Lionel Messi surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid

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Lionel Messi has admitted he was surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo‘s decision to leave Real Madrid and join Juventus.

Messi also believes the Serie A giants are now among the clear favourites to win this season’s Champions League.

Ronaldo swapped Spain for Italy in a deal worth €100 million in July, after sealing a third consecutive European crown, and his fourth in five years with Los Blancos.

But Messi, who missed out on a three-man shortlist for FIFA’s world player of the year award on Monday, feels the balance may have shifted following the 33-year-old’s exit.

“I was surprised, I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or that he would go to Juve because there was talk of many clubs (interested). The truth is I was very surprised but Juve are also a very good team,” Messi told Catalunya Radio.

“Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and they have a great squad but it’s obvious the departure of Ronaldo makes them less strong while Juve have become a clear favourite for the Champions League.

“They already had a good team and now they also have Cristiano Ronaldo.”

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Barcelona star Lionel Messi fails to make cut for FIFA Player of the Year

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Lionel Messi has been omitted from the shortlist for FIFA’s men’s player of the year award, which features Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah.

Barcelona and Argentina forward Messi had featured in the top three for 11 straight years. He was runner-up in the prize in 2007 and 2008 before winning the title for the first of five years in 2009.

Portugal and Juventus forward Ronaldo, like Messi, is a five-time winner, and has reached the top three alongside Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Modric and Salah, the Egypt and Liverpool forward.

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan participation in question for Arsenal's Europa League trip to Azerbaijan

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s availability for Arsenal‘s Europa League trip to Qarabag is in doubt due to tensions between his homeland of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Gunners have been drawn with Sporting Lisbon, Ukrainian side Vorskla and Azeri champions Qarabag in Group E.

Some potentially tricky games are compounded by questions over Mkhitaryan’s availability for the trip to Azerbaijan, which is also hosting the Europa League final in the capital of Baku.

Tensions continue between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with a ceasefire declared in 1994 after fighting erupted several years earlier.

Those issues meant Mkhitaryan did not travel with Borussia Dortmund to a Europa League game against Gabala in October 2015, with the German club’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke citing “safety concerns”.

In relation to the situation surrounding Mkhitaryan, UEFA said in a statement: “It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in UEFA competition matches.”

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