Getty Images

Messi wins FIFA Ballon d’Or, named world’s best for fifth time

Leave a comment

Lionel Messi won the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or award given to the Men’s World Player of the Year on Monday, with the Barcelona and Argentina striker accepting the honor in Zurich, Switzerland.

Messi, 28, has now won his fourth Ballon d’Or title and was crowned the best player on the planet for a fifth time during his career, previously winning the award in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now in 2015.

[ MORE: Messi “a miracle from God” ] 

The leading scorer in the history of Barcelona and La Liga received a huge 41.33 percent of the vote, while Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo — who won the award in 2013 and 2014 — finished in second with 27.76 percent of the vote and Messi’s Barcelona teammate Neymar finished in third with 7.86 percent of votes.

After an injury-hit 2013-14 season heading into the 2014 World Cup, last season Messi tore it up and has now reclaimed his spot on top.

The Barcelona superstar led his club side to an historic UEFA Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey treble during the 2014-15 season, scoring 57 goals in 58 games in the club campaign.

In the 2015 calendar year Messi scored 52 goals and added 26 assists in 61 games for club and country. He scored 34 goals in 33 La Liga appearances.

USWNT and Houston Dash midfielder Carli Lloyd was named FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year for 2015 as the player who scored a hat trick in the USA’s World Cup final defeat of Japan was duly rewarded.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 11: FIFA Women's World Player of the Year winner Carli Lloyd of the USA and Houston Dash arrives on stage to deliver a speech during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015 at the Kongresshaus on January 11, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

Other award winners on the night included USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, who was named FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year for leading the U.S. to the 2015 Women’s World Cup title, while Barcelona’s manager Luis Enrique was named FIFA Men’s Coach of the Year for guiding Barcelona to the treble. The 2015 Puskas Award — given to the player who scored the best goal of the year according to voting — was awarded to Brazilian Wendell Lira for his incredible swiveling scissor kick.

The FIFPRO 2015 World XI was also announced, as professional players across the globe voted for their Best XI.

German international Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) was the goalkeeper selected, while the defenders were made up of Brazilian trio Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcelo (Real Madrid) and Dani Alves (Barcelona, plus Spaniard Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid). In midfield Croatian Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Spaniard Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) and Frenchman Paul Pogba (Juventus) made the cut, while up front the three finalists for the Ballon d’Or, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, put the cherry on top of a remarkable side.

FIFA considering four bids to host 2023 Women’s World Cup

Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

FIFA has received bids from Brazil, Japan, Colombia and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Gerrard extends contract amid strong start as Rangers boss ]

Soccer’s international governing body will now assess the bids, which will include visiting each country. Evaluations will be submitted to the FIFA Council and a vote on the host will be held at the organization’s meeting in Ethiopia next June.

Anticipated bids from South Korea and South Africa were withdrawn before Friday’s deadline.

The 2023 World Cup will feature 32 teams, up from the 24 that competed this summer at the tournament in France. The United States won its second straight World Cup title and fourth overall this year, and the event enjoyed unprecedented television viewership of 1.12 billion worldwide.

“France 2019 was certainly a watershed moment for women’s football, and now it is FIFA’s responsibility to take concrete measures to keep fostering the game’s incredible growth,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. “With the FIFA Women’s World Cup generating an unprecedented interest across member associations, we are ensuring that the process to select the hosts is seamless, objective, ethical and transparent. By the time the FIFA Council announces the hosts, there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why that choice was made.”

[ MORE: Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager ]

The Japan Football Association has already launched a website hyping its bid, which encourages supporters to submit “My Dream of 2023” hopes for the event. Japan’s association proposes using eight stadiums, including the new National Stadium.

Japan is hosting the Olympics next summer.

Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football announced the co-confederation bid Friday in Melbourne, just hours before the official bid book was submitted to FIFA.

“There is so much untapped potential, not just in Australia but right across Asia and the Pacific region, that I really do believe we would offer something incredibly special,” said Sam Kerr, a striker for the Matildas, Australia’s national team.

[ MORE: Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers ]

Brazil hosted the men’s 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics.

The Korean Football Association had initially pushed to jointly host the games with North Korea at the urging of Infantino but strained inter-Korean relations failed to realize a unified bid. South Korea, which hosted the 2002 men’s World Cup with Japan, announced its withdrawal shortly before Friday’s deadline.

South Africa, which hosted the men’s World Cup in 2014, also withdrew an expected bid.

Gerrard extends contract amid strong start as Rangers boss

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard is quite keen to stick around as Rangers boss following a strong start to his managerial career, leading the 39-year-old first-time manager to sign a two-year contract extension on Friday.

[ MORE: Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager ]

With his current contract previously set to run through the 2021-22 season, Gerrard’s services have been secured until the summer of 2024.

Gerrard has been largely successful since taking over the Scottish Premiership side last summer, guiding Rangers to their highest points total (78) since returning to the first division in 2016, and a second-place finish (also for the first time) behind rivals Celtic. Rangers reached the Europa League’s round of 32 on Thursday, marking their first trip to the knockout round of European competition since 2011.

That much success so quickly will undoubtedly lead to Gerrard’s name being linked with increasingly large jobs in England, likely prompting Rangers to act preemptively.

“I’m delighted to be extending my stay at this fantastic football club. When the chairman approached me about the possibility of extending my contract with Rangers, it was a very easy decision to make because I’m very happy and feel that we are building something special together at the club.

“I’d like to thank the board for the backing they have given me already in my time at the club and also most importantly, the Rangers fans who have given me and the team such tremendous backing both this season and last.”

Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Freddie Ljungberg is honored to serve as Arsenal’s interim manager following Unai Emery’s dismissal, but the Swede is also hoping for a speedy conclusion to the club’s search for a permanent replacement.

[ MORE: Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers ]

In theory, taking over the most famous club for which Ljungberg played was a no-brainer. In practice, though, he openly admits it’s been not only a difficult time for everyone emotionally, but also in terms of the staff members available to assist him during the day-to-day grind. Throw in the fact he has no idea whether or not he’ll still have a role at the club when the new manager arrives, and it’s beginning to sound like a no-win situation. Perhaps he’s being considered to remain in the job permanently, but Ljungberg says he’s been given no indication of any such thing — quotes from the Guardian:

“The club have said I have to wait until they make a decision, so I can’t do anything at the moment. I have Per [Mertesacker] but at the same time he is academy manager. He is helping me with the coaching. The club has said when they make a decision then that’s it — or I’m leaving, obviously — and maybe then we can do something with the staff. But it’s up to the club.

“If you look at the person who was here before, he had a lot of staff and maybe I don’t have so many. So if you keep on going like that for months and months, it’s not so easy. But that’s totally up to the club.”

“I haven’t got any indication of if I’m here or not. What I’ve said to the bosses and the club is I will do everything in my power to do as well as I can for this club and the players. Then obviously it is up to them to make a decision. I try not to put any emotions into that.”

Arsenal came back from a goal down (twice) to draw Norwich City in Ljungberg’s first game in charge, then the Gunners were comprehensively beaten (at home) by Brighton & Hove Albion. The bounced back with a win over West Ham United on Monday, but could only draw Standard Liege (albeit with a weakened team) in the Europa League on Thursday.

Lampard: Chelsea youngsters can’t worry about January transfers

Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Frank Lampard knows it’s only natural that some of Chelsea’s youngsters will have worries about the January transfer window and the Blues’ newfound ability to sign players, considering they were only afforded a first-team opportunity by the club’s transfer ban.

[ PL Preview: Chelsea v. Bournemouth ]

He doesn’t, however, want those thoughts and fears to dominate their thoughts for the next three weeks, until the window opens and Chelsea can sign players for the first time since January of this year. As Lampard sees it, the fact he has roughly $200 million to inject into the squad doesn’t necessarily mean they promising teenagers and early-20-somethings will immediately be cast aside. It does, however, mean he has to navigate this very unique set of circumstances extra carefully — quotes from the Guardian:

“I haven’t banned the talk [about the January window], but I am not going to set out to engage in it. If players want to come and see me and talk then I will happily have a conversation with them individually, but that hasn’t happened.

“I speak to them regularly. I can be, not hard on them, but I push them because I think they need that. I think they feel the trust I have in them because they know I’m prepared to give them the opportunities if they train well and they come in the team and play well. I think they should naturally feel a little bit of tension all the time so that’s not the worst thing.

“They just need to work and believe in their own talents because their talent is there for all to see. We also have to be patient with that because it may take different periods of time for them to fully blossom as players. They might have a period in and out of the team, have a run of the games and then not. I am prepared to stick with them through that because I really believe in them.”

22-year-old Tammy Abraham currently sits second in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 11 goals in 15 appearances. 21-year-old Christian Pulisic, while not an academy product, has shone brightly of late with a half-dozen goals and nearly as many assists to his name in the last two months. 20-year-old Mason Mount was a surprising revelation in the season’s opening weeks. 21-year-old defender Fikayo Tomori has been a regular starter for the last three months. 20-year-old Reece James has made the starting job at right back his own.

While the temptation to sign high-priced replacements for these budding stars will be hard to resist, perhaps Chelsea would be wiser to sign players in other positions and ride the wave of what could turn out to be a golden generation of homegrown products.