Lionel Messi Wins Ballon D’or For Sixth Time

(COMBO) This combination of file photographs created on December 3, 2019, shows Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacting as he receives the Ballon d’or Football Trophy. Messi won a record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or on December 2, 2019.  AFP

 

Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to take the honours.

Now aged 32, it is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished third in the voting.

Messi, who attended the ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital with his wife and children, succeeds Luka Modric, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder who won the prize last year.

The Barcelona number 10 previously won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and in 2012 before claiming his fifth Ballon d’Or in 2015.

READ ALSO: Megan Rapinoe Wins Women’s Ballon D’or

This latest honour comes after he also claimed FIFA’s equivalent award, The Best, in September.

“It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d’Or here in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers, I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through,” Messi said on stage.

“Now ten years on this is my sixth, in a very different time, very special in my personal life with my wife and three children.”

The Argentine added: “I am aware of the age I have but I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football and doing this.”

Sadio Mane, another of the stars of the Liverpool side that won the Champions League, came fourth in the ranking for the prize voted for by 180 journalists from around the world.

Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019 and netted 36 times in total in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barcelona won the Spanish crown.

AFP

Ronaldo Rescues A Point For Juve Against Sassuolo

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to rescue a 2-2 draw for Juventus at home against Sassuolo to leave the way open for Inter Milan to claim top spot in Serie A later on Sunday.

Leonardo Bonucci had scored early for the eight-time reigning Serie A champions but Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo hit back for Sassuolo before Ronaldo’s point-saving intervention.

Juventus have a two-point lead on top of Serie A but now can be overtaken by Inter Milan, who host struggling SPAL.

Sassuolo claimed their first-ever point at Juventus and handed Maurizio Sarri’s unbeaten champions their third draw of the season.

The side from Emilia-Romagna, are 12th in the table.

Ronaldo started upfront for Juventus, having missed last weekend’s league game with a slight knee problem, with Champions League hero Paulo Dybala starting on the bench.

Eighteen-year-old Stefano Turati made an impressive debut in the Sassuolo goal, and pulled off a string of fine saves, denying Ronaldo, Higuain and Dybala late.

But Juventus counterpart Gianluigi Buffon had a difficult game in Turin as the 41-year-old, making just his fifth start this season, had a role in Caputo’s goal just after the break.

Bonucci had gotten Juventus off the mark with a long-range effort on 20 minutes.

But three minutes later Boga pounced on a Caputo cross sending in past an out-rushing Buffon from an angle.

Back after the break Caputo added a second for the visitors following a mix-up between Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs De Ligt in the Juventus defence, with Buffon then fumbling the effort as it slipped into the back of the net.

Turati got down low to deny Higuain after getting his hand to send a Ronaldo free kick over the bar.

Ronaldo’s penalty pulled the hosts level on 68 minutes after Filippo Romagna fouled substitute Dybala.

It was the Portuguese star’s fifth Serie A goal this season.

Later, Inter host SPAL with third-placed Lazio at home against Udinese and city rivals Roma at Verona.

Defending Champions Portugal Qualify For Euro 2020

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with team members after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group B qualification football match between Luxembourg and Portugal at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg on November 17, 2019.
JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as reigning champions Portugal secured their place at the Euro 2020 finals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg.

Bruno Fernandes struck the opening goal on 39 minutes before Ronaldo tapped in a scrappy second late on to clinch second place in Group B behind winners Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Serbia.

Portugal became the 17th nation to qualify for next year’s multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, joining the likes of world champions France, Spain, Italy, and England.

“We can’t give the match-high marks for style,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who admitted the heavy pitch made life challenging for his team.

READ ALSO: AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: Nigeria Fight Back To Beat Lesotho

“I’m very happy for my players because the qualifying campaign has been more difficult than we expected.

“We’re through to the finals of a major tournament for an 11th straight time. You’ve got to believe in these players.”

Portugal knew they would book their place at Euro 2020 with a win or by matching Serbia’s result from their game in Belgrade.

But they were made to work hard by a Luxembourg team ranked 96th in the world that notably held France to a 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Fernandes broke the deadlock before half-time, controlling Bernardo Silva’s pinpoint pass expertly before lashing in from 20 yards.

Ronaldo, who smacked in a hat-trick in Thursday’s 6-0 thrashing of Lithuania, moved to the brink of his international century four minutes from time.

Silva’s far-post cross was forced towards goal by Diogo Jota, with Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goalline.

Iranian striker Ali Daei holds the world record with 109 international goals scored between 1993 and 2006.

AFP

Ronaldo Happy With ‘More Attacking’ Juventus

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during a press conference on October 21, 2019 in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo gave coach Maurizio Sarri a vote of confidence on Monday when he said he was happy with the “more attacking” approach the club had adopted since Sarri came on board in the summer. 

“I think the team is getting better,” said Ronaldo on the eve of Juve’s Champions League Group D meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow.

“We are getting more and more confident. We are playing a different brand of football, more attacking.

“I like the way he (Sarri) wants the team to play. We are creating more opportunities, we have more confidence in ourselves, I’m happy with these changes.

“Maybe we could score a little more but I’m proud of what we are doing.”

So far this season, Ronaldo has scored five goals in nine games and was on target at the weekend when Juventus beat Bologna 2-1 to consolidate top spot in Serie A.

“My role hasn’t changed, perhaps I have a bit more freedom,” he said.

“I am happy because, bit by bit, we are getting to where Juventus ought to be. We have a difference coach, a different system, new players. We changed in order to improve.”

Last week, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored his 700th career goal while playing for Portugal.

“That’s already in the past. I want to move on, reach new heights to help the team. I want to play and help the team win trophies.

“Of course I am proud of the individual records but the priority is to win games for Juventus and Portugal.”

The Italian champions top Group D in the Champions League having drawn with Atletico Madrid and beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the last round of games.

Cristiano Ronaldo Scores 700th Career Goal

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo in action during the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Ukraine and Portugal at the NSK Olimpiyskyi stadium in Kiev on October 14, 2019. AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his 700th career goal for club or country when he converted a 72nd minute penalty for Portugal in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Ukraine on Monday.

Ukraine were leading the Group B match 2-0 when Taras Stepanenko blocked a shot with his hand,  collecting a second yellow card and being sent off before Ronaldo converted from the spot to pull a goal back.

Either team could ensure a place in next summer’s finals with a win.

Ukraine join already qualified Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium at next summer’s finals, while second-placed Portugal, who are eight points behind Ukraine, have Serbia just a point behind them with two matches remaning after they beat Lithuania 2-1.

“There are days like these, when the ball just doesn’t want to go in,” said Portuguese midfielder Danilo. “No need to do the maths now: we just need to win the next two games to reach Euro 2020.”

Yaremchuk pounced from close range in the sixth minute. The centre forward reacted fastest after Rui Patricio dived to parry Serhiy Kryvtsov’s header from a corner, and poke the ball across the line.

Yarmolenko added the second when outpaced the Portuguese defence to finish a swift counter attack with a low, crisp first-time shot.

Portugal dominated the second half and finally achieved a breakthrough when Stepanenko blocked a shot with his arm, receiving his marching orders

The goal was his 95th for Portugal. The 34-year-old is now just 14 goals behind the all-time international record of 109 held by former Iran striker Ali Daei.

While the exact number of goals scored by some of the game’s legends is the subject of debate, Ronaldo is agreed to be the sixth player to reach 700 after Austrian Josef Bican, Brazilians Romario and Pele, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas and German Gerd Muller.

 

Van Dijk Battles Ronaldo, Messi For World Best Player

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk acknowledges supporters during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Virgil Van Dijk threatens to eclipse fellow European stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to lift FIFA’s The Best Player award on Monday, to set himself up as favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Van Dijk, Ronaldo and Messi are the three men’s finalists for The Best Player award, with the winner to be announced on Monday in a star-studded ceremony in Milan’s famous opera house La Scala.

The towering Dutch defender helped Liverpool to the Champions League trophy last season and is well-positioned having already won the UEFA player of the year award.

Since The Best award was created in 2016, the winner has gone on to also lift the coveted Ballon d’Or, which will be unveiled on December 2.

Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won both awards last year to end Ronaldo and Messi’s ten-year domination.

In the past three years the podiums for both awards have been almost identical apart from Egyptian Mohamed Salah’s third place in The Best in 2018, a spot occupied by France’s Antoine Griezmann in the Ballon d’Or.

Based on Liverpool’s success last season it could be Van Dijk’s turn to become the first defender since Italy’s former World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

The 28-year-old proved himself among the best defenders in the world for Liverpool and the Dutch national side who reached the Nations League final.

Liverpool also missed out on the Premier League title by just one point behind Manchester City.

Both Messi and Ronaldo have won FIFA’s award in different guises five times each.

Former Real Madrid star Ronaldo’s six-year reign as the Champions League top scorer ended last season.

The 34-year-old scored six goals in Juventus’s European campaign, including an incredible treble against Atletico Madrid, before they were eliminated in the quarter-finals.

Ronaldo also won the Nations League with Portugal and his first Serie A title with Juventus.

Messi was top scorer in the Champions League last season with 12 goals before Barcelona were eliminated by Liverpool in the semi-finals.

The Argentine was also the top European scorer with 36 goals and won La Liga title with Barcelona.

The 32-year-old helped Argentina to bronze at 2019 Copa America.

Messi however could pay for his three-month suspension by South American football body CONMEBOL after alleging corruption at the Copa America.

Among the women, American World Cup winners Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, are in the running along with England’s Lucy Bronze.

Rapinoe, 34, left France with a Golden Boot and Golden Ball award.

The three contenders for the men’s coaching award are Liverpool’s Champions League winning coach Jurgen Klopp, along with Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, who reached the European final, and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

US women’s coach Jill Ellis is in the running for the women’s coaching award along with England’s Phil Neville and Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman.

AFP

Ronaldo To Miss Balotelli’s Brescia Debut

Vieira Asks Balotelli To Decide On Future At Nice
A file photo of Mario Balotelli

 

Cristiano Ronaldo will miss Mario Balotelli’s debut game for Brescia with the Juventus star ruled out of Tuesday’s match with a slight adductor injury.

“Mario will be there Tuesday,” confirmed coach Eugenio Corini of the Italian striker whose debut was delayed by a four-game suspension for former club Marseille.

But Ronaldo may miss the date with Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri revealing the Portuguese star had picked up a slight adductor problem.

“Cristiano has a little fatigue to the adductors,” said Sarri.

“I don’t want to take any risk with injuries,” he added with two Serie A fixtures this week before hosting Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on October 1.

“Brescia are a dangerous team. The game is undoubtedly a tricky one and Balotelli’s debut can give them an extra boost.”

Balotelli, 29, has been getting fit during his absence as he looks to impress Italy coach Roberto Mancini and earn a spot in the Euro 2020 team.

“My objective is to play for Italy at the Euros, but my main aim right now is to get into shape as quickly as possible for Brescia,” Balotelli told DAZN.

It will be Balotelli’s third time playing in Italy after Inter Milan and AC Milan.

“I’ve worked harder in the last month and a half than in a decade,” continued the former Liverpool striker.

“I’m ready. I’ve only played two friendlies, and have not played 90 minutes, but I am in great shape. The last time I was at this weight, I was at Manchester City.”

Balotelli, who has 36 caps for Italy, has not crossed paths with Ronaldo in a decade since the Portuguese was playing for Manchester United.

But he insisted: “Ronaldo’s presence doesn’t really interest me. I’ll try to score and play the way I will in any game.”

The Italian won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan and the Champions League in 2010 before moving to Manchester City where he won the Premier League title in 2012.

Brescia were promoted to Serie A this year, after being relegated in 2011, and are 11th in Serie A after two wins in four games.

Juventus are trailing leaders Inter Milan by two points, but Antonio Conte’s side also face a tricky test against Lazio in the San Siro.

Napoli, in third, host Cagliari with AS Roma hosting Atalanta.

At the bottom of the table Fiorentina chase their first win against Sampdoria who moved ahead of the Tuscans after beating Torino for their first points this season.

Torino want to avoid a third consecutive league defeat at home against AC Milan, who are 12th.

One to watch: Racism

FIFA president Gianni Infantino weighed in after the on-going problem with racism in Italian stadiums took centre stage again at the weekend.

Fiorentina’s Brazilian defender Dalbert asked the referee to halt play against Atalanta on Sunday after racist chanting.

“We need clear sentences, as in England, we must not be afraid to condemn the racists,” said Infantino.

Inter Milan’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan’s Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie have been targeted by monkey cries this season without any sanction being taken.

AC Milan have announced they were establishing an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

Key stats

902 – Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has matched Paolo Maldini’s Italian record of club matches and can overtake that figure this week

13 – Napoli’s goals in the first four league games; the second best performance after  15 in the 2017/2018 season

4 – Mario Balotelli’s goals against Juventus — three in Coppa Italia; one in Serie A

2 – Cristiano Ronaldo’s league goals this season

Fixtures (all times GMT):

Tuesday

Verona v Udinese (1700GMT), Brescia v Juventus (1900)

Wednesday

AS Roma v Atalanta (1700), SPAL v Lecce, Genoa v Bologna, Parma v Sassuolo, Napoli v Cagliari, Inter Milan v Lazio, Fiorentina v Sampdoria

Thursday

Torino v AC Milan (1900)

AFP

Five Players To Watch In Serie A

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his team’s victory at the end of the UEFA Nations League final football match between Portugal and The Netherlands at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on June 9, 2019.
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Eight-time holders Juventus begin their title defence and Napoli will be looking for their first Scudetto in 30 years as Serie A returns in Italy this weekend.

Juventus, without new coach Maurizio Sarri, travel to Parma on Saturday, boosted by the signings of Matthijs De Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this summer with veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon back in Turin.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli head for Fiorentina, with the Tuscany side boosted by the arrival of former French international Franck Ribery on a free transfer from Bayern Munich.

Chinese-owned Inter Milan have also spent big for Antonio Conte’s first season in the San Siro with Romelu Lukaku arriving for 65 million euros ($72 million).

Here, AFP Sport looks at five key players to watch in Serie A this season.

– Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) –

The Portuguese superstar begins his second campaign in Turin after securing a title in a third major European league last season. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner should provide leadership in a team in transition after coach Massimiliano Allegri’s replacement by Sarri. Ronaldo, 34, had to wait until the fourth league game last season to get off the mark, but scored 28 goals in 43 games – 21 in Serie A, six in Champions League and one in the Italian Super Cup. It was his lowest tally in a decade and one which he will be looking to improve as he targets the ultimate prize of a sixth Champions League crown.

– Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus)

One of Europe’s most sought-after players, the 19-year-old Dutch international defender captained Ajax to their most successful season in years, ousting Real Madrid and Juventus to reach the Champions League semi-finals and winning the Dutch national double. But he conceded that the chance to play alongside Ronaldo was too good to turn down. The teenager has the opportunity to become a key player in the Juventus defence alongside veterans Giorgio Chiellini, 35, and Leonardo Bonucci, 32.

– Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)

After an acrimonious exit from Manchester United, the powerful forward has become the star signing for former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who had tried to capture the 26-year-old in 2017 when he moved to Old Trafford from Everton. Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 48 goals, he will be at the centre of Inter’s attack, taking the number 9 shirt from former club captain Mauro Icardi with the Argentina international frozen out. The ex-Chelsea and West Bromwich striker has been angered by suggestions he lacks fitness for Sunday’s opener against promoted Lecce. “Not bad for a fat boy,” he wrote on Instagram showing off his muscled torso.

– Hirving Lozano (Napoli)

The Mexican international has enjoyed two excellent seasons with PSV Eindhoven as a goal scoring winger. Known for his blistering pace the 24-year-old joined PSV from Pachuca in 2017 and soon found his feet in Dutch football. The winger nicknamed ‘Chucky’ has accumulated 45 goals in 83 games over two seasons. He is set to wrap up a deal reportedly worth 42 million euros).

– Mario Balotelli (Brescia)

Bad boy Balotelli desperately wants to impress at his promoted hometown club as he targets a place in Italy’s Euro 2020 squad. The 29-year-old, who has won 36 caps, last played in Serie A with AC Milan on-loan from Liverpool in the 2015-2016 season. Balotelli has been the victim of racism from fans in Italy in the past. “I hope from my heart to find a different league and not experience new episodes of racism,” he said. First he has to complete a four-game suspension for a red card while playing for Marseille before he is set to make his debut on September 25 against Juventus.

Messi, Ronaldo And Van Dijk Nominated For UEFA Awards

 

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk have been named candidates for this year’s UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award, European football’s governing body announced on Thursday.

The prize will be awarded to one of the trio during the draw for the Champions League group stage in Monaco on August 29, after they were shortlisted by a jury of coaches and journalists.

England’s Lucy Bronze, Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg and France’s Amandine Henry have been shortlisted for the women’s award. All three play for European champions Lyon.

Van Dijk has joined Messi and Ronaldo, the two iconic players of their generation, on the shortlist after starring in defence for Liverpool as they won a sixth Champions League and came close to winning their first domestic league title in 29 years.

Messi won the first edition of the award in 2011 while Ronaldo has won it on three occasions, in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Luka Modric is the current holder of the men’s award after winning the Champions League and taking Croatia to the World Cup final in 2018, while Wolfsburg’s Danish striker Pernille Harder bagged the women’s prize.

AFP

Portugal Edge Out The Netherlands To Win First Nations League

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his team’s victory at the end of the UEFA Nations League final football match between Portugal and The Netherlands at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on June 9, 2019. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Portugal added the inaugural Nations League title to their Euro 2016 triumph as Goncalo Guedes’s strike on the hour won an underwhelming final 1-0 against the Netherlands in Porto on Sunday.

The Dutch defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt largely kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet, but Valencia winger Guedes proved the match winner as his shot had too much power for Jasper Cillessen in the Netherlands goal.

‘Genius’ Ronaldo Hat-Trick Sends Portugal Into Nations League Final

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his third goal during the UEFA Nations League semi-final football match between Portugal and Switzerland at the Dragao stadium in Porto on June 5, 2019. PHOTO: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Portugal manager Fernando Santos hailed Cristiano Ronaldo a “football genius” after his 53rd career hat-trick sent Portugal into the final of the Nations League on home soil in Porto with a 3-1 win over Switzerland.

The hosts had to withstand a huge moment of VAR controversy as after Ronaldo’s free-kick opened the scoring, Portugal thought they had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot.

Instead, German referee Felix Brych reversed his initial decision and awarded a spot-kick at the other end for an earlier incident, which Ricardo Rodriguez converted to seemingly send the game to extra-time.

However, Ronaldo predictably took centre stage as he struck twice in the final two minutes to set up a clash with England or the Netherlands, who meet in the second semi-final on Thursday, in Sunday’s final.

“I was his coach in 2003 and I could see where hed go,” said Santos. “He’s a genius. There’s genius paintings and sculptures and he’s a football genius!

Portugal made it to the last four without their all-time record goalscorer as Ronaldo took a hiatus from international football to concentrate on his first season at Juventus.

However, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to the national team in March and was always likely to be the centre of attention, particularly on a day when it was reported a rape lawsuit against him had been dropped.

A lawyer for the American woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by Ronaldo — accusations he has strongly denied — later dismissed that report, saying the case had not been dropped.

In front of an adoring home crowd, Ronaldo put the spotlight back on his performance on the pitch as he opened the scoring with a brilliant free-kick.

 

– Debut for Felix –

The Portugal captain is however no longer his country’s only star name, with Bernardo Silva starring for Manchester City where he could soon be joined by Joao Felix.

City are reportedly set to pay Felix’s 120-million-euro ($135 million) buyout clause from Benfica, but the 19-year-old missed a glaring chance to mark his international debut with a goal just before the break as he blasted over from Ronaldo’s pass.

Switzerland had posed a threat themselves in the first half with Xherdan Shaqiri, fresh from winning the Champions League with Liverpool, particularly lively.

However, it took the help of VAR to get them back in the game just before the hour mark.

Brych had waved away appeals for a foul by Nelson Semedo on Steven Zuber before awarding Portugal a penalty as play broke down at the other end, but overturned his initial decision.

Rodriguez drilled home the resultant spot-kick much to the fury of the home supporters at the Estadio do Dragao.

The Swiss could then have gone in front when Benfica forward Haris Seferovic headed just wide.

By contrast, Portugal had one of the deadliest finishers in football history on the end of their chances.

“Congratulations to Portugal. They had street smarts, they had the cherry on top of the cake and that made the difference. Four shots, three goals,” said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.

Silva was the creator for Ronaldo to drill home his second of the night two minutes from time.

Moments later the hosts sealed their place in the final on the counter-attack as Ronaldo curled into the far corner for his 88th international goal.

AFP

Ronaldo Is The Future Of Juventus – Allegri

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal. AFP

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo is committed to Juventus next season despite his bitter disappointment at the Italian giants Champions League flop, coach Massimiliano Allegri revealed on Friday.

Allegri’s injury-hit side host Fiorentina on Saturday needing just a point to lift their eighth straight Serie A title, days after a shock home 2-1 defeat to the Dutch side that saw them eliminated 3-2 on aggregate.

“Cristiano is the future of Juventus. He has done very well this year and will do so next season, of course he is disappointed like all of us but he’s calm about it,” said Allegri.

“Cristiano has had an extraordinary season and will play tomorrow.”

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo had been bidding for a sixth Champions League title to add to his four won with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United.

READ ALSO: Djokovic Suffers Shock Defeat To Medvedev In Monte Carlo Quarter-Final

The 34-year-old joined Juventus from Real last summer in a 100 million-euro ($117 million) deal which runs until 2022, with a reported annual salary of 31 million euros.

He scored six of his teams’ 14 Champions League goals this season and has 19 so far in Serie A, four behind leading scorer Fabio Quagliarella.

“Ronaldo’s arrival did not give us any certainty of winning the Champions League,” continued Allegri.

“Barcelona play a semi-final this year for the first time after four years and they have (Lionel) Messi. Football is not just about individuals.

“We have to put the disappointment of the elimination in the Champions League behind us.”

Injuries have hit Juve hard ahead of the weekend’s clash, with Sami Khedira announcing yesterday that he is set to have season-ending knee surgery, while Allegri revealed that key attacker Mario Mandzukic could also miss the rest of the season.

“(Goalkeeper) Mattia Perin is out until the end of the season, as is Sami Khedira and maybe Mario Mandzukic.” he said.

Meanwhile striker Paulo Dybala will be out for three weeks and Douglas Costa and Jose Caceres for 10 days each, while defender Giorgio Chiellini could be back for next week’s trip to Inter Milan.

However with a 17-point lead over Napoli Allegri’s side are almost certainties to lift their 35th league title as they cement their domestic dominance despite continental disappointment.

“The eighth consecutive Scudetto is a source of pride for everyone. Once it’s sealed we all have to enjoy it, it wouldn’t make sense not to celebrate it.”

AFP