Paper Round: Messi caught in 'race row'

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is famous for creating his headlines on the pitch and nowhere else but he now surprisingly finds himself on the front page of The Sun as part of what the paper calls a "race row."

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The Sun has published quotes from on loan Everton player Royston Drenthe who claims that Messi repeatedly called him a "negro" when the two players were opponents in Spain.

Drenthe is still owned by Real Madrid and also appeared against Messi while on loan with Hercules. He is believed to have made the comments about Messi in Dutch magazine Helden despite The Sun claiming their story as an exclusive.

"We played against each other a lot, and we always had problems. You know what really bothers me? That tone with which he always called me 'negro, negro,'" said Drenthe.

"I understand that it is very common in South America, but we cannot stand it. Mahamadou Diarra, my team-mate at Real, would become furious when Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Higuain initially called him 'negro'. But they soon stopped

"When I played against Barcelona with Hercules (last season), I had the same problems with Messi again. Before the match, he gave me a hand and said, 'Hola negro'. He didn't shake my hand again after the match. I don't think he'll invite me to his birthday party."

Neither Messi nor Barcelona responded to the claims but the Sun says that "a source close to Messi contacted a Spanish sports paper."

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That paper (The Sun obviously did not feel it relevant enough to name it) then reported: "The player himself and those close to him do not understand why these quotes have come to light now, when the Dutchman left Spain two years ago.

"Messi denies ever having insulted Drenthe as this is not his way and he has never behaved like that. He also calls on Drenthe to prove his accusations - if he has any proof.”

Obviously if the accusations are true it is serious stuff but Paper Round does find it culturally interesting that Messi's stock has become so high that he is deemed worthy of a sensationalist front page story in Britain's biggest tabloid newspaper despite having never played in the Premier League.

To more traditional paper round fare and most of today's back pages are dedicated to Yaya Toure's quotes to Spanish radio, reported on this website on Wednesday morning, where he said that he would like to return to Barcelona if offered the chance.

The back page of the Sun though leads with a report that Roberto Di Matteo expects to be axed as Chelsea boss even if he wins the Champions League.

A senior Chelsea (again unnamed) source tells the paper: “Robbie is determined to go for glory against Bayern, even though he’s resigned to leaving regardless of what happens in Munich. He has tried to talk to the club’s hierarchy about pre-season training for next season and been given very short shrift.

"That convinced him he really is just an 'interim' manager, filling the post until a full-time appointment can be made."

Robin van Persie has shunned interest from Juventus, despite the Italian giants declaring their desire to sign him. It is believed the Dutchman is not interested, with Spain his most likely destination - if he decides to leave Arsenal, who remain confident of keeping him. (Daily Mirror)

Paul Robinson is considering his future at relegated Blackburn - and West Ham will lead the fight for his signature. (The Sun)

Liverpool are closing in on Swedish star Rasmus Elm. The Merseysiders are on the verge of sealing a £7 million deal for the AZ Alkmaar midfielder who has scored 13 goals this season. (Daily Star)

Blackburn winger Junior Hoilett is being targeted by Bayern Munich and Borussia Moenchengladbach. (Daily Mail)

Gus Poyet is on the verge of quitting Brighton after it emerged he is on the wanted list of three top West Midlands clubs. West Bromwich Albion and relegated Wolves are on the lookout for new managers and Aston Villa are also considering Alex McLeish’s future after a disastrous first season in charge. (Daily Mail)

And finally, Fulham face competition from Ajax to sign 23-year-old Vitesse Arnhem left-back Alexander Buttner. (The Sun)

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