2019 COPA Preview: Messi looks to lead Argentina to elusive Gold Cup title

By Donald Oilver May 24, 2019

Argentina and Colombia favourites to advance from Group B.

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  • Sterling can succeed Messi as world's best player, says Xavi Sterling can succeed Messi as world's best player, says Xavi

    Barcelona great Xavi believes Raheem Sterling is on course to emerge as the world's best player when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave centre stage.

    Manchester City star Sterling has started the new season in scintillating fashion, scoring eight times for club and country.

    His goal return and overall effectiveness has markedly improved with Pep Guardiola's guidance and the 24-year-old is now one of the first players chosen for the Premier League champions.

    Sterling won Europe's Golden Boy award in 2014 - given to the continent's brightest young talent - and Xavi thinks the England international is on course to replace Messi and Ronaldo at the front of the queue for further honours.

    Xavi told The Mirror: "Messi is the best ever for me, and even though they're both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes.

    "You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah and of course Sterling. I look at the moment and Sterling is winning that race.

    "He's always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.

    "I know how Pep works - he would have worked closely with him since his arrival - where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on.

    "We're now seeing the results of that. He's still young and can be the world's best."

    Barca captain Messi, 32, and Juventus forward Ronaldo, 34, have dominated the game's top awards for the past decade, winning the Ballon d'Or five times apiece since 2008.

  • Messi done enough in Barcelona return – Valverde Messi done enough in Barcelona return – Valverde

    Lionel Messi "done enough" in his return as Barcelona drew 0-0 with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, insisted head coach Ernesto Valverde.

    Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury in Barca's goalless draw away to Dortmund in their Group F opener on Tuesday.

    The Barca captain had been sidelined up until his second-half introduction against Dortmund, though Messi was a peripheral figure for the visitors.

    "He's like any player who hasn't had a pre-season," Valverde said.

    "He's had to play in a game at an incredible pace, which had already started, all without preparation.

    "It's his first 30 minutes. He's done enough. It was also the first full game for Luis Suarez."

    Barca had goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for securing a point after the German star saved Marco Reus' second-half penalty.

    Ter Stegen thwarted Dortmund on more than one occasion in the second 45 minutes and Valverde hailed the Germany international.

    "In LaLiga [Santander] we were saying that opponents score against us," Valverde added. "But tonight, he was very good. We have a great goalkeeper and we benefit from that."

    On denying Reus from the penalty spot, Ter Stegen said:  It's hard to study, Reus always changes. It was a feeling I had [going to his left] and I'm glad that I could save it."

  • Griezmann: I need time to gel with Messi and Suarez Griezmann: I need time to gel with Messi and Suarez

    Antoine Griezmann insisted it will take time for him to gel with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez after Barcelona escaped with a point against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener.

    Barcelona held on for a 0-0 draw away to Bundesliga side Dortmund in Tuesday's Group F clash after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a second-half penalty from Marco Reus.

    Star man Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury – coming on as a second-half substitute – but it was a frustrating night for the LaLiga champions, whose side included Suarez and close-season arrival Griezmann.

    "It's my second month since I arrived, I have to get used to it and play more with them to understand the movements of Suarez and Leo," Griezmann – a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid – acknowledged in Movistar +.

    "We have not knocked on the door enough and we must improve and work at it. It is a point but Marc stopped a penalty and made other saves."

    Barca head coach Valverde admitted they had Ter Stegen to thank after he made a string of fine saves - including one to deny Germany colleague Reus in the 57th minute.

    "It was a difficult game in a great atmosphere," Valverde said. "We had to suffer a lot, especially after the break when we lost control and they were very dangerous.

    "In the first half we dominated a bit more. We were lacking in the final third. We have to thank Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his outstanding saves.

    "We know we have to improve away from home. We tried giving Messi a few minutes and Luis Suarez played from the start."

    Ter Stegen added: "People know what I'm capable of. I just want to concentrate wholly on my work and perform at 100 per cent of my capabilities. Today I think I demonstrated that."

    Dortmund captain Reus acknowledged his frustration at missing such a golden opportunity to defeat the Spanish giants.

    He said: "Marc is a world-class keeper. My penalty was not really well-taken. Back to the training ground for that.

    "Of course it does not feel good. I failed to convert a penalty and we had several other chances. One goal probably would have been enough for a win. We hardly allowed Barcelona space and showed a strong performance."

    Dortmund defender Mats Hummels said the result felt like a missed opportunity, however, the German insisted there were plenty of positives to take from the performance.

    "In the end we lost two points and failed to be in a better position. Nevertheless, we can be especially proud of the second half," the 30-year-old said.

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