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.

Former Inter midfielder Benoit Cauet insisted the Nerazzurri can sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

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".

Barca captain Messi is contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021 but his future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

"Of course Inter can sign Lionel Messi, there are no doubts that they could," Cauet, who won the UEFA Super Cup with Inter in 1997-98, said in an Instagram Live interview.

"President Steven Zhang has the financial capabilities and the potential ambition. He is a president who thinks big."

Messi – who moved to Barca from boyhood club Newell's Old Boys in 2001 – had scored 24 goals across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was postponed due to coronavirus.

The 32-year-old attacker tops the LaLiga scoring charts with 19 goals through 27 rounds.

Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero said the Serie A season "must end here" as it would be pointless to restart the league without fans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Serie A was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of COVID-19, and authorities have insisted they will not even consider resuming action until it is safe to do so.

It remains to be seen if and when the 2019-20 campaign returns but matches behind closed doors are almost a certainty in Italy, where more than 17,600 people have died from coronavirus.

"Let's organise ourselves to say that this championship must end here and now," Ferrero told Telenord.

"I say it with a heavy heart, because I do want to resume, but only when I can see our beautiful stadium with fans beating their drums.

"I saw Sampdoria-Verona behind closed doors and it hurt my soul to see it played in silence. How can you celebrate a result in that desolate landscape?

"Why bother playing a game without fans, the colours all around, the noise and cheering, this is football, this is entertainment and 90 minutes of pure adrenaline. A game without fans, what even is it?"

The last Serie A game before the league's postponement was on March 9 – Sassuolo defeated Brescia 3-0.

Sampdoria were 16th and only a point above the relegation zone after 25 games when the Serie A came to a halt last month.

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking, passing, defending and goalkeeping numbers from 2019-20, but who has been letting the side down with shoddy discipline.

We have analysed five metrics for players now operating under the increasing scrutiny of VAR across the elite divisions.

These include the worst offenders in terms of fouls conceded, penalties conceded, offsides, yellow cards and red cards.

Check out our list of shame below, which is not the who's who of hotheads you might expect, while a lack of minutes on the field does not necessarily mean a player cannot irritate the officials.

THE WORST FOUL STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most fouls conceded: Robert Andrich (52) 
Most penalties conceded: Dedryck Boyata (3)
Most offsides: Timo Werner (35)
Most yellow cards: Klaus Gjasula (12)
Most red cards: Leon Bailey (2)

LALIGA:

Most fouls conceded: Jaime Mata (67)
Most penalties conceded: Ruben Duarte (4)
Most offsides: Alvaro Morata (28)
Most yellow cards: Gerard Pique (12)
Most red cards: Facundo Roncaglia, Zouhair Feddal, Clement Lenglet (all 2)

LIGUE 1:

Most fouls conceded: Andy Delort (69)
Most penalties conceded: Mathieu Debuchy (3)
Most offsides: Victor Osimhen (33)
Most yellow cards: Nicolas Pallois (10)
Most red cards: Ruben Aguilar, Racine Coly, Steven Moreira, Boubakary Soumare, Marcal, Anthony Briancon, Jacques-Alaixys Romao (all 2)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most fouls conceded: Etienne Capoue (47)
Most penalties conceded: David Luiz (3)
Most offsides: Chris Wood (31)
Most yellow cards: Jorginho (10)
Most red cards: Christian Kabasele (2)

SERIE A:

Most fouls conceded: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (52)
Most penalties conceded: Koray Gunter (3)
Most offsides: Cristiano Ronaldo, Rodrigo Palacio (both 21)
Most yellow cards: Ismael Bennacer (12)
Most red cards: Bremer, Federico Marchetti, Pawel Dawidowicz, Armando Izzo, Davide Calabria (all 2)

AND THE TOP FIVE:

Most fouls conceded: Andy Delort (69)
Most penalties conceded: Ruben Duarte (4)
Most offsides: Timo Werner (35)
Most yellow cards: Ismael Bennacer (12 in 1,620 minutes played)
Most red cards: Federico Marchetti (2 despite not playing a single minute of Lazio's Serie A season!)

Luis Suarez views Barcelona's reported interest in fellow forwards Neymar and Lautaro Martinez as an encouraging sign.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou having won two LaLiga titles and a Champions League playing alongside Suarez during his previous stint at the club.

He is not the only striker reportedly on Barca's radar, though, with Inter's Martinez another attacker thought to be considered an intriguing prospect to the Blaugrana hierarchy.

Rather than see such speculation as a threat to his place in the team, Suarez has given his approval to those pursuits.

"It is difficult to talk about players today," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"As is the situation in the world today, talking about who can come because of how everything is complicated. But I can speak about what these players are like and they are huge players. 

"Obviously, Ney, everyone knows him and we know the appreciation that we have for him in the dressing room, which as a player is indisputable because he still has a lot to give and in the dressing room he would always be welcome because of the affection he has. 

"Lautaro is a player who has been growing a lot in Italy, he is a 'nine' who has movements that are spectacular and that reflects how great a striker he is. 

"It is not that you feel compatible but that you feel happy that the club wants to incorporate players who come to help and fulfil the same objective of everyone - that of wanting to win everything. 

"Then when it comes to healthy competition in the team, which there will always, we will always be on the same side. 

"So players who come to fight for a place and help the team will always be welcome, it will always be better and it will strengthen the group."

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.

The Premier League will follow Belgium's Pro League and cancel the rest of its season, according to Udinese sporting director Pierpaolo Marino.

With Liverpool 25 points clear atop the table, the Premier League was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many leagues around the world have been brought to a standstill, with Belgium set to cancel the rest of their campaign and award the title to leaders Club Brugge.

Marino, whose club are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo – the father of Watford owner Gino, believes England will do likewise.

"The Belgian federation has sanctioned the end of the championship, despite the threat of UEFA sanctions," he told Sportitalia on Tuesday.

"England is about to issue the same measure because the situation is becoming very serious. I speak of the Premier League."

Marino added: "We have to get away from this danger, no matter the weather. I'm worried about the coming seasons, not the old one."

More than 81,800 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, while there have been more than 1.4 million cases.

In the United Kingdom, more than 6,100 people have died from coronavirus.

LaLiga players have been told it should be "normal" for them to have their salaries reduced because everyone else is being impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

With elite European football at a standstill due to COVID-19, much debate has surrounded the topic of player wages and whether or not their salaries should be reduced while no fixtures are taking place in order to save the clubs money and protect the livelihoods of less wealthy non-playing staff.

Serie A clubs have voted unanimously to implement cuts of up to a third of players' yearly wages, while some teams from other countries around Europe are making their own decisions on the matter, with Atletico Madrid confirming players had accepted a 70 per cent reduction.

Atletico's stance is by no means a standard in LaLiga, but league president Javier Tebas thinks some form of sacrifice should be made across the board and believes that will be achieved in the coming days.

"We are in a moment of exceptional, unpredictable, and enormous-impact crisis," he said in a teleconference with foreign media on Tuesday.

"Everyone loses money, it seems normal to me that players' salaries are also reduced. In Spain we did not find an agreement with the union, our negotiations ran aground yesterday [Monday].

"At the moment, eight LaLiga clubs [across the first and second divisions] have requested ERTE [Temporary Employment Regulation File], but in the next few days all our teams will activate salary reduction protocols, either through ERTE or with individual agreements with their players.

"Spanish football does not intend to resort to state aid, we must be economically independent."

Tebas also confirmed LaLiga's desire to resume the season – if possible – on the final weekend of May, meaning the campaign would likely extend beyond June 30.

While that would be problematic in terms of the next transfer window and the expirations of some contracts or loans at the end of June, Tebas is confident modifications will be possible.

"It will be necessary to alter the contracts of the players that expire on June 30, as well as the various loan agreements," he said. "It is not simple, but not so complicated. I think that the players will agree and that the different leagues will find a solution that complies with general regulations.

"It is clear that the current transfer window dates, from July 1 to September 1, will not be suitable and should be changed, but I can't say much more.

"We will have to see the recommendations of FIFA and adjust the market to the current conditions generated by the coronavirus, which are decidedly exceptional."

Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for Inter "would not be a drama" for LaLiga nor would he immediately solve Serie A's problems, according to Javier Tebas.

The idea of Messi departing Camp Nou has often appeared fanciful but clashes between the Argentina great and Barca's board this season have made it seem a much more plausible scenario.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti said this week that a potential Nerazzurri swoop for Messi is not a "forbidden dream at all".

Messi leaving would be seen by most as a blow to LaLiga as well as Barca, given his standing as one of the greatest players of all time.

But LaLiga chief Tebas says the league will always be strong, pointing to Cristiano Ronaldo's switch from Real Madrid to Juventus as proof, while he claimed Italian football would not be fixed purely by Messi's arrival.

"I do not think that the arrival of Messi can solve the problems of Serie A, which are linked to the bad relationship between debts, high and insufficient collections," Tebas said on a video conference with reporters.

"Serie A's figures are stressed, and these economic problems certainly are not solved by Leo Messi. 

"I would like Messi to stay here, but if he leaves it would not be a drama.

"It was said that without Cristiano Ronaldo the league would have lost money, and instead we would have earned it, even in Portugal. Players help but are not essential to a championship. "

Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva's agent Paulo Tonietto said "anything is possible" amid links to former club Milan.

Silva is out of contract at the end of the 2019-20 season and the 35-year-old is set to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG.

The Brazilian centre-back is reportedly open to re-joining Milan, where he won the Serie A title in 2011 before joining PSG the following year.

"In football anything is possible, but we have to wait to see what will happen because of the pandemic," Tonietto told MilanNews.it.

"He has great admiration for Milan, his years with them were those that marked his career.

"He knows about the fans' great affection for him."

Silva has won six Ligue 1 titles since moving to PSG, and 14 other pieces of silverware in the French capital.

Prior the postponement of Ligue 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Silva had made 21 league appearances and 30 across all competitions.

The Italian Footballers' Association (AIC) rejected a proposal from Serie A clubs to cut player wages by up to a third amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Serie A clubs voted in favour of temporarily reducing player wages in an attempt to ease the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Italy's top flight was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of the virus, and authorities have insisted they will not even consider resuming action until it is safe to do so.

With Serie A's hiatus impacting clubs financially, league-wide pay cuts for players and coaching staff had been mooted, however the AIC slammed the proposal.

"The AIC Board of Directors, meeting today for their usual weekly meeting, which was followed by a meeting with the representatives of the Serie A teams, deemed the proposal put forward by Lega Serie A and B to be inadmissible," the statement read.

"The behaviour of the leagues is incomprehensible at a time like this. The desire, not so much implied, of wanting to dump on the players, putting them in a bad light, the economic damage resulting from the crisis situation, is a fact that makes you reconsider the entrepreneurial credibility of those who should be ferrying the football system at this difficult time.

"To think that a resolution from an assembly meeting must be used to decide not to pay players any longer leaves us speechless.

"The same Presidents who would like a suspension of salaries sent their teams out to play until March 9, made them train until mid-March and still monitor and control individual training carried out according to the directives of their coaches.

"The discussion of the past few weeks focused on the contestation of remaining payments to be suspended or postponed, but it never went beyond short telephone calls.

"Now we understand why no agreement was sought on the technical changes to the Collective Agreement. The real intention [of clubs] is not to pay. It leaves us stunned, given that several teams are already sitting with their players, to discuss how to help each other at a time like this."

AIC president Damiano Tommasi said: "If the Serie A clubs have to meet at an assembly meeting to say they won't pay wages when in reality, face to face with the players, individual clubs are looking for common-sense agreements, it's very worrying.

"I can't understand the business logic behind this behaviour: putting the players, the main protagonists, in a bad light, when almost everyone else is already discussing with clubs how to get out of this crisis together. It seems crazy to me."

Vice-president Umberto Calcagno added: "It is a shameful and inadmissible proposal. It is clear the indication that we want to pay only the players for any damage caused by the crisis. 

"The only relevant part of the League press release is the wording that it is said that the teams will have to negotiate contractual changes with individual players."

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, with at least 1,340,270 confirmed cases and more than 74,600 deaths.

Italy has the highest death count with over 16,500 deaths, while cases have exceeded 132,500.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi joining Inter is not a "forbidden dream at all", according to former president Massimo Moratti.

Messi is contracted to Barca until 2021 but the six-time Ballons d'Or winner's future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

The Barca captain has been linked to Serie A outfit Inter previously and Moratti believes that luring Messi to Milan is not an impossible goal.

"I don't think it's a forbidden dream at all. Maybe it wasn't even before this misfortune," he told Radio Rai.

"Messi is at the end of his contract and it would certainly be attempted to bring him home.

"I don't know if this situation will change anything, but I think we will see strange things at the end of the year."

Inter star Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to move to Barca at the end of the season – the Argentina international seen as a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez.

Moratti, who was Inter president between 1995 and 2013, suggested Martinez could be used in an exchange deal for countryman Messi.

"He [Martinez] is a very good lad, he cares about his career," Moratti said. "But, as I said before, we have to see if it's part of an operation for bigger players like Messi."

Serie A clubs are unanimously in favour of cutting player wages by up to a third in an attempt to ease the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy's top flight was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of the virus, and authorities have insisted they will not even consider resuming action until it is safe to do so.

Only the United States and Spain have been impacted more heavily by COVID-19 than Italy, which has confirmed 128,000 cases and almost 16,000 deaths – a worldwide high.

With the suspension preventing clubs from taking in gate receipts and other streams of revenue, they are being impacted financially.

League-wide pay cuts for players and coaching staff had been mooted, particularly since Juventus implemented their own such measures last week, and Serie A has now confirmed all clubs have agreed to act.

A statement read: "The situation needs the entire system to be responsible, with the clubs ready to play their part while facing huge losses in order to guarantee Italian football's future.

"These losses will have to be minimal because a reduction of costs will be implemented, when most of the costs are represented by salaries.

"Coherently with all the actions undertaken at national and international level, Lega Serie A has decided unanimously, excluding Juventus - who have already agreed such salary cut with their own players - a common line to reduce the impact of wages of players and managers of the first-team squads.

"This reduction, necessary to save the future of football, will be of one-third lump sum (as much as four months' salary) if football doesn't start over again or of one-sixth (as much as two months' salary) if we can finish the 2019-20 season. It goes without saying that it will be the clubs discussing the terms with their employees.

"Lega Serie A is monitoring the situation along with FIGC [Italian Football Federation], UEFA and ECA [European Clubs Association]. The will to finish the season has been communicated, but only without any risks as of when sanitary conditions and governments decree will allow it.

"Today's assembly has analysed the recommendations of the Italian Sporting Medical Federation on the training session restart at the present time. Within the end of this week the FIGC will issue the norms about it."

The futures of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe continue to make headlines.

Both Paris Saint-Germain players have been linked with big moves to LaLiga.

But coronavirus could scupper their plans.

 

TOP STORY – CORONAVIRUS TO STOP NEYMAR & MBAPPE EXITS

Paris Saint-Germain expect star pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to stay at the Ligue 1 champions due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to L'Equipe.

Neymar has been tipped to re-join Barcelona, while Real Madrid hold a strong interest in Mbappe.

But COVID-19 is wreaking havoc globally and the financial implications, which are expected to prompt a fall in transfer fees, could see the pair remain in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Inter have turned down an exchange deal for Lautaro Martinez from Barca. LaLiga champions Barca offered Junior Firpo and Nelson Semedo as part of a deal to bring Martinez to Camp Nou, however, they were rebuffed.

Matthijs de Ligt wants to leave Juventus and his agent Mino Raiola is determined to take the Dutch defender to Madrid, reports ABC. De Ligt has also been linked to Premier League giants Manchester United. The 20-year-old only moved to Turin last year.

Milan are "dreaming" of signing Inter's Mauro Icardi, claims Corriere dello Sport. Icardi – not wanted by Inter – is on loan at PSG but the Argentina international reportedly wants to return to Serie A. The report comes amid speculation ex-Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti could be appointed by Milan for the 2020-21 season. Icardi has also been heavily linked to Juve.

- Calciomercato says Harry Kane to Juventus could be a possibility in the coming months, however, a deal with Tottenham is almost impossible amid the coronavirus pandemic.

- Milan captain and defender Alessio Romagnoli has emerged as a target for Barca, according to Sport. If Romagnoli leaves San Siro, Thiago Silva could return. Tuttosport says the 35-year-old PSG defender, who is out of contract at season's end, is thinking about returning to Milan.

Napoli are in the hunt for a replacement for Arkadiusz Milik, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. Milik is contracted until 2021 but the Polish striker is no closer to a new deal amid links to Milan. If he does leave, Napoli's list of targets includes Inter's Genoa Andrea Pinamonti, Madrid forward Luka Jovic and Mainz attacker Jean-Philippe Mateta.

- Calciomercato says Juve have decided to sell midfielder Miralem Pjanic to free up space in the squad and raise funds. Meanwhile, Gianluca Di Marzio claims Federico Bernardeschi will leave Juve following the arrival of Dejan Kulusevski.

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