Messi scores 600 Club goal

Lionel Messi has reached another milestone in his legendary career, hitting his 600th goal for Barcelona with a wonderful free-kick against Liverpool in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

Messi scored number 599 earlier in the match, pouncing on a rebound from a Luis Suarez shot and walking the ball in, before curling home a lovely strike for his 600th moments later. 

The Argentine becomes just the seventh player in history to reach the 600-goal mark at the club level, though he was beaten to the milestone by eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Ronaldo and Messi, who have dominated world football for the last decade, are joined on the exclusive list by Brazilian legends Pele and Romario, Germany’s Gerd Muller, Slavia Prague hero Josef Bican and Hungarian Ferenc Puskas. 

Messi’s first goal for Barcelona came exactly 14 years ago, on May 1, 2005, against Albacete . He has since grown into arguably the biggest star in the game, having won the Ballon d’Or on five occasions, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions. 

At 31, Messi is also a five-time winner of the European Golden Shoe and claimed the World Cup Golden Ball at the 2014 tournament in Brazil. 

His performance on Wednesday leaves Barcelona in prime position to add to that remarkable haul. 

The club have already won La Liga this season and reached the Copa del Rey final, while a 3-0 result against Liverpool leaves them on the verge of reaching the Champions League final, though a trip to Anfield for the second leg remains. 

It also continues a trend for Messi of dominance over English teams in European play. 

The Barcelona star has netted 26 times in just 33 matches against Premier League clubs in the Champions League, the best haul for any one player against any country in the competition, though he does share that record with Ronaldo, who has netted 26 times against German clubs. 

Barcelona will travel to Liverpool next Tuesday for the return leg, and should they progress they will face either Ajax or Tottenham in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1.

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Italy look up to Ronaldo to pull them through

Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the missing piece of the jigsaw for Juventus in their quest to regain the Summit of Europe for the first time since 1995-96, the Italian club splashing out 117 million euros to bring the five-times winner of the continents elite club competition to Turin last summer.

But after Juves 2-0 defeat at Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the last 16 clash between the sides, the Serie A clubs ambitions hang by a thread. Runners-up five times since their last triumph, Juve will have to score at least twice without reply in the Allianz Stadium to take the tie to extra-time, but the Italian media have been busy collating Ronaldos statistics in the competition – and against the LaLiga side – and speculating an extra half-hour may not be necessary.

Tuttosport ran a headline sounding a rallying cry for the Old Lady: Juve? Coming back from 2-0 down? Cristiano has already done it…” in allusion to the 2015-16 Champions League when Wolfsburg took a 2-0 advantage to the Bernabéu and Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick to turn the tie around.

Ronaldo to the rescue?

The Portugueses statistics in the competition also make for impressive reading. Ronaldo has scored twice or more in a Champions League game 34 times, with 27 doubles, six hat-tricks and a four-goal haul against Malmö.

Against Atlético, Ronaldo has 22 goals, including three hat-tricks and one brace. One of those hat-tricks came in the Champions League, in the 2016-17 semi-finals.

However, Under Diego Simeone, Atlético have never lost a Champions League tie after triumphing in the opening leg. Juventus, meanwhile, have never overturned a 2-0 deficit in European competition home or away.

If Ronaldo is to save the day for Juve, he will need to write another piece of history in Turin on March 13.

Jose Mourinho speaks on who is better between Ronaldo and Messi

Jose Mourinho is now in the unfamiliar role of a TV pundit, and he is already making waves. Just a month after being sacked as Manchester United manager, the Portuguese has now weighed in on the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo debate.

 

Mourinho spoke to beIN Sports about who the better player was between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and his words do indeed make a lot of sense.

 

“I think it’s unfair to both of them when somebody [says] this one is better than the other one. I think they are just different,” Jose mentioned.

 

 

 

“When you go to Messi and Ronaldo, I think it’s just unfair to compare the players. The only thing I can say is that when I had Ronaldo on my side, I was a very happy man.

 

“And when I had to play against Messi – and also against Ronaldo because I played against Ronaldo a few times – I had to think a lot to try and help my team have chances to succeed.

 

“The thing that is really to be admired is the number of years that they stay at the top. I always say the same – even with managers – to win once, it can happen. To win and win and win is much more difficult.”

 

Mourinho made some controversial comments about his Manchester United departure as well, and also mentioned that he plans to return to coaching soon.

Cristiano Ronaldo expected in Madrid for Tax fraud trial

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo is expected back in Madrid on Tuesday to attend a trial for tax evasion in which Spanish prosecutors are asking for a 23-month prison sentence and a fine.

 

The Portuguese striker, who left Real Madrid for Juventus last July, is expected to plead guilty after he agreed to a settlement worth €18.8m with Spanish tax authorities last summer

 

However, he is unlikely to serve any time in prison, as Spanish law states a sentence of under two years for a first offence can be served on probation.

 

The prosecutor’s office said it was seeking a fine of €5.7m ($6.5m), which it said Ronaldo had already paid, as well as interest of about €1m.

 

That fine, expected to be confirmed on Tuesday, is part of the total agreed in the earlier settlement, judicial sources said.

 

Ronaldo, 33, who has helped take Juventus to the top of Italian football’s Serie A, will have to travel to Madrid immediately after playing for Juve against Chievo on Monday.

 

The trial was initially expected to take place on Monday, but the prosecutor’s office said the date was now set for Tuesday.

 

It is expected to be concluded on the same day and be short, with officials saying the hearing will only require Ronaldo to confirm he accepts the deal.

 

 

Real Madrid suffer consequences of selling Ronaldo

Juventus are reaping the benefits of having a five-time Ballon d’Or winner in his prime while the club he left behind struggle for goals and points

Whether it was arrogance, misplaced faith or just outright stupidity, Real Madrid’s decision to let Cristiano Ronaldo leave for Juventus last summer must surely rank as one of football’s worst decisions in history.

It is clear now, more than halfway through the season, that Madrid have nothing like the firepower required to carry them through this, a season of transition, while Ronaldo continues to rack up the goals in Italy.

Madrid might well have banked €100m for Ronaldo, no small fee for a 33-year-old, but no money could possibly replace what has been taken away. Last season they finished 17 points adrift of Barcelona, by the end of this one they will be begging to be that close.

 

Had they got an adequate replacement then this debate might well be moot. But the fact is that there isn’t a football player alive capable of delivering what Ronaldo delivered for Real. And in a year when they also lost their talismanic coach Zinedine Zidane, the sanctioning of his sale is proving to be catastrophic.

Without a Galactico arrival like Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, they got Mariano Diaz from Lyon instead. He chose the No. 7 shirt to demonstrate that he would be leading a new era at the Santiago Bernabeu. He will do well to score that number of league goals this season.

But all looked rosy in the garden at the start of the season when a more democratic-looking Madrid attack was scoring from all angles and giving Julen Lopetegui the positive start he needed as Madrid coach.

His methods were working well; Karim Benzema’s goal scoring pace picked up. Gareth Bale, finally liberated from the shadow of Ronaldo, became a key component in the line-up and thrived as the main man.

But Madrid’s downturn in form eventually accounted for Lopetegui. Without Ronaldo’s goals they had nowhere to turn once Benzema’s form evaporated and Bale again became injured.

 

Often derided as a flat-track bully, Ronaldo’s prodigious scoring feats were missed in matches Madrid should have been winning handsomely. It’s one thing complaining that Ronaldo only scores in the easy matches, it’s another thing altogether when those so-called easy matches roll around and there is nobody to put the ball in the net with any sort of consistency.

In the Champions League as well as La Liga, Madrid have come up well short. They have scored only 26 goals in their 18 league matches to date. Barcelona, top of the division, have scored almost twice that number on 50.

Unbelievably they are right now sitting outside the Champions League places. There is the very real possibility that unless they win a fourth title in a row, they won’t even be back in the Champions League next season.

What a calamity that would be and a self-imposed one at that.

No one is denying that Madrid were due an overhaul. The president Florentino Perez and general director Jose Angel Sanchez have long since recognised that need. That is why there has been a drastic reduction in the average age of transfer targets with young starlets like Marco Asensio, Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Odriozola, Vinicius Jr and most recently Brahim Diaz coming in.

Madrid’s Champions League core one day will have to be broken up and that is understandable. A result of that will be the elimination from the first team of players like Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and more of the senior corps. But Ronaldo should have been the last of that group to go and not the first.

They have shown that they can survive the loss of Ramos or Modric. Indeed both have been horrifically out of form this season and should take time to analyse their own contributions. Meanwhile, Ronaldo is still going strong. He has demonstrated that it doesn’t matter who is managing him, who his team-mates are or what league he’s playing in, he will get the goals. He is currently top scorer of Serie A with 14 goals and has also provided an impressive five assists.

His form would have been crucial for Madrid to navigate their way through the pain of this transition season. While they replenished the team elsewhere, the one thing they could have counted on was Ronaldo’s ability to find the net and buy them some wiggle room no matter what was going on elsewhere in the club.

 

Sure, it was not a pretty sale in the end. Sure, there were complications.

Ronaldo was patently unhappy the year before with Madrid’s role – or lack thereof – in his conviction for tax fraud. He wanted a bigger pay cheque, understandable given his status as totem and all-time top scorer. It’s been reported that Perez held out and held out and held out until Ronaldo’s bluff was called and he actually did take his leave from the Bernabeu.

He is right to feel aggrieved that his salary was not high enough. Given the sums involved in the Neymar contract at Paris Saint-Germain, a player who does not have half of the pedigree of Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was of course entitled to ask for more.

He didn’t get it because Perez didn’t believe it was value for money.

How costly an error. How foolish an error.

Juventus are riding the crest of a wave; they are breaking records left, right and centre in Serie A and so is Ronaldo.

No Madrid player has managed more than seven league goals this season and that is pitiful. Ronaldo has double that amount.

This could well go down as the most catastrophic season in the modern history of the club. It didn’t have to be like this. They should have believed, should have trusted and should have paid Ronaldo. The biggest mistake in all of this is that they underestimated him. And for a club that for so long put out the idea that he was the best player in the world, that is unforgivable.

Now they know the cost.

Luck not on Juventus’ side with Champions League draw, says Nedved

The Italian side were paired with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the competition, much to the dismay of the vice-chairman Pavel Nedved lamented Juventus’ misfortune after the Bianconeri were paired with Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League on Monday.

Juve continue to blaze a trail domestically- they have won the last seven scudetti and already established an eight-point lead at the summit this season after 16 games- but have not been crowned European champions since 1996.

They recruited Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid to bolster an already imposing squad but Nedved was relatively downbeat when asked to assess the clash with the defending Europa League champions.

Nedved said:‘we didn’t have much luck. Atletico are a difficult side to face, they are more of an Italian-style team than European. They have a strong defense that plays well together, and they know how to play into the forwards with Griezmann and others.

‘I foresee two very even matches, with few goals. We have been drawn the strongest possible opponent, but there is no problem. Cristiano Ronaldo may be the man of the Champions League but the is strong and we can be confident in our ability to qualify for the quarter-finals’

Juve midfielder Sami Khedira, another former Real Madrid man, has also predicted a difficult game against Diego Simeone’s side.