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So much hype about how Theo Walcott could be the difference and help Arsenal oust Barcelona from the Champions League on Tuesday night proved a bit unfortunate, didn’t it? Walcott again produced a frustrating performance as he was outshone by the wizard that is Lionel Messi.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Comparisons with Messi would make unfortunate reading for anyone but that doesn’t alter the fact that Walcott, for all that wonderful talent, lacked confidence and conviction when he was most needed.
After a bright 25 minutes where he once again showed his pace to sprint away and help set up Arsenal’s goal, Walcott vanished and so did Arsenal’s hopes of getting the improbable result they required to advance to the last four.
The goal came against the run of play and that was as good as it got for Arsenal. As Barcelona fullback Eric Abidal was bombing forward to help support Messi and co, Walcott had space to run into, but after Bendtner’s strike Abidal reverted back to a defensive role and he and his replacement Maxwell chaperoned Walcott for the remainder of the game.
Franck Ribery will likely choose Spain if he decides to leave Bayern Munich, we learned from a Sport Bild interview this morning, and I guess few people reading another of today’s big football stories, this time in France Football, would blame him.
While the Frenchman highlights the nice weather as the motivating factor behind his “tendency” towards Spain, others in his position might be swayed by the following list of the game’s top earning footballers:
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.
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.
Even Diego Maradona’s harshest critics, including Cesar Luis Menotti, recognised that they saw an improvement in Argentina’s defence in last week’s 1-0 win over Germany and some sort of shape to the team.
But Menotti, the coach who steered Argentina to their first World Cup title in 1978, does not like what he sees with Maradona at the helm for this year’s finals in South Africa.
After the century of call-ups and largely meaningless tests against mediocre opposition in friendlies, not to mention the lack of direction in the qualifiers, talent and form look set to win out in the race for places in Argentina’s World Cup squad.
Most if not all 20 of the players picked by Diego Maradona for the warm-up against Germany in Munich on March 3 would appear to have booked their ticket to Argentina’s Pretoria World Cup base in June.
The best and the worst of Cristiano Ronaldo were again on display in Sunday’s 2-0 La Liga win over Malaga, and his sending off for violent conduct has prompted fierce debate over what some in Spain are calling his “Jekyll and Hyde” character.
The Portuguese forward netted a superb first-half double to put Real Madrid in command at the Bernabeu but his night turned from glory to shame when he was dismissed for lashing out at Patrick Mtiliga and breaking the defender’s nose.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has not not been shy in trumpeting his intention to win back the FIFA World Player of the Year award, but current holder Lionel Messi appears to have other ideas.
The monstrously-gifted Argentine has consistently stolen the limelight from the most expensive player in football history with a string of sublime performances for Barcelona in the first half of the season.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderous free kick for Real Madrid against Olympique Marseille and Barcelona’s slick passing move that led to Xavi’s equaliser away to Dynamo Kiev were given a statistical overhaul in the Spanish media on Thursday.
Under the heading “Precision missiles” in sports daily AS, Ronaldo’s net-buster was measured at 102.7kph over 33.4 metres, and reached a height of 3.70 metres before tearing past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.