The old saying goes “nobody one player is bigger than the club.”
Apparently that doesn’t apply to everyone.
With Lionel Messi’s contract situation becoming suddenly more dire after Barcelona was obliterated by Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League first leg, leaving the second leg just a formality, it suddenly feels like the superstar could realistically leave Barcelona, an unthinkable idea just a year ago. It seems the players feel that way too.
“[Messi] is indispensable, but the rest of us are dispensable,” Javier Mascherano told Barcelona’s official magazine. “Leo is a unique player. We’re talking about the best player in history, for this club and for the sport. Important people have left Barca in recent years, people that will stay in the club’s history, but the team still works, it still wins.
“No, the club is bigger than any manager, than any player… except Leo. That’s the reality, and you have to accept it.”
Messi will turn 30 years old this summer, and the club is under pressure with the La Liga salary restrictions. Luis Suarez and Neymar have both already signed two huge deals, and Spanish clubs are only allowed to allocate up to 70% of their total expenditures on player salaries. The rules are an attempt to stop the bleeding of Spanish clubs spending irresponsibly over the past decade.
This has caused a contentious back and forth between player and club that has become more and more tense.
We know how Javier Mascherano feels, and it seems that some players believe it’s worth the club mortgaging its ability to fill out a talented roster to keep Messi at Barcelona the rest of his playing career.
Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.
Croatia scored a pair of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 2-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.
Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.
Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.
Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.
There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.
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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.
Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.
Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.
Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.
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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.
His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.
The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.
It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.
Pro Soccer Talk examines some of Thursday’s top transfer stories, including a Premier League giant looking to add to its midfield.
[ MORE: Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Luis Suarez ]
Chelsea could be set to join Barcelona in the race for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to the Daily Mail.
The Blues and new manager Maurizio Sarri are said to be open to looking to Serie A to solve some of the team’s troubled areas, including in the center of the park to join France international N'Golo Kante.
Sarri is already said to be keen on signing Napoli star Dries Mertens, whom he has coached for several years at the Stadio San Paolo
Meanwhile, Juve has interest in a World Cup star, with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano attracting significant looks from around the world.
Lozano scored for El Tri in their 1-0 victory over Germany to open their 2018 World Cup campaign, and has become an instant star in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.
PSV would reportedly be willing to complete a deal if the Serie A champions shell out over $40 million.
Sticking with Juve, Emre Can‘s move to the Turin side appears to be close to finalization.
Can is set to have a medical in Italy on Thursday, as the 24-year-old anticipates completing a five-year contract with the Serie A giants.
Finally, West Ham United is looking to add to its attacking options next season, and the club could be nearing a record move.
Lazio winger Felipe Anderson is reportedly set to come to the London Stadium in 2018/19 as the Hammers prepare a $46 million deal.
Anderson tallied four goals in 21 Serie A matches last season for the Biancocelesti.
The 30-year-old has spent two seasons managing Hoffenheim, guiding the club to back-to-back top-four finishes in the Bundesliga.
Leipzig is currently without a manager ahead of the next season, so it remains unclear who will take over until Nagelsmann assumes his role in 2019.