Sensational reports have claimed that Juventus are keen on landing Lionel Messi and uniting him with generational rival Cristiano Ronaldo in Italy.
Capitalising on the FC Barcelona star’s recent fall-out with sporting director Eric Abidal, the Ballon d’Or winner can walk on a free this summer and Tuttosport allege that the Serie A giants, along with Inter Milan, believe it is possible to lure the 32-year-old away from the Camp Nou.
Making the front page of the Italian sport daily’s Tuesday print edition, its Catalan counterpart SPORT have picked up on the story and make the assertion that it has been buoyed by comments made by former Barça director Ariedo Braida on the matter.
‘Messi is an extraordinary player,” said Braida. “I think he’s happy in Barcelona, living with his family. He’s been there since he was 13, so it’s hard to imagine him leaving, but [it’s] not impossible. They [Messi and Ronaldo] are such great players that a good coach could make it work. Messi and Cristiano could play together. As a Milan fan, I would prefer to see him at AC Milan, but Juve and Inter are the two teams that could sign him,” it was concluded.
Picking up megastars such as Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Dani Alves without handing over a single penny to their former clubs, Juve’s business acumen is renowned in the industry and, while backed by the Fiat-owning Agnelli family, they would be able to meet the 32-year-old’s salary demands.
Desperate to win one last Champions League, it has been strongly suggested that the Argentine may be forced to look elsewhere if the Blaugrana are unable to help him deliver the big-eared trophy in his twilight years.
The Old Lady often among the favourites in UEFA’s showpiece club tournament since making the final in 2015 and 2017, these two falls at the last hurdle ironically came to Messi’s Barça and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid respectively.
Logically, then, the mouthwatering prospect of having them both on the same team instantly reduces the chances of being topped by an outfit containing either one, in addition to representing a marketing dream.
Also linked are Manchester City, whose coach Pep Guardiola has said: “He is a player from Barcelona and he will stay there, that’s my wish for him to stay there.”
“I’m not going to talk about players playing for other clubs. I think he will finish his career there, that’s my wish,” it was added. Elsewhere however, some corners of the English media have gone out on a limb by alleging that Messi’s former coach during the Tiki-taka dynasty has done this with a view to a reunification with him in Turin once the current Premier League campaign has drawn to a close.
On Wednesday night at Victory Field, the Indianapolis Indians prepared to play the Columbus Clippers.
And Indiana foster kids got something to help them prepare for the rest of their lives.
“We’re handing out backpacks with books in them for children that are in foster care,” said Terry Stigdon, Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. “We are showing how one small idea can grow into something very big and really important for kids.”
For the past 10 years, the Colts have partnered with Cargo Services and the Indiana Department of Child Services to distribute backpacks filled with 25 age appropriate books to Indiana foster children.
“Being in foster care is tough for kids. It means that something was going on in their lives where they need some extra support. This is something solid, something tangible for them to hold onto that’s theirs,” Stigdon said. “It’s really important for foster kids to have something that they own, something that’s their own.”
When Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, heard about it, they became the poster family for Books For Youth.
“We knew we wanted to get involved,” said Chris. “To be able to reach a kid who, life hasn’t gone his way and it’s not his fault or her fault, those opportunities for our family to give back and to reach those children are important to us.”
“They need a chance to read, succeed in life and if we can be a part of that, then that’s what we want to do,” said Kristin. “It’s just a passion for us and I think it should be a passion for the community.”
The Ballards are parents to five children, including two they adopted through the foster system.
Leicester City’s Europa League hunt, and effectively their season, came to an end with Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley.
Here, reporter James Sharpe looks at five of the key talking points from Turf Moor.
Stats point to positive future under Puel
While Claude Puel’s face filled the screen on Match of the Day as the Leicester City manager gave his reaction to a defeat at Burnley, a curious little graphic flicked into the bottom right-hand corner.
We all know by now that xG measures the quality of chances a team has in a game and gives a number that represents the probability of those shots resulting in a goal.
In short: City had better chances to win the game than Burnley did.
Of course, that matters little to City fans who have just watched their team gift Burnley a 2-0 headstart inside 10 minutes on their way to killing off their chances of European football.
“Expected goals in such a pointless thing,” came one comment on social media. “The thing that mattered was it was 2-1. Burnley are seventh and we are nine points behind. It’s a nonsense stat.”
Now, of course it is the ‘balls into onion bag’ number that is the most important, but xG does have its uses, especially in the on-going debate over Leicester’s long-term style under Puel.
What xG does do is give you a clear idea of how effective your general play is. Or, at least, *should* be over time. Not just in one game.
Based on xG this season, Leicester would have eight more points and would be seventh.
That does not mean they should be seventh. Variables such as individual defensive errors and missed chances mean that Leicester should be eighth, nine points off Burnley.
But what it does show is that, over time, Puel’s approach should be able to bring sustainable positive results. And sustainability in the top half is what the owners want.
xG won’t change the result at Burnley, but it should at least give some hope for the future.
Morgan criticism justified (for once)
Plenty of the space in this column over recent months has been given to defending the performances of City captain Wes Morgan in the face of growing criticism.
Supporters had been frustrated at the decision to bring Morgan straight back into the side after injury, despite Aleksandar Dragovic performing well alongside Harry Maguire in his absence.
A fair view, and harsh on Dragovic. But Morgan is the captain: highly popular and influential in the dressing room. And his performances were still solid, and some opinions became twisted and premeditated because of it.
However, over the last few games Morgan’s performances have been poor and his mistakes have led to City conceding goals and, in turn, points. The criticism is now justified.
But should Morgan’s role as captain have any effect on his place? Nigel Pearson used to say that every player’s position is up for grabs, but the captain’s place is different.
Should Morgan’s popularity among his team-mates, his influence, play a role in Puel’s decision? How would his removal from the side affect dressing-room morale or squad happiness with the manager? Should that even matter?
This is the man who lifted the Premier League trophy. But he is struggling for form. It is a sensitive subject, but these are the decisions which Puel is paid to make.
Choudhury makes most of Ndidi’s suspension
Puel has got another decision to make for the visit of Southampton. Wilfred Ndidi returns from his two-game suspension and will come straight back into the starting line-up.
The question is: who should partner him? Adrien Silva or Hamza Choudhury?
Choudhury has been excellent in his last two games and, for the start of his full debut at Burnley, looked more assured than Silva.
It would be harsh to leave Choudhury out, but he is potentially too similar a ball-winner to Ndidi. And while Silva had a disastrous start at Turf Moor, he did improve and his creativity is likely to be needed.
Regardless, Choudhury has done enough to show, with time and experience, that he will become a mainstay of the first-team for years to come.
Time for experimenting is now
Well, that’s that then. Barring a miracle, Leicester will have to wait another year for European football.
Five games left to see if you finish eighth or 12th. What is left to play for? Other than pride and prize money, little.
What should Puel do now? Is now the time to phase out those players who he feels cannot adapt to his style ready for a summer clear-out?
Is it time to bring in more of the youngsters to see who can make the grade? Centre-back Sam Hughes continues to bang in the goals for the development squad. He could be worth a try.
This is the first time in a long while that Leicester have nothing to play for. As frustrating as that has been, at least make the most of it.
Hamer’s final chance to shine for City?
For a few weeks now, there have been growing murmurings that Kasper Schmeichel could do with a spell outside of the team.
A couple of rash errors, and some wayward kicking, has tested some fans’ patience with City’s No.1.
Well, they might just get their wish now. Schmeichel limped off late in the defeat at Burnley and will need to assessed ahead of Thursday.
Not only will those fans get to see whether their wishes were well-placed, it is also a great chance for Ben Hamer to showcase his talents to either Puel or potential suitors as he approaches the end of his contract.
Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri saw his team take another stride towards Serie A glory and told them to show Real Madrid their true colours at the Bernabeu.
The Scudetto is not yet wrapped up, but a 4-2 win at Benevento on Saturday allowed Juventus to build a seven-point cushion over Napoli.
That was a lead they knew could be clipped to four on Sunday when the second-placed Neapolitans play Chievo.
After the disappointment of losing 3-0 at home to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal last Tuesday, Allegri wants it to be a different story in Madrid on Wednesday.
Madrid also mauled Juventus in last year’s European final so there is a score to settle.
“You can have no complaints when you lose 3-0 but for the first hour it was more evenly matched than the final in Cardiff and the games [in this season’s group stage] against Barcelona,” Allegri said on Saturday.
“The whole world will be watching on Wednesday and we have to produce a top performance.”
Paulo Dybala scored a hat trick against Benevento, including two penalties, and victory was wrapped up by a terrific long-range strike into the top corner from Douglas Costa.
Benevento twice netted through Cheick Diabate, each time getting them back to level terms, before Juventus pulled away to secure the victory.
Allegri, though, felt there was room for improvement in his team’s display.
He told the Juventus website the team “ran too many risks,” adding: “We let our opponents have too many chances.
“We must defend better when we’re in our own half. We were good at closing them down in their half but we did less well when we were on the back foot.
“We’ve been allowing the opposition too many shots recently and you get spells like this over the course of a season. The main thing is you’re aware of it and you try to avoid it in the next game.”
Benevento sit at the foot of Serie A, with relegation looking inevitable.
Juventus have eyes on the trophy and Dybala said the Turin outfit can seal the title in style by winning all seven of their remaining league games.
Dybala said: “Napoli won’t go away so we need to remain calm and focused, because we control our destiny.”
The Derby della Madonnina always raises the blood pressure of both Inter Milan and AC Milan fans, no matter what the circumstances are.
This replay Wednesday is certainly no different.
Both teams still have a lot to play for this late in the season.
For the Nerazzurri, all eyes are on a Champions League position which many feel will be the solution to all of our woes.
Will it? Not likely, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
After Sunday’s win over Hellas Verona, Inter sit in fourth – just two points back of Roma – with a game in-hand over the capital club and a point ahead of Lazio who crushed Benevento over the weekend.
Now, we all know that Juventus and Napoli are out of reach. There is no realistic way for Inter to crack the top two this season because of how both the aforementioned teams have performed. It’s unfortunate considering how Inter started the season, but it is what it is.
For Interisti, we have to hope for a top four finish to get back to Europe. And, despite our fall on challenging times in December and January, it is still within our grasp. Which more speaks to the weakness of Serie A’s midtable teams than our ability to keep in the chase.
A win Wednesday puts us over Roma and into third, but by no means secures a spot in the Champions League. But, a loss for Milan likely ends their season chasing the Europa League – which would be great for Inter fans for us to say we shut the door on our rivals.
At this point, it really doesn’t matter how Milan finishes, so long as it isn’t above us. Barring a complete let-down by us and a run of the table for Milan, it is unlikely they finish above us this year. Of course, in the process of writing that I realize I may have jinxed it a bit.
The one certain thing is that Inter Milan controls its own fate. Win and we are in, lose and we leave our future to Roma and Lazio to determine.
The fact of the matter is that we are resting a lot of the future on qualifying for Europe next season. We are banking, literally, on it so much that qualification will have a direct impact on our squad for the next season.
Earning qualification likely means we keep Joao Cancelo and Rafinha, restructure Mauro Icardi’s contract with confidence and keep Luciano Spalletti for another five years or more. Not qualifying means all of those factors come into question.
Not qualifying means we likely ship either Cancelo or Rafinha back, or both. Negotiating Icardi’s contract becomes harder because we lose a lot of contractual leverage. Plus, any hopes of adding anyone withers on the proverbial vine. No Javier Pastore, no anyone.
The belt-tightening by the Suning Group almost assures no new funds infused into the club unless from additional sponsorships or the cash from Champions League football.
It’s not all gloom and doom. With where we currently sit, the Europa League is a strong possibility as Serie A gets its fifth- and sixth-place teams in. The fifth-place team goes to the Group Stage while the sixth-place finisher enters the second qualifying round. But, let’s be honest, we don’t want Europa League. It will be fine, but not the goal and many will see it as a failure despite missing European football completely this season.
Inter Milan should look to build around and not sell Mauro Icardi
For Lautaro Martinez, the next stop is Inter Milan
Wanda Nara: “We’re optimistic about extending Icardi’s contract”
The reality is we are no where near out of the woods and nothing is assured at this stage. With eight games remaining after the Derby, a win gives us a lot of hope with Torino, Atalanta, Cagliari, Chievo, Juventus, Udinese, Sassuolo and Lazio left to round out the regular season.
A loss means Inter has to get wins where it is supposed to in at least six of those remaining games to remain in contention for the Champions League. Plus, we would need help from others to give losses to Roma, Lazio and Milan.
Not that winning Wednesday means we are in, because it certainly doesn’t. But, consider the confidence it will give to the team heading into winnable games in the next four weeks.
Michy Batshuayi has joked his place in the Borussia Dortmund first team could be in jeopardy after Usain Bolt’s trial with the Bundesliga side last week.
Bolt took part in a Dortmund training session last Friday with the eight-time Olympic gold medallist even netting from a header during a practice game.
Batshuayi joined Dortmund on loan from Chelsea in January and has hit eight goals in 11 matches since moving to Germany, but still joked he was fearful of the increased competition for places Bolt could provide.
“I watched the videos,” Batshuayi told Belgian media while on international duty. “He did nutmegs and scored a good goal. He’s a champion. He pushes himself beyond his limits every day. He wants to beat all the records. He’s trying to establish himself in another sport, that’s classy, I’m happy for him. But I hope he doesn’t come and take my place.”
Bolt, the Jamaican 100 metres and 200 metres world-record holder, seeks to make his way in the professional game and said he was hopeful of taking part in further sessions with Dortmund.
“It’s a bit of a shame to have missed [Bolt’s trial],” Batshuayi said. “I hope he’ll still be there when I get back and we can exchange a few passes.”
Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes congratulated RB Leipzig on a “deserved” 2-1 victory over his side on Sunday.
RB Leipzig shook off an early Sandro Wagner goal to collect their first-ever win over the Bavarians, getting goals from Naby Keita and Timo Werner to seal the deal.
And Heynckes, whose side still sit comfortably atop the Bundesliga table, said after the match: “We met a Leipzig side today who right from the start were full of strong running, extremely aggressive and displayed good pressing. They also did this in St Petersburg on Thursday [in the Europe League].
“I warned against this and we didn’t play like we have done in recent weeks. If we had played over the 90 minutes like we did in the last half hour then we would not have lost.
“But we have to clearly admit that Leipzig deserved to win the game. They had some great chances in the first half which [goalkeeper] Sven Ulreich saved well.
“We had some clear chances in the final half hour but there are such games like this where you don’t perform so convincingly and your defensive work isn’t up to our usual standards.
“We deservedly came second.
“We have to fight to secure wins and we have to appreciate the fact that we faced an exceptional opponent in Leipzig.”
Heynckes left his Bayern future open to interpretation earlier this month when he said he has not definitely committed to leaving the club in the summer.
And he was asked whether he would discuss his position with the board over the international break.
“No, I am driving home and taking a week’s holiday,” Heynckes said.
FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scored his 600th senior goal recently, joining an illustrious club of just eight players who have achieved this. Here are all eight stars who have netted more than 600 official goals in their career.
Click through the gallery above to see all eight players who have scored more than 600 official goals.
The Argentine netted a brace against Chelsea to take his career tally to 602 strikes – 541 with FC Barcelona and another 61 when wearing his national team’s colours.
Of his goals for the Barca, 100 of them came in the UEFA Champions League, becoming only the second player behind Cristiano Ronaldo to reach this mark.
The 30-year-old scored another 373 in LaLiga, 47 in the Copa del Rey, 13 in the Spanish Super Cup, five at the FIFA Club World Cup and another three in UEFA Super Cups.
Only seven players have scored more official career goals than the Blaugrana talisman, according to AS.
His longstanding rival Cristiano Ronaldo sits in sixth place in the ranking, having scored 641 career goals. He currently sits on 439 strikes for Real Madrid, 118 during his time at Manchester United, five in his early days at Sporting Lisbon and another 79 for Portugal.
Read: Conte: What I Told Messi After Chelsea’s UCL Exit
Brazil legend Pele sits at the top of the ranking with 757 goals – 77 in Selecao colours, 643 for Brazilian club Santos and the rest coming from his later stint in Major League Soccer.
Olivier Giroud insists Antonio Conte has the full backing of the Chelsea squad despite back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Manchester City.
The Blues lost further ground in the race for the top four after a 1-0 defeat to City at the Etihad on Sunday, leaving them five points off Spurs in fifth.
The defeat means Chelsea have lost four of their last five Premier League matches and they host Crystal Palace before a daunting trip to Barcelona in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie next week.
Giroud was thrown on as a late substitute against City and the Frenchman, recently signed from Arsenal, insists.
‘It is not a crisis.We played United & City away,’ said Giroud.
‘Obviously, we could have done better but these are not small games.We are not happy with that.
‘It is not the day and the moment to question whether we are behind the boss or not. Obviously we are behind him and together.’
The speculation over Conte’s future has intensified over recent weeks and Italy are keen on hiring him again as their national coach.
The Italian has 15 months to run on his existing deal having signed fresh terms with the club after last season’s title-winning campaign.