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Matthaus: I'm concerned Ronaldo goals will win Ballon d'Or

Former Bayern Munich and Germany star Lotthar Matthaus is worried that Cristiano Ronaldo's goal record will "outshine everything" when it comes to the race for the 2014 Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo, who won the prize for the second time in January of this year, set a new record for goals in the Champions League as he helped fire Real Madrid to European and Copa del Rey glory last season.

The 29-year-old has already scored a staggering 28 goals so far in 2014-15 as Madrid have set a new club record of consecutive victories to move top of La Liga and ensure their place in the Champions League knockouts.

And Matthaus, who won the award in 1990, believes the Portugal star has done enough to win ahead of Lionel Messi, who he feels has not been at his best in the past year despite recently breaking both the Liga and Champions League goalscoring records.

"My personal concern is that Ronaldo will win the award. His goal ratio is unique, he sets new records," he told reporters at an event hosted by Sky.

"Normally the World Cup should outshine everything, but in the end Ronaldo's goals will outshine everything. To me he is the favourite, because he fascinates us every week.

"Messi is only the underdog because he was injured too often and was not in his best shape at the World Cup. For me he was not so strong during the tournament. Fifa's experts voted him player of the tournament, but that was a gift. I think he shook his head himself when he got the trophy up there after the final."

Manuel Neuer is the final nominee for the 2014 prize after his triumphs with Germany and Bayern Munich this year and Matthaus has hailed the former Schalke man as the pioneering goalkeeper of his generation.

"It is a great feeling [to be nominated]," continued the 1990 World Cup-winning captain. "Manuel invented a new keeper style. He is the 11th player on the field, sort of a sweeper. And at the World Cup he had the perfect stage to show it.

"For South American teams his style was something new. They did not know him, since the German Bundesliga is not so popular there. Now Neuer is known outside of Europe, too. He was a major factor in Germany winning the World Cup." 
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I'm still not fully fit, says PSG hero Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he is still not fully fit - despite having netted a crucial goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 Champions League win over Ajax on Tuesday.

The Swede put the French champions back in front shortly after Davy Klaassen’s second-half equaliser had threatened the French side’s position as group leaders, with Edinson Cavani’s second goal rounding out the win late on.

But Ibrahimovic says he is still not 100 per cent, having only recently returned from seven weeks out of action with a heel injury.

“I’m not fully recovered yet because I am still missing some rhythm,” the 33-year-old told NOS. “I haven’t trained for two months. Scoring is good for my confidence and I will come back strong.”

Ibrahimovic was pleased with his side’s display against one of his former clubs, which leaves them needing only a draw from their trip to Barcelona to clinch top spot in Group F.

“It’s always tough to play against Ajax,” he added. “They are very dominant and play with a lot of possession. I knew how they would play today, but eventually we won it. That’s the most important thing today.

“Against Barcelona we have to play for first place, and it’s a prestigious match as well.”
The group decider takes place at Barca’s Camp Nou on December 10, with PSG facing Ligue 1 clashes against Nice, Lille and Nantes before their trip to Catalunya. 

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Pogba: I want to be like Zidane

Paul Pogba has revealed he wants to become as good as Zinedine Zidane, while claiming Juventus are just as big a club as reported suitors Real Madrid.

The France international has been compared to Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira in the past because of his languid style, but he says it is another compatriot whose achievements he aims to replicate, while distancing himself from a move to Spain.

"Real Madrid are a great club, but so are Juventus," Pogba was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I was at Manchester United before, yet I decided to come to Torino and join Juve...

"I am feeling well in Italy. Everybody at Vinovo feels like family. I am only thinking about improving as a player at the moment. I hope to become like [Zinedine] Zidane."

The midfielder then went on to discuss his side's Champions League ambitions and stressed that they cannot afford to drop points against Malmo on Wednesday in order to keep their chances of reaching the knockout stages alive.

"We have to start by beating Malmo. We must return from Sweden with three points, there's no other option.

"We realise that we have been struggling in Europe and that something is missing. But I saw something important against Olympiakos, where we showed the spirit you need in a competition like this.

"We have a good team and can go pretty far, but we have to show the focus and consistency that we showed against Roma earlier this season."

Juventus currently sit third in Group A with six points from four games, level on points with second-placed Olympiakos and three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
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Sammer: Guardiola is a bit crazy

Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer admits Pep Guardiola is "a bit crazy" - but says he loves working with him.

The 47-year-old signed a three-year contract extension at the club this week and he admits it is "great fun" to work alongside the former Barcelona boss.

"He's a genius of a coach and a bit crazy in a positive way," he said after at the announcement of his renewal. "All I can say is it's great fun pursuing our targets alongside him. It's a pleasure working with him."

Sammer also called on Bayern's fringe players to stake a claim for the starting XI while Philipp Lahm recovers from injury.

"I was shocked when I first heard about it because Philipp has a huge influence on this team as captain," he said. "We wish Philipp all the best and we’re crossing our fingers. But now's not the time for sadness and sentimentality. We need to get a grip and look forwards.

"We've got a big enough squad. Players who haven't had much time on the pitch may well get a chance to show what they can do. There's enough ability and quality to maintain our standards."

Sammer did, however, reveal more encouraging news over the fitness of long-term absentee Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, who suffered knocks this week.

"He's doing well and he's coped very, very well with everything," he said of Schweinsteiger. "I think he's in a good position physically and mentally. Now the coach will speak to Basti, because of his huge experience, about deciding when he's ready. I've got the feeling it won't be long."

"I've not heard anything negative," he added on Neuer, Muller and Jerome Boateng. "I hope it's not so bad for Thomas. And it was just short-term with Manu and Jerome. I hope both of them will be available for the Hoffenheim game on Saturday."

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Spain 0-1 Germany: Kroos fires world champions to victory

Kiko Casilla had a debut to forget as he failed to stop Toni Kroos' late strike which gave Germany a 1-0 victory over Spain in Tuesday's friendly in Vigo.

Germany coach Joachim Low had urged the world champions to mark their last fixture in 2014 by beating the European champions in Vigo, but the game looked destined to finish goalless until Kroos struck after 89 minutes. 

Spain's substitute goalkeeper Casilla ought to have kept out the Real Madrid midfielder's long-range effort, but the ball skidded off the surface and bounced over his body and into the net to ensure Die Mannschaft ended their World-Cup winning year on a high note.

Low was without the likes of Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Jerome Boateng, while Thomas Muller went off with an injury in the first half as Germany sent Spain crashing to their first home defeat under Vicente del Bosque. 

La Roja were also missing key players such as Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva and the hosts ended what has been a difficult year with a defeat at Estadio de Balaidos Vigo. 

Nolito was handed his Spain debut on his home ground and the Celta Vigo winger's performance was a plus point for Del Bosque on a dismal night in the rain.

Alvaro Morata and Juan Bernat also made their first starts for the hosts, while Ron-Robert Zieler got the nod to start in the absence of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and striker Kevin Volland made only his second international start.

Sami Khedira was passed fit and took the captain's armband.

Nolito had the crowd on their feet just 12 minutes in when he turned away from Antonio Rudiger and tried his luck with a curling right-footed strike from outside the area that Zieler palmed away for a corner.

Germany responded and Mario Gotze's volley forced a fine save from Iker Casillas after the midfielder combined well with Bayern Munich team-mate Muller.

Muller had been off for treatment after picking up a knock in a challenge with Sergio Ramos and was replaced by Karim Bellarabi after only 22 minutes.

Zieler booted the ball away in unorthodox fashion with Nolito waiting to pounce, then Sebastian Rudy fired over the crossbar at the other end as the rain continued to lash down.

Bernat casually diverted Volland's dangerous cross over his own bar from close range just before the break as the opening goal remained elusive.

Ignacio Camacho came on to make his Spain bow at half-time, with Raul Albiol and Marc Bartra also introduced as Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique made way. 

Nolito was relishing the occasion and he forced another save from Zieler with a free-kick that was destined for the top corner until the Hannover keeper again denied him a debut goal.

Espanyol keeper Casilla replaced Iker Casillas 13 minutes from time and he was left red-faced when Kroos' long-range effort beat him a minute from time to give Germany the victory.

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Messi & Tevez make Argentina reunion one to remember

Many claimed they couldn’t play in the same side, while former coach Alejandro Sabella decided that one of them shouldn’t play at all.

But Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez were back together at Upton Park on Wednesday evening, pulling the strings as Argentina came from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 in a friendly international.

While Tevez had to wait 62 minutes for his introduction after three years in international wilderness, and Messi himself took some time to find his stride, the second-half showing suggested there could be something special still to come from the partnership in the months and years to come.

The Albiceleste pairing were the undoubted star attraction as far as the spectators were concerned, but Niko Kovac’s second-string side were hoping to make a statement ahead of their date with Italy at San Siro on Sunday.

Argentina started slowly, particularly in their reactions at the back, and it was no surprise when Croatia grabbed the lead. Mateo Kovacic shook off a half-hearted challenge between the lines and fed the unmarked Anas Sharbini, who left Sergio Romero with no chance.

After a host of missed chances before the break, most notably when Sergio Aguero shot wide from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy, Argentina eventually got their leveller soon after half-time in fortunate fashion. Aguero raised an arm to protect himself from Ansaldi’s fierce strike and inadvertently turned the ball home with his elbow.

Eight minutes later they were ahead. Messi’s through ball for Aguero was slightly over-hit, enticing Kalinic to attempt an intervention. However, the Croatia keeper succeeded only in bringing the Manchester City star to the floor and Messi duly side-footed home from the spot.

The Upton Park crowd had something else to cheer when Tata Martino made his first change, as former West Ham hero Tevez returned to the international fold. The reception could hardly have been more deafening had he been returning to play for the Hammers themselves.

Had he found the target after being slid through by Enzo Perez a short time later the roof may have come off the Boleyn Ground, but instead he sent the ball just wide of the far post.

Together, Tevez and Messi looked dangerous. Far from appearing incompatible as they had in the past, the use of the Barcelona man on the right and Tevez inside gave Croatia plenty to think about, and the two interchanged regularly to allow Messi to take up more familiar ground.

The switch even resulted in one of their best moments as Roberto Pereyra fed the No.10, who saw his shot from the edge of the area come back off the base of the post.

In truth Argentina deserved a third at least, but Martino will settle for the token win and the promise of more delight to come. Next up they face Portugal at Old Trafford on Tuesday, and the former Barcelona boss would do well to pair up Messi and Tevez for a longer outing.

It was only a 30-minute glimpse that the east London crowd were treated to, but on first view the reunited duo could be set to give their national coach new possibilities rather than problems.
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Valencia 0-1 Barcelona: Busquets steals win at the death

Sergio Busquets broke Valencia hearts with a goal deep into stoppage time to steal a 1-0 win for Barcelona on Sunday.

Luis Enrique's team appeared set to lose further ground on La Liga leaders Real Madrid, who chalked up a club-record 16th consecutive win across all competitions against Malaga on Saturday.

But Busquets smashed home to rescue a largely laboured performance after Diego Alves blocked Neymar's header from Lionel Messi's chipped cross.

The game ended on an unsavoury note as Messi was struck by an object that appeared to be thrown from the Mestalla stands as Barcelona celebrated the winning goal, but the Catalan club can reflect on a hard-earned triumph that leaves them two points behind Real.

Barca were indebted to goalkeeper Claudio Bravo for fine saves that denied Valencia duo Sofiane Feghouli and Alvaro Negredo before Busquet's first La Liga goal for 14 months provided a sting in the tail.

Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo responded to last weekend's loss against Levante by replacing Carles Gil and Pablo Piatti with Dani Parejo and Feghouli in his starting XI.

Opposite number Luis Enrique elected an unusually robust Barcelona midfield featuring holding duo Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, while former Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu was preferred to Marc Bartra at centre-back.

The Mestalla faithful enjoyed Mathieu's eighth-minute booking for a late hack through Negredo, but the Frenchman was on hand to clear when Bravo awkwardly parried a Rodrigo shot three minutes later.

Barcelona's all-star attack was largely isolated from their midfield, but Messi wonderfully brought down Gerard Pique's lofted pass for Luis Suarez to fire too close to Diego Alves in the Valencia goal.

Nicolas Otamendi made a last-ditch tackle to deny Neymar, although the Valencia defender blotted his brilliant work by reacting theatrically to a subsequent clash with the Brazil forward - prompting a melee that saw Pique and Antonio Barragan booked by referee David Fernandez Borbalan.

Parejo blazed over from a corner after half an hour and Andre Gomes curled a shot narrowly wide before Valencia strung together their best move of the first half in stoppage time.

A brisk counter-attack concluded with Rodrigo's throughball picking out Gomes, although the midfielder had to work with an acute angle having rounded Bravo and shot into the side netting

Valencia made the brighter start to the second half - Negredo heading a cross from Jose Gaya past the post - before Suarez endured further woes in front of goal.

The Uruguay international was off target with a free header from a 56th-minute corner before muscling in between Otamendi and Diego Alves and swivelling to blast wide.

Back came Valencia and Pique was on hand to clear a Rodrigo strike off the line after Barcelona failed to effectively deal with a succession of crosses.

Messi dropped deeper to try and spark his mis-firing team into action and laid the ball on for Neymar to send a 20-yard effort whistling wide in the 66th minute.

Suarez's biggest moment of frustration arrived shortly afterwards, instinctively turning home when Dani Alves steered a volley across the box, and Barca then required heroics from their goalkeeper.

Bravo thwarted Feghouli with his legs and was at full stretch to push out Negredo's rasping 78th-minute strike.

Then, as the game looked certain to finish goalless, a mix up in the Valencia box allowed Busquets to fire home and send his team-mates into next weekend's local derby against Espanyol on a winning note.
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Messi breaks Raul's Champions League record

Lionel Messi cemented his place as the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history in typically emphatic fashion by grabbing a hat-trick as Barcelona won 4-0 at APOEL on Tuesday.

Messi's first, a close-range effort in the 38th-minute, saw him break the record held by former Real Madrid and Schalke star Raul as he claimed his 72nd goal in Europe's elite club competition. It also took him two ahead of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

He followed it up with two more in the second half: the first a clever chip over the advancing goalkeeper after a nice through ball from Dani Alves; the second a tap-in after Pedro had cut the ball back.

The 27-year-old has accumulated his haul in 91 games for Barcelona in the Champions League, while Ronaldo has scored his 70 in 106 matches. Raul needed 142 appearances to reach 71 strikes.

Ronaldo is in action for Madrid at Basel on Wednesday. 
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Messi: I never imagined I'd break the record

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi admits he never thought he would break La Liga's goalscoring record following his milestone hat-trick on Saturday.

Messi scored three goals in the 5-1 thrashing of Sevilla to take his career tally to 253 in Spain's top flight, surpassing the mark of 251 which Telmo Zarra set in 1955.

Following the latest record in a remarkable career to date, the Argentina star was quick to pay tribute to his friends and Barcelona colleagues for helping him to a milestone he never imagined he could reach.

Writing on his official Facebook page above footage of his first ever Liga goal against Albacete in 2005, he said: "When I scored this goal, I couldn't imagine I could break any record, let alone this one previously held by the great Telmo Zarra.

"I was only able to achieve this because of the support I have had from so many people during my time here and I would like to dedicate this achievement to you all. Thanks for always being with me.

"I would also like to dedicate this to the people who are no longer with us anymore. I will never forget you. Thank you everyone for standing with me!"

Barca's win, in which Ivan Rakitic and Neymar also scored, moves them back above Atletico Madrid into second, two points behind Real Madrid, who won 4-0 at Eibar.

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Van Gaal: Messi and Ronaldo don't deserve Ballon d'Or

Louis van Gaal is expecting either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or but feels one of Germany's World Cup-winning squad would merit the award more.

The Barcelona and Real Madrid stars are favourites to be crowned on January 12, 2015, but the Manchester United manager feels the pair do not deserve the honour.

Messi, a four-time winner, was handed the Golden Ball at the World Cup after helping Argentina to the final while Ronaldo, a two-time winner, lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid.

But Van Gaal feels a member of the triumphant Germany squad would be more worthy victors, with Toni Kross, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze all nominated.

"Most of the time it is always the well known players [who win the Ballon d'Or]," he told MUTV.

"It is more for the football world and outside world than for other things I believe. I think it will be Ronaldo or Messi but I want to say that you have to win something.

"The best thing to win is the World Cup. I hope it shall be a German player because they deserve it.

"The level of the Bundesliga matches is also very high so I think it should be a German player."

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Scotland 1-3 England: Rooney at the double to close in on goal record

Wayne Rooney scored twice after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring to earn England a 3-1 win over Scotland at Celtic Park.

The Arsenal forward headed home an inch perfect cross from Gunners team-mate Jack Wilshere before Rooney scored his 45th England goal as he closes in on Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker's goal tallies.

Andrew Robertson gave the home side hope when he fired low past Fraser Forster but Rooney struck again to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

Many had predicted a fiercely contested affair between the neighbouring nations but, despite some early resistance from the home side Roy Hodgson's men were quickly in firm control.

Scotland brought Chris Martin in for injured striker Steven Fletcher, while Hodgson handed a first England appearance since 2012 to Stewart Downing, who was in the thick of the action early on.

The midfielder, occupying the central position in which he has excelled for West Ham this season, played in captain Rooney, who in turn fed Danny Welbeck for a strike that was unconvincingly stopped by Marshall.

Scotland, roared on by a fervent home crowd, settled after a period of English pressure, but both teams were struggling to carve out any clear-cut opportunities.

That was until the 32nd minute, when Oxlade-Chamberlain – one of six changes to the side that triumphed 3-1 over Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday – got his head to a pinpoint Wilshere ball into the area, applying the slightest of touches to beat Marshall.

England pressed for a swift second, but Welbeck was unable to control James Milner's pass in the centre of the penalty area as the move broke down, while Scotland's half ended without having tested Fraser Forster – the former Celtic stopper back on his old stomping ground, as he replaced Joe Hart in goal.

Both managers elected to make changes at the interval, with Craig Gordon coming on to make his first Scotland outing since 2010, but his first task was to pick the ball out of the back of the net.

Robertson failed to clear his lines when the ball was driven into the penalty area by Wilshere, and Rooney reacted quickly to head beyond the reach of the current Celtic keeper, surpassing Jimmy Greaves to go outright third on the list of all-time England goalscorers.

Forster tipped over from a looping Russell Martin header at the other end as Scotland pushed to reduce the deficit, before Sheffield Wednesday frontman Stevie May was thrown on for his international debut.

Although Robertson did pull a goal back from close range seven minutes from time, Rooney found the net in similar fashion two minutes later - putting himself within two goals of second-placed Gary Lineker in the England record books.
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Swansea City 2-1 Arsenal: Hosts battle back to stun Gunners

Arsenal endured another embarrassing collapse, this time squandering a second-half lead to lose 2-1 to Swansea City in the Premier League.

After a turgid first half, the Gunners broke through just past the hour when Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez combined for the Chilean to finish off an incisive counterattack.

But two goals in three minutes for the Swans - first a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick and then a header by Bafetimbi Gomis - turned the match on its head at the Liberty Stadium, leaving the Gunners once again dejected after their midweek mishap against Anderlecht.

Victory for Swansea was only their second in eight Premier League matches and moved them above Arsenal into fifth, with Wenger's men slipping a place further back heading into the international break.

Tottenham loanee Tom Carroll replaced the suspended Jonjo Shelvey in Swansea's midfield, with the returning Leon Britton on the bench to enhance Garry Monk's options, while Kyle Bartley and Marvin Emnes replaced the injured Federico Fernandez and Wayne Routledge.

Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta was ruled out due to a hamstring injury so Mathieu Flamini came into the starting line-up.

The visitors were accused of being naive for the manner in which they allowed Anderlecht to fight back on Tuesday and, perhaps as a result, made a cautious start.

Calum Chambers was in the thick of the action, with Wilfried Bony going down in the penalty area, claiming that the England defender had pushed him in the back, after 20 minutes but referee Phil Dowd saw nothing amiss.

Jefferson Montero's pace was causing right-back Chambers problems and the Ecuadorian winger forced a save from Wojciech Szczesny at his near post. The Arsenal goalkeeper was called into action again to deny Emnes after Bony had picked out the former Middlesbrough man.

Lukasz Fabianski was finally called into action a minute before the break against his former club to save from Welbeck after the England international had played a one-two with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Arsenal finished the first half strongly.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had a chance of his own just after the break when Alexis played him in but the midfielder got the ball stuck under his feet before his scuffed shot was easily saved by Fabianski, who was up to the test to deny Santi Cazorla's shot that skidded off the wet surface as rain lashed down.

It came as no surprise when the London club the lead 64 minutes in. Alexis was on hand to apply a simple finish after Welbeck had raced down the right and squared the ball to the red-hot Chile international.

Swansea came roaring back, though, and Sigurdsson gave Szczesny no chance with a moment of class 15 minutes from time as his long-range free kick found the back of the net.

And worse was to come for Arsenal, with Gomis rising to head home Montero's cross soon after replaced Bony to stun the visitors.

Arsenal had a shout for a penalty when they felt that Neil Taylor had handled in stoppage time but referee Dowd waved play on as the visitors suffered only their second top-flight defeat of the season.
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