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Messi hits four as Barca maintain perfect start

first_img0Shares0000Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (L) vies with Eibar’s David Junca during their match in Barcelona on September 19, 2017 © AFP / PAU BARRENAMADRID, Spain, Sep 19 – Lionel Messi added four more goals to his soaring early season tally as a much-changed Barcelona maintained their 100 percent start to La Liga by routing Eibar 6-1 on Tuesday.Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid, who host Real Betis on Wednesday. “That Messi scored four goals now isn’t news,” said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde after the Argentine’s 43rd career hat-trick.“He has done it so many nights, in so many games. To keep repeating it is the most difficult thing.“He is an extraordinary player. I have run out of words for him.”Messi played in a more central role as Valverde heavily rotated his side for the first time since taking charge with Luis Suarez dropping to the bench among six changes from Saturday’s hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe.And contrary to their fortunes last season, Barca’s back-ups proved Valverde can take the luxury of resting some of his star names with Paulinho particularly impressive on his first start.Messi opened the scoring in nonchalant fashion from the penalty spot on 21 minutes after Nelson Semedo had been felled by an ungainly challenge from Alejandro Galvez.Paulinho’s 40-million-euro ($48 million) signing from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande was one of a series of moves that drew stinging criticism for Barca’s board following Neymar’s world-record departure for Paris Saint-Germain.However, after coming off the bench to score the winner at Getafe, Paulinho powered home his second Barca goal from Denis Suarez’s corner seven minutes before half-time.Paulinho also played his part in Barca’s third with a cute dummy that freed Messi and, when his shot was parried by Marko Dmitrovic, Denis Suarez fired home the rebound.Sergi Enrich reduced the arrears when he capitalised on some sloppy Barca defending to slot home David Junca’s cross.However, Messi quickly restored Barca’s three-goal lead with a lovely measured finish from the edge of the box.The five-time world player of the year completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark by prodding through Dmitrovic’s legs from Paulinho’s pass.And he added his 12th goal in just eight games this season three minutes from time after a neat one-two with Aleix Vidal.Valencia’s Simone Zaza, pictured in January 2017, bagged a hat-trick against Malaga © AFP/File / JOSE JORDAN– Anger fuels Zaza –Barca lead second-placed Sevilla, who host Las Palmas on Wednesday, by five points with Valencia now just a point further adrift as they moved up to third thanks to Simone Zaza’s seven-minute hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Malaga.By contrast, a fifth straight defeat to start the season sees Malaga slip to bottom of the table and plunges coach Michel into further danger of becoming the second La Liga boss to be sacked this term.“I am tremendously proud of the performance of the players. It is a joy to be able to enjoy it with our fans,” said Valencia coach Marcelino.Santi Mina got the rout started after just 17 minutes with a neat header from Carles Soler’s cross.Zaza then completed his first ever hat-trick with three clinical close-range finishes between the 55th and 62nd minute before substitute Rodrigo rounded off the scoring.And the former Juventus striker shrugged off a bust-up with Marcelino after being dropped for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Levante.“I didn’t have anything to prove,” Zaza told BeIN Sports Spain.“What happened on Saturday is already forgotten, I think it is normal that a player is angry when he doesn’t play.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

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Mbappe tells AFP: Ronaldo, Messi still best but won’t win Ballon d’Or

first_img0Shares0000World Cup sensation: France’s Kylian Mbappe © AFP / FRANCK FIFEPARIS, France, Nov 9 – Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe told AFP on Thursday that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi remain football’s greatest players but that his own World Cup heroics could help crown him the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner.Mbappe, 19, inspired France to World Cup victory in Russia with four goals. One of those came in the 4-2 final victory over Croatia as he became just the second teenager after Pele in 1958 to score in the championship match.He was also voted Young Player of the tournament and has since become Ligue 1’s leading scorer with 11 goals as Paris Saint-Germain run away with the French title.Messi and Ronaldo have won the last 10 Ballon d’Or awards and Mbappe believes that they are still the sport’s top A-listers.“Nobody is doing better at the moment and we can’t say it’s the end of their era because it will only end when somebody else does better than them,” Mbappe told AFP.However, the young striker added: “I don’t think one of them will win the Ballon d’Or this year because it was a World Cup year, and the World Cup takes precedence.”While Mbappe thrived at the World Cup, Messi’s Argentina and Ronaldo’s Portugal bowed out in the last 16.“But if you take the player in the purest form, there’s nobody better yet. This year they were again the best two,” added Mbappe.“Messi finished the best goalscorer in Europe; Ronaldo was the top scorer in the Champions League.”Mbappe was speaking to AFP on Thursday at an event organised by watchmakers Hublot, one of his leading sponsors.The last French player to win the coveted Ballon d’Or was Zinedine Zidane after the national team’s 1998 World Cup victory.“Frankly, I hope so (win the Ballon d’Or). We achieved something big. It would not be unjust because that is a strong word, but it would be a shame if a Frenchman does not win it.“We made history and it would be nice to be rewarded.”Football’s future? Kylian Mbappe talks to AFP © AFP / FRANCK FIFECroatia’s Luka Modric, voted Best Player of the World Cup, remains favourite for the Ballon d’Or.However, Modric is 14 years Mbappe’s senior so the young Frenchman has time on his side.He will also have time and opportunity to complete his journey from the tough streets of the down-at-heel Paris suburb of Bondy to a life of super-riches.– ‘Play to win’ –Mbappe, who will turn 20 just before Christmas, signed for PSG from Monaco for 180 million euros in 2017 in the second most expensive transfer of all time — behind PSG teammate Neymar who cost the French champions 222 million euros.Off the field, he seems destined to match Ronaldo in the commercial stakes.Will his initials “KM” match the brand power of Ronaldo’s “CR7”?“I don’t know because CR7 is something big, he has managed to build his brand and become international,” said Mbappe.“Mine is not at this stage yet, I’m changing little by little.”That development into the public consciousness saw him dominate the front page of Time magazine in October with the American publisher breathlessly showcasing the teenage as “the future of football”.Mbappe said that he will not be satisfied with winning just one World Cup.When asked what he wants to win next, he said: “All the World Cups that I can play.“I play to win; if I play four World Cups then I want to win four. We go step by step. I have already won one. You have to prepare and win with your club and with the national team also.“There are short-term goals before thinking about the 2022 World Cup. But the aim always is to win.”On being tipped to be the next true superstar once Messi and Ronaldo have retired, Mpabbe added: “I cannot control everything that is done and said.“There is not just the pitch but everything around it must also be managed. It’s not easy but I’m learning, I’m still learning. I have people around me who help me overcome the challenges one after the other.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

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