Luis Suarez reflected on a "special night" after overtaking Lionel Messi as the top-scoring player in South American World Cup qualifiers during Uruguay's win against Chile.

The Atletico Madrid striker scored an impressive bicycle-kick to open the scoring in Tuesday's contest before Federico Valverde added a late second in the 2-0 victory.

That goal sealed a third-placed finish for Uruguay behind Brazil and Argentina as La Celeste qualified for the World Cup for a fourth edition running, and a fifth time in six attempts.

Suarez has now found the net 29 times for his country in 62 World Cup qualifiers, one goal more than Messi having played two games more.

Next on the list is Bolivia striker Marcelo Moreno, who has 22 goals in 58 games, followed by Chile's Alexis Sanchez (20 in 56) and Argentina great Hernan Crespo (19 in 33).

 

Former Barcelona striker Suarez posted an image of himself with his match shirt on the back of the victory – Uruguay's fourth in a row under new head coach Diego Alonso.

That is their best run since an identical streak between March and June 2019 under former boss Oscar Tabarez, who was in charge for 15 years before leaving last November.

"Special night, special match, special shirt and with a goal," Suarez posted. "What more can I ask for to live unique and unforgettable moments with my country?"

Uruguay will learn their World Cup group opponents on Friday, along with fellow South American participants Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. 

Fifth-placed Peru must come through an inter-confederation play-off against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates in June.

As for Suarez, he is set to return to club duty on Saturday when Atletico host Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga.

Despite making history in Argentina's 1-1 draw against Ecuador, manager Lionel Scaloni seemed disappointed to share the points away from home.

It looked like it was going to be a win and a clean sheet for the visiting side after Julian Alvarez put them up in the first half, before late drama.

VAR ruled that a 90th-minute header struck the arm of an Argentinian defender, and Enner Valencia stepped up from the penalty spot and put home the rebound after his initial strike was saved.

With the result, Argentina have now played 31 games since their last loss, dating back to the 2019 Copa America semi-final, which is the longest active unbeaten run in international football.

Argentina's 31-game unbeaten streak also matched the record feat achieved by the national team from 1991 to 1993.

However Scaloni, who received a yellow card from the sideline, was focused on the difficulty of the World Cup qualifying campaign as a whole.

"These two dates [against Venezuela and Ecuador] were very hard for us," he told reporters.

"Between suspensions, injuries and players who arrived very fair, we had to support each other and I appreciate that very much. 

"They are very hard to play – sometimes people really don't realise how hard they are. I was just talking to the boys from the under-20s who came to watch the match, and they couldn't understand the degree of difficulty that the matches present.

"Today's game was played on a field that was not in good condition – it was almost impossible to play from below – even so, we had a good first half, but in the second they came to us."

It was a different story for Ecuador manager Gustavo Alfaro, who addressed the crowd and called it "one of the happiest moments of my life".

"I thank my family, everyone who was part of this process and this achievement, which is the most important in my career," he said.

"I am living one of the happiest moments of my life. Nobody believed in Ecuador, and today it stands up and says present to the world.

"The challenge that is coming to us [the World Cup] is for 17 million people."

Julian Alvarez's first-half strike was all that separated Argentina from home side Ecuador until a stoppage-time penalty secured a 1-1 draw.

With both sides already punching their tickets to the Qatar World Cup, this fixture was more about national pride, and it was evident neither team was going to take it easy as a number of the biggest stars were included in starting line-ups, including Lionel Messi.

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Ecuador defended with fiery passion, which was rewarded in the 93rd minute.

Enner Valencia tucked home a rebound after seeing a penalty awarded by VAR saved, cancelling out Alvarez's 24th-minute opener.

Ecuador almost had a dream start in front of their home fans, with Robert Arboleda's header from a fifth-minute set-piece tipped over the bar by Geronimo Rulli, who then denied Alan Franco.

Argentina had over 60 per cent of possession in the first half and, after their dominance was mitigated by sloppy mistakes early, the pressure paid off when Alvarez broke the deadlock.

Alvarez's goal came after a cross in from the left wing found him at the penalty spot, and though his first-time shot was blocked by a lunging defender, he tucked away the rebound neatly, hard and low across the goalkeeper into the bottom left corner.

Angel Mena fired wide from the edge of the box at the end of a surging run and it looked as if Argentina, who went close with a Messi free-kick would leave victorious until an on-target header struck Lucas Martinez on the arm, with VAR awarding a penalty.

Valencia's initial attempt was saved by Rulli, but the rebound fell fortuitously at his feet for him to tap in the equaliser.

What does it mean?

Both teams have secured qualification to the World Cup, but Argentina managing to again avoid defeat means they are now 31 games unbeaten, a run that stretches back to the 2019 Copa America semi-fiinals.

Immovable Otamendi controls the show

Argentina centre-back Nicolas Otamendi was near-flawless marshalling his defensive unit and was at no fault for the goal.

Otamendi won four out of his five aerial duels – two more than any other team-mate – and won six of his eight total duels.

Speedy Gonzalez runs straight to the bench

Nicolas Gonzalez started on the left wing for Argentina, but was largely ineffective before being substituted in the 78th minute.

Gonzalez was credited with zero created chances, and only had a passing accuracy of 44 per cent in the final third.

What's next?

Argentina face reigning European champions Italy on June 1. Ecuador can start to think about preparations for their first World Cup finals appearance since 2014.

Lionel Messi returning to Barcelona is not something that president Joan Laporta is considering. 

Laporta's comments on the situation came after Dani Alves and Pedri said they would love to see the Paris Saint-Germain forward back at Camp Nou. 

Messi, 34, left Barcelona after last season when the club's financial restrictions meant retaining arguably the best player in the world on a new contract was out of the question. 

Speaking on RAC 1, Laporta made it clear he was not in communication with the Argentina international at all. 

"Right now there is no fluid communication and I do not speak with him. There is no personal contact," he said. 

"He is in Paris, but I remember him with affection. I know what is said, but I don't talk to him. I hear comments from people close to me. 

"I have not received any message from Leo or from those around him about returning. The truth is that at the moment we are not considering it. 

"We are building a young team combined with people of some experience, making a good symbiosis that works again. 

"But Leo is Leo, the best player in the world. He deserves respect as a player and person. He is a winner, but it's not something we are planning." 

Reflecting on Messi's departure from the club, Laporta stated there was not much he could do. 

"For me, it sure wasn't easy, but as it happened, I thought the club had to come first – I couldn't put [Barcelona] at more risk," he said. 

"I think we did what we had to do." 

Lionel Scaloni says it is not the right time to think about Argentina's future without Lionel Messi but to instead enjoy the superstar forward while they still have him.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi revealed after already-qualified Argentina's 3-0 win over Venezuela on Friday that he will assess his future after Qatar 2022.

The Paris Saint-Germain star helped Argentina to a first Copa America triumph since 1993 last year and will now have his sights on a first World Cup crown since 1986.

Beyond the tournament at the end of this year, however, Messi admitted he "does not know" what the future holds in terms of his international career.

Scaloni will respect Messi's decision either way and accepts the 34-year-old – who has 81 goals in 159 caps for La Albiceleste – cannot continue forever.

"After playing in a World Cup, everyone has to make an assessment," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Ecuador.

"I'm not in the heads of my players to know what they're thinking. In any case, you have to enjoy it. You don't have to think about the future – enjoy their spectacular present.

"It's the rule of life that at some point [retirement] will happen. It's useless thinking about what will happen after the World Cup."

Angel Di Maria is another who appears to be nearing the end of his career with Argentina after posting an emotional tribute to supporters following the win against Venezuela.

The PSG attacker scored one and created another in that victory at La Bombonera – Argentina's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night," he said on social media. "It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina.

"Being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement. Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you."

Scaloni is unaware of any plans Di Maria has to call time on his international career, but like with Messi, he will let the player have the final say.

"I didn't see the post but I understood it as being about this team, I would imagine," Scaloni said. "I spoke with him some time ago. 

"There is an age for everyone. Many trips have passed and many matches, which I imagine is difficult.

"I don't know what's going on in his head. If it was his last home game, it could not have gone any better – it was as though he dreamed it.

"But first let us play these games, then the World Cup, and then we'll see. For now, let's enjoy it."

Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has put his failure to land a Ballon d'Or award down to not fitting the "Mr Perfect" mould of perennial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Despite registering over 500 club goals for the likes of Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, Ibrahimovic has never finished in the top three of the voting for the prestigious individual prize.

The Sweden international's highest finish came in 2013 when claiming fourth place behind Franck Ribery, Messi and Ronaldo, the latter two having taken the award 12 times between them (Messi 7, Ronaldo 5).

Indeed, only Luka Modric in 2018 – after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and playing a starring role in Croatia's run to the World Cup final – has broken that duopoly over the past 14 years.

But Ibrahimovic, who has not been afraid to air his thoughts across a remarkable 23-year career, does not believe the Ballon d'Or is awarded on footballing ability alone and therefore has no regrets about missing out.

"These are political awards. They want 'Mr Perfect'," he told Bild. "If you speak and say what you think, you can't get them.

"It's easy to give them to Mr Nice Guy. It doesn't change anything for me, it doesn't make me better or worse."

Ibrahimovic is continuing to prove his worth at the age of 40 with Milan and is reportedly in talks over signing a contract beyond the end of this season, when his existing deal is due to expire.

The Malmo academy product has won trophies in five different countries, including Italy, France, Spain and England, but he has never plied his trade in the German top flight.

While a move to Bayern Munich may now be out of the equation, Ibrahimovic revealed he has a soft spot for the reigning Bundesliga champions.

"I've always been curious about the Bundesliga," he said. "There are teams like Bayern Munich, an incredible club.

"Every time I played against them I could always see their facilities, the stadium, their organisation. The history of the club is impressive."

Cesc Fabregas has urged Paris Saint-Germain supporters to get behind a struggling Lionel Messi, rather than criticising his former team-mate.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner swapped Barcelona for Paris last August, ending his 21-year association with the Blaugrana.

Messi departed the Camp Nou as Barca's all-time leading appearance maker and goalscorer, having netted 672 times across 778 games in all competitions.

However, the Argentina captain has been unable to replicate that form in Ligue 1, scoring just twice in 18 appearances so far.

Mauricio Pochettino's side are well on course to regain their Ligue 1 crown, as they lead second-placed Marseille by 12 points with nine matches remaining.

But following their Champions League last-16 exit at the hands of Real Madrid, the likes of Messi and Neymar were jeered during PSG's next league game against Bordeaux at Parc des Princes.

Fabregas played alongside Messi at Barcelona between 2011 and 2014, winning the LaLiga title in 2012-13.

The Monaco midfielder understands the frustration of the PSG faithful, but feels the criticism of his ex-colleague is unjustified. 

 

He told Marca: "Leo's case is very simple. For me, he has been the best ever that I have seen and played with. What I have seen from him has been exceptional.

"I know what happened with PSG. The fans want to create a moment of tension with the players.

"During the match, they support you; when they sing your name, perfect. But what I saw the other day – jeering when Neymar lost the ball or whistling when they touched the ball – is very ugly.

"They justify that they get paid a lot. They lost against Real Madrid – that's fine – but didn't they want to win? That's what comes first.

"With PSG, they haven't won anything yet, for the moment, but they will surely win the league.

"You're talking about a player [Messi] who has just arrived. PSG have never had a player like this in their lives.

"It's better to be grateful, to support him and not crush him. This year or next, these guys will bring you great moments."

Angel Di Maria said "thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you" to the Argentina fans after playing what he expects to be his final international match on home soil.

Di Maria scored one and created another in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela at La Bombonera on Friday – La Albiceleste's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi was the beneficiary of Di Maria's assist and, with Argentina already sure of their place in Qatar, suggested after the match he would consider his international future following the World Cup.

Di Maria was slightly more definitive in his own post-match comments, as the 34-year-old reflected on "a wonderful night".

"I'm just going to say thank you for the enormous love I have received," he wrote on his Instagram page.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night. It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina, and being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement.

"Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you.

"Now to congratulate the whole team for the great match that was played, a perfect match by all. We continue growing and dreaming together. Let's go Argentina!!!"

Di Maria has earned 121 caps and scored 24 goals since his Argentina debut against Paraguay in 2008.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger is in line to go to his fourth World Cup, although he has scored only twice and failed to provide an assist across 13 appearances in the previous three.

In his final major tournament, Di Maria will hope to repeat his Copa America heroics, having scored in July's final against Brazil to secure Argentina their first silverware with Messi in the side.

Friday's assist for Messi was Di Maria's first in qualifying for Qatar – from 13 chances created – yet only the captain and Lautaro Martinez (both seven) can top his three goals in this campaign.

Lionel Messi will reassess his playing future with the national team after the World Cup in Qatar later this year, with retirement not ruled out.

Messi was among the scorers on Friday as already-qualified Argentina eased past Venezuela in World Cup qualifying at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires.

The 34-year-old guided Argentina to a breakthrough Copa America triumph last year, the nation's first since 1993. Argentina have not the World Cup since Diego Maradona led them to glory in 1986, with Messi getting closest in 2014 when they reached the final in Brazil.

Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona last August, admitted that his international playing future beyond Qatar was on his mind.

"I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup. I am thinking about what is coming," Messi told reporters after the Venezuela win. "After Qatar I will have to reassess many things."

He added: "I don’t know [about playing on], the truth is I don’t know. I think about what's coming next, only think about facing Ecuador [on Tuesday]. The preparation matches in June and September.

"Let’s hope these go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Messi added that lifting his first major trophy with Argentina last year at the Copa would not have a bearing on his decision.

"It has been a while that I am happy here, since before winning the Copa," he said. "I am thankful for all this they make me feel every time I come to Argentina."

The PSG star's goal against Venezuela extended Argentina's impressive record of never losing in the past 12 years when Messi has scored.

Messi has represented Argentina 159 times, having debuted in 2005, scoring 81 goals.

Argentina remain undefeated in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification, after they defeated Venezuela 3-0 on Friday.

In the Albiceleste's first game at La Bombonera since the passing of Diego Maradona, it was a particularly emotional atmosphere and the already-qualified home side made it 11 wins from 16 qualifiers.

The raucous home support belied the largely lacklustre performance on the pitch, however, with Nicolas Gonzalez's goal giving them breathing room. Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi netted in the final quarter of an hour to seal the win.

The match's complexion was dominated by Argentine possession which did not exactly translate to many chances of substance.

In the opening 30 minutes, the Albiceleste managed three shots for a cumulative xG of 0.07 despite 71 per cent possession.

Yet the game soon opened up in transition, and Argentina could finally attack space that otherwise wasn't presented. From the ensuing chaos, Alexis Mac Allister quickly won back possession and played in Rodrigo De Paul, who then provided the assist across goal for Gonzalez.

Venezuela had an opportunity to equalise in the 39th minute through Josef Martinez with Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling, but he put his close-range shot off target from Salomon Rondon's ball.

Martinez again had an opportunity to equalise in the 54th minute, with a free header from close range but missed.

Argentina were able to effectively kill the game off late in the second half through substitute Angel Di Maria, chipping Wuilker Farinez after De Paul's ball over the top.

Messi then added a third three minutes later in the 82nd minute with a relative mis-hit from Di Maria's assist.

Lionel Messi must accept criticism at Paris Saint-Germain after supporters turned on the Argentine great, according to Michel Platini.

Platini, who has told Kylian Mbappe to follow his dreams when his contract expires at the end of the season, believes PSG have built "a great club" under their Qatari ownership.

But he questioned whether the acquisition of a string of superstar names is the best way to construct a successful team, and sympathised with Messi, who has endured a tough first campaign in Paris.

A Ligue 1 title is practically assured, but defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 stage, from a 2-0 aggregate advantage, has stung PSG, while also delighting the club's critics.

There are critics within the ranks of the club's supporters, too, with Messi and Neymar among the players who faced loud whistling from fans at the first league game following the exit from Europe.

Former France superstar Platini knows Messi will have been affected by the whistles.

"He also understands them, but it hurts," Platini told RMC Sports. "I, too, was whistled at the Parc des Princes. But I was never whistled either at Saint-Etienne or at Juventus."

Although Platini never played for PSG, the club's home ground staged France internationals during his time as a player and coach of the national team.

"One has the right to whistle. The customer is king," Platini added. "I wouldn't do it. Everyone has the right to whistle, to insult. The football field is an outlet. Leo came to please Paris. Maybe there were other teams that wanted him. It's very hard."

Asked whether Messi made a mistake by joining PSG when Barcelona could not afford to retain him, Platini said: "He does what he wants. It is true that he is the child of Barcelona as Ronaldo was the child of Madrid. They decided to leave.

"I can put myself in their place. When I left Juve, I stopped. I was 32 years old. Barcelona and OM [Marseille] wanted me. It's complicated for a player like Leo, when you reach 34, you know you're worth a lot. But are you going to play as well as in the past?

"Lionel chose to have a new challenge. It is good for French football that he came to play in France. But he will never play as well as he did five, six years ago."

With nine rounds of games remaining, PSG lead second-placed Marseille by 12 points in Ligue 1, so silverware is coming, but the PSG of next season could be strikingly different to the current side.

Mbappe may see out his contract and leave for Real Madrid, Messi's future is beginning to look uncertain, and many would be surprised if head coach Mauricio Pochettino stays in charge.

Messi has just two Ligue 1 goals this season and seven strikes across all competitions, and Barcelona have not closed the door on the possibility of a Camp Nou comeback for their greatest ever player.

"It's hard to do better than what they did," Platini said. "They have a Messi-Neymar-Mbappe forward line. If by putting three of the best players in the world, you don't win, what should you do? Maybe have more in-depth thinking about how to play rather than taking names."

PSG continue to await Mbappe's next move. They hope he will agree to a new contract and stay, but Madrid have made their interest perfectly clear, and a fresh start at the Santiago Bernabeu holds obvious appeal.

Since arriving from Monaco as an 18-year-old in August 2017, Mbappe has scored 158 goals for PSG and added 70 assists, with his goals coming at a rate of over every 104.22 minutes. Only Robert Lewandowski (223), Messi (169) and Ronaldo (162) have scored more over the same period.

Mbappe has hit seven hat-tricks and 31 doubles, and is by far and away the leader when it comes to goals from fast breaks, netting 32 in such a manner, 15 ahead of the nearest challenger, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.

"He must do what he dreams of, what he wants to do," Platini said.

"We have experienced 15 extraordinary years with two exceptional players who have won everything, Ronaldo and Messi. He is in pole position for the future. The future is in front of him, he can win everything. He is the player who should be the future big star for years to come.

"He is the best French player currently. He has everything to be the best, to be [winner of the] Ballon d'Or several times."

Lionel Messi has been urged by player-turned-pundit Jerome Rothen to quit Paris Saint-Germain after just one season.

The Argentine forward signed a lucrative two-year deal last August after being turfed out of Barcelona when the Spanish club realised they could not afford to register him.

It meant there was the tantalising prospect of Messi teaming up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at the Parc des Princes, but they have only featured together in fits and starts due to illness and injury.

PSG hoped to storm the Champions League but were eliminated by Real Madrid at the last-16 stage after squandering a 2-0 aggregate lead during the second leg in Spain.

Messi has managed just two Ligue 1 goals, and seven in all competitions, meaning that for the first time since 2005-06 at Barcelona, he could finish a season with a single-figure goals haul.

"The love story was never made with PSG," Rothen said on his RMC Sports programme. "For everyone's sake, it should end in June."

Barcelona have said they would not close the door on Messi returning to Camp Nou, now that they appear in a better position to sign players.

That still seems unlikely but may be an option on the table should Messi agree his time in France has been a rare career misstep.

Messi missed PSG's weekend defeat to Monaco due to flu but has been able to travel to Argentina this week to join up with his national team.

He was booed during PSG's recent 3-0 home win against Bordeaux in the wake of the Champions League exit, an unusual experience for a player used to being feted by fans.

According to Rothen, who played in the PSG first team from 2004 to 2009 and won 13 caps for France, there has been questionable commitment from a number of South American stars to the PSG cause.

"These things shock me," Rothen said. "He isn't the only one in a few years who has functioned like this with Paris Saint-Germain. We've seen South Americans pull faces from time to time, be physically a little amorphous and not play, then they are in full possession of their means with the national team.

"It's a shame the relationship [Messi] has with Paris Saint-Germain today. Will these 10 days [with Argentina] give him some comfort so that things go better with PSG? I'm still very sceptical about it."

Lionel Messi made a getaway from Paris to bolster Argentina ahead of their final World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

Rumours surround the future of Messi at club level, with Barcelona appearing to hold the door open in case he fancies a return to Camp Nou, having left in tears last August.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's first season at Paris Saint-Germain is almost certain to end with a Ligue 1 title, but exits from the Champions League and Coupe de France have dampened spirits.

Messi was booed by PSG supporters in the recent 3-0 home win over Bordeaux, with that March 13 game following in the wake of defeat to Real Madrid in Europe.

He has another year left on his PSG contract after this season.

The national team captain was assured of a warm welcome with Argentina, having made the trip out later than planned after missing PSG's 3-0 weekend defeat at Monaco due to what coach Mauricio Pochettino said was a bout of flu.

The 34-year-old travelled by private jet with PSG team-mates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, ahead of a home game against Venezuela on Friday and a trip to face Ecuador four days later. Local media showed the pair arriving on Tuesday morning.

Argentina began their preparations for the games on Monday, ahead of the trio arriving from France.

Although Argentina have already qualified for the Qatar 2022 finals, Messi's availability comes as a boost to head coach Lionel Scaloni.

A host of injuries means Argentina's squad has been significantly weakened, and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has pulled out after a positive COVID-19 test.

According to former national team defender Roberto Ayala, who is now Scaloni's assistant, Argentina have no worries about Messi.

Ayala told La Red earlier this month: "We see Messi well. He is a boy who is transformed when he comes to the national team. He is very contained by the group and also wants them to see him as part of the group."

Barcelona are determined to keep Erling Haaland out of Real Madrid's clutches and view a deal for the Borussia Dortmund striker as "difficult, but not impossible".

Signs are pointing to Haaland leaving Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, with Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester City all thought to be keen to sign the Norwegian striker.

There is the worrying potential scenario for Barcelona of Madrid signing Kylian Mbappe as well as Haaland, to reinforce attacking options that already include Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

It might be beyond Madrid's means to attract both in-demand frontman to the Santiago Bernabeu, given the financial implications of such deals, and Barcelona are having to work out what they themselves can afford to spend.

Financial struggles at Camp Nou have seen the club have to tread carefully in the transfer market, although they have enabled head coach Xavi to strengthen with the likes of Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore.

Speaking on Cadena Ser radio, Barcelona president Joan Laporta's advisor, Enric Masip, also said it was not beyond the realm of possibility that Lionel Messi could return to the club in a playing capacity. Record-breaking captain Messi was forced out last summer, when Barcelona realised they could not afford to register him.

Masip said of potential transfer movement: "The signing of Haaland is difficult, but not impossible. Many circumstances have to be met to be able to sign him. The club, despite the economic situation, are looking for formulas to continue making signings.

"I refer to the words that the president said: the club is in a position to be able to sign, but obviously, there have to be movements. For someone to come, someone has to leave.

"That is in the hands of the technical secretariat and then later there is the economic part. Speaking of Haaland, he is a player who has enormous quality and is a true '9'. At a football level, he is a player who would always be interesting in any big team."

Masip added, according to Mundo Deportivo: "I would prefer that Mbappe and Haaland don't get together in Madrid."

 

Since the day of Haaland's Dortmund debut on January 18, 2020, the Leeds-born forward has managed 80 goals in 82 club games across all competitions, putting him second among players from Europe's top five leagues (Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Serie A).

Only Robert Lewandowski (118 goals in 99 games for Bayern Munich) has managed more, with Haaland three ahead of Mbappe and five clear of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi sits eighth on that list with 60 goals in 97 matches, while he also sits third for assists in the same period (38 – beaten only by Bruno Fernandes' 39 and Thomas Muller's 51) and has hit the woodwork more than anyone (27 times).

Regarding a possible return for Messi, Masip said: "Nothing is impossible, but there have been no winks as such from the club."

Messi is enduring a tough first season at Paris Saint-Germain and has scored just two Ligue 1 goals for the French league leaders. The Argentinian hit a record 672 goals for Barcelona.

He signed a two-year deal with PSG in August 2021, with an option for a third year.

Haaland appears a likelier acquisition for Barcelona than Messi, although the club's tune appears to change regularly when it comes to talk of the prolific Dortmund frontman.

Laporta earlier this month seemed to dampen expectation of such a deal, given the hefty cost involved.

"Even if we had the best economic situation, there are operations we would not do," Laporta told Esport3.

Gonzalo Higuain is happy to have enjoyed a fruitful international career with Argentina, despite never getting his hands on a trophy for his country.

The attacker, who was a member of the Albiceleste team that finished second at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, retired from the national setup in 2019, missing out on the Copa America triumph last year.

Higuain, now playing for Inter Miami in MLS, is delighted for old team-mate Lionel Messi's long-awaited international success, but remains proud of his own career for his country.

"With my national team, I gave everything and I will never blame myself for that," Higuain told Stats Perform. "Unfortunately I couldn't get anything.

"But I'm happy for those who could because we've shared so many bad times, but nobody takes what we've lived through.

"We were a wonderful group and we played great football, but some of us stepped aside and those who followed made it."

Higuain also believes trophies must come secondary to how a player acts both on and off the pitch.

"I want to congratulate [Messi] for keeping trying, that's what life is all about," he added.

"I think that having won a Copa America or a World Cup doesn't make you a better person. The most important thing in life is the values one has and being a good person.

 "Unfortunately, people value you for what you win or what you lose, but I prefer to be remembered for being good people and having left something in each club I played.

"I was champion in each club, I scored goals and played in the best clubs, then whoever wants can evaluate you for one or two plays.

"I respect opinions, but my happiness does not change whether or not I have achieved something with my national team. If you are happy with yourself, then that's it.

"I congratulate them, but we continue our lives in the same way, I don't feel like a better or worse person for that."

Higuain will look to help Miami to a first win of the new MLS season against Houston Dynamo in their next outing.

The former Juventus, Real Madrid and Napoli forward scored 12 times in MLS last season but has only netted once so far this term, with Miami having lost three of their four games.

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