Relief For Barca As Messi Ensures Setien Enjoys Winning Start

 

 

Quique Setien may want a different Barcelona but he needed the same old Lionel Messi on Sunday as the Argentinian gave his new coach a winning start with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Granada.

Messi’s strike in the 76th minute won a cagey contest at the Camp Nou and prevented the much-anticipated launch of Setien’s new era becoming something of a damp squib.

Victory also sends Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference, after Real Madrid had briefly claimed first place following their win over Sevilla on Saturday.

It would have been different if Granada’s Yan Eteki hadn’t struck the post with just over 20 minutes left or their central defender German Sanchez not been sent off for a needless second yellow card soon after.

The extra man was the boost Barca needed and Messi duly poked home his 17th goal in 21 games this season following good work by Arturo Vidal, Antoine Griezmann and the 20-year-old Riqui Puig.

All three had reasons to impress, particularly Puig, whose inclusion on the bench was an early indication of Setien’s belief in youth. Puig’s contribution after coming on should mean more opportunities are to come.

Setien said last week that if he could make one guarantee, it was that Barcelona would play good football while he is in charge and although few could argue this was a transformative display following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, there were certainly some encouraging signs.

The passing was faster, the pressing higher and Messi spent most of the match playing down the middle, with Griezmann on the left and Ansu Fati, another youngster, on the right.

Slick Barca dominate

Setien claimed on Saturday he would never go home happy after winning and playing badly but a 1-0 victory gets his tenure off to a positive start and, with Real Madrid showing no sign of stuttering, he could hardly afford anything less.

His team had 83 per cent possession in the first half but chances were not as clear-cut and, as it was under Valverde, nearly everything went through Messi.

His driving run teed up Fati, who shot over, and then a cutting reverse pass set Alba away but Fati failed to finish at the back post.

Messi won the ball back on the ground and then nipped past two players. He flashed wide at the end of a fluid team move and missed from two free-kicks.

Barca were slick, evidently trying to pass faster and press with more aggression. Messi and Sergio Busquets chased and Griezmann did too, at one point earning the approval of the home fans after sprinting to provide cover at right-back.

Vidal has always harried and when he won the ball back early in the second half, Barca had a four against two. But Messi’s pass was heavy and the angle for Vidal became too acute.

The game drifted and tension grew but two moments proved crucial. First Eteki’s shot was kept out only by the post as he drove hard past the right hand of Ter Stegen.

Then, less than five minutes later, Granada were reduced to 10 men after German picked up a second yellow card for a late hack on Messi. It left Granada needing to survive 21 minutes and they only made it through eight.

Puig, on for Ivan Rakitic, recovered possession in the corner before Messi picked up the ball centrally. In a flash, he played in Griezmann, who found Vidal, whose swivelled a flick back into the path of Messi and he poked a finish into the corner.

Setien threw both arms into the air and looked to the sky, with joy and also relief.

Full List Of 2019 Ballon D’Or Winners

Former Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (L) and French English tv host Sandy Heribert host the Ballon d’Or France Football 2019 ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on December 2, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The winners and other top finishers in the four trophies awarded at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony on Monday in Paris:

Men’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
  2. Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus)
  4. Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool)
  5. Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
  6. Kylian Mbappe (FRA/PSG)
  7. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  8. Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich)
  9. Bernardo Silva (POR/Manchester City)
  10. Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Manchester City)

Women’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC)
  2. Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon)
  3. Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
  4. Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon)
  5. Viviane Miedema (NED/Arsenal)
  6. Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon)
  7. Sam Kerr (AUS/Chicago Red Stars)
  8. Rose Lavelle (USA/Washington Spirit)
  9. Ellen White (ENG/Manchester City)
  10. Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon)

READ ALSO: De Ligt Wins Young Player Gong At Ballon D’or Awards

Kopa Trophy

(Best player under 21 on December 31)

  1. Matthijs de Ligt (NED/Ajax Amsterdam then Juventus)
  2. Jadon Sancho (ENG/Borussia Dortmund)
  3. Joao Felix (POR/Benfica then Atletico Madrid)

Yashin Trophy

(Best goalkeeper, presented for the first time)

  1. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER/FC Barcelona)
  3. Ederson (BRA/Manchester City)

AFP

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

Messi Scores On Argentina Return To Sink Brazil

 

Lionel Messi struck on his return to international duty Friday following a three-month ban as Argentina defeated fierce rivals Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in Riyadh.

The Barcelona forward was suspended by CONMEBOL for accusing South American football’s ruling body of “corruption” after he was sent off in July’s third-place play-off with Chile at the Copa America.

Messi netted the only goal of the game at the King Saud University Stadium on 13 minutes, tapping home the rebound after his penalty was saved by Brazil goalkeeper Alisson.

His effort came shortly after Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus rolled a spot-kick wide for Brazil, who were playing without the injured Neymar.

Messi, who scored with a pair of free-kicks in his last game with Barcelona, twice threatened from set pieces in the second half before Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson beat away a powerful drive from Paredes.

Rodrygo, the 18-year-old who scored a sensational Champions League hat-trick with Real Madrid this month, made his Brazil debut as he replaced Willian for the final 20 minutes.

However, Brazil were unable to find an equaliser as their winless run since capturing the Copa America title extended to five matches.

The meeting between the two South American giants was the second in Saudi Arabia in little over a year. Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 in Jeddah in October 2018.

Brazil also defeated Argentina 2-0 at home in the semi-finals of this year’s Copa America, a controversial match that left Messi complaining the hosts had benefited from favouritism.

Brazil will play a friendly against South Korea in Abu Dhabi on November 19, in their final game before South American qualifying starts for the 2022 World Cup in March.

Spanish Court Dismisses Fraud Case Against Messi

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi 
Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Spain’s National Court on Monday said it had dismissed a complaint against Barcelona’s Lionel Messi filed by a former employee of the Argentine footballer’s foundation, who had accused him of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

In dismissing the case, the judge wrote that the complaint “was based on an account put together from stories in the press, without bringing even a single element that was personally and directly known” by the plaintiff.

The complaint had been filed in June by Federico Rettori, an Argentine national living in Majorca who formerly worked for Messi’s charity.

In it, he named the Barcelona striker, the charity, his father Jorge and brother Rodrigo and “all the people, as yet unidentified, who in one form or another administered or managed the funds at the Leo Messi Foundation,” the document said.

He claimed that funds received by the foundation which “should have been directed to social causes” instead went “towards various private activities or bank accounts that differed from those that were declared by the foundation”.

Last year, Rettori filed suit in Argentina on similar grounds. According to a judicial source, it prompted the opening of a preliminary investigation but so far, neither Messi nor his father has been charged.

Van Dijk Battle Ronaldo, Messi For FIFA Award

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk poses with his trophies of Best Men’s player in Europe of the Year and Best Defender at the end of the UEFA Champions League football group stage draw ceremony in Monaco on August 29, 2019. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk is on the shortlist to add FIFA’s best player award to his UEFA Men’s Player of the Year honour.

The Dutch international denied Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the European title last week and the same trio are in the running for the FIFA accolade to be announced in Milan on September 23.

Van Dijk starred in Liverpool’s triumphant Champions League campaign.

READ ALSO: Van Dijk Wins UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year Award

England full-back Lucy Bronze won UEFA’s women’s award and is on FIFA’s shortlist with the United States’ World Cup-winning duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is up against Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham for best men’s coach.

Phil Neville, who led England’s women to a World Cup semi-final, is up for the women’s coach award with the USA’s Jill Ellis and Sarina Wiegman who guided European champions the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

FIFA Best shortlists

Men’s player:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands)

Women’s player:

Lucy Bronze (Lyon/England), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/USA), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC/USA)

Men’s coach:

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Women’s coach:

Jill Ellis (USA), Phil Neville (England), Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands)

Women’s goalkeeper:

Christiane Endler (Paris St-Germain/Chile), Hedvig Lindahl (Wolfsburg/Sweden), Sari van Veenendaal (Atletico Madrid/Netherlands)

Men’s goalkeeper:

Alisson (Liverpool/Brazil), Ederson (Manchester City/Brazil), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona/Germany)

Puskas award (for best goal):

Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Real Betis), Juan Quintero (River Plate v Racing Club), Daniel Zsori (Debrecen v Ferencvaros)

AFP

South America Football Bosses Fire Back At Messi Jibe

 

South American football governing body CONMEBOL hit back at Argentine superstar Lionel Messi on Saturday after he accused the body of corruption.

Messi reacted after he was sent-off during Argentina’s 2-1 victory in the third place play-off against Chile earlier in the day.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was involved in a tangle with Chile captain Gary Medel in which Messi appeared to do nothing wrong, but both players were given their marching orders by referee Mario Diaz de Vivar.

“It’s unacceptable that as a result of incidents that are a regular part of competition … unfounded and untrue accusations have been launched that call into question the integrity of the Copa America,” said CONMEBOL in a statement posted on its social media accounts.

READ ALSO: Messi Blasts Copa America ‘Corruption’ After Red Card

Earlier, Messi was scathing in his attack on CONMEBOL and the competition’s referees after Argentina felt aggrieved for the second match running.

He even accused the governing body of favoring hosts Brazil.

“Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they’re ruining it a bit,” said the global star.

“I think there’s no doubt that Brazil are going to be champions. The Copa is weighted towards Brazil,” he added.

Argentina felt they were denied two clear penalties in their 2-0 defeat to Brazil in the semi-finals, complaining that the referee for that game, Roddy Zambrano, had refused to consult VAR to check the validity of their claims.

And again Argentina were angered that Diaz de Vivar refused to consult with the video assistance to check the incident between Messi and Medel.

Messi had shoved Medel in the back as the Chile captain shepherded the ball out of play.

Medel reacted furiously, chest bumping Messi a couple of times and seeming to push his head towards the Argentina captain, who didn’t react.

Yet both were dismissed by Diaz de Vivar.

Messi said his red card was “repercussions” for criticisms he expressed after the defeat to Brazil.

“These accusations are a lack of respect to the competition, to all footballers participating and the hundreds of professionals at CONMEBOL, an institution that since 2016 has been tirelessly working to improve transparency, professionalism, and development of South American football,” said CONMEBOL.

The governing body said that “a fundamental pillar of fair play is accepting results with loyalty and respect.”

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni had earlier said of Messi’s red card: “I still don’t understand what Messi did to be dismissed.”

Messi Blasts Copa America ‘Corruption’ After Red Card

 

Lionel Messi hit out at “corruption and the referees” at the Copa America after he was harshly sent off as Argentina secured third place with a 2-1 victory over Chile on Saturday.

In a niggly and fractious match, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and Chile captain Gary Medel were given their marching orders eight minutes from half-time after tangling on the goalline.

Television replays of the incident suggested Messi had done little wrong.

“Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they’re ruining it a bit,” said the global star.

Messi had already been angered by the refereeing during Argentina’s 2-0 semi-final loss against Brazil, claiming the hosts were getting preferential treatment from South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL.

Saturday’s match will be most remembered for the double sending-off and the melee it sparked.

In what seemed an innocuous clash, a frustrated Messi shoved Medel in the back as the center-back shepherded the ball out of play.

A furious Medel responded by chest-bumping Messi twice in an incident that probably merited no more than a single yellow card for the Chilean.

Incredibly, Paraguayan referee Mario Diaz de Vivar showed the two captains the red card.

“Medel always goes to the limit, but it wasn’t a red card for either of us. He (the referee) could have consulted VAR,” said Messi.

VAR was the issue in Argentina’s defeat by Brazil as Messi and his team-mates twice felt they should have had a penalty, only for Ecuadoran referee Roddy Zambrano to not only wave away their claims but refuse to consult the video assistance.

“Brazil were the hosts and they’re managing a lot in CONMEBOL these days, which makes it complicated” for everyone else, Messi had said, while criticizing the referee.

That was something he felt he paid for in this match.

“I think the dismissal was over what I said. My words had repercussions, but you must always be sincere,” he said after the victory over Chile.

“Before the match started he (the referee) said he liked to talk and hoped that we’d have a calm match, but at the first incident he sent me off.”

Medel could have few arguments as he reacted even more angrily after seeing red while players from both sides squared up to each other and the referee, who lost complete control of the situation.

It took fully five minutes to calm the situation and get Messi, who remained measured throughout, and Medel to leave the field.

‘Weighted towards Brazil’

Messi, though, took aim at hosts and arch-rivals Brazil.

“I think there’s no doubt that Brazil are going to be champions. The Copa is weighted towards Brazil and hopefully VAR and the referees will have nothing to look at in the final and Peru can compete because they have the team to do so, although it looks tough to me,” he said.

In Sao Paulo, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala scored the first half goals that ensured victory for Argentina.

Messi had created the opening goal with a quickly-taken free-kick on 12 minutes, picking out Aguero’s clever diagonal run before the forward rounded goalkeeper Gabriel Arias and passed the ball nonchalantly into the empty goal.

Ten minutes later, Dybala doubled the lead with a cool, dinked finish past the advancing Arias after taking a sumptuous Giovani Lo Celso through ball in his stride.

By that time, Chile had seen influential Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez limp off with a hamstring injury.

After the dismissals, Chile seemed in danger of losing their heads and Erick Pulgar was lucky to receive only a yellow card for a stamp on Leandro Paredes that looked a far worse offence that either Messi’s or Medel’s.

Chile were handed a lifeline when Lo Celso was adjudged to have brought down Charles Aranguiz on the edge of the penalty area, with Arturo Vidal slamming home the penalty on 59 minutes.

Aguero came closest to scoring again but his chipped finish hit Arias in the head.

AFP

It’s Not Over Yet, Messi Warns After Barca Masterpiece

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring Barcelona’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Camp Nou Stadium JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi warned his Barcelona teammates that their place in the Champions League final is still not certain despite his two-goal salvo in a 3-0 semi-final first leg win over Liverpool on Wednesday.

“It would have been better to win 4-0 than 3-0 but it is a very good result,” said the Argentine star.

“It’s not definitive, we are going to go into a very complicated atmosphere, with a great history.”

Messi’s second goal was the 600th of his Barca career and he reached the landmark in stunning style, majestically curling a free-kick into the top corner.

“It was beautiful when it went in but I was lucky that the ball lodged up there in the corner.”

Messi refused to take all the plaudits for the win which also Luis Suarez score against his former club.

“We must be more united than ever, all together: the team, the fans.

“We said at the beginning of the season that we will win it together.”

AFP

Messi, Suarez Power Barcelona To 3-0 Victory Over Liverpool

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (back) celebrates with Luis Suarez after scoring during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg clash with Liverpool at the Camp Nou Stadium. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi put Barcelona to within touching distance of the Champions League final on Wednesday after firing a stunning brace to down Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou.

Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez opened the scoring midway through the opening half of the semi-final first leg before Messi struck twice in seven second-half minutes to leave the Reds with a mountain to climb in the tie despite an impressive performance in Catalonia.

Messi’s second, an incredible long-range free-kick, was his 600th Barca goal in all competitions.

Messi scores a free kick during the clash. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

The two sides meet again on Tuesday for the decisive second leg at Anfield.

 

Messi Fires Barca To Eighth La Liga Title In 11 Years

Messi Fires Barcelona To 26th Spanish La Liga Title
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi shoots to score a goal during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 27, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi clinched an eighth La Liga title for Barcelona in 11 seasons on Saturday as he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at home to Levante.

The Argentine star struck his league-leading 34th goal of the campaign after coming off the bench for the second half to help Barca wrap up the title with three games remaining.

Barca hold a nine-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid, but the Catalans cannot be overtaken thanks to their superior head-to-head record.

It is Barca’s 26th league title and nudges them closer to Real Madrid’s record of 33 in Spain.

“To win the title with a distance and gap is difficult with the rivals we have. We’ve done it two years in a row,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told Movistar.

“We’re happy and to see people enjoying it makes us proud. But we still have challenges ahead.”

Valverde initially left Messi on the bench with Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool in mind, but he replaced Philippe Coutinho at the break at the Camp Nou.

Coutinho and Luis Suarez pressed Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez into action early on, the Brazilian coming closest to breaking the deadlock when his free-kick rattled the crossbar shortly before half-time.

He was sacrificed for Messi though, and it proved an inspired decision as the Argentine swept in the winner on 62 minutes following a frantic scramble inside the Levante area.

The visitors, not yet safe from the threat of relegation, responded and put Barca on the defensive but were denied a last-gasp equaliser when the ball hit the post and rolled into the grateful arms of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

“In the end he scored the goal. He always scores goals everywhere,” Valverde said of Messi, who celebrated winning his 10th league crown.

Atletico delay the party

Atletico had delayed Barca’s title party earlier in the day as they scraped past strugglers Real Valladolid 1-0 after surviving late VAR penalty drama.

Joaquin Fernandez’s own goal put Atletico ahead midway through the second half, but they had to endure a nervy final few minutes in which Jan Oblak had to be at his best and they survived a late VAR check over what looked like a clear Santiago Arias handball in the area.

“It’s controversial, a ball that hits the hand and the referee’s decision is to see if it’s voluntary or not,” said Saul Niguez, whose cross led to their fortunate winner.

Diego Simeone’s side are nine points ahead of local rivals and reigning European champions Real Madrid, who travel to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday amid increasing speculation they will respond to a disappointing season by swooping for Eden Hazard and Neymar.

“It’s what we deserve, no more, no less. We’ve come so far,” added Saul.

“There were moments when we wanted to be first and others that I would say no, that’s what we deserve.”

Valladolid meanwhile stay 17th, just one point and a place away from the relegation zone after a match they will feel they were unlucky to lose.

Earlier on Saturday, Athletic Bilbao and Alaves did their chances of European football next season no favours with a 1-1 draw in the Basque Country.

Seventh-placed Bilbao are five points away from the Champions league places — with Alaves a further three points back — and could also see Valencia and Sevilla take the Europa league further away from them when they take on Eibar and Girona.

AFP