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In the mag: Messi, Neymar, Mbappe – destined for glory or doomed to fail? PLUS Ronaldo exclusive, George Graham, Oldham and more

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First a message from our editor, James Andrew:

Back in early August, I took little notice when the news started to emerge that Lionel Messi might genuinely leave Barcelona. I expected the whole thing to blow over – he’d stay at the Camp Nou, just like 12 months earlier. Footballers play for power all the time. Why would this situation be any different? 

But this was different. Messi didn’t want to leave Barça. They didn’t want to lose Messi. And yet, all parties had no other choice; unable to afford him any longer, he was left with no alternative but to exit on the priciest of freebies. 

In joining PSG, Messi has linked up with ex-team-mate Neymar and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe, forming one of the most formidable front threes ever... on paper. But as Brian Clough once said, “We had a good team on paper. Unfortunately, the game was played on grass.” 

So how will ‘MNM’ fare? Will they deliver PSG an elusive Champions League, or tear one another apart in trying? It'll be fun finding out...

MNM: the billion euro gamble

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Even Lionel Messi, reunited with old Barcelona pal Neymar, was caught out by his summer switch to Paris Saint-Germain. But with Kylian Mbappe eyeing personal glory (and a premature exit), are MNM a match made in heaven or an indulgence destined to fail?

Ronaldo: El Presidente

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Ronaldo has found out the hard way that being a club owner is rather more difficult than his previous life terrorising defenders, but not even relegation has dented his ambitions with Real Valladolid. He tells FFT why he’s more determined than ever…. and why England could be next

George Graham on Arsenal

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George Graham drilled his famous back four to the brink of insanity at Arsenal, but in doing so transformed an ailing club forever. Thirty-five years on from his Highbury arrival, the Scot walks FFT back through an unforgettable era of change, last-gasp titles… and tanning with El Tel

Greatest attacking trios EVER

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Messi, Neymar and Mbappe are looking to emulate Barcelona’s legendary MSN – but they’re not the only devastating frontline to give defences nightmares over the years

Grenfell Athletic vs London Fire Brigade

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Amid the agony of 2017’s Grenfell Tower tragedy, a football team for hope has helped its community to heal. So, when Grenfell Athletic faced the London Fire Brigade in an emotionally-charged clash four years on, FFT was there to see the action unfold. Friendly? No chance...

Marseille '93: tainted l'OM

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In 1993, Marseille lifted the inaugural Champions League trophy, becoming the first – and still the only – French winners in European Cup history. For PSG they are the model to follow, just without all of the corruption, lies and treachery that made l’OM an international scandal

The weird world of Oldham Athletic

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For years, Oldham fans grew tired of docile hibernation in the third tier – but it turns out their quiet life wasn’t so bad after all. The Latics are now in crisis under the ownership of Abdallah Lemsagam... and in danger of becoming the first former Premier League club to suffer relegation from the EFL

The great fall of China

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Even Europe’s giants got edgy when Chinese clubs began blowing them out of the water back in 2016 – but the Asian implosion since has been swift and spectacular. Outrageous spending, presidential meddling and a history-defining pandemic have destroyed a superpower on the rise

You Ask... Peter Shilton

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England's all-time male record cap holder answers your posers about training on roundabouts, Maradona and Cloughie chaos

In the Players Lounge...

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Steve McManaman explains why he hates the 'Galacticos' tag, Ivica Olic is still beating himself up about his penalty miss against Chelsea in 2012, Rob Lee takes a geography quiz and Chelcee Grimes talks through her double life as a footballer and Kylie Minogue lyricist. 

Going Around The Grounds...

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In our regular section on the EFL, Scotland and non-league, Troy Deeney recalls his remarkable rise to the top – and the time his dad locked a bloke in his car boot. 

Elsewhere, columnist Ian Holloway explains the difficulty of taking over a team in mid-season, Peterborough United's co-owner opens up on the struggle to end the 3pm blackout, Hearts are the club in focus for Best & Worst, we recall Ivano Bonetti's bonkers spell at Grimsby, and FFT chats to the folks behind City of Liverpool: where reds and blues make merry.  

Upfront...

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In our fun front section celebrating Planet Football, we bring you tales of Snow White  the shootout expert, Rafa Benitez's greatest games, an exclusive chat with PSV's thriving Englishman Noni Madueke, a symphony about Michael Thomas, Sheriff Tiraspol: KGB minnows, Rob Beckett hailing Aki Riihilahti, the goalkeeper off to Eurovision and much more... 

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