Final nail in PSG’s coffin Neymar fails to return back to France

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The relationship between PSG and Neymar has reached a new low after the Brazilian failed to show up for training on Monday.

PSG’s official statement said: ‘On Monday 8 July Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was due to return to pre-season activities with the Paris Saint-Germain senior squad. Paris Saint-Germain notes that Neymar Jr was not in attendance at the agreed time and place. This was without the club’s prior authorisation. The club regrets this situation and will therefore take appropriate action.’

The obvious problem is that Neymar was never going to be back in France with PSG a day after Brazil won the Copa America in Brazil. True Neymar has been injured for the tournament but it was obvious that he was going to be at the final, Brazil’s first in 12 years and when the team won it is again obvious that he is naturally going to celebrate with the team, to think otherwise means you want to start an excuse for an argument.

Some could argue that why would PSG want Neymar back in training if he is injured. But today in Paris was all about medical check ups, and so in theory Neymar should have been there. But it is clear that there has been a breakdown in communications between club and player. It now looks inevitable that Neymar will be fined for his actions, not that he will care, he will just enjoy to celebrate with Brazil.

At the same time Neymar could have contacted the club and told them in advance of his plans and this is what has clearly irked them. There is an underlying cause of course and that is PSG want to keep their player whilst Neymar wants to leave and return back to Barcelona, could this be part of his chess move to force PSG’s hand so he can move back to La Liga?

This could well be the final nail in the coffin and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Neymar really has played his last game for PSG. The catch in all of this is can Barcelona afford both Griezmann and Neymar, the truth of the matter has to be no, and the deal looks like it will only go through if PSG will take on at least 3 of Barcelona’s players in some kind of player swap deal plus cash.

The summer is hot but in Paris and in Barcelona it just got hotter.

Brazil win Copa America, Lionel Messi is sent off and Gary Medel loses the plot

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The Copa America 2019 is over and the first reaction is to say congratulations to Brazil, who without Neymar who was injured before the tournament won it. This was Brazil’s first international trophy since 2007 as they beat Peru 3-1.

The talking point of the competition though hasn’t really been about Brazil who conceded just 1 goal on their way to winning but about Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Yet again Messi has seen a competition pass him by and an opportunity to win something with the national team looks like a dream that will never realise itself for one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

But Argentina did improve as the competition went on, and did play well against Brazil even though they ended up losing 2-0. During that game they hit the woodwork twice, including a shot from Messi and claimed that they should have had two clear penalties. This is when the paranoia clicked in and Messi suggested that everything was being done to ensure Brazil win the competition in their own country. That sounds like a stretch but at the same time it could be suggested that VAR isn’t working.

VAR is at the teething stage and needs many more modifications to make it work 100% of the time. This is for another story, but as far as VAR goes it seems that Messi does have a point.

So Argentina were denied to play in the final which meant that they played in the match that no one really wants the 3rd place play-off, only it would be against a fierce rival in Chile. It seems that every time the nations play each other there is fireworks and their Copa America meeting would be no different. On top of that is the fact that there is no love lost between the nations after Chile beat Argentina in the final of the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.

It all came to ahead when Messi chased the ball out of play but got too close to Chile’s Gary Medal who was trying to shepherd the ball away. Medel reacted by body checking Messi not once, not twice but three times and then putting his head into his. The menace in Medel’s face as Messi just stood there was frightening. The referee ran over to both players and sent them both off.

Messi had done little to nothing to get his first red card in 14 years, while Medel’s was justified. At the same time it may have made sense to send both players off as the match could have continued to boil over had one stayed on.

Argentina won the game 2-1, but they would have wished that victory to be exchanged for the two final losses they have had to endure against them.

Argentina in a way go away from this competition not sad but seeing that there has been progress in a team who are on the face of it quite average. Messi will be hoping that his nation can rise from this and get better, but they clearly will need a couple of more players to break through into the squad if they are soon to win trophies.

Will Lionel Messi ever win a major trophy for Argentina?

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After Argentina were knocked out of the Copa America by Brazil this week a dejected Lionel Messi was not a happy man. He blamed the referee, he blamed VAR- and he had some points but at the end of the day Argentina simply were not good enough, even though the side had played one of their best games in the last three years. They were out and Messi’s quest for a national trophy goes on.

Of course suggesting that Messi has never won a trophy for Argentina is one of the biggest mistakes that fans and pundits regularly make. He has won two trophies in the under 21 World Cup and an Olympic Gold. But of course the trophies that really count at national level is the World Cup and Copa America. Messi has come close reaching 4 finals, 1 World Cup and 3 Copa America’s only to lose each time. Indeed Argentina had reached the last 2 Copa America finals only to go home empty handed as on both occasions they lost to Chile.

But is it simply to be accepted that Messi regarded as one of the true footballing greats will never win a national award- he would be one of the very first players to do so if it did happen. When Argentina did lose against Brazil journalists were waiting for Messi to announce his early retirement as he did a few years ago, borne out of frustration than actually meaning it, and Messi will not retire.

What is evident though is that he isn’t getting any younger. Messi is 32 now and probably has four more years at the very top of his game. That means that he should be able to compete in another World Cup and another Copa America. The next World Cup takes place in 2022 in Qatar but the next Copa America will be next year. It will be held in two countries in Colombia and Argentina and that could be significant for Messi. Not all is lost.

It could well be a fitting way for Messi to end his international career winning Argentina’s first national trophy in almost 30 years and it has been a frustrating time for a nation that has produced so much quality throughout the years and has had nothing to show for it.

For now the quest goes on and some will point to the fact that you can’t really be considered the best if you don’t win international trophies too- whether that is really true or not is open to debate for another time.

 

 

Lionel Messi’s missing trophy still on as Argentina reach the Copa America semi finals but Brazil are waiting

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Lionel Messi is known as one of the greatest players that the game has ever produced, some say and rightfully so in most cases that he is the best player ever. He has won everything multiple times over and scored well over 600 goals, but there is one major gap in his resume and that is his lack of trophies for his national side Argentina.

True Messi does actually have two trophies. The under 20 World Cup and the Olympic Gold with Argentina. But his critics are not going to count that and question his greatness based on the fact that he hasn’t won a World Cup or a Copa America.

Messi has been to 4 major finals- 3 Copa America’s an 1 World Cup, including 3 finals in a row and lost them all. The ability then has been there but the final push or dare we say it a little frozen in a final has come back to haunt Messi on several occasions.

This year after a poor start Argentina find themselves in the semi-final of the Copa America. That’s the good news, the bad news is that it is against Brazil, and it is in their home country and everyone believes Brazil to be the big favourites to win. Indeed some bookmakers have Argentina at 4/1 to win the game.

All of the pressure will be on Argentina, although they will remember that last time Brazil were in a semi final in a major competition it was the World Cup when they historically lost 7-1 against Germany.

This is a massive match for Argentina and then again for Brazil too and the final will be on July 7th this Sunday. The other semi-final will be against Chile and Peru, Chile might be the favourites but Peru have proved their worth holding Uruguay to a 0-0 result in the quarter finals and then beating them on penalties and look like tough opposition. Having said that Chile have won the competition for the last 2 tournaments and are aiming for 3 in a row, each time beating Argentina in the final. Could it be destiny that they meet each other again?

Messi has not scored many goals in the competition just one so far which was a penalty- but he won’t care if he doesn’t light up the tournament but Argentina win it. At the same time his side will need to see Messi perhaps put in a vintage display against their great rival to get to the final. The match will take place early on Wednesday morning and shouldn’t be missed. Indeed with a plethora of football all around us at the moment this will be the biggest game in world football.

Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Thiago Silva

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Thiago Silva feels like part of the furniture at multi champions PSG and the Brazilian has certainly been loyal to the club from Paris. He joined the club in 2012 from AC Milan and has played almost 200 league games and counting cups that rises to almost 300 games.

It was another solid year for Silva in the back four even if it meant just the league title this season as PSG imploded in the domestic cups and also the Champions League. Still at 34 Silva is rightly regarded as one of the best defenders in the game today.

Silva started the season with a value of 9.5m in the fantasy rankings and finished 5th in the defenders rankings for Ligue 1. He earned 60 points and was just four shy of fellow Brazilian Dante Costa. Silva has never been one for his goals, which is justifiable given his position and he did not score any this past season although he did assist in one goal. He was able to be part of a four man wall that kept 14 clean sheets and he was booked on four occasions, but not sent off.

Whilst Silva did earn 5 points for keeping a clean sheet in PSG’s opening 4-0 victory over Caen it was in the following games where he struggled. Even though PSG won their next 3 matches, they conceded in each of them including 2 against Nimes and that meant that Silva was punished and earned -1 point for those games.

Because Silva wasn’t able to earn any extra points through scoring goals his best points tally in single match was just 5, which he earned 14 times. He had two moments of good consistency in the season. The first was just before Christmas in a period which saw the champions thrash Guingamp 9-0 and he earned points in 4 games in a row. The other was towards the end of the season in February and onto March where he went another four games earning points which ended up totalling 19 points.

His worst points total coincided with PSG’s dismal poor form at the end of the season when they had virtually wrapped up the league title. He went the last four games of the season earning in just one game and letting slip -6 points in the other three games. His worst tally in one game ended up being against Lille when the team in 2nd place upset PSG at home and won 5-1, earning Silva -4 points.

Silva looks set to stay at PSG as it was announced before the end of the season that he and his family had been confirmed as French citizens- and that can only be a benefit for French football and PSG. He also earned one more point this past season than the season before.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Neymar

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Several books could be written on Neymar’s season with PSG, and this was supposed to be the season that Neymar helped the French champions to the Champions League trophy, the one the club are really after. What happened was that Neymar replicated last season and missed key games as the league ran down. It was a frustrating season for Neymar even if PSG did end up winning the Ligue 1 title again.

Most of this frustration was off the pitch. The Brazilian’s niggling injuries didn’t help- he played just 17 league games this season. Then he was outspoken about UEFA when Manchester United arguably did get the run of the luck when they dumped out PSG in Paris, he swore on social media and was handed with a 3 game ban. This means that whoever he is playing for next season he won’t play in 50% of the group games.

Then Neymar was involved with a Rennes fan after Rennes had upset PSG and won the Coupe de France. He appeared to hit the fan and after returning from injury he was suspended for another 3 games meaning that he didn’t even finish the season off properly with the club.

This was the nightmare season for Neymar in many ways, and yet he was still good enough to basically play half a season and finish as the 4th best striker in Ligue 1. He finished the season with 72 points and was able to score an incredible 15 goals from his 17 games and assisted in a further 7 goals. When he played PSG kept 6 clean sheets and no matter his temperament off the field on it he was almost impeccable receiving only 2 yellow cards.

What is remarkable about Neymar’s season is that the first 13 games that he played he always earned points. His best personal game was against Guingamp at the beginning of 2019 when PSG ran riot and won 9-0. Neymar helped himself to 2 goals and assisted in another in a very easy win.

On two occasions he earned zero points but he never finished a game this past season on minus points. His last contribution was against Angers on May 11th when PSG won 2-1 and he scored a goal and assisted in the other.

The question is, was that Neymar’s last game for PSG? It is no secret that the Brazilian wants away and wants to re-join Barcelona again for next season. Could PSG complain after spending over 200m euros on him, because they would make a profit on the player if they did sell him.

Despite some negative aspects surrounding Neymar, his showmanship and hard work rate have still been held high in France and it is difficult to judge a striker that scores goals. He has played 37 games in the league over two seasons and scored 34 goals. Injuries aside he has been one of the best players to grace the game in Ligue 1 in recent history.

What does the future hold? This summer will turn into a Neymar saga it appears.

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Is this the year that Lionel Messi wins a trophy for Argentina at the Copa America?

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The Copa America kicks off tomorrow and all eyes will be on the most important competition in South America, which welcomes other nations this year such as Japan and Qatar who have been invited. But what is surely on everyone’s minds is can Lionel Messi finally win a major trophy for Argentina?

Time is running out for arguably one of the best players to ever grace the game to win something for his country. True Messi has actually won the under 20 World Cup and an Olympic Gold for the national side, but he will be well aware that what really counts is either a World Cup or a Copa America.

It’s not as if Messi hasn’t been close either. Argentina reached the World Cup final in 2014, their best performance since 1990 but lost 1-0 in a dire final against the more slicker Germany. In 2015 Argentina then reached the Copa America final but there would be more heartbreak for Messi and co when they lost on penalties to the hosts Chile after the game had finished 0-0 after extra time.

Then there was the major rub the salt in the wounds type of result when the following year the Copa America was held again this time in America. The reason for it being held in 2016 was to mark the 100th anniversary of the competition. Argentina were superb which included beating the USA 4-0 on their way to the final where they would meet Chile again. And again the match ended 0-0 after extra time and again Argentina lost the final on penalties, which included Messi missing his one.

This led Messi to quit the national team- everyone knew he hadn’t really not with a World Cup in Russia coming up and at the time he was still in his 20′s but it was a real shocker for Messi to lose yet again in a major final, his 3rd loss in a row.

The big news in Brazil is that the host nation will be without Neymar, that can only be good news for any rival nation. But can Argentina win the competition? Well they are the second favourites to do so, but as we’ve seen time and again even if Brazil falter at home there are some other strong teams and the likes of Chile who have won the competition two times in a row cannot be ignored.

Argentina will kick off their competition on June 15th against Colombia and will also play Paraguay in two potentially tough games. Their final group game is against Qatar where they will be big favourites to win, at the same time Qatar have improved significantly over the last year but Argentina should be able to qualify for the knockout stages.

July 7th will already be etched into Messi’s mind. That is the final date and could well end up being one of the most special nights in Messi’s career- who said the football season had finished?

Does Neymar’s injury prove that friendlies are pointless matches?

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Neymar, Brazil’s gold dust will miss this summers Copa America which is being held in his native Brazil because of ankle ligament damage and it is a massive blow for the player and his country.

The frustrating situation is that one of the best attacking players in the world will miss a major competition in his home country because of an injury sustained not in a Champions League final or a league title run in, but because he played in a money spinning friendly against Qatar, in a match that meant nothing, save to please some sponsors.

It is a desperate situation in modern day football how many games players have to play every year, some play as much as 70 when you take in internationals, and for the most part if you are playing for nothing, what is the point in playing? Of course it comes down to money and contracts, which is evidently ruining the game.

Now Neymar cannot play in what will be one of the biggest tournaments for Brazil in their home country. The last time they had this opportunity was in 2014 in the World Cup. Though for the semi-finals they missed Neymar through injury yet again.

But this injury feels different as it was obtained in a meaningless friendly. If we go back a few years the same situation happened to Zinedine Zidane. Picture the scene, France came to the 2002 World Cup as the champions and Zidane was now a Real Madrid player, he was rightly seen as the best player on the planet. But alas we were robbed of his talent when he was injured in a nothing game, a warm up for the World Cup. He missed the bulk of group games, and was rushed back for the final by which time they were virtually out and he was rusty, the champions were knocked out at the group stage that year.

It may seem harsh on neutral fans especially who want to watch their heroes but one wonders if friendly matches should only be played by up and coming players and not recognised ones such as the Zidane’s and Neymar’s of this world. What difference would it have made if Neymar had played against Qatar? From his ability/fitness point of view the answer is none, again it comes down to bums on seats and money, but it’s incredibly unfortunate that the Copa America will now be robbed of Neymar’s skills and inevitable goals.

 

Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Alisson

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Though Liverpool did not win the league in the end it was by the narrowest of margins and while the whole team shined in their respective positions, a lot has to be owed to goalkeeper Alisson who kept the Reds in contention right up to the final 70 minutes of the league season.

Jurgen Klopp spent almost £67m on the Brazilian shot stopper which for a small time became the world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper. It was broken by Chelsea when they signed Kepa Arrizabalaga for £71m. However it was Alisson that emerged from the Premier League season as the best goalkeeper in England if not Europe.

Liverpool were attracted to the services of Alisson after they met his then side Roma in last seasons Champions League semi-finals. Ironically Liverpool put 7 goals past the Romans, but Klopp could see the wider picture which included Alisson keeping 22 clean sheets for Roma that season in Serie A.

Alisson’s competitive debut started off in style as he kept a clean sheet in Liverpool’s 4-0 rout of West Ham. Alisson would go on to play every league game of the campaign for Liverpool which was by far their most successful season since winning the league title in 1990.

As far as clean sheets were concerned Alisson did not concede in goal for Liverpool’s first three games of the season. Overall he helped keep 21 clean sheets for the Reds in a remarkable season that saw Liverpool reach 97 points and lose just 1 game and still not win the league. However his 21 clean sheets was the best record in the league with Manchester City’s Ederson coming in 2nd with 20.

Alisson did not pick up any players of the month awards but these are usually given to strikers and this was the case again this season when 8 of the 9 awards went to forwards. The only exception being Virgil van Dijk, Alisson’s Liverpool teammate.

With 22 goals conceded Liverpool shipped the least amount of goals in the league beating eventual champions Manchester City by one goal. And in the Champions League, Alisson has played every game so far, with the final coming up against Tottenham on Saturday. He was able to keep a further 2 clean sheets from 6 group games played. In the knock out stages he kept clean sheets in the home games v Bayern Munich, Porto and Barcelona.

For all leagues in European Fantasy Football goalkeepers Alisson is ranked as number 1 and earned 136 points over the season. He finished 6 points clear of Manchester City’s Ederson. His discipline was also very good with just 1 yellow card shown during the whole season. At this time Alisson is valued at 10m to bring into your team. It is inevitable that the Brazilian will be at Liverpool for many more years and he has proved this season that he is amongst the world’s finest goalkeepers.

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Remembering England football great Gordon Banks

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Gordon Banks a footballing legend has passed away at the age of 81 and it is worth remembering a player that stamped his legacy on the game we call football.

Banks will be remembered for three things; winning the World Cup, making one of the greatest saves in football history and tragically losing an eye in a car crash. But away from the game he was also a kind, gentile person and no one had a bad word to say about him.

His greatest days of course was in 1966 when his goalkeeping heroics helped England win the World Cup when they beat West Germany 4-2 in the final. This win remains England’s only major international trophy, and of course was the highlight of Banks career. It made him of course a footballing legend the world over, but it was interesting how Banks feet stayed on the ground.

They didn’t four years later in Mexico when England were defending their World Cup trophy against tournament favourites Brazil. Everyone knew that Brazil were far and away the best side at that World Cup, and so what a tie we had to feast on when the pre tournament favourites were playing the current world champions. At one moment Pele the greatest player of a generation saw a space on the bottom left hand corner of the goal and rose up like an oak tree to head home. It was going to be a goal surely, but Pele wasn’t counting on Banks to dive down and save the ball which spiralled high up in the air and went out for a corner.

This save left his teammates dazzled and even Pele could not believe it. Though Brazil went on to win that game 1-0 and then won the World Cup against Italy in the final, that save actually brought about a special friendship between Pele and Banks that lasted a lifetime.

Banks won league cups with both Stoke and Leicester but it is on a personal level that he will always be remembered. FIFA named Banks the best goalkeeper in the world in 1966, 67, 68, 69, 70 and 1971. For six years running Banks was considered the best player between the sticks, which is quite some recognition. Banks ended up playing for England 73 times.

Banks is clearly the best England goalkeeper of all time and one of the greatest keepers of all time too, he was also a gentleman and a down to earth individual which in these days isn’t always in abundance with the common footballer.