Another coach comes to the defence of Barcelona star Lionel Messi

David Cooper 11/09/2018
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No player on the planet is better than Barcelona star Lionel Messi, despite his FIFA’s The Best award snub, according to Spain coach Luis Enrique.

The three-man shortlist for the gong was announced last week with Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah making the final three.

Naturally, the decision to omit Messi has raised more than a few eyebrows with the Argentine in sparkling form last season as he inspired Barca to a stunning La Liga triumph with the Copa del Rey also captured.

Ronaldo and Modric were chosen thanks to their exploits during Madrid’s Champions League triumph with the Croatian also claiming the Golden Ball at the World Cup after guiding his nation to the final.

Salah enjoyed a memorable first season with Liverpool, breaking the the Premier League 38-game season goalscoring record as his strikes also inspired the Reds’ march to the Champions League final.

Despite his trophy double and tally of 48 goals for club and country, Messi was left out of the final trio and speaking ahead of Spain’s Nations League meeting with Croatia, Enrique offered his opinion on the decision to leave out his former charge.

“If I talk about Croatia [players], I would talk about Modric and [Ivan] Rakitic,” the Spain coach said on Monday. “They both deserve individual prizes.

“But if I have to talk about the best in the world, the prize of the best player would be given to Leo Messi, who is one step above the rest.”

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Sergio Ramos backs team-mate Luka Modric and aims sly dig at Cristiano Ronaldo

David Cooper 11/09/2018
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Sergio Ramos is adamant Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric deserved to win the UEFA Player of the Year award while also aiming a dig at his former colleague Cristiano Ronaldo.

The midfield maestro was in sparkling form for both club and country last season, inspiring Croatia’s remarkable run to the World Cup final and playing a key role in Madrid’s historic third consecutive Champions League triumph.

However, his UEFA Player of the Year victory was called into question by those in the Ronaldo camp with his agent Jorge Mendes slamming the “ridiculous and shameful” decision to award Modric over the Portuguese superstar.

Ramos offered a stern riposte to that criticism as he told ESPN: “There are few players that I am as proud of having in my team as [Modric].

“He is a great friend and a great player. He is one of the few players who [if he wins] would make me as happy as if they had given it to me.”

The Spain centre-back then appeared to take a slight swipe at Juventus forward Ronaldo.

He continued: “Maybe there are players with more marketing, with a bigger name but Modric deserves that award.”

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Zinedine Zidane signals imminent return with Manchester United a potential destination

David Cooper 11/09/2018
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Zinedine Zidane says he is ready to return to the dugout, fuelling speculation the former Real Madrid boss could be in line to replace Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

Zidane left Madrid at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season and has been linked with positions ever since, including a director role at Serie A giants Juventus.

His immensely successful spell with Los Blancos, which included three consecutive Champions League titles and a La Liga crown, has pegged the 46-year-old in the elite managerial bracket.

And Zidane has declared his intention of making a coaching return after enjoying a short break from the game.

Zidane told TVE: “Certainly I’ll be coaching again soon because it’s what I like doing and what I’ve done all my life.”

There have been reports in England that Zidane could be heading to the Premier League with Mourinho’s third-season struggles at Old Trafford seeing him linked the hotseat there.

The Portuguese boss is under immense pressure after an inconsistent opening to the season and if the wayward start continues deep into the campaign, United may look elsewhere with Zidane thought to be high on their list of candidates.

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