Messi to sign new Barca contract this week

Lionel Messi is expected to sign his new Barcelona contract later this week and could mark his new era at the club at the Joan Gamper Trophy match on Sunday.

Messi is set to return from his post-Copa America holiday but it is not clear whether he will be ready to play in the pre-season game against Juventus, having yet to train and still not technically employed by the club.

However, the intention is for him to be present at the game at the Johan Cruyff Stadium at Barca’s training ground, where he could also give the traditional pre-season speech as captain.

Lionel Messi helped fire Argentina into the Copa America semi-finals
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Lionel Messi helped fire Argentina to Copa America glory this summer

Last month Messi verbally agreed a new five-year deal that will see his wages cut by 50 per cent, the final details of which were completed in the last few days thanks to a new injection of cash into La Liga from CVC investments.

Barca are expected to receive up to £230m as their share of a £2.3bn package, 90 per cent of which is to be distributed between the clubs, according to reports in Spain, significantly improving what had been a tight budget for the upcoming season.

And it means Messi, who remains a free agent after his previous deal expired on July 1, can be officially announced as a Barca player again before the weekend.

Barcelona were struggling to reduce their wage bill in line with La Liga’s financial fair play rules for this coming season, and have been in talks with vice-captains Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto about reducing their salaries by 40 per cent in return for contract extensions.

They have also been trying to sell several high earners including Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite but – again – have not yet found solutions for any of them.

Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona
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Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona

Wage caps in La Liga are calculated prospectively based on a club’s financial health and they must adhere to their cap in order to avoid future financial penalties. The cost of the Covid-19 pandemic had severely reduced Barca’s budget for the 2021-22 campaign.

The investment from CVC has eased the pressure, but they must still restructure their wage bill to help ensure the long-term stability of the club.

Barca’s opening La Liga game against Real Sociedad is in 12 days’ time, where Messi is expected to begin his 18th senior season as a Barcelona player.

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Barca, Real, Juve to carry on Super League plans

Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have vowed to carry on with plans for a European Super League after winning an important court battle with UEFA.

A court in Madrid has ruled that the governing body’s disciplinary proceedings against the founding 12 clubs of the proposed breakaway league must be scrapped, while the case will now be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Twelve clubs announced themselves as founder members of the Super League on April 18, but the competition collapsed within 72 hours after nine withdrew amid fan protest, opposition from UEFA, FIFA and domestic leagues and even the British Government and Royal Family.

Those nine clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan – were each handed an approximate £7m fine by UEFA and fined five per cent of their prize money.

But a court in Spain has ruled those penalties must be removed while ongoing disciplinary proceedings against Barca, Juve and Madrid – who have always stuck by the project – must also be terminated.

PA - Chelsea supporters display a 'fans not customers' banner in protest over plans for a European Super League
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Chelsea supporters display a ‘fans not customers’ banner in protest over plans for a European Super League

It is a potentially seismic decision for the future of club football in Europe, with those three clubs vowing to plow on and end UEFA’s “monopolistic position”.

A joint statement on their websites read: “FC Barcelona, Juventus, and Real Madrid CF welcome today’s Court’s decision enforcing, with immediate effect, UEFA’s obligation to unwind the actions taken against all European Super League founding clubs, including terminating the disciplinary proceedings against the undersigning three clubs and removing the penalties and restrictions imposed on the remaining nine founding clubs for them to avoid UEFA’s disciplinary action.

“The Court backs the request made by the promoters of the European Super League, dismisses UEFA’s appeal, and confirms its warning to UEFA that failure to comply with its ruling shall result in fines and potential criminal liability.

“The case will be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which shall review UEFA’s monopolistic position over European football.

“We have the duty to address the very serious issues facing football: UEFA has established itself as the sole regulator, exclusive operator, and unique owner of rights of European football competitions.

“This monopolistic position, in conflict of interest, is damaging football and its competitive balance. As shown by ample evidence, financial controls are inadequate, and they have been improperly enforced. Clubs participating in European competitions have the right to govern their own competitions.

“We are pleased that going forward we will no longer be subject to ongoing UEFA’s threats. Our aim is to keep developing the Super League project in a constructive and cooperative manner, always counting on all football stakeholders: fans, players, coaches, clubs, leagues, and national and international associations.

“We are aware that there are elements of our proposal that should be reviewed and, of course, can be improved through dialogue and consensus. We remain confident in the success of a project that will be always compliant with European Union laws.”

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The view from Spain: Gil, Varane exciting, Messi pressure

Spanish football expert Terry Gibson runs the rule over new Tottenham signing Bryan Gil, Man Utd-bound defender Raphael Varane, and Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona.

Speaking on Sky Sports News, Gibson insists Gil’s arrival in exchange for Erik Lamela is a deal that suits both Spurs and Sevilla, and that Spurs fans should be massively excited by the arrival of the 20-year-old.

Gibson also insists Varane is one of the best central defenders in Europe as he nears a move to Old Trafford, but fears for Real Madrid’s central defence having also lost Sergio Ramos this summer.

And what is going on at Barcelona? Gibson says they face a race against time to lower their wage bill ahead of the new season, and to tie down Lionel Messi to a new contract.

‘Gil made a fantastic impression’










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Terry Gibson thinks Bryan Gil has the talent to enrich the Premier League

Gil, capped three times by Spain, has signed a five-year contract at Spurs.

“I am excited, that’s for sure. Gil was one of the most talked about players in La Liga last season and I have to say one of my favourite players.

“He was playing in a team that was struggling in Eibar, who finished bottom of the league, but this young player on loan from Sevilla was making such a fantastic impression.

“He is a player people will enjoy watching, he’s an old-fashioned winger. Great at dribbling, great first touch, good passer of the ball.

“I am absolutely delighted Spurs have managed to sign him.

‘Lamela to Sevilla suits everyone’

Tottenham Hotspur's Erik Lamela celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021.
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Erik Lamela has signed a three-year deal at Sevilla

Lamela goes in the other direction on a three-year deal, and Gibson said: “I think he’s suited to La Liga. I think Tottenham supporters appreciated what he did for them while he was at the club.

“One of the reasons Sevilla have allowed Bryan Gil to leave is they have an abundance of really good wide attacking players, so it is difficult to see where Lamela is going to fit in straight away, hence the reason I think Sevilla were quite content to allow Gil to leave.

“It is good money for the club and it means they can keep one or two of their more established players that they do generally have to sell.

“[France international defender] Jules Kounde is a player a lot of clubs around Europe want to sign – but I think Sevilla are going to do their utmost to try and keep him.

“I think it’s one of those deals that suits everyone – Lamela is going to a fantastic club, a fantastic city, who play a really good style, and Tottenham have got a young player in Bryan Gil, Sevilla have some money so it’s going to be exciting for both players.”

‘Varane one of the best in Europe’



AP - Raphael Varane








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Gibson gives his verdict on Manchester United’s pursuit of Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane

The price for France international Varane is believed to be £41m including add-ons and the deal is set to go through, subject to a medical.

Gibson said: “If Man Utd do get Varane across the line, they are buying one of the best central defenders in Europe. He has been fantastic at Real since day one, he has all the attributes you need and he has been slightly overlooked because of Sergio Ramos.

“But in terms of quality, I do not think there are many better than Varane.”

‘Will Real Madrid’s defence cope?’

“They have signed David Alaba on a free from Bayern Munich, Eder Militao finished the season quite strong last year, and Nacho is still at the club, but when you look at losing two wonderful footballers and personalities in Varane and Ramos, at the same time, it means the centre of Real’s defence is going to look completely different.

“It will be fascinating to see how Real Madrid cope.”

‘Time running out, immense pressure on Barca’

Lionel Messi (AP)
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Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, but nothing has been made official

Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with his salary to be reduced by 50 per cent under terms of the new deal, but is yet to officially sign.

Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are also on a list of at least nine players Barcelona would be willing to part with this summer to raise funds and lower the wage bill.

“We hope we can cross this off soon, but we’re not entirely sure. As it stands, Barca still have some work to do to get it across the line. It’s incredible that at this moment Messi is not attached to Barcelona, he hasn’t put pen to paper yet.

“The intention is he will, but as we know Barcelona have to lower their wage bill quite considerably, as they’ve had to do over the previous two summers.

“This year they are working hard to get players off the wage bill, give away players in some cases, and work hard to get transfer fees for some players like Antoine Griezmann in particular, in order to register Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia.

“Time is running out, and Joan Laporta the president is under immense pressure to ge thtese deals done, primarly to keep Messi at Barcelona.”

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Barca and Neymar settle legal dispute out of court

The case relates to what Neymar said were unpaid bonuses due as part of a contract he signed in October 2016, before his €222m record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain; Neymar sued the Catalan club for €46.3 million euros, and they counter-sued for breach of contract.

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Barca would part with Griezmann, Dembele and others

Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are on a list of at least nine players Barcelona would be willing to part with this summer.

Although Lionel Messi’s future at the Nou Camp appears all-but assured, Barcelona will only be able to invest in further additions to their squad by arranging some significant departures.

Griezmann is undoubtedly the most eye-catching name among the group due to the massive £100m+ (€120m) investment it took to sign him from Atletico Madrid just two years ago. He was then the fifth-most expensive transfer of all time.

But Coutinho, Dembele and striker Martin Braithwaite are also at the forefront of the push for funds to boost the finances of a club which is mounted with huge debts exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Martin Braithwaite - formerly of Middlesbrough - put Barcelona into the Copa Del Rey final with an extra-time winner to beat Sevilla
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Martin Braithwaite’s value has risen because of his performances for club and country

Barcelona believe Braithwaite in particular has increased in value because of his performances for Denmark during Euro 2020 – he was also one of the cheaper arrivals in Catalonia, having only cost around £15m to trigger his release clause from Leganes in February 2020.

Griezmann is one of the highest-paid players in world football and Barcelona also need to cut down their wage bill, which led to recent discussions over a potential exchange that would have seen his return to Atletico and Saul Niguez join Barca – the clubs were unable to come to an agreement.

Ousmane Dembele scored as Barcelona moved closer to Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga
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Ousmane Dembele has sometimes struggled to live up to his £100m price tag after moving from Borussia Dortmund

The Frenchman’s substantial salary means there are only a handful of clubs that can afford to take him on and Juventus are one big club not currently interested, according to Sky in Italy, nor in a return for Miralem Pjanic, who moved to Barca in a swap with Arthur Melo last summer.

Dembele and Clement Lenglet are other high-profile names Barcelona would be willing to listen to offers for – or at least include in swap deals for their targets – as well as goalkeeper Neto and right-backs Emerson and Moussa Wague.



Sergio Aguero will join Barcelona upon the expiration of his contract at Manchester City








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Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman highlighted the importance of new signing Sergio Aguero, saying the Argentine is ‘really good quality in the box’. Pictures from FC Barcelona

Barcelona’s management is also talking with a number of veteran players – Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto – over contract extensions and want them to follow their captain Messi in taking wage cuts.

Sky Sports News has been warned by sources in Spain that one of these stars also leaving cannot be ruled out at this stage.

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Leicester City the potential next move for Philippe Coutinho

The career of Philippe Coutinho could be taking another twist, with rumours being made that he could be set to return to the Premier league for Leicester City. If he were to make the move over, then he would without a doubt be a good edition to the squad and help the side have another strong push for a top four finish and the all important Champions league qualification. The odds have continued to shorten for this to happen, with fans looking at this casino review at cashmo for offers on the markets available on this potential transfer taking place.

Coutinho is just coming off the back of a season in Germany for Bayern Munich and helped push them to win the league title again and continue their stunning run domestically. This was a positive season overall for Coutinho, as he has able to pick up 38 appearances for the club, that included 11 goals and a further nine assists. A positive return for the loan spell at the German champions.

It also meant it was the fourth longest spell he has spent at a club in his career. He had previously played for Inter Milan, which saw him make 47 appearances, whilst netting four goals and four assists. This was in the early period of his career and part of his improvement in becoming the player he has shown to be for more recent clubs. Coutinho really burst onto the scene with his period at Liverpool, which was also by far and away the longest. This saw him make 201 appearances, whilst scoring 54 goals and picking up a further 45 assists in the process. He really did become a club legend in the process, so he will certainly be a welcome addition back to the Premier league, were Leicester City able to pull off the signing. He has also spent an extended period of time at Barcelona, where he made 90 appearances. This also included 23 goals and a further 14 assists.

These statistics throughout his career show that he has been a great asset to the different clubs that he has played at. This is why he has been part of many different clubs and winning trophies. This includes the likes of being a Champions league winner with Bayern Munich in 2019/20. A Copa America for Brazil in 18/19, whilst also winning x2 Spanish titles, x1 German title and even a Super Cup title.

It will now be fascinating to see his next steps and potential his exciting future back in the Premier league.

Barca, Atleti in talks over Griezmann-Saul swap deal

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are in talks about a swap deal which would see Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez switch clubs.

If the deal is completed, Griezmann would return to Atletico after moving to Barcelona in a €120m deal two years ago.

Barcelona believe Griezmann is worth more than Saul, and they are asking for €15m as part of the deal or more players such as Renan Lodi or Mario Hermoso.

Atletico are prepared to let Saul leave this summer after eight seasons at the club. He helped Atletico win La Liga last season.

Saul
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Barcelona are keen on sign Niguez from Atletico

Barcelona are willing to let Griezmann leave because they need to cut their wage bill.

Saul has been linked with a move to the Premier League, with reports crediting Manchester United and Liverpool with an interest in the midfielder.

Messi agrees new five-year Barca deal

Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona
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Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona

Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with his salary to be reduced by 50 per cent under terms of the new deal.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was officially a free agent as of July 1 after he failed to agree terms over a renewal before his previous Barcelona contract expired on June 30.

Earlier in July, Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title thanks to a 1-0 win in the final against hosts Brazil, bringing an end to his wait for a first major international trophy.

The 34-year-old has now agreed to stay on at his boyhood club for another five years, meaning he will be 39 by the time his new deal runs out – when he will have totalled 26 years on the club’s books.

Messi Q&A: How Barcelona can afford deal










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Spanish football expert Euan McTear explains the structure of the new five-year deal Lionel Messi has reportedly agreed with Barcelona and how they are going about being able to finance it

Spanish football expert Euan McTear tells Sky Sports News why there has been a delay to Messi committing his future at the Nou Camp and the possible repercussions of the new five-year contract…

Why have Barcelona offered such a lengthy contract?

“The reason it’s a five-year deal is it is likely Messi will play the next two years but it’s a longer deal so that he stays linked to the club as an ambassador. But the talk is he might go to MLS after two years while still being paid by the club.

“It’s a way for Barcelona to spread out the payment over five years. That’s part of the reason he’s been able to take such a massive cut of around 50 per cent.”

Will a 50 per cent pay cut work for Barcelona?

“It might but they will still have more work to do. Messi has been convinced to stay on for a while now but one of the reasons why they have not been able to register him so far is down to La Liga regulations. They have very strict financial control rules, where you cannot register new players until you have met their guidelines.

“They need to clear a lot of salary off their books and they are still working to do that. It’s why there’s been reports they might make a swap deal with Saul Niguez at Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann. It would partly free up Griezmann’s high wages to then pay Messi.



Lionel Messi (AP)








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Spanish Football expert Alvaro Montero says he expects Lionel Messi to re-sign for Barcelona despite the financial restrictions the club is facing at the moment

So Griezmann will be sacrificed for Messi?

“There’s a lot of talk in Spain that Griezmann will head back to Atletico Madrid, but their fans will not entertain the prospect of Saul leaving at all. Diego Simeone wants to have Griezmann back at the club, and he’s very much in charge so if he wants something he could well get it.

“Griezmann is currently in Ibiza on holiday but is on standby and ready to fly into Madrid if that swap deal does go through. It’s a way for Barcelona to save around €12m in wages.”

How have Barcelona hit financial problems?

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected everybody – it’s affected Real Madrid, Atletico and Premier League clubs. But Barcelona were already in a bad situation basically due to mismanagement under the Bartomeu administration that came before the Joan Laporta-led regime.

“They were just waiting for a natural disaster or a pandemic to push them over the edge to create all kinds of problems, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

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Messi agrees five-year Barca deal with 50 per cent pay cut

Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with his salary to be reduced by 50 per cent under terms of the new deal.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was officially a free agent as of July 1 after he failed to agree terms over a renewal before his previous Barcelona contract expired on June 30.

Earlier in July, Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title thanks to a 1-0 win in the final against hosts Brazil, bringing an end to his wait for a first major international trophy.

The 34-year-old has now agreed to stay on at his boyhood club for another five years, meaning he will be 39 by the time his new deal runs out – when he will have totalled 26 years on the club’s books.

Messi sparked an acrimonious transfer row in August last year, when he officially informed the club his wish to activate a clause in his contract which would have seen him leave for free.

However, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Josep Maria Bartomeu – Barcelona president at the time – blocked the move, indicating that the clause was only active until June 10 and any suitor would have to pay his €700m release clause in full.

messi
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Lionel Messi finally won a major trophy with Argentina this summer

“I thought and we were sure that I’d be a free agent,” Messi told Goal.

“The president always told me that I could decide to stay or go at the end of the season and they’re now clinging to the fact that I hadn’t said anything by June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 the La Liga season was still ongoing and we were in the midst of this virus and this illness that altered the whole fixture calendar.

“And that’s the reason why I’m staying on at the club. I’m now staying because the president told me that the only way I could leave was by paying the €700m release clause, which is impossible.”

Bartomeu went on to resign in October, while Messi wanted to listen to the plans of his successor Joan Laporta before deciding his future.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been the front-running clubs interested in signing him. Messi also wants to one day play in MLS.

Messi Q&A: How Barcelona can afford deal



Lionel Messi (AP)








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Spanish Football expert Alvaro Montero says he expects Lionel Messi to re-sign for Barcelona despite the financial restrictions the club is facing at the moment.

Spanish football expert Euan McTear tells Sky Sports News why there has been a delay to Messi committing his future at the Nou Camp, and the possible repercussions of the new five-year contract…

Why have Barcelona offered such a lengthy contract?

“The reason it’s a five-year deal is that it is likely that Messi will play the next two years but it’s a longer deal so that he stays linked to the club as an ambassador. But the talk is he might go to MLS after two years while still being paid by the club.

“It’s a way for Barcelona to spread out the payment over five years. That’s part of the reason he’s been able to take such a massive cut of around 50 per cent.”

Will a 50 per cent pay cut work for Barcelona?

“It might but they’ll still have more work to do. Messi has been convinced to stay on for a while now but one of the reasons why they’ve not been able to register him so far is down to La Liga regulations. They have very strict financial control rules, where you cannot register new players until you’ve met their guidelines.

“They need to clear a lot of salary off their books and they’re still working to do that. It’s why there’s been reports they might make a swap deal with Saul Niguez at Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann. It would partly free up Griezmann’s high wages to then pay Messi.

Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Barcelona's win over Villarreal
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Antoine Griezmann could be offloaded to generate funds

So Griezmann will be sacrificed for Messi?

“There’s a lot of talk in Spain that Griezmann will head back to Atletico Madrid, but their fans won’t entertain the prospect of Saul leaving at all. Diego Simeone wants to have Griezmann back at the club, and he’s very much in charge so if he wants something he could well get it.

“Griezmann is currently in Ibiza on holiday but is on standby and ready to fly into Madrid if that swap deal does go through. It’s a way for Barcelona to save around €12m in wages.”

How have Barcelona hit financial problems?

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected everybody – it’s affected Real Madrid, Atletico and Premier League clubs. But Barcelona were already in a bad situation basically due to mismanagement under the Bartomeu administration that came before the Joan Laporta-led regime.

“They were just waiting for a natural disaster or a pandemic to push them over the edge to create all kinds of problems, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

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Tebas: Man City signing Messi would be ‘financial doping’

La Liga president Javier Tebas claimed the only way Manchester City could sign Lionel Messi is through ‘financial doping’.

Messi became a free agent on July 1 and although the Argentine is keen to remain at Barcelona, the Catalan club cannot offer him a new deal due to their financial predicament.

Tebas ruled out La Liga relaxing their Financial Fair Play rules to allow the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to stay at the Nou Camp, saying Messi must take a substantial pay cut.

He also warned Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain that their recent financial losses mean they would be unable to match the Argentine’s previous salary.

The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas
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La Liga president Javier Tebas

“He won’t be able to sign [for Barcelona] on the previous conditions, that’s impossible,” said Tebas. “I don’t think any European club would be able to pay that amount.

“Manchester City have lost €270m [during the Covid-19 pandemic] so obviously they wouldn’t even consider signing Messi [on his old salary].

“If they do, it will be the financial doping. I’ve told [Pep] Guardiola this too. I’ve directly said that to him, ‘would you have won as many titles without as much economic doping?’

“When the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) let off Manchester City there was a lot of comments about that. (Jose) Mourinho and all these other coaches said this. If this happens I think it would be absolutely incredible.

“This is the sort of governance where we should establish minutes. This economic doping is what is really damaging football.

“It is not real money that’s involved because it is not generated by the clubs. If the money in the football industry isn’t generated by football, it just causes inflation. And it’s a bad type of inflation.

“Then it just ruins football because the clubs have to put in all this effort which is well above their financial capacity.

“We need to really fight against this and we will continue to do this all the time. This is one of our pending issues in European football and if it’s not solved soon it could lead us to a very complicated financial situation.”

Manchester City declined to comment when contacted by Sky Sports News.

It is not the first time Tebas has taken aim at Manchester City and PSG. In 2017 he also accused them of “financial doping” while last April he called for greater controls within football to check the power of the “state-owned clubs”.

Lionel Messi helped fire Argentina into the Copa America semi-finals
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Messi has led Argentina into the Copa America final

Messi has helped guide Argentina to the Copa America final and on Saturday will play against hosts Brazil hoping to win a first major trophy with his country.

But his club future still needs to be settled with the La Liga season starting again in five weeks’ time.

Tebas said the only way for Barca to keep their captain was to get rid of more players, having recently sold left-back Junior Firpo to Leeds United and USA international Konrad de la Fuente to Marseille.

“If no player leaves, it’s impossible,” he added.

“Currently Football Club Barcelona, like other clubs, have gone over the sport squad limit that was established by the Liga due to the pandemic.

“But in those particular cases when they’ve gone over it we have a regulation, which is called one by four. So we allow them to sign on new players, whenever they reduced the current wage bill.

“The regulation is for each euro that they want to use for sign-ups, they have to save four.”

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Griezmann, Dembele apologise for video mocking hotel staff

Barcelona forwards Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann have apologised for a video released in 2019 which appeared to mock hotel staff in Japan, but denied their comments were racist.

The video, recorded by Dembele during Barcelona’s pre-season tour of Japan ahead of the 2019/20 season, was leaked on social media and showed both players laughing at a group of hotel staff who were working to fix a television.

“It all took place in Japan. It could’ve taken place anywhere on the planet and I would’ve used the same expression,” Dembele wrote on Instagram.

“I was therefore not targeting any community. I just happened to use this type of expression with my friends regardless of their origins.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring for France vs Hungary
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Griezmann and Dembele were involved in France’s Euro 2020 campaign as Didier Deschamps’ side were knocked out in the last 16

“This video has since been made public. I appreciate therefore that it could’ve hurt the people present in these images. Because of this, I would like to sincerely apologise to them.”

Griezmann said he was “completely against all forms of discrimination”.

“For the past few days, certain people have wanted to paint me as someone that I am not,” he said on Twitter. “I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I’m sorry if I have offended any of my Japanese friends.”

The pair recently featured for France at Euro 2020, where the world champions were knocked out by Switzerland in the round-of-16 following a penalty shootout.

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