Now peerless, Leo Messi claims fourth FIFA Ballon d’Or

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Leo Messi is now peerless in the modern game in terms of individual, global achievement. The fabulous little Barcelona and Argentina national team magician has claimed his fourth FIFA player of the year honor, handed the Ballon d’Or by world soccer’s governing body today in Swizterland.

France’s Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo were both three-time winners, but Messi is now alone with four. (The award has been around since 1991, so Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and other giants of a previous day never had the same chance at world soccer’s ultimate individual decoration.)

As for the 2012 honor, Messi was one of three finalists, along with Barca teammate Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo, a rival goal-scorer for Spanish rival Real Madrid.

But finding anyone who thought Messi had real competition for this honor was tough, and for good reason. The highly versatile 25-year-old attacker struck for an astonishing 91 goals in all competitions (for Spanish giants Barcelona and internationally for powerful Argentina), eclipsing Gerd Muller’s 40-year record for the most goals in a calendar year.

If scoring 91 goals to set a new world standard doesn’t get you the game’s highest award, what will?

According to FIFA, Messi claimed 41.60 percent of the voting. Ronaldo was next with 23.68 percent, followed by Iniesta with 10.91 percent.

(MORE: Notes on Monday’s ceremony)

The one glitch in the Messi matrix has always been his far more modest success while guiding Argentina internationally (although the train wreck of Maradona as manager of the Albiceleste at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was surely a mitigating factor in the Argentine flop.)

That argument against Messi went out the world soccer window in 2012 when he hit five times in five World Cup qualifiers, building on that with hat-tricks in friendlies against Brazil and Switzerland.

Even Ronaldo had seemed resigned to runner-up status, at best, before Monday’s announcement: “If I win, perfect. If I don’t, never mind, life goes on.”

(MORE: U.S. striker Abby Wambach wins Women’s Player of the Year)

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.