Pepe Reina Joins Aston Villa on Short-Term Loan

Pepe Reina is headed to the United Kingdom…

The 37-year-old Spanish footballer and former Liverpool goalkeeper has joined Aston Villa on a short-term deal from AC Milan.

Pepe Reina

Reina, who has also played for BarcelonaVillarrealBayern Munich and Napoliand was part of the Spain squad that won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championshipin 2008 and 2012, was mainly a back-up to Milan No. 1 Gianluigi Donnarumma during his time at the San Siro.

Reina spent eight years at Liverpool between 2005 and 2013, winning an FA Cup, a Football LeagueCup, a FA Community Shieldand a UEFA Super Cup.

He ended his Liverpool career with a yearlong loan move to Napoli before permanently joining Bayern in 2014. He lasted just one year at the Allianz Arenabefore returning to Napoli for three years.

Reina made his international debut against Uruguayin 2005 but spent much of his career with Spain as the second choice goalkeeper to Iker Casillas.

Villa were keen to sign a goalkeeper after their first choice Tom Heatonsustained a season-ending injury.

FC Barcelona Stepping Up Efforts to Bring Neymar Back Into the Fold

Will Neymar return to Spain?

Futbol Club Barcelona will reportedly step up the team’s efforts to sign the 27-year-old Brazilian professional footballer next summer, according to ESPN.

Neymar

The Barca hierarchy believes that Neymar is the natural replacement for Lionel Messi. The club believe it’ll be easier to bring Neymar back to Camp Nouonce Messi is gone, given that Neymar has already played there and there aren’t too many players at his level.

The Brazil international retains a good relationship with Barca despite his acrimonious exit to Paris Saint-Germainfor a world-record €222 million fee.

Mundo Deportivo‘s front page earlier this week said Barca will attempt to sign the forward depending on his performances during the second half of the season, when PSG will look to finally win the Champions League.

Neymar has a tense relationship with the French champions, who refused to let him join Barca last summer despite the club’s best efforts.

PSG’s owners continue to make things difficult for Barca, which could go to FIFAto decide a fee, given the player has been at the club for three years and has no release clause.

Lionel Messi Wins Record Sixth Ballon d’Or

Make that a whopping six for Lionel Messi

The 32-year-old Argentine soccer star became the first men’s footballer to win the Ballon d’Or award for a sixth time, taking the award for the world’s top men’s player on Monday at a Paris gala.

iLionel Messi

Messi scored 46 times for club and country in 2019 — including the only goal in FC Barcelona‘s 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday. He also helped the Camp Nou side win La Liga.

Messi beat out Liverpooldefender Virgil van Dijk, who was instrumental in helping Liverpool win the Champions League, for the award voted on by a panel of international journalists.

“I am very lucky, I am blessed. I hope I will continue for a long time,” Messi told reporters. “I realize that I’m lucky even if one day it will be time to retire.

“It will be tough, but I still have some years ahead of me. Time flies, so I will enjoy football and my family.”

Messi also came out on top in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 and he is now one clear of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane finished fourth behind Ronaldo in the final voting.

“It was amazing,” Van Dijk said. “There are a couple of players like him [Messi] who are fantastic. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with Liverpool and Holland. It’s going to be tough [to win the award] when these guys are around.”

Messi’s and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the award organized by France Footballmagazine was ended last year by Luka Modric.

But Messi was back on top of his game over the past 12 months. He scored 36 times last season en route to a 10th Spanish La Liga title, and was the Champions League top scorer. His goals in La Liga also made him the top scorer in Europe’s biggest leagues, earning him the Golden Shoeaward.

“A few years ago, I received my first Ballon d’Or here in Paris,” Messi said. “I was 22 years old. It was something unthinkable at the time. Today is my sixth Ballon d’Or. As my wife used to say, you should never stop dreaming but always work to improve and continue to enjoy yourself.”

United States soccer star Megan Rapinoewon the Women’s Ballon d’Oraward after being voted the tournament’s best player and joint top scorer as the USWNTwon the 2019 World Cupin France.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was the first-ever recipient of the Yachine Trophy, given to the best goalkeeper. The 27-year-old Brazilian international beat out Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona and countryman Ederson of Manchester City.

Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, a key player in Ajax Amsterdam‘s thrilling run to the Champions League semifinals and now at Juventus, won the Kopa Trophyfor the best under-21 male player in the world.

Lionel Messi Leads Barcelona to 1-0 Win Over Atletico Madrid

Lionel Messi leads Barcelona back to the top of the standings…

The 32-year-old Argentine soccer star hit a sensational late goal on Sunday to give Barcelona FC a 1-0 win against rival Atletico Madrid, as the team reclaimed the top spot in La Liga from Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi

Messi, playing his 701st game for Barca, settled a pulsating and tense encounter in the 86th minute, galloping down the right wing before cutting inside and playing a one-two with Luis Suarez before guiding the ball into the bottom corner.

It was Messi’s first goal against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium and gave his side their first win over their rivals at the ground in three attempts after successive draws in the last two seasons.

“Whenever you have a game like this which is really tight and really tough, being able to count on Messi is always an advantage,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.

The strike saw Barca return to the top of the standings with 31 points after 14 games, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference, while Atletico were left in the sixth spot with 25 points, having played one match more than Barca and Real.

Both sides hit the woodwork and Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen also made two stunning saves, while Atletico felt that Gerard Pique should have been shown a second yellow card in the second half for a late tackle on Alvaro Morata.

Atletico were also fortunate not to have a player sent off when Vitolo slammed into Pique’s knee with a fierce challenge a few minutes later after picking up an earlier booking.

“We feel very hard done by,” said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez. “We played superbly and Barcelona had hardly any chances but when Messi appears he is capable of doing anything and he made it look so easy, that’s why he is the best.”

Atletico had won only one of their previous six games in all competitions and looked intent on making an early statement as they came out pressing Barca high up the pitch and peppering their box with crosses.

Lionel Messi Among the Barcelona FC Teammates Featured in New Documentary “Matchday”

Lionel Messi is sharing his life story with the world…

Matchday, a new behind the scenes documentary about Barcelona FC‘s 2018-19 season gives viewers access to exclusive never seen before footage, including a special look at the 32-year-old Argentine soccer star.

Lionel Messi

The documentary, narrated by Hollywood actor John Malkovich, offers a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s biggest soccer stars.

The documentary centers on eight key games from last season where Barcawon La Liga and reached the semifinals of the Champions League, where it was blown away by Liverpoolin one of the greatest comebacks in the history of European football.

There’s also footage from outside the locker room with cameras being allowed into the players’ homes including a barbecue at Luis Suarez‘s house where he’s joined by Messi and Jordi Alba.

Gerard Piqueis also featured, spending time with his family, while Ivan Rakiticshows off his culinary skills and Marc-Andre ter Stegentalks about designing his new home.

Last week, in front of an adoring home crowd at the Camp Nouin a Champions League match against German team Borussia Dortmund, Messi made it 700 appearances for Barca, games in which he’s contributed 613 goals and 237 assists.

Messi scored one and set up two others as Barca claimed top spot in Group F with a 3-1 win over Dortmund.

Barca is just the latest big soccer club to allow cameras into the club. Manchester Cityand Juventushave both been subjects of documentaries while a series on Tottenhamis currently being filmed by Amazon.

The series, which consists of eight 45-minute episodes, is being broadcast by Rakuten TV , with the documentary also being shown in Japan.

Rafael Nadal Leads Spain to Davis Cup Title Over Canada

Rafael Nadalhas helped Spain win big…

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star, ranked No. 1 in the world, risked injury by playing eight matches — five singles, three doubles — in six days at the Davis Cup Finals, the new World Cup of tennis.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal won all of them, leading Spain to its sixth Davis Cup title after a 2-0 win over first-time finalist Canada on Sunday.

But in Nadal’s view, the only hero for Spain was grieving teammate Roberto Bautista Agut. He sent Spain on its way to victory by winning the first singles match on Sunday, three days after the death of his father.

“I’ve won the eight matches but the person who was vital in this Davis Cup was Roberto,” Nadal said. “For me, what he did was something almost inhuman. I don’t know how to explain it. It will be an example for the rest of my life. He had to leave, then his dad died, then he came back and practiced with us yesterday, and today he was ready again to play at a very high level. It was something incredible.”

Spain Davis Cup

Before Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to clinch the title — Spain’s first since also winning at home in 2011 — Bautista Agut had given Spain a 1-0 lead by beating Felix Auger-Aliassime7-6 (3), 6-3.

Bautista Agut pointed his finger to the sky after winning the final point in his match, and was in tears while speaking briefly to the crowd, which chanted his name. And he was the Spanish player lifting the cup in the title celebrations.

Bautista Agut’s father died on Thursday — a day after his son had defeated Nikola Mektic of Croatia — with his health deteriorating quickly after an illness that stemmed from a 2016 accident.

Bautista Agut, No. 9 in the world, played as teammates Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers nursed injuries entering the final.

As for Nadal, he considered himself lucky to be able to play all matches.

“It’s true that I held up, but we know that playing so many matches in this [hard-court] surface is risky for me, something can happen at any time,” Nadal said. “That’s how it’s been in the past, but luckily I held up.”

Spain’s Granollers and Feliciano Lopezhad been scheduled to face Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisilin the now-canceled doubles match, although Nadal was likely to play if the title had been at stake. Nadal played in the decisive doubles on Friday and Saturday.

Voted the tournament’s best player, Nadal sealed the title with his 29th straight Davis Cup singles win, igniting the home crowd’s celebrations.

Tournament organizer and Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, his wife Shakira — who performed in the closing ceremony — and Spanish King Felipe VI were among those celebrating Spain’s triumph.

Spain’s other Davis Cup titles were in 2000, ’04, ’08, ’09 and ’11.

The new Davis Cup Finals is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the Kosmos group co-founded by Pique.

David Villa & Investment Group to Launch Queensboro FC as a United Soccer League Franchise

David Villais bringing futbolto Queens… 

An investment group including the 37-year-old Spanish professional footballer and former World Cup champion has been granted a United Soccer League( USL) franchise in New York City.

David Villa

Queensboro FC will begin play in 2021 in the USL Championship, the second division of professional soccer in the United States. It will host its home matches in a new, modular stadium at York Collegein Queens that will have a capacity of around 7,500. The new team will also play select home matches at Citi Field, home of MLB‘s New York Mets.

“Bringing professional football to Queens’ diverse community is an exciting and unique opportunity,” Villa said in a statement to ESPN. “The beautiful game already lives here, thanks to the melting pot of cultures who are so passionate about the sport. I can’t think of a better place for QBFC to grow. I’m proud to be part of this project.”

Rumors that the USL was planning to place a team in New York City, as well as Villa’s involvement, emerged last summer. Now those plans have come to fruition for the former New York City FCforward and 2016 MLS MVP.

Villa, who counts Sporting GijonReal ZaragozaValenciaBarcelonaand Atletico Madridamong the clubs he’s played for, spent the 2019 campaign in Japan with J1 Leagueside Vissel Kobe.

“I’m proud to say I’ve had a long-running connection to Queens,” said Villa. “I lived here for four years while I was developing my football academies, teaching kids not just how to play the sport but to appreciate the game’s values, too. Queens is — and always has been — special. You feel the passion for football walking the streets.

“It’s why we’re proud to bring a professional team to this borough. It’s the obvious next step following the clinics, summer camps, academies and various other programs for boys and girls we’ve held in Astoria, Flushing and at Queens College.”

The investment group is led by Jonathan Krane, CEO of New York City-based asset management companyKraneShares. Krane has previously been involved with the USL. This past season KraneShares was the away jersey sponsor of USL Championship side New Mexico United.

“The opportunity to bring professional soccer to Queens has long been a dream of mine and I can’t wait to deliver a USL Championship club that Queens can be proud of,” he said. “I’m thrilled to work with David and represent the borough to the fullest as we look forward to kickoff in 2021.”

In order to focus on his ownership responsibilities, as well as leading the day-to-day soccer operations, Villa will have retired from professional soccer by the time the team begins playing in 2021. Among his goals is to build an academy for local and international talent to develop.

“We will recruit the best players in Queens as we become the home team,” said Villa. “We have a built-in advantage in the number of talented players in the borough. The sporting level in USL is high, which means we have to be demanding in the quality of our athletes. But our goal is to have as many Queens-bred players as possible.”

The USL Championship currently has 34 teams, with San Diego set to come on board next season. Oakland East Bay will join alongside QBFC in 2021.

“Announcing a USL Championship club in Queens is a big moment for our league,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “When we consider expansion, we’re primarily looking for three things: A community who is passionate about soccer, a strong local ownership group, and a pathway towards a soccer-specific stadium. With QBFC, we have all three, and with Jon and David at the helm, we believe this has the potential to be something very special.”

Giovani dos Santos Kicks Winning Penalty in Club America Debut

Giovani dos Santosis debuting with a banger…

The 30-year-old Mexican professional footballer kicked the winning penalty in his Club America debut as the Liga MX giants overcame Houston Dynamo 6-5 on penalties in the quarterfinal of the Leagues Cup on Wednesday after the game had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Giovani dos Santos

Nico Benedetti had given America the lead in the 73rd minute inside BBVA Stadium, but veteran DaMarcus Beasleystruck a golazo from a tight angle five minutes from time to take the game to penalties after a close-fought 90 minutes.

Dos Santos, a former Barcelonaforward, entered the field in the 57th minute with the score at 0-0 in his first appearance for a Mexican club and was involved in the build-up as Colombian Benedetti latched onto a Nico Castilloback-heel to break through the Dynamo defense and finish.

Houston coach Wilber Cabrerahad made changes to his usual starting XI for the team’s first Leagues Cup game, but the Texan team battled hard in the first half and was the more dangerous side, with America not appearing secure at the back.

But Las Aguilas improved after the break, took the lead through Benedetti and looked to be on course for victory, until 37-year-old Beasley’s late equalizer for the Dynamo.

America goalkeeper Agustin Marchesinsaved Romell Quioto‘s first penalty and Roger Martinezhad the opportunity to win it in round five of the shootout, but his spot kick went over the bar. Dos Santos’ winner came after Samuel Junquahad failed to convert his penalty for the Dynamo.

America will face the winner of Real Salt Lakeversus Tigresin the semifinal of the tournament on August 20, with LA Galaxytaking on Cruz Azulin the other side of the draw.

The Leagues Cup final is on September 18 in Las Vegas.

Lionel Messi to Play for the Argentina National Team in March

Lionel Messi will be kickin’ it for his homeland…

The 31-year-old soccer star, a forward for Barcelona, will return to the Argentina national team for their March friendlies against Venezuela and Czech Republic, according to ESPN, ending his self-imposed exile from the squad.

Lionel Messi

Messi has not featured for Argentina since captaining the team at the World Cup, where they were knocked out by winners France.

Argentina take on Venezuela in Madrid on March 22 and the Czech Republic in Dresden, Germany, four days later, with the friendlies part of their preparations for the Copa Americain June.

Argentina coach Lionel Scalonisaid last week he had “a good feeling” the five-time Ballon d’Orwinner would return in March.

Asked about Messi’s possible return, Scaloni told reporters: “We will probably talk days before we provide the list for the FIFAMarch window.

“When the time comes, we will speak to him, and we have a good feeling. I hope he can be with us and be happy.”

Scaloni, who took charge of Argentina on a temporary basis after the World Cup before accepting the role full-time last month, said his only regret so far was not having had the chance to coach Messi.

Messi, who spent Christmasin his native Rosario, has yet to publicly speak about his national-team future.

Lionel Messi Wins Record Fifth Golden Shoe as Europe’s Top Goal Scorer

Lionel Messi is making history again…

The 31-year-old Argentine soccer star has earned his fifth Golden Shoe prize for being the top goal scorer in Europe last season.

Lionel Messi

Messi, who said he never expected to have such a successful career, scored 34 times in La Liga last season to claim his fifth Golden Shoe award, one more than JuventusCristiano Ronaldo has won.

Messi beat out Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to the prize after the Egyptian netted 32 times in the Premier League.

“When I started playing I did not expect all this. My dream was, obviously, to be a professional, but I didn’t imagine so much,” Messi said at a gala in Barcelona.

“This is thanks to hard work and effort and, above all, my teammates. I have the best players in the world in their positions playing beside me and that makes everything easier and lets me win these prizes.”

Messi, who also earned the Golden Shoe in 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2016-17, led Barcelona to a league and cup domestic double last season.

The forward leads La Liga’s top scorers chart with 14 goals in this campaign, more than any other player in the top five European leagues.