Former Super Eagles skipper, Joseph Yobo says he prefers Barcelona star, Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo, describing the Argentine as a “genius.”
Ronaldo and Messi, who have been one of football’s greatest rivals for over a decade, faced off in the Spanish La Liga between 2009 and 2018.
Either of the two has won eleven out of the last twelve Ballon D’or awards, with fans and pundits alike divided on who is the greater.
And Yobo who is the Assistant Coach of the Super Eagles is pitching his tenth with Messi whom he said never left people in doubt as to his potentials when he started playing the game.
The former Everton man spoke on Monday in an Instagram live chat with Channels TV, saying the 2005 U-20 World Cup winner is naturally talented.
While Ronaldo is a great footballer who has over the years trained himself to become one of the best in the game, Yobo said he would pick Messi ahead of the former Manchester United forward.
“I have played against him [Messi] a couple of times and knew that he was one player who could become invisible when he was there,” he said. “Ronaldo, we have to also give him credit because he built himself to who he is today. I played against him in England; he wasn’t the Ronaldo of today.
“But Messi, people have seen his talent from when he came on board. So, he is a special player. Messi, basically, is a genius. He is just a genius.”
Yobo added that he fears that it would take many years before a footballer like Messi emerges, stressing also that the game won’t remain the same when the duo retire.
He said: “I don’t know if in football we would see another player like Messi in many years to come. I hope so. Another fear that I have is: when Messi and Ronaldo leave the stage, what happens to football?”
While admitting that Ronaldo and Messi are “unique players,” he restated that he “will pick Messi” over the Portugal captain.
Barcelona returned to training on Friday after the La Liga champions allowed their stars to enter their facility to prepare for a potential restart to football in Spain.
Lionel Messi and company took the fields at Joan Gamper training centre for individual sessions, for which the players arrived alone in kit and took to the three pitches without passing through the changing rooms.
As well as doing their routines, they were also subjected to tests to see what effect two months of coronavirus quarantine has had on their bodies.
“Finally we are getting back to normal. We hope to carry on and that soon we can get back to enjoying what we like to do most,” Arturo Vidal told sports daily Marca.
Sevilla, Villarreal, Osasuna and Leganes also returned to training, while Real Madrid — who were two points behind league leaders Barca when play stopped in mid-March — will likely start again on Monday should their players pass virus tests carried out on Wednesday.
That would mark almost two months since Real had been placed in quarantine following a positive test for a member of the club’s basketball team.
According to Spanish media, none of Real’s players have suffered from virus symptoms, but Zinedine Zidane will have to do without Serb attacker Luka Jovic after Real announced on Friday he had fracture his right heel.
Footballers in Spain have restarted training following the announcement last week of government plan that aims to end quarantine for professional players.
Individual training sessions are the first step to what La Liga hopes will be a return to action in June that will complete the 2019-20 season behind closed doors.
The first aspect of a four-phase de-escalation programme allows a maximum of six players on the pitch at any one time.
La Liga’s programme will then permit training in small groups before a return to larger team sessions.
In the fourth and final phase, in early June, the government has said outside events can go ahead when attended by fewer than 400 people.
League president Javier Tebas has said “it is not an option” to cancel the season given the economic fallout, estimating it would cost clubs around a billion euros ($1.08 billion).
On Thursday, Leganes coach Javier Aguirre said La Liga will resume on June 20 and end on July 26, although league bosses refused to confirm his claim they had told him the dates.
“La Liga has just informed me officially and I am very happy about that because we have now scheduled the training sessions,” Aguirre told Marca Claro.
Lionel Messi confirmed on Monday that Barcelona’s players will take a 70 per cent pay cut and make financial contributions to ensure the club’s other employees are paid in full during the state of alarm in Spain.
In a lengthy message posted on his Instagram account, Messi also took another swipe at the Barca board, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom he accused of undermining the players during recent negotiations.
Other Spanish clubs are expected to follow suit in applying temporary pay cuts, as football’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic leaves a number of them fighting for financial survival.
Atletico Madrid have said the club will impose salary reductions on staff whose hours have been affected while Espanyol have also confirmed pay cuts, although for sporting staff only.
“For our part, the time has come to announce that, as well as the reduction of 70 per cent of our salary during the State of Alarm, we will also make contributions so the club’s employees can collect 100 per cent of their salary while this situation lasts,” Messi wrote.
He added: “We want to clarify that our desire has always been to apply a drop in salary because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first ones who have ALWAYS helped the club when asked.
“Many times we have even done it on our own initiative when we thought it necessary or important.
“Therefore, it never ceases to amaze us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass and tried to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do.”
Messi’s message was soon posted on the pages of nearly all of his Barcelona teammates, including Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba, Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Arturo Vidal and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The relationship between Barca’s players and board has been tense for several months, with Messi’s public criticism of technical secretary Eric Abidal in February just one of a number of off-field controversies.
Barcelona released their own statement shortly afterwards on Monday, which said members of “all professional sports teams and most of the basketball team” had agreed to reduce their salaries.
It added: “In the case of the football first team the reduction will be more than 70 per cent as agreed with the club. This additional contribution by the team, plus the contribution from the club itself, will guarantee 100 per cent of the salaries of all non-sporting staff, who will be subjected to temporary redundancy this week.”
Barcelona needed a dubious late penalty given by VAR and converted by Lionel Messi to scrape past Real Sociedad 1-0 on Saturday and avoid another slip-up in La Liga’s title race.
Messi’s 24th goal of the season, and fifth in four games, was enough to save Barca, despite a drab display that threatened to bring more disappointment following last weekend’s loss against Real Madrid.
Madrid drop to second in the table but can restore their one-point advantage at the top by winning away at struggling Real Betis on Sunday night.
Their Clasico victory at the Santiago Bernabeu put the pressure back on Barcelona, whose response was hardly resounding, with Quique Setien’s side ultimately reliant on VAR to spot a handball in the 81st minute from Robin Le Normand.
The lack of appeal from Barca’s players and the chunk of play that passed before VAR intervened made the decision all the more surprising and la Real’s players were still shaking their heads at the final whistle.
Yet the win was all-important for the Catalans at the end of another week dominated by headlines surrounding problems off the pitch.
Setien said he had apologised to the squad after his assistant Eder Sarabia was shown to have launched into a number of foul-mouthed rants against the players during the game against Madrid, even if there were chants in support of Sarabia before kick-off.
Barcelona created a handful of openings during the first half and Martin Braithwaite, making his first start, was at the heart of most of them, with his willingness to run in behind offering a good alternative in attack.
Twice Messi sent Braithwaite free early on but his lung-busting runs ended in tame shots, even if they were still greatly appreciated by an encouraging home crowd. When he did hit one into the net, he was pulled back for offside.
Messi created a chance of his own by hunting the ball down in the corner before retrieving a chipped Sergio Busquets pass over the top only to scuff the finish.
The chances came more frequently in the second half as Barca turned the screw. Messi slid one past the post and then sliced another over from Antoine Griezmann’s cushioned header.
Ivan Rakitic’s drive was parried, Gerard Pique’s header too straight and Jordi Alba’s ball across the face of goal just too far ahead of the diving Rakitic.
As chances went begging, la Real sensed an opportunity. Nacho Monreal flashed wide and Alexander Isak hammered over.
But just as the tension was growing, Barcelona were leant a helping hand, with VAR reviewing a handball from Le Normand and referee Martinez Munera persuaded to award the penalty. Messi made no mistake.
Atletico Madrid will hope for a tighter contest against Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday than their frantic 2-2 draw against Sevilla earlier on Saturday.
Joao Felix looked as sharp at the Wanda Metropolitano as he has done all season and completed a four-minute comeback for Atletico after Alvaro Morata’s penalty cancelled out Luuk de Jong’s opener for Sevilla.
But Lucas Ocampos levelled with another penalty at the end of a pulsating first half, again with the help of VAR after a foul by Kieran Trippier, whose involvement at Anfield on Wednesday could be in doubt.
Trippier took treatment after a heavy challenge from Nemanja Gudelj in the second half although the defender was able to finish the game and coach Diego Simeone insisted afterwards the problem was cramp.
The draw will be more gratefully received by Sevilla, who sit third in La Liga and two points ahead of Atletico, who stay fifth after missing an opportunity to close the gap.
Lionel Messi is the “greatest” footballer of all time, ahead of even Diego Maradona, Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso said on Monday ahead of his side’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar and has now been involved in more than 1,000 goals in his career, scoring 696 and assisting another 306.
Gattuso was quick to praise Messi, comparing the Barca star to Napoli legend Maradona.
“He’s the greatest and an example for everyone,” said Gattuso ahead of the sides’ last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
“He never says anything inappropriate. He does things that only exist on the Playstation, unthinkable things.
“But I saw him (Maradona) on VHS or DVD. I never saw him up close, at a stadium.
“I know the champion he was and I know I missed something wonderful. I reget it. Today I see Messi doing things that Maradona was doing.”
Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne was not so keen to accept that Messi has reached greater heights than 1986 World Cup winner Maradona.
“Messi is the best in the world today,” said Insigne. “But for us Neapolitans, Maradona is everything and I don’t want to compare them. Maradona is sacred.”
But Insigne and Gattuso agreed that their team have to be careful not to focus only on trying to stop Messi.
“We have to be careful with their whole team because it’s not just Messi,” said Gattuso.
Napoli are enjoying a recent upturn in form after a dreadful start to the Serie A season which culminated in the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti following a 4-0 win over Genk that sent them into the Champions League knockout stage.
Last season’s Serie A runners-up have won six of their last seven games.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday), I want a Napoli side that are not afraid,” added Gattuso.
“I want to see a team that knows how to battle… You need to stand up to Barcelona — you can’t worry.
“I want to see a lively team that plays with joy until the end. Can Napoli win the Champions League? Never say never.”
It is the first time Napoli have reached the knockout rounds since a last-16 loss to Real Madrid in 2017, while Barcelona are bidding to make the quarter-finals for a 13th consecutive season.
Pep Guardiola says he wants Lionel Messi to finish his career at Barcelona rather than join him at Manchester City.
Messi has a release clause in his contract this summer and reports in Spain and England have suggested he could trigger it after a rift with Barcelona’s sporting director Eric Abidal, who has accused the players of getting former manager Ernesto Valverde the sack.
Guardiola was Barcelona manager from 2008 to 2012 and works alongside former Barca directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain at City, so it is little surprise the Premier League champions have been tipped as favourites to sign Messi if he decides to leave the Camp Nou.
City have been linked with the Argentine striker every season since Guardiola arrived in England in 2016, but after spending his entire career with the Catalan club, the City manager repeated his oft-stated opinion that he thinks – and hopes – Messi will stay there until his retirement.
“He will stay there, that’s my wish,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“I’m not going to talk about players for other clubs. I think he will finish his career there, that’s my wish.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola says Raheem Sterling could be out for “weeks” after the City winger injured his left hamstring in the defeat at Tottenham last Sunday.
Sterling will miss the Premier League game against West Ham this weekend and is in a race against time to be fit for when City resume their season after a two-week winter break.
They face Leicester on February 22 before the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Real Madrid four days later.
“It’s a hamstring and we will see. It takes weeks but we’ll see if he is fit to play against Leicester, Madrid and the rest of the games,” Guardiola said.
“I don’t know. It’s a problem, but it’s a problem we had with (Ilkay) Gundogan a couple of seasons ago and (Aymeric) Laporte this season when he was out for four or five months.
“It’s what it is. It’s a problem with this kind of (busy) season, particularly for the players.”
Long-term casualty Leroy Sane, who has been out of action since rupturing knee ligaments in the Community Shield game against Liverpool is training again and could return after the winter break.
“He’s started to train, he is still not there, he needs to recover the tempo, rhythm, confidence,” Guardiola said.
“It is not like an ankle or muscular injury. It still needs time. He needs more weeks of training.
“What’s important is he’s recovered well. He’ll come back stronger than before but now he needs time.”
Apart from Sterling, left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko will miss the West Ham game on Sunday through suspension after his red card against Tottenham.
France international Benjamin Mendy is in line for a recall to replace Zinchenko.
Mendy has not played since the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on January 18.
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez and wife Sofia Balbi have renewed their wedding vows at a star-studded gathering in Uruguay attended by Lionel Messi among others.
The celebration to mark 10 years of marriage took place in a luxury tourist complex near the coastal city of Maldonado, about 130 km (80 miles) east of the capital Montevideo.
A crowd of football fans, including many wearing the Barcelona strip, gathered near the entrance as Suarez’s clubmates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba arrived along with Ballon d’Or winner Messi and his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo.
Brazilian star Neymar was also there, local media said.
Uruguay striker Suarez and Balbi exchanged “rings inscribed with their respective names, made from white gold and diamonds”, according to a statement.
The couple met when Suarez was 14 and started seeing each other soon afterwards. They were married in 2009 and have three children.