Lionel Messi Among Finalists for FIFA’s Annual Awards List for Best Men’s Player of 2020-21 Season

Lionel Messi is back in familiar territory… 

The 34-year-old Argentine soccer star, who plays as a forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and captains the Argentina national team, appears on FIFA‘s annual awards list for best men’s player of the 2020-21 season.

Lionel Messi

Messi appears on a finalist alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and last year’s winner, Robert Lewandowski.

A men’s list dominated by forwards was completed by Mohamed SalahKylian MbappeErling HaalandKevin De BruyneKarim Benzema and Neymar in the nominations by a FIFA-appointed panel. Two Chelsea players — Jorginho and N’Golo Kante — rounded out the 11 candidates.

There are no defenders or goalkeepers in contention for the main FIFA award, though goalkeepers have their own separate award.

Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was named player of the tournament at Euro 2020, is among the five goalkeeping candidates.

Robert Mancini, who led Italy to the European title, is among seven candidates for the men’s coaching award that include Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel and Lionel Scaloni, whose Argentina team won the Copa America.

The winner of the women’s award last year, England defender Lucy Bronze, is nominated again and the 13 candidates include her national and Manchester City teammate Ellen White.

Olympic gold medal-winning Canada has just one candidate, veteran forward Christine Sinclair, 19 years after she was first voted into the top 10.

No player was nominated from the United States women’s team, which took bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Two men and three women are in contention to be the best coach in women’s football. They include Bev Priestman of Canada, Lluis Cortes of European champion Barcelona, and Emma Hayes of runner-up Chelsea.

Votes in all categories from national team captains and coaches, fans and media worldwide will be collected through Dec. 10. A virtual ceremony will be held on Jan. 17 remotely, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, from FIFA headquarters in Zurich. Ahead of the awards, three-candidate shortlists will be announced for each award, FIFA said.

Lionel Messi to Play in Argentina’s World Cup Qualifier Match Against Brazil

Lionel Messi is returning to international play…

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer and Argentina captain is fit again, and he’s set to start during Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil on Tuesday.

Lionel MessiMeanwhile, Neymar will miss out for the visitors after feeling pain in his thigh, according to to team.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made similar comments ahead of their last game, a 1-0 win over Uruguay on Friday, although Messi only appeared for the final 14 minutes of the match.

Argentina are second in South America’s 10-team qualifying group, six points behind Brazil, who are the only team from the region to have secured their place at Qatar 2022 so far.

Scaloni repeated that Messi, 34, had recovered fully from the knee and hamstring issues that kept him out of Paris Saint-Germain‘s last two games and was ready for one of the biggest matches in the South American calendar.

“He was physically fit the other day and in the end we decided that the best thing was for him to play a few minutes so that he could get a feel for it and he is confirmed to play tomorrow,” Scaloni said of Tuesday’s match in San Juan.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game. They are the team that leads the qualifiers and they are already through to the finals.”

Brazil will be without Neymar after their top scorer reported feeling pains in the adductor region of his left thigh.

Neymar Jr. said he felt insecure about the situation and as there is not enough time to carry out complementary exams the technical commission decided to rest the player who will not travel with the team to San Juan, location of Tuesday’s game against Argentina,” the Brazil team said in a statement.

The top four teams in South American qualifying progress automatically to next year’s FIFA World Cup finals and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.

Argentina are unbeaten in 26 games, a run that includes a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro in July.

FIFA Approves Julian Araujo’s Switch From United States to Mexico

Julian Araujo is switching (international) sides…

After playing one game for the United States, the 20-year-old Mexican American defender has been cleared to change his national eligibility to Mexico, according to FIFA.

Julian Araujo

The LA Galaxy defender made his debut for the U.S. last December, starting at right back in a 6-0 win over El Salvador.

Araujo, who is from Lompoc, California, previously represented the U.S. at age-group levels through the Under-23 team.

In March, he played for the U.S. U23 team against Mexico in a 2020 Tokyo Games qualification game.

Mexico won 1-0 and eventually advanced to Tokyo, getting a bronze medal.

As a dual national with Mexican family ties, Araujo was eligible within FIFA’s rules to switch national teams and was yet to play a competitive game for the U.S. senior team.

“My heart is with Mexico,” Araujo said in a statement on Tuesday. “I’m grateful for every opportunity that U.S. Soccer has provided me to help me grow as a soccer player and now I am excited to continue my international career with Mexico.”

Mexico faces the U.S. in their 2022 World Cup quaIification group on November 12 in Cincinnati.

Miguel Avalos Signs Professional Contract with LA Galaxy II

Miguel Avalos is looking forward to officially playing pro soccer…

The Mexican-American soccer player and Mexico Under-17 international has signed a professional contract with LA Galaxy II of the USL Championship, according to ESPN.

Miguel Avalos

After attending a showcase held in 2018 by Alianza de Futbol, Avalos was signed by Liga MX side Pachuca. But Avalos, a native of Santa Rosa, California, was unable to play in games due to FIFA rules prohibiting players under the age of 18 from moving to a different country purely for soccer purposes. Now another door to professional soccer has opened with the Galaxy II.

“It’s very exciting, because I was in Pachuca for about a year and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play because of the FIFA rule,” Avalos said in an exclusive interview with ESPN. “So, moving out here to LA, it’s amazing being able to play, and I’m excited to play this season.”

Avalos, who projects as a two-way midfielder, has been training with Los Dos [LA Galaxy II] since last July, giving him some time to adapt to the increased physicality that comes with playing against older players. The presence of Galaxy director of methodology Juan Carlos Ortega, who was previously involved with Mexico’s youth national teams, provided an additional boost.

“It hasn’t been easy, but at the same time it’s also really good playing with older players, a lot more experienced players,” Avalos said. “It’s gonna help me develop as a player, not only on the field, off the field as well.”

Avalos’ move to the Galaxy organization was hampered by the fact that Sacramento Republic held the player’s MLS Homegrown rights. But with Sacramento’s expansion bid on indefinite hold following the withdrawal of lead investor Ron Burkle, as well as the fact that LA Galaxy II is technically under the auspices of the USL, allowed the player to move under the Galaxy umbrella.

As a dual national, Avalos has the chance to represent either Mexico or the U.S., but at the moment he’s firmly in the Mexico camp.

“It’s not an easy decision,” he said of his international future. “The U.S., they haven’t reached out to me, not yet. But if it comes down to it, and I had to make a decision, I’d have to talk to my family about that.”

Efrain Alvarez Selected by Mexican & United States Under-23 National Teams

Efrain Alvarez is weighing his options…

The 18-year-old professional soccer player and LA Galaxy forward has been selected by both the Mexican and United States under-23 national teams, as the two nations compete to have Alvarez represent them at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

Efrain Alvarez

This week, CONCACAF announced the official preliminary rosters for all eight teams participating in the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament, set to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico from March 18 to March 30. Though Alvarez appears on both the rosters for Mexico and the United States, the player will need to make a decision by March 8, the latest any country can submit their final 20-player roster.

Alvarez, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, is eligible to represent both countries under FIFA‘s statutes for dual-nationals. In the past, he has played for the United States at the under-15 level before switching to participate with Mexico’s under-15 and under-17 squads. With El Tri, Alvarez played in the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, scoring four goals and guiding Mexico to a second place finish.

However, Alvarez accepted a call into the United States men’s national team last December, for a training camp that included fellow dual-national and LA Galaxy teammate Julian Araujo. Afterward, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter gushed over Alvarez, praising his ability to play in multiple positions on offense.

“What I saw today in training is [that] he’s a guy you want to be around the ball, a very creative player, has a good change of pace, very good in tight spaces,” Berhalter said at the time.

Berhalter admitted that despite the invitation, Alvarez had not decided whether to pursue a one-time switch to join the United States and cement his international future. Under the new FIFA eligibility rules, players like Alvarez are able to change allegiances before the age of 21 if they have played less than three competitive matches at the senior level.

Mexico will face the United States in the final Group A match on March 24.

Catarina Macario Signs Two-and-a-Half Year Deal with Lyon

Catarina Macario is future Lyon queen

The 21-year-old Brazilian soccer player and USWNT prospect, who recently announced plans to leave Stanford and go pro, has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Lyon, the club has announced.

Catarina Macario

Macario announced on Friday that she’d forego the final year with Stanford in favor of turning professional.

ESPN reported on Monday that Lyon were leading the race for Macario with a contract on the table but that both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were also still interested in the midfielder.

“It’s an honor to have signed with such a fantastic club,” Macario said in a tweet.

“I can’t wait to get started and to continue to build on its legacy of success. Allez l’OL!”

Sources told ESPN that Macario was attracted to Europe rather than the National Women’s Soccer League as she wants to win the Champions League while competing in the Olympics and World Cup.

Macario scored 63 goals in 68 games for Stanford and contributed 47 assists.

She won the MAC Hermann Trophy twice and an NCAA College Cup in her three seasons at Stanford.

She became a United States citizen in October and has joined every USWNT camp since, including their ongoing January camp.

However, Macario is still waiting on approval from FIFA to allow her to play games with the national side.

She’ll travel to France after the USWNT training ends on January 22.

Andres Perea Granted Permission to Represent United States

Andres Perea is switching (international) sides

The 20-year-old professional soccer player and Orlando City SC midfielder has been granted a one-time switch from Colombia to represent the United States.

Andres Perea

Perea, a Tampa, Florida native, moved to Colombia at an early age, rising through the club ranks at Atletico Nacional. He went on to represent Colombia at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 and U20 World Cup two years later before joining Orlando City on loan last season.

Perea, who’s at the January camp with the U-23 U.S. men’s team, received the news on his switch from senior side coach Gregg Berhalter. Because Perea played for Colombia in official competition, Perea wasn’t able to take part in the USMNT‘s 6-0 win against El Salvador last December.

“It was a very important decision for me. Colombia is my country as well, but it’s an honor for me to represent the United States as I did Colombia in the past,” Perea said.

The players of the U23 side — which will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer — are training alongside 12 members of the senior group in Bradenton, Florida, with reports of a friendly match against Serbia in the works.

“Andres we find to be a really, really interesting holding midfield player for us,” U.S. U23 coach Jason Kreis said during a conference call. “The amount of ground that he’s capable to cover defensively, I think it’s a little bit different level than some of the other guys that we have in our pool. His processing of the ball, he’s still learning a little bit about that.”

Kreis anticipates men’s Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during late March in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the CONCACAF tournament last spring was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kreis said he anticipates it will be difficult to access top Europe-based Americans for qualifying. FIFA does not require that clubs release players to under-23 teams. FIFA extended the age limit by a year, keeping the group for qualifying limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.

Each team reaching the games in Japan can supplement its roster with three players over the age limit. Top Americans are not expected at qualifying, with clubs expected not to make available Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler AdamsJoshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna. All are regulars in league play this season.

Catarina Macario Announces Plans to Turn Pro

Catarina Macario is ready to go pro…

The Brazilian-born Stanford midfielder and promising prospect for the United States women’s national soccer team, has announced she’ll forgo her senior season for a professional career.

Catarina Macario

Macario is currently on the roster for the national team’s January camp, which started this weekend in Florida.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Macario said it is time for her to start a “new phase in life.”

While Macario has been linked to European club teams, she could opt to stay in the United States and play for the National Women’s Soccer League. The NWSL draft is set for Wednesday.

Macario became a U.S. citizen in October, but she hasn’t yet received approval from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to play in a match for the national team. The U.S. has a pair of games against Colombia scheduled for later this month.

The two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best college player, Macario had a Stanford single-season record of 32 goals and 23 assists last season. She was called up to her first national team camp the same day she became a citizen.

Macario is one of three college players on the 27-player camp roster, along with North Carolina‘s Emily Lloyd and Florida State‘s Jaelin Howell. Lloyd and Howell also could be eligible for next week’s NWSL draft because of a waiver from the NCAA that allows drafted players to remain with their college teams this spring and join the NWSL following the season.

Gio Reyna Among 10 Players Who Could Make US International Debut at Wales

Gio Reyna will be representing the United States…

United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNST) manager Gregg Berhalter has called up the uncapped 17-year-old half-Argentine American soccer player, as well as an injured Christian Pulisic and England youth international Yunus Musah, 17, in his 24-man roster for a pair of friendlies later this month.

Giovanni Reyna

The youthful roster — the average age is 21 years, 300 days — is comprised entirely of players who ply their trade abroad.

Reyna, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder and son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna, is one of 10 uncapped players to make the squad.

 

Alongside Reyna and Musah — who can represent Ghana as well — Internacional‘s Johnny Cardoso was also given the nod.

 

Born to Brazilian parents, Cardoso is the first player in 24 years to earn a U.S. call-up while playing for a club outside of CONCACAF or UEFA. Another dual national is Telstar forward Sebastian Soto, who besides the U.S. is eligible to represent Mexico and Chile.

Among the other call-ups are a record nine players participating in the UEFA Champions League, including RB Leipzig‘s Tyler AdamsBarcelona‘s Sergino DestJuventus‘ Weston McKennie and Chelsea‘s Pulisic.

Pulisic had been a doubt for the roster after injuring his hamstring during the warmup of last weekend’s game against Burnley. However, at a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against Rennes, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said that a scan of the injury revealed that it was “very minor” but that he wouldn’t play on Wednesday.

“We are excited about getting this group back together,” Berhalter said in a statement. “I’m proud of the way the players have handled the challenging times — they really stuck together. We have built a solid foundation, and now we get a chance to continue our work together ahead of what is going to be a critical 12 months for our team.”

The USMNT will play Wales, who will be without manager Ryan Giggs, first on November 12 before travelling to Austria to play Panama on Nov. 16.

The roster’s average age is 21 years, 300 days. Starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen, now a backup Manchester City following a loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf, is on the roster for the first time 2019. Lille forward Tim Weah, a son of former FIFA player of the Year and Liberia President George Weah, is with the U.S. for the first time since 2018 after recovering from a string of injuries.

Due to the conditions related to the pandemic, the matches will be played without fans in the stadiums. The participants have received an exemption from quarantine provided to professional sports organizations.

The match against Wales will be the first match for the USMNT since February when they beat Costa Rica 1-0.

The Americans have not played on a FIFA date with most of their player pool available since a 4-0 victory over Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League on Nov. 19 last year. Exhibitions in March at the Netherlands and Wales were canceled, along with the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June and the start of World Cup qualifying in September.

The players will report to camp starting on Nov. 8.

USMNT squad (caps / goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 17/0)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 38/3), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 10/0), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 3/0), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 18/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 40/1), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 7/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA;0/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 19/6), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 0/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton/ENG; 0/0)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; 0/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; 1/1), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 0/0), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Sebastian Soto (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 8/1)

Lionel Messi: The World’s Highest-Paid Latino on Forbes’ The Celebrity 100 List

Lionel Messi is kickin’ his way to the top of the earnings charts…

The 33-year-old Argentine soccer star, who plays for FC Barcelona, is the top-earning Latinx celebrity on Forbes’ recently released The Celebrity 100 list, which ranks the world’s highest-paid celebrities of 2020.

Lionel Messi

Messi, who has been awarded both FIFA’s Ballon d’Or and the European Golden Shoe for top scorer on the continent a record six times, comes in at No. 5 with earning of $104 million.

His current contract with Barcelona is through 2020-21 and pays him more than $80 million annually. He also has a lifelong deal with Adidas, and he launched his own clothing line and opened his first retail outlet, The Messi Store, in September 2019 in Barcelona.

The World Health Organization (WHO) tapped Messi in March 2020 to help lead a worldwide campaign aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nipping on Messi’s heels is another soccer star and his former teammate… Neymar.

The 28-year-old Brazilian soccer player comes in at No. 7 on the list with earning of $95.5 million.

Neymar is currently on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain through June 2022 worth $350 million in salary.

His transfer from Barcelona to PSG stands as the most expensive in the world at $263 million, which the French club paid in full ahead of his signing.

He’s the second most popular athlete on social media with a combined 244 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Nike‘s Jordan Brand signed Neymar as its first soccer ambassador in 2016. In March 2020 its film unit released a movie about his life.

Jennifer Lopez is this year’s highest-paid Latina on the list.

The 51-year-old Puerto Rican superstar comes in at No. 56 on the list with earnings of $47.5 million.

One of the more popular celebrities when it comes to endorsements, J.Lo has deals with Versace, DSW, Quay sunglasses and her own fragrance.

In 2018, she played her final shows at Las Vegas’ Zappos Theater, grossing more than $100 million in two years–the top Vegas residency by a Latin artist. She tacked on another $55 million in 2019 ticket sales for her ensuing world tour, which included stops in Egypt, Israel and Russia.

Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his first appearance on The Celebrity 100.

The 40-year-old Puerto Rican actor/rapper/lyricist/composer and Broadway star, the creator of the hit musical Hamilton, comes in at No. 62 with earning of $45.5 million.

Disney acquired worldwide rights to the film version of Hamilton in February 2020 for $75 million. And he helped create a $1 million emergency relief fund to benefit artists impacted by COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.

Other Latinx celebrities making the list include Howie Dorough (as a member of Backstreet Boys); Sofia Vergara, the world’s highest-paid actress; Robert Trujillo (as a member of Metallica); tennis star Rafael Nadal; and Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez.

Forbes’ list ranks “front of the camera” stars around the globe using pretax earnings from June 2019 through May 2020 before deducting fees for managers, lawyers and agents. Figures are based on information from Nielsen Music/MRC Data, Pollstar, IMDB, NPD BookScan and ComScore as well as interviews with industry experts and many of the stars themselves.

In total, the 100 celebrities racked in a total of $6.1 billion in pretax earnings, which took a $200 million dip from last year after the pandemic halted — or rather redirected — lots of business models.

Here’s a look at the Latino/a celebrities who made the list this year:

No. 5 Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina, Soccer, $104 million

No. 7 Neymar, 28, Brazil, Soccer, $95.5 million
No. 56 Jennifer Lopez, 51, USA (Puerto Rican), Entertainment, $47.5 million

No. 62 Lin-Manuel Miranda, 40, USA (Puerto Rican), Entertainment, $45.5 million
No. 64 Howie Dorough (Backstreet Boys), 47, USA (Half-Puerto Rican), Music, $45 million
No. 71 Sofia Vergara, 48, Colombia, Entertainment, $43 million

No. 78 Robert Trujillo (Metallica), 55, USA (Half-Mexican)Music, $40.5 million
No. 80 Rafael Nadal, 34, Spain, Tennis, $40 million
No. 91 Canelo Alvarez, 30, Mexico, Boxing, $37 million

Click here for the complete list.