Scoring star Leo Messi: well-rested and talkative

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Leo Messi is back at the scoring thing again around the Nou Camp, showing no rust in his return to FC Barcelona after time away for injury recovery.

That’s great news for Barca, which will be without its other young attacker of world class talent, Neymar, for a few weeks.

And it’s great news for Argentina, among the favorites (along with Brazil, Germany and Spain) to walk away this summer’s with the world’s most coveted trophy.

In a meaty Q&A with FIFA.com, Messi was asked about sensing peoples’ anxiety over his fitness and return to “Messi form,” which is a high, high bar indeed. But he sounded quite at ease about it all, having done his share of relaxing back home in Argentina over the holidays.

And why wouldn’t he? After another pressure filled year of 50-plus games for club and country, and heading into such an enormous year (because of a little tournament going on in Brazil this summer), who could blame the guy for seeing some benefit in a little well-deserved down time?

By the end of last year, plenty of observers were taking the position that Messi was still brilliant, but just not quite as brilliant as we’ve seen him before, with just a little bit of the “something special” missing as he lined up Barcelona and its new coach, Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

Barca is about to hit the business end of Champions League, with that high-profile meet-up directly ahead against Manchester City. (You’ve got those dates circles, right? For Feb. 18 and March 12?)

Soon after that, with all matters La Liga and Champions League and otherwise settled around the Nou Camp, Messi will report for Argentina duty. He talked about how so many positive elements seem to be lining up for Argentina’s World Cup bid.

Yes, yes… it’s true, and we are in good form at the moment. We weren’t doing all that well in qualifying until we won away in Colombia, but then we had a great campaign. It was a major turnaround and a very positive thing for us. It’s a very good group of players and we all get on very well. It might just be our year but once the World Cup starts anything can happen, it’s very difficult. But I do think that we’re in good form.”

Pulisic sparks BVB’s breakdown of Liverpool

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Second half substitute Christian Pulisic stole the show in Charlotte, where Borussia Dortmund toppled Liverpool 3-1 in International Champions Cup play on Sunday.

[ MORE: Mina to Everton? ]

Virgil Van Dijk had given Liverpool the lead with a first half header, but it was all BVB in the second half.

Pulisic won and converted a penalty, then scored a second before taking the shot that led to Jacob Bruun Larsen’s rebound goal.

The performance put Pulisicmania in a nutshell for the unindoctrinated, and spoiled the trip to the stadium for a bright red crowd.

Moments like this don’t hurt either:

Pulisic wins, converts penalty against Liverpool (fan video)

AP Photo/Annie Rice
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USMNT star and Borussia Dortmund teenage winger Christian Pulisic won a penalty kick off James Milner, then insisted on taking the spot kick in front of his home crowd.

[ MORE: Mina to Everton? ]

Pulisic, 19, took the ball off Mario Gotze and finished his chance clinically to equalize against Liverpool, his second won penalty of the American tour.

Pulisic began the game on the bench after starting in Chicago against Manchester City, and Liverpool had gone ahead early when Virgil Van Dijk took advantage of poorly set up BVB zonal marking.

But Pulisic cut past Milner and was tripped by the veteran before clattering into Ragnar Klavan and earning the PK.

Everton target Mina wants to stay at Barca, but also to play

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Goal.com says Yerry Mina could be leaving the Camp Nou after just one season for meaningful playing time at Goodison Park.

Mina’s agent says the center back would still like to feature at Barca following his strong World Cup with Colombia, but that Everton and Zenit Saint-Petersburg are interested in the $20 million man.

[ MORE: El Tri’s Reyes to Newcastle? ]

He was WhoScored’s second-best player in the entire World Cup tournament, going 270 minutes for Los Cafeteros. Mina averaged seven clearances a match, with 1.3 tackles and an interception per contest. Here’s Mina’s agent, from The Liverpool Echo:

“Everton is a club that insists on the player, who has called us directly. There are other teams like Zenit, but we hope Barcelona will take the initiative. He wants to play and do it in Barcelona. For Yerry Mina it would be a failure not to play. He just wants to play.”

The 23-year-old played just six times for Barcelona last season, and would join Michael Keane and Mason Holgate as younger center backs in Everton’s corps (Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka are well into the careers).

Rumor roundup: Interest in Martial; Mexican to Newcastle?

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Sometimes a transfer rumor report talks itself out of probability by the time it reaches completion.

Sky Sports is reporting that Manchester United attacker Anthony Martial has interest from the likes of Chelsea, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Klopp on Pulisic ]

But United doesn’t have interest in selling Martial and may pick up an option in his contract to extend him through the 2019-2020 season.

And the report says Chelsea has not made an offer — hard to believe United would sell inside the Premier League anyway — while Bayern thinks the price tag is too high. And if Bayern feels that way, than BVB is gonna pass, too.

Still, something to put on your radar.


Swansea City center back Federico Fernandez saw his side relegated last season and may not favor a campaign in the Championship.

The Chronicle says he could move to Newcastle on loan despite a transfer tag of less than $8 million.

Fernandez, however, did not name names outside of Krasnodar:

“The club (Krasnodar) are very interested in me and we will have to see what happens with the window. Of course I have a contract with Swansea and that’s why I’m here and working hard. But if they want me to come then of course I want to play at the highest level.”

The Magpies could land a defender from a World Cup participant, though, as Porto’s Diego Reyes may prefer a move to Newcastle (Turkish link) over interest from Fenerbahce and West Ham United.

The 55-times capped Mexican center back has played on the right as well, though he missed the tournament with a hamstring injury.