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Le Graet says Benzema will never play for France again

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France Football president Noel le Graet says Karim Benzema will never play for France again, and Benzema is furious.

The head man said Saturday that Benzema will not return to the French national team, despite calls for the Real Madrid striker to make his return to the national team. Benzema has not played for France since 2015, frozen out as part of the fallout from the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape affair.

It is that incident and that alone that has kept Benzema off the field for Les Blues, said le Graet. “For me, Benzema is a very good player. I have never criticised his qualities,” le Graet told RMC Sport on Saturday. “On the contrary, he is proving again this year at Madrid that he is one of the best players in his position. But the adventure with France is over.”

Benzema responded soon after on social media, pleading for a chance to play again and firing back at le Graet’s suggestion that he is done.

“Noël, I thought that you did not interfere with the decisions of the national team coach!” Benzema wrote on Twitter. “Know that it will be me and me alone who decides when my international career is over. If you think that I am finished, let me play for a country that I am eligible to play for and we will see.”

Benzema was also eligible to play for Algeria before choosing France, but according to FIFA rules, he cannot switch to another national team having racked up 81 career appearances for Les Blues.

Pressure from fans to call in Benzema has increased with Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann both in poor form, leaving Kylan Mbappe to shoulder much of the attacking load. Benzema, meanwhile, has scored 11 goals in 15 appearances for Real Madrid across all competitions this season. French publication L’Equipe ran a poll asking whether Benzema was the best striker in France, and 73% of responses indicated “yes.”

Unhappy in Madrid, Bale ‘more excited’ to play for Wales

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Thanks to the ongoing FIFA-mandated international break, life is currently pretty good for Gareth Bale, who says he “definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales” compared to when he’s playing — or not playing — for his club, Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sterling backs Gomez after boos were heard at Wembley ]

Bale confirmed on Friday what the entire world has known for a couple of years now: that he’s thoroughly unhappy at not being allowed to leave Madrid this summer; that he never truly adapted to his home since the summer of 2013; and that his on-field performance has suffered for those reasons, as well as his extensive injury history — quotes from the BBC:

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feeling more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales.

“I’ve been with most of the players, especially the older ones, since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday.

“But it still doesn’t change what I give on the pitch. I always give 100 percent wherever I am, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

As for how Bale has been painted by the Spanish media, he says he only pays attention to the negative coverage when his friends since him “funny pictures or whatever they write,” but it’s clear he feels like an outsider and that’s a key reason he was so keen to leave the club and country when a(n even more) mega-money offer came from China this summer.

“I’ve heard some stories but I don’t really take notice. My friends tend to send me some funny pictures or whatever they write.

“I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me. On one, it said ‘triple bogey’ and I’ve never had a triple bogey. At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.”

Unfortunately for Bale, he’ll have to continue playing nice with manager Zinedine Zidane, until January at least.

La Liga: Morata the hero as Atleti keep up with Barca, Real Madrid

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid was heading for another disappointment on Sunday before Alvaro Morata came to the rescue again.

[ VIDEO: Taison sent off for reacting to racist abuse in Ukraine ]

The striker provided the spark Atletico needed after his team had conceded a goal in the first half at home against Espanyol, which increased the pressure on Atletico following its three-match winless run and victories by Spanish league leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid a day earlier.

Morata led Atletico’s rally with an assist to Angel Correa’s goal just before halftime. He then scored his sixth goal in as many matches after the break to put the team back on top before Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion sealed the 3-1 victory in injury time.

“What matters is that we won,” Morata said. “In the end, it’s all about us sticking together in the difficult moments. Today we found a way to earn the three points that allowed us to stay near the top of the standings.”

The home win moved Atletico to third place with 24 points, one point behind Barcelona and Madrid. The Spanish powerhouses have a game in hand because their “clasico” match was postponed until December due to last month’s separatist rally in the Catalan capital.

Atletico was coming off a loss at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League and two league draws at Sevilla and against Alaves. It had won only two of its last nine league matches entering the weekend.

“Today we showed the consistency that we lacked in the last few matches,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.

[ MORE: This is now Liverpool’s Premier League title to lose ]

Espanyol opened the scoring with a shot from outside the area by Sergi Darder in the 38th minute, but Correa equalized with a close-range header off a cross from Morata in first-half stoppage time. The goal was initially disallowed for offside by Morata, but video review determined he was in a legal position.

Morata, who was recalled to Spain’s national team this week, put Atletico ahead with a shot into the top corner from inside the area in the 58th. Koke netted his goal from near the penalty spot in the final minutes.

It was the third straight league loss for Espanyol, which stayed second-to-last in the 20-team standings with eight points. It has lost nine of its 13 matches, with two wins and two draws.

Atletico had lost three of its last four league matches against Espanyol, which is one of only two teams – Real Madrid is the other – to beat Atletico at its home in the league since the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was inaugurated in 2017.

La Liga roundup: Messi ties Ronaldo’s La Liga hat-trick record (video)

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Lionel Messi’s emphatic performance against Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo

There’s great, and then there’s Lionel Messi great.

Against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday, the Argentine put together one of his finest performances this season, scoring a hat-trick in 48 minutes that included two free kicks. The hat trick marks Messi’s 34th of his La Liga career (459 games), tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.

“It’s clear that when it’s so close we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” teammate Sergio Busquets said following the game. “He’s been improving and that’s an advantage, I hope he keeps scoring them.”

 

Messi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot, only to commit the foul that would lead to Celta’s equalizer  – a well-placed free kick from Lucas Olaza – three minutes before the end of the second half.

If anything, the yellow card he earned and subsequent goal from the visitors served as motivation for Messi, because magic from Barcelona’s No. 10 was on its way.

Minutes before the whistle that would see both sides head into their respective dressing rooms, Messi netted his first well-stuck free kick. Minutes after both teams took the field after the break, his second inch-perfect free kick found the back of net. Both free kicks were fired over the wall and curled into the top corner.

Messi has scored nine goals in his last seven games throughout all competitions. With eight league goals to his name, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has more goals than Messi’s seven this season.

In the 85th minute, Busquets’ strike from the top of the 18-yard mark helped Barcelona seal their victory, ending a two-game winless streak in league play.

Barcelona, who are now level with rivals Real Madrid with 25 points, travel to Leganes following the international break, defending, while Celta Vigo, who continue in a crisis despite recently appointing Oscar Garcia Junyent as manager, will look for their third win of the season against Villarreal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0 – 4 Real Madrid 

Alaves 3-0 Real Valladolid 

Valencia 2-0 Granada

UCL wrap: Rodrygo scores three for 6-star Real; PSG through

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The Champions League again produced wild moments all over Europe that extended well past Kyle Walker‘s turn in goal for Manchester City.

[ MORE: Atalanta 1-1 Man City | Red Star 0-4 Spurs ]

Several stoppage time markers joined a six-pack of goals in Spain and a big night from a CONCACAF teen.

Real Madrid 6-0 Galatasaray

Rodrygo scored thrice and added an assist, while Karim Benzema had a brace to go with an assist in the easiest of wins at the Bernabeu.

Marcelo had two assists before limping off with injury in the 42nd minute, with Sergio Ramos scoring the other goal for Real. The 13-time champions are on the verge of the knockout rounds.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Olympiacos

Robert Lewandowski and Ivan Perisic were the goal scorers, and Canadian left back Alphonso Davies had a notable 90 minutes. Davies logged 3 shots, 2 successful dribbles, and four tackles to go with 88 percent passing.

PSG 1-0 Club Brugge

Mbaye Diagne saw his penalty saved by Keylor Navas, meaning Mauro Icardi’s 22nd minute goal was all PSG would need on the score sheet to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.

Lokomotiv Moscow 1-2 Juventus

Two goals in the first 12 minutes had them deadlocked in Russia, but Douglas Costa found the answer in stoppage time.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Atletico Madrid

An own goal and Kevin Volland 55th minute marker gave Bayer a lead it would ride to three valuable points. Bayer joins Lokomotiv on three points in a bid to finish third and continue a European adventure.

Dinamo Zagreb 3-3 Shakhtar Donetsk

This one was pure chaos.

Six different goal scorers found the sheet beginning with Shakhtar’s Alan Patrick in the 13th minute. That was the Ukranian side’s only lead of the night.

It stood 1-1 in the 83rd minute when Dinamo struck twice in six minutes to set up a grandstand stoppage time time that saw a Junior Moraes goal joined by a match-leveling penalty from 19-year-old Tete in the 8th minute of stoppage time.

Nuts.