Lionel Messi will remain the best player in the world for as long as he wants to be, according to Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

Barcelona superstar Messi won The Best FIFA Men's Player award on Monday, pipping Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo to the honour.

Scaloni has no doubt the 32-year-old was a deserving winner and thinks he will continue being the sport's leading light for many years.

"It's normal Messi won The Best, because he is the best," said Scaloni.

"He will remain the best as long he wants, has the capacity and is physically able.

"He is magical and he is a player who, while we can enjoy him, it would be great if everyone valued him, because there will be no one else like him."

Messi missed Argentina's friendlies against Chile and Mexico and will sit out fixtures with Germany and Ecuador in October due to a three-month ban after he claimed the Copa America was "corrupt" following his red card in a third-place play-off win against La Roja.

"He is suspended but he is part of the squad," said Scaloni. "Leo is delighted with his team-mates. We hope he brings joy to the people, which is the most important thing."

Despite Argentina's wait for a first senior international title since 1993 extending at this year’s Copa America, Scaloni retained his position for 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Messi thinks it was the right decision and backed the 41-year-old to be a success.

"He's a coach who has things clear in his head, who knows how to watch football and is very good at getting things across," Messi told FIFA.

"He's easy to understand, he's good at his job and he knows how to handle the players. I think they got it right in giving him the job permanently and the space and time he needs to work with the national team."

Zinedine Zidane defended Real Madrid's backroom team and said a congested fixture list was the main factor behind a lengthy injury list that now includes full-back Ferland Mendy.

Madrid confirmed on Tuesday that Mendy, who joined from Lyon for €48million in June, has suffered an abductor injury in his left leg.

The France international completed 90 minutes in the 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday but is now set for another spell on the sidelines, having previously suffered a hamstring injury shortly after he joined Los Blancos.

Zidane is already without fellow left-back Marcelo, as well as Luka Modric, Marco Asensio and Isco, but denied the slew of injuries was anything to do with his medical staff.

"I'm not worried but it does bother me that we have a lot of injuries," the Madrid coach said at a news conference.

"I don't want to see my players injured but that is part of football, we can't control it. You can take great care of the players, the backroom staff are very good. But not just that, you need sometimes a bit of luck.

"[Mendy] is an important player for us but things happen. In the games you have lots of demands. Really, nowadays players aren't resting.

"We have seven games in 21 days, they've all played for their international sides and they're going to have more international games after these games. It makes things difficult.

"Everyone can have an opinion and say, 'We are doing this is wrong' but we need a bit of respect for these people – they are proven that they know their jobs.

"We work hard in pre-season, it's necessary to do that. There's lots of reasons why people can get injured in games and you have to accept it. It's not just Real Madrid that have injuries, all clubs do."

Zidane's side, who lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last week before returning to winning ways against Sevilla, face Osasuna on Wednesday prior to meeting Atletico Madrid in the derby on Saturday.

They then have home fixtures against Club Brugge and Granada before the next international break in early October.

"Current players nowadays are playing every three days," Zidane said.

"They went off with their international sides, they go off afterwards, there's no rest. When I played, we played 45 [games], now they're playing 60. It's almost two seasons in one at the moment. Perhaps this is the problem.

"Football changes and we're playing 60, 65 games and that gives you problems. I think it's complicated when you have players that go off to international sides.

"It's difficult sometimes when you lose and you give players a day off and you get criticised as well. There's a planning behind all of this. It's all planned.

"There's a lot of travelling, minutes on the pitch, so there will be injuries. Players aren't machines, they're human beings."

Zidane added that Marcelo, Modric and Isco were "about ready to come into the squad" following their lay-offs.

Vicente del Bosque prefers Neymar to Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain, even though he thinks the Brazil star's behaviour can cause problems.

Neymar has made an impressive return to first-team action with the Ligue 1 champions, having missed five of their opening seven games in 2019-20 in all competitions.

The forward's pre-season was blighted by an ankle injury that saw him miss the Copa America, and he was then kept out of the PSG side by head coach Thomas Tuchel during an uncertain transfer window.

The 27-year-old failed to secure a return to Barcelona before the transfer deadline, though, and has scored exceptional late winning goals in his performances against Strasbourg and Lyon since.

Despite raising concerns over whether he could ever be considered an "example" in the game, former Real Madrid and Spain boss Del Bosque would gladly have Neymar at his disposal.

Speaking to Cadena SER, he said: "Between Neymar and Mbappe, I like Neymar right now. He does a lot of b******t and he's not an example for anything, but as a player he's terrific.

"Mbappe has qualities to be the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but he still needs to refine things a little. It's a little like it is with Vinicius [Junior]."

Del Bosque was speaking after Barcelona captain Messi was awarded The Best FIFA Men's Player prize for 2019, ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus forward Ronaldo.

"For me, yes, Messi is the best ever, but that's not to detract from Ronaldo," was Del Bosque's assessment.

"Last year, someone dared to claim that Cristiano Ronaldo was finished, that it didn't matter if he left [Madrid]. Messi and Cristiano have no limits."

Del Bosque has been out of football since leaving his Spain post following Euro 2016, where they lost to Italy in the last 16.

The 68-year-old won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with the national team, having previously won two LaLigas and two Champions Leagues in a four-year spell as Madrid head coach.

Given those achievements, he has no desire to come out of retirement.

"I don't miss the dugout. Would I come back? No way - not a chance. I don't miss anything. I've already been in the two best places I could be," Del Bosque said.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos says he would have become a tennis player if he wanted individual trophies as he delivered a dismissive appraisal of The Best FIFA Football awards.

Lionel Messi took the men's prize for 2019 at the gala in Milan on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo. United States star Megan Rapinoe won the women's trophy.

Jurgen Klopp won The Best FIFA Men's Coach award for guiding Liverpool to Champions League glory, edging out Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino.

Ramos was present at the ceremony after being named in the FIFA FIFPro Men's World11 for the 10th time in his career, but he would prefer to swap any individual accolades for team trophies, with Madrid having won only the Club World Cup last season.

"I'd prefer to not come here and for Real Madrid to win titles," Ramos said following the event at Milan's famous La Scala opera house. "If I'd wanted to win individual titles, then I'd have dedicated myself to tennis.

"When the team wins, we always win. It wasn't a good season last year, but it's a good sign that Real Madrid have players in the XI."

There were some surprising choices in the FIFA FIFPro Men's World11, a line-up of the best players of 2019 as voted for by fellow professionals.

Ramos, Marcelo and Luka Modric, the winner of The Best FIFA Men's Player prize in 2018, were included despite difficult campaigns for Madrid in 2018-19.

The inclusion of Marcelo was particularly questionable, the Brazil full-back having lost his place as undisputed first choice at the Santiago Bernabeu over the past year, starting just 21 LaLiga games last season.

"He's one of the best in the world," Ramos insisted when asked about Marcelo. "Everyone is free to comment. It's hard to please everyone."

Real Madrid have set their sights on Mauricio Pochettino to be their next coach and they are also interested in a Premier League star, according to reports.

Pochettino has regularly been linked with a move away from Tottenham, where he has impressed since taking charge in 2014.

And the LaLiga giants are said to be eyeing the Argentinian amid pressure on Zinedine Zidane.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYEING POCHETTINO, STERLING

Real Madrid are ready to make an approach for Pochettino, according to The Mirror.

The Tottenham manager will be Madrid's top target if they decide to replace Zidane, the report says.

Madrid eased the pressure on Zidane with a 1-0 win at Sevilla on Sunday, moving them level on points with LaLiga leaders Athletic Bilbao.

Meanwhile, The Athletic reports Madrid met with Manchester City star Raheem Sterling's representatives during the off-season and the attacker is keen to play for the LaLiga giants one day, while the Premier League champions are confident the England international will stay.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have made a poor start to the season, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to get backing in January. The Daily Mail reports United will back Solskjaer if he wants to strengthen his team, who are eighth in the table.

- Needing to bolster their defence, Juventus could make a move for Paris Saint-Germain full-back Thomas Meunier in January, according to Tuttosport. A deal could include midfielder Emre Can heading to Paris.

- Previously linked with Manchester United, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is set to renew his contract at Lazio, according to Il Messaggero. The deal, to be worth €3m per season, will reportedly be done by December.

- Mario Mandzukic is still unsure about his future. Tuttosport reports clubs in Qatar are still trying to sign the Juventus striker, but the Croatian may instead wait for a move to the Premier League in January.

- Italy youth international Sandro Tonali is catching the eye at Brescia. AC Milan and Manchester United are monitoring the 19-year-old midfielder, according to Calciomercato.

- Staying at Milan, Calciomercato says the Serie A giants are still looking at PSV forward Donyell Malen. The 20-year-old Netherlands international has scored seven goals in six Eredivisie games this season.

Eden Hazard believes Real Madrid "can dream of a great season" despite an indifferent start to the campaign.

Madrid have won three of their opening six competitive games of the season, including a much-needed 1-0 victory over Sevilla on Sunday that eased the pressure on coach Zinedine Zidane.

With three wins from five in LaLiga, Madrid are level with leaders Athletic Bilbao on 11 points.

Hazard, who has made just two league appearances this season after a thigh injury, said there was always pressure to deliver at Madrid and the playmaker is confident of success.

"When you play for Real Madrid you have to win every game, that's how it is, that's why it's the best club in the world, because you always have that pressure," he said on Monday after being named in the FIFA World XI.

"But we have a quality team. It was difficult but we won at Sevilla, a stadium where it is never easy.

"In the Champions League too, it's still important even if we lost our first game against Paris, but we can dream of a great season with the team we have."

Madrid host Osasuna on Wednesday before a derby clash against Atletico three days later.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk insisted he cannot be compared to Lionel Messi, dismissing any suggestions he was disappointed not to win the Best FIFA Men's Player award.

Van Dijk finished second to Barcelona superstar Messi for the prize on Monday, with Juventus and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo third.

The centre-back said there was no way he could be compared to Messi, who scored 51 goals in all competitions in 2018-19.

"The people who vote made a decision and you have to accept it," Van Dijk told reporters.

"That's just the case and as players you can't compare me and Messi because it's totally different.

"I'm very proud to be here."

Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Champions League last season, while they fell just short to Manchester City despite an incredible Premier League campaign.

But while the Netherlands international, named in the FIFA World XI, missed out to Messi, Van Dijk said there was no disappointment.

"Disappointed? You can't be disappointed," he said.

"I'm just very happy to be here, to be in the team of the year, after the hard work and the good work we put in last year.

"Today, I unfortunately didn't win but I'm not disappointed."

Liverpool face MK Dons in the EFL Cup on Wednesday before visiting Sheffield United in the Premier League three days later.

Lionel Messi was happy to win the Best FIFA Men's Player award and the star's focus is now on helping Barcelona respond to a slow start to the season.

Messi claimed the prize, rebranded in 2016, for the first time, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

It marked his first major individual honour since claiming his fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015 and the 32-year-old was pleased to land the prize.

"It has been a long time without winning an individual prize," Messi told reporters.

"It is an award that I have for the first time and it is good to have it."

Messi is still working his way back from a calf injury to begin the 2019-20 season, having made just one LaLiga appearance.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have made their worst start to a LaLiga season since 1994-95, collecting just seven points from five games.

With matches against Villarreal and Getafe this week, Messi is eager to see Ernesto Valverde's men bounce back.

"We've started badly and are struggling to create play and chances. It's just the start, but we have to respond now," he said.

"There's no more time and we have to improve a lot, we're aware of this. It's a team thing.

"I have no doubts that we'll improve."

Lionel Messi put Cristiano Ronaldo second in the Best FIFA Men's Player award voting, but the Portugal star did not return the favour to the eventual winner.

Messi claimed the prize, rebranded in 2016, for the first time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ronaldo.

But the votes made for interesting reading, with Ronaldo and Portugal coach Fernando Santos snubbing Messi.

Ronaldo voted for Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Kylian Mbappe, with Santos handing his to the former two and his star international captain.

Messi, though, put Ronaldo second in his voting, in between Liverpool star Sadio Mane and De Jong.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni decided on Messi, Mbappe and Mane in that order.

As for Van Dijk, he put Messi first ahead of his team-mates Mohamed Salah and Mane, who helped Liverpool win the Champions League last season.

 

Who voted for who?

Lionel Messi: Sadio Mane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Frenkie de Jong.
Virgil van Dijk: Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Kylian Mbappe.
Fernando Santos: Cristiano Ronaldo, Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt.
Lionel Scaloni: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Sadio Mane.

Lionel Messi saw off competition from Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk to win The Best FIFA Men's Player award for 2019.

It is the first time Messi has won FIFA's flagship individual award since it split from the Ballon d'Or and rebranded in 2016.

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar came second behind Ronaldo in 2016 and 2017, before missing out on the top three altogether last time around.

A five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, Messi now has six FIFA awards to his name overall and was honoured for guiding Barcelona to the LaLiga title in 2018-19 – scoring 36 times in 34 outings.

He suffered semi-final heartache in the Champions League at the hands of Liverpool, who went on to win the European title.

That success contributed towards Van Dijk being named UEFA's Men's Player of the Year last month, but Messi prevailed on this occasion and all eyes will now be on where the Ballon d'Or lands.

In his acceptance speech at Monday's ceremony in Milan, Messi said: "I want to thank you. For me, the individual prizes are secondary, the important thing is the collective.

"But I have my wife and two of my children sitting there.

"They don't know whether to greet or ask for photos from such extraordinary soccer players. Thank you all very much."

He was unable to add the Puskas Award to his haul, though, with Daniel Zsori's spectacular overhead kick for Debrecen against Ferencvaros voted the best goal of last season – ahead of Messi's wonderful chip for Barca versus Real Betis in LaLiga.

Messi's only Barcelona team-mate to join him in the FIFA FIFPro Men's World11 was Frenkie de Jong, who earned the distinction on the back of his performances for Ajax last term.

Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe joined Messi in the front three and Liverpool were represented by Van Dijk and Alisson, while their manager Jurgen Klopp was named Best Men's Coach.

Ernesto Valverde dismissed claims of Barcelona being in crisis as nothing more than a quirk of modern football as he remained relaxed about speculation over his future.

Barca's worst start to a LaLiga season in 25 years was confirmed by a shock 2-0 defeat at Granada on Saturday.

The result, a second defeat in five league games for the champions, left them four points adrift of first and extended their winless run away from home to seven competitive matches, a streak that includes draws at Osasuna and Borussia Dortmund.

Tuesday's home meeting with Villarreal presents a swift opportunity for Barca to get their campaign back on track and Valverde hopes to quieten a growing number of critics.

"In the world of football, we talk about a crisis every three days and in three days you can be out of the crisis," Valverde said at his pre-match news conference.

"That's what we want: we want to pick up the six points available this week.

"Why are we in this situation? Because we haven't won, that's clear. There were moments when we weren't creating enough chances to turn the game around.

"There are things we have to improve but, apart from the second half against Dortmund, none of our opponents have really been bombarding us with chances. We're getting penalised by occasional, one-off things that are happening.

"We're creating the chances, but we need to create more. That's where we really need to improve. We need to create more than the opposition."

One player capable of carving out scoring opportunities, Ousmane Dembele, will return to the squad against Villarreal after recovering from a hamstring injury.

The fit-again Lionel Messi will be considered for a starting place following two successive appearances off the bench, but Ivan Rakitic has been left out.

Anything less than victory at Camp Nou would pile further pressure on Valverde, who has faced stern scrutiny since last season's Champions League semi-final collapse against Liverpool.

"It's not new. I have felt under examination from the beginning," the Blaugrana boss said.

"There is a very large demand on coaches, much more in the case of Barca. The coach is always in the spotlight. It's no surprise."

Ernesto Valverde is facing a big week at Barcelona.

Valverde is under pressure early in the season after Barca slumped to a 2-0 loss at Granada to be left with just seven points from their opening five games of the LaLiga season.

Now, the next week is shaping as crucial for Valverde.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLAYERS LOSING CONFIDENCE IN VALVERDE

Several Barcelona players have started to lose confidence in Valverde, according to ESPN.

With seven points from five league games, Barcelona have made their worst start to a season since 1994-95.

Monday's cover of Sport says Valverde needs an urgent reaction, with his side hosting Villarreal on Tuesday and visiting Getafe four days later.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are keeping an eye on Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz. Barca's sporting director Eric Abidal was present as Fabian scored in Napoli's 4-1 win over Lecce on Saturday, according to Calciomercato.

AC Milan want to strengthen at right-back and are considering Tottenham defender Serge Aurier, according to Sportmediaset, amid suggestions Andrea Conti is struggling to impress.

Jose Mourinho has had chances to return to management and the former Real Madrid and Manchester United boss apparently turned down a surprise opportunity last year. Fichajes reports Boca Juniors tried to convince Mourinho to take over, but the Portuguese tactician said he was not yet ready to leave Europe.

Everton have made a slow start to the Premier League season and are assessing ways to strengthen their attack. The Daily Express reports they are interested in signing Yussuf Poulsen from RB Leipzig. The Denmark international scored 15 Bundesliga goals last season.

Zinedine Zidane admitted the 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday left him more satisfied than any of the results he has achieved in his second spell at the Real Madrid helm.

Madrid head coach Zidane had come in for increasing scrutiny following the 3-0 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, but Karim Benzema's second-half header against Sevilla meant they returned to winning ways in LaLiga.

Sevilla had won the previous four LaLiga encounters between the two in Andalusia, but they were unable to muster a single shot on target, with Madrid boosted by captain Sergio Ramos' return to their defence.

Asked by Movistar if it was the best game of his second stint having returned in March, Zidane replied: "Yes, it is the game that leaves me the most satisfied since I came back.

"They have all helped each other on the field. We had complicated moments, but the solidarity that existed in those moments is obvious. This field is difficult."

Madrid trio Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale all failed to impress in an attacking sense in the victory, though Zidane was quick to highlight the other side of their games.

"We know we can create danger, but everyone's defensive work has been the key to winning," Zidane added.

"The three in particular have done it defending a lot. In a difficult game like today, everything had to be done."

Sergio Ramos said Real Madrid were "hungry and angry to win" as they beat Sevilla and bounced back from their loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

A humiliating 3-0 loss to PSG in the Champions League in midweek left Madrid with just two wins from their opening five games in all competitions, raising questions about head coach Zinedine Zidane's future. 

However, Karim Benzema's 64th-minute header ensured Los Blancos got back to winning ways against the previously unbeaten Sevilla as Zidane's men moved level with early leaders Athletic Bilbao on 11 points from five LaLiga matches.

Captain Ramos, who missed the PSG loss through suspension, claimed Madrid's desire for success cannot be questioned.

"We have achieved the goal and managed to be calm for a week, after what has been said," Ramos told Movistar.

"Madrid is always hungry and angry to win. The team is always very optimistic. The team's getting better.

"We are tied with Athletic on the table and we have to keep trying to improve as a team and above all take advantage of the occasions like today."

Sevilla had won four in a row at home in the league against Madrid but failed to register a shot on target in the entire match.

"We knew the difficulty of the game," Ramos added.

"It had been years since the team [Sevilla] did not win here. We have come with a very strong mentality, with the intention of committing the minimum possible errors."

Real Madrid responded to their humbling Champions League loss at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain by winning 1-0 against Sevilla thanks to Karim Benzema's second-half header.

Los Blancos had won just two of their first five games in all competitions and the 3-0 defeat in the French capital in midweek had raised further questions about head coach Zinedine Zidane's long-term future.

However, they got back to winning ways in a drab LaLiga contest in Seville as Benzema nodded home the game's only goal in the second half.

Madrid, who moved onto 11 points - level with leaders Athletic Bilbao - also kept their first clean sheet of the campaign as Sevilla failed to register a shot on target across the 90 minutes.

Sevilla came into the weekend top of the table but they struggled to emulate their early-season form in a forgettable first half.

Madrid at least managed to test the opposition's goalkeeper as Eden Hazard and then Dani Carvajal forced Tomas Vaclik into stops.

Hazard, still searching for his first Madrid goal, looked to squeeze an attempt inside the near post but was stopped by the arm of Vaclik, who then used his right foot to thwart Carvajal after the full-back had broken through down the middle of the pitch.

Neither side took control of the game in the early stages of the second half but Madrid made the breakthrough in the 64th minute through Benzema.

Gareth Bale fed Carvajal on the right and his cross from the byline was nodded in by Benzema after he had peeled off Diego Carlos to find space.

Former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui responded by bringing on ex-Los Blancos striker Javier Hernandez for Sevilla five minutes later but he was unable to find a leveller, with Luuk de Jong heading wide from their only real opening.

Hernandez thought he had scored with three minutes remaining, but he was correctly adjudged offside when turning home a cross, while Bale fired into the side-netting at the other end in stoppage time.

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