Bayern Munich Sign Ex-PSG Forward Choupo-Moting As Costa Returns

In this file photo taken on August 12, 2020 Paris Saint-Germain’s Cameroon forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon.  David Ramos / POOL / AFP

 

Bayern Munich confirmed Monday the transfer of former Paris Saint Germain forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and the return of Brazil winger Douglas Costa on loan from Juventus, with both players signing for a year.

Having already completed the transfer of Espanyol midfielder Marc Roca on Sunday on a five-year contract, Bayern also added Choupo-Moting on a one-year deal as back-up to Robert Lewandowski.

Costa, 30, will compete with Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane for a place on the flanks.

Choupo-Moting, 31, was out of contract after his PSG deal expired and returns to the Bundesliga following stints with Hamburg, Nuremberg, Mainz and Schalke.

“It’s a great feeling to come back to the Bundesliga — and then to the biggest club in Germany,” said Cameroon international Choupo-Moting in a statement.

“Who wouldn’t want to play for FC Bayern?

“It’s an honour. The aim at Bayern is always to win everything, and I am highly motivated to achieve these goals.”

Bayern also annouced that Costa, who played for Bayern from 2015 until 2017, netting 14 goals in 77 matches, is returning to Munich, where he won Bundesliga titles in 2015/16 and the following season.

“I’m very happy to be playing for Bayern again, I had a wonderful time in Munich, with lots of successes and I’m sure we’ll win titles again,” said Costa, who has made 31 appearances for Brazil.

 

File photo: Bayern Munich’s German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and his teammates celebrate with the trophy after the UEFA Super Cup football match between FC Bayern Munich and Sevilla FC at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary on September 24, 2020.  BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP

 

According to reports, Bayern also want to sign right-back Bouna Sarr from Marseille before the transfer window closes in Germany at 1600 GMT.

The Bavarian giants are said to have tried again to sign Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19, but the German media reports that the two clubs could not agree a fee.

Bayern coach Hansi Flick has made no secret that he needs new signings after losing Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic and Thiago Alcantara from the squad which won the Champions League title last August.

AFP

PSG Sign Portugal Midfielder Pereira On Loan From Porto

Photo Credit: Paris -Saint-German

 

French champions Paris Saint-Germain on Monday announced the loan signing of Danilo Pereira from Porto.

The 29-year-old midfielder, who has won 39 caps for Portugal, has signed until June 30, 2021, with an option to buy.

Pereira made 202 appearances for Porto, scoring 19 goals and winning the Portuguese league twice (2018 and 2020), the Portuguese Supercup (2018) and the League Cup (2020).

“It’s a new challenge for me, and to be part of Paris Saint-Germain fits my ambitions,” Pereira said.

“Joining one of the biggest clubs in Europe and in the world is a huge moment in my career, and I hope to be able to bring a lot to Paris and its supporters.”

-AFP

Mbappe Inspires PSG To Victory In Nice

French referee Clement Turpin (C) stands by Nice’s Argentine goalkeeper Walter Benitez (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (R)during the French L1 football match between OGC Nice and Paris Saint Germain at The Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, south-eastern France on September 20, 2020. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

 

Kylian Mbappe returned to the starting line-up for Paris Saint-German on Sunday and scored the opener in a 3-0 win at Nice which marks another step on the road to recovery for the French champions.

The 21-year-old, who tested positive for coronavirus on September 7, was on target from the penalty spot in the 38th minute.

Angel di Maria added a second just before half-time and Marquinhos headed the third after 66 minutes. Mbappe thought he had scored a fourth late on but it was ruled out for offside. He was replaced by Pablo Sarabia shortly after.

“I’m impressed by his performance after only one training session with the team,” said coach Thomas Tuchel.

“He always shows that he can do extraordinary things and that he knows how to make a difference. It helps us a lot.”

It was a second successive Ligue 1 win for PSG who began the season still smarting from defeat in the Champions League final. They lost their opening two games and the second ended in a mass brawl against Marseille which led to the suspension of Brazilian forward Neymar.

With Marco Verratti also back, PSG rarely looked troubled in the sunshine of the Mediterranean.

When 19-year-old Khephren Thuram-Ulien clipped Mbappe’s ankle as the striker surged into the box, the France forward picked himself up to blast the ball high into the net.

Four minutes later, Nice almost levelled when PSG goalie Keylor Navas had to get down sharply to his left to beat away a shot from Rony Lopes.

Mbappe was back in the thick of it as the game entered stoppage time at the end of the first half.

Losing two defenders, Mbappe fired in a sharp shot which Nice goalie Walter Benitez did well to parry but only as far as the feet of Di Maria, who tapped in for 2-0.

PSG continued to control the game after the break and were rewarded with a third when Marquinhos got in front of the defence to head home.

Saint-Etienne just about held onto top spot in the table despite throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Nantes and end their perfect start to the new season.

Claude Puel’s side are level on 10 points with next weekend’s opponents Rennes after goals from Moses Simon in the 71st minute and Renaud five minutes from time cancelled out Adil Aouchiche and Yvann Macon’s strikes for the away side.

Later Marseille look to bounce back from their first home defeat in 41 years to 10-time league champions Saint-Etienne last week when they host Lille at the Stade Velodrome.

Striker Dario Benedetto is available again after a suspension for his role in the stoppage-time brawl in the win at PSG earlier this month.

AFP

Neymar, Four Others Red-Carded As Marseille Secure First Win Over PSG In Nine Years

psg-marseille
Paris Saint-Germain’s players and Marseille’s players scuffle at the end of the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

 

Marseille secured a first win over Paris Saint-Germain in 21 matches as the Ligue 1 champions lost 1-0 on Sunday and had Neymar sent off on his return from serving a Covid-19 quarantine.

Florian Thauvin scored the only goal on 31 minutes at the Parc des Princes as Marseille earned a first victory over their bitter rivals since November 2011 in a game which ended with five red cards in injury time.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar walks off the pitch after receiving a red card
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

PSG, who lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich last month, have now lost their opening two games of a season without scoring for the first time since 1978/79 and the task for Thomas Tuchel’s coronavirus-afflicted side does not get any easier this month.

A frenzied schedule awaits, starting with the visit of Metz in midweek and a trip to Nice next Sunday, and Neymar now faces a suspension for a slap on Marseille defender Alvaro Gonzalez in an injury-time scuffle that resulted in five red cards.

The Brazilian appeared to accuse his opponent of racism as he followed Layvin Kurzawa and Leandro Paredes down the tunnel after he was sent off following a VAR review.

Argentine striker Dario Benedetto and left-back Jordan Amavi were shown red cards for the visitors.

Marseille are attempting to close the gap on PSG after coming a distant second last season and find themselves with an early six-point advantage over a club that has won the title seven of the past eight years.

After fielding a depleted line-up at Lens on Thursday, Tuchel was able to recall Neymar and Angel Di Maria for a match played in front of around 4,000 supporters in Paris.

 

 

Marseille’s Argentinian forward Dario Benedetto (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian midfielder Leandro Paredes (2R) receive red cards at the end of the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

However, Kylian Mbappe remained absent after testing positive for Covid-19 on France duty at the start of the week with Mauro Icardi and Marquinhos also still missing.

PSG handed a debut to Italy international Alessandro Florenzi following his arrival on a season-long loan from Roma while Sergio Rico started in goal after rejoining on a long-term deal.

Marseille ‘keeper Steve Mandanda produced a magnificent reflex to keep out an effort from Marco Verratti just a minute in as tempers bubbled over frequently in the capital.

Thauvin, who shone in Marseille’s opening 3-2 win at Brest before the international break, made the breakthrough when he turned in a Dimitri Payet free-kick from point-blank range.

Di Maria found the net for PSG just past the hour but had strayed clearly behind the last defender, and Marseille’s celebrations were cut short in similar fashion moments later when a Benedetto goal was ruled offside.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s and Marseille’s players scuffle at the end of the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The Argentine rifled in a rebound after Rico parried from Thauvin, who was controversially adjudged to be in an offside position much to the frustration of Marseille.

PSG’s last goal came in the 3-0 win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League semi-final on August 18, and Neymar poked wide from a Pablo Sarabia cross before the contest turned ugly at the finish.

AFP

PSG Forward Mbappe Tests Positive For COVID-19

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe grimaces after an injury during the French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) during the French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE), at The Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris on July 24, 2020.  Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP.

 

Kylian Mbappe has been ruled out of France’s Nations League game against World Cup runners-up Croatia on Tuesday after testing positive for Covid-19, national team management said Monday.

Mbappe, who took part in Monday evening’s training session before learning the result of his test, is the seventh Paris Saint-Germain player to contract the virus. Neymar was among the first to test positive last week.

“He was set aside from the group after receiving the results at the end of training before returning to his home in the evening,” French team management said.

“Like the rest of the squad, Mbappe had undergone a test prior to meeting up. The result was negative like the one on Wednesday” requested by UEFA ahead of the Sweden fixture on Saturday in Solna, management said.

Mbappe scored the winner for the world champions in a 1-0 victory over Sweden in their opening Nations League encounter.

However, he was expected to be rested for the game at the Stade de France against Croatia, with PSG’s opening match of the Ligue 1 season scheduled for Thursday away to Lens.

File photo: France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris fails to save Croatia’s forward Ivan Perisic’s equalizer during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

The Lens game was initially due to go ahead on August 29 but was controversially postponed to give the PSG squad a break after their run to the Champions League final in Lisbon on August 23, in which they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Instead of playing the game, their squad were granted time off but the club has now been left to deal with a cluster of coronavirus cases which raise questions about why the French league decided to postpone PSG’s match in Lens, only for so many of their players to travel abroad on holiday during a pandemic.

Mbappe could also sit out Sunday’s clash with bitter rivals Marseille. According to the league’s health protocols, a player who tests positive must self-isolate for eight days.

The French league (LFP) recently loosened its coronavirus protocols in the top two divisions to allow clubs to play even if 10 players have tested positive.

The LFP said it had taken the decision “in conjunction with the public authorities” and in response to “requests from clubs”.

Up to now, matches could be postponed after four cases at a club over eight consecutive days.

Under the new protocol, the LFP said, a club can fulfil fixtures if 20 of the 30 players registered for league matches, including at least one goalkeeper, test negative.

Mbappe is the fourth player to be withdrawn from the France squad following a positive Covid-19 test.

Paul Pogba was omitted just before coach Didier Deschamps revealed his 23-man squad last month, with Houssem Aouar forced out a few days later.

Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who originally tested positive on August 16 with Marseille, also left camp following two further positive tests likely due to “residual” traces of the virus.

AFP

Three More PSG Players Contract COVID-19

File photo: PSG logo

 

Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday announced “three new positive cases” of Covid-19 in their squad, a day after Neymar and two teammates were revealed to have contracted the virus, casting serious doubt over the start of their season in France.

“The latest Sars CoV2 tests carried out on the Paris Saint-Germain playing staff have confirmed that there are three new positive cases,” the French champions said in a tweet, taking the total number of cases in their squad to six.

Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes were the first three to test positive, all after a recent holiday on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

Their identities were confirmed to AFP by a medical source close to the playing staff who requested anonymity for reasons of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Sports daily L’Equipe reported that Brazilian defender Marquinhos, Argentine striker Mauro Icardi and goalkeeper Keylor Navas — who were also in Ibiza — were the new positive cases.

Another PSG player, midfielder Ander Herrera, is also known to have been in Ibiza.

PSG are due to play their first game of the new Ligue 1 season away at Lens next Thursday, September 10, but there are increasing doubts as to whether that match will now go ahead.

The Lens game was initially due to go ahead last Saturday but was controversially postponed to give the PSG squad a break after their run to the Champions League final in Lisbon on August 23, in which they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

That was despite PSG — by far France’s richest club — having played just five competitive games in the preceding six months.

Instead of playing the game, their squad were granted time off but the club has now been left to deal with a cluster of coronavirus cases which raise questions about why the French league decided to postpone PSG’s match in Lens, only for so many of their players to travel abroad on holiday during a pandemic.

PSG are also due to entertain bitter rivals Marseille on September 13, three days after the new date for the Lens match.

The existing, strict French league (LFP) rules stipulate that collective team training sessions must be cancelled if a club has at least four positive tests over an eight-day period, with match postponements possible.

And the six players, who will now be placed in isolation, will not be allowed to even train with their teammates for eight days under the existing health guidelines.

In recent weeks, several Ligue 1 clubs have reported positive tests, including Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Nantes and Montpellier.

Marseille’s game against Saint-Etienne on August 21, which was set to be the season opener, was postponed because of a cluster of cases.

However, the LFP is set to introduce an amended protocol which would ensure teams would be able to play games as long as 20 players — including at least one goalkeeper — provided negative tests.

The last French season was ended early, with 10 rounds of matches left unplayed, because of the health crisis, although PSG were named champions as they led the league at the time.

AFP

Messi’s Father Says His Son Could Stay At Barca

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, appeared to concede his son could remain at Barcelona this season, according to footage broadcast by Spanish media on Thursday.

Messi senior seemingly replied “yes” when asked by a reporter if they had considered the possibility of staying at the club for another season and then leaving for free next year, in a video recorded by Spanish TV station Cuatro.

The images were captured as Jorge Messi pulled into a parking garage reportedly for another day of meetings with the family’s lawyers.

He had arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday, landing at the private terminal in El Prat airport on a flight from the Argentine city of Rosario.

 

 

File photo: Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi arrives at his apartment in Barcelona on September 02, 2020. Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old.

Messi also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.

Messi’s father was followed throughout the city by reporters and TV crews on Wednesday and told reporters it would be “difficult” for his son to stay at Barcelona.

According to local reports, club directors met with Messi and his advisors for more than two hours on Wednesday, but neither party was willing to alter their stance. Further negotiations are expected to be held in due course between Barcelona and Messi’s entourage, which also includes his brother Rodrigo.

Barcelona insist their captain remains under contract until June 2021 and will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.

But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.

Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City have expressed an interest in signing him.

AFP

Three PSG Players Test Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.

 

Three Paris Saint-Germain players have tested positive for coronavirus, the French club announced on Wednesday, in a setback to their preparations for the scheduled start of their Ligue 1 campaign next week.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported the players in question were Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, but PSG did not reveal any names.

“Three Paris Saint-Germain players have confirmed positive Sars CoV2 tests and are subject to the appropriate health protocol,” PSG said in a statement.

“All of the players and coaching staff will continue to undergo tests in the coming days.”

The French champions, who last month lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich, had already said on Monday that two unnamed players had reported back with coronavirus symptoms following a holiday.

L’Equipe reported the players in question were Argentinian duo Di Maria and Paredes. Now it claims Neymar is the other squad member to test positive.

The three were among several PSG stars who travelled to the Spanish Mediterranean island of Ibiza last week for a holiday in the aftermath of their Champions League campaign, mixing with friends and family after spending the previous weeks isolated in a secure bubble with teammates in Portugal.

That was after the controversial decision was taken to postpone a league game away at Lens, initially scheduled for last Saturday, in order to give the PSG squad a break after their Champions League ‘Final Eight’ exertions.

The match at Lens has been rescheduled for next Thursday, September 10, with PSG due to entertain Marseille three days later.

Strict French league rules stipulate that collective team training sessions must be cancelled if a club has at least four positive tests over an eight-day period, with match postponements possible.

The cases raise questions about why the French league decided to postpone PSG’s match in Lens, only for so many of their players to travel abroad on holiday during a pandemic.

The postponement was granted in order to give PSG players a rest after their European run, despite France’s richest club having only played five competitive games in six months.

The last French season was ended early, with 10 rounds of matches unplayed, because of the health crisis, and the start of the new French season has already been impacted.

In recent weeks, several Ligue 1 clubs have reported positive tests, including Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Nantes and Montpellier.

Marseille’s game against Saint-Etienne on August 21, which was set to be the season opener, was postponed.

AFP

Messi’s Father Lands In Spain As Barca Stand-Off Drags On

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi arrives at his apartment in Barcelona on September 02, 2020. Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, landed in Barcelona on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said, ahead of talks with the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu about the striker’s intention to leave this summer.

Messi senior flew in from the Argentine city of Rosario, landing at the private terminal in Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Wednesday morning.

“I don’t know anything,” he told reporters before getting into a taxi.

Jorge Messi will be hoping to unblock the stand-off between Barca and his son, which threatens to descend into an expensive and bitter legal battle if a resolution cannot be found.

The 33-year-old striker boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy.

Messi had also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.

 

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

Yet Barcelona insist their captain will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.

But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.

If Messi joins another club but loses in court, he could be liable to pay the 700 million euros Barcelona are owed.

Manchester City are the firm favourites to sign Messi, not least because of his previous success with City coach Pep Guardiola. Inter Milan, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are also interested.

AFP

Two PSG Players Display COVID-19 Symptoms

File photo: PSG logo

 

 

Two unnamed Paris Saint-Germain have presented with coronavirus symptoms, the Champions League runners-up said on Monday.

“Two PSG players are suspected of infection with Covid-19. Their state of health is quite reassuring. They have already been subjected to the appropriate health protocol,” PSG said in a statement.

A club source told AFP that the French champions are awaiting the results of the two players’ Covid-19 tests.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported the players could be Argentinian duo Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, who spent their holidays together in Ibiza.

PSG are set to start their Ligue 1 title defence at Lens on September 10.

League rules stipulate that team training sessions must be cancelled if a club has four positive tests, with match postponements possible.

In recent weeks, several French top-flight clubs have reported positive tests, including Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Nantes and Montpellier.

Marseille’s game against Saint-Etienne on August 21, which was set to be the season opener, was postponed.

AFP

Ibrahimovic Extends AC Milan Contract For 2020/21 Season

File photo: Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic poses with his new jersey during his official presentation as new AC Milan player at the club’s headquarters Casa Milan in Milan on January 3, 2019.  MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a one-year contract extension with AC Milan, the Italian giants announced on Monday.

The former Swedish international, who turns 39 in October, rejoined Milan in January and will stay at the San Siro until the end of June 2021.

“Today (Monday), Zlatan Ibrahimovic rejoined his teammates and coach Stefano Pioli at Milanello Sports Center, where he took part in his first training session of the season,” the club said in a statement.

According to Italian media reports, Ibrahimovic has agreed to a seven-million-euro ($8.35-million) annual salary with Milan.

He helped Pioli’s side bounce back from a poor first half of last season, scoring 11 goals in 20 games in all competitions to help fire the seven-time European champions to Europa League qualification.

Ibrahimovic said at the weekend that he “wanted to help the club return to where they belong”.

“For six months, we have done great things but we have not won anything. We must continue and do the same,” he said in a video.

The 38-year-old previously played for the Rossoneri from 2010-2012, scoring 56 goals and winning the 2011 Serie A title under Massimiliano Allegri.

It had been widely expected that ‘Ibra’ would sign a new deal and he will take the number 11 shirt, having played as Milan’s number 21 last term.

 

File photo: AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Italian Cup ((Coppa Italia) round of 8 football match between AC Milan and Torino on January 28, 2020, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

He had returned from American MLS outfit Los Angeles Galaxy on a six-month contract with an optional extra year.

Milan finished last season with a 12-match unbeaten streak in Serie A to grab a sixth-place finish, although they still fell short of returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Ibrahimovic has also played for Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy during his illustrious career and starred for Paris Saint-Germain in France and Manchester United in the Premier League.

He won four Ligue 1 titles with PSG during a four-year spell in which he became the club’s record goalscorer, a mantle since taken by Edinson Cavani.

‘Ibra’ has also lifted the La Liga trophy with Barcelona in 2010, three league titles with Inter and two Eredivisie crowns while at Ajax.

AFP

Messi Boycotts First Pre-Season As Barcelona Demand $833m Release Clause

messi-
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, club sources have confirmed to AFP, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.

After skipping coronavirus tests on Sunday, Messi was absent again from the club’s Ciutat Esportiva training ground, where Ronald Koeman held a session at 5:30 pm, his first since being appointed Barca coach.

It appears increasingly likely Messi will try to force a transfer by refusing to play in La Liga next season, which begins on September 12.

The 33-year-old and his lawyers believe that participating in Barcelona’s pre-season programme would contradict their argument that Messi no longer belongs to the club.

They insist a clause in his contract that allows Messi to depart for free this summer was activated last Tuesday when the burofax stating his intention to leave arrived at the Camp Nou.

 

messi
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

But Barcelona maintain that clause had to be activated by June 10 and the deadline has not been extended, despite the season being prolonged due to the pandemic, with the men’s Champions League final played on August 23.

La Liga backed up Barca’s position on Sunday by announcing that the release clause in Messi’s contract, set at 700 million euros ($833 million), still applies.

The club’s captain and greatest ever player, who has scored 634 goals for them and won 34 titles, now risks being punished either by a fine or, if his absence continues, a reduction in salary.

Manchester City remain favourites to sign Messi, whose basic salary alone amounts to around 60 million euros.

The Argentinian has reportedly spoken to City coach Pep Guardiola but other clubs remain in the running, including Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus.

AFP