Barcelona’s 2019-20 La Liga campaign, and their quest for a third straight domestic title, began with a shocking defeat away to Athletic Bilbao, last season’s 8th-place finishers.
But, on the bright side (for neutrals and Barca haters, of course) it happened in the most spectacular of fashions.
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38-year-old Aritz Aduriz made his early submission for goal of the season: the following bicycle kick from 14 yards out on a high, long cross into the penalty area (goal at 0:38 mark).
The result snapped Barca’s streak of having won their opening league fixture for 10 straight seasons.
To make matters worse, Luis Suarez suffered a muscular injury to his right leg in the first half and was subbed off in the 37th minute. Barca were without Lionel Messi due to a calf injury, but Antoine Griezmann made his competitive debut for the club after moving from Atletico Madrid for $135 million this summer.
On the bright side (for Barca), they did manage to agree a loan move for Philippe Coutinho to leave the club, presumably shedding some, or all, of his wages off their books for the rest of the season.
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been ruled out of the club’s quick visit to the United States for a pair of preseason matches against Napoli in Miami and Michigan.
The club confirmed a grade one calf strain for the Argentinian, suffered in his very first training session back from extended leave. Messi was given extra time to rejoin the squad as did many other international stars that participated in summer tournaments.
The news comes just days after Messi was suspended for three months by CONMEBOL for disparaging comments he made about the federation in the wake of Argentina’s elimination from the Copa America this summer. That will see him also miss games in the United States, with Argentina set for friendlies against Chile and Mexico in Los Angeles and San Antonio.
Messi remained quite healthy last season making 50 appearances for the club, but he has had muscle problems in the past, most notably suffering a string of tears in 2012 and 2013 that has seen Barcelona take a cautious approach with its superstar ever since.
Thee miss will be a big loss for U.S. fans hoping to attend the matches and see Messi play, but also for the “Barca Fest” to be held in Miami on Tuesday, with several unconfirmed first-team players set to attend alongside musical performers and other fan events.
Barcelona begins its regular season against Athletic Bilbao next weekend.
CONMEBOL has bravely suspended the world’s best player for three matches, all friendlies he may have opted to skip anyway.
Lionel Messi called the confederation corrupt during the Copa America, saying that CONMEBOL wanted host nation Brazil to advance to the final.
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Messi was also fined $50,000 for the words, according to Goal.com, which came after a match in which he was given a comical red card which somehow withstood video review.
He was initially fined just $1,500, which was laughed off around the world. Messi earns about $2 million a week through salary, endorsements, and bonuses.
The friendlies against Chile, Mexico, and Germany are all hosted outside of Argentina. The first two are in the United States and the third is in Dortmund, and Messi’s absence is sure to thrill organizers and attendees alike.
Oh, and he’ll be back to face Brazil in Saudi Arabia. Funny thing, that.
Barcelona supporters, meanwhile, are probably thrilled.
The 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s Best Player of the Year award has been announced, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Neymar and Luis Suarez missing out.
[ MORE: Coach of Year shortlist ]
Four current Premier League stars feature in the top 10, with Eden Hazard who moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid over the summer also named among the nominees.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane is joined by Liverpool trio Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane with VVD the favorite to be crowned the top player on the planet as his dominant displays led Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory and within one point of Manchester City in the Premier League. Van Dijk also captained the Netherlands to reach the UEFA Nations League final and led their resrurgence from central defense.
Dutch duo Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, who have both left Ajax this summer for Barcelona and Juventus respectively, are included after their breakout years for club and country, while superstars Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo (who has won the award twice in the past three seasons) and Lionel Messi make up the top 10 based on performances for club and country from 16 July 2018 to 19 July 2019.
Who is the favorite to win this award?
Van Dijk is up there, while Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo will be among the leading contenders once again. The winner from last year, Luka Modric, isn’t included in the nominees this year and the absence of any players from Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid (not counting Hazard) proves just how difficult it is to narrow this list down to 10 players.
Below is the list in full, as the winner will be announced on Sept. 23 at FIFA’s ceremony in Milan.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea (now Real Madrid) and Belgium
Harry Kane – Tottenham and England
Frenkie de Jong – Ajax (now Barcelona) and Holland
Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax (now Juventus) and Holland
Sadio Mane – Liverpool and Senegal
Kylian Mbappe – PSG and France
Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus and Portugal
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool and Egypt
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool and Holland
You could probably call this a slap on the wrist for Lionel Messi, but it’s probably more like a tickle of his ear.
CONMEBOL have decided to fine the Barcelona and Argentina star just $1,500 for his explosive outburst after being sent off in the 2019 Copa America tournament earlier this summer.
That hefty fine will teach him…
Messi, 32, has also had his one-match ban (for being sent off) upheld and he will now miss Argentina’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Following his red card for a clash with Chile’s Gary Medel during the third-place playoff match, both players were sent off and it’s safe to say Messi was far from happy with how everything went down as he criticized the refereeing and quality of the pitches in Brazil.
“We don’t have to be part of this corruption,” Messi said. “They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament. Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don’t allow people to enjoy football, they ruined it a bit. I think the cup is fixed for Brazil. I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can compete because they have the team to do so although I think it’s difficult.”
Messi has since apologized for his comments and this punishment is the end of the matter. At least for him…
CONMEBOL have taken Argentina FA leader Claudio Tapia off their seat in the decision-making FIFA council. Tapia followed Messi as he hit out at CONMEBOL in an open letter following their semifinal defeat to hosts Brazil.