- When Lionel Messi won an unprecedented sixth Ballon d’Or in December last year, the speculation had already begun over his career at Barcelona.
The 33-year-old Argentine footballing genius was increasingly unable single-handedly to rescue his imploding club, as he had done so often in the past.
Barcelona, despite lifting the La Liga title, had collapsed at the end of the 2018-19 season, losing a 3-0 semi-final lead, including two Messi goals, to Liverpool in the Champions League.
They then dropped the Copa del Rey final 2-1 to Valencia, where the Argentine was again on the scoresheet, this time though just a late consolation.
But all that paled in comparison to Barca’s barren 2020, capped by a shocking humiliation in Lisbon.
– Bayern embarrassment –
The abject 8-2 quarter-final embarrassment against Bayern Munich in Lisbon 12 days ago meant a first season since 2007 without a trophy for Barcelona.
It marked the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in a game since losing to Sevilla 8-0 in the 1946 Spanish Cup.
But far more significant than that, it convinced the twinkle-toed talisman his final footballing years lay elsewhere.
The fallout was immediate. Coach Quique Setien was sacked after barely six months in charge while sporting director Eric Abidal was also dismissed.
Even the appointment of former Camp Nou fan favourite Ronald Koeman as head coach last week could not convince Messi to stay.
The Dutchman has indicated he will embark on a clear-out and, at 33 years old, Messi must feel he doesn’t have time to wait until Koeman’s rebuilt Barca are able to challenge Europe’s elite.
On Tuesday, Messi informed Barcelona he wanted “unilaterally” to terminate his contract by triggering a release clause, sending shockwaves across the world of sport.
There will be no shortage of clubs eager to employ Messi, who could be snapped up on a free transfer, but the favourites look to be Manchester City, led by his former Barcelona mentor Pep Guardiola.
They were close to European glory again this season, and the addition of four-time Champions League winner Messi could give the Guardiola the X-factor he needs to win the one trophy missing from the Manchester City cabinet.
The growing turmoil enveloping Barcelona has been reflected in Messi’s diminishing statistics.
Though he managed 31 goals in all games during the virus-interrupted campaign just ended, it was his lowest return since 2007-08, when he was just 20.
– Irreplaceable –
Barcelona have insisted in the past they had plans for coping with Messi’s retirement, whenever it came, but the truth is their number 10 is irreplaceable.
He has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, winning a club-record 33 trophies, including 10 La Ligas, four UEFA Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and six Spanish Cups.
Equally effective as a mesmerising playmaker or lethal goalscorer, Messi holds the records for most goals and most hat-tricks in La Liga and has scored more than 700 senior goalsÂ for club and country.
But his greatest year was long ago.Â In the 2011-12 season, under Guardiola, he became Barcelona’s all-time top goalscorer at just 24 years old, breaking Cesar Rodriguez’s 232 goal mark which had stood for 57 years.
That year Messi netted a Liga record 50 goals on the way to a European all-time record season tally of 73, breaking Gerd Mueller’s 67 goals scored in the 1972â€“73 German season.
Almost a decade on, Messi still harbours unfulfilled ambitions, including another Champions League crown and an elusive major trophy with Argentina to add to his 2008 Olympic gold.
With time running out on a career that has seen a record six Ballon d’Ors and six Golden Shoes, those are major factors in convincing him to end his playing days away from the club that has been his home since he arrived as a 13-year-old.
Sheikh Hassan Team, Ganaja, Ultimate FC, Crowned Winners Of The Maiden Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup In Lokoja
…Organizer Promises Sustenance of the Competition.
By Joshua Adinoyi, Lokoja
The Confluence Stadium, Lokoja was on Friday 5th March 2021 agog with jubilant football lovers from within and outside the State Capital to grace the finals of the 2021 Maiden Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup.
The competition which started with 11 teams from the three Senatorial Districts of the State saw Sheikh Hassan team emerged winner while Ganaja FC and Ultimate FC emerged first and second runner up of the competition.
The Sheikh Hassan team were crowned champion after defeating Ganaja FC 5-3 in a penalty shootout.
The two teams, despite showcasing skills were unable to convert chances at the regular time, leaving supporters on their feet all through.
A superb catch by the Goalkeeper of Sheikh Hassan team, David Achimi and a poor kick from a player of Ganaja FC that went over the bar was enough to seal the needed victory for the organizer’s team.
Speaking with the organizer of the competition, Sheikh Hassan Mikhail (Abejukolo) whose joy knows no bound over the victory recorded by his team, appreciated Almighty Allah for the enablement to bring youths together and engaged them in profitable venture.
Sheikh Hassan said the competition “Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup” was organized to foster unity, promote peace and as well, help youths showcase their talents in the round leather games.
“One thing I’ve always craved for is seeing people coexisting peacefully irrespective of tribe and football is one of the major platforms that has provided such opportunity. Football knows no tribe, religion and ones background does not matter on the field of play because all that matters is playing as a team and emerge victorious at the end of the day”
“I am glad that Allah used me as a tool to bring about this competition, seeing youths from across the three Senatorial Districts of the State displaying football skills on the pitch, hearing spectators jubilating and cheering their various teams really gives me joy. I once again thank Allah for using me to put smiles on the faces of others through this competition”
Speaking on the victory of his team, he said “it was Allah’s wish that we emerge winner of the competition because many teams started the competition but they couldn’t make it to the finals but we made it to the finals and as well won the trophy. Allah be praised”
Sheikh Hassan explained that there was need for youths to find their talent and build their lives around it, stressing that not all human have been destined to engage in white collar jobs.
He enjoined political office holders, cooperate organizations and well-to-do individuals in Kogi State to go all out and get youths engaged in profitable ventures such as football competitions, entrepreneurship skills, musical competition among others for the betterment of the society.
Sheikh Hassan hinted that plans are on to sustain the competition and charged teams that took part in the Maiden edition to continue to build their talents, pointing out that preparation is the bedrock of success.
The competition featured presentation of trophy as cash of 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 were given to Sheikh Hassan Team, Ganaja FC, Ultimate FC respectively and other football kits by the organizer, Sheikh Hassan Mikhail.
Manchester City Thrash Liverpool To End 18-Year Anfield Hoodoo
Manchester City ended an 18-year wait to beat Liverpool at Anfield in style with a 4-1 win on Sunday to take a firm grip on the Premier League title race.
Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and missed a penalty as Pep Guardiola’s men moved five points clear of Manchester United, with a game in hand to come, at the top of the table.
A third consecutive home defeat leaves Liverpool 10 points off the top in fourth, having also played a game more than City.
Raheem Sterling and the outstanding Phil Foden were also on target for the visitors on a day to forget for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who was at fault for three of City’s goals.
After a club record-breaking run of 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield, Liverpool have now lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since 1963.
The margin of defeat was also the Reds’ biggest in the Premier League era as City landed a knockout blow to their title defence.
City’s club record run of 14 consecutive wins, 10 of which have come in the league, has seen them pull away from the pack at the top of the table from what seemed a wide-open title race just a few weeks ago.
That run is reminiscent of the City and Liverpool sides at their best over the past three seasons as they have ran up record points tallies in combining to win the last three league titles.
However, Liverpool appear to have run out of gas in an injury-hit campaign after ending a 30-year wait to win a league title by taking City’s crown as champions last season.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp again paired midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson together at centre-back, despite new loan signing Ozan Kabak being available on the bench.
The Liverpool backline had been rarely tested until Sterling ran at them eight minutes before the break and the former Reds winger was upended by Fabinho.
Kevin De Bruyne missed a penalty for City when the sides met earlier in the season, while Riyad Mahrez blazed over from the spot in a 0-0 draw at Anfield in 2018 – the only time Guardiola had previously avoided defeat away to Liverpool as City manager.
The Catalan threw his arms up in disgust as Gundogan also failed to hit the target as his spot-kick flew well over the bar.
Not for the first time in City’s fine run, Guardiola started without a recognised striker, but a half-time tinkering of his formation to push Bernardo Silva closer to Foden in attack paid immediate dividends.
Another purposeful burst from Sterling fed Foden and after his low shot was saved by Alisson, Gundogan this time made no mistake on the rebound to score his seventh goal in 11 league games.
City had conceded just twice in their 13 league games, thanks in large part to the formidable partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones in central defence.
In contrast, Liverpool had not scored at Anfield in over six hours until a rare error from Dias handed the champions a lifeline just after the hour mark.
The Portuguese’s attempted clearance was blocked by Mohamed Salah, who was then pulled down by Dias.
Salah has not missed a penalty for Liverpool since 2017 and made no mistake when he fired straight down the middle.
But Liverpool could not build on that reprieve as the normally dependable Alisson gifted away two goals in comical fashion.
The Brazilian cleared the ball straight to Foden, who wriggled clear inside the area before squaring for Gundogan to tap home his second off the underside of the bar.
Seconds later, Alisson’s confidence seemed to have gone as another wayward attempted clearance picked out a City player as this time Silva crossed for Sterling to score his first goal at Anfield since leaving Liverpool six years ago.
Foden then completed the rout and an outstanding personal performance with a blistering shot seven minutes from time that also escaped Alisson’s grasp.
“Covid-19 Has Caused A Lot Of Set Back To Sporting Activities Across The Globe” – Mr. Sylvanus
By Our Reporter, Lokoja.
The Permanent Secretary, Kogi State Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sylvanus Akpama, says the advent of the dreaded Corona Virus across the Globe has caused a lot of havoc to sporting activities.
In an interview with Globaltimesnigeria.com in his Office in Lokoja, he said most sports involves body contact with opponents, saying that the social distance rules to avoid the spread of Covid-19 has affected the sector.
“Covid-19 has affected sporting activities greatly. Infact, we are one of the most hit sector in the world because sporting activities requires large gathering of sportsmen/women, officials and of course, spectators. So, judging from the nature and design of sports and Covid-19 protocols, you will know that obviously, the sector has really been hit so much”
The Permanent Secretary explained that in Nigeria, the highly anticipated National Sports Festival tagged “Edo 2020” was postponed due to the pandemic, stressing that an end to the global scourge will do the sector a lot of good.
“Driving the point back home, our National Sports Festival that every States prepared for with athletes in high spirits to showcase what they are made of was postponed because of Corona Virus. Since the advent of Covid-19, we’ve not really had a major sporting event in Nigeria. But in this 2021,we are very hopeful of revived sporting activities across the Country and get our athletes back on track”
Mr. Sylvanus Akpama however enjoined sportsmen and women, particularly those in Kogi State to continue to keep fit, adding that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
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