Lionel Messi to decide Barcelona future next week - Paper Round
Lionel Messi will open talks with Barcelona on his future from next week, Bruno Fernandes is set to sign a bumper new contract at Manchester United, Arsenal join the race for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate and Dean Henderson gets a golden opportunity to stake his claim as number one at Manchester United. It's Friday's Paper Round...
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey Semi Final Second Leg match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla at Camp Nou on March 03, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.
Lionel Messi is set to hold decisive talks over his Barcelona future with the club next week, according to the Telegraph. The 33-year-old flirted with a Camp Nou exit last summer after publicly declaring his desire to leave the Catalan club, but he eventually ended up staying put. However, Messi's contract is rapidly approaching its expiration date this summer and he has reportedly not made a decision on his future thus far. The Argentine superstar will wait until after Sunday's presidential election at Barcelona, so he can discuss his future with the new head of the club.
Paper Round's view: Barcelona must be worried about the possibility of Messi leaving but they would have known that his decision would be made after the club's presidential election. It was clear that Messi didn't get along with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, but a new person in charge could convince the 33-year-old to stay at the Camp Nou. There only seems like two realistic possible destinations for Messi: Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Both clubs would probably benefit if the six-time Ballon d'Or winner extended his contract at Barca as they would be free to explore alternative younger transfer targets, which makes more sense for the long-term.
Bruno Fernandes will be offered a new contract at Manchester United, despite only joining last January. The Sun report that the Red Devils are planning to hand the Portuguese playmaker a fresh deal that will see his wages double from £100,000 a week to £200,000 a week. Fernandes is currently only the seventh highest-paid player at the club, despite being one of the best performers on the pitch since his move from Sporting at the start of 2020.
Paper Round's view: It's a fair decision from Manchester United. The club are simply rewarding one of their most important players with a new and improved contract, with a salary that reflects his performances. Fernandes has been a revelation since heading to Old Trafford and a new deal will likely deter any clubs that have one eye on the Portuguese international.
Lacazette out, new striker in as Arsenal identify 'upgrade' - Euro Papers
Arsenal join Konate race
Arsenal are monitoring RB Lepzig defender Ibrahima Konate ahead of the summer transfer window, according to the Standard. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta could attempt to bring the French defender to north London as he looks to continue the rebuild of his squad in the summer. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos left Arsenal in January, while David Luiz's contract is set to expire this summer and Calum Chambers could also depart. Arsenal would face competition from a host of European clubs if they made a move for Konate in the transfer market.
Paper Round's view: Konate is a hugely talented defender - but will Arsenal really win the race to sign him this summer? Probably not. The club's finances are uncertain as they currently sit in 10th place in the Premier League. European qualification would be key to any signings this summer, but you'd imagine the club wouldn't view a new centre-back as a priority if the finances are limited. You'd also expect Konate to have an offer to join a club that has qualified for the Champions League (or stay at RB Leipzig to play in the competition) and Arsenal's only realistic route back to Europe's elite competition is to win the Europa League this season.
Dean Henderson will be given the opportunity to stake his claim as Manchester United's number one as the Mail reveal that David de Gea is set to miss the next six matches on personal leave. The Spaniard has returned to his home nation to be with his wife, who is expecting the birth of their first child, and will return after the March international break. Henderson has made his desire for first-team football clear after making just four Premier League starts so far this campaign on his return to Old Trafford following a two-year loan spell at Sheffield United.
Paper Round's view: It's Henderson's time to shine. The 23-year-old probably regrets his decision to sign a contract extension and return to Manchester United this season, only to warm the bench for the majority of the campaign. But now Henderson now has an opportunity and he has to grab it with both hands. If the United stopper performs while De Gea is away in Spain, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will find it difficult to drop him next month. However, if the England international returns to the bench once again, he will surely start to look at finding a new club this summer.