They say training goals don’t count for much, but that cliché couldn’t be aimed at Lionel Messi.
The Barcelona and Argentina legend, who is preparing for his country’s friendly clash against Italy at Manchester City‘s Etihad Stadium on Friday night, embarrassed his team-mates by scoring a superb goal in training on Thursday.
La Albiceleste are training at the Sky Blues’ Etihad Campus ahead of the game and Messi is clearly enjoying linking up with his international colleagues again, including Sergio Aguero and former Blaugrana star Javier Mascherano – who moved to China in January.
And in training, despite the freezing cold conditions, Messi warmed things up with a training goal of note.
Collecting the ball just inside his own half, the 30-year-old’s trademark burst of pace and acceleration saw him skip past three Argentina players, pivot just outside the 18-yard box and then sweetly strike the ball home with his left foot into the postage-stamp corner. It had shades of THAT goal he scored against Athletic Bilbao.
Luckily, this one was captured on camera and you can watch it below:
Gareth Southgate is bound to experiment with his 27-man squad during England’s friendly with the Netherlands on Friday.
The Three Lions are preparing for this summer’s World Cup in Russia and are currently contending with the absence of Harry Kane.
Jack Wilshere has returned to the fold though while Ashley Young’s rise to prominence as a left-back has given Southgate plenty of food for thought heading into this fixture.
WILSHERE TO PROVE HIS WORTH
Perhaps the England squad’s biggest drawback heading into the World Cup is their lack of leadership. A close second for the young Three Lions though is their rather bland central midfield, but Jack Wilshere’s first involvement since England’s Euro 2016 elimination could spruce things up.
The midfielder’s injury travails are well-documented but his form for Arsenal since being reintegrated into the side in December has been excellent.
While boasting plenty of pace and youthful exuberance in the final third, it’s the middle of the park that has impeded England’s ventures forward. The lack of a creative presence at the team’s core could finally be addressed if Wilshere proves his mettle against the Netherlands.
Given that the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jake Livermore don’t exactly scream ‘dynamism’, England will hope that this time, Jack is back for the long haul.
Young has done exceedingly well to not only remain relevant at Manchester United but establish himself as one of their most consistent performers. His work ethic and adherence to tactical instruction has earned him the trust of one of the most demanding coaches in Jose Mourinho.
Young was completely out of the fray for England for over four years between 2013 and 2017 before earning a call up from Gareth Southgate in November last year. With Danny Rose, Luke Shaw and Ryan Bertrand not having played enough this season, the winger turned full-back who will be 33 this summer is emerging as a favourite to make the World Cup squad.
Southgate may even consider utilising the United man at right-back or further up the pitch over the course of the friendly against the Netherlands to explore his versatility. At the World Cup itself, against top opposition and particularly during the knockout stages, a disciplined and experienced Young could prove invaluable.
COPING WITHOUT KANE
Having consistently scored at an average of 32 goals a season over the last four years, it’s no wonder that Harry Kane is perceived to be paramount to England’s World Cup campaign. However, going into a major tournament, Southgate must prepare for the worst.
While Kane should be back in action in a month’s time, his current injury layoff gives the manager an opportunity to work on provisions for his absence. Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford will be the leading candidates to start up front against the Netherlands but either one will require an adjustment in approach from the rest of the team.
Neither are the complete striker that Kane has proved to be but do boast an edge in terms of pace in behind and the ability to run the channels. This friendly could also help Southgate decide on who will deputise for the Tottenham striker when the World Cup comes around.
Argentina have based themselves at the Premier League leaders’ City football Academy ahead of their friendly against Italy at the Etihad Stadium on Friday.
Messi arrived to join up with the rest of the squad on Tuesday and was present at a training session open to media in the afternoon.
Also present but not participating was City striker Sergio Aguero, who has been sidelined with a knee injury recently.
Another City player, defender Nicolas Otamendi, was involved along with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Marcos Rojo.