Barca must countenance a Messi exit

Over the course of the last few days, an interview that Lionel Messi gave to a Catalan newspaper has received widespread coverage.

The reason for the same has been because it was arguably the most in-depth the Barca captain has been in some time, in response to a tough line of questioning.

Moreover, it was an extensive interview covering all topics, with seemingly nothing off limits.

Not even the thought of Messi earning his living elsewhere. Continue reading

Virgil van dijk is the favourite to win world player of the year- but does he deserve it?

The FIFA world player of the year now known as the childish title of ‘The Best’ has been announced. The nominated players have been whittled down to 3 players, 2 attackers and one defender. Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk is the favourite to scoop the award and he will have to fend off competition from the usual suspects in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but who out of the three of them deserve the award, and does van dijk deserve it overall anyway?

Messi and Ronaldo seem to have won the award more than me and you have had hot dinners. This year was partly successful for both. Messi won the league with Barcelona and scored 36 goals in the league, his 4th best record and 51 goals in all competitions. He had some wonderful memorable games both in the league and the Champions League, but ultimately Barca came undone, their fall from grace against Liverpool will live in the memory for some time, 3-0 up in the first leg they went to Anfield and lost 4-0. All of this plays against Messi’s greatness, and it’s fair to say that even though he is the best player in the world techincally, in 2019 this wasn’t his best year.

Ronaldo made the switch to Serie A to play for Juventus and the old lady as they are known romped home to an 8th Italian title in a row. Ronado helped that cause and was a major factor. He scored 21 goals in the league, which was good for Italy but still his lowest league total in 10 years. He boosted his chances of winning this competition when Portugal won the first ever UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands in the final. But there would still be disappointment as Juventus mainly brought in Ronaldo to win their first Champions League since 1996, he was not able to achieve that as Juventus were knocked out in the quarter finals against a young Ajax side.

And now to Virgil van dijk who was utterly brilliant for Liverpool last season, not only did he defend in a world class manner he also knew how to pop up and score the odd goal too. Liverpool won the Champions League and came 2nd in the league, only by 1 point as 97 points and losing just 1 game all season was not good enough to beat Manchester City in a quite epic battle.

Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the league last season which was the best defensive record in the top tier. Out of the 3 players chosen for the award it seems clear that van dijk deserves it, just over Ronaldo. But let’s look more into this, and wonder if FIFA have got the top 3 players chosen wrong and why is van dijk being chosen out of the Liverpool’s other defenders?

When we look at the Fantasy statistics from last season, the three chosen should have been Lionel Messi, Dusan Tadic and Mohamed Salah, with Messi winning. Although one must remember that these points are based on league form only. Virgil van dijk on league form only would have finished in 13th place. Though it should be noted he was No.1. in the category of defenders.

van dijk finished with 119 points whilst his team mate and defender Andrew Robertson finished with 118 points, and yet both had 21 clean sheets and Robertson had an incredible 11 assists to van dijk’s 2, although van dijk garnered a lot of points from scoring 4 goals. Still the case for Robertson to be included as one of the nominee’s in player of the year is strong, and one can wonder with all validity why he wasn’t.

We could go one better and wonder why Liverpool goal keeper Alisson wasn’t included. He got more points than van dijk last season and was surely instrumental in Liverpool’s fantastic league run and Champions League win. Given it was his debut season with the Reds he was superb and kept 21 clean sheets. Does he get punished because he didn’t score enough goals? That sounds as silly as it seems.

Anyway van dijk has been chosen to represent the Liverpool team and he probably does deserve the award. He has been more consistent and will be a top player for a good 5-6 years yet. Even Messi and Ronaldo won’t be able to stop him winning the award this year.

 

Is VAR ruining football after Cristiano Ronaldo is ruled offside by millimeteres?

VAR is a wonderful invention because it is there to stop unjust goals and award penalties that otherwise wouldn’t be given. But take the case of so many footballers week in and week out now who are having goals ruled out because of offside.

The offside law is another great rule, let’s make no mistake of that, if you are in front of the defence, then you are goal hanging, not really playing the game and just waiting for the ball to appear. Great rule. However VAR has taken everything to a new level, where a goal is ruled offside even if it’s just your nose that is offside.

At the weekend it was the turn of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored what looked like a fine goal to give Juventus the lead. But after a VAR review it was ruled as a no goal. In every other season Ronaldo would have been given the goal. So the argument is that it was correct to give Ronaldo’s goal offside. But let’s throw this in- Did Ronaldo being millimetres offside bring to fruition that he meant to cheat, by placing himself offside on purpose? Really? Most probably not.

VAR has gone overboard, where every tiny mistake is now taken from the game and anaylised and the result is taking the initial joy out of the game. VAR is welcomed but maybe some other rules need to be changed, and the offside rule is painfully stupid. Now if you are half a yard offside or a yard that makes sense to rule out a goal. If it’s an inch, a nose, a knee, its plain ridiculous, no player is willingly cheating by having his nose offside.

What VAR will do is produce less goals now. We won’t be seeing another generation of Messi’s and Ronaldo’s whacking in 50 goals per season. Not that their goals were offside, but some would have been very close and called on, breaking up play, making the player second guess and so on. VAR has incredibly changed football, not just by a small margin but by a massive one.

Ronaldo’s goal in the book of laws shouldn’t have counted, but in the book of common sense it should have. Offside means that the player has made a grave error or was trying to cheat to get a goal. Ronaldo’s offside wasn’t either, he was just trying to play the game he dearly loves and put his side in the lead.

Some rules need to be changed, we can only hope in the future it will be.

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Barcelona need Messi back as they lose first game of La Liga season against Bilbao

Barcelona don’t usually lose too many games and in recent seasons they have gone 4 or 5 months into the season without a defeat but they opened up their La Liga campaign with a 1-0 loss against Athletic Bilbao last night.

Barca were expected to cruise as ever to a win and pick up three points and though they were the better team having a lot of attacking intent, there was always a feeling with the clock running down and the match still at 0-0 that Bilbao would get their one good chance to put this game to bed, and they did.

It happened in the 88th minute and it wasn’t just any old scrappy goal. No this was a thing of beauty and it was scored by Artiz Aduriz. That the winning goal would go to him was extra special given that he is a legend at Bilbao and he is 38 and probably playing his last season with the club. Nobody beforehand could have written the script and believed that Aduriz would be the matchwinner. For Bilbao the party went into the night and this will be a very special result for them.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid who are expected to challenge Barca this year for the title would have been looking on at that result- could this be one of those seasons where the football doesn’t click for Barca?

Well Lionel Messi wasn’t playing and it is fair to say that at least with his club he is THAT good that when he doesn’t play he is missed. Messi currently has a calf strain and could miss all of the games this month, which is terrible news for the current La Liga champions.

This is when new signing Antoine Griezmann is expected to step up but that didn’t happen and the club will now be focusing on returning back to the Nou Camp, the question though in everyone’s minds afterwards is is this is a one off blip or is it a sign of things to come?

As usual Barca had the more possession bringing in over 70% but at the end of the day they only had 2 shots on target, that simply isn’t good enough.

Barcelona will play Real Betis next weekend at home and that will gage for us just how strong this team will be, they usually score a few goals against them, but Betis have bought well this season including getting in Nabil Fekir who has been brilliant with Lyon for several seasons.

What is clear is that the pressure is now immediately on Barcelona not to drop any more points in the next few months, that is how consistent it can be in Spain, and they will be praying that Messi can come back sooner rather than later.

LaLiga fantasy picks for the opening weekend of the season in Spain

LaLiga returns this Friday night when Atheltic Bilbao welcome the reigning champions to San Mames.

Will anyone be able to stop Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and co from winning Barcelona’s third successive Spanish league title?

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a LaLiga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the first weekend of the season.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend. Continue reading

How will Barcelona use all its attacking talent this season?

Antoine Griezmann

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom and Philippe Coutinho.

Not a bad selection, is it?

They are the attacking players available within Barcelona’s first-team squad at the moment.

If the club had the necessary funds this summer, you could have added Neymar‘s name to that list.

Antoine Griezmann’s signing from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid freshens up the frontline with the Frenchman expected to make it into the starting eleven right from the off. Continue reading

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.