Lionel Messi next club
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Messi FAQ: Where will he go? What next for Barcelona?

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Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona.

No, really: The legendary club confirmed it.

[ MORE: Why Messi to Man City makes sense ]

This has triggered a wealth of questions and buzz from around the soccer world, and we’ll try to walk you through some of the key points below.


What has Barcelona done?

One of the biggest teams in the world is losing the greatest player on earth, and it’s done so through a mess of its own making.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s roller coaster few years have included a persistent failure to address a rotting roster kept together by Messi, and now his legacy will likely be the exodus of an entire sport’s GOAT.

Ultimately, Messi’s lone reason to stay would’ve been loyalty and a desire to be a one-club player.

Bartomeu and new Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman were hanging onto that thread but it does not come as a surprise that Messi just couldn’t stand a rebuild.

Even in Barca’s worst performances of the past few years, all coming in the Champions League, Messi has been the fine art hanging in the chain restaurant.

It started in 2018 with a 3-0 second-leg loss that sent Roma through on away goals, then rolled into a capitulation to Liverpool in which he might as well have been the only Blaugrana on the pitch.

The last straw was an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich this month, a one-off where even the Argentine looked listless after a busy first hour.

The president called the loss to Bayern “a disaster.” That makes Tuesday’s news the apocalypse.

Now the 33-year-old will bring eye-popping accolades outside of Spain for the first time since he was a 13-year-old at Newell’s Old Boys.


What can Barcelona do?

Well, that depends.

A report late Tuesday claimed that Barcelona believes that the exit clause in Messi’s contract expired in June. Messi believes the clause runs out at the end of the season, which extended well past June because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That could eman that the player is stuck with the club through the 2020-21 season unless his $820 million release clause is met by another team, which is not just an improbable sum but a possible Financial Fair Play tornado waiting to spin.

Barcelona is expected to pull out all the stops to try and keep its prized GOAT, who could be the key to its presidential election in addition to its on-field fortunes.

The club could move its presidential election up from March to remove embattled boss Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has overseen a tumultuous tenure as club president. So far, Bartomeu has denied reports that he’s set to step down.

Could that be Messi’s end game? A BBC report says it’s expected that Messi will want to leave regardless. He holds most of the cards here as a beloved figure not just in Barcelona but essentially everywhere that isn’t Madrid (and maybe CONMEBOL).

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 24, 2018: Lionel Messi of Barcelona and his son Thiago Messi Roccuzzo (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Where will Messi go?

Favorites out of the gate are Manchester City, Inter Milan, and Manchester United, according to reports (We said reports. Stop yelling at us. Loud noises!).

The odds-on favorite is Man City, where Messi would reunite with Pep Guardiola to make the Etihad Stadium set the overwhelming favorites to win any competition they enter. Consider that City produced more chances than any other club in the world but didn’t have the finish. That changes with the best scorer of all-time, who has reportedly already spoken with Guardiola and is “keen” on the move according to The Athletic.

Very few teams have the numbers to make this work. Paris Saint-Germain could do it but would have to sell either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe to do it, and it’s seems unlikely Messi would leave Barcelona for a job that answers none of the cynical, silly, but ever-present critiques lobbed against him as a player to only have played in Spain. This rules out a return home or move to MLS, Qatar, or China, too.

Manchester United has the dough — imagine Messi with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Paul Pogba — and Chelsea and Liverpool do, too.

Inter Milan is also said to be an option, with the concept of Messi underneath Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez an absolute eye-popper. Plus you know he’d love to waltz into Cristiano Ronaldo’s league and outshine his perceived eternal individual rival.


What should we expect in another league?

This answer is pretty easy: The best player in the world doing best player in the world things.

Advanced stats site WhoScored.com has a pretty handy tool that details the performances of players across the Top Five leagues in Europe.

Messi was again the No. 1 player in the world by a landslide. His 25 goals and 21 assists in league play helped him account for an 8.71 player rating, .58 higher than runner-up Robert Lewandowski, .74 more than third-place Kevin De Bruyne, and nearly a full point better than Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth-place mark.

Consider:

  • He was named Man of the Match in 22 of Barcelona’s 38 games.
  • He was the only player in Europe’s top leagues to record 20-plus goals and assists, and only one player (Jadon Sancho) had 15-plus in both categories.
  • Messi’s 25 goals came while passing at 82.6 percent.
  • His 5.5 dribbles per game were .5 more than anyone in Europe’s top leagues (Adama Traore). Only six other players completed more than 3 dribbles per game.
  • Messi’s 2.7 key passes per game trailed only De Bruyne, Lazio’s Luis Alberto, and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez.
  • Critics who say he only does it in Spain should also note that he was the second-highest rated player in the Champions League, behind only Lewandowski and comfortably ahead of third-place Neymar and fourth-place Harry Kane (WhoScored).

Even if the 33-year-old takes a step back or somehow has a less attacking role with his new team he’s going to light up a new league.

Messi will instantly make a UCL team into a tournament contender and a UCL contender into a favorite.

Remember: He nearly willed Barcelona to La Liga and put them deep in the UCL despite a long-term injury to Luis Suarez, a terribly unproductive season from Antoine Griezmann, a slow adaptation to Spain from Frenkie de Jong, and a defense that tied for fifth in goals allowed per game.


Where does Barcelona go from here?

This is a major blow to Barcelona coach Koeman and president Bartomeu.

How the latter overcomes this with a presidential election looming in March and a team that, for now, will be expected to drop from La Liga contender to possible top four fringe candidate.

Drawing Barcelona in the Champions League this year now seems manageable. Every team in La Liga that felt the fear factor sink a little due to the club’s miserable 2019-20 will feel they have more than a puncher’s chance.

The Blaugranas have pieces for the future in Frenkie de Jong, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Trincao, and Riqui Puig and Miralem Pjanic will join several experienced mainstays once he’s done with COVID-19 quarantine.

But Barca now has to convince players to join their side in the aftermath of Messi. Imagine the intimidation factor involved in trying to help fill the shoes of the GOAT?

Real Madrid has already built a collection of young talent that sets them up for years of success and Diego Simeone will be licking his lips at the news.

Barcelona hasn’t finished outside La Liga’s top two since 2007-08, the year before Pep Guardiola took the reins. It’s made it past the UCL Round of 16 in every season since 2006-07.

Both those marks look set to update themselves to 2020-21.

Man City to sign Ruben Dias for $84 million

Ruben Dias to Manchester City
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Ruben Dias to Manchester City has been confirmed by Benfica, as the Portuguese international center back will complete his $84 million transfer to the Premier League.

Given their 5-2 mauling at home against Leicester City on Sunday, City need defensive help. Big time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Dias, 23, is regarded as one of the best central defensive players in Europe and Pep Guardiola’s Man City have moved swiftly to try and address their defensive issues.

In a statement on their website, Portuguese giants Benfica confirmed the sale of Dias as the formalities of the move will now be ironed in the coming days.

“In the first statement (10:59 pm) it informed that it had reached an agreement with Manchester City for the sale of the central defender Ruben Dias for 68 million euros, plus an additional 3.6 million euros, depending on the achievement of objectives related to the sporting performance of the English club. This agreement is dependent on the signing of the player’s sports labor contract with Manchester City.”

Benfica also announced that they have bought Man City defender Nicolas Otamendi, 32, for $17.5 million to replace Dias.

“In the second statement (11 pm) Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Futebol, SAD informed that it has reached an agreement with Manchester City for the signing of the central defender Nicolas Otamendi for 15 million euros. This agreement is dependent on the signing of a sports labor contract with the player and the completion of medical examinations.”

After spending $53 million on center back Nathan Ake already this summer, Guardiola is still trying to fill a Vincent Kompany sized hole in his defense. 12 months on, Man City are still struggling defensively.

Kalidou Koulibaly was linked with a move to Man City but it is believed they couldn’t agree a deal with Napoli and have instead gone for Dias. With Aymeric Laporte close to a return to full fitness, there is no doubt Man City’s defense will improve in the coming weeks and months.

And my goodness, it has to. If Pep Guardiola’s side have any chance of winning the Premier League and challenging for the Champions League they simply have to get better at the back, and the current players have shown they aren’t up to the task. An upgrade on their current full backs will be needed as well as Dias and Ake.

Dias is a confident defender on the ball, which will suit City, but more importantly they need him to hit the ground running and be a dominant defender.

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip. Judging by the early reports, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson should also be fit to start.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chamberls, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese