Football

Neymar at Real would be terrible, says Messi

Barca superstar aiming for at least World Cup semi-final spot with Argentina

It would be a major blow to Barcelona if Neymar moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid, the Brazil striker's ex-teammate Lionel Messi said yesterday.

The Argentinian, who won the Champions League and two of his La Liga titles with Neymar alongside him at Barcelona, said he had spoken to the Brazilian about rumours linking him with a return to Spain.

"It would be terrible, because of all that Ney means to Barcelona," Messi told Argentina's TyC Sports.

"If he ends up at Real Madrid, it would be a major blow to us. And, on a footballing level, Real would be much stronger than they already are."

When asked if he had told the Brazilian not even to think about going to Real, a smiling Messi said: "He knows what I think, I've already told him!"

Neymar left the Catalan giants last August, becoming the world's most expensive footballer in a transfer that upset many Barcelona fans.

Yet media reports that he might leave the French capital and move to Real have been circulating for months, prompting the PSG chairman to declare earlier this week that Neymar will "2,000 per cent" be in Paris next season.

The Brazilian has refused to talk about the speculation and said he is focusing on recovering from a foot injury in time for next month's World Cup, Reuters reported.

Messi also discussed his own future, after Sergio Aguero's father, Leonel del Castillo, suggested that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner should team up with the Manchester City striker at the Etihad.

Messi was quoted in the Mirror as saying: "I do not go to City. If it happens that I play with Kun, it will be because he comes to me.

"I have thought about other leagues - especially the league in England - but it is very difficult to leave Barcelona.

" I will not be better anywhere else, this is the best team in the world. Every year, I fight to win everything. I do not need to go to another team to prove anything.

"I am at the best team in the world, living in one of the best cities, my family is well-off and my children have their friends. I do not want to move."

While all is well at club level, it is a different story where the national team are concerned.

Beaten finalists four years ago in Brazil, Argentina have not won a major international title since 1993 when they lifted the Copa America.

BURDEN

They reached the final of the same tournament in 2015 and 2016, but lost both times and Messi said the successive failures weighed heavily.

"It's a weight that we carry and we want to overcome it," the Argentina captain said.

Messi added that he was looking forward to the World Cup Finals in Russia and was targeting at least a semi-final place with La Albiceleste.

Argentina kick off their World Cup Group D campaign against Iceland on June 16 and then face Croatia (June 21) and Nigeria (June 26).

They have struggled under coach Jorge Sampaoli, who took over last year and has won just five of his 10 games in charge.

Argentina beat Italy 2-0 in a March friendly, but that victory was sandwiched by a 4-2 loss to Nigeria and a 6-1 hammering by Spain.

Spain are one of the favourites for the tournament, Messi said, along with Brazil, Germany and France.

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