Then, star players scheduled to play in his Chicago charity match dropped out in droves. He was forced to cancel the follow-up match in Los Angeles.
Now, he apparently skipped town on the “Messi and Friends” game after being substituted off the match in the 70th minute.
There’s not a large amount of information on exactly when he left and what he missed, but from what’s been floating around, Messi skipped ESPN interviews as well as autograph signings for fans who paid for special (and expensive) meet and greet tickets. A few media members in attendance made their feelings known on Twitter.
I'm sure he had his reasons, but Messi leaving his own #MessiAndFriends charity game before it's even over is weak.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) July 07, 2013
Interesting ending tonight. People paid $2000/ticket for meet and greet with Messi and he bolts. Long summer for him ending with this. #SMH— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) July 07, 2013
Unfortunately 140 characters isn’t quite enough to get the full gist of what happened, but with a black cloud over the match already, one can’t help but wonder what the new issue is now, especially this stunt at an event to benefit his own charity.
There was one spectacular moment to take away from Soldier Field. Northwestern alum Matt Eliason scored a ridiculous goal, chesting the ball down to himself before unleashing a bicycle kick that would have made Messi himself proud.
Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.
Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.
So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.
One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.
Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.
France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.
The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.
Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.
There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.
The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.
But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.
The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.
Three battles that could determine the Champions League final
We’re just two days away from the Champions League final, as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid prepare to face each other in Milan on Saturday.
The tie is a rematch of the 2014 final when Real Madrid won 4-1 to claim a record tenth Champions League title. Atletico led that match 1-0 in stoppage time, only to concede a late equalizer before collapsing in extra time.
With Real one of Europe’s best attacking teams and Atleti the best defensive side, two completely different styles of play will clash at the San Siro this weekend. Below, we take a look at a few key matchups that could determine who leaves Milan as champions.
Keylor Navas vs. Jan Oblak
In the Champions League this season, Navas has kept nine clean sheets in ten appearances (tied for the most-ever in a single campaign), while Oblak has kept eight in 12 appearances. Oblak was named to the La Liga Team of the Year after a stellar season for Atleti, and his massive double-save on Thomas Muller’s penalty kick in the semifinals helped Simeone’s men reach Milan. For Navas, the keeper’s strong play is often overshadowed by Real’s attack, but the Costa Rican international has proved massive for the club all season long. In what will surely be an extremely tight match, one big save could prove the difference.
These may not be two “superstar” names in the sides, but Luka Modric and Gabi may be the most important men on the pitch for Real and Atletico, respectively. When Real goes forward, it starts with Modric in the midfield. The Croatian playmaker is confident in possession and spreads the ball all over the pitch, seemingly always in the right place at the right time. On the other side, Gabi epitomizes what Diego Simeone wants in his Atletico squad. The hard-nosed midfielder sits right in front of the back-line, in charge of clogging up and holes and making sure the rest of his midfield tracks back and keeps shape, which will be vitally important against Real. A product of the Atleti youth system, red and white runs through Gabi’s veins, and having already experienced a loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final back in 2014, Simeone’s leader on the pitch will want to turn the tides this time around.
Atleti back-line vs. BBC
When all is said and done, the biggest battle will be between the stout Atleti defense and Real’s potent attack. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have become the best center-back pairing in Europe, while Real’s BBC trio of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano combined for 119 goals in all competitions this season. Atleti have already kept clean sheets in the Champions League against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but both of those matches were in front of a home crowd at the Vicente Calderon. Expect a few heavy challenges to come in early, as the Atletico defense will look to keep Ronaldo & Co. honest.