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Messi says Neymar wants Barcelona return, hails ‘spectacular’ Lautaro Martinez

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Barcelona captain Lionel Messi talked about former team-mate Neymar and Inter’s Lautaro Martinez.

Lionel Messi said Neymar wants to return to Barcelona, while the six-time Ballon d’Or winner lauded reported target and Inter star Lautaro Martinez.

Neymar left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017, but the Brazil star continues to be linked with a Camp Nou return.

The PSG forward reportedly tried to engineer a move back to Barca at the start of the season, though a transfer did not materialise, despite the club’s best efforts.

Messi, who has made no secret of his desire to reunite with Neymar, told Mundo Deportivo: “I say it many times, at the sports level, Ney is one of the best in the world and I would love for him to return.

“He is really looking forward to coming back, he always seemed sorry [after leaving]. He did a lot to return and that would be the first step to try to arrive.”

Neymar’s decision to leave Barca almost three years ago angered some of his former team-mates but Messi said: “It is normal for people to see him that way because of the way he left, it also bothered me at the time, we tried to convince him not to.

“But in the end we all want to win and have the best. We and the people. As I said before, he is one of the best and contributed for us a lot on the pitch. But it is understandable that people think like that, since he left in a way they did not like.”

 

Barca have also been linked to Inter forward Martinez as the LaLiga champions eye a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Martinez reportedly has a €111m release clause amid links to Barca, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Messi knows Martinez well as the pair are international team-mates for Argentina and the Barca captain hailed his compatriot.

“He is spectacular, he has impressive conditions,” Messi said. “He was seen to be a great player, now he exploded and is showing it. He is very strong. He has a very good one against one, he has a lot of goals, in the area he fights with anyone. Lautaro has a lot of quality. He is very complete.”

Messi continued: “I wish they could all come and fight it all, and the Champions League. Lautaro has much resemblance to Luis.”

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Coronavirus: I felt worse than Mbappe when he was tested for COVID-19 – Herrera

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Kylian Mbappe was tested for coronavirus earlier this month, but Ander Herrera was in a worse condition.

Ander Herrera revealed he felt worse than Kylian Mbappe when his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate was tested for coronavirus.

Mbappe tested negative for coronavirus earlier this month, just days out from PSG’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund.

But Herrera said he was in a worse condition than Mbappe, with the midfielder missing the clash due to a thigh injury.

“It was two days before PSG v Dortmund and the previous weekend Neymar had a group meal and I had been by his side,” he told Cadena SER on Thursday.

“I was worse than him.”

PSG’s win over Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors which sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals was their last match with sport around the world brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial impact of the suspended, and potentially cancelled, seasons is set to be felt and Herrera is open to taking a pay cut.

“We have to be consistent with the situation of the clubs,” he said.

“Personally, I am very grateful to PSG for having me here and of course I would listen to them.”

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Neymar v Lautaro Martinez: Who should Barcelona sign?

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Neymar and Lautaro Martinez have been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona. We use Opta data to see who would best suit the Catalans.

Football may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Barcelona are reportedly already planning their transfer business ahead of the window reopening.

The LaLiga champions have been short of options up top this term as a result of injury lay-offs for Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and reinforcements are being sought.

Two players continue to be continually linked with a switch, with Barca supposedly torn between a move for Inter striker Lautaro Martinez or ex-Camp Nou favourite Neymar.

Martinez has once again starred for Inter this season and the possibility of a move to Catalonia has been talked up by compatriot Lionel Messi.

But speaking earlier this week, Rivaldo claimed Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar would be a better option for his former club given his added experience.

Using Opta stats, we compare the form of the two players in all competitions this season and establish just who would be the better signing for Barcelona.

 

GOALS

Whoever Barcelona bring in to lead the line, they will need to have the ability to link up with others in the final third and continue getting the best out of star man Messi.

But first and foremost, Quique Setien’s side need a goalscorer that can find the net and make a difference in key games.

Both Neymar and Martinez have the ability to do just that, scoring 18 and 16 goals respectively in all competitions this term.

However, Neymar has played nine games fewer than Martinez, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 106 compared to 152.

ALL-ROUND ABILITY

There is little between the two players in terms of where their goals are scored, each netting two apiece from strikes outside the penalty box this term.

Neymar is comfortable using both feet to find the net, though, using his left foot seven times and his right 10 times to beat the opposition goalkeeper.

Inter striker Martinez, by comparison, has only managed a couple of goals with his weaker left.

But the Argentina international is better in the air, the stats suggest, given he has scored three headed goals in 2019-20 – two more than Neymar.

 

ASSISTS

The deciding factor in which of the two players Barcelona should sign may well come down to their relationship with Messi.

Neymar knows Messi well from his previous four-year stint at Camp Nou, while Martinez regularly links up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner at international level.

In terms of pure team play, this is another category Neymar edges having assisted nine goals this season, with Martinez lagging behind on two.

 

BIG GAME CREDENTIALS

If Barcelona are to spend a nine-figure sum on a player, they will expect to be reimbursed with goals in big matches and at key moments in games.

It is arguably Martinez’s form on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League, that has fuelled rumours of a move to Barcelona.

The 22-year-old scored in four successive Champions League games during the group stage, making him the fifth Argentinian player to do so, though it was not enough to prevent Inter from exiting the competition.

PSG remain alive and well in the competition and that is in large down to Neymar, who scored in both legs of the last-16 comeback win against Borussia Dortmund.

In fact, since joining the French giants in 2017, Neymar has been involved in a goal every 70 minutes in UEFA’s showpiece competition.

It is that ability to have a say on the biggest matches, plus his individual brilliance and underrated ability to set up others, which just gives Neymar the edge over Martinez at this moment in time.

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Cavani to Boca Juniors? Hopefully very soon – Bermudez

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Jorge Bermudez discussed rumours linking Boca Juniors to Edinson Cavani.

Boca Juniors sporting director Jorge Bermudez is hopeful Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani will join the Argentine giants “very soon”.

Cavani is out of contract in June and the Uruguay international has been linked with a move away from PSG following his failed transfer to Atletico Madrid in January.

The 33-year-old – PSG’s all-time leading goalscorer – has also reportedly emerged as a target for new MLS franchise Inter Miami.

But Bermudez believes Boca, where club legend Juan Roman Riquelme is now vice-president, can lure the PSG forward to Buenos Aires.

“Knowing Riquelme and the distance to [former Uruguay international Diego] Forlan, and knowing the category of Cavani, hopefully it will be very soon,” Bermudez told Radio Cooperativa.

“He would give us a great hand and be very supportive. I think he wants to come to Boca.”

Bermudez added: “If he comes it is for a real desire and the signs are clear.”

Prior to the postponement of Ligue 1 and football due to coronavirus, Cavani had scored seven goals across all competitions in 2019-20.

Cavani has called Paris home since swapping Napoli for PSG in 2013.

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