Despite rumours to the contrary, Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho has ruled out a move for Lionel Messi, stating that he hopes the Barcelona talisman remains at the Camp Nou until the end of his career.
Speculation in recent weeks has mounted that the Argentine could reject a new deal in favour of a move elsewhere, however, the former Real Madrid coach has surprisingly intimated his desire to see the 29-year-old stay with the LaLiga champions until retirement.
"With Lionel Messi every season is the same story, saying he's going to go and then he never goes," he said.
"Honestly, I hope he never leaves because he belongs to Barcelona and Barcelona belongs to him.
"The most natural and beautiful thing would be to stay there, to start and finish his career at Barcelona.
"I think he will end up staying, but that is merely my personal opinion."
However, with a renewal far from a certainty at this point, the British press has claimed that Pep Guardiola is preparing a bid to take Messi to Manchester City.
A fee of around 233 million euros and a weekly salary of 582,000 euros would reportedly be available to the four-time Ballon d'Or winner should he decide to leave the Camp Nou for pastures new.
Mourinho ties his fate to Ibrahimovic at United
Jose Mourinho's announcement that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay at Manchester United for a second season was a bold statement of faith in a striker still trying to prove himself in England.
United's manager swatted away questions about the 35-year-old's pace and suitability, effectively tying their fates together as they seek a way to turn around United's season.
"We are going to execute the option of a second season," said Mourinho. "After that he can do what he wants."
While it is not hard to see why Ibrahimovic would re-sign a one-year deal reported to be worth 260,000 pounds a week, some United fans question whether he remains the right man to spearhead their attack into his 37th year.
The goals have dried up after five in his first five games. Since then the Swede has netted three times in 12 attempts, once against Ukrainian side FC Zorya in the Europa League and twice versus Swansea City, the Premier League's bottom side.
Although some of those strikes were spectacular, Ibrahimovic has appeared a throwback in a season where Chelsea and Liverpool have literally set the pace with high-octane performances that have seen them surge ahead of sixth-placed United.
The Swede defended himself with characteristic charm on Wednesday when it was suggested at a news conference that he had not shone this season.
"I shine for 24 hours (a day), so it depends how you want me to shine," he said. "I've been in the game for 20 years and, while I'm getting older, I feel I'm getting better as I get older.
"I am shining in one way or another, but if you want me to shine even more then I will try and do it for you," he joked.
The problem is Mourinho has already identified a lack of pace as a problem for his attack, explaining he overlooked Wayne Rooney at home to Arsenal on Saturday because he was too slow.
Wednesday's contract announcement was all the more surprising because Ibrahimovic had suggested earlier this week that he might "outnapoleon Napoleon" by decamping to the MLS.
"Perhaps I should do what Napoleon didn't and cross the Atlantic and conquer the States as well," he told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
But first he must conquer Manchester.
With a trophy bagged every season since 2001, including 13 league titles, and a statue to be erected in his honour in Stockholm, Mourinho clearly believes Ibra will deliver.
Man United to take up option to extend Ibrahimovic's contract
Manchester United will exercise their option to extend veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic s contract for a second season at Old Trafford, manager Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old Ibrahimovic, who joined on a free transfer in July, has had a mixed start to his United career despite scoring eight goals in 17 games in all competitions.
"Zlatan's situation is simple: he has a one-plus-one contract with the club and we will execute the option of a second season," Mourinho told reporters.
The former Sweden captain, who was suspended for Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw at home to Arsenal, ended a six-game goal drought in a win over Swansea City earlier this month.
"He's happy, committed and loving his life as a football player at United," Mourinho added.
"This is probably the last big challenge of his wonderful career, so it is perfect for him to be here for the next 18 months and then he owns the decision of his future."
Ibrahimovic said the extension is "automatic after a while", but the criteria for it to be triggered has yet to be fulfilled.
"We didn't even have any discussions. I feel good, I feel fresh, I feel like now I'll probably take a second year," he said.
"I want to be honest with myself and I don't want to waste time. The second year goes automatic after a while, there's no word from me and no word from them. If it continues like this then it is a yes."
Ibrahimovic also leapt to the defence of Paul Pogba, who returned to United from Juventus for a world record fee of 89 million pounds in August, saying the France international needs more time to find his feet at the club.
Pogba has yet to light up the Premier League, scoring just twice in 11 games, as the powerful midfielder struggles to cope with the pace and intensity of English football.
"There is big pressure on him because people expect magic in a short time instead of being realistic," said Ibrahimovic.
United, who are third in their Europa League group, host second-placed Feyenoord on Thursday before facing West Ham United in the league three days later.
Bale ruled out of El Clasico
An ankle tendon injury sustained against Sporting CP on Tuesday will keep Gareth Bale out of El Clasico, with the former Tottenham Hotspur man also potentially needing reparative surgery on the damage.
In what is a huge blow for Real Madrid, the club confirmed on Wednesday that the Welshman has suffered a dislocation of the peroneal tendon in his right ankle.
Substituted in the 58th minute for Marco Asensio, Bale was seen hobbling off the pitch in some discomfort.
After the match, Zinedine Zidane was cautiously optimistic that the 27-year-old would not be out of action for any sustained period of time.
"He suffered more of a twist than a knock, but we will have to wait and see what the problem is," the Frenchman told reporters.
But medical tests conducted following Real's 2-1 win over Sporting show that the injury is worse than first thought, with Bale also possibly requiring surgery to repair the damage.
"After tests carried out on our player Gareth Bale at the Sanitas La Moraleja University Hospital, he has been diagnosed with a traumatic dislocation of the peroneal tendons of his right ankle. His recovery will continue to be assessed," read a statement on the club's website.
Definitely out of the December 3 El Clasico, the attacker is also in danger of missing the Group F decider against Borussia Dortmund and the start of the Club World Cup later in the same month.
No official recovery timeframe has as yet been given by Real Madrid officials.
Messi closes in on Cristiano Ronaldo's Champions League goalscoring record
Cristiano Ronaldo scored 11 goals in last season's Champions League group stages, and Lionel Messi already has nine in this year's edition.
A precise one-touch finish at Celtic Park has the Argentine inching closer, and a second half penalty makes it five goals in just three matches against the Scots.
In as fine a goalscoring run as ever, Messi has found the back of the net 18 times in just 15 matches thus far this season.
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