Friday, 13 September 2019

Neymar, Icardi, Messi, Sarri - this week's big talking points in European football

Lionel Messi scored 36 of Barcelona's 90 La Liga goals last season

After the international break, domestic top-flight football returns to Europe's top leagues this weekend.

Will Neymar make his first appearance of the season for Paris St-Germain? Is Mauro Icardi already unhappy at PSG just days after completing a loan move from Inter Milan?

And could Lionel Messi really be nearing the end at Barcelona?

BBC Sport takes a look at this week's big talking points in European football.
What kind of reception will Neymar receive?

Having turned out for Brazil during the international break, Neymar could make his first appearance of the season for Paris St-Germain on Saturday.

The question is: having pushed for a move away, what sort of reception will the forward receive?

Neymar, 27, suffered an injury to his ankle on international duty in the summer and has yet to play for PSG this season.

Having been heavily linked with a return to Barcelona, PSG fans displayed a banner which read 'Neymar Go Away' in August.

"Will he feature for PSG on Saturday against Strasbourg? The club want him to," French football expert Julien Laurens told Radio 5 Live Football Daily's European show.

"What kind of reception will he get off the fans?"

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said he expected Barca, who sold Neymar to PSG for a world record fee of 222m euros (£200m) in 2017, to re-sign the player.

"Maybe not in the winter but they will try again next summer," he added.
'Icardi did not want to leave Inter'

It was supposed to be a fresh start for Icardi when the Argentina striker joined Paris St-Germain on a season-long loan from Inter Milan on 2 September.

But according to reports, the 26-year-old's wife and agent, Wanda Nara, has described the move to France as the "worst option" for her personally as Icardi has left his family back in Italy.

"It's the worst choice because she does television in Milan and the pair did not want to leave," said Italian football expert James Horncastle.

"Icardi wanted to persuade boss Antonio Conte that he had a future at Inter but Conte is not a man for turning.

"If you look at Icardi's track record, he was one of the all-time top scorers for Inter, he has been their captain, he has stayed with them when they haven't been a team that has been in the Champions League, when they haven't been a team competing for anything seriously in Italy.

"He felt he was due recognition for that but the club were unwilling to overlook everything that happened last year when his wife, who is also his agent, repeatedly went on television and criticised team-mates, criticised the coaching.

"Conte didn't want any of that. It doesn't matter how good the player is, he didn't want him."
'Only two more years of Messi at Barca?'

Could Messi's days at Barcelona be numbered?

Having helped the Catalan giants win 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues, the Argentine forward is part of the furniture at the Nou Camp.

But the 32-year-old has yet to make an appearance this season because of a calf injury - and that has sparked talk that Messi might leave Barcelona when his current contract expires in 2021.

"Messi will not be playing when he is 40," said Balague.

"He's 32 and for the first time I have started hearing stories of people close to Messi saying 'what if he only has two more years at Barcelona?'. I went into panic - 'only two more years of Messi?'

"At the end of each season he decides whether he is fit or not. He's got it in the back of his mind that he can perhaps play at the next World Cup.

"His contract at Barcelona finishes in 2021. The extra year between the end of that contract and the World Cup... does he play in the elite risking his body and his mind?

"Or does he step down and prepare himself for his last World Cup in 2022?"
'Old dogs, new tricks'

Juventus have wins against Parma and Napoli under their belts despite missing new boss Maurizio Sarri, who has been ill with pneumonia.

The chain-smoking Italian, 60, could make his first appearance on the Juve bench on Saturday since leaving Chelsea in June when the champions of Italy face Fiorentina in Florence.

"What's been really interesting so far, even though Sarri has not been in the dugout, is that he has picked more or less the same team as the former boss Massimiliano Allegri did," said Horncastle.

"Sarri has got old dogs performing new tricks."
And finally...

In a scene straight out of DIY SOS, Napoli have posted a video on Twitter showing their unfinished dressing rooms with scaffolding still in place, pots of paint on the floor, sinks missing and electrical sockets unfinished.

Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti said he is "shocked" by the state of the dressing rooms following renovation work at Stadio San Paolo.

The Serie A side played their first two games of the season away from home but host Sampdoria on Saturday before holders Liverpool visit in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"It's a disgrace that a club as big as Napoli, in the Champions League, have what is essentially a stadium that is unfit for purpose," added Horncastle.

"This is a common problem in Italy.

"Most of the stadiums are run by the council and I think with Ancelotti going public on the club's website with this is very much the club taking a stand against the mayor of the city."

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