independent– Lionel Messi has won the men’s 2021 Ballon d’Or, and a record seventh trophy, at an awards ceremony in Paris on Monday evening.
Messi, 34, held off the challenge of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Chelsea’s Jorginho to collect the prize and move two clear in his long-running battle with five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who was among the 30 players shortlisted but did not feature in the top three for the first time in 11 years.
Messi was the favourite to collect the award after winning the Copa America with Argentina earlier this year – his first major international trophy – despite one of his less impressive periods at club level: Barcelona finished third in La Liga and fell in the first knockout round of the Champions League. However, Messi scored two goals as Barca won the Copa del Rey final and he was La Liga’s top goalscorer once more, before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
Lewandowski did pick up the consolation prize of the newly formed Striker of the Year award, while the Women’s Ballon d’Or went to Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas.
Further awards went to Gianluigi Donnarumma for the Yashin Trophy of best goalkeeper, to Barcelona midfielder Pedri as the starlet was handed the Kopa Trophy and another new award went to Chelsea for Club of the Year for their on-pitch achievements with both men’s and women’s teams.
Lewandowski can feel hard done by after another stellar year of goalscoring for Bayern Munich saw them retain the Bundesliga title. He scored a record 41 Bundesliga goals in the 2020-21 season and is leading the charts again this season with 14 goals from 13 games, but perhaps suffered at the ballot box from not enjoying more success with his country, Poland, in a year of major international tournaments. The 33-year-old was expected to win his first Ballon d’Or last year but the award was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Jorginho, 29, might also feel he could not have done much more given he won the Champions League with Chelsea and two months later won the European Championship with Italy, playing a key role at the heart of midfield in both sides.
The highest-ranked Premier League-based players after Jorginho included his Chelsea team-mate N’Golo Kante in fifth, Cristiano Ronaldo in sixth and Mohamed Salah in seventh.
Raheem Sterling, 15th, was the highest-ranked English player.
As the early rankings unfolded, Ronaldo posted a social media message claiming France Football’s Pascal Ferre had spoken “lies” about the reasons why the United forward was not at the awards ceremony and that his only ambition was to win more Ballon d’Ors than Messi.
After claiming his award at the end of the ceremony, Messi remarked that Lewandowski had “deserved” the award in 2020 and hoped that France Football awarded it to him retrospectively, after last year’s awards were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Fantasy Premier League tips gameweek 19: Cristiano Ronaldo, Son Heung-min, Bukayo Saka and more
The news of Liverpool vs Leeds’ postponement leaves a lot of managers in the lurch. Most of us have at least three players who will not be playing on Boxing Day, with captaincy favourite Mohamed Salah one of them. Where do we turn with our most reliable points-scorer suddenly wiped out?
It requires a bit of restructuring and probably a -4 hit but moving to Ronaldo, who travels to Newcastle, may not be a bad idea. Though Salah could return quickly against Leicester and Chelsea, the Africa Cup of Nations is fast approaching and Manchester United’s fixtures are strong, with an expected double gameweek on the horizon.
A more straightforward move is Salah to Son. Many managers could do it with their weekly free transfer and there is good reason to back the Tottenham winger, who scored against Liverpool last time out and has an enticing run of fixtures coming up and a likely double in gameweek 22.
Crystal Palace’s defensive numbers are still among the more impressive this season but are stronger at home than away and have faltered slightly of late, while Tottenham’s attack is gradually picking up under Antonio Conte. After the visit from Patrick Vieira’s side, Spurs face back-to-back trips to Southampton and Watford.
After three consecutive impressive wins, Arsenal assets are all the rage this week, with heavy investment in the band of young, exciting attacking players at Mikel Arteta’s disposal. Gabriel Martinelli was a late call-up to our picks last time around and duly delivered, while Emile Smith Rowe keeps on scoring even as a substitute.
If we had to pick one for this weekend’s trip to Norwich though, it would still be Saka. He has a better chance of starting long-term than Martinelli and he has more impressive underlying numbers than Smith Rowe. In fact, those numbers have gradually ticked up after a slow start to the season, with an average of 0.6 non-penalty xG+xA over the last six games.
While Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe are all popular picks this week, one thing to look out for is an unusual split coming up in Arsenal’s fixtures, where their schedule is a lot better from a defensive perspective than an attacking one.
With that in mind, 4.8m-rated Tierney offers a slightly more adventurous route into Arsenal’s backline than either goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale or the cheaper Ben White. The concern with Tierney, as ever, is injury and whether he can be trusted to start games during a tight schedule, but at a low ownership of 6.4%, he may be worth the risk.
With all these heavy hitters to swap around and squad restructuring to do, it can be useful to leave money in the bank for flexibility. But at the same time, we need a deep squad in order to cope with the postponements and rotation. It is difficult to find players in the cheap but reliable sweet spot.
Broja is one of the better budget options. He carries a rotation risk himself and can get substituted early but, with Che Adams and Adam Armstrong still making their way back from injury, the 5.1m-priced Southampton striker should get enough minutes going forward to earn points, while freeing up funds to spend elsewhere.
Real Madrid tied with Cadiz
Real Madrid tied with Cadiz without goals in the match that brought them together today in the eighteenth round of the Spanish Football League “La Liga”.
With this result, Real Madrid raised its score to 43 points at the top of the standings of the Spanish League teams, and Cadiz raised its score to 14 points in 19th place.
Real Madrid won for the 10th game in a row to beat neighbours Atletico Madrid and move eight points clear of Sevilla at the top of La Liga.
bbc– La Liga’s top scorer Karim Benzema powered in a fantastic volley from Vinicius Jr’s cross to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the lead.
And Vinicius picked out Marco Asensio to slot home their second.
Defending champions Atletico, who are 13 points behind Real, had chances but the clinical hosts deserved the win.
Real have only lost twice in 23 games – and none since 3 October – since Carlo Ancelotti replaced Zinedine Zidane in the summer.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico, who sit fourth, look miles away from the team who won La Liga last season.
They did force Real keeper Thibaut Courtois into six saves, including to keep out Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick.
A double change at the break and the introduction of Luis Suarez could not help them find a way through though.
Real deserved their win with Vinicius involved in both goals. Benzema’s opener was his 13th La Liga goal of the season and his 36th for Real in all competitions in 2021, his best annual haul for the club. He was replaced by Luka Jovic at the break.
Barcelona are down in eighth, 18 points behind Real, after a 2-2 draw at Osasuna.
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