Erik Lamela Wins FIFA’s Puskas Award

Erik Lamela is celebrating his award-winning rabona

The 29-year-old Argentine professional footballer, who plays as an attacking midfielder or winger for La Liga club Sevilla and the Argentina national team, has won this year’s Puskas Award.

Erik Lamela

Lamela earned the award for his “rabona” for Tottenham Hotspur against Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski equaled Cristiano Ronaldo‘s FIFA The Best record when he won the award for a second time on Monday.

The Bayern Munich forward retained his FIFA The Best award following an incredible campaign in which he scored a Bundesliga record 41 goals, fighting off competition from Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel claimed the Manager of the Year award following success in the Champions League in 2021.

Chelsea and Senegal‘s Edouard Mendy won the Goalkeeper of the Year award.

Denmark team and staff won the Fair Play award following their reaction to Christian Eriksen‘s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020. Denmark and Finland fans also received the Best Fan award for their spontaneous unified chanting in support of Eriksen after he was taken off the pitch.

The award was first handed out in its present guise in 2016, after FIFA ended their five-year partnership with the Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo, who was given a special award for breaking the international men’s goal scoring record in 2021, won back-to-back awards in the first two years.

Meanwhile, Messi and part-Brazilian player Jorginho were named to the FIFA FIFPro Men’s World XI team.

FIFA FIFPro Men’s World XI
Gianluigi Donnarumma – Paris Saint-Germain, Italy
David Alaba – Real Madrid, Austria
Ruben Dias – Manchester City, Portugal
Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus, Italy
Jorginho – Chelsea, Italy
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea, France
Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City, Belgium
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United, Portugal
Erling Haaland – Borussia Dortmund, Norway
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich, Poland
Lionel Messi – Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina

Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas won the women’s award.

Aston Villa Agrees to Deal for Philippe Coutinho

It’s official…Philippe Coutinho is headed to Birmingham.

Aston Villa has agreed on a deal to sign the 29-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and former Liverpool midfielder on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season, the Premier League club announced on Friday.

Philippe Coutinho

The agreement, which is subject to Coutinho completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy, and Philippe will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours.

ESPN sources say that five Premier League sides held talks with Coutinho’s camp, with Villa and one other English club showing the most serious interest.

However, the presence of Steven Gerrard, Coutinho’s former teammate at Liverpool, helped swing the balance in Villa’s favor.

The Premier League club said in a statement: “Aston Villa and FC Barcelona have agreed terms for Philippe Coutinho to spend the rest of this season on loan at Villa Park.

“The agreement, which is subject to the player completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy and Philippe will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours.”

Gerrard, who left Rangers to replace Dean Smith as the coach at Villa Park at the end of last year, played a key role in persuading the Brazilian to make the move to the Midlands.

Coutinho has previously been reluctant to leave Barca, but a desire to play regular football in a World Cup year has led to a change of mind.

Barca made Coutinho their most expensive signing ever when they paid Liverpool €160 million for him in 2018.

His first season at Camp Nou, playing alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, ended with a domestic double, but he lost his way in his second term.

He spent the 2019-20 season on loan at German giants Bayern Munich, scoring twice as they beat Barca 8-2 on the way to winning the Champions League, before returning to Spain for the following campaign.

Ronald Koeman said he would help Coutinho rediscover his best form, but injury problems held the player back under the Dutch manager.

He missed the second half of last season with injuries and has started just once, a 1-0 loss to Real Betis, since new coach Xavi Hernandez was appointed in November.

When asked about Coutinho’s departure in a news conference on Friday, Xavi said: “It says a lot about Coutinho that he’s gone out on loan because he wants to play, and reducing his salary. He’s a great pro.

“It wasn’t working for him here and he’s looked for a solution. He wants to succeed. We will see what happens with Samu [Umtiti.] I don’t have any complaints about anyone. All the players are professional. I’m delighted with those that are playing but also those that aren’t.”

Coutinho tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but should be cleared to fly to England in the coming days and could come into contention for Villa’s Premier League game against Manchester United on January 15.

FC Barcelona Completes Signing of Ferran Torres from Manchester City

Ferran Torres is headed home to Spain… 

FC Barcelona has completed the signing of the 21-year-old Spanish professional footballer from Manchester City.

Ferran Torres 

Sources tell ESPN that Barca were nearing a €55 million ($62m) deal for Torres, with the move now completed.

Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “Ferran should be proud of what he has achieved here at Manchester City.

“Last season was his first time in a new country, but he adapted well. He always gave 100%, worked hard for the team and scored goals which helped us win trophies.

“Injury unfortunately prevented him from playing more games this season, but Ferran is a player we have all enjoyed working with and we wish him all the best at Barcelona and for the rest of his career.”

Torres has signed a contract at Camp Nou until 2027 with a €1 billion release clause and could make his debut in the Copa del Rey against Linares Deportivo on January 5 — he won’t be registered in time to face Mallorca on January 2 — having recovered from a foot injury that’s kept him out since September.

Barcelona’s financial problems have been well documented, with gross debts of over €1 billion leading to the exits of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann last summer.

However, club sources told ESPN they don’t envisage any problems inscribing Torres with LaLiga when the registration window opens on January 3.

The club must also register Dani Alves, but the departure of Griezmann at the end of August and Sergio Aguero‘s retirement due to a heart condition have given them some room to maneuver inside their LaLiga-imposed €97m spending limit for the season — the limit includes salaries and money spent on signings, but fees are broken down over the length of the contract.

Barca are permitted by the Spanish league to spend 25% of whatever they save in wages or by bringing in transfer fees.

The club continue to work on making more room and sources add they hope to do so by ending the loans of Yusuf Demir and Luuk de Jong early and are open to offers for several other players.

Penning Ousmane Dembele down to a new contract would also help, as it would spread the amortisation payments for his fee over a longer length of time.

Torres becomes the second Barca signing under head coach Xavi Hernandez, following the arrival of Alves on a free transfer in November.

ESPN reported in November that Barca had stepped up their efforts to sign Torres, a player they have held a long-standing interest in, and Torres informed City boss Pep Guardiola of his desire to leave last week.

When asked about Torres’ imminent exit from the Premier League, Guardiola said he did not want to keep a player who wanted to play elsewhere.

“I want the happiness of my players. I said many times, if you are not happy, you have to leave. We are not a club like other clubs, the guys who want to leave have to leave,” Guardiola said.

Torres scored 16 goals in 43 appearances for City since joining in a €23m ($26m) in August 2020. He has 12 goals in 22 caps for Spain.

Lionel Messi Wins Record-Extending Seventh Ballon d’Or

It’s Lucky No. 7 for Lionel Messi

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer and Paris Saint-Germain forward has been awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or for a record-extending seventh time in a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Lionel Messi

Messi, who led Argentina to Copa America success in Brazil in July for their first major trophy since 1993, spent the majority of 2020 at Barcelona before his 21-year stay at the club ended when he left as a free agent in August and joined PSG soon after.

He now has two more Ballon d’Or awards than Manchester United‘s Cristiano Ronaldo, whose tally of five is two more than anyone else.

Messi added to his 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 trophies with the announcement on Monday.

“It’s incredible to be here again. Two years ago I thought it was the last time. Winning the Copa America was key,” Messi said. “It is a special year for me with this Copa America title. It meant a lot to win at the Maracana stadium and I was so happy to celebrate with the people from Argentina.

“I don’t know if it’s the best year of my life, I’ve had a long career, but it was a special one with the title with Argentina after the tough times and the criticism.”

Messi beat 29 other nominees for the award, including Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who was the favorite for last year’s prize before it was cancelled because of the lack of football during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Lewandowski was nominated for the award again this year after he broke late Bayern legend Gerd Muller‘s single-season Bundesliga goal record in May after he netted 41 league times last season, as well as winning the European Golden Shoe.

Although Lewandowski didn’t win the night’s biggest prize, he was named Striker of the Year at the ceremony and finished second to Messi on the final ballot.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho was also tipped for the award after winning last season’s Champions League with his club side before playing a crucial part in Italy’s triumph at Euro 2020.

 

Liverpool‘s Mohamed SalahReal Madrid‘s Karim Benzema and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were also nominated for the award.

AC Milan‘s Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was also a finalist for the Ballon d’Or best player, was named Goalkeeper of the Year.

Chelsea, whose men won the UEFA Champions League in 2021 and saw their women’s side win the Women’s Super League, were named Team of the Year, with managers Thomas Tuchel and Emma Hayes accepting the award remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Ballon d’Or is awarded annually by France Football, with FIFA‘s The Best a separate honor handed out every year — Messi won that award for the first time in 2020.

Barca midfielder Pedri won the Kopa Trophy as Europe’s best young player, which comes just a week after he claimed the Golden Boy award.

11-28-29

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.

Pedri Wins Golden Boy Award, the Prize Given to Best Young Player in Europe

Pedri is having a golden moment…

The 18-year-old Spanish soccer player, a Barcelona midfielder, has been named the winner of the 2021 Golden Boy award, seeing off competition from Borussia Dortmund and England‘s Jude Bellingham.

Pedri

 

Pedri becomes the first Barca player since Lionel Messi in 2005 to win the prize given to the best young player in Europe.

He succeeds Erling Haaland, who won it last year, with Joao FelixMatthijs de Ligt and Kylian Mbappe also listed among the recent winners.

Italian newspaper Tuttosport, which hands out the award, revealed that Pedri’s winning margin was the biggest ever.

The Spain international collected 318 points from 40 voting journalists, 199 more than second-placed Bellingham.

“I want to thank Tuttosport for this trophy which makes me so proud,” he told the newspaper. “Thanks also to the members of my team and the fans who have always supported me throughout a 2021 which for me has been simply incredible.

“Of course, I want to thank Barcelona, the national side, my family, my friends and everyone who has been with me day-in-day-out without whose help I would not have been able to win the Golden Boy award.”

Pedri has enjoyed a remarkable year. He joined Barca as a 17-year-old from Las Palmas in the summer of 2020 but quickly established himself as a key fixture in the Catalan club’s midfield.

He made 52 appearances in his first season at Camp Nou, winning the Copa del Rey, and playing a major role in Spain’s run to the semifinals at Euro 2020, where he was named Young Player of the Tournament. He made his international debut in March.

A month after the Euros, he was also part of the Spain under-23 team that reached the final of the 2020 Tokyo Games, losing to Brazil after extra time.

Injuries have delayed his progress this season, though. He has made just four appearances for Barca thanks to a thigh problem and is expected to remain sidelined for the next few weeks.

Lionel Messi Scores First Ligue 1 Goal in Paris Saint-Germain Win

Lionel Messi has kicked his way into the Ligue 1 books…

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer scored his first goal in the league as Paris Saint-Germain opened a 13-point lead at the top of the table despite playing almost half an hour with 10 men in a 3-1 home win against Nantes on Saturday.

Lionel Messi

Messi found the back of the net with a curled left-footed effort from outside the box three minutes from time, adding to Dennis Appiah‘s own goal after Randal Kolo Muani had cancelled out Kylian Mbappe‘s first-half opener.

The result left PSG with 37 points from 14 games ahead of a Champions League trip to Manchester City on Wednesday, while Nantes are 11th on 18 points.

Messi has scored three goals in the Champions League since joining from Barcelona during the close season but the Argentine forward had not found the back of the net for PSG in his five previous appearances in Ligue 1.

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.

Xavi Hernandez Reportedly Top Choice to Become New FC Barcelona Head Coach

Xavi Hernandez could be taking on a new role with FC Barcelona

The team is reportedly opening talks with the 41-year-old Spanish professional football manager and former Barca team captain following the firing of coach Ronald Koeman.

Xavi Hernández

Koemamn’s firing came after the team’s 1-0 LaLiga loss to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, their third defeat in their last four league games.

Hernandez is reportedly now the first choice.

However, the same sources add that Barca don’t expect to have a replacement in place until after the November international break. An interim coach is set to take charge of the next three games against AlavesDynamo Kiev and Celta Vigo.

Koeman’s position had been seriously weakened after poor results prior to the October international break, with back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid and Rayo this week proving to be the tipping point.

He leaves Barca in ninth place in the league and in danger of missing out on the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in 20 years, with the side yet to register an away win in any competition this season.

The club said in a statement: “FC Barcelona have relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as first-team coach. The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano.

“Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva. FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the club and wishes him all the best in his professional career.”

Xavier Hernandez

As for Xavi, the former midfield great won a slew of trophies with Barca in his 17 years as a senior player, including eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League medals. He then joined Al Sadd in 2015, becoming head coach at the Qatari club after hanging up his boots in 2019. It’s his only managerial experience so far.

Along with Xavi, sources had previously told ESPN that Belgium boss Roberto Martinez and was among the candidates.

Laporta had first considered sacking Koeman in the summer and even told him he needed two weeks to try and find a new manager. In the end, due to a lack of credible alternatives, Laporta decided to stick with Koeman.

However, sources said that former Netherlands boss Koeman was upset by Laporta’s actions and the relationship between the two has never been the same since.

Despite that, Laporta handed Koeman a stay of execution last month after the 3-0 Champions League defeat to Benfica in Lisbon. Since then, though, Barca have lost to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and now Rayo in the league.

“[Being ninth in LaLiga] is not good,” Koeman said after striker Radamel Falcao‘s goal condemned Barca to defeat in Vallecas on Wednesday, with Memphis Depay missing a penalty.

“It shows the team’s level has dipped, in terms of the balance in the squad. We have lost players with a lot of effectiveness in the final third. I think in recent years the teams at the top have strengthened and we have not been able to. That counts.

“But not today, because despite missing players we played well, but you can’t say that when you don’t score, not in Spain.”

Asked if the result placed his job in danger, hours before he was fired, Koeman said “I don’t know.”

Koeman also lamented the exit of star player Messi in recent weeks. He said the Argentina international had disguised many of the team’s flaws and was responsible for making the players around him even better.

Lionel Messi Breaks Pele’s South American Men’s Record for International Career Goals

Lionel Messi continues making history…

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer has scored his 79th international career goal for Argentina, surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.

Lionel Messi

Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more than Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.

Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.

Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 69 international goals for Brazil.

“I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this,” an emotional Messi said after the match. “We won the game [and] that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.”

Three-time World Cup winner Pele remains in hospital due to surgery for a tumor on his colon on Monday, although the 80-year-old said the operation was a “great victory.”

Messi has had a memorable summer — changing clubs from Barcelona to PSG in August and winning his first senior international football title in July. He and La Albiceleste claimed the Copa America from Brazil in a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

After Thursday’s result, Messi danced with his teammates and showed off the Copa trophy to the 21,000 supporters present.

“It was a unique moment [to win the Copa America] because of where and how we obtained the title,” Messi said.

“There was no better way to do it and be able to celebrate the title now, it’s incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot … I’m very happy.”

Thursday’s game also came days after Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Brazil — their first rematch since the Copa final — was controversially suspended. Brazilian health authorities entered the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena with the game in progress and accused four Argentina players of failing to follow Brazil’s COVID-19 protocols for entering the country.

With 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches following his hat-trick against Bolivia, Messi also passes Uruguay star Luis Suarez — his former teammate at Barcelona — for most among CONMEBOL players.

With eight career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most against a single opponent while donning the Argentina shirt.

Messi is also his country’s men’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Thursday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153rd international appearance.

Prior to the Copa America victory, Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side. They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

He had won the under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.

Messi joined PSG over the summer on a shock free-agent move after two decades with Barcelona. Messi had been with Barcelona since 2001, joining the academy the year before.

Messi played 778 games at Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez‘s appearance record in the 2020-21 season. In addition, he scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.