Paris Saint-Germain will be without Lionel Messi for Sunday's Ligue 1 trip to Lyon.

Messi tested positive for COVID-19 while back home in Argentina and subsequently missed PSG’s 4-0 victory over Vannes in the Coupe de France on Monday.

However, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner returned a negative test on Wednesday and was set to be available to face Lyon.

Yet Ligue 1 leaders confirmed on Saturday that the 34-year-old will "continue his post-COVID individual recovery protocol for the next few days."

 

PSG also revealed that Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Danilo Pereira, Layvin Kurzawa and Gianluigi Donnarumma remain in isolation after recently returning positive tests.

Meanwhile, Neymar is resuming his rehabilitation and is scheduled to return to training in three weeks' time.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino acknowledges that PSG must adapt in the absence of players, but insists that every team is in the same boat.

During his pre-match press conference, he said: "All teams have absent players; so do we. We have to adapt to everyday life. Sometimes, we have to change our plans.

"It's the same every game, we always have to make choices. We have to put the players in the best conditions."

On the prospect of facing Peter Bosz's Lyon side, he added: "They are one of the best teams in France. 

"There is a very great coach. In the end, they will be fighting for the first places.

"It will be difficult, but we are optimistic."

Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah have been announced as the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player Award.

The attacking trio were named on a shortlist for the prize in November that also included Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Jorginho and N'Golo Kante.

Lewandowski, Messi and Salah are the final nominees chosen following a public vote that closed on December 10. Jennifer Hermoso, Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas are the finalists for the women's award for 2021.

The final three up for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award, confirmed on Thursday, are Pep Guardiola, Roberto Mancini and Thomas Tuchel. Lluis Cortes, Emma Hayes and Sarina Wiegman are the finalists for the women's coaching prize.

The player awards will now be decided by an international jury comprising national team coaches and captains, a selected journalist from each territory represented by a national side, and fans registered with FIFA's website. The winners will be announced on January 17.

Lewandowski, who won the 2020 prize after firing Bayern Munich to the treble, scored 41 times in the Bundesliga last season to break Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals in a single season. He ended 2021 with 48 goals in all competitions.

Messi, who won the 2021 Ballon d'Or to extend his record to seven trophies, helped Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey in what proved to be his final season at the club. He then inspired Argentina to glory at the Copa America, with four goals and five assists helping them to win the trophy for the first time since 1993.

Liverpool star Salah scored 37 times in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than any other Premier League player. He is top of the scoring charts for 2021-22 in England's top flight with 16, ahead of team-mate Diogo Jota on 10.

Lionel Messi is set to return to Paris Saint-Germain after testing negative for COVID-19.

The Ligue 1 leaders announced on Sunday that the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner had returned a positive test while back home in Argentina.

Messi subsequently missed the commanding 4-0 win over Vannes in the Coupe de France on Monday, with Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick at Stade de la Rabine.

But the club has revealed the Argentina international tested negative on Wednesday and could be available for this weekend’s trip to Lyon.

 

Mauricio Pochettino will be without Layvin Kurzawa, who returned a positive test and has been placed in isolation.

Messi has struggled to find his feet in Ligue 1 since making his sensational switch from Barcelona in August.

While he has been directly involved in 10 goals (six goals, four assists) from 16 appearances across all competitions, the 34-year-old has only found the net once in 11 games in the French top flight. 

Lionel Messi has tested positive for COVID-19, Paris Saint-Germain have announced.

The Argentine forward and seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will miss the Coupe de France game against Vannes on Monday as a result.

French giants PSG said Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala had also tested positive.

"They are currently in isolation and are subject to the appropriate health protocol," the Ligue 1 leaders announced on their website.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino is expected to field a young side in the domestic cup game, with Neymar also unavailable as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

PSG said Neymar would continue to be treated in Brazil for another week. "His return to training is still expected to be in about three weeks," the club said.

Pochettino said in a news conference: "We have been living with the virus for two years now, and I think we all know we need to avoid it.

"But it is a virus we have been living with for a long time and there is still a lot that we do not know about how it works.

"Leo Messi has been in regular contact with our medical team and when he has a negative test he will travel to France, and we do not know any more than that."

PSG play their first Ligue 1 game of 2022 against Lyon next Sunday, but with former Barcelona captain Messi currently in Argentina he appears to be a significant doubt for that fixture.

"I do not know if he will be involved against Lyon," Pochettino said. "Until Leo Messi gets a negative test in Argentina, he will not be able to travel to France.

"It is all down to the test in terms of when he can travel. When he does, we will assess when he is ready to play."

As football concludes for 2021, you'd be forgiven for wondering if the past year even happened at all.

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, the climate crisis continues unabated, Donald Trump is crying election fraud and everyone is talking about cryptocurrency without really knowing why. If Bill Murray appeared on television to tell you we're stuck in a 2020 time loop, you'd barely even blink.

Well, 2021 really did happen, and we have the data to prove it. Here, Stats Perform presents a selection of the biggest footballing moments of the year, and the numbers that help to make them unforgettable – even if you can't remember what day it is...

Tuchel your fancy

Expectations are pretty high for Chelsea coaches, but winning the Champions League before you've been in the job for half a year – after replacing club legend Frank Lampard, no less – isn't a bad way to impress the owner! No but seriously, Thomas Tuchel is brilliant.

The Blues beat Atletico Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Manchester City in the knockouts as they became kings of Europe for the second time. They only conceded twice in those matches; in fact, Edouard Mendy became the first goalkeeper to keep as many as nine clean sheets in his debut season in the competition.

From Tuchel's first match in charge until the end of 2020-21, no Premier League team lost fewer games (five), conceded fewer goals (16) or kept more clean sheets (19) across all competitions than Chelsea. It's worth remembering that, Thomas, if you really do think your title hopes are already over at the halfway stage of the season.

Live and let Daei

Football's greatest-of-all-time debate is likely to drag on until humanity has long since gone extinct, with nothing left of civilisation except decaying ruins and NFTs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, most likely dressed as goats, stored on a giant blockchain server at the centre of the Earth (no, we don't understand it all, either).

We can at least agree on one non-fungible Ronaldo record, though: as of 2021, he is the leading international goalscorer in the history of men's football.

A brace against the Republic of Ireland on September 1 took him to 111 for Portugal, two more than previous record-holder Ali Daei of Iran. Ronaldo will start the World Cup year on 115 goals in 184 international appearances – but without the Ballon d'Or on his mantelpiece...

Gerd lord, another record

With practically the final kick of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, Robert Lewandowski pounced on a loose ball to score his 41st league goal and break Gerd Muller's previous single-season record of 40, which had stood since 1972.

Not satisfied with the greatest goalscoring effort in Germany's top flight for nearly half a century, Lewandowski ended 2021 with 43 goals for the calendar year (in only 34 games), again surpassing a previous best tally set by Muller. During that run, he became the first player in the competition to score in 13 consecutive home matches, beating the 12-game runs of Jupp Heynckes and, yes, Muller. The late Bayern great's record of a goal in 16 Bundesliga games in a row still stands, though, Lewandowski having been stopped from matching it by the crossbar in a 3-1 win at Greuther Furth in September.

This year also saw the Bayern Munich striker reach 120 away goals in the Bundesliga, which is, you guessed it, another record. At least this one was previously held by a different name: Klaus Fischer, on 117. Muller is third on 115, for what it's worth.

Let's talk about six, baby 

Liverpool started the year boasting the second-longest unbeaten home run in the history of England's top division: they had gone 68 games without defeat after losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in April 2017, a streak only bettered by Chelsea (86 games ending in October 2008).

Then, they lost 1-0 to Burnley at Anfield. Then, 1-0 to Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield. After that came a 4-1 battering by Manchester City, an almost unthinkable 2-0 loss to Everton, and then another pair of 1-0 defeats, this time to Chelsea and Fulham... and all at Anfield.

Six consecutive home defeats: something never endured by any Liverpool team before, nor any reigning champion of England's top flight.

Pep-pered with records

City were top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the third time in their history. They won the league on the previous two occasions (in 2011 and 2017), so the omens are positive for 2021-22 – not that they need much divine intervention right now.

The reigning champions, boasting a 10-match winning streak, broke the record for the most victories in a calendar year in England's top flight with their 34th of 2021 against Newcastle United this month. The previous best was 33 set by Bob Paisley's Liverpool in 1982.

In the process, Pep Guardiola's men also set a new top-tier record of 18 away wins in a single year, beating the previous best of 17 set by Bill Nicholson's famous Tottenham side of 1960-61. Oh, and their 112 goals scored in 2021 is the best such calendar-year return in the Premier League era.

An Argentine tango – and a Messi divorce

Lionel Messi ends 2021 with 23 goals and eight assists in LaLiga, the most direct goal involvements of any player aside from Karim Benzema (41). And he hasn't played in the competition since May.

Messi's tearful departure from Barcelona, who decided they simply couldn't afford to keep the player they previously couldn't afford to lose, heralded the end of an era in Spanish football. It hasn't gone particularly well for either party, either: Barca, who sacked Ronald Koeman in November, sit seventh in LaLiga, while Messi has scored one goal in 11 Ligue 1 games for Paris Saint-Germain.

Club football might have been more of a nightmare than a dream for Messi this year, but the same cannot be said for his international exploits. He was the joint-top goalscorer and the tournament's best player as Argentina finally ended their long wait for silverware, defeating Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Copa America. It was enough to secure Messi a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or, even though he seemed to think Lewandowski actually deserved to win (and, let's be honest, a lot of us did).

It's a Lille bit funny...

Last season, Paris Saint-Germain replaced Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino ostensibly so they might win the Champions League. Instead, while Tuchel took Chelsea to European glory within just five months, Pochettino's PSG could not even keep hold of their Ligue 1 crown.

Lille won the French top flight for the fourth time in their history, becoming only the fourth side to win it at least twice since the turn of the century (the others being PSG, of course, Monaco and Lyon). Their triumph was inspired by the late-career renaissance of Burak Yilmaz: his 16 league goals were the most scored by anyone over the age of 35 in Europe's top five leagues last season, with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo (29).

While their title defence isn't going too swimmingly – Lille are eighth in the table after 19 games, 18 points behind leaders PSG – they managed to win their Champions League group for the first time in seven attempts. They also boast the top scorer in Ligue 1 this term: Jonathan David, who was an 11-year-old playing for Ottawa Gloucester Hornets when Lille won their third league title in 2011, has scored 12 times already.

Get Inter the spirit

This year saw Inter end their decade-long wait for the Scudetto and bring about the end of Juventus' recent stranglehold on Serie A.

Inspired by Antonio Conte – who started Juve's nine-year title streak back in 2012 – and league MVP Romelu Lukaku, the Nerazzurri finished 12 points clear at the top as their coach became the man with the best points-per-game ratio (2.26) in the modern history of Italy's top flight.

Despite a close-season of upheaval in which Conte walked, Lukaku returned to Chelsea and Achraf Hakimi went to PSG, Inter go into next year with a four-point advantage at the top and just one defeat in 19 league games, having scored over 100 league goals in a calendar year for the first time in their history.

Mancini's miracle

Italy's second European Championship trophy, secured courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win over England at Wembley, was the pinnacle of a quite remarkable run of results under Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri would go on to set a new world record in men's international football of 37 matches without defeat, during which they won 30, scored 93 goals and conceded only 12. The run ended when they lost 2-1 to Spain in the Nations League semi-finals in Milan, marking their first competitive home defeat since 1999.

In the first 33 of those matches, starting from a 1-1 draw with Ukraine in October 2018, they were behind for only 44 minutes. At Euro 2020, they had five players who scored at least twice, they ended the tournament with a joint-high 13 goals and conceded only four. And yet, in 2022, they must navigate the play-offs – and potentially a meeting with Portugal – if they are to avoid failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in a row.

Palmeiras pull off the unbeliev-Abel

The Copa Libertadores final is not something Andreas Pereira will want to remember: it was the Manchester United loanee's error that allowed substitute Deyverson to win it for Palmeiras in extra time.

This was a historic result, though. Not only were Palmeiras the first team since Boca Juniors 20 years ago to win back-to-back Libertadores trophies, but Abel Ferreira became the only European coach to win the competition twice.

Before his time in Brazil, arguably Abel's finest achievement in his post-playing career was helping PAOK reach 51 league games unbeaten – although he was only actually in charge for 17 of those matches, including the 4-2 loss to Aris that brought the streak to an end.

Lionel Messi remains the best player in the world in Ander Herrera's eyes and the midfielder expects Kylian Mbappe to dominate world football "for many years to come".

Messi ended a glorious 21-year association with Barcelona amid well-documented financial difficulties for the Catalan club as he moved to the Parc des Princes on a free transfer in August.

The Argentina international reunited with Neymar to form a formidable frontline with Kylian Mbappe, while Mauricio Pochettino also brought in Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Paris Saint-Germain, buoyed by their new array of attacking talent, sit 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, although Messi is yet to fully fire as he continues to settle into life in France.

Messi netted 672 times in 778 appearances for his former club, but he has only found the net on six occasions for PSG across all competitions – averaging a goal every 219 minutes.

However, Herrera still believes Messi is comfortably the best player in the world and insisted Pochettino's side are learning to adapt around the forward, such is the 34-year-old's quality.

"Players of Messi's level shorten the acclimatisation time," Herrera told Mundo Deportivo. "He will play the same way in France, in Spain, in Japan or in Madagascar.

"He has won his seventh Ballon d'Or and trains and enjoys as if he were only starting to play now. No training action is taken as a joke.

"At times we have already seen the best version of Leo, as against [Manchester] City at home, but I think it is also the responsibility of all those around him. We have to put ourselves at his service to get the best out of him. Normally, regular players have to adapt to a new context. 

"Now it is the other way around because we are talking about the best footballer in history."

Mbappe has outshone Messi thus far, the France international managing 15 goals – scoring every 134 minutes – and 12 assists across all competitions this term.

Indeed, since the 23-year-old scored on his PSG debut on September 8, 2017, against Metz, only three players – Robert Lewandowski (208), Messi (168) and Cristiano Ronaldo (157) – have managed more goals across Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions than Mbappe (147).

But Herrera believes Messi still holds the edge over Mbappe, who the Spain international thinks will dominate football for years to come.

"Kylian will be the best player in the world for many years to come, but we all agree that Leo is number one," Herrera added. "No doubt. Mbappe has an immense humility and desire to learn from Leo."

A new contract for Mbappe has also been at the forefront of most discussions, with Real Madrid plotting a move for the former Monaco man, whose current contract expires at the end of the season.

Madrid had multiple advances turned down for Mbappe in the last transfer window, though they can open contract negotiations with the PSG forward in January should a new deal with his current club not be agreed.

But Herrera remains confident Mbappe will stay with Pochettino's side.

"There is scope to try to renew Mbappe," he said. "We have many examples of footballers who have done it in February, March or April. There's still time.

"He is an open, friendly, funny guy. We do not pressure each other at all about our futures. I'm not kidding you, we don't talk about anyone's contractual issues in the dressing room."

Former Clasico foes but now team-mates, Ramos also followed Messi as he ended a long-standing association with Madrid to move to Paris.

However, the centre-back has been hampered by injuries and received a red card in just his third outing for his new side against Lorient on Wednesday, but Herrera expects his compatriot to become a key figure.

"Of course [It has not been easy for him]," he said of Ramos. "He's used to feeling important, playing and leading. But he has now been training for two or three weeks at a fantastic level and we are optimistic.

"It shows in his character and in the happiness he radiates."

With Ramos and Messi among a depth of talent on PSG's books, Herrera understands there is more pressure on PSG now to win the Champions League, though he feels Madrid are favourites for their Champions League last-16 tie in early 2022.

"We want to win the Champions League and we are going to try," he added. "There's no doubt. But just because we have Messi doesn't mean we're entitled to more than everyone else.

"We understand that people expect the best from us, but in Europe there are eight or ten other teams with the same chances of winning.

"A club that has 13 Champions League titles, against one that has not yet been European champions, has to be a slight favourite."

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe is capable of continuing his goalscoring form long into his career similarly to Cristiano Ronaldo, regardless of where he is plying his trade from next season.

That is according to Louis Saha, who also told Stats Perform that he expects Lionel Messi to blow Ligue 1 opponents away once he regains full fitness in the new year.

Mbappe is into the final six months of his existing contract at the Parc des Princes and is free to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs outside of Ligue 1 from January.

Real Madrid had two bids turned down for the France international in the previous transfer window and remain the strong favourites to land the superstar in 2022.

Mbappe has scored 15 goals and assisted 12 more in 24 outings in all competitions this term in a star-studded attack that also contains Messi and the currently injured Neymar.

Only Mohamed Salah (31) and Robert Lewandowski (33) have been directly involved in more goals than Mbappe this campaign among players from Europe's top five leagues.

And while glad to see Mbappe remain in Ligue 1 for the 2021-22 campaign, Saha understands that his compatriot has a big decision to make on his future in the coming weeks.

"The main thing for me was for him to stay at PSG this year," Saha said. "Whatever he does next year, for me, that was logical for football in general throughout the world. 

"We wanted to see this trio of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar. It's incredible to see and today he has his destiny in his hands. He's a player who is exploding and he's reaching more milestones."

 

Mbappe recently became the youngest player in Ligue 1 history to score 100 goals for a single team with his second of the game for PSG against former club Monaco.

Since making his debut for PSG in September 2017, the 23-year-old has averaged a goal every 104.63 minutes in all competitions.

That ranks Mbappe behind only four others among Europe's elite attackers over that period and marginally ahead of Ronaldo, who averages a goal every 105.8 minutes at club level.

With Ronaldo still scoring regularly as he approaches his 37th birthday, Saha has challenged Mbappe to hit similar heights.

"If he can match Ronaldo's 40 goals a year average from the age of 20, that's something we want to keep seeing from Kylian," Saha said.

"That is not to put pressure on him. Kylian quite simply has the potential to do that."

Mbappe's 27 direct goal involvements this season is substantially more than PSG's next biggest attacking threat, with Messi second on the list with six goals and four assists.

The record seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored just once in 10 Ligue 1 appearances from an expected goals (xG) return of 4.7.

To put that in some context, Mbappe's nine goals in the competition this term have come from an xG of 10.9.

 

But while Messi's PSG career has yet to truly take off, Saha can see that changing once the Barcelona legend gets some regular starts under his belt.

"You can already see players who are not necessarily in great shape like Messi – imagine when he starts to find his form again!" Saha said. "I don't know how teams will cope. 

"PSG are an extraordinary team. I prayed for Mbappe to stay at PSG to see these three exceptional players. Neymar's injury has delayed that, but they have an incredible team. 

"Don't be surprised to see them win the league by 20 or 25 points come the end of the season."

Lionel Messi's effort for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City has been voted the Champions League Goal of the Group Stage.

The strike was the 34-year-old's first goal for PSG after joining on a free transfer due to Barcelona's financial issues preventing them from offering him a new contract.

PSG were 1-0 up after an eighth-minute opener from midfielder Idrissa Gueye when Messi, in the 74th minute, played a neat one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the box. 

The Frenchman backheeled into Messi's path before the Argentine rifled an unstoppable left-footed effort into the top-right corner past a helpless Ederson in the City goal.

Messi garnered 22 per cent of the vote - over 200,00 were cast - beating out competition from Thiago Alcantara and Robert Lewandowski, who gained 14 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Thiago struck a stunning volley into the bottom-right corner for Liverpool in their 2-0 win over Porto at Anfield, while Lewandowski fired in a spectacular bicycle kick in Bayern Munich's 2-1 away victory over Dynamo Kiev.

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe said it is pointless scoring 50 goals if the French giants do not win Ligue 1 or the Champions League.

Mbappe scored 42 goals across all competitions last season, but PSG were dethroned by Lille in Ligue 1, while the capital club lost in the Champions League semi-finals.

PSG – who have never won the Champions League – are preparing for a quarter-final showdown with Real Madrid as they sit 13 points clear atop the Ligue 1 standings.

"Last year was good for me, I scored 40 goals, but we didn't win the league or the Champions League," Mbappe, who has 13 goals this term, told PSG's television station.

"In the end I wonder, what is the use of scoring 50 goals if we don't win? I would prefer to score less and win the league and Champions League.

"It was a good season but you don't enjoy it, the aim is to win titles, they are the most important things."

Mbappe – who has tallied nine goals and 14 assists in the league this term – became the youngest player in Ligue 1 history to score 100 goals for a single team with his second of the game for PSG against former club Monaco last week.

Aged just 22 years and 357 days, Mbappe is the youngest player to achieve the feat for one club in French top-flight history since Opta began recording data back in 1950-51.

"I need to feel the pressure, to seek challenges, I've always wanted to have the responsibility on my shoulders," France international Mbappe said.

"I want to be under pressure even if sometimes it ends in disappointment, it's a learning process, I never hide and it is part of the adrenaline rush.

"This is because we like to play high-pressure games, games that everyone watches, I see pressure as something positive."

PSG will face Feignies in the Coupe de France on Sunday before visiting Lorient in Ligue 1 action on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi has been involved in 43 shot-ending sequences in his last five appearances in Ligue 1, at least 14 more than any other player over that period. He has initiated nine of those sequences, also the highest tally in the top-flight.

Messi joined PSG from Barcelona at the start of the season and amid uncertainty of his own future, Madrid target Mbappe said: "It benefits you to have great players around you, I play in a team today with players who help me: Neymar, Messi, [Angel] Di Maria... it's easier."

Lionel Messi expressed his sadness after close friend and Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero was forced into early retirement for health reasons.

Aguero announced on Wednesday that he has had to walk away from football after a heart issue was detected in the wake of Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves on October 30.

The 33-year-old suffered chest discomfort and dizziness, which were later attributed to a heart arrhythmia.

Following consultation with specialists, Aguero accepted continuing his playing career would be too great a risk to his health, meaning his Barcelona career has ended before it ever really got going.

Of course, his initial move to Barca after leaving Manchester City was deemed to have been centred around the possibility of teaming up with Messi, though the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner ended up moving to Paris Saint-Germain soon after due to the Blaugrana's financial woes.

Nevertheless, the pair played alongside each other for Argentina both in youth football and in the senior side, culminating in both being present as the Albiceleste ended their 28-year wait for a trophy by winning the Copa America in July.

Following Aguero's emotional news conference, Messi penned a heartfelt tribute to his friend.

It read: "Practically a whole career together, Kun... We lived very beautiful moments and others that were not so [beautiful], all of them made us unite more and more and made us greater friends. And we are going to continue living [beautiful moments] together off the pitch.

"With the great joy of lifting the Copa America so recently, with all the achievements you achieved in England…the truth is that now it hurts a lot to see how you have to stop doing what you love the most because of what happened to you.

"Surely you will continue to be happy because you are a person who transmits happiness, and those of us who love you will be with you.

"Now a new stage of your life begins and I am convinced you are going to live it with a smile and with all the enthusiasm that you put into everything.

"All the best in this new stage!!! I love you a lot, my friend, I'm going to miss being with you on the pitch with the National Team a lot!"

Lionel Messi insisted Paris Saint-Germain's objective is to win the Champions League after being paired with Real Madrid in the round of 16.

LaLiga leaders Madrid stand in the way of PSG and the quarter-finals following a chaotic redraw due to a technical glitch on Monday.

PSG – initially drawn against Manchester United – were Champions League runners-up in 2019-20, however, the French giants have never conquered Europe.

As former Barcelona superstar Messi prepares to reunite with Madrid – the first leg will be held on February 15 – the Ballon d'Or winner reinforced PSG's ultimate pursuit.

"The objective for PSG is to win the Champions League, that's everyone's aim," Messi said at the Dubai Expo 2020 via Marca.

"The team has been very close before. It's an essential competition for all teams. We'll try to win it."

Messi swapped Barca for PSG in a blockbuster switch ahead of the 2021-22 season.

The 34-year-old was set to sign a new deal with Barca, but left Camp Nou after the Catalan giants announced that "financial and structural obstacles" had left them unable to retain his services.

Messi has scored one goal in 10 Ligue 1 appearances this season, while he has managed five goals in as many Champions League games.

"It was a very big change after so much time in the same place, so it wasn't easy," Messi said.

"But, we're all doing well in what is a spectacular city and at one of the best teams in the world."

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Sergio Ramos would have preferred Paris Saint-Germain to have avoided Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League but conceded "I have to face the present".

The Los Blancos legend spent 16 trophy-laden years in the Spanish capital, where he won five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among his plethora of honours.

Centre-back Ramos made the switch to Ligue 1 with powerhouses PSG ahead of the 2021-22 season after Madrid opted not to offer him a new contract.

In a twist of fate, Ramos' new side were paired to do battle with his former club, but only after a re-draw was needed following a technical glitch with the first attempt.

Speaking at the opening of his new gym in Madrid, Ramos opened up about the prospect of coming up a club so close to his heart.

"Fate is very unpredictable. I'd have liked us to draw another team, but that's how it is," Ramos said.

"You know the affection and love I have for Real Madrid, that won't ever change. Now I have to face the present. I play for PSG.

"It's a mixture of feelings. I'd have liked not to have had this tie, but on the other hand coming home to the Bernabeu, I had the best years of my life here and not having had a goodbye because of COVID, it's gratifying. 

"I'd have liked it to be another way but that's football. I have to defend my team. I'll go to the death with PSG."

Another sub-plot thrown up by the tie is the fact Kylian Mbappe will come against Madrid, who were rebuffed in their attempts to sign the France star on transfer deadline day.

With Mbappe out of contract in June there is the possibility he may have agreed a pre-contract agreement with Madrid by the time he plays against them with PSG.

Ramos, though, hopes Mbappe decides to stay with the Ligue 1 leaders.

"I like to be surrounded by the best players and he is a key part of PSG in the present and in the future. I want him to continue in my team," he added.

At PSG, Ramos has linked up with long-time rival and Barcelona great Lionel Messi, a player with whom he has done battle with many times over the years.

But now Ramos says the two have a relationship built on mutual respect in Paris.

"Now we share a dressing room and we have a very good relationship. We try to help PSG win," he said.

"The goal is the Champions League and both Messi and I can contribute something. The relationship is one of admiration and respect for both parties."

Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos will come up against Real Madrid after Paris Saint-Germain were paired with Los Blancos in the Champions League round of 16, which had to undergo a re-draw.

PSG were initially drawn against Manchester United on Monday, throwing up a tantalising encounter between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, a technical error meant the draw had to take place again and while Messi will not meet Ronaldo just yet, the Barcelona great will go up against his former club's Clasico rivals.

Having finished second in Group A behind Manchester City, who were handed a favourable tie against Sporting CP, PSG will host Madrid in the first leg in February before visiting the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

That means Mbappe, who is a high-profile target for Madrid and could well have already signed a pre-contract agreement with Los Blancos by the time these fixtures roll around, will go up against his suitors.

It also sees Madrid legend Ramos go up against his old club, and it is the same story for Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who coached PSG from 2011 to 2013.

United, on the other hand, will face Atletico Madrid, who had initially been due to play Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga giants have been drawn against Salzburg.

Liverpool may well lament their luck. Salzburg had been their original opponents, but Jurgen Klopp's team now have to prepare for a tie against Serie A champions Inter - albeit they made light work of the Nerazzurri's rivals Milan in the group stage.

Coincidentally, holders Chelsea were again drawn against Lille, having been set a tie with the Ligue 1 champions during the initial draw. 

Villarreal will take on Juventus and Ajax go up against Benfica.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Sporting CP v Manchester City
Benfica v Ajax
Chelsea v Lille
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
Villarreal v Juventus
Inter v Liverpool 
PSG v Real Madrid

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

UEFA's deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, spotted the mistake involving United's ball and ordered the tie to be drawn again. Manchester City were instead picked to go against Villarreal.

Yet United, due to the technical error, were subsequently blocked from being selected as one of the teams eligible to play the next team, which was LaLiga champions Atleti.

Bayern Munich were ultimately picked to face Atleti, while United were drawn in the glamour tie of the round against PSG – a game that would have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi meet in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 2010-11 semi-finals.

The re-draw could well benefit United, given the challenge of facing PSG. However, holders Chelsea and Liverpool were handed favourable draws against Lille and Salzburg respectively.

Inter had been due to face Ajax, while Sporting CP were up against Juventus. Real Madrid had been drawn against Benfica.

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