Spanish Super Cup: Barca need pens to see off Sociedad

Barcelona booked their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup after overcoming the absence of injured Lionel Messi to beat Real Sociedad 3-2 in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time on Wednesday.

Barca midfielder Riqui Puig kept his cool to deceive keeper Alex Remiro and score the decisive fifth penalty, sending the Catalans into Sunday’s final in Seville, after team mates Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong had squandered their spot-kicks.

Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Willian Jose and Jon Bautista had failed to score their kicks after the Basque side came close to finding a winning goal in a thrilling period of extra time following an unremarkable 90 minutes.

De Jong headed Barca in front in the 39th minute after nice link up play between Martin Braithwaite and Griezmann but the Dutchman committed a handball early in the second half and Sociedad’s Oyarzabal levelled from the spot.

Holders Real Madrid meet Athletic Bilbao on Thursday in the other semi-final of the competition, which is being held across southern Spain after initial plans to play it in Saudi Arabia were wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mikel Oyarzabal had equalised for Real Sociedad from the spot in normal time
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Mikel Oyarzabal had equalised for Real Sociedad from the spot in normal time

Messi missed Barca’s warm-up session on the morning of the game due to thigh discomfort and Braithwaite took his place up front, while young central defender Oscar Mingueza came in at right back to deputise for Sergino Dest, who was not fully fit.

Sociedad, who made a blistering start to the La Liga season but have since faded, ran their hearts out to keep Barca at bay in a tight match before the game split in extra time, when both sides came close to finding a winner.

Griezmann volleyed straight at Remiro, while Ousmane Dembele was also thwarted by the keeper, while Barca’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced two stunning saves to deny Joseba Zaldua and Adnan Januzaj.

Barca have won the Super Cup a record 13 times but lost to Atletico Madrid at the semi-final stage of last year’s competition and coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked as a result, despite the team then sitting top of La Liga.

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Final candidates in crucial Barca election confirmed

Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the final three candidates left in the race to become the next president of Barcelona.

Former president Laporta, whose reign lasted from 2003 to 2010, received the most validated signatures of the three remaining candidates, according to a club statement.

Barcelona also said another candidate, Emili Rousaud, withdrew his bid earlier on Thursday during the validation process.

The outcome of the election, which is scheduled to take place on January 24, will have huge implications for the future of Lionel Messi and whether he stays at the club beyond the end of this season when his deal expires.

Messi has said he is not backing any of the candidates in this month’s election, as he tries to distance himself from proceedings, and insists he has not spoken with any of them.

The Argentina international put in a transfer request at Barcelona at the end of last season, but the club’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu would not let him leave the Nou Camp, despite claims from Messi’s camp that there was a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for free.

Ronald Koeman and Lionel Messi
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Ronald Koeman and Lionel Messi’s futures could be decided by this month’s election

Messi has not been shy to highlight that he feels the club is in bad shape and hopes the next president of Barcelona has a clear plan to return the club to its former glory.

Messi 360: The view from… Barcelona

There is not a great deal that Barcelona’s interim board can do to help persuade Messi to stay and sign another contract before the election. That job will be in the hands of the new president.

For that, there are really only two favourites for the job; Joan Laporta, who has been president before, and Victor Font, the telecommunications entrepreneur.

While there is no indication that Messi prefers either, and the player has been keeping well out of the way of the debate so far, Laporta has a good relationship with him having overseen the most successful period in the club’s history with Guardiola as head coach.

And Laporta said recently he would do “everything possible” to keep Messi if he returns for another spell at the helm

Font, meanwhile, wants to rebuild Barca from the bottom up; producing its players from La Masia academy, and he has been working with one of its best products – Messi’s former team-mate Xavi – to return as head coach.

Xavi is expected to be among Laporta’s considerations too but, on Messi, Font has said: “I’m convinced that with a competitive, exciting and, especially in Messi’s case, long-term project – one that could even go beyond the day that Messi retires – we will convince him to stay.”

The frontrunners will begin to emerge this month, and they are expected to indicate who will take up key positions in the hierarchy. These developments will have a mark on Messi’s thinking, but it is really only when the election is made, and a firm blueprint put forward, that a significant bearing on Messi’s future will be made.

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Pochettino claims first PSG win; Messi, Griezmann doubles

Mauricio Pochettino delivered his first win in charge at Paris Saint-Germain with a 3-0 home victory over Brest.

In-form Moise Kean, on loan from Everton, opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a header for his ninth goal of the campaign.

PSG, who had drawn 1-1 against St Etienne last time out, finally settled matters late on through Mauro Icardi (81) and a long-range effort by substitute Pablo Sarabia (83).

The gap to Lyon is down to just one point after the leaders had to fight back to earn a 2-2 draw at Rennes.

Clement Grenier (20) and Benjamin Bourigeaud (55) had seemingly put the home side in control, with Lyon appearing set to see their 15-game unbeaten run end at Roazhon Park.

In-form Moise Kean opened the scoring to send Pochettino towards his first win in charge of PSG
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In-form Moise Kean opened the scoring to send Pochettino towards his first win in charge of PSG – AP photo

However, after Jason Denayer saw a goal ruled out by VAR for handball, Lyon recovered when Memphis Depay volleyed in his 11th goal of the season in the 79th minute. The Dutchman then crossed for Denayer to head in the equaliser three minutes later.

Third-placed Lille won 1-0 away to Nimes, with a first-half goal from Burak Yilmaz, and remain level on points with PSG.

Elsewhere, Monaco beat Angers 3-0 to move fourth, while Marseille were held to a goalless draw at strugglers Dijon.

Strasbourg won 1-0 at Lens, Remi Oudin scored twice as Bordeaux beat relegation-battlers Lorient 2-1 and John Boye’s late goal gave Metz a 1-1 home draw against Nice.

It finished 1-1 between Montpellier and Nantes, with Boulaye Dia scoring twice as Reims beat Saint-Etienne 3-1.

La Liga: Real failed to capitalise on Atletico postponement

Real Madrid missed the chance to make the most of LaLiga title rivals Atletico having their match postponed by snow after being held to a goalless draw at struggling Osasuna.

With the Spanish capital hit by the wintery blast of Storm Filomena, Atletico‘s clash against Athletic Bilbao had been postponed.

Real, though, were left frustrated in freezing conditions at El Sadar, where Karim Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos both had goals disallowed for offside.

Atletico are still a point clear, having played three matches less, while Osasuna stay 19th following a fourth successive league draw.

Barcelona cruised past Granada and Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann starred. Pic: AP
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Barcelona cruised past Granada and Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann starred – AP photo

Barcelona moved up to third with a comfortable 4-0 win at Granada, who finished with 10 men.

Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi each scored twice as Ronald Koeman’s men extended their unbeaten run to eight matches.

Granada had Jesus Vallejo sent off late on for tripping Barca substitute Martin Braithwaite on the edge of the penalty area.

Griezmann AP
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Antonie Griezmann scored twice as Barcelona cruised to victory – AP photo

Meanwhile, Youssef En-Nesyri scored a hat trick as Sevilla beat Real Sociedad 3-2 in a thriller that featured four goals in the opening quarter of an hour.

En-Nesyri opened the scoring in the fourth minute from a pass by Fernando. Just one minute later, an own goal by Sevilla’s Diego Carlos came when he attempted to knock the ball away from Aleksander Isak.

While his first goal was a simple tap into an open net, En-Nesyri’s second goal in the seventh minute was a work of beauty. The Morocco striker dribbled past three defenders before beating the Sociedad goalkeeper with a low strike.

Isak then made it 2-2 from a corner kick that reached him unmarked at the far post. But En-Nesyri netted the winner in the 46th minute, after firing in a low cross by Lucas Ocampos.

Bundesliga – Haaland double in Dortmund win

Haaland AP
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Erling Haaland also scored twice as Borussia Dortmund denied RB Leipzig top spot in the Bundesliga – AP photo

Erling Haaland scored twice for Borussia Dortmund to deny RB Leipzig top spot in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win.

Leipzig was hoping to take advantage of Bayern Munich’s 3-2 loss at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday but remain a point behind the league leaders after slumping to their first home defeat of the season.

Neither side impressed in a cagey first half before Dortmund seized the initiative in the second. Jadon Sancho followed up his first league goal of the season against Wolfsburg last weekend with the opener in the 55th minute. Marco Reus set up Sancho with his heel and the England forward fired inside the left post.

Haaland struck the crossbar and Dani Olmo responded by hitting the post for Leipzig.

The Norway forward went one better in the 71st minute when Sancho set him up to score with a header after some fine team interplay from Dortmund. Then Reus sent Haaland through to round goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi and seal the win late on.

Matthew Hoppe, AP
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Matthew Hoppe scored a hat-trick for Schalke in their first Bundesliga win in 30 games – AP photo

Substitute Alexander Sorloth’s 89th-minute strike was too little, too late for Leipzig. Dortmund climb to fourth, three points behind RB Leipzig, after their third win in four games under new coach Edin Terzic.

American forward Matthew Hoppe scored a hat-trick in Schalke’s first victory for almost a year, helping his club avoid matching Tasmania Berlin’s old Bundesliga record for consecutive winless games.

Schalke’s 4-0 win over visiting Hoffenheim ended their 30-game wait for a league win. Tasmania had gone 31 straight games without a win during the 1965/66 season.

The 19-year-old Hoppe had not scored before for Schalke, but he opened his account with a brilliant chip over Oliver Baumann in the 42nd minute, then rounded the Hoffenheim goalkeeper, before completing a game to remember with his third goal in the 63rd minute. All three were set up by Amine Harit, who rounded off the scoring late on.

Bo Svensson’s debut as Mainz coach ended in a 2-0 defeat to visiting Eintracht Frankfurt, Freiburg routed relegation-threatened Cologne 5-0 at home, Bayer Leverkusen drew at home with Werder Bremen 1-1, and Union Berlin and Wolfsburg drew 2-2.

Serie A – Milan consolidate lead; Wins for Atalanta and Genoa

Josip Ilicic appears to be back to his best after inspiring Atalanta to a 4-1 win at Benevento in Serie A.

Ilicic scored Atalanta’s opener, hit the post and had a hand in another two goals for Rafael Toli and Duvn Zapata after Marco Saus equaliser. Luis Muriel netted a spectacular fourth for Atalanta.

Genoa moved out of the relegation zone after beating Bologna 2-0.

Bologna dominated possession but struggled to create anything of note. Genoa midfielder Miha Zajc and Mattia Destro scored.

Genoa move two points above 18th-placed Torino. New coach Davide Ballardini has won two of his four matches in charge since replacing Rolando Maran last month.

Meanwhile, later on Saturday night, first-half goals from Rafael Leao and Brahim Diaz saw AC Milan ease to a 2-0 win over Torino.

Torino offered little in attack, with their best chance falling to substitute Jacopo Segre late on, forcing a decent save out of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The win consolidates Milan’s place at the top of the league, with closest rivals Roma and Inter set to face each other on Sunday.

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Poch’s PSG held – ‘Mbappe must improve’

Mauricio Pochettino’s first game in charge of Paris Saint-Germain ended in a 1-1 draw with St Etienne in Ligue 1.

Pochettino had a rude awakening as Romain Hamouma put St Etienne ahead after 19 minutes.

But Moise Kean equalised three minutes later as PSG lost ground on league leaders Lyon.

Mauricio Pochettino took charge of PSG for the first time - AP photo
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Mauricio Pochettino took charge of PSG for the first time – AP photo

Asked about Kylian Mbappe’s performance, Pochettino said the striker “must improve”.

“For sure he is disappointed,” he said. “But all the players need to improve, the team needs to improve. It is only the beginning, we arrived three days ago.”

Memphis Depay’s double and a Steven Fortes own goal gave Lyon a 3-2 win over Lens to open up a three-point lead at the top.

PSG move into second spot after Lille were beaten 2-1 at home by Angers, with Rennes fourth and Marseille fifth after an impressive 3-1 victory over Montpellier.

Monaco romped to a 5-2 win at Lorient with Axel Disasi, Aleksandr Golovin, Kevin Volland, Sofiane Diop and Guillermo Maripan on target.

Brest beat Nice 2-0 and Ludovic Ajorque scored twice as Strasbourg thrashed Nimes 5-0.

Metz and Bordeaux, Nantes and Rennes and Reims and Dijon played out goalless draws.

La Liga: Messi inspires Barca

Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to victory at Atheltic Bilbao - AP photo
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Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to victory at Atheltic Bilbao – AP photo

Lionel Messi was in inspired form for Barcelona, scoring twice in a 3-2 La Liga win at Athletic Bilbao.

Bilbao took a third-minute lead through Inaki Williams, but Pedri levelled and Messi scored either side of the interval and also struck the woodwork twice.

Iker Muniain produced late flutters for Barcelona with a crisp 89th-minute finish, but Barcelona held on to extend their unbeaten run to eight games and move into third place behind Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Copa del Rey: Atletico shocked

La Liga leaders Atletico suffered a shock 1-0 Copa del Rey defeat to Segunda B side Cornella.

Atletico, who included Joao Felix, Angel Correa, Saul Niguez and Vitolo on Cornella’s artificial pitch, fell to Adrian Jimenez’s fifth-minute strike and had Ricard Sanchez sent off in the second half.

Serie A: Juve end leaders AC Milan’s unbeaten run

juventus ac milan pic AP
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Juventus ended AC Milan’s unbeaten run in Serie A – AP photo

In Italy, Juventus cut the gap on Serie A leaders AC Milan to seven points with a 3-1 win at the San Siro.

Federico Chiesa twice put Juventus ahead, with Milan’s Davide Calabria equalising just before the interval. Weston McKennie wrapped up victory for the Turin side 14 minutes from time.

Sampdoria stunned second-placed Inter Milan by winning 2-1 as Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty for the visitors.

Sanchez saw his 12th-minute penalty pushed out by Emil Audero and Ashley Young sent the rebound against the post.

Antonio Candreva and Keita Balde ended Inter’s eight-match winning streak as Stefan de Vrij’s 65th-minute header proved no more than a consolation. Inter remain one point behind their city rivals.

Roma cut the gap on Inter to three points with a 3-1 win at Crotone.

A double from Real Madrid loanee Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s penalty put Roma in cruise control inside 35 minutes, with Vladimir Golemic reducing the deficit in the final quarter.

Sassuolo stayed in a European spot as Giacomo Raspadori struck seven minutes from time for a 2-1 win over Genoa. Eldor Shomurodov had cancelled out Jeremie Boga’s earlier effort for Sassuolo.

Napoli were shocked by Spezia, losing 2-1 at home after Andrea Petgana had given them the lead.

M’Bala Nzola and Tommaso Pobega scored for a Spezia side who had Ardian Ismajli sent off 13 minutes from time.

Luis Muriel scored in four consecutive games for the first time in his career in Serie A as Atalanta beat Parma 3-0, with Duvan Zapata and Robin Gosens also on target.

Felipe Caicedo and Ciro Immobile scored in a 2-1 Lazio win over Fiorentina, for whom Dusan Vlahovic dispatched a late penalty.

Marco Sau and Alessandro Tuia scored first-half goals as Benevento completed a 2-1 comeback win at Cagliari, for whom Joao Pedro netted and Nahitan Nandez was sent off late on.

Torino and Hellas Verona drew 1-1, while the points were also shared in a 2-2 draw between Bologna and Udinese.

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Messi 360: The view from all sides

Lionel Messi is now free to speak to clubs outside of Spain about finally leaving Barcelona in the summer but – despite last year’s transfer request – does he still want to leave?

His future is shrouded in uncertainty with every option on the table, so Sky Sports News has pulled together this comprehensive analysis from all sides of the equation.

Will he be reunited with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City? Will he play for compatriot Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain? Will he fly straight to the United States to play in MLS? Or will he finish his career as a one-club man and stay with Barcelona?

Here are all the potential eventualities, what is in them for Messi, and how each one could transpire…

The view from… Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has previously said he will make a decision over his Barcelona future at the end of the season
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Lionel Messi has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances for Barcelona this season after trying to leave the club last summer

Messi has publicly confirmed that he will wait until the end of the season before making a final decision on his uncertain future at Barcelona.

In a lengthy interview with Spanish broadcaster La Sexta before Christmas, the Argentina forward said: “What matters now is thinking about the team, finishing the year well and not being distracted by other things. I don’t know what will happen. I’m focused on what we have here and battling for whatever we can. I’ll wait until the season is over.”

That is when his Barca contract expires and he expects to have four options; stay at the Nou Camp, sign for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, or move to the USA and finish his career in Major League Soccer.

He stated further in his interview that “I’ve always had the dream of playing in another league, in the United States” but that “he doesn’t know if it will happen”, which fuelled the prospect of a transfer out of the country in the summer.

So his future is hanging delicately in the balance as the January transfer window opens, with Messi now free to speak to other clubs outside of Spain and the platform set for those suitors to persuade him his future lies with them.

However, it is clear now that Messi wants to see the outcome of Barca’s January 24 presidential election and potentially meet the winner to listen to their future project, and where he would fit in.

That gives the likes of City, PSG and MLS teams just three weeks to make their case ahead of the Catalans. Otherwise a four-way battle will ensure in the months running up to June, which will include the boyhood club he still has much affection for.

The view from… Barcelona

Barcelona are struggling this season under Ronald Koeman but the club's presidential elections are likely to have a big bearing on Lionel Messi's future. Pic: AP
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Barcelona are struggling this season under Ronald Koeman but the club’s presidential elections are likely to have a big bearing on Lionel Messi’s future. Pic: AP

There is not a great deal that Barcelona’s interim board can do to help persuade Messi to stay and sign another contract before the election. That job will be in the hands of the new president.

For that, there are really only two favourites for the job; Joan Laporta, who has been president before, and Victor Font, the telecommunications entrepreneur.

While there is no indication that Messi prefers either, and the player has been keeping well out of the way of the debate so far, Laporta has a good relationship with him having overseen the most successful period in the club’s history with Guardiola as head coach.

And Laporta said recently he would do “everything possible” to keep Messi if he returns for another spell at the helm

Font, meanwhile, wants to rebuild Barca from the bottom up; producing its players from La Masia academy, and he has been working with one of its best products – Messi’s former team-mate Xavi – to return as head coach.

Xavi is expected to be among Laporta’s considerations too but, on Messi, Font has said: “I’m convinced that with a competitive, exciting and, especially in Messi’s case, long-term project – one that could even go beyond the day that Messi retires – we will convince him to stay.”

The frontrunners will begin to emerge this month and they are expected to indicate who will take up key positions in the hierarchy. These developments will have a mark on Messi’s thinking, but it is really only when the election is made, and a firm blueprint put forward, that a significant bearing on Messi’s future will be made.

The view from… Manchester City

Pep Guardiola
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Pep Guardiola wants to renew his partnership with Messi at Manchester City

City were in the strongest position to sign Messi last summer, if he could have extracted himself from his contract via that disputed exit clause.

Sky Sports News was told then that both Messi and Guardiola wanted to renew their partnership at the Etihad – putting the Premier League runners-up in a commanding lead over other suitors – and that remains the case, especially now Messi is set to be available for no transfer fee this summer.

The powerbrokers at Man City are intrinsically linked to Barcelona, with Guardiola, director of football Txiki Begiristain, chief executive Ferran Soriano and chief football operations officer Omar Berrada all having previously worked there – and they were cautious about becoming embroiled in last year’s row between Messi and the board.

But now that they can negotiate a move with Messi on sound footing, within the rules and without upsetting their former employers, which only increases their hand, and they can begin to sell what is reportedly a ten-year plan for Messi to be involved with the City Football Group (CFG).

City may have grown into one of England’s top clubs and are among Europe’s best but they are still behind in the Champions League and even further lacking in their global brand. Signing arguably the best player of his generation, fresh from breaking the all-time club goalscoring record set by Pele, would accelerate their renown worldwide.

Conveniently, they also own an MLS team in New York City which would suit Messi’s desire to finish his career in America down to the ground.

The view from… Paris Saint-Germain



Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 22, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Tottenham. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire




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New Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino says the club is open to any big player in the world

Sky Sports News’ Bryan Swanson:

The arrival of fellow Argentinean Pochettino as Paris Saint-Germain boss has only intensified speculation that Messi is destined for the Parc des Princes.

And nobody within the club appears to be distancing themselves from a move for the player at some stage.

One source familiar with the club’s transfer activity says it is too early to say whether PSG will make their move, but Pochettino himself insisted “any big player in the world is always welcome at PSG”, when asked about Messi at his unveiling this week.

What is clear is that a Messi move would be popular with the players, especially his ex-Barcelona team-mate Neymar.

Messi has spoken publicly in the past about wanting the Brazil star to return to Barcelona, and touched on the subject again in his La Sexta interview. He said: “Neymar would be extremely expensive. How would the club pay PSG for the transfer?

“The situation will be tough for the new president, who will have to be intelligent and get everything in order. Changes will be needed for him to do well.

“I don’t know if Neymar said that (that the two would play together next year). You’d have to ask him about what he said. We do chat sometimes and we are in touch.”

Neymar asked PSG to sign him during the Messi debacle of last August, as Sky Sports News reported at the time, and Neymar reiterated his opinion on the matter last month.

PSG and Argentina player Leandro Paredes also told ESPN: “Messi at PSG? I hope so, we all want him to come but it will be his decision.”

PSG sporting director Leonardo respects Barcelona, and does not like talking about their players – but, significantly, he has not completely ruled out the move.

The view from… Major League Soccer



Lionel Messi




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Is Lionel Messi’s next destination the USA with an MLS franchise? Good Morning Transfers discuss

With Messi having already expressed his desire to play in the USA’s top league, it is more a matter of where than if he will play.

In which City he would most like to live will inevitably play a factor too, giving the likes of LA Galaxy, the New York clubs City and Red Bulls, and David Beckham’s Inter Miami an apparent advantage.

Galaxy obviously have an established track record of hosting the game’s biggest names including Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in recent years, which will help their cause, and they have reportedly made overtures towards Messi as long ago as January 2020.

But arguably in the driving seat would be New York City – under the same CFG flag as Manchester City and which could obviously form part of their long-term vision for the player. The team are relatively new still, and Messi’s arrival would instil them into the city’s culture.

Beckham, meanwhile, along with his legacy in MLS – in both a playing and business capacity – could also provide Messi with an invaluable path into, and mentor for, the US soccer scene.

MLS teams are already scrambling to work out the financials and legalities of signing Messi, and how partnerships with clubs in Europe could potentially help their cause. And one Barcelona presidential candidate, Xavi Vilajoana, reportedly wants to acquire an MLS franchise as part of their bid to keep Messi at the Nou Camp.

Regardless of where he ends up, Messi’s presence in MLS should help surge the game even further into the national consciousness.

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