Lionel Messi said Monday he was not thinking about his long-term future as he sought to enjoy winning the eighth Ballon d’Or of his storied career.
Messi, 36, succeeded Karim Benzema as winner of the prize, awarded on the back of his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar.
“The last one I won was also thanks to what we achieved with the Argentine national team in the Copa America (in 2021), but this one is much more special because it comes after we won the World Cup,” Messi told various media including AFP after collecting his award at a ceremony in Paris.
“That is the trophy everyone wants to win the most, and it was a dream come true for me, my teammates and my country.”
He dragged Argentina to a victory in Qatar that crowned his remarkable career and allowed him to see off stiff competition for the Ballon d’Or from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.
Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin De Bruyne .0i.2n fourth place.
Former Barcelona superstar Messi scored seven times at the World Cup and was named the tournament’s best player after Argentina beat France on penalties in the final in Doha.
Yet Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, also had an underwhelming final season at Paris Saint-Germain, before leaving to play for Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.
He played down suggestions he could come back for another Ballon d’Or, possibly after the next World Cup in 2026, when he will be 39.
“I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day to day at the moment,” he said.
“We have a Copa America coming up in the United States, where I am now, in which we are the holders, so I am looking forward to coming into that in good shape and then just see how I am getting on from there.”
Messi admitted on his return to the French capital that his two-year stint at PSG had not turned out the way he imagined upon signing from Barcelona in 2021.
“Things didn’t turn out as I hoped but I enjoyed the city a lot, and my kids liked it a lot and found it hard to leave,” he said.
“It is a spectacular city and I was lucky to live here. Football-wise it did not go the way I hoped but I prefer to remember the many good things.”
Bellingham eyes Euro 2024 glory
Real Madrid and England star Jude Bellingham said he was targeting Euro 2024 glory with England after winning the Kopa Trophy for the best player of last season aged under 21 at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Paris on Monday.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a sensational start to his Real career, a brace in Saturday’s 2-1 Clasico win over Barcelona taking him to 13 goals in his first 13 games for the Spanish giants.
But the Kopa Trophy rewards his performances last season. In his final campaign with Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham scored 14 times in 42 games as they came second in the Bundesliga. He also helped England reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar.
“I am really grateful to Dortmund for the opportunities they gave me over the years and especially last year, to be a leading player and someone who helped the team to win games,” Bellingham told AFP and other media after collecting his prize.
“I think I took that responsibility on quite well and all said I think I had a good year so I am very happy.”
He succeeds Barcelona and Spain midfielder Gavi as the winner of the trophy named after former Real Madrid and France star Raymond Kopa.
Kylian Mbappe and Matthijs de Ligt are also former winners of the award, which is voted for by previous winners of the men’s Ballon d’Or.
Bellingham also ranked 18th in the voting for this year’s Ballon d’Or, recognised as the most prestigious individual prize in football.
Now settled in Spain, Bellingham is hoping for the kind of success with club and country this season that would make him a genuine contender to win the Ballon d’Or next year.
“The aim is to try to win everything with England and with Madrid,” he said of his objectives for the months ahead.
“It is important that I try to give everything I have got at the moment towards that.”
Of England’s prospects at the upcoming European Championship in Germany, he added: “I am definitely confident, we are one of the favourites going into the tournament now and it is important that we quit the talking and finally perform in front of our fans.”
Shadab Khan provides an update on his injury
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan suffered an unexpected injury during National T20 Cup match between Rawalpindi and Sialkot in Karachi on Sunday.
The incident took place as Shadab was fielding during the match, having bowled two economical overs. The unfortunate mishap occurred when the ball unexpectedly rose above his foot, resulting in a sudden and painful ankle twist.
The video footage of Shadab being carried off the field piggyback style by a teammate went viral on social media, raising concerns about the severity of the injury.
نیشنل T20 کرکٹر شادب خان انجری کا شکار شاداب کو کندھوں پر اٹھاکر ڈرینسنگ روم منتقل کیا گیا راولپنڈی کی کپتان سیالکوٹ کے خلاف میچ کھیلتے ہوئے پائوں کی انجری کا شکار ہوئے @76Shadabkhan @TheRealPCB #shadabkhan #IslamabadUnited pic.twitter.com/mEnGqmayi2
— KHIZAR AZAM (@KHIZARAZAM) December 3, 2023
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab recounted the incident and explained the severity of the pain that left him incapacitated for a few minutes, making it difficult for him to comprehend the extent of the injury and eventually he had to seek assistance.
“When the ball came above my foot, I had an ankle twist. When the ankle twisted, I couldn’t even comprehend it for 2-3 minutes because the pain was severe. Then I tried to walk to the sidelines. The boundary on the side was a bit short, so I walked out there, but after that, I didn’t have the courage to continue walking. Then there was a guy there, so I thought of somehow making it to the dressing room,” Shadab said.
Fortunately, Shadab provided a glimmer of optimism when discussing his current status of his fitness.
“Now the fitness is improving. The injury is not too major. The report has come, but the doctors haven’t told me how much time it will take. As soon as they tell, the rehab will start according to their instructions.” he further added.
Shadab highlighted the proactive approach being taken to ensure effective rehabilitation process ahead of Pakistan’s T20I series against New Zealand in January.
“The injury doesn’t seem too prolonged. The physios will assess it and plan accordingly for the New Zealand series.” he concluded.
Shadab Khan opens up about Babar Azam’s resignation from captaincy
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan, has expressed his perspective on Babar Azam’s recent choice to relinquish the captaincy across all formats of the national cricket team.
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab conveyed his admiration for Babar’s decision and conveyed his heartfelt best wishes.
The leg-spinner also shared positive sentiments regarding the newly appointed T20I captain for the national side, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“Look, everyone has their own decision, and Babar has stepped down. We send him our best wishes. We’ve had a great time with him as the captain for Pakistan. Now, Shaheen has taken on the role, and we’re excited about it. We’ve witnessed his [Shaheen’s] captaincy in the PSL, and it feels great. Let’s see how it goes playing under his captaincy for the first time; it will give an idea of how much fun it is, and I am very excited to play under Shaheen’s captaincy,” Shadab said.
On November 15th, Babar relinquished his captaincy following a meeting with Zaka Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee.
After stepping down, Shan Masood was appointed as the Test captain of the Pakistan Men’s Cricket Team, and Shaheen Shah Afridi was named as the T20I captain by the PCB.
Shaheen’s first task as the T20I captain for the Men in Green side will be leading the team against New Zealand in a five-match T20 series scheduled to take place from January 12 to January 21, 2024.
Pakistan vs New Zealand T20I series schedule:
- January 12: New Zealand vs Pakistan – First T20I in Auckland
- January 14: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Second T20I in Hamilton
- January 17: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Third T20I in Dunedin
- January 19: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fourth T20I in Christchurch
- January 21: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fifth T20I in Christchurch
Messi’s Argentina to face Chile in Copa America
Lionel Messi and Argentina will get the chance to avenge their defeats to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals after being grouped with their old rivals in the draw for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
Reigning Copa America champions Argentina will defend their title in the United States next summer in an expanded 16-team tournament which features 10 South American teams and six qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.
Argentina, winners of last year’s World Cup, will kick off the tournament on June 20 in Atlanta against either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago, who meet in a playoff next year to determine one of two remaining CONCACAF slots.
The Argentines will then face Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 in a repeat of the 2016 Copa America Centenario final held at the same venue.
Argentina, beaten by Chile in Santiago on penalties a year earlier in 2015, also lost the 2016 final on spot-kicks, with Messi blazing his penalty over the bar.
The Argentine captain later announced a short-lived retirement from international football after the defeat, before reversing the move and continuing his career.
The world champions will wrap up their Group A campaign in familiar territory for Inter Miami’ Messi, facing Peru in Miami on June 29 in their final first-round game.
Elsewhere, Mexico were drawn in a Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the United States face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C.
Five-time world champions Brazil, beaten in the 2021 final on home soil by Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, have a potentially tricky group containing Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Next year’s Copa America is being seen as an effective test run for the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said at Thursday’s draw that the tournament would be a “Copa America of the World.”
“The world champion team (Argentina), the only five-time world champion team (Brazil), the first world champion team (Uruguay) will take part, along with the best players in the world, who are Latin Americans,” Dominguez said.
Brazil open their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the futuristic home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, against either Costa Rica or Honduras on June 24.
They face Paraguay in Las Vegas on June 28 before concluding their group play against Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
A total of 14 stadiums will be used for the tournament, most of them large capacity venues that belong to NFL teams.
If Argentina win Group A, they will face the runner-up from Group B in the quarter-finals on July 4 at Houston’s NRG Stadium – where they defeated the United States in the semi-final in 2016.
The Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys will host another quarter-final on July 5, with Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, rounding out the last eight venues.
The semi-finals will take place at East Rutherford on July 9, and in Charlotte on July 10, with the final taking place at Miami on July 14.
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