Messi fuels Barcelona revival, Marseille violence, Poch beaten: Talking points from around Europe

By: AFP      Published: 08:09 PM, 1 Feb, 2021
Messi fuels Barcelona revival, Marseille violence, Poch beaten: Talking points from around Europe

Lionel Messi kept up his improved form in La Liga as Barcelona won again amid more controversy about the Catalans' finances, while there was drama on and off the field in France and the Milan clubs continue to fight it out at the top of Serie A. 

AFP Sport rounds up some of the main talking points from across the continent:

Messi shows his worth to Barcelona 

Barcelona have said they will take legal action against Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details at the weekend of Lionel Messi's current contract, which it says is worth up to 555 million euros ($674 million) over four years. 

El Mundo called it the "colossal contract that ruins Barcelona", just as the Catalans are wrestling with a dire financial situation, worsened by the pandemic, and with Messi's future currently up in the air.

Yet the Argentine underlined his value to Barca by scoring a superb free-kick in their 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao. Barca are unbeaten in 10 n La Liga, winning eight, with Messi scoring eight times in that run. 

However, both Barcelona and Real Madrid are 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Cadiz 4-2 and still boast a game in hand.

Madness in Marseille 

Marseille's weekend game against Rennes in Ligue 1 was postponed after angry supporters attacked the club's training ground, while the players were there, in what was called "a frenzy of unjustifiable violence".

Local police said 25 arrests were made and seven officers were injured after several hundred Ultras stormed La Commanderie in a protest against the club leadership and the team's poor recent run of results.

Marseille's owner, the American tycoon Frank McCourt, called the protestors "thugs" and likened the incidents to last month's storming of the US Congress.

The growing crisis comes with the former Champions League winners having slumped to ninth in Ligue 1 and after coach Andre Villas-Boas indicated he will leave at the end of the season. 

First setback for Pochettino's PSG 

On the pitch in France, the title race is hotting up after reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain suffered their first defeat under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, conceding at the death to lose 3-2 at struggling Lorient despite Neymar scoring two penalties.

It was a fifth defeat in Ligue 1 this season for PSG, who are third, three points behind leaders Lille. 

Lille beat Dijon 1-0, while Lyon are two points off top spot in second after scoring late to beat Bordeaux 2-1.

It could even become a four-way fight. Monaco are six points off the lead after winning their last five games.

Bayern exact perfect revenge

Bayern Munich maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the German Bundesliga by beating Hoffenheim 4-1 as Robert Lewandowski scored his 24th goal of the league campaign.

After a mini slump, the Bavarians have now four on the bounce and remain well clear of nearest rivals RB Leipzig.

The result against Hoffenheim also allowed Hansi Flick's side to exact perfect revenge for their 4-1 defeat away to the same opponents in September, in what was their only loss in 46 matches in all competitions across a remarkable 2020.

The only cloud on Bayern's weekend came as midfielder Corentin Tolisso was dropped and fined for getting a tattoo, therefore falling foul of Covid-19 quarantine regulations.

Mixed fortunes for Zlatan, Lukaku as Milan clubs win

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's spat with Romelu Lukaku dominated the headlines last midweek as Inter beat AC Milan in their Coppa Italia derby. On Saturday Ibrahimovic missed a penalty for the fourth time this season but Ante Rebic followed up to score and Franck Kessie later netted another spot-kick as Milan won 2-1 at Bologna.

That result kept the Rossoneri two points clear of Inter at the top of Serie A, as Antonio Conte's side beat Benevento 4-0 with Lukaku scoring a brace at San Siro.

The Belgian is on 14 league goals for the season and Inter remain best-placed to overhaul Milan, even if Roma, Juventus, Lazio and Napoli all also won at the weekend.