If Messi isn’t the Ballon d’Or, they should scrap it

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It’s long been contended that the Ballon d’Or has lost its shine as a worthwhile award.

Why?

Tactical voting, ridiculous PR campaigns designed to ensure certain players are front and centre around voting time despite having a poor year.

No definable metrics as to exactly how becoming the Ballon d’Or is measured. Continue reading

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.

Attack still the best form of defence at Barcelona

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Here we are just a week away from the start of pre-season for FC Barcelona, and with the focus at the club very much on the front line.

Though a left-back is still sought to provide competition for Jordi Alba, the technical department seem hell bent on getting attacking signings in through the front door first.

Didn’t anyone tell the club that any title-winning team worth its salt is built on a solid defence?

Barca did ok for the most part in that respect in 2018/19, but when the going got tough… Continue reading

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.

 

 

Decision-time for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele

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Barcelona’s young French star Ousmane Dembele faces a potentially make-or-break season in 2019/20.

The former Rennes and Borussia Dortmund winger has found himself playing second fiddle to stars such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez since his arrival at the Catalan club in August 2017.

In his first LaLiga season (2017/18), Dembele scored three goals and provided six assists from 17 appearances (12 starts).

Last season, the French international was hampered by injury for parts of the campaign. He played 29 times for Barcelona, making 20 starts in 2018/19, scoring eight goals and laying on five assists. Continue reading

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.

Did Pep Guardiola really show Brazil great Ronaldinho the back door at Barcelona?

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A story has emerged which claims that Pep Guardiola sold on both Ronaldinho and Deco at Barcelona because he allegedly thought they were bad influences on the up and coming Lionel Messi, could this be a true story?

Where did the story start? Well it has come from an ex Barcelona and Arsenal player Alexander Hleb who has come out with the claim 13 years after it happened.

Hleb said: “Ronaldinho and Deco came to training drunk that’s why Ronaldinho and Deco were sold in 2008. Because Barcelona were afraid that they would bring down Lionel Messi.”

At that time in the mid to late 2000s both Ronaldinho and Deco were seen as great players of their generation, especially Ronaldinho who was seen as the player who lifted Barcelona up again after their started the decade miserably. Under the brilliant Brazilian Barcelona regained their swagger and confidence and Ronaldinho quickly turned into a legend for the club, winning titles, including the 2006 Champions League and scoring some of the most outrageous goals for the club.

However it has also been claimed that Ronaldinho liked to throw his hair down and like some other Brazilian players before him relax when not playing football. Could it really be that Pep Guardiola could see this and did it really happen?

On one side there is no reason for Hleb to lie and make up a story from 2008, if we consider it to be true then it only emphasises how great Guardiola believed that Messi would be even at 21. The vision was already there from the club that the Argentine player would be with them for over 10 years and everything would have to be built around him, and that is the way it has turned out. Again if true then Guardiola did the right thing, but that is an incredibly brave move to make, less so for Deco who could turn it on sometimes but more so for Ronaldinho who genuinely was a superstar.

But Guardiola knew that Messi was going to be a triple superstar- and sacrifices were needed. It is an interesting story by Hleb given the fact that big name players have left the back door of Barcelona quietly shuffled on in the past- Romario and Rivaldo before Ronaldinho as an example.

One telling fact is that neither Guardiola, Deco or Ronaldinho have come out and spoken in defence of what Hleb has said.

One thing is sure if Guardiola did want to protect Messi then he did a great job of it.

 

Barcelona must rest Messi more than ever in 2019/20

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Barcelona have the biggest of seasons ahead of them in 2019/20, and Lionel Messi will be required to work his usual magic for the most part.

The Argentinian is the glue that holds the Blaugrana together and the more Barca try to rid themselves of their Messi-dependance tag, the more it stays as a millstone around their necks.

Though the No.10 and captain has been front and centre for the best part of a decade, now is the time for him to take a back seat. Continue reading

Could Barcelona’s ‘decision’ on Neymar leave Griezmann in limbo?

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This summer’s transfer window is shaping up to be one of the most explosive in history, and in more ways than one.

We’re still over a week from the window officially opening yet deals have already been agreed across Europe, and clubs are just waiting for July 1 to have them rubber stamped.

One player who is definitely on the move is Antoine Griezmann, but his treatment of Barcelona last summer looks like it could come back to haunt him. Continue reading

Griezmann, de Ligt and Neymar are toying with Barcelona

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What an important season coming up in La Liga it will be for Barcelona as their main rivals Real Madrid are showing their intent to be back. While Madrid splash the clash on the likes of Eden Hazard- Barcelona have yet to bring in a superstar player to rival that.

True Barca now have Ajax talent Frenkie de Jong but that deal for a reported 75m euros was actually concluded at the beginning of the year. Of course it’s not that Barca have been quiet because they have actually been very vocal in bringing in more quality names have been mentioned but it seems that some star players are actually toying with the club and showing a lack of respect.

The biggest of these seems to be Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt a brilliant prospect for defence. Barcelona showed their interest and the fact that they now have his team mate de Jong the deal seemed set in motion for the outstanding 19 year old. And who wouldn’t want that opportunity at such a young age? The problem is that just when it looked like de Ligt would say yes to Barca, PSG came in and offered the player 400,000 euros a week to play for them and everything has now stalled as de Ligt wonders about that amount of insane cash. Barcelona might be the bigger team than PSG but it is questionable that they would pay that type of salary to a teenager. So de Ligt is now making them wait on an answer.

Then there is the case of Antoine Griezmann so loyal at Atletico Madrid. It’s no secret that Barcelona have been after the French international for some time. They came close last season, but Griezmann was unsure if he wanted to play second fiddle to Lionel Messi. Also he wanted to respect his club because they had a transfer ban and he thought the timing would have been wrong to leave the club who wouldn’t have been able to replace him.

It is also no secret though that Griezmann wants to win the Balon D’or, and he will realise doing so in a Barca shirt may just give him a better advantage. But like de Ligt he is making Barca wait for a decision. What is the delay in reality- there are no major summer European competitions. Either say yes or no.

Finally there is the story of Neymar, who of course was a Barcelona player two season ago before his shock move to PSG in a deal that made the transfer the biggest in footballing history at a reported 200m euros. Neymar is giving all of the body language that he wants out of Paris and wants a return to Barcelona, even though he has been linked to another shock switch to rivals Real Madrid. It is thought though that only Barcelona is on his mind.

But just how are Barcelona going to afford all of these proposed deals? Well that is where Phillipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele come in. Here we have two players who have failed to live up to expectations and have cost Barca over 200m euros to buy. Good players, wrong club to summarise, and it feels inevitable that both could be sold this summer albeit at a cut price to make way for any of the above players.

What is sure is that Barca must strike big in the transfer market this summer if they want to hold off what will be a huge challenge from Real Madrid this season, and then, of course there is the case of the Champions League, a trophy that Messi desperately wants to win for a 5th time.