Fabio

Van Dijk: ‘Very proud’ to be in running for Ballon d’Or

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A centerback hasn’t won the Ballon d’Or – or FIFA’s Best Male Player award – since 2006, when Fabio Cannavarro earned the prize off the back of a tremendous summer leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

[READ: Leo Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or]

In the end, Virgil Van Dijk came this close to breaking the duopoly held by strikers and playmaking midfielders. The Liverpool centerback finished second in the voting, and he was able to sit right next to Lionel Messi before the Argentine star was announced as the award winner.

“You need to respect greatness. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better,” van Dijk told Liverpool’s website after the event in Paris on Monday. “I’m very proud of what I achieved last year, with Liverpool and Holland. Hopefully we can do it again this year. I never thought I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated. It says a lot about how my career has been, it has never been easy. I came late but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work very hard every step of the way.

“Where I am right now is something I’m very proud of. To be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder and hopefully be here next year again.”

Van Dijk had an outstanding season with Liverpool in 2018-2019, cementing himself as the pre-eminent centerback in the world and leading the Reds to a UEFA Champions League title. At the same time, van Dijk’s strong defensive work allowed Liverpool to come within one point of Manchester City for the Premier League title, nearly ending a three-decade drought for Liverpool.

Van Dijk hasn’t dropped any levels into this season. Thanks to his strong defensive play, Liverpool has a double-digit lead in the Premier League standings over Man City, and could run away with the title if the Reds continue to pick up points. Van Dijk finishing second shows how valuable he is even abroad, and where would Liverpool be without him? Certainly not leading the league right now.

The 28-year-old centerback has sort of blossomed late, but he’s used every move as a stepping stone to a moment like this. From making his debut at 20-years old with Gronigen in the Netherlands to a move to Celtic and then Southampton, van Dijk has improved at every stage to become one of the best players in the world.

Ballon d’Or 2019 results revealed

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The full results for the 2019 Ballon d’Or voting have been announced during the glitzy event in Paris on Monday, as the top player on the planet was crowned.

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Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or, setting a record for the most wins by a single player in history.

Messi, Virgil Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo finished in first, second and third place respectively for the coveted trophy, as Messi has overtaken Ronaldo who has won the Ballon d’Or five times and VVD was aiming to become the first defender since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 to win the award.

Remember: leading journalists along with national team coaches and captains vote for the winners of this award.

Below is the list of players from the 30-man shortlist and where they finished.

28. Joao Felix
28. Marquinhos
28. Donny van de Beek
26. Karim Benzema
26. Georginio Wijnaldum
24. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
24. Kalidou Koulibaly
23. Hugo Lloris
22. Heung-Min Son
20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
20. Dusan Tadic
19. Trent Alexander-Arnold
18. Antoine Griezmann
17. Roberto Firmino
16. Sergio Aguero
15. Matthijs de Ligt
14. Kevin De Bruyne
13. Eden Hazard
12. Raheem Sterling
11. Frenkie de Jong

The top 10…

10. Riyad Mahrez

9. Bernardo Silva

8. Robert Lewandowski

7. Alisson

6. Kylian Mbappe

5. Mohamed Salah

4. Sadio Mane

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

2. Virgil van Dijk

1. Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo faces meeting with Juve admin, apology to teammates

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Juventus players expect an apology from Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the stadium Sunday after being subbed out of Juventus’ 1-0 defeat of AC Milan, his second-straight match as a tactical departure.

Ronaldo dodged a fine for the offense — which is great, how could he ever afford something like that? — but will also have to have a conversation with Juve administrators Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved.

[ MORE: Will Zlatan rejoin LA? ]

The striker is in a run of below average performances for mortals, well-below average for a player of his acumen.ips

Maurizio Sarri took him off after a one-shot, 75 percent passing performance against AC Milan, and substitute Paulo Dybala scored the match-winner. Sarri shrugged off Ronaldo’s harsh words upon exit, as one might expect,

His absence from the team room after the game did not sit well with the serial Serie A champs, and Sky Sports pundit Fabio Capello had some stinging words for CR7.

“The fact that he didn’t sit on the bench and said bad words to Sarri is not a pretty picture,” he told Sky Sports Italia. “The truth is that Ronaldo has not dribbled past an opponent for three years. I remember it when he went past players and left them there. Now it doesn’t happen anymore, while Douglas Costa and [Paulo] Dybala do it.”

We mean, there’s a real mic drop in there, but he kept going. Full marks, Fabio. Way to stay to the end, even if, uh, that’s not correct (and this particular keyboard puncher is not a Ronaldo apologist in the slightest. Grimy).

Ronaldo is still rated amongst the top performers in Serie A and it’s smart to resist the urge to say the 34-year-old is finished. And while we’d love to jinx him back into form, Capello might want to check Ronaldo’s dribble numbers. Maybe Serie A is a step down from La Liga, but he’s doing it more often.

Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

Puskas Award nominees include Zlatan, Messi, Townsend

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The insane Andros Townsend volley against Manchester City last season has been nominated for the annual FIFA Puskas Award for best goal of the year, alongside a Zlatan Ibramhimovic scissor kick, a ridiculous Lionel Messi plink off the underside of the crossbar, a blistering run by USWNT veteran Amy Rodriguez, and six other fabulous efforts from throughout the past calendar year.

The stinging Townsend blast set the Premier League on fire last season as it saw Crystal Palace stun Manchester City for the eventual champions’ second defeat in three matches and provided social media with some fabulous video content. The goal won the official Premier League Goal of the Season award and swept just about every other media outlet’s version as well, although it was challenged on the penultimate day of the season by Vincent Kompany‘s similarly blistering effort that helped Man City nail down the league title. Kompany’s effort was not included int he Puskas Award list.

Zlatan was nominated for his scissor strike against Toronto FC last September, a strike that saw him catch a delivery from Jonathan dos Santos with a spinning 360-degree karate kick that whipped the ball into the back of the net. The Swedish international won the 2013 Puskas Award for his outrageous bicycle kick from miles out on international duty against England.

Messi’s strike – his sixth Puskas nomination, with no wins yet – came in March against Real Betis, a left-footed looper that clipped the underside of the crossbar and left goalkeeper Dani Martin with absolutely no chance.

Rodriguez was nominated for a goal scored for her club Utah Royals against fellow NWSL side Sky Blue FC just last month. She burst through the midfield across the halfway line and took aim from well outside the box, a left-footed effort that found the top corner. She joins Nigerian international Ajara Nchout and Cliftonville Ladies’ Billie Simpson as the only females on the list, with Nchout’s technically fabulous goal coming at this summer’s World Cup.

Others on the list are Sampdoria striker and Portuguese international Fabio Quagliarella, River Plate’s Juan Fernando Quintero, RB Leipzig’s Matheus Cunha, and Debrecen FC teenager Daniel Zsori.

You can watch all the goals nominated and vote for the winner here on FIFA’s official website. Fan voting determines the final three goals up for the award, and a FIFA panel of “legends” will determine the winner from those final three.