Barca Femeni Star Jennifer Hermoso Heading to Mexico’s Pachuca

Jennifer Hermoso is headed to Mexico…

Mexican club Pachuca have completed the signing of the 32-year-old Spanish professional soccer player and the 2021 FIFA’s The Best runner-up on a free transfer as she announced her departure from Barcelona.

Jennifer HermosoHermoso, who is Barca Femeni‘s all-time leading scorer with 174 goals, announced she is making the switch to Pachuca after turning down a contract extension at the Camp Nou.

“To have won everything with this jersey is something that I will take with me forever,” Hermoso said in a message posted to Instagram.

“To play in a sold-out stadium, to celebrate a goal at the Camp Nou and to lift high up our first Champions [League]… Now is time for a new adventure that fills me and that make me feel truly valued.”

Hermoso, who has scored a record 45 goals in 91 appearances for Spain, has been ruled out for Euro 2022 after sustaining ligament damage in her right knee and is expected to miss the start of the Liga MX Femenil season, which kicks off on July 12.

Hermoso has won seven league titles during her 18-year career, including five at Barca, who she initially played for between 2013 to 2017 and rejoined in 2019 from Atletico Madrid.

Hermoso was also a crucial part of Barca Femeni’s first European title when they won the Women’s Champions League in 2021.

She has also had spells at Paris Saint-Germain, Rayo Vallecano and Tyreso FF.

Barcelona Femeni Signs Geyse Ferreira in Free Transfer from Madrid CFF

Geyse Ferreira is headed to Barcelona…

Barcelona Femeni has completed the signing of the 24-year-old Brazilian forward on a free transfer from Madrid CFF, the Catalan club has confirmed.

Geyse FerreiraGeyse joins on a two-year deal with her contact with Madrid expiring at the end of June.

Along with Barca striker Asisat Oshoala, she was the top scorer in the Primera Division, netting 20 times in a team that finished 13th in the table.

She becomes Barca’s third signing of the summer following the arrivals of England international Lucy Bronze on a free transfer from Manchester City and Real Sociedad left-back Nuria Rabano. Geyse further strengthens Barca’s attack following the loss of Dutch winger Lieke Martens, who joined Paris Saint-Germain this week after running down her contract at Camp Nou.

The Brazil International first joined Madrid in 2017 from Corinthians in her home country. She left the club for Benfica in 2018 but returned in 2020.

She now joins a Barca side that has won the Spanish league in each of the last three seasons and reached the last two Champions League finals.

They won 45 out of 47 games last season, including all 30 in the league, but a defeat to Lyon in the European Cup final left a bittersweet feeling at the end of the campaign.

Alexia Putellas & Barcelona Teammates Break Attendance Record in Women’s Football

Alexia Putellas and her Barca teammates are celebrating an impressive record.

Barcelona broke the attendance record in women’s football for the second time in a month as 91,648 supporters watched them beat Wolfsburg 5-1 at Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

Alexia Putellas & BarcelonaThe previous record crowd for a women’s game had only been set by Barca in March, when 91,553 people attended their quarterfinal against Real Madrid — 95 fewer than attended Friday’s game.

Prior to that, the women’s record had stood since 1999, when 90,185 fans watched the World Cup final between the United States and China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

“It was spectacular, both today and a month ago against Madrid,” midfielder Patri Guijarro said in a news conference after the game. “We’re speechless, really. I’m sure as the days and years pass, we will become a bit more of what we have achieved. We’re still not completely aware of the magnitude of [the attendances].”

However, some estimates suggest 110,000 people attended Denmark’s win over Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in the 1971 World Cup final, a tournament that was not officially sanctioned.

Barca usually play their home games at the 6,000-seater Estadi Johan Cruyff at the club’s training ground, but their Champions League knockout games have been moved to Camp Nou to accommodate the bigger demand for tickets.

This was just their third competitive game at the 99,000-seater stadium. They played against Espanyol behind closed doors last season due to the pandemic, and then for the first time with fans against Madrid last month.

On the pitch, they were too good for Wolfsburg, blowing them away with four first-half goals from Aitana Bonmati, Caroline Graham Hansen, Jenni Hermoso and Alexia Putellas.

Jill Roord pulled one back for the German side after the break, but Ballon d’Or winner Putellas added her second from the penalty spot to seal Barca’s 45th successive win in all competitions, a run dating back to last June.

The teams will meet again in the second leg at the Volkswagen Arena next Saturday, with the winners facing Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain in the final in Turin on May 21.

Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot was pessimistic about his team’s chances of turning things around in the second leg.

“Barca fans can book their tickets for the final,” he said. “They were favourites before the tie and now they’re even bigger favourites.

“Our challenge is to try and win next week without losing touch with reality. Wanting to win 5-1 is difficult, but winning is possible, although we have to change certain things.”

Sofia Huerta Called Up by U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Vlatko Andonovski for SheBelieves Cup

Sofia Huerta will be representing the U.S. later this month…

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called up a squad that mixes youth and experience, including the 29-year-old Mexican American professional soccer player and a midfielder for OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League, for this month’s SheBelieves Cup.

Sofia HuertaAndonovski’s roster leaves out big names like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in favor of up-and-comers like 22-year-old Brazilian-born American professional soccer player Catarina Macario and 22-year-old Ashley Sanchez, a forward for the Washington Spirit.

The 23-player squad will compete in the USWNT‘s first games of 2022 when the Americans face the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland in the SheBelieves Cup, taking place February 17-23.

The games will be played at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, and Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Veterans left out include some of the USWNT’s biggest attacking names, such as Rapinoe, Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Andonovski said those players had been left off to make room for the players needing to prove themselves.

“All these players are very good players — we know that they’ve done so much for this team,” Andonovski told ESPN of the veterans. “But right now I want to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario, Ashley Hatch, players that have earned their spot on the national team or earn their spot back. I want to give them maximum minutes or whatever minutes they earn so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, in the training environment or game setting.”

However, the veterans being left off the roster shouldn’t be interpreted as those players being a lock, Andonovski added.

“It doesn’t mean that all these players that have done well in the past are just going to come back here in the next camp because they’ve done well a year ago or two years ago,” Andonovski added. “There’s a reason why we’re not calling Mia Hamm or Julie Foudy in camp, right? So the same goes here: they need to perform, they need to play in their markets, they need to play well in their markets, and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team.”

In the midfield, veterans Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis are also left out in favor of less established USWNT players such as Macario and Sanchez. Mewis is coming off an injury, Andonovski said, but Ertz wasn’t fit enough to merit a USWNT call.

“Julie was not ready to come into camp from a physical standpoint,” Andonovski said. “In the conversation that I had with her, she understands that in order to get back into camp — and that’s not just for Julie, that’s for any player on this team — first and foremost, you got to be healthy, fit and ready to play. Then, the next thing is you gotta perform in your club market to earn your spot on the national team.”

Ertz was traded from the Chicago Red Stars to NWSL expansion club Angel City FC in December, but she was not on Angel City’s preseason roster announced on Tuesday and has not reported for the club’s preseason camp.

“Whenever Julie is ready and she performs well — we know how good she can be, we know how valuable she is for this team — we’re gonna be happy to see her back,” Andonovski said.

The SheBelieves Cup roster mostly includes players who had joined the USWNT in Texas for its annual January camp, which traditionally features more bubble players and up-and-comers.

The exceptions are midfielder Macario, who missed the camp to stay with Lyon as it faced rival Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed the January camp with what U.S. Soccer called “a minor injury.”

“We had a great camp in Austin and now we need to see this group of players in game environments against highly motivated opponents,” Andonovski said. “Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer.”

Of the 23 players on the roster, 11 are players who have been on the fringes of the USWNT and have 25 or fewer caps. Six players have single-digit caps.

USWNT SheBelieves Cup roster

GOALKEEPERS: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78)

DEFENDERS: Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)

MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais; 108/25), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)

FORWARDS: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)

Neymar Hopes New Docuseries “The Perfect Chaos” Will Change Public Perceptions of Him

Neymar is hoping to change minds…

The 29-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and Paris Saint-Germain star believes an upcoming Netflix documentary about his life will help people get to know him and like him better.

NeymarThe Perfect Chaos, a three-part documentary series, offers a look into Neymar’s life off the pitch as well as the marketing operations run by his father.

Directed by David Charles Rodriguez, the documentary will be released later this month.

“Those who know me, know who I am and that’s what matters to me,” Neymar told ESPN. “As for those who don’t know me and just speak bad things about me, I just put them aside, but I hope they can still watch this documentary and hopefully it can change their idea or the image they have of me, and I hope they can learn to like me … even a little!

“Few people really know the real me. Just my closest friends, my family, some teammates and now I feel I can show a bit more of my life, of how I am on my day to day, at work, at home, how I am as a father, a son, a brother, and I hope this documentary shows that side to people. It’s what we’ve worked on, we’re showing the truth, 100% and that’s what matters most.”

The Brazil international stated earlier this season after becoming his country’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying games that he doesn’t receive the respect he deserves from the media and fans in his homeland.

The former Santos and Barcelona star has come under heavy criticism in the past for his behavior on the pitch, with memes of the player diving dominating social media sites.

Neymar is known for hosting lavish celebrations with big personalities in attendance, inevitably drawing media attention. However, he said he will never stop partying despite claims he is immature.

Neymar attended a New Year’s Eve party in crutches, leading to criticism in Brazil that he wasn’t taking care of himself. He reacted to suggestions that he is not taking care of himself during his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in November by posting a photograph on Instagram in which he is seen wearing a mask in a high-tech oxygen chamber.

Neymar has said in the past that criticism made him question his game but added the title of the documentary The Perfect Chaos is a reflection of his life.

“The perfect chaos because my life has always been like that,” Neymar said. “Ever since I was 6 months old, I was in an accident with my parents and well, that’s when the chaos began. We recovered after and nothing happened to me … then after I became a footballer and of course, I’ve had very happy moments, but I’ve still had a lot of chaos in my life.

“But in all this chaos, things have worked out perfectly because I have a very good life, and I’m very grateful for everything, for my family, for all my friends, for all God has done in my life and well, that’s why I think this title is perfect because I’ve had a lot of problems, but things have worked out well.”

Neymar also said his mental strength has helped him succeed.

“You must have your head on straight, so you don’t fall or crumble,” he said. “Family and friends are important, but my teammates, too. They’re always behind me so that when I have a sad day they can help with a word or a hug to make me feel better.

“But I think now I am strong. I’m a strong man, not just physically but in my head too because I have to deal with so much pressure, because of who I am, because of where I play, because I’m Brazilian and a lot of other things. But I have a strong head now and I’ve had to work very hard to get it that way and I think that that is the other really good thing about me, that not only can I play football, but I’ve focused on my mental health.”

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.

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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 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.

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.