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Socceroos squad named for matches against Saudi Arabia and China



A “devastated” Aaron Mooy has been left out of Australia’s squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and China after his Chinese club played hardball with the Socceroos playmaker.

Mooy joins injured pair Tom Rogic and Adam Taggart as notable absentees from a Socceroos squad that includes recalled Melbourne City attacking trio Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout.

Key winger Martin Boyle has also been named in the squad despite a Covid-19 outbreak at his Scottish club Hibernian.

The Socceroos meet Saudi Arabia – who lead Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifiers – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday night in the Australians’ first match on home soil since October 2019.

They back up in the early morning of Wednesday, November 16 (AEDT) against China in Sharjah in the UAE.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said he had sufficient depth in his squad to cover the losses of Rogic, Taggart and Mooy, who is in quarantine in China.

“His Chinese club (Shanghai Port) made him come back to China because he hadn’t been in China for a couple of months,” Arnold said in explaining Mooy’s absence.

“The Chinese government’s rules and regulations are that he had to do 14 days quarantine, and then after 14 days quarantine it’s 14 days self-isolation, which (went) days into our camp.

“I’ve had conversations with Aaron. He’s devastated that he can’t be here but he’s contractual situation in China with the salary he’s getting paid has made him go back.”

Aaron Mooy (right) will miss the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and China. Picture: Mohamed Farag/Getty Images
Aaron Mooy (right) will miss the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and China. Picture: Mohamed Farag/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Arnold’s 24-man squad includes four A-League players – Maclaren, Leckie and Nabbout and Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant – but Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis has been left out after being in the Socceroos squad for last month’s qualifiers against Oman and Japan.

“For the last camp we were short of wingers, short of players up front, and Chrissy was prepared to come away and come back and do the 14-day quarantine,” Arnold said.

“When he was in quarantine, he wasn’t able to train the way that he would like to do, so therefore he’s not in this camp, whereas the Melbourne City boys (Leckie, Maclaren and Nabbout), they’ve been training hard and we welcome them back.

“Mathew, Jamie and Andrew have all been watching our campaign from afar over the past two months, and they are thrilled with the opportunity to rejoin the squad and make an impact on our qualification campaign.

“With border restrictions in some locations across the nation easing, we’ve been able to welcome some Australian-based players back into the Socceroos’ family this window.”

The squad also includes uncapped former Central Coast Mariners midfielder Gianni Stensness.

Norway-based Stensness was born in Australia but represented New Zealand, the nation of his father’s birth, at the Tokyo Olympics.

However, he pledged his allegiance to Australia in September.

“The decision to switch to the Socceroos was mainly personal, from my heart, having grown up in Australia all my life and around Sydney,” Stensness told the Socceroos website.

“I do have a lot of love for New Zealand and my dad is from New Zealand, so it was lovely to represent them as well, but when I think about which country it would make me proudest to represent, that was definitely Australia for me.

“Which country do I owe the most? Just going through school and every team I have played for through my youth, that’s Australia.”

Socceroos squad: Aziz Behich (Giresunspor, Turkey), Martin Boyle (Hibernian FC, Scotland), Milos Degenek (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Kenneth Dougall (Blackpool FC, England), Mitchell Duke (Fagiano Okayama, Japan), Callum Elder (Hull City AFC, England), Denis Genreau (Toulouse FC, France), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Ajdin Hrustic (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Jackson Irvine, FC St. Pauli, Germany), Jimmy Jeggo (Aris Thessaloniki, Greece), Fran Karacic (Brescia Calcio, Italy), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City), Awer Mabil (Midtjylland, Denmark), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City), Riley McGree (Birmingham City, England), Andrew Nabbout (Melbourne City), Nikita Rukavytsya (Hapoel Be’er Sheva FC, Israel), Mat Ryan (Real Sociedad, Spain), Trent Sainsbury (KV Kortrijk, Belgium), Harry Souttar (Stoke City, England), Gianni Stensness (Viking FK, Norway), Lawrence Thomas (SonderjyskE Fodbold, Denmark), Danny Vukovic (NEC Nijmegen, Netherlands).

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, voting, past winners, reaction, analysis



Together, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won 12 of the past 13 editions of the Ballon d’Or.

Messi’s triumph at the ceremony on Tuesday morning capped off what is now over a decade of dominance from the superstar pair.

But that dominance finally seems to be coming to an end, with even Messi hinting at as much in his acceptance speech.

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“It is incredible to be here again,” Messi said, the emphasis here on the word ‘again’.

It suggested an element of surprise from the Paris Saint-Germain superstar, which he would go on to address right after.

“Two years ago I thought that it was my last year and now I am here again,” he added.

“I am very happy, very excited and wanting to fight for new challenges.”

Some might question whether Messi really deserved to win his latest Ballon d’Or prize ahead of other worthy candidates, but the Argentinian has been rewarded for continuing to be so good for so long.

The most turbulent year of Messi’s glittering career, in which he was forced to tearfully bid farewell to Barcelona, ends with him — at the age of 34 — claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.

In Germany they thought it had to be Robert Lewandowski’s year after he missed out 12 months ago when the 2020 edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.

Karim Benzema might have had plenty of support in Spain for his remarkable performances with Real Madrid, and Jorginho could stake a claim following a year in which he won the Champions League with Chelsea as well as Euro 2020 with Italy.

Yet it is the enduring brilliance of Messi — who won the last award in 2019 — which stays in the minds of the jurors when it comes to voting.

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That enduring brilliance though has faded at times this year, with his performances at PSG underwhelming.

More significant of course was Messi’s role in leading Argentina to their first Copa America triumph since 1993.

He was named player of the tournament, finishing with four goals and five assists to prove his worth once again on the international stage.

Messi’s hopes of a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or will largely depend on Argentina’s success at the World Cup.

Otherwise, along with Ronaldo, the pair’s reign at the top of football world may be over with a new generation of talent being ushered in.

Although no-one is likely to ever top Messi’s incredible seven Ballon d’Or wins, solidifying his spot in the history books.

As for Ronaldo, 2021 saw him finish sixth in voting – the first time since 2010 he had polled outside of the top three.

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It coincides with growing question marks over the 36-year-old striker’s role at Manchester United amid the arrival of interim coach Ralf Rangnick.

The Ballon d’Or, instead of holding more widespread significance, has for so long instead come to define Messi and Ronaldo’s tussle for the throne.

The voting system was and still is tied up in perception and global appeal.

While Robert Lewandowski may have become the first German-based player to finish in the top two since 1996, the fact the did not win speaks volumes itself.

Messi admitted as much himself.

“It is a huge honour to fight with Robert [Lewandowski],” he said.

“Last year you were the winner and I think France Football should give it to you.”

Lewandowski won the Bundesliga and was the European top scorer, while also breaking Gerd Muller’s 40-goal German record with 41 goals in 29 games.

Yet it did not happen in the Premier League or La Liga and for many, that was the difference between the Polish superstar and Messi, regardless of whether it is wrong or right.

The hope is that when the time comes, where Ronaldo and Messi no longer solely dominate Ballon d’Or discussions, it will force voters to adopt a more nuanced idea of what it means to be the ‘best’.

That time appears to have already come, with Lewandowski widely tipped to take out the top gong ahead of Messi.

That did not happen but his presence in the voting, along with Karim Benzema, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante hinted that times are changing.

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Lionel Messi wife, kids photo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski



Lionel Messi has won a record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or award — but his family members were the real winners.

The Argentine footballer was recognised as the greatest footballer on the planet on Tuesday morning in a glamorous, black-tie affair in Paris.

Before even walking into the event, Messi had won in the eyes of the internet when the 34-year-old walked past the throng of cameras with wife Antonella Roccuzzo and their three sons.

A family photo showing Messi dressed in identical outfits to his three children pulled at the internet’s heart strings.

Unfortunately, it revealed all too much.

Fans around the world knew instantly Messi had won the award, judging by the family’s extravagant entrance.

Voting for the award is one of the closest-kept secrets in sport before the results are announced, but the secret was out before Messi had even sat down.

The Messi family coming in hot. Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP.Source: AFP
Meet the Messis. Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.Source: AFP

It is rare that Roccuzzo, a 33-year-old Argentine model, is not the centre of attention when the family makes public appearances.

Roccuzzo and Messi were married in 2017 after going public with their relationship in 2008, although they are thought to have been together for some time before that.

It was their adorable children Ciro, Mateo and Thiago, that stole the show on Tuesday.

The internet could not get enough of it.

Ciro, Mateo and Thiago also produced an adorable moment during the ceremony when their father was again recognised as the world’s best footballer.

Their reactions to the announcement were too much.

The only time Messi broke a smile during his acceptance speech was the moment the cameras showed his children on the big screen.

“It is incredible to be here again,” Messi said after accepting the award.

“Two years ago I thought that it was my last year and now I am here again. I am very happy, very excited and wanting to fight for new challenges.

“I do not know how long I have left but I hope it will be a long time. I want to thank my teammates from Barcelona and PSG, and especially the Argentina team. I won this award and I had the feeling that I was missing something and this year I was able to achieve it.

“A large part of this trophy is because of what we did in the Copa America, so thanks to my teammates, this is also yours. My wife, my children, my father, my mother are here.

Lionel Messi with his family in Paris. Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP.Source: AFP

“It is a huge honour to fight with Robert [Lewandowski]. Last year you were the winner and I think France Football should give it to you.”

Messi won the last edition of the Ballon d’Or in 2019 before last year’s awards were cancelled due to the pandemic. He also won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and in 2015.

The 34-year-old scored 38 goals in 48 games last season for Barcelona and won the Copa del Rey before captaining Argentina to Copa America glory in July.

That was the first major international title of his glittering career, which had been spent entirely with Barcelona before his tearful departure from the Camp Nou in August and subsequent move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has played just 11 games for PSG so far, scoring four goals, but he was rewarded as much as anything for his continued brilliance down the years.

He has now won the Ballon d’Or twice more than his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo — between them they have won 12 of the last 13 editions with the exception coming in 2018 when Luka Modric claimed the prize.

Prolific Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski finished second and Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third in the voting by a jury of journalists from around the world.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, came in sixth.

— with AFP

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Man Utd owners Glazers decide stance on making January signings for new boss Ralf Rangnick



MANCHESTER United have appointed Ralf Rangnick on an interim basis.

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