Category Archives: News

Lionel Messi wins record seventh Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for the seventh time in his career, extending his record as the player to win it the most times.

The Argentine captain capped off a wonderful year for himself by pipping Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho to the award, making him the first Ligue 1 player to win the honour since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1991.

Messi had previously won each of his six awards with FC Barcelona, the club he played his entire career for before a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain.



The award was met with a mixed response from fans, with many believing Bayern Munich and Poland striker Lewandowski deserved the honour.

But in the end, Messi’s victory in the Copa America and Copa Del Rey as well as finishing as the top goalscorer in both tournaments and La Liga was enough to secure him the record breaking achievement.

Lewandowski finished second while Chelsea’s Jorginho rounded off the podium in third, having helped his club win the Champions League and led Italy to winning Euro 2020 in the summer.

Karim Benzema finished fourth, while N’Golo Kante finished fifth. The Premier League continued to dominate the top ten as Cristiano Ronaldo finished sixth, Mohamed Salah finished seventh and Kevin De Bruyne finished eighth, while PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Gianluigi Donnarumma completed the top ten.

FIFA ensured that Lewandowski didn’t go home empty handed however, as the inaugral “Striker of the Year” award was given to the man who scored 64 goals in 54 games last season en route to yet another Bundesliga title.

Chelsea were crowned the inaugral “Club of the Year” winners, while Pedri was confirmed as the Kopa Trophy winner -given to the best Under-21 player in the world.

Messi’s victory moves him two clear of Ronaldo in the record hunt, as the Portuguese legend finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.

European playoff draw made for Qatar 2022 World Cup

One of Italy or Portugal will NOT be at the World Cup in Qatar 2022 after they were drawn in the same path during the playoffs.

Both teams failed to finish top of their group following bad results in the final group game, with Portugal being beaten at home by Serbia and Italy being held to a draw with Northern Ireland.

Because of those results both sides were entered into the playoffs, where they were drawn in the same path meaning they could meet in the playoff final for one of the three available places in the tournament.



The result means only one of the teams can go through and they are likely to meet in the final game, with Portugal getting drawn with home advantage.

Scotland and Wales were also drawn in the same path, meaning Britain won’t have more than two sides representing them alongside England.

Russia and Sweden were the seeded teams to be drawn into Path B, meaning that only one of those will be able to qualify also.

For the biggest teams to meet each other they must first win games against the unseeded teams in a one-legged game too. You can see the full draw below.

Path A

Semi-finals:
Scotland vs Ukraine
Wales vs Austria

Final:
Winner of Wales/Austria vs Winner of Scotland/Ukraine

Path B

Semi-finals:
Russia vs Poland
Sweden vs Czech Republic

Final:
Winner of Russia/Poland vs Winner of Sweden/Czech Republic

Path C

Semi-finals:
Italy vs North Macedonia
Portugal vs Turkey

Final:
Winner of Portugal/Turkey vs Winner of Italy/North Macedonia

All semi-final fixtures will be played on March 24th 2022, before the finals on March 29th 2022.

Ralf Rangnick to take over Manchester United as interim manager

Manchester United have agreed a deal with Ralf Rangnick to take over as manager for the rest of the season, before moving into a consultancy role.

The club sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a 4-1 defeat to Watford to make it four defeats in six Premier League games, pushing them down to eighth place.

But the club have now agreed to having Rangnick take charge on a temporary basis until the end of the season, ending speculation surrounding Mauricio Pohettino.



The club announced when they sacked Solskjaer that they would be looking to bring in an interim manager until the end of the season, but speculation about PSG boss Pochettino joining immediately had intensified in recent days.

However the most recent reports claimed that the French giants weren’t interested in letting their manager leave mid-season, and it now seems as though talks have ended until the end of the current campaign.

Rangnick comes in with a huge reputation, with many giving him the nickname as the ‘Godfather of German football’. He is credited with bringing gegen-pressing to the top level, a system that Jurgen Klopp has brought on leaps and bounds.

The German is currently in a technical director role with Lokomotiv Moscow but he will leave that position to join United on an initial six-month managerial deal, before a two-year deal begins for a consultancy role.

It’s believed Manchester United will pursue either Pochettino or Erik ten Hag as their permanent appointment from the summer, but Rangnick will be able to set the foundations from a tactical stand point and be able to get a hands on approach for his future role too.

Rangnick won’t be in charge for United’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday as he awaits a work permit, but the club are hopeful he will be in charge for the game against Arsenal next Thursday.

Sergio Aguero forced to retire with heart problems

Sergio Aguero has been forced to retire aged 33 after being diagnosed with heart problems.

The Argentina striker joined Barcelona in the summer on a free transfer after 10 years with Manchester City in the Premier League, where he became the club’s all-time top goalscorer.

After joining the Camp Nou side to play with Lionel Messi, he was left angered when Messi was forced to leave the club after financial problems meant his contract could not be renewed.



Aguero suffered a calf injury which delayed his debut for the club until October, before scoring his first goal for the club as a substitute in El Clasico during the 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid.

He completed his first 90 minutes for the club in a defeat to Rayo Vallecano, but in his next appearance ‘Kun’ would only last 42 minutes before going down unchallenged with breathing problems.

He has since been diagnosed with a cardiac arythmia and although Barcelona announced that he would unavailable for a period of three months while his health was monitored, it’s now believed he will retire.

According to leading Barcelona journalist Gerard Romero, the club will host a press conference this week to officially confirm the player’s retirement from professional football at the age of 33.

Aguero scored an amazing 260 goals for Man City in 390 appearances for the club during a ten-year stint where he won five Premier League titles, six Carabao Cups and an FA Cup.

The shock retirement will come as a blow to new Barcelona boss Xavi, who earmarked Aguero’s experience and quality as something to build on when taking over from Ronald Koeman.

It means Memphis Depay will be tasked with being the club’s chief goalscorer this season along with youngster Ansu Fati, while Luuk de Jong, Martin Braithwaite, Ousmane Dembele and Phillipe Coutinho will also need to chip in when they play.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked as Manchester United manager

Manchester United have officially confirmed the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager.

The Reds were battered 4-1 away at Watford on Saturday afternoon and that served to be the final straw for the Old Trafford board, as United dropped down to seventh in the table with just 17 points after 12 games.

Michael Carrick has been placed in temporary charge of the club while United look to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season.



Solskjaer had been under severe pressure since a 5-0 defeat at home to Liverpool last month, which was then followed by a 3-0 win over Spurs to seemingly settle the issues.

However United then limped to a 2-2 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League, were smashed 2-0 by Man City and have now been thrashed by newly promoted Watford.

It makes it five defeats in the last seven league games for United, who were expected to compete for the Premier League title this season after a summer transfer window that saw them sign Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

A statement from the club read;

Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as manager.Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision. While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.

Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as Manager and our very best wishes for the future. His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a Manager who gave us many great moments. He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.

“Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season.”

Manchester United travel to Spain to take on Villarreal on Tuesday evening in the Champions League, before a trip to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League next Sunday.

Qatar World Cup 2022 – European playoffs explained

The Qatar World Cup 2022 qualifying phase is over for European nations, but we still don’t know all the teams that will be playing in the tournament.

After ten games each in their groups, ten teams have been assured qualification to the tournament next winter when the most prestigious tournament in football goes to the Middle East.

Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia, England and Denmark have all confirmed their places, but there are still three more places up for grabs from the continent of Europe.



But there will be 12 teams competing for those final three spaces, in a mini playoff tournament that will decipher which teams make it. It’s a bit complicated, but here is how it will work.

The 12 teams involved in the playoff tournament are;

  • Portugal
  • Italy
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Turkey
  • Poland
  • North Macedonia
  • Austria
  • Ukraine
  • Czech Republic

Of those sides, the first six named will be seeded which means they will play the fixture at home.

Antrim , United Kingdom - 15 November 2021; Italy players walk off the pitch dejected after the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier match between Northern...
European champions Italy must go through a playoff to qualify for the World Cup

There will be three paths to the World Cup, with four teams separated into each of the three paths. In those paths there will be a one-legged semi-final game and then a one-legged final. The winner of those finals will earn qualification into the World Cup.

The semi-finals and finals of the games will take place between March 24th and March 29th 2022.

The draw for the paths will take place on Friday November 26th in Zurich, with another draw to take place following the semi-finals to determine which team will play the final at home.

Dani Alves makes stunning return to Barcelona

Barcelona have re-signed legendary right-back Dani Alves to their playing squad in a shock transfer.

The Brazilian played for Barcelona 391 times between 2008 and 2016, where he made up part of one of the greatest club teams in history and drummed up a brilliant partnership with Lionel Messi.

He left the club on a free transfer and has since played for a number of clubs, but after leaving Sao Paulo recently following a payment dispute he has now returned to the Camp Nou.



Alves is regarded as one of the best attacking full-backs in the history of the game, with his brilliant dribbling, passing, pace and skill all key aspects of his game.

His technical ability was so great that despite playing the vast majority of his career as a right-back, Alves took the number 10 shirt and played in midfield during his latest stint in Brazil.

A disagreement with Sao Paulo over a non-payment of his wages meant he terminated his contract early, midway through his third season with the club and is now a free agent.

That means he is able to sign for any club outside of the transfer window, although he won’t be able to be registered until January. Reports suggest that he has re-joined Barcelona to help new manager and former teammate Xavi set the new standards in the dressing room.

With Barcelona in financial ruin currently, Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano has claimed that Alves will be the lowest paid first-team player at the club as part of the deal.

In a brief statement announcing the contract agreement until June 2023, Barcelona said;

“FC Barcelona and Dani Alves have reached an agreement in principle for the player to join the football first team for the remainder of the current season. The Brazilian will be joining training from next week but will not be able to play until January.

The club will announce the full details at his official presentation as a new FC Barcelona player.”

Alves is the most decorated footballer in football history having won an incredible 45 trophies throughout his career with Bahia, Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Sao Paulo and Brazil, including an Olympic gold medal and three Champions League titles.

Frank Lampard rejects chance to become Norwich manager

Frank Lampard has rejected the opportunity to become manager of Norwich City.

The former Chelsea and Derby boss was the front-runner for the job after Daniel Farke was sacked last week, despite picking up the club’s first win of the season over Brentford.

However after discussions with the club’s hierarchy, Lampard has opted to turn the job down.



Lampard was earmarked for the Crystal Palace job in the summer and was also briefly linked with the Newcastle United job too following Steve Bruce’s sacking, but he was closest to agreeing to take over Norwich.

The Canaries sit rock bottom of the Premier League with just five points and one win from 11 Premier League games so far this season.

Norwich were hopeful that Lampard would be able to come in and work with the young squad to try and keep them in the Premier League after promotion last year.

With the former England midfielder now out of the running, former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is said to be the new front-runner for the job.

Smith was sacked by Villa the day after Norwich sacked Farke, following a fifth consecutive defeat against Southampton on the Friday night.

According to Sky Sports, Smith is still unsure himself of whether or not to take the job having just come out of a job that he was in for three years.

He will now likely have a bit more time to make his decision being the new front runner, but Norwich will likely have to do some convincing to get him on board so quickly.

Norwich are unlikely to make a decision before next week, with their next Premier League game coming against Southampton on November 20th.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard eyeing up Premier League jobs

England’s next generation of managers are looking to get back to the Premier League as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard get linked with new jobs.

Lampard has been without a club since being sacked by Chelsea in January, but has been linked with several jobs including Newcastle, Watford and Crystal Palace.

Gerrard on the other hand has found great success in Scotland with Rangers, ending Celtic’s dominance and winning the Scottish Premier League last season and also guiding them to a good run in the Europa League.



But now with spaces opening up in the Premier League following the sackings of Dean Smith at Aston Villa and Daniel Farke at Norwich, both men could find themselves back in England’s top flight sooner rather than later.

Reports suggest that Norwich are keen to bring in Lampard to help their battle for survival, with the Canaries currently sitting rock bottom of the league with just five points from 11 games this season.

Lampard is a young coach and with Norwich’s relatively young squad, Lampard’s love for youth players as shown at Chelsea could be a positive for him – especially with Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour among the playing staff.

Billy Gilmour of Chelsea shakes hands with Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea as he is substituted off during the Carabao Cup Round of 16 match...

Gerrard on the other hand is among the top targets for the Aston Villa job, with the Midlands outfit keen to bring in someone to continue the progress that Smith made during his three years in charge.

Villa’s squad received great investment in the summer but obviously they lost Jack Grealish to Man City in a £100m deal and have failed in trying to adapt quickly.

But with Gerrard’s arrival, the club would have a new and fresh mindset on how to approach games and set up the team. The former Liverpool captain has seen his reputation as a manger grow exponentially over the last few years and he has been tipped to eventually become manager of his beloved Anfield club.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is seen at full time during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell FC and Rangers FC at on October...

The transition to eventually take that job however would be better placed with a prior job in the league and Aston Villa present a brilliant opportunity for him to take over a club with a big fan base, a decent squad and not exaggerated expectations.

It would be a great coup for the league to get the name value of both back in the league, but it would also be a good chance for Lampard to build his reputation back up and for Gerrard to continue to grow as a coach with a step up.

Paul Pogba out for 8-10 weeks with thigh injury

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been ruled out of action for 8-10 weeks with a thigh injury.

The France international was training with his national team on Monday night, where footage captured him pulling up with an injury during a shooting drill with the team.

He limped out of the session and withdrew from the national team with a thigh problem, and an initial scan has suggested that he will be out until the new year now.



According to French outlet RMC Sport, Pogba’s thigh injury will keep him out until January at the earliest with an 8-10 week period likely until he’s back to full fitness.

Pogba was already suspended for Manchester United’s next league game against Watford on November 20th following his red card in the defeat to Liverpool, but he will now miss games against Villarreal, Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Young Boys, Norwich, Brentford, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and potentially Wolves too.

The injury will come as a huge blow to United, who have been in dire form in recent weeks with just four wins in their last 12 games.

Pogba had been one of the club’s better performers at the start of the season but his form has gone cold during that run, much like most of the squad, but his talent is still undeniable.

The 28-year-old’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he is free to talk to other clubs from January about a potential transfer in the summer, should he not agree a new deal at Old Trafford before then.

His future looks bleak now with no playing time during that period and United desperate to stem the flow after suffering embarrassing defeats to Liverpool and Man City in consecutive games at home.