Lionel Messi heads up Barcelona's best performers as Ivan Rakitic leads worst

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Barcelona have made huge investment this season with the acquisitions of Nelson Semedo, Paulinho, Ousmane Dembele, Gerard Deulofeu, Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina.

Although the Catalan giants are currently nine points ahead of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, there is still scope to purchase new players if some of the current crop fail to raise their form.

Ernesto Valverde’s side have not been afraid to spend money with some €328m lavished on stars since the start of the summer.

Here, we take a look at three of the best and worst performing players.

BEST PERFORMING THREE

LIONEL MESSI

A class act.

The Argentine has been in instrumental form this term, scoring 16 goals and providing seven assists in 18 matches.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is truly one of a kind and has delivered telling performances consistently, most notably in Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last month.

Messi is a composed presence on and off the ball, and is without doubt the key man for Valverde’s side as they continue to complete strongly on all fronts this season.

RATING: 9/10

JORDI ALBA

The Spaniard is having the season of his life at the Camp Nou.

The 28-year-old, who has made an average of 1.9 tackles and two interceptions per match, perhaps goes under the radar compared to bigger name stars but his influence is top draw.

Incredibly, Alba has assisted Messi on six occasions this season – more than any other combination in Europe’s top five leagues.

His most notable displays have been against Villarreal and Levante.

RATING: 9/10

PAULINHO 

Looked a poor replacement for Neymar back in August, but the Brazilian has surprised many with a series of swashbuckling displays.

Some Barca fans may have questioned his €40m fee after plying his trade in the Chinese Super League for two seasons and a disappointing stint at Tottenham.

However, his physicality provides Barcelona with an added defensive layer and he also offers pace and a crisp passing ability in attack.

His most significant contributions were starring displays against Leganes, Celta Vigo and Levante.

RATING: 8/10

WORST PERFORMING THREE

ANDRE GOMES

Apart from one strong performance against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League, the Portuguese has struggled for form under Valverde.

The central midfielder arrived at the Camp Nou in 2016 with aspirations that he could one day fill the void left by Andres Iniesta.

But he’s not come close to Iniesta’s industrious abilities and looks an unreliable and loose presence in midfield – with rumours he could leave during the January window.

Having made just two La Liga starts this term, the 24-year-old has failed to usurp the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets who continue to have a stranglehold over the midfield.

RATING: 5/10

ALEIX VIDAL

The Spaniard has fallen out of favour under Valverde with just 10 La Liga appearances this campaign – seven of which have come from the bench.

With the recent arrival of Coutinho, it looks an even tougher task for him to force a way back into the starting XI.

At 28, it would be a good move to leave the Camp Nou in order to get his career back on track.

Valencia, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have all raised interest in the Spaniard who can play anywhere down the right flank.

RATING: 5/10

IVAN RAKITIC

Although he is one of Valverde’s most trusted lieutenants, there is no guarantee he will start when Coutinho returns to full fitness at the end of the month.

If the Barca boss is to drop one of his midfielders, it is likelier to be the Croatian international over the likes of Andres Iniesta, Paulinho and Sergio Busquets.

Since the arrival of the Brazilian last week, the 29-year-old is believed to be exploring his options with Juventus, Arsenal and Liverpool also interested in securing his services.

Rakitic has provided three assists in 16 La Liga starts this term.

RATING: 6/10

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Lionel Messi should be only player worth more than €100m, claims Rudi Voller

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Lionel Messi is the only player in the world who should command a transfer fee of more than €100 million, according to 1990 FIFA World Cup winner Rudi Voller.

With the likes of Neymar, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho all well and truly smashing that transfer fee barrier following their respective moves since August, Voller feels Barcelona legend Messi stands alone in being the one man who would be worth such a high price-tag.

The Argentine great, widely regarded as the best best player of all time, has of course never been subject to a big transfer before having spent his entire career with Blaugrana after rising up through the La Masia youth ranks.

“For me, there is only one player worth more than €100m, and of course that is Lionel Messi,” Voller, who scored 47 goals in 90 appearances for Germany, told Suddeutsche Zeitung.

However, he added: “But I’ve grown used to being amazed.”

PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, come the summer, is likely to become the latest player to fetch a huge price in the region of €155m should PSG exercise their first option agreement with Monaco.

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Zinedine Zidane signs new contract extension at Real Madrid until 2020

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Wednesday confirmed that he has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the European champions until 2020.

“It’s signed,” said the French star after his side drew 2-2 with Numancia to progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey 5-2 on aggregate.

After a dream start at Real, with eight trophies out of a possible 10, Zidane has endured a tough season with his side 16 points behind Barcelona in the La Liga title race.

And the 45-year-old cautioned: “I’m enjoying what I do every day, because that’s the way it is. I can’t imagine myself as a coach in two, three years, because things are not like that.

“I know how it goes, nothing more, even with this contract it does not change anything.”

On Wednesday, Real fielded an almost unrecognisable team and struggled into the Copa del Rey last-eight.

Zidane could afford to rest his superstars with one eye on La Liga and the Champions League last 16 with a clash against Paris Saint-Germain next month.

However, they were far from convincing at the Bernabeu.

Lucas Vazquez scored both of Real’s goals after the 11th and 59th minutes.

But on both occasions, their modest visitors fought back thanks to a brace from Guillermo on the stroke of half-time and then after 82 minutes.

Numancia ended the game with 10 men after captain Dani Calvo was red-carded in the dying moments.

Leganes, a modest club from the Madrid suburbs, reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey for the first time in their 89-year existence.

Despite losing 2-1 at Villarreal, who are currently sixth in La Liga, Leganes progressed on away goals having won the first leg 1-0.

Moroccan international Nabil El Zhar scored the crucial away goal for mid-table Leganes on the half-hour mark.

In the night’s other early second leg tie, last season’s runners-up Alaves downed third division Formentera 2-0 for a 5-1 aggregate win.

On Thursday, three-time defending champions Barcelona host Celta Vigo with the two sides locked at 1-1.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde insisted that despite the high-profile capture of Philippe Coutinho, who can’t play for around three weeks due to a thigh injury, his team’s character will not change with the Brazilian’s arrival.

“The Barca model will stay the same,” he said on Wednesday.

“The club always has the chance to go into the market to buy the great players. But at the same time, Barca will continue to nurture young players at the training centre to maintain the style and identity.

“That’s still the case today.”

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