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Teary Messi says goodbye to Barcelona, insists PSG move not done yet

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An emotional Lionel Messi says he did not want to leave Barcelona but that a move to Paris Saint-Germain is not confirmed.

Messi was in tears as he received a standing ovation in his final Barcelona press conference to announce the end of his 21 years with the club.

Barcelona confirmed the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s departure on Thursday night, the same day he returned to Catalonia following his post-Copa America holiday.

Messi had travelled to Barcelona expecting to agree on the details of the announcement of his new five-year deal, and he confirmed he offered to reduce his wages by 50 per cent.

“This year, my family and I were convinced we were going to stay at home, that’s what we all wanted more than anything,” said Messi.

“We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. But today, we have to say goodbye to all of this.”

Barcelona president Joan Laporta blamed Messi’s exit on the former regime at the club in addition to La Liga spending rules thwarting any hopes of the Argentinian staying in Catalonia.

“I did everything possible and the club, Laporta, they couldn’t do it because of La Liga,” said Messi.

“I’ve heard things said about me, that I didn’t want to continue, but on my life, we did everything we could because I wanted to stay.

“Last year, I didn’t want to stay and I said it; this year, I wanted to stay and we couldn’t.”

He added: “I’m not ready for this. And honesty, with all the nonsense with the burofax, I was convinced of what I wanted to say.

“We thought we would be staying in Barcelona. The time we have had here has been amazing.”

PSG offering two-year deal, Messi: ‘Nothing is confirmed’

PSG are offering Messi a two-year deal worth £25m a year after tax with the option of a further year and are confident the 34-year-old will sign.

Messi has spoken directly with PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino and his lawyers are in Paris working on a deal.

But asked if a move to PSG will be his next move, Messi said: “That is one possibility, to reach those heights.

“I’ve got nothing confirmed with anybody. I had a lot of calls, a lot of interested clubs. At the moment, nothing is closed, but we are talking about a lot of things.”

Analysis: Questions asked of FFP compliance

Lionel Messi moving to Paris will raise French football’s profile around the world but serious questions will be asked about PSG’s ability to operate within financial fair play (FFP) rules.

French clubs have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic. Ligue 1 and 2 did not finish their seasons after they were suspended in March last year and the LFP’s €800m-a-year domestic broadcast deal with Mediapro collapsed four months into its first season.

Despite the problems in French football, PSG, backed by their Qatari owners, are confident they can balance their books by selling players and sign Messi without breaking FFP rules.

PSG’s wage bill of €414m in 2019/20 was more than three times that of the next richest club – Lyon’s wage annual bill was €132m.

PSG have already signed Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan this summer for €60m and they have given big contracts to three players who were free agents – Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum.

They remain in talks with Kylian Mbappe about a contract extension – his current deal runs out next summer.

PSG signing Messi would make it extremely difficult for them to be able to afford to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United this summer.

Any deal for Messi would also be a huge boost for Qatar as it prepares to host the World Cup next year.

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Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier

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The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.

A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.

Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.

In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.

Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.

The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.

Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.

In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.

Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.

Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.

 

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WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars

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The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.

The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.

There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.

Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.

The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.

The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.

Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.

Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.

Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.

Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.

A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.

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Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true

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Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.

There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.

The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.

Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.

“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.

Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021

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