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Report: Arsenal owner calls Bellerin to state intentions

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According to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena SER, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has personally called defender Hector Bellerin to tell the Spaniard he would not be sold.

The 22-year-old experienced a serious regression at the Emirates last season, and with media speculation surrounding his potential departure, Kroenke wanted to make sure his intentions were clear. Reports had linked Bellerin with a return to his home country, most notably to Barcelona.

With Bellerin under contract through 2021 having just signed his extension last summer, it’s clear the club has decided who they believe keeping should be a priority.

The defender lost his place briefly down the stretch run last season, finding himself on the bench in seven of the club’s final 17 Premier League matches. Despite that, Arsenal still clearly values Bellerin’s talent and durability and hope to ward Barcelona’s interest off. Bellerin didn’t help cool speculation when he bought a house in Barcelona just a short time ago.

Reports say that Arsenal would not take any less than $57 million for their right-back.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

Report: Manchester United outbidding giants for PSG’s Marquinhos

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Brazilian outlet Globo Esporte says Manchester United has made the best offer to Paris Saint-Germain in a three-team giant battle for Marquinhos.

According to the report, the transfer fight is between United, Juventus, Barcelona, and Real Madrid, though only the first three sides have lodged bids.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Barca’s offer is said to be the lowest, around $50 million, while United is said to be willing to pay a staggering $78 million for the 23-year-old Brazilian.

Marquinhos has made 155 appearances for PSG since joining from Roma in 2013. He’s reliably made 40-plus appearances over the past three seasons, and has 17 caps for Brazil.

A terrific defender who excels in keeping possession, Marquinhos has also played some right back for PSG.

Report: Messi wanted to leave Barcelona for Man City in 2016

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Lionel Messi was ready to leave Barcelona and Spain last summer, only for teammate Luis Suarez to come to the rescue.

That’s according to a report from Barcelona-based publication Mundo Deportivo, which sensationally claims that following a tax fraud sentence last July from the Spanish government against Messi and his father Jorge, Messi asked club representatives he wanted to leave for a team with plenty of ties to the Blaugrana, Manchester City.

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Barcelona were not prepared to sell Messi according to the report, and they could only let him out of his contract if Manchester City paid the full $279 million release clause, which was more than $100 million more than Manchester City were willing to pay.

Here’s where Suarez enters the story.

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Deulofeu, Dembele buys could keep Messi in Barca midfield

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Lionel Messi stay in the Barcelona midfield under new manager Ernesto Valverde, and an Everton player may be the key to a move.

Goal.com says that Barca would move Messi to the right midfield of a 4-3-3 and that it’s ready to exercise a $13.4 buyback clause to get Gerard Deulofeu home from Everton.

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Deulofeu, 23, left Goodison Park for a loan to AC Milan in January, and scored four times with three assists in 17 Serie A appearances.

From Goal.com:

Valverde has taken over from Luis Enrique and the former Athletic Club coach could decide to split up the club’s much-praised MSN trident. The interest in Deulofeu – and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele as an alternative – is a clear sign that Messi’s future lies deeper, setting up chances as a midfield playmaker.

Acknowledging that Deulofeu is one of their own, it’s odd that Dembele is listed as an alternative. Dembele is three years younger and helped propel Borussia Dortmund’s attack with six goals and 12 assists.

In any event, Messi in a deeper role isn’t counterproductive. He scored seven goals with three assists in four starts at center attacking mid last year, a bit better than his 47 goals in 48 matches at right wing.

Either way, the world’s best player will probably be fine.