European Teams of the Week: Bayer Leverkusen top, Liverpool and Man City feature

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Bayer Leverkusen boss Peter Bosz

The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1. Bayer Leverkusen (beat Eintracht Frankfurt 6-1)

Bosz Ball has found a perfect marriage at Leverkusen. The Dutchman’s dynamic, direct and high-energy pressing game meshes beautifully with the youthful exuberance of the Bayer squad and more evidence of its success emerged on Sunday. By every metric Bayer battered their top-four rivals Eintracht. They attempted more than 1,000 passes, owned 82 percent of the possession and scored six slick goals. Just what Eintracht required before a massive Europa League semi-final appointment with Chelsea.

2. Manchester City (beat Leicester 1-0)

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany

The Foxes are a different animal under Brendan Rodgers, less foxy more equine. They have galloped since he took over and in reality, with the squad at his disposal and the style of play the former Liverpool boss is instilling, they resemble a top-six side. Indeed, this was an enormous challenge for Pep Guardiola’s outfit and while Leicester came to play – their at times slick ability to pass out of the back was almost City-light – the visitors still dominated. City did, though, require Vincent Kompany to channel his inner Cristiano Ronaldo for the three points.

3. Espanyol (beat Atletico Madrid 3-0)

The season is ending and neither Espanyol or Atletico Madrid have anything to play for, but that does not excuse the visitors or indeed take anything away from the hosts. Espanyol traditionally give Atletico headaches at the RCDE Stadium and yet it was back issues which saw them suffer their heaviest defeat of the campaign. Diego Godin slid the ball into his own net, Juanfran gave away a penalty while Jan Oblak shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post with the angle so tight for Borja Iglesias to score his second.

4. Valencia (beat Huesca 6-2)

One Europa League semi-finalist conceding six goals, the other score the same amount. After losing 3-1 at Arsenal in their first-leg tie, Valencia responded by pummelling Huesca 6-2. Do not go gentle into that good night is the famous quote but it seems Huesca took it literally. Instead of putting up a fight, though, they were knocked back hard into the Segunda division with this startling result. Los Che remain in the hunt for top-four after Daniel Wass and Santi Mina both scored twice, Rodrigo Moreno ended his personal goal drought, plus an own goal.

5. Leganes (beat Sevilla 3-0)

Sevilla have been prone to some pretty wretched displays this season and it’s ultimately the reason why they likely will miss out on a Champions League spot. Yet, full credit to Leganes who secured their top-flight status by recording a first ever win at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Youssef En Nesyri’s fine touch and top-corner finish opened the scoring, Martin Braithwaite sliced home his fourth for the club since joining on loan in January before Oscar Rodriguez converted late on to complete a fabulous night for Leganes.

6. Torino (drew 1-1 with Juventus)

The Derby della Mole has long been a one-sided affair with Torino unable to win at Juventus since 1995. In fact, Il Toro own just one victory at all against Juventus in the last 24 years. So when Sasa Lukic profited from slack defending – a goal which encapsulated this fixture, one which meant a great deal to Torino’s European qualification hopes but little for the champions – that run looked over. The only bit of context with any weight on Juve’s side was that Cristiano Ronaldo is chasing the golden boot. Predictably, he equalised late on with a header. The wait goes on.

7. Liverpool (beat Newcastle 3-2)

Divock Origi celebrates scoring against Newcastle

Divock Origi celebrates scoring against Newcastle

Divock Origi rose from the bench and into the air to head home an 86th-minute winner against a tricky Newcastle side, and it seemed the script writers were penning a Liverpool title triumph. Rafael Benitez’s dogged men had extra bite in this fixture, eradicating any suggestions the Spanish boss would do his old side a favour. But while Liverpool were far from their best, a tenacious trait saw them through. They’ve battled hard all season, but ultimately the script has them losing the war with City.

8. Atalanta (beat Lazio 3-1)

Atalanta are close to completing a true underdog tale. The Bergamo outfit, possessing one of Serie A’s smallest wage budgets, have been punching above their weight class all season and a knockout blow of rivals Lazio could see them qualify for the Champions League. Gian Piero Gasperini’s risk and reward philosophy is paying off – no side has scored more than their 71 goals this term – and securing fourth-place is in their hands. Duvan Zapata scored his 22nd goal of the season at the Stadio Olimpico, a great example of Gasperini’s exemplary work with this side, as the hulking striker showed poise to score, demonstrating the manager’s intelligent use of him running at defenders as opposed to turning his back on them.

9. Werder Bremen (drew 2-2 with Borussia Dortmund)

Claudio Pizarro

Claudio Pizarro

Imagine a Formula One car racing in rally. A beautiful piece of machinery we can all agree, but it would look awfully fragile on those testing conditions. That’s the best way to describe this Borussia Dortmund team. They are a wonderful side and genuinely entertaining to watch, but they lack durability to win the Bundesliga title. From 2-0 up against Bremen, including a glorious solo-effort from Christian Pulisic, they fell to a draw thanks to second-half goals from Kevin Mohwald and Claudio Pizarro.

10. Bournemouth (beat Tottenham 1-0)

Can you imagine what Son Heung-min’s face was like when after three minutes of second-half football, substitute Juan Foyth marched in and joined him the changing room? There’s no need to imagine Mauricio Pochettino’s emotion because the Spurs boss was quietly vexed on the touchline as his side were forced to play with nine-men against Bournemouth. The hosts were dreadful, though, and it took Nathan Ake to head home a corner in injury time – left unmarked because Spurs simply didn’t have enough men to cover – to seal all three points. A good result, but with context, not the best.

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Legendary Sean Garnier talks making Freestyle Football an Olympic sport, Neymar and Paul Pogba

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Sean Garnier

There are isolated moments in football when the game feels closer to art than sport.

Take Lionel Messi for example. The Barcelona icon is idolised, above all else, for his unique individual skill.

When Messi pirouettes past opponents, leaving residual vapours as he sashays across the pitch, his fluid movement frozen in time would not look out of place in any gallery.

Indeed, football is a platform for ‘the moment’, it’s what spectators stand to applaud and wait all game for.


But there is a format in which there is no need for patience. Freestyle Football, which umbrellas various other disciplines like Urbanball, extracts these individual feats of skill and captures minutes, rather than seconds.







And the Lionel Messi of this art form is two-time Football Freestyle World Champion Sean Garnier. The diminutive Frenchman has amassed an enormous following on social media.


Over seven million people – whether it be through his 2.6 million YouTube subscribers, 3.3m followers on Instagram or 1.5m Facebook likers – watch the Dubai resident contort challengers and challenges with his unique brand of intoxicating skill.


Over the last decade, Garnier has propelled the sport to incredible heights, taking him to collaborations with superstars like Neymar, Paul Pogba and Diego Maradona.


Now, the 34-year-old wants to see Freestyle Football follow Breakdancing, and move from the streets and into the Olympics.


Sean Garnier

Sean Garnier


“It’s really a hope for me to see Freestyle, or as I call it Urbanball, in the Olympics because my goal is to diversify the way of playing football,” he tells Sport360.


“You have 11-a-side but what are you waiting for during these games? You’re waiting for a nutmeg, a goal and the unique moment of the individual.


“At the end of the day, we like whoever has won La Liga, but we also like the Ballon d’Or winner.


“What is the most common question in football? Who is the best, Ronaldo or Messi?


“We are talking about the individuals, so why not create a freestyle one-on-one competition to diversify the way we promote the sport and also to give the audience a show.


“Sometimes in 90-minute games, nothing happens, but trust me, three-minutes in freestyle something is going to be crazy.”


Crazy is the operative word there and it’s also the response Garnier gives when asked about his own personal rise which parallels to the sport.


His own professional career, with French sides Auxerre and Troyes, was brutally cut short due to persistent injuries. Desperate to find a way of keeping a ball at his feet, Garnier transitioned into the freestyle arena.



“I was seeing dancers in Paris, they were dancing on the street, so I thought ‘why not dance with the ball?’ he explains.


“So I started to dance with the ball. Then I saw people playing Futsal, so I thought, ‘why not play Futsal, but with tricks?’


“I was always trying to keep the ball at my feet and then having this career as a streetballer.”


The sport has its ignorant detractors with the ill-informed typically reacting to the incredible feats with ‘yeah, but try those tricks in a real game’.


How sweet it must have been for Garnier when he bamboozled one of the most talented players in the world, Neymar.


Back in 2011, Garnier featured against the Brazil icon in a friendly Panna game (the aim of which is to nutmeg your opponent) and produced a stunning piece of deception, flicking the ball under his shirt with a confused Neymar searching the open space for possession.


“I have three moments which are my favourite. The first one was the day I played against Neymar and I put the ball in my t-shirt,” the 34-year-old says.


“For me it was a bit like revenge against football because it showed that Neymar, one of the most technical players with the ball, can be beaten by someone from the street.


“It gave a message to the people to trust yourself.



“The second moment, was performing in front of Maradona. As a child, I always dreamed about Ronaldinho, [Zinedine] Zidane and Maradona. I did a show and during it, I stopped my show and passed him the ball, and he passed it back.


“That moment will always stay in my head. Then there is a cool moment with my friend Paul Pogba. We were shooting a commercial and during the breaks we started to play together.


“The people directing, shot the video and were going crazy with that video going viral. It was one of my favourite moments with a footballer.”


And a message for the sport’s critics?


“Most of the time, people will say a freestyler can’t play football, which is true because they are two different sports, it’s like you run the 100m and then also the marathon,” he says.


“But you can also be good at freestyle, and be a good footballer. It’s possible.


“My ability was to learn every type of football and that’s what brings me to the next level and make me famous.”


Sean Garnier will be undertaking a special and unique challenge in the UAE during the holy month of Ramadan. The Dubai-resident is aiming to go 50-0 in a game against anyone, anywhere. The rules are very simple, the first player to score three goals wins. But if you nutmeg and score at the same time, you win the game by KO. Will Sean’s 0 go? Keep your eyes peeled on his channels ‘seanfreestyle’ to find out.



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Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi stars in new Expo 2020 Dubai video

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Barcelona star Lionel Messi is the star of a new promotional video for Expo 2020.

The 60-second film shows the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and others connecting through the universal language of football and takes place in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, the United Kingdom and Kenya.

The new campaign video uses football to show that when we connect and collaborate, we can build a brighter tomorrow together.

The Argentine said: “A football team can only succeed by working together, and the same is true of humanity. When people from different nations, cultures and backgrounds come together we can better address global challenges and create a brighter future for generations to come.”

As part of the initiative, Expo 2020 will also give 2,020 durable footballs to children in Jordan, Kenya and the Philippines, totalling 6,060 balls.

The campaign is Expo 2020’s first with Messi, who has scored an astounding 600 goals in 683 games for Barcelona.

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