Millwall v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup Semi Final

How good is Wigan’s Callum McManaman?

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How good is Wigan’s Callum McManaman?

In short, ridiculously good.

Some may find it hard to believe that Wigan hold the keys to one of the Premier League’s next Ferraris but anyone who has really watched McManaman knows that to be the case. With lightning pace, sliky skills and a nose for goal, the 21 year old has the feel of an English Mario Götze and is quickly blossoming into one of the Premier League’s best young players.

After making his league debut against Portsmouth as an 18 year old in 2009, the Wigan product (who was released by Everton as a 16 year old) saw a handful of cameo appearances over the next few years before being sent to Blackpool on loan in the fall of 2011. His 13 match stint for The Tangerines prompted Roberto Martinez to recall McManaman back to the Latics that Spring, handing him three appearances with the club.

This season the Huyton-born winger has broken out after a series of eye-opening performances in the Capital One and FA Cup. The turning point came on March 9th when Wigan romped Everton 3-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Goodison Park. There, McManaman scored a wonder goal when he outsprinted Sylvain Distin and expertly nipped the ball past a sprawling Jan Mucha. His display against the Toffees earned McManaman his first league start in the Latics 2-1 win over Newcastle and he hasn’t looked back since – starting each of Wigan’s next three matches.

Although he has yet to open his scoring account in league, McManaman is very much a goal scorer. On Saturday he turned the Millwall defense inside-out, cutting them up with devastating quickness, ankle-breaking cuts and a Cruyff-esque understanding of space and time. He swept in on goal on numerous occasions, drawing two excellent first-half saves from Millwall’s David Forde. In the 50th minute McManaman’s inside cut was so vicious that it sent two Millwall defenders sliding out of play but the winger’s curled the ensuing shot just over the bar. Redemption finally came in the 78th minute when Jordi Gomez slipped a clever pass through for McManaman, who, with a full head of steam, managed to keep his balance and juke Forde before slotting home into an empty net.

McManaman is infamous for his brutal studs up tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara on March 17th. The ensuing outrage prompted many to depict the Wigan man as a thug, which his manager alleges is completely at odds with the youngster’s personality. “Callum McManaman is a simple guy”, said Martinez. “He is not someone who plays football to feed his ego. He is not someone who is always checking the press and what the media is saying.”

Martinez describes McManaman as a true lover of the game, someone who is happiest so long as he has a football by his side. “When people hear the name, they just get a picture for the wrong reasons,” said the manager. The tackle with Haidara “was just the wrong place at the wrong time.”

By reaching the FA Cup final, Wigan have punched their ticket to next year’s Europa League. It’s a stage where so many young players introduce themselves to the rest of Europe and one that McManaman will certainly be looking forward to. Transfer rumors concerning McManaman have yet to start flying but it shouldn’t be long before everyone in their Premier League is trying to get their hands on Wigan’s young superstar.

WATCH: Carrasco levels Champions League final, finds partner for long kiss

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid celebrates afte scorig the equalizing goal during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Milan on a starry night sounds romantic. Add in a massive match-tying goal, and it was all too much for Yannick Carrasco.

The 22-year-old Belgian attacker got on the end of Juanfran‘s cross and beat Keylor Navas at the near post.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s PK miss ]

In celebration, Carrasco raced toward a pitch side suite and into the arms and lips of what we presume is his partner for a gift that must count as much as a few dozen roses (but probably smelled much worse).

WATCH: Griezmann misses Torres-won PK in huge Champions League moment

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid speaks to head coach Diego Simeone during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Frankly, Antoine Griezmann embodied the Atletico Madrid attack in the first half, so it was no surprise when he stepped up to the penalty spot early in the second half.

Fernando Torres had won a penalty kick from Pepe after the Portuguese back stamped on his ankle in the 46th minute, and Greizmann got Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong direction before cranking the ball off the bar.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

The miss looms large.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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