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Messi’s enduring brilliance rewarded with another Ballon d’Or



Lionel Messi, Argentine professional footballer

Some might question whether Lionel Messi really deserved to win his latest Ballon d’Or prize ahead of other worthy candidates, but the Argentinian has been rewarded for continuing to be so good for so long.

The most turbulent year of Messi’s glittering career, in which he was forced to tearfully bid farewell to Barcelona, ends with him — at the age of 34 — claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.

In Germany they thought it had to be Robert Lewandowski’s year after he missed out 12 months ago when the 2020 edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.

Karim Benzema might have had plenty of support in Spain for his remarkable performances with Real Madrid, and Jorginho could stake a claim following a year in which he won the Champions League with Chelsea as well as Euro 2020 with Italy.

Yet it is the enduring brilliance of Messi — who won the last award in 2019 — which stays in the minds of the jurors when it comes to voting.

Having joined Paris Saint-Germain in August, he is the first male player to win the award while with a French club since Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille in 1991, although it was his achievements with Barcelona and with Argentina that counted toward him effectively retaining his crown.

Messi tried unsuccessfully to force his departure from Barcelona in August 2020 but he showed no signs of rancour as he stayed put at the Camp Nou and ended last season with 38 goals in 48 games for his boyhood club.

These are the kind of remarkable figures that he has made so mundane over the course of his career — indeed he had actually scored more goals than that in 10 of his previous 11 seasons.

Messi was the top scorer in La Liga for the fifth consecutive year with 30 goals and won the Copa del Rey, scoring twice in the final as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0.

This will always be remembered as the year his long association with the Catalan giants came to an end, after 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record goal tally for one club.

However, 2021 was also the year he finally won a major international title, captaining Argentina to victory in the Copa America with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the final at the Maracana.

He scored four goals in the tournament as Argentina won the South American championship for the first time since 1993.

“I think I won this trophy thanks to what we did at the Copa America so I dedicate this to my teammates,” he said after being handed his latest Ballon d’Or at the Chatelet Theatre in central Paris.

However the shame was that hardly any fans were in the stadium to witness Argentina’s Copa America success due to coronavirus restrictions, only adding to the sense that, despite all he has achieved, Messi still has unfinished business.

Not least at PSG, where he has so far played just 11 games since arriving in August, and scored just four goals.

Messi did provide three assists for the Parisians in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday but it remains to be seen how motivated the Argentinian is by the French league. He has other priorities.

“My dream is to win another Champions League,” he said at his unveiling in August, with the last of his four European Cups coming in 2015.

Then there is the really big one: the World Cup in Qatar will be underway this time next year and Messi will be 35 by then.

That will surely be his last chance to win the greatest trophy of all, and you imagine he would swap his seven Ballons d’Or to get his hands on it.


Barca dumped out of cup after extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao




Barcelona were dumped out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday as Ferran Torres’ first goal for the club failed to prevent a dramatic 3-2 defeat after extra-time by Athletic Bilbao.

Disappointment for Barca was compounded by the sight of a visibly upset Ansu Fati going off injured in the second half of normal time at San Mames.

Fati only returned earlier this month after two months out with a hamstring problem, having also come back in September following 10 months out with a knee injury.

Another spell on the sidelines for Fati would be a huge blow to Barca’s hopes of making La Liga’s top four. Pedri also asked to go off in extra-time.

Real Madrid needed an extra 30 minutes as well to defeat Elche 2-1, with Eden Hazard scoring the winner after Marcelo’s red card forced La Liga’s leaders to come from behind with 10 men.

Barca were hoping to join them in the last eight but instead it is Athletic who advance, joining Madrid, Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano, Cadiz, Valencia and Real Betis in Friday’s draw for the last eight.

Madrid will be firm favorites, particularly after Sevilla crashed out at the hands of Real Betis, who are now perhaps the greatest threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side winning their first Copa del Rey since 2014, during Ancelotti’s first tenure as coach.

Barca won the Copa del Rey last season and defending their title was probably their best chance of silverware this term.

They are out of sight in La Liga and were beaten by Madrid in last week’s Spanish Super Cup, with the Europa League now their only realistic remaining route to a trophy.

Only 102 seconds had passed when Iker Muniain sent San Mames apoplectic by collecting Nico Williams’ cross at the back post, before turning and bending into the far corner.

But Barcelona were level in the 20th minute, and from a similar angle, as Torres shifted right, inside Oscar De Marcos, and whipped a stunning shot into the net.

Inaki Williams hit the bar with a long-range effort late on but the real drama was still to come. Athletic thought they had won it in the 86th minute when Inigo Martinez prodded in at the back post ahead of the sliding Gerard Pique.

Barcelona, though, found a way back in the 93rd, as Dani Alves bicycle-kicked Jordi Alba’s cross back into the area and Pedri’s hit on the stretch was too powerful for Julen Agirrezabala’s right hand.

Barca celebrated like it was the winner but there was extra-time to come and injuries. Fati went off and then Pedri asked to depart.

Then in the 103rd minute, a sliding Alba stopped Nico Williams’ cross with his right arm and after consulting the replay, Jose Munuera pointed to the spot. Ter Stegen dived right, Muniain shot left.

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A commentator from Equatorial Guinea celebrates hysterically after defeating Algeria



The media circulated a video clip showing the hysterical joy of a match commentator from Equatorial Guinea, following his country’s victory over its Algerian counterpart in the second round of the first round of the African Cup of Nations currently being held in Cameroon.
And the commentator appeared jumping for joy, standing on the seats and embracing a person who was standing next to him, after his country’s team won a precious 1-0 victory in the match yesterday, Sunday.

In the 71st minute of the match, Esteban Obiang scored the first goal for Equatorial Guinea from a corner kick on the first post, which he turned with a direct shot into the net against Algeria.
It is noteworthy that with this result, Algeria bottomed in the group with an orphan point from its draw against Sierra Leone, while Equatorial Guinea’s tally rose to 3 points, to come second, after Côte d’Ivoire, which leads the group with 4 points, while Sierra Leone occupies third place with two points.

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The French Ministry of Sports confirms that Djokovic will not play at Roland Garros without vaccination



Novak Djokovic may be banned from participating in the French Open this year if he insists on not receiving a vaccine against Corona.
This comes after the French Sports Ministry confirmed that there will be no exceptions to the new measures to limit the spread of the virus, according to Reuters.

The ministry said on Monday, “The regulations are clear. The (vaccine passport) will be imposed as soon as the law is passed. The order will apply to every fan or professional athlete until further notice. Roland Garros will take place in May. The situation may change from time to time. So we will see, but Of course, there will be no exceptions.
Yesterday, Sunday, the French Parliament gave its final approval to the government’s latest measures to tackle the Corona virus, including the “vaccine passport”, which was protested by anti-vaccine protesters, paving the way for the law to enter into force in the coming days.
The new law, which has run into difficulties in Parliament, where opposition parties have found some of its provisions too harsh, will require people to obtain a vaccination certificate to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
Djokovic, a record nine-time Australian Open winner including the last three, left Australia late on Sunday after the government’s decision to revoke his visa was upheld by the Federal Court, ending several days filled with excitement over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and the lack of access to the country. Serbian player on vaccination.
Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot now be granted another three-year visa unless the Australian Minister of Immigration agrees that there are compelling reasons.
Serbian Djokovic, who was denied the record number of Grand Slam titles with 21 titles after being expelled from the Australian Open, refused to receive the vaccination and was criticized for his participation in last month’s events after he contracted Corona.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision and the fact that Novak must leave Australia,” Djokovic’s family said in a statement. “Despite the disgraceful behavior towards Novak, we believe the sport must win.”
The family indicated that the court’s decision was related to “politics and other (interests)”.

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