Mbappe likened to Ronaldo as Barca's Pique compares PSG star and Haaland

By Sports Desk August 15, 2021

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique compared Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe to Brazilian great Ronaldo as he hailed Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Mbappe and Haaland are two of the most in-demand players in the transfer market, with LaLiga giants Real Madrid reportedly interested in both.

PSG's Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract in Paris – has long been tipped to join Madrid, while Haaland has also been linked with Barca, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Mbappe scored in PSG's 4-2 Ligue 1 win at home to Strasbourg on Saturday, having now either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in the competition (eight goals, four assists).

Haaland took his tally to 62 goals in 61 games for Dortmund after bagging a brace as the German giants opened their Bundesliga season with a 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Pique was asked to pick between Mbappe and Haaland in an appearance on Twitch following Barca's 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday, and he replied: "Mbappe and Haaland are different.

"One is very similar to Ronaldo Luis Nazario, who is Mbappe. Haaland is more powerful, stronger, he is a goal killer."

Barca kicked off the Lionel Messi-less era by seeing off Sociedad at Camp Nou in the opening game of the LaLiga season.

Messi – the club's all-time leading goalscorer – joined PSG after his contract expired, with Barca's financial difficulties forcing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to leave.

"It was tough," Pique said on Messi's exit. "I have known him since I was 13 years old.

"He has made us all better. We have to accept it because it is reality. We will all step forward to be competitive."

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  • Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024 Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024

    Kylian Mbappe hopes to avoid any hangover from World Cup disappointment as the France forward searches for his elusive final international crown at Euro 2024.

    The Real Madrid-bound forward scored a hat-trick in the final of FIFA's global tournament in 2022, though that was not enough to stop Argentina from winning on penalties in Saudi Arabia.

    Another major tournament is on the horizon as the European Championship awaits in Germany, where Didier Deschamps' side rank as the favourites alongside Gareth Southgate's England.

    Euros success is the only glory missing from Mbappe's glittering resume, having won the World Cup in 2018 and the Nations League as well, though the 25-year-old hopes to end that this time around.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain told CNN Sport: "I want to win the Euros. I have to be honest. I won the World Cup. I won the Nations League.

    "That's the only one that missed me with the national team after I did everything with the national team. I really want to win this.

    "My first competition as captain, so it's really important for me and it's always important for the country and we want them to be proud of us.

    "[It's] another opportunity to write the history of my country."

    Mbappe endured a woeful tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France lost to Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out.

    Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with PSG and with his long-term future decided, few would back a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

    France open their group-stage campaign against Austria on Monday before facing the Netherlands and Austria in a testing pool.

    Mbappe believes Les Bleus can take the learnings from the last World Cup into their next quest for the European crown.

    "I think we have to move forward," the world-class forward added. "Of course, we were hurt, to see that you're close to something...

    "Close to the back-to-back. Something amazing. Something historic. Everybody loved the game except for us.

    "We didn't like that, but it's part of the game. Now, when I watch the video of the game, I watch with a smile because it's part of the history and we know what we have to do if we go again in the final.

    "We have to play all the game and have no reaction."

  • Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami Messi fears impending retirement as Argentina great plans to end career in Miami

    Lionel Messi knows his illustrious career is running out of time as the Argentina great suggested his club playing days will end with Inter Miami.

    The Barcelona legend completed a switch to MLS side Miami last year after two decades of European football with the Blaugrana and Paris Saint-Germain.

    As Messi starts to prepare for Argentina's Copa America defence this month, retirement remains a pertinent question for the global superstar.

    The 36-year-old, speaking to ESPN, acknowledged Miami will likely "be my last club" as the fear sets in over ending his playing career sooner rather than later.

    "I've done this all of my life; I love playing ball," the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner said on Wednesday. 

    "I enjoy the practices and the day-to-day, the games. There's a bit of fear that it's all ending. It's always there. It was a difficult step leaving Europe to come here [Miami].

    "The fact we won the World Cup helped, it helped a lot, to see things in another way. But I try not to think about it, I try to enjoy it.

    "I do that more now because I'm aware that there's not a lot of time left. So I have a good time with the club, being lucky to have good team-mates and friends at my side.

    "I enjoy my time with the national team, where I also have good friends, too, and a lot. I enjoy those small details that I know I'll miss when I stop playing."

    Messi is Barcelona's all-time top scorer with 672 goals, as well as lifting four Champions League trophies amid a glittering career.

    Yet the ageing forward insists World Cup glory in 2022 remains his crowning moment, following in the footsteps of late Albiceleste great Diego Maradona.

    "Obviously, I was sad that he couldn't experience what we experienced [winning the 2022 World Cup], because I know what he felt for the national team and what he would say about Argentina being world champion again," he added.

    "We went through a World Cup together which aside from the result was an impressive experience, going through that day-to-day with him, how happy he was, seeing him enjoy being the manager.

    "So I try to remember all the good times that we had together. I know that he loved me a lot, and I loved him, despite what was said in the media.

    "The reality is we had a lot of affection for each other, and since he met me he was always supportive and wanted the best for me.

    "It was a shame that he couldn't live to experience it like the rest of the country did."

  • The Numbers Game: Euro 2024 hosts Germany aim to get off to a flying start against Scotland The Numbers Game: Euro 2024 hosts Germany aim to get off to a flying start against Scotland

    Euro 2024 kicks off on Friday as Germany take on Scotland in Munich, and a flying start is on the agenda for Julian Nagelsmann's team.

    Scotland, in their fourth appearance at the European Championships, would probably have been hoping for an easier start than going up against the hosts in the tournament's opening match.

    Steve Clarke's team qualified in second place, behind Spain and ahead of Erling Haaland's Norway, from their group.

    Germany, meanwhile, have picked up form under Nagelsmann since he was appointed as Hansi Flick's successor, and the former Bayern Munich coach has plenty of talent at his disposal, even if the Euro 2024 hosts are not considered to be among the biggest favourites.

    Mats Hummels, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka are three big-name absentees from Germany's squad, while Bayern youngster Aleksandar Pavlovic had to withdraw from the squad on Wednesday due to injury.

    But in Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz, Leroy Sane, Kai Havertz and Borussia Dortmund's Niclas Fullkrug, Germany have an exciting attack, while Toni Kroos will anchor the midfield before he heads off into retirement.

    This is Nagelsmann's first major tournament as head coach. Jupp Derwall was the last Germany boss to win a major tournament with them at the first attempt (Euro 1980).

    Here, we use Opta data to preview the Euro 2024 opener.

     

    What's expected?

    It's no surprise to see that Germany are the overwhelming favourites to win this match, with Opta's supercomputer ranking their chances of victory at 58 per cent. 

    Germany and Scotland are facing each other for the third time at a major tournament. Germany won the two previous encounters, in the group stages of the 1986 World Cup (2-1) and Euro 1992 (2-0). 

    Indeed, Scotland have won only one of their last 13 matches against Germany (D4 L8); it was in April 1999, with Don Hutchison scoring the only goal in a Bremen friendly (0-1).

    After losing to Turkiye and Austria, Germany have gone unbeaten in their last four matches. That being said, they were not particularly impressive in their warm-up matches. 

    Following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, Germany beat Greece 2-1 last time out, though they mustered a disappointing 0.88 expected goals (xG), in contrast to their opponents' 2.14.

    The scoreline is the statistic that matters at tournaments, with Havertz grabbing an equaliser midway through the second half before Pascal Gross secured a late victory, but it should give Scotland some hope, even though they are handed just a 21 per cent win likelihood, with the draw threat also at 21 per cent.

    Scotland won their first five Euro 2024 qualifiers but then failed to win any of their final three (D2 L1), conceding seven goals in those games after only shipping one goal in their first five games.

    They beat Gibraltar 2-0 and then drew 2-2 with Finland in their warm-up friendlies, though they head into Euro 2024 without some key players, with full-backs Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson, and striker Lyndon Dykes, out due to injury.

    Germany have won only one of their last five matches played in Munich (D3 L1), a 4-2 victory against Portugal at Euro 2020, so while the smart money is on the hosts, Scotland should not go into this one without confidence, with captain Andrew Robertson and midfield duo John McGinn and Scott McTominay offering a threat, too.

    Home hopes

    This is the fourth time that Germany are sole hosts of a major international tournament, reaching the final four in each of the previous three editions: champions at the 1974 World Cup, semi-finalists at Euro 1988 and third place at the 2006 World Cup.

    Germany are taking part in their 14th Euros, more than any other team. They have won the trophy three times, the joint-most alongside Spain.

    Nagelsmann has been happy to lean on inexperience for his squad selection, and in Wirtz and Musiala, he has two of the most exciting youngsters in world football at his disposal.

    Wirtz scored 11 goals and added 11 assists during Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten Bundesliga title-winning campaign to claim Player of the Season honours in Germany's top tier.

    Musiala, meanwhile, scored 10 goals from an xG of 7.9 in the league.

    Behind them, the returning Kroos brings plenty of experience, alongside Ilkay Gundogan, who created the second-most chances of any player in Europe's top five leagues in all competitions in 2023-24, with 132.

    Havertz is likely to lead the line with support from Fullkrug, but Thomas Muller is another weapon in Germany's arsenal. He has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances at the World Cup (36 shots), but he has never scored in 15 appearances at the European Championships (31 shots).

    Will it finally be Muller time? 

     

    At the other end of the pitch, though, Germany do have some issues. On paper, Jonathan Tah, Nico Schlotterbeck and Antonio Rudiger are a fine trio to choose from in the centre of defence, while Joshua Kimmich can play at right-back, but Nagelsmann needs to make sure the team's defending is better than it was against Greece. Perhaps Hummels' experience would have been useful?

    Germany have conceded at least one goal in each of their last 12 games at major international tournaments. The last time they kept a clean sheet was against Slovakia in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

    Fourth time lucky?

    This is Clarke's second major international tournament as a manager, after Euro 2020. He is the first Scotland boss to lead the team into two consecutive Euros.

    Scotland have never reached the knockouts of the Euros in any of their three previous appearances at the tournament.

    They have won just two of their nine Euro matches, with those victories coming over CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) in 1992 and Switzerland in 1996. Scotland have failed to score in six of their nine games at the European Championships.

    While Germany are one of the toughest possible opponents to face first up, if Scotland could get something from this match, then they would be in a great position ahead of meetings with Hungary and Switzerland.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Germany – Toni Kroos

    Kroos' presence in midfield will be a major boost to a team that averaged 59.3 per cent possession at Euro 2020 – second only to Spain (66.8 per cent).

    The 34-year-old came out of international retirement to feature for Germany in their home tournament, though of course, it will now mark the final competitive event of his career.

    Kroos – who won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid this month – played more line-breaking passes (214) and passes leading to final-third entries (69) than any other player in UEFA's flagship club competition in 2023-24.

    Scotland – Scott McTominay

    A strong defence helped get them through qualifying, with a sprinkling of quality from McTominay, who was the top scorer in qualifying Group A with seven goals – one more than Manchester City superstar Haaland managed for Norway.

     

    McTominay's goal tally is the joint most by a Scottish player in a Euros/World Cup qualifying campaign, along with Steven Fletcher (Euro 2016) and McGinn (Euro 2020).

    And what is even more impressive, is that McTominay's goals came from just 1.77 xG, an overperformance of 5.23.

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