Fifth best in the world? Lionel Messi made a mockery of Ballon d’Or ranking with a derby masterclass

9 Dec

If you ever needed proof that individual awards are a waste of time in team sports, then this year’s Ballon d’Or provides the best evidence you’ll need.

Lionel Messi is the fifth best player in the world, according to that ranking. Some of those chosen to decide the winner didn’t even have him in their top five.

Modric claimed the honour of being crowned the best player in the world

His masterclass that decided the Barcelona derby on Saturday suggested that assessment may just be wide of the mark. It quite literally had everything – this was Messi in vintage mode.

There was the goal, from a stunning free-kick. The assist, from some incredible work in tight spaces. The second goal, from another equally stunning free-kick. The dribbles, the nutmegs, the work-rate, the intelligence, not to mention the tracking back to defend and win the ball back then initiate moves.

Messi was everywhere, and more importantly he was decisive everywhere, too.

The exhibition started with 10 minutes played, Messi receiving the ball between the lines on the edge of the box, accelerating in a burst then playing a well-weighted pass to the overlapping Nelson Semedo, whose cutback was only just put out for a corner before it reached a free Arturo Vidal.

This was Messi at his exquisite best

It was an early warning shot and five minutes later he was at it again.

Espanyol, pushing with the confidence of a team that has excelled at the RCDE Stadium for much of this season, lost the ball to the worst player possible with a lack of numbers left at the back. Messi was free, in space, surging down the right towards the box, beating man after man before he was brought down.

The subsequent free-kick that broke the deadlock should go down as one of the Argentinian’s best – no small feat considering the variety he has scored.

Dipping up and over the wall then curling into the corner well beyond Diego Lopez’s reach, it marked his 19th in La Liga against Espanyol, more than any other player in history.

Messi stepped and scored a truly beautiful free-kick

The warm-up was over, and the exhibition just starting.

Six minutes later the Rosario native was turning on a sixpence in the box, wriggling away from challenges in signature style, then apparently from one challenge too many, crumbling to the ground. Even from there Messi still managed to keep possession – not looking for a foul but instead shielding the ball before returning to an upright position and picking out Ousmane Dembélé, the only player in space, all in a blur.

The Frenchman cut inside to curl in a wonderful right-footed finish, sprinting away with his supplier, Barcelona’s inimitable number 10, who leapt into his arms.

A goal and an assist all before the break, and Messi wasn’t done.

There should have been more before the players went in for half-time; a perfectly weighted first-time ball over the top to Luis Suarez was begging for the right connection, while Messi’s own header – complete with a leap reminiscent of the one in Rome against Manchester United in 2009 – hit the post.

Messi even claimed a small part in Barcelona’s third as a defender of sorts, racing back to win back possession (and a rare smattering of applause from some of Espanyol’s fans) to start the move that ended with Suarez finally beating Lopez.

In the second half the Argentinian continued to toy with his city rivals, constantly looking over his shoulder and drawing a map of the right space to deal damage.

As it happened, the right space was from 30 metres out, where his second free-kick sailed into the back of the net in the 65th minute. A different variation with less curl and more power this time, Lopez was again beaten comfortably, Messi scoring two free-kick goals in one La Liga game for the first time ever.

As the ball flew past the home keeper silence gripped the RCDE stadium, a number of supporters simply getting up and leaving, resigned. In theory there was plenty of time left for a comeback and tickets aren’t cheap, but with Messi in this mood they knew there was no way to turn it around. It was by far the best game he has ever played at Espanyol’s ground.

It was almost as if he was particularly motivated.

The Ballon d’Or may not recognize it, but there is no other player in the world who can dominate in so many different ways in the space of 90 minutes.

Englishman abroad Patrick Roberts proves leaving Manchester City was a brilliant decision

And this was no straightforward game either. The gap between Espanyol and Barça is the shortest for a long time this season, the smaller team from Barcelona sitting second in the table and undefeated at home as recently as the second week of November, playing some excellent attacking football at their ground. On Saturday they approached the derby with ambition and intent, but unfortunately for them, so too did the extra-terrestrial in the Barça number 10 shirt.

“They can compare Messi with whoever they want, they’re only wasting their time,” Spanish football historian Angel Iturriaga concluded. With the level Messi produced on Saturday, it was almost a waste of time trying to stop him.

talkSPORT host Adrian Durham labels Tottenham’s Harry Kane coming 10th in the Ballon d’Or standings as ‘anti-Englishness at its very worst’

4 Dec

talkSPORT host Adrian Durham believes Harry Kane only finishing tenth in this year’s Ballon d’Or standings “smacks of anti-Englishness at its very worst.”

The award produced a somewhat surprising result with Luka Modric claiming the prize, ahead of five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo in second and World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann in third.

Modric won the Champions League and helped Croatia to the World Cup final in 2018

It’s the first time a player other than Ronaldo or Lionel Messi (who finished fifth this year) has won the award since former Brazil and AC Milan superstar Kaka did in 2007.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was the highest-placed Premier League footballer in sixth.

But Durham was outraged that the Tottenham and England forward was not higher in the standings.

On Drivetime, Adrian said: “For him [Kane] to only come tenth in the Ballon d’Or list I think smacks of anti-Englishness at its very worst.

Durham believes Kane should have finished higher

“It seems to me that the Ballon d’Or has become the best player in the team that wins the Champions League and that’s not how it should be.

“If you look at the pound-for-pound performances and the level that Harry Kane has kept up does he really deserve to be tenth?”

Fellow Drivetime host Darren Gough also suggested that five-time winner Messi only coming fifth was perhaps more of an injustice than Kane’s position which Adrian agreed with.

Below you can see the discussion between the pair on this year’s Ballon d’Or awards.

‘I would have punched him’ – talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer fumes after women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg is asked to twerk

4 Dec

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer has blasted the co-host of the 2018 Ballon d’Or awards over his sexist comments towards winner Ada Hegerberg, telling talkSPORT: ‘I would have punched him’.

What should have been a highly significant moment for women’s football on Monday night was badly blemished by French radio DJ Martin Solveig, who asked Hegerberg to twerk after she collected her award.

Ada Hegerberg was asked to twerk at the Ballon d’Or awards

The 23-year-old Lyon and Norway star was announced as the first ever winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or at the star-studded event in Paris, and gave an empowering speech encouraging more girls to play football.

However, as she was leaving the stage, ceremony co-host Solveig asked her if she could twerk.

The three-time women’s Champions League winner abruptly said “no” before walking away.

The moment, which quickly spread on social media, has been a huge topic of controversy on Tuesday.

After the event, Hegerberg told reporters that she had accepted an apology from Solveig, who insisted he had not intended to cause offence and was merely referencing an earlier moment in the ceremony when he invited Under-21 gong winner Kylian Mbappe to dance with him.

Nevertheless, it was clear from the reaction in the room that his comments to Hegerberg were highly inappropriate.

Julia Hartley-Brewer joined talkSPORT host Jim White on Tuesday to offer her verdict on the events, and branded the 42-year-old DJ ‘a sexist pig’.

“[Hegerberg] rather magnificently responded ‘…no’, which I think was the best response,” said the host of talkRADIO’s No-Nonsense Breakfast Show.

“I would have punched him – he stole her moment!

Hegerberg was the top scorer in the French league last season with 31 goals and netted 15 in the Champions League, which she helped Lyon win

“His explanation that, ‘oh, I don’t understand the culture’, rubbish! You’re just a sexist pig!

“I’m not a big fan of people leaping on the offence bus at every single thing.

“But this is a professional sportswoman being awarded this incredible accolade, and it’s really significant, the first time women’s football is really being taken seriously alongside the men’s game.

“And for him to basically ask about sexual dancing, it’s just so embarrassing!

“With that said, David Ginola can twerk for me any time he wants, but that’s another story entirely…

“But it is different isn’t it because women’s football hasn’t been taken seriously, it’s all about, ‘oh I hope they get their shirts off at the end’, and, ‘let’s go for some comedy and watch women’s football’.

“The fact women’s football is finally being taken seriously and at that point he sexualises it, it’s just so embarrassing.

“But I love that the reaction is he is the idiot and she has been class personified.”

Hegerberg has scored 185 goals in 149 games since signing for Lyon in 2014

Andy Murray was among the high-profile stars outraged by the incident, saying it was an example of how ‘ridiculous’ sexism is still rife within sport.

Meanwhile, Hartley-Brewer questioned why a radio DJ was chosen to present the women’s award instead of a more prestigious sporting guest, after French football hero David Ginola presented Luka Modric and Mbappe with their gongs.

“I would at the very least expect a top footballer to hand out that award, or maybe another top sportswoman in a different field,” she added.

“I think the fact it was just a random DJ who clearly didn’t know what the hell he was talking about was a bit of a giveaway that it was a bit of an afterthought.”

Listen back to the debate with talkSPORT host Jim White IN FULL above!

Andy Murray rages at Ballon d’Or host for ‘sexist’ comments towards winner Ada Hegerberg – ‘Why do women still have to put up with this s***?’

4 Dec

Andy Murray has hit out at the co-host of the 2018 Ballon d’Or awards for asking Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk.

The British tennis ace says the incident shows ‘ridiculous’ sexism is still rife in sport.

Womens’ Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg with Luka Modric, winner of the mens’ award, and Kylian Mbappe, winner of the Under-21 award

Lyon striker Hegerberg was announced as the first ever winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or at the star-studded event in Paris on Monday night, and gave an empowering speech encouraging more girls to play football.

However, as the 23-year-old was leaving the stage, French DJ and ceremony co-host Martin Solveig asked her if she could twerk.

The three-time women’s Champions League winner abruptly said “no” before walking away.

After the event, Hegerberg told reporters that she had accepted an apology from the 42-year-old.

But former world number one Murray – a long-time campaigner for gender equality, and for two years had former Wimbledon ladies’ champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach – hit out at Solveig.

He wrote on Instagram: “Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport – why do women still have to put up with that s***?

“What questions did they ask Mbappe and Modric? I’d imagine something to do with football.

“And to everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke… It wasn’t.

“I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

Solveig’s comments have sparked a backlash

Hegerberg told Sky Sports after the awards: “He [Solveig] came to me afterwards and was really sad that it went that way. I didn’t really think about it at the time to be honest.

“I didn’t really consider it as sexual harassment or anything in the moment. I was just happy to do the dance and win the Ballon d’Or to be honest.”

Accompanied by a video apologising further to Hegerberg, Solveig wrote on Twitter: “Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended.

“My point was: I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence.

“People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”

Solveig posted a picture of the pair embracing and wrote: “I explained to @AdaStolsmo the buzz and she told me she understood it was a joke.

“Nevertheless my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly congratulations to Ada.”

England defender and Lyon team-mate Lucy Bronze, who came sixth in the inaugural women’s award, believed the incident was just a joke.

Andy Murray helped to break gender barriers by appointing former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014

“The DJ asked each person that won what their dance was but she can twerk, she was lying. It was more of a joke of making her dance,” Bronze told BBC Sport.

On receiving the award, Hegerberg said: “I would like to say a huge thanks to France Football, for letting us have this opportunity to have this award.

“It is a huge step for women’s football and the work you have put down is such an important thing for women’s football and together we will make a difference.

“I would like to end this speech with some words to young girls all over the world. Please believe in yourself.”

First women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg asked to twerk

4 Dec

Ada Hegerberg was asked if she knew how to twerk after collecting the first ever women’s Ballon d’Or award.

Martin Solveig, a French DJ hosting the event in Paris, sparked a sexism row after making the comment as Hegerberg was named the world’s best female footballer.

The Lyon striker, 23, said “no” and immediately walked away.

Solveig outraged many on social media with the remark and has since apologised through his personal Twitter account.

“Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended,” he said. “My point was: I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence, people who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women.”

Ada Hegerberg claimed the prize

The ceremony marked the first time a separate women’s trophy has been awarded since the Ballon d’Or’s inception in 1956.

Before Solveig’s comment, Norwegian international Hegerberg described the night as a dream come true.

She said: “It feels like a victory for, taking a good step in the right direction for the women’s football. This is a huge part they’ve done, France Football, and it’s positive for all parts.

Solveig’s comments sparked a backlash

“We need help to develop women’s football and I think this is a really positive announcement.

“We’re in 2018 and we’ve got a historical women’s Ballon d’Or, so I feel very proud. It’s not that often that I use the word ‘proud’, but today I am really proud to be a part of it.

“Sometimes you have episodes or situations where you feel like ‘damn, we’re in such a man(‘s) world’.

Luka Modric won the men’s award

“But at the same time, I’ve never looked at myself different from a man’s footballer. I’ve always felt the same: I work hard to try to achieve my dreams like any other girl out there and, that’s the way we have to look at it.”

Meanwhile, Luka Modric collected the men’s Ballon d’Or award, becoming the first player other than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to do so since 2007.

Ballon d’or 2018: Eden Hazard believes Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe deserve to win prestigious award before him

23 Nov

Eden Hazard believes Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe deserve to win the Ballon d’Or more than he does, despite a terrific year for club and country.

The Chelsea forward earned a place on the illustrious list after a spectacular 2018 where he added goals, assists and consistency to his game.

Neither Messi or Ronaldo are expected to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time in a decade

As captain of Belgium, the diminutive forward led his country to the World Cup semi-finals and also helped bring the FA Cup back to Stamford Bridge.

However, the 27-year-old does not feel as though he is worthy of being called the best player in the world, naming two players who deserve the accolade more than he does.

He even went as far as tipping one of the two to pick up the illustrious award at the glitzy ceremony in Paris next month.

Hazard told RTFB:  “Even though I had a very good year, I have to keep my feet on the ground.

Modric poses with the World Cup Golden Ball, while Mbappe won recognition as the Best Young Player in Russia

“I do not deserve the Ballon d’Or. I think there are players who have been better than me.

“Winning the Ballon d’Or is not a goal for me. If I win it one day, great. If I do not, it won’t be a problem.

“I would have said Luka Modric, but he has played a little less well since August and September.

“So, if we take into account the beginning of the season, I would say Kylian Mbappe.”

Hazard has already won the Premier League Player of the Month of the award, but wants to keep his feet on the ground

Modric and Mbappe are the clear favourites to scoop the prize, ahead of Real Madrid‘s World Cup winning defender Raphael Varane and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

Despite winning the Champions League with Real and earning a lucrative move to Juventus, five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo is finally expected to relinquish his grasp on the prestigious award.


Luka Modric says he doesn’t really care if he wins the Ballon D’Or: ‘If not, nothing will change’

18 Nov

Luka Modric insists he is not really fussed whether or not he wins the 2018 Ballon D’Or.

The midfielder’s sensational year saw a lowlight on Sunday as England came from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 and send them crashing out of League A in the Nations League.

Luka Modric couldn’t stop Croatia from losing at Wembley

Nonetheless, it will not take the shine off a year which has seen him lift the Champions League with Real Madrid, guide Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia, and collect the Golden Ball award for his outstanding performances during the tournament.

He was named Player of the Year at the FIFA Football Awards and many expect the Croatian to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s ten-year monopoly on the Ballon D’Or.

However, Modric is not overly bothered about the award, claiming it won’t change anything.

The Croatian was named the World Cup’s best player

He told talkSPORT: “We will see. I am honoured to be in this competition for this great award.

“If it happened, no one would be happier than me but if not, nothing will change. My year was great and that’s it.”

The Real Madrid maestro began to pull the strings in the second-half against England and he admits the defeat at Wembley is a tough one to take.

With a score-draw good enough to see Croatia avoid relegation, Harry Kane scored five minutes from time after Jesse Lingard had cancelled out Andrej Kramaric’s second-half strike.

The Real Madrid man beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the FIFA Player of the Year award

“It’s little bit painful to lose in this way because we were ten minutes away from victory and two goals from set-pieces is painful,” Modric added.

“But that’s football and well done to England. I wish them all the best in the final tournament.

“I’m not surprised. It’s football. A lot of things can happen in one game. I think they did well.”

Manchester United legend Gary Neville accused of ‘baiting Liverpool’ after backing Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos to win Ballon d’Or

1 Nov

Gary Neville has backed Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos to win the 2018 Ballon d’Or, much to the chagrin of plenty of Liverpool fans.

During a Twitter Q&A on Thursday afternoon, the Manchester United legend was asked who he think should win the prestigious award and be recognised as the best players in the world – picking the Spain centre half.

Neville backs the centre-half to collect the prestigious award

During the 2018 Champions League Final in Kiev, Ramos received death threats after he collided with fellow Ballon d’Or nominee Mohamed Salah in a challenge which saw the Egyptian suffer a dislocated shoulder.

Although Ramos lifted the trophy that night, the defender endured an indifferent season – helping Los Blancos to finish third in LaLiga and Spain to a round of 16 exit in the World Cup in Russia.

The infamous tackle which left Salah in tears in Kiev

The centre-back did manage to chip in with five goals in all competitions, but was also booked an incredible 12 times.

With seemingly plenty of more deserving candidates for the accolade, some Liverpool fans are convinced the former England international is merely winding Reds fans up with his somewhat controversial choice.

Ramos went on to lift the Champions League trophy, but is Neville just winding fans up?

The right-back was fined £5,000 by the FA after running the length of the pitch and goading Liverpool fans after a late winner at Old Trafford during a Premier League game in 2006.

Check out what these Liverpool fans had to say about Neville’s latest remarks!

Cristiano Ronaldo Jr scores stunning brace for Juventus under-nine team, including brilliant solo goal

14 Oct

Cristiano Ronaldo Jr looks set to have a huge future in football after scoring one of the best goals of the season already for the Juventus under-nine team.

Clearly keen on following his famous father into the senior team, the wonderkid was filmed scoring two sensational goals which looked eerily reminiscent of Ronaldo senior.

Ronaldo Jr shows incredible speed and footwork to leave is opponents for dead

Picking the ball up on the right-wing, Ronaldo Jr dribbles past an opponent, leaving them turned inside out. He then advances on the keeper as the rest of the defence back off.

Showing the sort of trickery and footwork that made his father a hero at Manchester United and Real Madrid, the youngster then drags the ball around the keeper before tapping into the empty net.

The youngster then shows off a blistering turn of pace before finding the back of the net

In the video posted on Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Twitter and Instagram page, the next clip shows the Juve youngster advancing on the keeper again with the same distinct running style of his famous father.

With the iconic number seven on his back, the youngster breezes past opposition defenders.

Ronaldo and his talented son

Showing all the composure in the world, he smashes the ball into the far corner to rapturous applause.

While Ronaldo Jr has some way to go to reach the level of his dad, he certainly seems to have all the skills required to make it at the top.

Check out the video below!

Ballon d’Or 2018: Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah leads Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in fan vote

9 Oct

Mohamed Salah is currently top of a Ballon d’Or vote to find out who fans believe should win the prestigious France Football award.

The Egyptian enjoyed a stellar 2017/18 season across all competitions and on the international stage, scoring 25 goals in 36 games over the calendar year, so far.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring against Southampton.

The likes of Luka Modric, Lionel Messi and Cristiano are among the favourites to win actual honour, award by journalists, Salah is currently top of the alternative poll.

Upon announcing the 30 nominees for the award, France Football asked supporters who they felt deserved to win the 2018 Ballon d’Or.

And currently Salah leads the way with an astonishing 50 per cent of the vote, with Lionel Messi second on 32 per cent and Cristiano Ronaldo third on five per cent.

The fan poll has no bearing on the actual result with a ceremony to announce the winner of the prestigious award taking place in Paris on December 3, when a women’s award will also be presented for the first time.

Ronaldo has won the last two, while he and Messi have five apiece in the quests to be labelled the greatest player ever.