Barcelona star Lionel Messi has branded speculation linking him with moves to Inter and Newell's Old Boys as "fake news".

Reports in Argentina, Spain and Italy in recent days have suggested Inter could launch an audacious bid to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, with Barca said to be keen to speak with the Nerazzurri about striker Lautaro Martinez.

TNT in Messi's homeland even suggested discussions had already begun over a series of transfers that would see Martinez move to Camp Nou and Messi head to Inter along with rising Velez Sarsfield star Thiago Almada.

However, Messi has made it clear there is no truth to the rumours, publishing a screenshot of the claim on his official Instagram page and labelling it "fake news".

He described the report of the Inter deal as "lie 1" and wrote "lie 2" over a further claim that bail for former team-mate Ronaldinho, who is being held in Paraguay over allegedly entering the country with a fake passport, was paid from a Barcelona-based bank account that could have been used by Messi.

Messi added: "What they said in this same publication about Newell's a few weeks ago was also false. At least nobody believes them..."

Messi's future remains unclear as he has the option to unilaterally terminate his Barca contract at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has been at loggerheads with some of Barca's board this term, adding to speculation he could decide to walk away.

Messi called out first-team technical secretary Eric Abidal for suggesting some players downed tools during Ernesto Valverde's final weeks in charge, while he then accused figures within the club of trying to place the players under undue public scrutiny while they negotiated a voluntary 70 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus crisis.

Manchester City are another club to have been linked with the Argentina star, who has always stressed he feels at home at Barca, where he has spent his whole senior career.

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal are working on "two or three different scenarios" in terms of transfer plans before next season.

With football leagues largely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA has announced it will allow transfer window dates to be changed in case domestic seasons have to be completed later than planned this year.

As leagues and clubs face financial uncertainty amid the COVID-19 crisis, many have predicted the next window will see a departure from the inflated transfer fees that had become the norm in recent years.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already stated his club must be ready to make the most of an opportunity to snap up targets that might suddenly become available.

Arteta has likewise been preparing different plans for the next window, admitting it is impossible to be certain how the market will play out.

Speaking to Sky Sports, the Gunners head coach said: "I'm planning two or three different scenarios that we can face. Depending on one of those three, we will be able to do more, less or nothing.

"We have to react daily. We don't know what the financial situation is going to be, we don't know the rules, the timing, the window. There are so many things we cannot control at the moment."

Arsenal suffered a shock Europa League exit to Olympiacos in February but had otherwise been showing encouraging signs of improvement under Arteta before the season was paused.

The Gunners won just one of eight matches in December, the month Arteta took over from Unai Emery, but have won eight and drawn four of 13 games in all competitions in 2020.

Arteta was pleased with his side's progress after needing to repair the rapport between players and fans after he arrived.

"I went through a lot when I got here ... I had eight or 10 players injured, and there were a lot of issues to deal with," he said. "The connection between fans, players and club was in a difficult state at that moment. We had to change that energy, the belief and the commitment from the players.

"I was very pleased because everyone was on board with what we were doing. We started to win three or four games in a row and there was a much more positive mindset around the place."

Arteta was one of the first high-profile figures in English sport to test positive for coronavirus, which prompted a scheduled match against Manchester City to be cancelled, but now feels fully recovered.

"Either mine wasn't a very strong virus or my immune system was pretty good," Arteta said. "The same day that we were told that we were at risk because we were in contact with the Olympiacos owner [Evangelos Marinakis] was the exact day when I started to show some symptoms.

"I felt a huge responsibility as I knew the next day we were playing Manchester City. I had a feeling inside of myself that something was wrong. We had to make the point and make it clear. We spoke to the Premier League about bringing the case forward as we knew we could expose ourselves to people.

"I pulled the doctor and the CEO to my house telling them that we had a situation due to my symptoms. We had players that had been in contact, so we said the decision was too big for us alone to make. We had to communicate this with the Premier League and Manchester City in order to protect everybody. We made the right call."

Neymar is Lionel Messi's "natural replacement" and would love to return to Barcelona, according to Brazil World Cup winner Mazinho.

Brazil superstar Neymar departed Camp Nou for a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2017-18 season but has consistently been linked with a move back to Barca.

Despite regular speculation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, Neymar remained in the French capital and has scored 18 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions this term.

Neymar is once again being tipped to join Barca, though it was said at the time he left the club in part to try and escape the shadow of superstar team-mate and now six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

But Mazinho feels the 28-year-old is ready to come back and is capable of taking on Messi's mantle as Barca's talisman.

Speaking to Radio Marca, he said: "[Barcelona] would be delighted if he can return tomorrow.

"He is Messi's natural replacement. There is no other to replace Messi."

Mazinho's son Thiago Alcantara is part of a Bayern Munich side who returned to training this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bundesliga champions trained in small groups without contact and Mazinho, who was part of the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazil team, said he trusts the club have taken appropriate measures.

"[Playing football amid the coronavirus outbreak] is worrying because it is a complicated situation that we are all experiencing," he added.

"In Germany they are progressing in that sense, with group training.

"You have to be very careful with all this. If Bayern do it, they do it because there is no risk and they are providing security to all their footballers.

"My son must work and be as prudent as possible."

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.

Bayer Leverkusen have signed Kaiserslautern goalkeeper Lennart Grill, the Bundesliga club announced on Wednesday.

Germany Under-21 international Grill will swap third-tier German outfit Kaiserslautern for Leverkusen for the 2020-21 season.

Grill – whose deal with Leverkusen is until June 2024 – played in every game for Kaiserslautern prior to the postponement of football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"A big step forward to a top German team. I've watched a lot of Bayer 04 games up to the season being suspended. As a spectator, it was great fun watching their high tempo, possession football," the 21-year-old said.

"Bayer 04 Leverkusen are a club with European ambition and I'm happy to soon be part of it."

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes said: "We've been able to sign a very interesting and highly talented goalkeeper in Lennart Grill.

"It's a long-term signing and Lennart has great prospects. We are very happy we’ve been able to persuade him to join us."

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.

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.

Player contracts could be extended and the transfer window moved under recommendations made by FIFA to mitigate the huge disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

With most football across the planet on indefinite lockdown amid the spread of COVID-19, the game's global governing body put together a taskforce aimed at tackling some of the most pressing issues.

Among them was the matter of player contracts, which generally coincide with the calendar of the season, meaning many professionals will see their terms expire before the delayed 2019-20 campaign can be completed.

FIFA has recommended extending contracts, which would in turn delay the initiation of any terms that would have come into force at the start of next season.

Furthermore, the body said it would be "flexible" with regards to the dates of the next transfer window for respective leagues, such that they can still fall between the end of this season and the start of the next.

President Gianni Infantino hopes the proposals will "serve to bring a measure of stability and clarity to football for the foreseeable future".

A statement explained: "Expiring player contracts usually end when the season ends, with a termination date that coincides with the end of the season.

"With the current suspension of play in most countries, it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would.

"Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.

"This should be in line with the original intention of the parties when the contract was signed and should also preserve sporting integrity and stability.

"A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.

"With regard to transfer windows, again, it is necessary to adjust the normal regulatory position to the new factual circumstances.

"Accordingly, FIFA will be flexible and will allow the relevant transfer windows to be moved so they fall between the end of the old season and the start of the new season."

Infantino added: "We hope that this collaborative effort, under the leadership of FIFA, can provide a positive example of how football can come together and show unity, solidarity and a spirit of compromise in order to face the challenging times ahead.

"But before these times come, one thing must be clear to everyone, especially now: health comes first, well before football."

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.

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."

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?"

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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