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Report: Burzaco paid Messi, other Argentines $200,000 to play in friendlies

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Testimony continued in the FIFAGate trials in Brooklyn Thursday, and cooperating witness Alejandro Burzaco dropped another bombshell in court.

According to multiple reports, Burzaco, the former CEO of Argentine sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias, claimed on the witness stand that he provided a payment of $200,000 to Lionel Messi and other Argentine National Team players in order for them to appear in friendly matches, which likely helped he and others associated promote the match to sponsors and fans.

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According to La Nacion, the money was given to Messi and distributed to other players. Burzaco did not clarify which players exactly received this alleged payment. The massive claim came during cross examination from the defense lawyers of defendants Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout.

Argentina’s FA has been notoriously corrupt for years, with the problem finally coming to a head since 2015. After former president Julio Grondona passed away and a new president was set to be elected, the vote was declared invalid after a 38-38 tie, despite there only being 75 representatives voting.

The disfunction at the FA even caused Messi to briefly retire from international play after the 2016 Copa America, where he led Argentina to the final despite a laundry-list of administrative miscues in organizing the team’s travel and training.

In addition to paying Messi, Burzaco confirmed he paid a number of Argentine football and political officials bribes. However, he said he did not pay bribes to current President Mauricio Macri, former President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, and Anibal Fernandez, former cabinet chief of Kirchner.

Germany, France even in 2-2 draw; Spain, Russia’s 6-goal thriller

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A roundup of international friendlies featuring 2018 World Cup-bound national teams on Tuesday…

[ MORE: USMNT draws Portugal | Player ratings | Three things ]

Germany 2-2 France

In what could very well be a preview of the World Cup final next summer, Germany and France traded blows on Tuesday, as the home side came from a goal behind on two occasions to draw Les Bleus, 2-2.

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette put France ahead just after the half-hour mark, courtesy of Manchester United attacker Anthony Martial‘s assist, but Timo Werner, who over the last 18 months has played himself into serious consideration for the starting job at center forward, equalized in the 56th minute.

Lacazette made it 2-1 in the 71st, but Lars Stindl, the other late emergence of this cycle, brought the defending world champions level once again in the 92nd minute.

Russia 3-3 Spain

Sergio Ramos scored twice (both times from the penalty spot) and Jordi Alba provided another for Spain, but Julen Lopeteguia’s side gave all three goals back to a Russian side which hasn’t played a competitive fixture since EURO 2016, and hasn’t fared well at all in recent friendlies.

Alba’s opener came after nine minutes, followed in the 35th by Ramos’ first penalty kick. Six minutes into the second half, it was 2-2 after Fedor Smolov and Aleksey Miranchuk scored either side of halftime. Three minutes later, Ramos converted another from the penalty spot, only so see Smolov hit back for Russia’s third in the 70th minute.

Having opted to play his first-choice backline, Lopeteguia might have a few small concerns following the final international break of 2017.

Argentina 2-4 Nigeria

Speaking of shoddy defending, Argentina conceded four against fellow World Cup qualifiers Nigeria.

Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi (times two) Brian Idowu more than canceled out goals scored by Ever Banega and Sergio Aguero.

The big story coming out of this game, though, is the health of Aguero, after he fainted in the locker room at halftime. He reportedly “got dizzy and had to leave,” and was taken to a nearby hospital, but quickly rejoined his national teammates and is expected to once again be available for selection for Manchester City.

China 0-4 Colombia

Felipe Pardo, Carlos Bacca and Miguel Borja (times two) made sure Colombia bounced back immediately following their loss to South Korea over the weekend. Notably absent for Colombia was James Rodriguez, who departed camp before Tuesday’s game and returned to Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

England 0-0 Brazil
Belgium 1-0 Japan
Austria 2-1 Uruguay
South Korea 1-1 Serbia
Qatar 1-1 Iceland
Hungary 1-0 Costa Rica
Wales 1-1 Panama

Aguero faints, leaves Argentina-Nigeria friendly

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Sergio Aguero’s goal against Nigeria was an afterthought following a trip to the hospital.

Aguero scored to make it 2-0 in Russia against the Super Eagles, but fainted in the dressing room at halftime according to the BBC.

[ MORE: Cech calls out Spurs ]

After the match Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli said Aguero had “got dizzy and had to leave.”

Don’t fear too much, Man City fans, your hero is already back with the team (according to the team).

Nigeria scored four times in the second half to win 4-2.

Aguero scores to down Russia in World Cup stadium reopening

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Sergio Aguero took it upon himself to reopen Luzhniki Stadium in style.

The Manchester City striker was lively all match, and he scored an 86th minute winner to seal a 1-0 friendly win over World Cup hosts Russia in Moscow.

Aguero was troublesome for Russia and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev all match, forcing numerous saves including an expert volley in the first half. He finally got the winning goal with time winding down, seeing his first shot from around the penalty area blocked by Giorgi Jilka, but he headed in the rebound to break the ice.

Russia, meanwhile, was completely toothless. Argentina held 70% possession throughout the match, and put seven of their 20 attempts on net. The hosts managed just four total shots, one on target.

Argentina head coach Edgardo Bauza still refused to even experiment with Paulo Dybala on the field at the same time as Aguero and Lionel Messi, only bringing on the young Juventus star to replace Aguero once he had scored.

The match was the first in Moscow’s feature stadium that will host a semifinal and the 2018 World Cup final.

Sergio Aguero confirms his desire to return to Argentina

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Sergio Aguero is still dreaming of a return to Independiente.

[ MORE: Messi makes World Cup promise ]

Aguero, 29, became Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer last week and has 179 goals in all competitions for the Premier League since he arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

He has won every major trophy available apart from the Champions League with Man City and many would say his job is done in England after this season.

Then what?

The Argentine international has been speaking about that ahead of La Albiceleste’s friendlies against Russia and Nigeria in Russia over the next few days.

“It came out that Milan and Real Madrid wanted me and – I don’t know where I read it – but they said, ‘They just spoiled Independiente’s dream.’ But the idea was always to go back to Independiente when my contract with City runs out in 2019. I have an option to extend one more year with City where it’s the priority but it’s always an option. The idea is to go back. Now, I’m doing very well and hopefully we can win the cup [title], but it’s not easy.”

Very interesting.

With Aguero having to scrap with Gabriel Jesus for the role of the lone central striker in Pep Guardiola‘s side at Man City, it seems that his time at Man City may be coming to a somewhat natural end.

At the end of the 2018-19 season he will be 31 years of age and the way City are playing right now it seems rather likely that Aguero will get his hands on the Champions League trophy in one of the next two seasons if he remains at City that long.

One thing about Aguero has always intrigued me. He has spent sic years in England but can hardly speak the language and it is quite obvious he doesn’t plan to remain in Manchester a day beyond his playing contract at Man City.

He is a legend of the club, not only for his title-winning goal in 2012, but for his incredible goalscoring record during the most successful period in club history.

That means City will likely allow him to leave on his terms when he wants to return to Argentina and, quite frankly, they’ll be delighted he doesn’t want to sign for any other team in Europe or the Premier League so he can’t come back and haunt them.

Aguero’s international teammate, and close friend, Lionel Messi, has also been talking about potentially returning to his former club in Argentina, Newell’s Old Boys, to end his career.

Imagine that duo going head-to-head in the Argentine Primera Division for the final years of their career?

Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Maradona both returned to Boca Juniors for the twilight of their careers and Aguero and Messi doing the same, at the same time, would be quite something. They both deserve to decide where they will play out the final years of their glittering careers.