Maradona To Messi: Focus On Winning World Cup

Legendary Argentine midfielder, Diego Maradona, has urged Lionel Messi to put behind him Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League exit and prepare well with the Albiceleste as they target their third title at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona were sent out of the Champions League on superior away goals by a Italian side, AS Roma after the Blaugrana threw away a 4-1 first leg lead losing 3-0 in the second leg to crash out 4-4 on aggregate onTuesday night.

Maradona told daniarcucci.com that the exit of Barcelona could be a blessing in disguise for the Argentina captain who he thinks will be well rested for the World Cup in Russia to win it.

“Messi, today, he can go and lift the World Cup in Russia, the only thing I would tell him is to prepare himself, as I did with Professor Del Monte, before Mexico, to prepare himself for the World Cup in Russia,” Maradona told daniarcucci.com.

“Because Barcelona is lost, it is more than done, they have no problem. ,The La Liga and the Copa Del Rey will be theirs at the end of the season.

 

“As I told Napoli: ‘I love you a lot, I gave you a lot, but now my priority is the national team.”

“And so you can go and lift the Cup in Russia. It is essential that he (Messi) prepare himself mentally and physically for his last chance.”

Maradona also advised Jorge Sampaoli, to pick Manchester United’s goalkeeper Sergio Romero as his first choice for the World Cup ahead of River Plates’ Franco Armani.

​”Armani is a good goalkeeper, Chiquito Romero is a great goalkeeper,” he said.​

Messi Returns To Training With Barcelona

Lionel Messi returned to training with Barcelona on Thursday to offer the Catalans a boost with less than a week to go before their  next fixture of the champions league.

Messi missed out on the Argentina’s two international fixtures over the last week due to a hamstring strain, although he did train between the 2-0 win over Italy last Friday and Tuesday’s 6-1 humiliation by Spain.

“Messi took part in a part of training with the squad,” said Barca on their Twitter account.

The 30-year-old five-time world player of the year joined other Barca stars just back from international duty.

With Barca enjoying an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, where they are unbeaten all season, Messi may be rested for Saturday’s trip to Sevilla to give him more time to recover ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Roma on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde had said he was feeling “calm” with regards Messi’s potentially availability.

“He has a slight problem but we hope that it’s not serious,” he said.

I Did Not Leave Because Of Messi

Ronaldinho has disclaimed news that he had  a bad influence on Lionel Messi and subsequently had to leave the Nou Camp.

Ronaldinho joined Barcelona at the start of Messi’s incredible career and left the club in 2008 after making 145 appearances and winning all the five throphies including the Champions League.

The Brazilian always appeared to enjoy his playing days in Spain and always wore a smile on his face.

But he has revealed that Frank Rijkaard played a role in his decision to leave.

And he insists that AC Milan was the real reason for his departure as opposed to the notion that he tried to misguide Messi.

In an interview with FourFourTwo, Ronaldinho said,  “It was easy – it was time to go.

“I wanted to follow in the footsteps of (Frank)  Rijkaard, who was my coach and said great things about Milan.

“I had other options, but I wanted to play for Milan. As for that stuff about Messi, it’s not true; you shouldn’t always believe what you read.

“I always tried to be a good influence on him and actually try to do for him what Ronaldo did for me.

“I felt embraced by Ronaldo and I wanted Leo to have the same. Messi was always very shy, but always a fantastic player.

“We lived on the same street, so I had a great relationship with him and his family.

“Even then I knew he was a better player than me.”

Meanwhile, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic says there’s no one like his club teammate Messi, nor will there be anyone approaching his level.

“This doesn’t exist, not in Mexico, not in Croatia. You have to say that. He’s not the best in the world for nothing — for me, the best in history,” Rakitic said after he was asked which Mexico player could be the most similar to Messi.”

 

 

 

Messi To Decide Our Fate–Argentina Coach

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli stated on Thursday that the chances of them at the World Cup in Russia will depend far more on Lionel Messi’s influence than his own.

Sampaoli was drafted in for Argentina’s final four matches of a faltering qualifying campaign, but it was Messi’s brilliant hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Ecuador in their final qualifier that sealed their qualification.

“This is going to be his team,” said Sampaoli, ahead of Friday’s friendly against Italy at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

“He is the best and is in a stage of maturity that he can carry the team on his shoulders. It is more his team than mine.”

For all his success at club level with Barcelona, Messi has never won a major international tournament with Argentina.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will again carry the bulk of his nation’s expectations. But at 30, this could be Messi’s final opportunity to crown his glorious career with a World Cup.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero will not be fit to face Italy due to a hamstring injury and Sampaoli said he is also unlikely to play against Spain in Madrid on Tuesday.

“We have talked to City about Aguero. If there is a substantial improvement he could travel but I see it as difficult because of the short time left,” said Sampaoli.

Despite Aguero’s injury, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala didn’t even make it into Sampaoli’s squad with the former Sevilla coach enjoying an enviable array of prolific strikers to choose from.

Often compared to Messi for his diminutive physique and wicked left foot, Dybala has scored 21 goals in all competitions this season but has admitted he finds it difficult to play alongside Messi.

“It’s complicated for Dybala to get used to our style,” said Sampaoli, hinting that Dybala will miss out on the World Cup.

2018 World Cup Could Be My Last – Messi

Lionel Messi has said that he might not get another chance to play in the world cup again if they don’t win the upcoming World Cup in Russia this summer.

The Barcelona forward lost in three straight finals and  two Copa Americas and the 2014 World Cup in a three-year span and has not won a trophy with the senior team.

Messi’s hat trick at Ecuador in the Albiceleste’s 3-1 win in their final qualifier in October granted his country a spot in this summer’s World Cup and again showed his class and importance to the national team.

Messi and his teammates have had a strained relationship with the Argentine media, feeling unfairly criticised, and he told La Cornisa TV,  “It’s just the feeling that this group of players has. It seems that having reached three straight finals didn’t mean anything. Obviously, we depend on results and unfortunately, we reached three finals and we didn’t win them.

“A lot was said about us. The criticisms hurt back then. But the demand is going to be there for this group to get it done. We think that if we don’t do it, we are going to get a lot more (criticism)  and we are not going to have another possibility.”

The pressure led Messi to quit, albeit briefly, from international duty in 2016, after Argentina lost to Chile in the Copa America final, his third straight with the national team.

“I’ve cried many times for lost finals,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner said. “I cried for not being able to fulfill the dream of our nation. My desire is the same as every Argentine, which is to lift the World Cup.”

Messi said the 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany is still an open wound.

“We know how challenging it is to win a World Cup,” the 30-year-old said. “To win a World Cup is very difficult and we came so close to achieving that dream. Football is full of surprises, not always the best team wins. I’ve learned to accept that. I felt we deserved the 2014 World Cup. It was a tough blow. To have been so close, it was painful.”

Messi is looking ahead to Russia with optimism, however. In their group, the Albiceleste will face Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.

 

Messi: 2018 Is My Last Opportunity To Win The World Cup

Argentina star Lionel Messi is aware time is catching up on his international carrer and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia may be his last opportunity of him winning a senior medal for himself.

In a fantasic run of carrerr in which he’s won almost every available titles including five Ballon d’Or gongs, a senior title with the Albiceleste is the only chink in his shining armour.

Argentina have been three-time Copa America runners-up and also lost to Germany in the finals of the world cup in the 2014 Brazil in Messi’s 12 years with the senior team.

The 30-year-old is now desperate to go one better in Russia, with his team having been beaten by Germany in extra time in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.

“We feel that, if we won’t win the World Cup in Russia, the only way will be to give up the national team,” Messi told La Cornisa on Sunday.

“I dream of winning the trophy in Russia. My wish is to live something similar to Brazil 2014.

“You can do everything OK and fail, like Argentina in Brazil.”

Argentina are considered favourites in a World Cup preliminary group which has Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

Messi Will Never Abandon Barcelona, Says Chelsea Coach

Antonio Conte has said he strongly believes Lionel Messi will never consider leaving Barcelona for the rest of his playing days after watching the Argentine maestro destroy Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.

Messi, 30, found the back of the net twice and set up a goal for Ousmane Dembele as Barca beat Chelsea 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday for a 4-1 aggregate triumph.

The double took Messi to 100 Champions League goals while his opener, coming after 129 seconds, was the fastest goal of his illustrious career.

Messi has frequently been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League but Conte is convinced the striker will retire at Barcelona.

“I think Leo wants to stay until the end of his career with Barcelona,” Conte said.

“We’re talking about an impossible situation. I repeat: we must have great respect for this player. We are talking about a fantastic player.

“I think he wants to stay in Barcelona for the end of his career. I think it’s the right way for him. He’s writing with his team-mates a great story with Barcelona.”

After full-time, Conte left the field with a congratulatory arm around Messi’s shoulder but Chelsea had chances too, most notably through Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger, who both hit the woodwork.

Alonso also thought he should have been awarded a penalty in the second half after he went down under the challenge of Gerard Pique.

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud believes his team deserved more.

“Obviously on both matches I regret the posts or bars that we could have. You have to have some success, a little luck,” Giroud said.

“What will stick in the throat is the penalty not given where it is quite obvious that Marcos is pushed in the back or he would have at least tried to shoot. It’s very hard, I think it would have changed the game.”

Messi, however, once again proved the difference, applying two clinical finishes through Thibaut Courtois’s legs and, in between, teeing up Dembele to score his first Barcelona goal.

“He knows in certain moments stars have to come out. He forces himself to do that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

“There’s no guarantee that he’s going to score, but he is a fantastic player. We enjoy him. We’re lucky enough to be seeing something that will go down in history.”

Off the field, however, Barcelona may face questions from UEFA about the treatment of spectators before the game outside the stadium.

Chelsea have invited any fans who experienced problems to contact the club.

A Chelsea spokesman said: “We are aware of reports of incidents outside the ground before the game where a number of Chelsea fans were hurt.

“We ask that our supporters contact us with accounts of their experiences of this evening’s arrival at the stadium so that we can take this up properly with the authorities

Super Eagles Not Scared Of Messi, Claims Rohr, Ezenwa

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa say the form of the Argentine superstar isn’t giving them any problems ahead of the world cup games in Russia later in 2018.

The Eagles are in Group D alongside Argentina, Iceland and Croatia at the Mundial and would clash in the Saint Petersburg with their South American foes in their final group game on June 26.

Both teams have clashed four times consecutively  in the World Cup with the more illustrious South Americans triumphing on all occasions.

Messi has been in terrific form in La Liga helping Barcelona claim top spot with 72 points in 28 matches, eight points above second-place Atletico Madrid and 15 points above champions and bitter rivals Real Madrid.

In separate interviews, Rohr and Ezenwa said they were not shaken by the dazzling displays of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who was excused from La Albiceleste’s friendly 4-2 defeat to the three-time African champions in Krasnodar, Russia, last November.

“We know he’s (Messi) one of the best players in the world but we are not worried about anybody because we have a good team. The game against Argentina will be a tough one and it will be very interesting going into the group’s last games,” Rohr said

“Perhaps we don’t have players we had in the 1990s, when only one player could make the difference. But now, we have a young team playing good and quality football, not only one or two quality players who can make the difference.”

Enyimba keeper and Eagles current first choice Ezenwa also reiterated his coach’s view when asked if he could stop the sleek Argentine.

Ezenwa copped an injury in January at the 2018 CHAN but despite initial fears that he might be sidelined from the trip to Russia, he’s back and hoping to stop Messi if he gets the nod to man the posts at the Mundial.

Asked if he could stop the Argentine from scoring, Ezenwa replied curtly with a smile, “Yes, I can stop Messi.”

“We play as a team always and collectively we have been doing well. That’s the mentality we are taking to the World Cup. If I get chosen by the coach, I will do my best always to stop any player from scoring,” Ezenwa said.

Messi Hits 600th Career Goals

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has hit his 6ooth carrer goals for both country and club side on Sunday with his opener in his side’s Liga clash at home to nearest challengers Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine slammed in a free kick right into the near top corner in the 26th minute to break the deadlock in the top-of-the-table clash and put league leaders Barca 1-0 up at halftime, scoring from a set piece for the third game running.

Messi is the la Liga highest goal scorer with 24 goals and is also the all-time top marksman in Spain’s top flight. He is also the top scorer in the history of Barcelona and Argentina.

The Argentine, 30, has scored 539 goals for Barca in all competitions and 61 for his country.

Play Less Football Before World Cup, Coach Tells Messi

Claudio Tapia, President of Argentina’s national football association says he has told national captain Lionel Messi to play fewer games for La Liga side FC Barcelona before June.

He said this was to allow jim stay fresh and fit  for his country ahead of the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

Argentina will face Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia in Group D of the preliminary round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup The News Agency of Nigeria reports.

The World Cup is expected to kick off from June 14 and end on July 15 in Russia.

Tapia’s plea has, however, largely gone unheeded by Barca coach Ernesto Valverde, who has started Messi in 33 of the team’s total 39 games this season.

He only left him out of the match day squad in three King’s Cup games.

The coach did leave Messi out of the starting line-up for the first time in the league against Espanyol on February 4.

But he later threw the Argentine on as a substitute to help salvage a 1-1 draw.

“I hope all the players arrive at the level they are at the moment. Sergio Aguero is playing outstanding football right now and Messi is always at the top of his game,” Tapia said.

“That’s vital for the directors and the coaching staff. We have spoken to Messi about taking care of himself and about playing less for FC Barcelona.”

Tapia also said Argentina are planning to play a friendly against Catalonia in June as part of their preparations for the World Cup in Russia.

A game against Catalonia could theoretically see Messi come up against Barca teammates Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique, among others.

However, such a fixture could prove controversial in Spain after increased tension between the central government and the region over its independence drive.

“(Argentina coach) Jorge (Sampaoli) told me it would be good for us from a football point of view and it’s important for us from a financial point of view. But we haven’t closed the deal yet,” added Tapia.

Argentina are hoping to do better in Russia than their runners-up finish four years ago in Brazil.(Reuters/NAN)

Barcelona blow away Madrid in El Clasico

Barcelona opened up  a huge 14-point lead over Real Madrid,  the European and world champions after beating them 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal made sure that Madrid will no longer be contesting for the title this season.

In a recurring theme of this season Madrid were made to pay for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema missing first-half chances as Barca took control after half-time.

Suarez rounded off a flowing counter-attack to open the scoring before Messi blasted home a penalty after Madrid defender Dani Carvajal was sent-off for punching the ball off the goal line.

And Messi was the creator as Vidal rubbed salt into Real’s wounds deep into stoppage time.

Victory extends Barca’s unbeaten run to 25 games in all competitions as they moved nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid and exacted revenge for a 5-1 thrashing on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup at the hands of Real in August.

Madrid do still have a game in hand over Barca to marginally reduce the gap at the top, but their efforts in the new year are now likely to be more focused on becoming the first side to win three consecutive Champions League titles in over 40 years.

Barcelona players: after the victory in Madrid

Despite the clash between the Spanish capital’s and Catalonia’s two giants taking place just two days after three parties favouring independence for the prosperous region from Spain retained an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament, there was little attention paid to politics inside the ground once the action got underway.

Madrid fans unfurled a huge banner proclaiming it to be a “white Christmas” after they claimed a club record five trophies in 2017.

However, it is Barca who will enjoy the upcoming winter break more after a second-half display which showed the turning of the tide their way since August has been no fluke.

It could have been very different for the hosts if Cristiano Ronaldo had buried a huge opportunity when he completely mis-kicked just 10 minutes in.

NAN