Lionel Messi Hands Real Madrid Unlikely Compliment & Laments Shock Champions League Exit

​​Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has handed rivals ​Real Madrid some high praise, claiming that they have the best players in the world position for position.

The crafty Argentinian notes that, while Barca are similarly built, Madrid can win games even if they’re playing badly, something typified by their run to the Champions League final despite being seemingly outclassed by most of their opposition.

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“Position by position, Madrid have the best players in the world,” Messi said in an interview with TyC Sports. “[Barca] do as well, but Madrid have something that only they have. When they play badly, they still get results. We have to be the far superior side to win.”

The Catalan side made quite the mess of their own European campaign, going out in the quarter final stage courtesy of AS Roma despite claiming a 4-1 advantage in the first leg.

“The Champions League [loss was a mistake],” he lamented. “Given the [4-1] advantage we had before the second leg, we [should have reached] the semi final. It was a huge disappointment.

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“[But] it motivates me to see Madrid in the Champions League final again; to see them winning leagues. I want to win the Champions League every year. I want to be a league champion every year — it’s what we all want.”

The forward also ​touched on the rumours linking him with a Pep Guardiola reunion at Manchester City, claiming that the only way he will play alongside compatriot Sergio Aguero at club level is if the City forward joins Barcelona.

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Messi will be hoping to end his ten-year international drought with Argentina in this year’s FIFA World Cup after several disappointments. La Albiceleste won their last piece of silverware in the 2008 Olympics, going home with the gold. 

Yet that’s hardly something for Messi to look back on, especially as he’s been to a World Cup final.

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Chasing Barça: 5 Things Real Madrid Must Do to Return to the Top of La Liga Next Season

As Real Madrid prepare to take on Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev at the end of the month, there is a very real possibility that Los Blancos could win Europe’s elite trophy for an unprecedented third consecutive season.

There will, however, be an underlying concern in amongst the excitement at the prospect of further European glory over their (relatively) poor domestic campaign.

Madrid have dropped a long way off the pace in La Liga, as they currently sit behind local rivals Atletico Madrid in third place and 15 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona.

Ahead of Zinedine Zidane’s side’s final league game of the season away to Villareal, here is a look at what the 2017 champions must do ahead of next season to dethrone their rivals and return to the top in Spain.

5. Settle on a Starting XI

In amongst Madrid’s Champions League exploits this season, the team which Zidane has fielded in La Liga matches has often been heavily rotated, particularly in the latter stages of the season, to give priority to the European competition.

Whilst this has proved successful in terms of getting Madrid to the final in Kiev, it has also been detrimental to Los Blancos’ league campaign. The recent 3-2 defeat to Sevilla was a clear example of Madrid’s rotated side not being up to scratch in domestic competition.

Next season, it is important that Zidane maintains a core set of players which forms a spine of the team which can be maintained in most matches, barring any injuries, and rest given to minimal amounts of players from game-to-game.

Making two or three changes each game is a lot different to the wholesale changes which Zidane has been ringing in his Madrid side week by week this season. It disrupts the stability of the side, with the squad players often thrust into action all together with few around them having played regularly, giving the team a disjointed look and a subsequent lack of results.

4. Improve Tactical Discipline

Madrid’s team boasts a vast number of global superstars, each with tremendous individual quality, but they do not always seem to be on the same page.

The likes of Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo often seem to be playing their own game, shouting to others for not doing what they expect of them, not passing to them when they want the ball, and often lacking a clear team mentality and identity in the side.

There is an over-reliance at times on the likes of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Karim Benzema to compensate for the individualism of others, as they try to sew things back together, fill the gaps left by their marauding teammates and try to bring others into play.

This may be adequate in the Champions League, in which it can only take one moment of individual brilliance to seal a tie – and Madrid have plenty of that. The league, however, is a marathon, not a sprint, and ZIdane’s side have often been found out for not having a clear tactical approach or team dynamic this season.

Barcelona and Ateltico Madrid are highly regimented sides, with Diego Simeone’s team in particular punching regularly above their weight because of their outstanding team mentality and collective approach to every match. That is largely why Madrid have fallen short of their two rivals in La Liga this season. 

3. Add Fresh Impetus This Summer

Madrid are widely renowned for their Galactico approach to buying the best players around the world to cement their status as Europe’s elite club. Their record 12 European Cup wins owe much to that approach, as it has successfully set them apart and above the global standing of all others.

The important aspect of adding big names for big money goes beyond the excitement that it generates among fans and the media. It also gives the team a huge boost and added belief that they can win every game and beat all who come before them, because they have these star players around them. It has a galvanising effect which gets the best out of everyone.

The previous summer transfer window had very much the opposite effect at the Bernabeu, with high profile departures overshadowing the understated recruitment of younger squad players.

The likes of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Pepe all departed Madrid last summer, with the expectation being that those funds would be used to recruit new stars to challenge the current team. The arrivals of Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos as Madrid’s only purchases, however, failed to do so, and as a result the Madrid team has largely gone stale. Devoid of fresh faces to inject new life into the side, Madrid’s withered league campaign has rather reflected their uninspired transfer window. 

The likes of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have been linked with big money moves from Chelsea to Real this summer, and it is that calibre of additions that is required this summer to add renewed impetus into Madrid’s title challenge next term.

2. Maximise Youth Potential & Manage Squad More Effectively

Madrid’s transfer activity last summer seemed to focus primarily on the promotion of youth and investment into the future. The signings of Hernandez from Atletico and Ceballos from Real Betis seemed to point in that direction.

The recalling of Jesus Vallejo, Marcos Llorente, Borja Mayoral and Diego Llorente from loan spells, along with the promotion of Achraf Hakimi to the first team picture seemed to further suggest a new approach to success from Florentino Perez and Madrid, moving away from the Galactico philosophy and instead promoting youth to breed long-term success.

The use of these young players so far has, however, been more a case of misuse. Instead of truly embedding these players into the Madrid setup organically, playing alongside Ronaldo and co, they have generally been thrown in at the deep end when the senior stars needed a rest.

The defeat to Sevilla, again, was clear evidence of this. Players who had lacked competition throughout the season which would allow them to be eased into the action and demands of playing for Real Madrid were instead thrust into games which Zidane and Madrid were clearly not prioritising.

Therefore, the careless approach to such domestic commitments and the use of these young players in a team which was essentially thrown together, devoid of an identity or direction, largely hindered these players’ progress this season, and so too Madrid’s league results.

The use of the squad needs to be better structured, better organised and better managed by Zidane next season if he is to maximise the potential of his young stars and achieve a greater consistency in results across all competitions.

1. Stop Depending on Ronaldo

Madrid’s dependence on the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo is not a new topic of discussion or issue which has only surfaced this season.

Ronaldo’s presence has come to be the defining feature of this Real Madrid side almost immediately since he joined the club in 2009. His 25 La Liga goals this season make him the joint second top scorer in Spain this term, whilst his 15 strikes in the current Champions League campaign make him the competition’s top scorer this season.

Rather than diminish in significance over the years, Ronaldo’s goals have become ever more important to Madrid since he joined the club. This has been both a blessing and a curse for Los Blancos.

The question is often: where would they be without him? This is not a healthy question to be asking of any top European club and their over-dependence on the input of a single player.

The great Real Madrid sides of the previous decade, the original Galacticos, were not all about just one great player. They had several, all of whom were capable of making the difference for their side. The Brazilian great Ronaldo of Madrid’s past was their primary source of goals during his time at the club, but he also had the likes of Raul, Zidane, Luis Figo and many more around him.

Madrid have tried to supply Cristiano with a similar supply of accomplices, but the likes of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Kaka and more have all shrunk in the Portuguese’s shadow.

Perhaps one of the biggest tasks before Madrid next season is to lessen their reliance on the presence and consistency of Ronaldo in the side and his goal scoring exploits, and to instead focus more on their approach as a team, not as individuals. 

This could be key to getting the best out of the likes of Bale, and may even free up Ronaldo to play under less pressure and take up a more team-based role similar to that which made him a star at Manchester United.

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Real Madrid Boosted Ahead of CL Final Clash With Liverpool as Key Men Resume Full Training

Champions League finalists Real Madrid have been given a much-needed fitness boost ahead of their match against Liverpool next week, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Carvajal returning to full training on Wednesday.

Los Blancos are preparing for the final game of the La Liga season, where they will travel to Castellón to take on Villarreal – who are assured of qualification to the Europa League this campaign.

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The Spanish giants could finish the season as high as second place in the league table, but only if city rivals Atlético Madrid – who play in the Europa League final against Marseille on Thursday – lose at home to mid-table side Eibar.

But all eyes are fixed on the Champions League final in Kiev next week, and Real Madrid have confirmed on their official website that their squad is back to full fitness thanks to the return of Carvajal and Ronaldo to first team training.

The reigning European champions came through the group stages with just one loss to their name, and Real Madrid continued their good form with a 5-2 win on aggregate against the continent’s big spenders, Paris Saint-Germain.

Juventus then felt the sting of being drawn against Real Madrid once again in a two-legged tie that was eventually settled by a last-minute penalty, and German champions Bayern Munich were then edged out during the semi final of this season’s Champions League.

And Real Madrid will now have to face one of European football’s most dangerous attacking sides in ordto retain their trophy, with the final set to be played at the NSC Olimpiyskiy in Ukraine’s capital city.

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Messi Reveals How He’d Feel About Neymar Joining Real Madrid & Hints They’ve Discussed Speculation

Lionel Messi has conceded it “would be terrible” if former ​Barcelona teammate Neymar joined ​Real Madrid this summer, as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner voiced his opinion on the furious speculation surrounding the Brazilian’s future.

Neymar famously departed Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a record-shattering €222m transfer that left many in in Catalonia and La Liga devastated. However, despite picking up Ligue 1 and Coupe de France trophies in his first season with PSG, there has been near-constant reports linking Neymar with a sensational return to Spain.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is a known admirer of the 26-year-old Brazil star, while ​reports from Spain have talked of a campaign to court Neymar – whose prospective price tag in the press ranges from €260-400m – as he recovered from a footy injury in his homeland.

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While ​recent reports claim incoming PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has been given assurances over the future of his star player, speculation continues to rage and Messi has admitted he has even spoken to his former attacking teammate about it.

​The Argentina captain told TyC Sports channel programme ‘Libero’ (via ​Sport): “It would be terrible [if Neymar moved to Madrid] because of everything he means to Barcelona.

“Ney won important trophies here. He won the Champions League [and] La Liga [titles]. It would be a huge blow for everyone.

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Messi also admitted signing Neymar “make Real Madrid even stronger from a football point of view”, before adding of the rumours, “I speak with him, so he already knows what I think.”

Neymar, who formed one third of the ‘MSN’ trident alongside Messi and Luis Suarez at Barça until last summer, recently said that the thing he most misses from his time in Spain is the friendship with his two attacking teammates.

Speaking in an interview with Canal Zico 10: “The friendship that we had was something very beautiful. What I miss from Barcelona and about Barcelona is these two [Messi and Suarez], due to the joy we had on a daily basis.”

Should Real Madrid wish to actually deliver the ‘huge blow’ to Messi and their rivals at Barcelona, they may have to get past the Emir of Qatar. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the owner of PSG, ​is reported to be the main road block in their pursuit of Neymar, as he values the Brazilian as a major asset in image-building for the club and Qatar as a nation.

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Zinedine Zidane Struggling to Resolve Selection Dilemma Ahead of Champions League Final

​​Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is struggling to resolve a selection headache ahead of this month’s Champions League final against ​Liverpool.

The two sides will meet in Kiev on Saturday 26th May as they battle it out to be crowned the champions of Europe. Madrid stand as favourites as the current holders, and are looking to snatch an incredible fourth title in five years. 

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With the Premier League season over and just one game left in ​La Liga, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Zidane will both be turning their focus to that game in Ukraine, with Spanish rumourmongers ​Don Balon reporting that the Frenchman is undecided on who to hand a place to in the starting XI.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a guaranteed starter, while Karim Benzema’s double in the semi final may have been enough to earn him a spot in the lineup. However, it is in the attacking midfield roles that the French manager faces a selection headache, with Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Isco and Lucas Vázquez are all competing for the same spot.

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Bale has recently returned to form, scoring an outstanding equaliser against Barcelona at Camp Nou before bagging a brace against Celta Vigo, and Zidane is thought to believe that he could cause the most trouble for Liverpool.

Spanish newspaper ​Marca claim that the Welshman is desperate to start in Kiev, after missing out on a place in the starting XI in last year’s final in Cardiff. Isco starred in Bale’s absence that day, and he too scored in ​that victory against Celta Vigo at the weekend, whilst Vasquez and Asensio both started as Madrid knocked out Bayern Munich in the semi final.

With one La Liga match remaining for the Spanish side against Villarreal on Saturday, every player will be hoping for the chance to impress their boss and earn themselves the opportunity to line up against Liverpool in the Champions League final.

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Liverpool Ready to Pounce on £70m Transfer Target After Real Madrid End Interest in AS Roma Star

Real Madrid have reportedly pulled out of the race for highly rated Roma keeper Alisson Becker, paving the way for Liverpool to bag their man.

Liverpool have been looking to add a strong number one between the sticks following some patchy form from Simon Mignolet. Jurgen Klopp has already tried to address the situation in adding Loris Karius to his Liverpool side.

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The young German was viewed as a long-term successor to Mignolet but has struggled for form himself. Both first-choice keepers have been at fault for errors this season, leading to it becoming an area of the field Liverpool hope to address in summer.

Madrid were thought to also be keen on Alisson but Don Balon are now reporting that Zinedine Zidane is happy to stick with his current number one Keylor Navas. The club believes Alisson would be unwilling to move if he is not guaranteed first-team football next season and have such ended their interest.

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The Brazilian international has risen to become one of the highest rated goalkeepers in Europe after his displays at Stadio Olimpico this season. His side has the joint-second best defensive record in Serie A, behind only league leaders Juventus.

Defence has been an issue for Liverpool this season, who have the worst defensive record in the top four. The addition of Virgil van Dijk has already strengthened the defence, with Naby Keita also expected to have a significant impact, Alisson could be the final piece of the puzzle for Klopp.

Don Balon are also reporting that Liverpool are ready to make a £70m bid for the shot-stopper and are expected to get their man.  

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PSG Assure New Manager Thomas Tuchel That Neymar Will Stay Amid Real Madrid Links

Paris Saint-Germain have promised their new boss Thomas Tuchel that star forward Neymar will not be sold, while outgoing manager Unai Emery also believes the Brazilian will stay put amid fierce speculation of another record-breaking summer move.

There have been reports that Neymar is unhappy at the Parc des Princes and may seek a return to Spain to join Real Madrid, the rivals of his former club Barcelona.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung claims that Tuchel met with Neymar for the first time on Sunday, a day before his appointment as PSG manager was ​officially confirmed.

Speaking after PSG’s final home game of the season against Rennes, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was positive that their star player would remain in Paris.

“Neymar will stay, that’s a 2000% guarantee,” said​ Al-Khelaifi, quoted by ​Diario Sport.

His words were echoed by departing PSG manager Emery, who said that Neymar had become tired with constant speculation about his future, but did not expect him to leave.

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“Neymar told us one day that he was tired of all the lies that are told about him,” Emery told El Larguero (quoted by ​Mundo Deportivo). “I’m not a spokesperson, but I think next season will stay at PSG. I believe it because I think it would be as fair for the player as for the club itself.”

Emery also reserved a high level of praise for Neymar, ranking him alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best players in the world.

“I have enjoyed a lot with Ney, I am very happy with him,” said Emery. “He is a footballer of the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.”

Emery will take charge of his final PSG game against Caen this weekend.

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Marcelo Admits He’d Love to Play With Neymar at Real Madrid But Insists He Won’t Try to Convince Him

​Marcelo would love for his Brazil teammate Neymar to join him at ​Real Madrid, but said that he would not try to convince the Paris Saint-Germain striker about his future.

Neymar joined PSG from Madrid’s hated rivals Barcelona last summer but has been ​strongly linked with a return to Spain to join Zinedine Zidane’s team. Marcelo has made 450 appearances for Los Blancos since joining the club from Fluminense in 2006. 

He and Neymar were both part of the Brazil squad that reached the semi finals of the World Cup on home soil in 2014 and will link up again in Tite’s team this summer.


Speaking after Real Madrid ​thrashed Celta Vigo 6-0 on Saturday, Marcelo admitted that he would like to play with Neymar at club level as well, but would not force his hand.

“The best come to Madrid and I would love to play with Neymar,” he said, quoted by ​AS“When I talk to Neymar, I’m not talking about Real Madrid or leaving PSG.”

Brazil’s quest for a sixth World Cup begins on 17 June when they face Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don. They will also play Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E, and Marcelo says that he and Neymar will be focused on the Selecao, rather than transfer rumours.

“We will be in Russia to play something very important,” he said. “We will not be talking about signings. We will be representing our country.”

Neymar scored 28 goals in 30 games for PSG this season before an metatarsal injury ended his campaign early. However, he was still ​named Ligue 1 player of the season at an awards ceremony on Sunday.

Without his assistance, PSG have gone on to complete a domestic treble, clinched by beating third division side Les Herbiers in the Coupe de France final.

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Real Madrid Give Approval to FIFA’s Proposed 24-Team Club World Cup

Real Madrid’s Director of Institutional Relations, Emilio Butragueno, has revealed that Los Blancos are in favour of FIFA’s proposed 24-team Club World Cup, which could debut in 2021. 

In April, it was revealed that FIFA are exploring a possible $25bn revamp of the Club World Cup. In its current format, the competition is played each December and consists of just seven clubs who qualify via winning their respective Champions Leagues. 

The world’s governing body of football wants to expand the tournament to 24 teams and have it played in June every four years. The Confederations Cup would consequently be scrapped. It’s claimed that the revamp could generate $25bn in revenue.

Nevertheless, a number of clubs in Europe are reportedly against the proposed competition, which could threaten the Champions League’s global popularity and thus revenue. European giants Real Madrid are not among them, however. 

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“We think that for fans it could be a very interesting competition,” Butragueno said on Real Madrid TV (via Marca). “Honestly, we think it could be a very attractive competition.”

“We are talking about the best European teams and from other continents. We think that for fans it’s very interesting, it’s how we see it and other important clubs in Europe, who are also keen on the possibility, see it.”

According to the BBC, FIFA are set to hold a meeting with its council members in mid-May to further discuss the proposal. The International Football Association have already held ‘positive’ talks with unnamed top sides back in April. 

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The ‘M’ Word: Ronaldo’s Sister Reveals Why Talk of Messi Is Banned From Ballon d’Or Holder’s Home

The name Lionel Messi​ might be a household one, but you won’t hear it if you visit the home of his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Euro 2016 winner does not welcome people mentioning Messi’s name in his family home, according to his sister Katia Aveiro.

The Ronaldo or Messi argument has been going on for over ten years, as the world continues to debate who the better player is. It is an argument that will never be settled, but (mercifully) many are starting to concede to the fact that we should just celebrate the two five-time Ballon d’Or winners are exceptional talents that they are rather than constantly pitting one against the other.

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While the debate has caused fierce arguments amongst fans worldwide, the stars of ​La Liga themselves have always kept it very respectful between each other. They’ve battled it out on many occasions on and off the pitch, but each player has always spoken highly of the other.

However, with one playing for Barcelona and one playing for ​Real Madrid, and the Ballon d’Or trophy to compete for annually, there is no doubt that they are rivals. 

That being said, the insight from Ronaldo’s sister regarding the supposed Messi ban, is still a surprising one.

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Speaking to French newspaper Le Equipe, Katia said: “We don’t talk about Messi inside the house.

“Cristiano knows that outside the door, there’s a whirlwind. And he knows that when he crosses the door from the outside to the inside, he is protected. This is where he recharges all his batteries.”

Katia also revealed that she believes that her brother will play another four seasons before he hangs up his boots. 

She added: “He’s very focused, in his own bubble, but he’s also very anxious. He plays the match out in his head, thinks about how things will happen.

“There are some who play until the age of 37. Cristiano is not a machine, but he will continue to play while he can, I think for three or four more years.

“Cristiano has always been a perfectionist, he’s always seeking to be the best, to do everything to win. But aside from that, he is really reserved.”

Despite missing out on La Liga to Messi, Ronaldo remains the bookmakers’ favourite to retain the Ballon d’Or this year. However. ​Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah is second favourite ahead of Lionel Messi at the moment. The last time someone other than Messi or Ronaldo won the coveted award was back in 2007 with Kaka.

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