Isco Declared “The Future” of Spain’s National Soccer Team

Isco is being heralded as the future of Spanish soccer…

Spain’s national team manager Vicente del Bosque has placed the future of Spanish football in the hands of the 21-year-old midfielder, insisting the Real Madrid recruit “is the future” for La Roja.

Isco

Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, commonly known as Isco, played for Spain’s Under-21 side as they claimed the European Championship title last month, scoring a penalty in the final win over Italy.

His bronze boot-winning performance in the tournament reaffirmed Real Madrid’s interest in Isco and his five-year contract at the Bernabeu is likely to allow him to become a regular in the national team over the coming years.

Isco has made one appearance in Del Bosque’s side, but he’s confident the young futbalista can comfortably succeed the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso, alongside Real Madrid target Asier Illarramendi.

“We have a lot of hope pinned to Isco, he is the future of the national team,” Del Bosque told Radio Nacional de Espana. “Illarramendi is the complete midfielder. He has the personality to play for any team in the world.”

Del Bosque also responded to the criticism of Alvaro Arbeloa and Iker Casillas following the Confederations Cup final, claiming both players were crucial for Spain throughout the tournament.

“Alvaro played very well throughout the tournament,” he said. “It’s as if we are always looking for the weak link and we are all guilty of that. Casillas was magnificent.

“We played good football at times but the final wiped away everything we did up until then. We now have another year to try to make sure we have a good World Cup – if we qualify.”

Messi Extends His Contract with FC Barcelona Through 2018

Lionel Messi isn’t planning to leave Spain anytime soon…

The 25-year-old Argentine soccer star, who won his record-breaking fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or, signed a contract extension Thursday that will keep him with FC Barcelona until June 30, 2018, the team announced on its website.

Lionel Messi

Messi, whose contract wasn’t due to expire until June 2016, decided to add two more years to his contract with the La Liga powerhouse..

Barça has enjoyed one of the best runs of success in team history, including two UEFA Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns, since Messi became a regular starter in the 2006-07 season.

Messi, meanwhile, has ridden his great chemistry with fellow FC Barcelona superstars like  Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez to award-winning results.

The deal had already been reached in mid-December but an official signing ceremony was held Thursday afternoon and attended by FC Barcelona’s president, Sandro Rosell.

Last month, Barça stars Xavi and defenseman Carles Puyol signed two-year and three-year contract extensions, respectively.

Messi enrolled in Barça’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut as a member of the club’s first team three years later in a friendly match against Portuguese-league club Porto.

Xavi Signs Two-Year Contract Extension with FC Barcelona

Xavier Xavi Hernandez doesn’t have plans to change his team jersey anytime soon…

The 33-year-old Spanish midfielder has signed a contract extension that will keep him with Futbol Club Barcelona through June 2016, according to team officials.

Xavier Hernandez

Hernandez has been with Barça since the start of his professional career, appearing in a record of 659 official matches for the club.

Hernandez signed the two-year extension in the presence of club President Sandro Rosell, Vice President Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta.

“This is a special day because it means I’ll spend more years at Barça, this is where I want to be,” said Hernandez, who has been capped 119 times for the Spanish national team. “My first choice was always to stay here. The club has made an effort and I am grateful.”

Hernandez declined to speculate about how long he’ll remain with FC Barcelona.

“I know how demanding it is but I’d like to stay many more years,” he said. “There are many players that are able to play in my position and they’ve shown that they can do it. Barça will continue to perform when I’m not around.”

Messi: Best Player in Europe Award Finalist

He’s already been named the best international athlete at the Espy Awards… And now Lionel Messi could be named the best fútbol player in Europe.

The 25-year-old Argentine soccer sensation, who has won FIFA’s Ballon d’Or for three years in a row, has been shortlisted for the 2011-12 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. He’ll face-off against his Futbol Club Barcelona teammate Andrés Iniesta and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lionel Messi
The three soccer stars gained the most points in a vote among 53 sports journalists representing each of the European soccer governing body’s member associations. The finalists are all being recognized for their great performance overall performance last season.

Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo came in fourth in the election, while Barcelona’s Xavi, who finished second in last year’s edition of the award, rounded out the top five.

The remaining three players will now go into a deciding vote in Monaco during the Champions League group stage draw on August 30.

Messi was the last year’s winner.

A Ballon d’Or Threepeat for Messi?

He’s the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, having won the coveted trophy two years in a row… And now Lionel Messi is on the verge of a threepeat!

But the 24-year-old Argentine soccer superstar will have to beat out his fellow Futbol Club Barcelona teammate Xavi and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo for the trophy, which is given annually to the player considered to have performed the best in the previous season.

Lionel-Messi-Barcelona-Football-Player

The three players were shortlisted this week for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or, with Messi the strong favorite to become only the second player in the award’s 55-year history to claim the trophy hat-trick in successive years.

Michael Platini, now president of European soccer’s governing body Uefa, is the only player to have achieved the feat to date. The Frenchman took home the award in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Dutch stars Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten also claimed the title three times, but not in successive years.

The Ballon d’Or is awarded based on votes by coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists from around the world.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Marta will face off against the United States’ Abby Wambach and Japan’s Homare Sawa for the player of the year crown in the women’s division.

The 2011 awards will be voted for by national team coaches and captains, as well as a panel of soccer journalists.

The winners will be presented at a special ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on January 9.