Lionel Messi says he wanted Neymar to return to Barcelona this year as the Brazilian would have helped the club take a leap forward, adding that his former team mate was looking forward to rejoining the La Liga champions.
Barca spent the bulk of the close season negotiating with Paris St Germain to bring Neymar back to the Camp Nou two years after he left for a world record 222 million euros ($245 million) but the Catalans failed to strike a deal with the Ligue 1 champions.
“The truth is I would have loved him to come back to us,” Barca captain Messi told Spanish newspaper Sport on Thursday.
“I understand some people were against it and that’s normal considering everything that happened and how he left us, but thinking about it on a sporting level, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world.
“Obviously he would have increased our chances of getting the results that we all want. The club would have taken a leap forward, in terms of sponsors, our image, our growth, but in the end it didn’t happen.”
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said last week that the club did everything possible to sign Neymar, but admitted they could not meet PSG’s asking price for the forward, who hit 105 goals in four seasons for the Catalans.
“I don’t know what happened with the directors, I know they were speaking with Neymar, he told me how things were going. He was really looking forward to coming back,” Messi, who has been unable to play this season due to a calf injury, said.
“I understand it’s difficult to negotiate with PSG and with Neymar because he’s one of the best. These negotiations are never easy.”
Barca’s all-time top scorer also said he had no plans to quit the Catalans any time soon after it was confirmed by the club that his contract contains a clause that allows him to decide at the end of each season whether he wants to leave for free, reports Reuters.
“I can say that I want to be at Barcelona for as long as I can and end my career here because this is my home,” he said.
“I want to stay here if I can stay in good shape, play well, feel important and if I see we have a winning project.”
Barcelona to sign Chukwueze if Neymar deal fails again
Barcelona may revive their interest in Nigeria’s winger Samuel Chukwueze if they fail in their pursuit for Neymar next summer.
The Blaugrana spent the whole last summer transfer window chasing Neymar who departed Camp Nou two years ago but PSG refused to sanction a move for the Brazilian.
Reports have suggested that Barcelona will not give up on the chase of Neymar especially with Ousmane Dembelé struggling with injuries since his move to the Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017.
However, according to a respected Spanish football website Gol Digital, the chiefs at Barca are ready to go for alternatives should Neymar deal fail to scale through next summer.
The former Golden Eaglets star has been an outstanding performer since he broke into Villarreal senior team last season and has now scored 10 goals in 45 appearances for the Yellow Submarines.
Although Villarreal have inserted a release clause of 63 million euros into the Nigerian’s latest contract, he is seen as a cheaper alternative to Neymar.
Meanwhile, reports also suggested that Barca rivals Atletico are also still interested the dazzling Nigerian winger and may also make a move for his next July.
Chukwueze has also been linked with English Premier League giants including Liverpool, Arsenal and Leicester City.
Ezenwa returns to home-based Eagles, ready for Togo
uper Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has re-joined the home based team preparing for the return leg against their Togolese counterparts billed for Agege Stadium, Lagos on Saturday.
Nigeria’s U-23 coach, Imama Amapakabo has invited the Heartland of Owerri goalkeeper for the return leg having suffered a 4-1 defeat in the first leg in Lome in his bid to overturn the deficit in the 2020 Championship of African Nations qualifiers.
Aside from Ezenwa, Katsina United youngster, Destiny Ashadi, and Kano Pillars striker, Nyima Nwagua, are also new additions to the roster to battle Togo in Lagos.
Ashadi, who has been the creative force behind Katsina’s success since they gained promotion to the Nigeria elite league four years ago, is expected to join the rest of the squad in Abuja along with Ifeanyi Aneamena (Enyimba), Anthony Shimaga (Rangers) and Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars).
The team now have a huge mountain to climb as they must score at least three unreplied goals past Togo to qualify for the championship slated for Cameroon next June.
It will be a fresh opportunity for Ezenwa to play himself back into main national team reckoning, as Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, said one of the reasons why the former FC Ifeanyiubah shot-stopper was not used in Sunday’s friendly against Brazil is because he lacks competitive game time in recent months.
Ezenwa, who is number two in the pecking order of Nigeria’s goalkeepers, has not tasted action since the conclusion of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Eaglets wasteful in front of goal – Brazilian coach
olden Eaglets have been advised to work on their scoring abilities if they are to go far in the upcoming FIFA World U-17 Championships to be hosted by Brazil.
The advice came from Sao Paulo’s Coach Marcos Vizolli who charged the Nigerians to be better prepared for the World Cup.
Sao Paulo youth team on Monday evening defeated the Nigerians 2-1 despite dominating possession and creating several chances.
Manu Garba’s team were the better side for most part of the game but had only a penalty converted by Olakunle Olusegun in the 70th minute to show for their display.
“It was a really good game, Nigeria tried to dominate the midfield, they tried to score but they couldn’t, they missed four times in the first half,” Marcos Vizolli said.
“In the second half, Nigerians were also better, they dominated the game and tried to work a lot with the wingers but they couldn’t score another goal.
“They conceded in the second half because the midfield lost the ball. The result is not so important, the importance is the level and the intensity of the game which will prepare them for the World Cup.”
The Golden Eaglets and South Korea will meet in another friendly on Wednesday, October 16.
NFF Reforms Committee set to provide stable football in Nigeria
The Nigeria Football Federation Reforms Committee on Tuesday evening ended a two-day meeting in Abuja with focus on how to best re-position Nigerian Football through tinkering with governance structure, women’s football and youth/grassroots development and the various leagues.
While thanking all the members, the Chairman of the committee, Seyi Akinwunmi, who is also NFF’s 1st Vice President, revealed that the committee’s final recommendations would be implemented by the NFF.
Some of the decision agreed on was to provide the most stable and sustainable foundations for football in Nigeria.
To ensure a commitment to the principles of good governance, inclusion and transparency in all areas of its operations which also requires its member associations, officials and employees to meet the high standards set in this regard.
Also, to adapt to the latest development in the world of football so as to ensure that its operations and values adhere to the best governance standards possible.
To progressively adopt a wide range of reforms that reflect the views of the Nigerian and International Football Community in order to meet the evolving needs of the modern game.
And finally to ensure that the principles enunciated by the Committee and its recommendations which are accepted by the Executive Committee are incorporated into an amended version of the NFF Statutes and pave the way for further significant and much-needed changes to NFF’s governance structure, electoral procedures and dispute resolution mechanism.
Simon targets top form
uper Eagles winger, Moses Simon, is set to continue where he stopped before the international break when he scored the decisive goal for his club Nantes in a French Ligue 1 clash against Nice, AOIfootball.com reports.
Simon is on loan from his Spanish side Levante and has been in superb form this season for the French Ligue 1 outfit, taking the same form to the Super Eagles where he bagged an assist in Nigeria’s 1-1 draw against Brazil.
“I had an interesting game against Brazil where I contributed to the success of the team with an assist for our goal. It felt good to have been part of it. I hope to continue in this mood for my country and club,” the former AS Trencin man posited.
Nantes will be away to Metz this weekend and the former KAA Gent speedster is optimistic the high flying side are in for a win.
“We hope to win. Almost all the players know we have continued working hard to maintain our good status on the log,” he said.
Prudent Energy Handball League: Pillars inch closer to title
eague leaders Kano Pillars seems to be coasting home to the title as they recorded a 31-22 win over Plateau Vipers in one of yesterday games of the Prudent Energy Handball League at the Mobolaji Sports Complex, Rowe Park, Yaba, Lagos.
Kano Pillars bounced back from defeat to defending champions Niger United to record their 18th win against Vipers.
In other matches, Defender Babes left their defence porous yesterday as they fell to Seasider Babes of Lagos 25-35
Seasider Babes recorded their eight win of the competition as Defenders had little answer to the forays of the Lagos that was determined to make an impression in front of the home fans. Coach Bukola Duru of Seasiders was busy directing affairs from the side-line and making sure her team kept things tight at the back.
Edo Dynamos compounded the woes of Abia Valiants with a 41-19 victory in the women’s category. The Valiants are second from bottom and seem destined for the drop at the end of the league season.
Valiants were thoroughly beaten yesterday as their aging team had no answer to the superior fire-power of Edo Dynamos, who might have done enough to finish second behind Safety Babes.
While the loss to Lagos Seasiders may have dented their ambition of retaining their title, Niger United will finish in the top three and have bettered their chance of doing so by beating Borno Spiders 40-28 yesterday.
The Spiders put up a good performance but they were no match for the defending champions, who peppered their (Spiders) goal with ferocious shots.
Okoye: I’m ready to man post against Benin
uper Eagles goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, has declared himself ready to be the team’s first choice when the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers kick off in November, AOIfootball.com reports.
Okoye, who tasted his first action in the colours of Nigeria, following Francis Uzoho’s injury against Brazil last Sunday, said he was ready to stand between the sticks for the game against Benin Republic if handed the opportunity.
“I’m ready to be chosen. I showed a bit of my readiness when I was called upon and it was really a happy moment for me,” Okoye stated.
On the injury sustained by compatriot Francis Uzoho, the Fortuna Dusseldorf shot-stopper said he was sad to see him injured whilst wishing him speedy recovery.
“I felt the pain of my brother Francis when he sustained that injury. It must have been very painful. I wish him a speedy recovery and I will miss him,” he concluded.
IAAF nominates Kosgei, others for award
enya’s marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei was one of 11 nominees for the IAAF female athlete of the year, athletics’ governing body announced on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Kosgei finished the Chicago Marathon in two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds on Sunday to shatter Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old world record of 2:15:25, which the Briton had set in London.
American Dalilah Muhammad, who earlier this month broke her own world record to win the women’s 400 metres hurdles title at the world championships with a time of 52.16 seconds, was also nominated for the global honour.
Muhammad, 29, the 2016 Olympic champion, crossed the finish line 0.04 seconds faster than her previous world record which was set in July.
Other world champions included were Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech (3000 metres steeplechase) and Hellen Obiri (5,000 metres), Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (100m and 4x100m) and Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson (heptathlon).
Sifan Hassan, Mariya Lasitskene, Malaika Mihambo, Salwa Eid Naser and Yulimar Rojas completed the list.
Lagos Open Tennis 2nd Leg: Four Nigerians make main draws
our Nigerian players have made their ways to play in the Main Draws of the second leg of 2019 Lagos Open Tennis Championship.
The second leg of the ITF World Tour, sponsored by Heineken and other co-sponsors, served off Tuesday after the conclusion of matches of the first leg on Monday at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan.
In the qualifying matches decided on Tuesday, Nigerian Godgift Timibra defeated Ghanaian Andrew Adu Appiah in straight sets of 6-1,6-3 in the men’s event, while Paul Emmanuel beat compatriot Tochukwu Emmanuel Ezeh in another straight sets of 6-4,7-5. Gabriel Friday could not complete his match against Sylvester Emmanuel, as he retired when the result was 6-1. In the women qualifying games, Ronke Akingbade picked a Main Draws ticket at the expense of Ozi-Oiza Josephine Yakubu in a game that ended 7-6(1),6-1.
However, local players such as Patience Onebamhoni, Aanu Aiyegbusi, Sabath Ibrahim, Sarah Adegoke, Omolade Aderemi, Amala Nwokolo, Rachel Olamide Adunoye, Albert Bisong Bikom and Wilson Oswalele Igbinovia all lost their qualifying matches on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Main Draws of the second leg will begin on Wednesday with matches of the first round starting from 9:30am.
France’s Camry Hemery and Sada Nahimana from Burundi who won the first legs men and women’s singles respectively will have their hands full as other players will be out to stop their ambition of winning the Lagos Open Tennis back-to-back their year when the hostilities start on Wednesday.
700th goal: I don’t look for records, they look for me – Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has lost count of the number of records he has broken, Portugal forward said after scoring the 700th goal of his career during a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine on Monday.
“The records come naturally, I don’t look for them, the records look for me,” he told reporters after scoring his 95th goal for his country.
“It is not for anyone to reach this number and I thank everyone, team mates, colleagues, coaches and everyone who helped Cristiano become the player that he is.”
However, Ronaldo said that the defeat to Ukraine in a Euro 2020 qualifier took some of the shine off the achievement.
“Its a nice moment in my career but there was a bitter taste because we didn’t win.
“We played well, but we didn’t win. We did everything we could and we had plenty of chances.”
Ronaldo is the all time leading scorer in the Champions League with 127 goals, holds the record for the most goals in a single Champions League season, is Real Madrid’s all time highest scorer and Portugal’s most capped player and record scorer.
The first five goals of Ronaldo’s career were scored for Portugal’s Sporting between 2002 and 2003.
He then scored 118 goals in 232 appearances during six seasons with Manchester United and remarkably averaged more than a goal a game for Real Madrid, scoring 450 in 438 appearances over the course of nine seasons.
In just over one season with his current club Juventus, he notched a further 32 goals in 51 matches.
In spite of the defeat, Portugal remained second in Group G with 11 points from six games, one ahead of Serbia, and will qualify for Euro 2020 if they win their remaining matches at home to Lithuania and away to Luxemburg.
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