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LIVE Transfer Talk: Chelsea enter race for Messi as Barca's talisman nears exit

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Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona at the end of the season? (1:37)

Ale Moreno outlines the scenarios where Lionel Messi would either stay or leave Barcelona after the season. (1:37)

The coronavirus pandemic made the summer transfer market unlike any before it, but there were still plenty of deals done, and you can check out the major ones here. The window might be closed across the top leagues in Europe, but here are the best rumours from around the globe.

TOP STORY: Chelsea enter race for Messi

It looks increasingly likely that Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona when his contract expires in the summer, and according to Guillem Balague, Chelsea are in line for a sensational swoop to sign the Argentina forward.

The Blues are said to be "in the equation" for the 33-year-old should he indeed leave the Catalan capital. Messi tried to leave last summer but was forced to see out the final year of his contract.

Chelsea will be buoyed by the fact there would be no transfer fee, and they might feel they can afford his wages despite having spent £220 million over the summer.

Manchester City remain in the hunt too, and with Pep Guardiola signing a contract extension, being reunited with Messi could form part of the manager's grand plan at the Etihad.

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LIVE BLOG

21.47 GMT: Barcelona will not be able to compete with the top European clubs in the summer transfer market due to their financial struggles, sources told ESPN's Insider's Notebook.

The club will have a new president on Jan. 24, but most candidates are not expected to try to convince fans to vote for them by offering big names as potential signings, as they have done in the past due to the financial problems at the club.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, revenues have fallen dramatically at Barcelona. The club announced losses of €97m for the 2019-20 season in October and confirmed that their total debt has doubled to €488m. The latest accounts revealed a total income of €855m, down over €200m on the €1,059m they predicted they would have brought in without the coronavirus outbreak. That would have led to profits of around €30m.

Among other losses, Barca explained that they lost €47m in matchday revenue, €35m in sales at the club shops and €18m in ticketing from the museum based at Camp Nou.

The club had to make a salary cut to players and employees in March and are negotiating further reductions to salaries.

20.49 GMT: Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has played down rumours that he could eventually succeed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United once the former Norway international is no longer at the helm.

Why? Let him tell you.

"It is not really something I listen to," said Hasenhuttl, when asked about the speculation regarding his future.

"I find myself listening to the radio when they talk about football, it is interesting to hear.

"My only interest is what happens at this club. I signed a long-term contract, the way we are improving this club gives me so much joy. I think there is something special growing here."

19.23 GMT: La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he wants to attract managers such as Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City's Pep Guardiola and Tottenham's Jose Mourinho to La Liga to help it grow, as well as players like Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tebas, at the helm of the Spanish Football League (LFP) since 2013, has pushed for La Liga to compete with the Premier League on an economic level.

"We always want the best," Tebas said."I want [Lionel] Messi in La Liga. Just as I want Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp, Cristiano [Ronaldo]... All of those would help us grow."

18.44 GMT: Real Madrid have four key players with contracts expiring at the end of the season, but none more important than club captain Sergio Ramos who, Marca is reporting, has Los Blancos attention in that regard.

17.23 GMT: Mikel Arteta's immediate predecessor in the Arsenal dugout, Freddie Ljungberg, has revealed he would also have frozen out Mesut Ozil had he been in charge for any longer.

Ljungberg took interim charge of Arsenal for six games a year ago, between Unai Emery being sacked and Arteta being appointed on Dec. 21, 2019. Both of those full-time bosses had fallen out with Ozil and left him out of the first-team picture, with Arteta still yet to play the former Germany international this season.

Sources told ESPN's James Olley last month that Arsenal have not discussed terminating Ozil's contract at any stage and the 31-year-old will not consider prematurely ending the final year of his £350,000-a-week deal.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ljungberg said that Ozil's reaction to being substituted during last season's 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester City would also have earned him the cold shoulder.

"I have all the respect for Mesut and that was not about football," Ljungberg said. "When we played City, he had a reaction, I can't remember if it was the gloves, but something happened on his way off the pitch.

"He got booed and things started, and, for me, it was about what I expect from an Arsenal player. That was not just him. There are certain things, because I love the club so much, I expect from players in terms of their behaviour and I don't care if that's Mesut or Joe Willock, or who it is, I will react the same. That was something I was very clear on.

"Mesut was injured, but he would not have been part of the Everton game. It was about the culture and the foundations to put down and to say 'no, that is not acceptable.' It was something that I felt like, to be honest, that in the past hadn't always been dealt with. I felt it was my chance to deal with it and to show what I thought was important. That was nothing to do with Mesut as a footballer, it was just a principle of what we do. I played Mesut all the games before that because I think he's a very good football player."

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Marcotti: Arsenal need to explain Mesut Ozil omission

Gab and Juls discuss Mesut Ozil's exclusion from Arsenal's Premier League and Europa League squad.

16.42 GMT: Atletico were keen on signing Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler before he renewed his contract at Mestalla in 2019, according to AS.

The newspaper claims that coach Diego Simeone "views Carlos as a player who fits into his style perfectly" while sporting director Andrea Berta "is a confessed admirer of Soler."

Soler signed a new deal at Valencia last December, meant to keep him at the club until June 2023.

15.59 GMT: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said he would be "happy" if midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum signed a new contract with the reigning Premier League champions.

Wijnaldum's contract is due to expire at the end of the season, meaning he can open talks with other clubs from Jan. 1 over a free transfer in the summer unless he puts pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield.

The 30-year-old's former coach for Netherlands, Ronald Koeman, is keen to bring him to Barcelona, but Klopp remains hopeful that he can keep Wijnaldum on Merseyside.

"As long as nothing is decided everything is possible," Klopp said ahead of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Brighton. "I would be happy if he would stay here. I am pretty happy with Gini as you can see when you look at most of the line-ups."

Emre Can let his contract run down and left for Juventus on a free transfer in 2018, and Klopp now faces a similar situation with another midfielder.

"[Can] played and he gave his absolute everything until the last day of his contract and Gini will do the same, no doubt about that," Klopp said. "Gini is one of the best people I have ever met and he is one of the best players I've ever trained. There is no issue, no issue at all."

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15.17 GMT: Manchester United are prioritising the right side of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team for strengthening in the next two transfer windows in order to address the shortcomings in Aaron Wan-Bissaka's game at right-back, sources have told ESPN's Mark Ogden.

The 23-year-old has made a positive impact on the United defence since arriving from Crystal Palace in 2019 by providing defensive reliability. But Wan-Bissaka's lack of progress in developing the attacking side of his game has left United concerned by the threat levels posed to opponents in the attacking areas of the pitch.

United and Solskjaer have been searching for a right winger and attacking right midfielder for over 12 months, with Borussia Dortmund's England forward Jadon Sancho a long-term target. Attempts to sign Sancho during the summer window proved frustratingly unsuccessful for Solskjaer, who believes that United's lack of cutting edge down the right is having a detrimental effect on his team.

Wan-Bissaka has been encouraged to compensate for the absence of a right winger by being more adventurous down his side of the pitch, but his distribution and attacking qualities remain unconvincing.

United believe that serious competition for his place at right-back will accelerate an improvement in Wan-Bissaka's game, but a move for an attacking player is also a priority.

- Insider Notebook: Germany's worst losers, United's Wan-Bissaka issue

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0:39

Solskjaer says Pogba 'very unlikely' to face Southampton

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives an update on his squad's fitness ahead of their match vs. Southampton.

14.34 GMT: Barcelona presidential candidate Toni Freixa says he will not build a campaign around signing Neymar because the Brazilian "disrespected" the club.

Neymar's name has been prevalent since jostling started to become the new Barca president, with another candidate, Emili Rousaud, pledging to bring him back to Camp Nou.

"Neymar should not return to Barca," Freixa told SPORT. "He disrespected the club. He deceived us to leave and has filed several lawsuits since. On top of that, his performances in recent seasons haven't been the same."

Sources close to the club have told ESPN Barca's financial situation means they will not be able to compete for the game's most expensive players in upcoming transfer windows. However, that will not stop the candidates for the presidency from using some of the game's top players to boost their credibility among the club's members, who will vote for a new president in January.

Neymar is one player whose name will be used, while Mundo Deportivo report that Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland is another.

The Catalan newspaper says that several candidates have already sounded out his agent Mino Raiola about a potential switch to Camp Nou if they're elected.

13.49 GMT: Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has confirmed a clause exists in Thiago Silva's contract to extend his stay at the club for another year if Chelsea choose to activate it.

The 36-year-old has impressed since arriving on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, signing a one-year deal, leading to speculation he could stay beyond the end of the season.

"I've seen the reports and there's an option in Thiago's contract that we can look at as the season goes on," Lampard told reporters ahead of Sunday's London derby against Tottenham. "Obviously the way he's playing at the minute, we're very happy so that's the end of it really. I'm surprised it's come out in that way."

- Connelly: How can Lampard turn Chelsea from good to great?

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1:48

Burley: All roads pointing towards a Chelsea win vs. Spurs

Craig Burley showers praises Chelsea's improvements ahead of their matchup with Jose Mourinho and Tottenham.

13.06 GMT: Atletico Madrid aren't ruling out signing a striker on loan in January, Diario AS reports, with doubts over how long Diego Costa will be out after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

With Luis Suarez unable to cope physically with games every three days, the newspaper claims that "if Costa's absence is extended, the club will study options to strengthen in the winter window."

Atletico have a track record of signing forward in January. Last season, they tried to bring in Edinson Cavani before moving for Yannick Carrasco, while they also signed Alvaro Morata from Chelsea in January 2019.

12.28 GMT: Former Manchester United captain Antonio Valencia has completed a deal to join Liga MX side Club Queretaro.

The club announced the deal on social media on Friday as Valencia, 35, becomes their third signing of the season.

LA Galaxy striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez welcomed his former United teammate to the club with a message on Twitter. The two players spent four years together at Old Trafford.

Valencia joined United in 2009 where he won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the Europa League.

11.51 GMT: Gerard Pique has pleaded for Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona and says the club will do all they can to "seduce" him into signing a new deal.

Messi, 33, is out of contract in June and is free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with any club from January.

The forward wanted to leave Camp Nou after August's 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with sources telling ESPN that Manchester City led the race to sign him, but he was eventually forced to stay put.

"You will have to ask Leo, I don't know," Pique said in a question and answer session for the CRIS Cancer Foundation when asked if Messi would remain at Barca beyond the summer.

"We hope he stays. It's a personal decision. We will see. But for as long as he's wearing the Barca shirt, there is always hope. We hope to seduce him to stay for many more years."

11.10 GMT: Erling Haaland is back on the front pages in Spain, with Diario AS describing the forward as a "luxury item" who Real Madrid will have to fight to sign from Borussia Dortmund amid competition from "half of Europe."

Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc -- speaking in a news conference ahead of their game with FC Koln -- said the club are "planning for the long term" with Haaland.

"He exudes a positive dynamic," he said. "It's good for all of us. And I don't believe in slowing down a positive development. I see him as being with us for a long time."

According to AS, Madrid "will prioritise the purchase of [Kylian] Mbappe in 2021... but plan to go for the Norwegian in 2022."

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1:10

Burley: Scary thing about Haaland is he can still improve

Gab Marcotti and Craig Burley react to Erling Haaland's latest star showing in Dortmund's 3-0 win over Club Brugge.

10.31 GMT: Former Chelsea and Brazil midfielder Ramires has left Palmerias after a year-and-a-half at the Sao Paulo club.

Palmeiras released a statement on Friday confirming that the 33-year-old's contract had been terminated by mutual agreement.

Ramires played 45 games for Palmeiras after joining them in June 2019, following a three-year spell at Chinese club Jiangsu Suning.

09.42 GMT: Derby County's Wayne Rooney is prepared to call time on his playing career if asked to fill the position of manager left vacant following Phillip Cocu's sacking, the former England captain said on Friday.

Player-coach Rooney has been assisted by Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker following Cocu's departure this month and will take sole charge of the Championship (second-tier) club when they host Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.

"If I'm managing the team for a longer scale, I don't think it's possible to manage and play, so that [no longer playing] is a possibility," Rooney was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. "If I'm not managing the team, and I'm part of the coaching staff then I'll continue to play, but if I'm asked to manage the team on a full-time basis then, of course, that will be the end of my playing days, yes."

Bottom-placed Derby have lost their past two matches, against Bristol City and Middlesbrough.

- Championship on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games, replays (U.S. only)

09.00 GMT: Pep Guardiola has said Sergio Aguero has earned the right for "fair talks" when it comes time to discuss his Manchester City future. The striker has a contract at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the season and could leave the club for free in the summer if fresh terms are not agreed.

Guardiola has backed Aguero to get back to his best after returning from injury and said the 32-year-old will be given the right to decide whether or not to extend his contract.

"He is a guy who deserves with the club, fair talks to do what is the best for him, for the club and for everyone," Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. "In that you should not doubt. As I said many times, I was lucky to play as a football player and manager with incredible football players.

"He is one of these ones, for sure. But especially as a human being. I never found a bigger star like him to be like Sergio is. He is going to give us a good moment this season. He is still not in his best condition; we cannot forget how long he was injured and come back and injured again.

"In the middle of the season, he's a guy who needs to be so sharp but the quality to score in the box is always, always was and always will be. We don't have doubts about that."

PAPER TALK (by Nick Judd): Barca, Liverpool turn to Garay

Barcelona and Liverpool are two clubs in desperate need of defensive reinforcements, and Sport reports that both are tempted to sign free agent Ezequiel Garay, who hasn't played since suffering a cruciate injury with Valencia in February.

The experienced Argentina centre-back would be a short-term solution for both clubs as they look to deal with an increasing number of injuries.

Liverpool are now planning the rest of the season without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho also are out.

Barcelona are now missing Gerard Pique for a number of months, with Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo also on the sidelines. Ronald Koeman was forced to field Barca B team defender Oscar Mingueza at Dynamo Kiev in midweek, and although he played well, the Barca boss will no doubt want more experience to help guide his side through until the end of the season.

Chelsea to enter talks with Alaba in January

Bayern Munich and David Alaba are at a stalemate after discussing terms to extend the centre-back's contract beyond its expiration this summer. Having been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in previous weeks, it seems increasingly likely that the 28-year-old will leave the Allianz Arena as a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Adding fuel to that fire, Alaba's agent, Pini Zahavi, is preparing to hold talks with Chelsea in January over a potential move to West London, according to Bild. With a deeply competitive field standing between Bayern and their ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, and the prospect of repeating as Champions League winners, it would seem unlikely that the Bavarians would sanction Alaba's sale midseason.

That could pave the way for Chelsea or any other interested party -- with Paris Saint-Germain also said to be following the Austria international -- to sign him on a free transfer in the summer.

Tap-ins

- Manchester United are being linked with another "new Lionel Messi," this time in the shape of Velez Sarsfield's Thiago Almada, Tuttomercatoweb writes. United tried to sign the youngster in the summer but failed to get the deal over the line, and although Manchester City also are said to be interested, United are in the hot seat.

- Jurgen Klopp remains positive he can keep Georginio Wijnaldum at Liverpool, according to the Mirror. The report suggests that despite interest from Barcelona, Klopp feels there is still time for the Netherlands international to agree an extension to his contract, which expires this summer. However, Wijnaldum can sign a pre-contract with an overseas club in January, and the longer he drags his heels over penning a new deal, the more likely it would appear that he will leave.