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Lionel Messi’s sublime hat-trick for Barcelona against Real Zaragoza on Sunday – his second triple in consecutive La Liga matches – provided more ammunition for those who believe he is the best player in the world.
As well as putting Champions League and World Cup rivals on high alert, his latest masterclass – a nonchalant header, a mazy run reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his prime, and a sweetly struck shot – even prompted club president Joan Laporta to hail the 22-year-old Argentina forward as the best the game has ever seen.
Messi has scored 11 times in his last five matches in all competitions and was generous enough to let the out-of-sorts Zlatan Ibrahimovic take a late penalty after another twisting run ended with a foul in the Zaragoza area.
“He is the best player in the world and in the history of football,” Laporta told Canal Plus television.
Lionel Messi’s hat-trick for Barcelona last weekend has once again sparked the debate in Argentina over his indifferent form for his country.
“Messi is unhappy in the national team,” former World Cup-winning defender Oscar Ruggeri told the local America TV broadcaster.
Germany have not had it easy when it comes to picking a starting goalkeeper for this year’s World Cup.
Robert Enke, who was first choice going into the last three World Cup qualifiers, committed suicide in November and it is still unclear who will stake a claim to being the long-term successor to Jens Lehmann.
from Left field:
Fabio Capello has plenty of options for the right midfield slot, even if David Beckham's snapped Achilles rules him out of the World Cup.
Between Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon (if fit) and James Milner there is a wealth of talent at the Italian's disposal.
When everyone thought Adriano had definitively left his off-field problems behind and was on the way to becoming once again one of the most feared strikers in the world, writes Pedro Fonseca, the Brazil international is showing that his personal fragility still haunts him.
The 28-year-old striker, who at the height of his powers helped Brazil win the 2004 Copa America and 2005 Confederations Cup as best player and top scorer of both competitions, returned to training with Flamengo on Monday for the first time since playing for Brazil in a World Cup warm-up against Ireland in London a week ago.
Diego Maradona is in danger of demeaning as a coach the light blue and white Argentine stripes he graced and worshipped as a player.
As Velez Sarsfield’s Victor Zapata put it recently using an in-vogue term for all things of little substance: “Now it’s very ‘light’ getting to the national team.”
Ronaldinho has been left out of Brazil’s squad for next month’s friendly with Ireland, making it highly unlikely he will make Dunga’s list of 23 for June’s World Cup.
It’s quite a come down for the former world player of the year but he has been having a much better season at AC Milan following three years of problems.
John Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy following revelations about his private life.
Here is England coach Fabio Capello’s statement:
“After much thought, I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.
It’s hard to believe Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has yet to win a cap for Spain and that he isn’t even in the running for the World Cup finals this summer.
The 28-year-old has been Barca’s number one since the 2003-4 season and was a fundamental cog in Pep Guardiola’s Barca machine that swept to an unprecedented six trophies last year.
Michael Owen’s quest to find favour under England coach Fabio Capello ahead of June’s World Cup finals may have got a little harder with the arrival of Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf at Manchester United.
In only his second appearance since joining from Norwegian side Molde, Diouf opened his United account with a well-taken header in Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League win over Burnley and has firmly installed himself as a rival for the precious substitute time Owen has so far enjoyed unchallenged this season.