messi swap Barcelona for Inter?

Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

The 32-year-old's future at Camp Nou has made headlines throughout the 2019-20 season.

 

TOP STORY – INTER WANT MESSI

Inter are seriously working on trying to sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to TNT Sports.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti said the Nerazzurri luring Messi – contracted until 2021 – to San Siro was not impossible and speculation has intensified since those comments.

TNT Sports says Inter are ready to push through negotiations for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while boyhood club Newell's Old Boys have also made an offer.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS Diario claims Manchester United and Juventus are both chasing Real Madrid outcast James Rodriguez. Napoli and Everton have also been linked to the Colombia international.

Philippe Coutinho is close to returning to the Premier League. Sport reports the former Liverpool star is nearing a loan switch to Chelsea from Barcelona. The Brazilian has spent the 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern Munich.

Milan are interested in signing in-demand Brescia star Sandro Tonali, according to Calciomercato. The Italian has been linked to the likes of Juve, Inter and United.

- Juve star Paulo Dybala is set to sign a new contract with the Serie A champions, says Calciomercato. Meanwhile, the same outlet reports that Juve are interested in Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante.

- Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is chasing Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, says AS Diario. The Frenchman wants to sign the 17-year-old if Madrid are unable to lure Paul Pogba from United.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among the clubs battling for Achraf Hakimi. The Moroccan full-back has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Madrid. Juve, Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain are also reportedly interested.

Real Madrid star Toni Kroos said it was logical for players and coaches to take a pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Madrid announced that players and coaches from their football and basketball squads agreed to reduction in wages on Wednesday, with LaLiga and professional sport in Spain on hold due to COVID-19.

Directors at Madrid also accepted to voluntary reductions in pay for 2019-20 – the pay cuts will be between 10 and 20 per cent "depending on the circumstances that may affect the closing of the 2019-20 season", the club said in a statement.

Prior to the midweek announcement, Kroos had stated he was not in favour of pay cuts amid financial concerns but the Germany international explained his comments.

"It is possible that it [the interview] has not been translated correctly or that some do not want to understand," Kroos wrote via Twitter.

"From the first moment, my opinion, you know me well, is this: if we can help the workers and areas of the club, I see it as logical to renounce part of our salary, something that could be proven today."

In an interview with SWR Sport podcast on Tuesday, Madrid midfielder Kroos said: "Cutting salaries is like a donation in vain – or for the club.

"I am in favour of paying the full salary and let everyone do sensible things with it. Everyone is being asked to help where necessary, and there are many places where it is necessary."

Real Madrid have announced that players and coaches from their football and basketball squads have agreed to a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic.

Directors at the club have also accepted to voluntary reductions in pay for 2019-20, with all professional sport in Spain on hold as the country remains in a state of alarm.

The wage reductions will be between 10 and 20 per cent "depending on the circumstances that may affect the closing of the 2019-20 season", the club said in a statement.

"This decision, taken by players, coaches and employees, avoids traumatic measures that affect the rest of the workers, as well as contributing to the economic objectives of the entity in view of the decrease in income that it is suffering these months as a result of the suspension of competitions and the paralysis of a large part of its commercial activities.

"The club's business committee strongly supports this decision, which it considers responsible and exemplary.

"Real Madrid is proud of all those who make up this great family and of its unwavering culture of values, which is especially valuable in difficult times such as these.

"In the same way, Real Madrid, its members and fans, want to show all their love and solidarity to those who have suffered the direct consequences of this disease that is hitting us all, especially those who have lost a family member or loved one.

"The club wishes a quick recovery to all the sick people and wants to transmit its deepest gratitude to all the people who are playing an essential, exemplary and solidary role in the fight against COVID-19.

"From Real Madrid, we offer all our support and strength with the conviction that together we will overcome, without a doubt, this difficult moment."

Madrid's pay reduction is lower than those adopted by Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, whose players agreed to 70 per cent cuts to wages to soften the financial impact on their clubs during the coronavirus crisis and ensure other members of staff could still be paid in full.

At the start of the month, it was reported by AS that Madrid were holding off from drastic cost-cutting measures as the board considered the club's financial position to be strong enough to withstand the initial impact of the pandemic.

Zinedine Zidane's side were two points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona at the top of the table when Spanish football was suspended in March.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a stunning return to Real Madrid, but it seems that is just about impossible.

The Juventus star only left the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, yet recent reports linked him with a Madrid return.

However, it appears that is unlikely.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID RETURN FOR RONALDO RULED OUT

Real Madrid are not thinking about bringing Ronaldo back, according to both Marca and Sport.

It has been reported that Juve would consider selling Ronaldo for €60million, which is €40m less than what they paid in July 2018.

Ronaldo had scored 25 goals in 32 games this season before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Barcelona. Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain would be willing to accept payment in instalments from Barcelona, something that proved to be an issue last close season.

- Paul Pogba looks set to leave Manchester United for either Juventus or Real Madrid. AS reports the France midfielder will prioritise an offer from the LaLiga giants.

- On loan at PSG from Inter, Mauro Icardi's future is uncertain. Sport reports PSG have decided they will use their purchase option of €70m to land the forward permanently.

- It seems Barcelona know what they want for Philippe Coutinho. The LaLiga giants have set their price for the attacker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich, at €90m, according to Sport.

- David Silva will leave Manchester City at the end of the season and where he ends up remains to be seen. CalcioMercato reports AC Milan met the playmaker's agents over a possible move.

- It is shaping as a busy close season at Barcelona. Sport reports PSG left-back Layvin Kurzawa, out of contract at campaign's end, wants a move to Barcelona. Meanwhile, AS reports Barca are also eyeing Real Madrid's 19-year-old midfielder Cesar Gelabert.

Radomir Antic, famed for coaching Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, has died aged 71.

The Serbian, whose managerial career spanned 27 years, died on Monday and his passing has drawn an outpouring of emotion across Spanish football, where his influence was greatest.

It was at Atletico Madrid where Antic enjoyed his finest achievements, including an historic LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in the 1995-96 campaign.

Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil, who worked closely with Antic across his three spells in charge, said: "With the loss of Radomir, we lost a bit of the club's heart.

"With him I personally learned to win, with him I learned to live with passion - the things that they make you better as a man and as a professional.

"I give very strong embrace to his wife Vera, Dusan and Ana and tell them that they should be proud of the husband and father they had because, in addition to being a great professional and a wonderful person, he is in the history of Atletico Madrid on its own merits."

President Enrique Cerezo added: "Today is a sad day for all athletes and for the world of football since Radomir Antic has left us. A great person and one of the architects of the magnificent golden age that Atletico Madrid lived has left.

"The league and Copa del Rey titles that we won under his orders will remain forever in our memory. I am very proud to have met him and it has been a privilege to have shared every moment of football with him. All my love for his family."

While Antic's impact in Spanish football may have been greatest at Atletico, he had previously played and coached at Real Zaragoza, before also managing Real Madrid and Real Oviedo.

He spent a trio of spells with Atletico between 1995 and 2000, including a three-year stint until 1998, enjoying the great highs and significant lows, as they suffered relegation in the 1999-00 campaign.

Antic returned to Oviedo next, getting relegated again, but landed on his feet after a period away from management – joining Barcelona in 2003 to replace Louis van Gaal.

Although it was a relatively successful period at Camp Nou, he was replaced amid a presidential change at the club.

He went on to coach Celta Vigo, his native Serbia, Shandong Luneng and, most recently, Hebei China Fortune in 2015.

With most of the world still operating under lockdown conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, most professional sport is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Given the outbreak occurred at a particularly inopportune moment for top-level football in Europe, the situation has bred uncertainty across most leagues – including Spain's LaLiga.

Competitions in Europe are facing the question of whether finishing the season, regardless of the impact it may have on future campaigns, should be the priority once normality returns.

The current focus does appear to be on concluding the 2019-20 campaign. However, even with Euro 2020 pushed back by 12 months, clubs and leagues are still having to work to tight schedules, with UEFA hoping seasons finish by the end of June.

While the discussion over how to complete the schedule continues, the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes.

With all of the division's teams having completed 27 of 38 matches, their goal was to simulate how the rest of the season would pan out if the games were played now to produce a predicted 2019-20 table.

The statistical model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

BARCELONA CROWNED CHAMPIONS WITH 83 POINTS

The results in the statistical model see Barcelona crowned champions with a final total of just 83 points.

With 11 games to play, they presently lead rivals Real Madrid by two points, a gap that is predicted to have increased to four by the conclusion of the campaign, giving Quique Setien a first league crown.

Such have been the struggles of the big two this season, the final tally would be the lowest points recorded by a team to win the LaLiga since Fabio Capello's Madrid.

That team defeated Barca by virtue of their superior head-to-head record in a dramatic finish to the 2006-07 campaign, when the two sides accumulated 76 points.

It also suggests the chasing pack missed a rare opportunity to strike on a down year for both Clasico rivals, which will frustrate 2014 champions Atletico Madrid, who spent big on Joao Felix.

REAL MADRID FALL FOUR POINTS SHORT

The likelihood of Barca winning the title is 70.1%, with Real Madrid's chances rated at 29.9%. No other team is in with a chance of topping the table, according to the model.

But Zinedine Zidane's men are unlikely to face a challenge for second place, meaning they at least improve on their third-place finish from the 2018-19 season.

That third spot is poised to be grabbed by Atletico, who have a projected final points total of 65 and a 41.6% chance of claiming the position.

Atletico's closest challengers for third are predicted to be Sevilla (who are given a 26.1% chance) and Getafe (16.8%), with just two points separating those three sides in the final reckoning.

Diego Simeone would be thrilled with third place given his side went into the coronavirus-enforced break down in sixth, with Real Sociedad (9.1%) and Valencia (5%) the other teams in the mix.

UCL HEARTBREAK FOR LA REAL & GETAFE AS SEVILLA CLINCH 4TH

Sociedad and Getafe go into the break dreaming of a Champions League place amid fine seasons, but they are the two teams who will be worst affected by Atletico's predicted surge.

As part of a thrilling finish in the race for the top four, they are set to suffer heartbreak as Atletico pass them and they fall agonisingly short of catching Sevilla, who went into the halt in action sitting third.

Sevilla are anticipated to finish with 64 points, just one behind Atletico and one ahead of Getafe. 

Sociedad are then a further two behind Getafe with 61 as they are forced to settle for sixth, with Valencia staying in seventh on 59.

The four teams scheduled to finish between fourth and seventh all have a greater than 10.7% chance of finishing fourth, with none greater than Sevilla's 28.5%, so one bounce of the ball in a key game could still make an enormous difference.

Villarreal are predicted to finish in their current position of eighth, though they are given a 1.3% probability of breaking the top four.

Athletic Bilbao pass Granada for ninth position as Real Betis and Levante narrowly miss out on a spot in the top half.

Osasuna drop from 11th to 13th, where they are predicted to finish one point above Deportivo Alaves.

ESPANYOL SUFFER THE DROP AFTER 26 YEARS IN TOP FLIGHT

Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are the current bottom three in LaLiga and all are forecast to suffer relegation.

Espanyol have been in the top flight since 1994 but they go into the break six points adrift of safety and the model predicts they will be unable to make a great escape.

They are forecasted to collect 13 points from their last 11 games, but that is not even enough to get them off the bottom of the standings, highlighting the scale of the task they have ahead of them.

Similarly, Mallorca (36 points) and Leganes (35) are not expected to pick up enough victories to secure survival.

That means Celta Vigo, presently just one point clear of the drop zone, are predicted to survive with a final tally of 40, giving them a four-point cushion.

Celta are credited with 14 points between now and the end of the season to finish just behind Eibar (15th) and Real Valladolid (16th).

That means they would avoid a return to the Segunda Division, which is where they started the last decade.

When Barcelona were in danger of losing to Arsenal in the 2009-10 Champions League quarter-finals, Lionel Messi – as he so often does – turned the game on its head.

Monday marks 10 years since Messi took that game against Arsenal by the scruff of the neck and produced one of the stand-out displays of his illustrious career.

The Argentina great has lifted the Champions League trophy on four occasions and is the second-highest scoring player in the competition's history, sitting 14 adrift of all-time leader Cristiano Ronaldo's haul of 128 goals.

We take a look back at some of Messi's greatest performances in the Champions League

 

April 6, 2010 – Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (6-3 agg)

After they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in the first leg at Emirates Stadium, Nicklas Bendtner put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the tie after 19 minutes in the return game at Camp Nou.

Messi ensured it was Barcelona who progressed to the semi-finals, though.

He slammed a stunning finish past Manuel Almunia two minutes later and slotted home a pass from Pedro to double his tally.

A stunning chip over Almunia gave Messi his hat-trick before half-time, and he rounded off the 4-1 victory by grabbing a fourth at the second attempt after the Arsenal keeper stopped his initial effort at the end of a fine solo run.

 

April 27, 2011 – Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

A semi-final Clasico made for a mouth-watering prospect and, of course, Messi delivered on the grand stage.

No list of his greatest goals would be complete without his second against arch-rivals Madrid. A one-two with Sergio Busquets enabled him to race free of Lassana Diarra and he shifted through the gears to skip away from Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol.

He then darted in front of Marcelo and slid the ball beyond Iker Casillas to silence the Santiago Bernabeu.

A 1-1 draw in the second leg sent Barca into the final to face Manchester United…

 

May 28, 2011 – Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

In a repeat of the 2009 final, the outcome at Wembley proved the same.

Messi caused Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic problems from the off and, with the game locked at 1-1 after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro's opener, he found the back of the nine minutes after half-time.

After dropping deep from his centre-forward position, he received a pass from Andres Iniesta and drove forward before unleashing a powerful effort into the bottom-right corner.

David Villa completed the scoring as Barca came out on top against Alex Ferguson's side again.

 

March 7, 2012 – Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Leverkusen were on the receiving end of the greatest individual goalscoring display in Champions League history.

Messi became the first player to score five in a single game in Europe's premier club competition, enrapturing Camp Nou with a supreme performance in the second leg of this last-16 tie.

He got the ball rolling by scooping a long pass from Xavi beyond Bernd Leno, while his second came in trademark fashion – dribbling across the box from the right and firing a left-footed shot into the corner.

After a delightful chip to secure his hat-trick in the 49th minute, a stunning exchange of passes with Pedro preceded an error from Leno that Messi nipped in to punish.

A cool 18-yard finish left coach Pep Guardiola with an astonished look on his face. He had witnessed a performance for the ages.

 

May 6, 2015 – Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich

Guardiola returning to Camp Nou as Bayern boss was the big story ahead of kick-off, but Messi was the only subject of conversation after the final whistle.

It took 77 minutes for Messi to find the breakthrough, and his second three minutes later likely still gives Jerome Boateng nightmares.

He sent Germany international Boateng to the deck by turning inside and back out on the right side of the box. He then sent a wonderful dink over Manuel Neuer.

To cap things off Messi fed Neymar for a counter-attacking third in the 94th minute, and Barca went on to beat Juventus in the final and claim the trophy.

Barcelona have been warned against pandering to their players' apparent desire to see Neymar return to the club, with former Spain and Real Madrid boss Vicente del Bosque adamant he does not set a "good example".

Neymar spent four years at Camp Nou until 2017, when he left for Paris Saint-Germain as the most expensive player of all time in a €222million move.

While the Brazilian has undoubtedly caught the eye in Paris, scoring 47 goals and setting up another 26 in just 52 Ligue 1 matches, rarely has he appeared happy.

A return to Spain with Barca or Real Madrid has often been mooted, though reports linking him with his former club have been significantly more prominent in the past year.

Del Bosque, a Madrid icon and World Cup-winning coach with Spain, thinks he is a problem and cautioned the Barca hierarchy against caving into the supposed demands of players who reportedly want Neymar back in Catalonia.

"It is the clubs that must decide who to sign and who not to sign," Del Bosque told Mundo Deportivo.

"You should not pay attention to what the players say, for that there are sports directors and technical secretaries. It is very difficult for a footballer to speak ill of another footballer who has been his team-mate. I don't remember almost anyone who has.

"[Neymar] is a difficult boy. For me he is not a good example, and for the record, for me he is great as a player.

"If you ask me to tell you the top five in the world, he is safely on my list, but on the pitch he tries to cheat, he simulates a lot. And also, how did he leave Barcelona?"

Ajax star Donny van de Beek insisted he was yet to start learning Spanish amid links with a move to Real Madrid.

Van de Beek, 22, is widely expected to eventually make a move away from Amsterdam after impressing at Ajax.

The midfielder said there were several aspects to making a decision about a potential switch, but insisted he was yet to take Spanish language classes.

"My feelings about a club have to be positive. I don't mean that it only important to feel wanted, I also need to fit in to the style of play," Van de Beek told Helden.

"And of course, I would need to know how much playing time I would be given."

He added: "It's always nice to play in the sun, but I haven't started taking Spanish classes yet."

Van de Beek had scored 10 goals in 37 games for Ajax this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Tottenham striker Mido believes Zinedine Zidane has added nothing to Real Madrid in his second stint in charge.

Zidane returned to the helm of the LaLiga giants in March last year, having won three Champions League titles with Madrid during his first spell.

Mido, who played for Spurs, Ajax and Egypt during his career, criticised Zidane over his second stint, saying it was a mistake for the Frenchman to return.

"I really like Real Madrid. They are my favourite team in the league," he told AS.

"From my point of view, Zidane didn't add anything to Madrid [on his return]. As there is a saying that says, 'Do not marry the same woman twice'."

Having won the Supercopa de Espana this season, Madrid sat second to Barcelona in LaLiga and were in the Champions League last 16 when the campaign was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mido said the health of people was far more important than football, with uncertainty over when, and if, seasons will resume.

"Soccer is something secondary during the current situation, which of course will affect all the teams in the world," he said.

"But people's lives are more important than soccer."

Achraf Hakimi's agent has denied reports the on-loan Borussia Dortmund full-back's Real Madrid contract has been extended until 2023.

The Morocco international is in the second season of a two-year loan at Dortmund and has impressed in the Bundesliga, particularly this term.

Achraf has scored three times and set up another 10 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches in 2019-20, making him one of the league's most productive creators despite being a defender.

Prior to joining Dortmund on a temporary deal, Achraf made nine LaLiga appearances for Madrid during the 2017-18 season and showed promise.

He has built on that in Germany and reportedly attracted interest from other clubs, with Juventus and Bayern Munich said to be admirers, but claims from Spain that Madrid have already managed to extend his contract until 2023 are apparently false.

"There is no basis at all [for such stories]," Achraf's agent Alejandro Camano told Goal/SPOX. "His contract at Real Madrid is still the same one we negotiated in 2017, which runs until 2022.

"We have to wait. After this misery [the coronavirus pandemic] we will sit together with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund."

Dani Carvajal has been Madrid's first-choice option at right-back this term, making 22 LaLiga appearances.

The club's depth in that position is otherwise limited, while Achraf can also fill in at left-back.

 

 

 

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

The snowfall that hit Madrid in February 2018 initially appeared worse than it was, with the seas of white that engulfed fields, pitches and gardens in Spain's capital clearing quicker than one might've expected.

It was enough to cause Real Madrid to cancel their training for the day on February 5, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo an unexpected day off on his birthday – though daily sports publication AS were particularly critical of the club for essentially shutting down with a crucial Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain little more than a week away.

As it happened, Madrid went on to claim a third successive European crown, so the issue of a day off almost certainly won't have been raised again. However, it was this snowfall that proved a major disruption to the trial of a kid from the Canary Islands who was "about to sign", according to his father.

Pedri, 15 at the time, did not join Real Madrid. While he may have been shown the cold shoulder amid the snowfall, the midfielder subsequently signed with local side Las Palmas… And then Barcelona came calling.

Made for Barca

A diminutive, but effortlessly silky midfielder, it's little wonder Pedri will end up at Barca. "I have that Barca DNA," he said to EFE in his first major interview after his move was confirmed. "My desire is to resemble [Andres] Iniesta. I have always said he is my idol and he'll remain that until I die."

Pedri's rise has been impressive. In a little over a year, he progressed through the Juvenil A, B and Division de Honor teams in Las Palmas' academy before being introduced into the first-team picture just last year for pre-season.

He's now an undisputed starter at 17 – he initially didn't expect to even reach the Division de Honor team in 2019-20.

Las Palmas had been cautious about showing him off too early, aware that such a talent would immediately attract offers. Instead, they reportedly waited until they had him secured to a professional contract with a €30million release clause and then promised they'd sell him to an interested party straight away.

Barca made their move in September. An initial €5m could become €25m should Pedri meet certain criteria at Camp Nou – and at this point, few would bet against him making a lasting impression in Catalonia.

Once again Real Madrid were left frustrated, with a second attempt to sign Pedri coming too late – not that they would have necessarily been successful otherwise, as the teenager's father is the president of a local Barcelona supporters' club, which his grandfather founded.

"Barca DNA" indeed.

"One in a million"

Pepe Mel was the coach who put his faith in Pedri last year, the experienced tactician clearly stunned by the youngster's abilities.

"Look at this boy, because he's one in a million and he doesn't know it," Mel said at the time. "He will define a new era in Spanish football."

A bold prediction of one so young, but Pedri has taken to first-team football with immense comfort, his performances in La Segunda this season suggesting he's ready for LaLiga straight away and that Mel's foretelling might be on the money.

It had been expected that Pedri would spend another season on loan in the second tier with Las Palmas, or move to Barca's B team if they get promoted to the Segunda.

But now he is attracting loan interest from LaLiga clubs and appears set for a chance to impress first-team coaching staff in pre-season, whenever the coronavirus pandemic permits that period to be.

Shouldering the burden

While he possesses the skillset to play virtually anywhere across the midfield, by his own admission Pedri is most effective in the centre where he can take the game to the opposition, exploit gaps in defences and dazzle with his close dribbling.

Despite his age, Pedri has been a key player for Las Palmas this season, scoring three goals and setting up another four. Six of those goal involvements came in the first 10 matches of the campaign, highlighting there has been a bit of a dip in terms of overall productivity – though he's still proven effective.

Despite missing a chunk of the season to take part in the Under-17 World Cup in October and November, Pedri has played more league matches ( 26 ) than anyone else for Las Palmas this term and his 52 chances created is unmatched among team-mates. Only eight players in the entire league have produced more key passes.

Nineteen Segunda players have attempted more dribbles than Pedri's 83, but only two of them can improve on his 57 per cent completion rate.

And of 1,014 attempted passes, 80 per cent have found a team-mate. While by no means a startling statistic, context is key – many of those with better records on the face of it are central defenders or players operating in less-congested areas of the pitch than Pedri.

What's clear is, Pedri's already operating at a very high level for a 17-year-old. With many of Barca's midfield options aging, seemingly on their way out or unconvincing, an opportunity could present itself for him sooner rather than later. 

Snow may have prevented a move to Madrid two years ago, but Pedri can surely look forward to many frosty receptions in Clasico contests during the 2020s.

Europe's major leagues have been shut down due to coronavirus, but Cristiano Ronaldo is still making headlines.

Ronaldo was in the midst of his second season with Juventus before the 2019-20 campaign was postponed last month.

But there are ongoing doubts over Ronaldo's future in Turin.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO LINKED TO MADRID RETURN

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo misses Real Madrid and a reunion with his former club is not just a suggestion, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo is reportedly unhappy at Serie A champions Juve amid links to Paris Saint-Germain and another former team, Manchester United.

However, Calciomercato's report claims Ronaldo has eyes on Madrid but it will take a significant sum to prise the 35-year-old from Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona have set their asking price for out-of-favour attacker Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich. The LaLiga champions want at least €80million (£70m) for the Brazilian. The likes of Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked.

- Diario AS says Borussia Dortmund are concerned about mounting speculation surrounding Madrid's interest in Erling Haaland. The Norwegian sensation only joined Dortmund in January.

Madrid are chasing Lille's midfield star Boubakary Soumare, according to Le10Sport. United and Liverpool have also been linked to the 21-year-old.

Juve are looking to complete a deal for Mauro Icardi, says Calciomercato. Icardi is on loan at PSG from Inter but the Argentina international wants to return to Italy.

Manchester City face an uphill battle trying to sign Raphael Varane. Defensa Central says Madrid are ready to turn down any bids for the Frenchman. According to Tuttosport, City have set their sights on three Inter players – Lautaro Martinez, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni. Martinez has been tipped to join Barca.

- Diario AS claims Barca are keeping tabs on Juve midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur. It comes as Marca says Atletico Madrid are leading the race to sign Ivan Rakitic from Barca.

Milan are eyeing three candidates should star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma leave the club, reports Calciomercato. Donnarumma has been linked to Chelsea, Madrid and PSG and Napoli's Alex Meret, Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso and Sporting CP's Luis Maximiano are being considered.

Liverpool have reportedly put their plans to sign Timo Werner on hold, while Paulo Dybala's future could be clearer soon.

Werner, 24, was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool from RB Leipzig, but the coronavirus pandemic may have changed that.

Meanwhile, Dybala's future is set to be clear shortly.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PUT WERNER PLANS ON HOLD

Liverpool have put their plans to sign Werner on hold and also stopped contract talks due to coronavirus, according to The Daily Mail.

There is uncertainty over the financial statuses of sporting clubs around the world due to coronavirus and Liverpool are waiting until there is greater clarity.

Star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and defender Dejan Lovren are among the Liverpool players out of contract in 2021.

One club seemingly not prepared to wait are Juventus, with CalcioMercato reporting Dybala is getting closer to a contract extension with the Serie A giants.

 

ROUND-UP

- Luka Modric is going nowhere. AS claims the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2021, at Real Madrid. Just what Madrid's midfield looks like next season remains to be seen. Sport says Madrid will let James Rodriguez leave and bring Martin Odegaard back from his loan spell at Real Sociedad. It also reports Takefusa Kubo will be used as part of a deal to bring back Odegaard.

- Talk about a deal that would see Neymar return to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann join Paris Saint-Germain remains alive. According to Sport, PSG would welcome Griezmann while they attempt to re-sign Kylian Mbappe to unite the France team-mates at club level.

- One player unlikely to be at PSG is Edinson Cavani. Tuttosport reports Napoli are thinking about bringing the forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season, back to the Stadio San Paolo.

- Marc-Andre ter Stegen's future remains unclear. Sport claims Barcelona and the goalkeeper are no closer to renewing a contract that will expire in 2022.

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is seemingly happy on loan at Roma, but whether he stays remains to be seen. The Daily Express says Arsenal have rejected two bids – the last one around €11.4million (£10m) – from the Serie A club, who may instead turn to Chelsea's Pedro.

- As they plan a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Chelsea have told Willian he has no chance of getting a three-year deal, according to the Mirror. Willian is out of contract at the end of the season.

Real Madrid great Goyo Benito has died at the age of 73, the club confirmed on Thursday.

Benito came through the youth ranks at Madrid and went on to make 420 first-team appearances across 13 seasons.

The moustachioed defender was a six-time LaLiga champion and won the Copa del Rey on five occasions, with Los Blancos claiming doubles in 1974-75 and 1979-80.

Benito made his debut in 1969 and was part of the generation that succeeded Madrid's so-called 'Yeye' team that dominated Spanish football during that decade.

He suffered disappointment in the 1981 European Cup final against Liverpool and retired after lifting the Copa del Rey the following season.

Benito made 22 appearances for Spain and is one of only two Madrid players, alongside Pirri, to receive the club's Laureate distinction.

A club statement read: "Real Madrid, its president and board of directors express their deep regret at the passing of Goyo Benito, one of the great legends of our club's history.

"Real Madrid wishes to share its condolences and sends its affection to his wife, Paula, and children, Patricia and Ruben, all of his family and loved ones. These condolences are also offered on behalf of madridistas from all over the world.

"Real Madrid supported Benito right throughout his battle against the illness that he suffered from for over more than a decade.

"The Real Madrid family is today in mourning as we remember one of the great defenders in our club's history."

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