Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas has announced his intention to run for the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) presidency.

Casillas made 167 appearances for Spain and captained his country to success at the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships of 2008 and 2012.

The 38-year-old has been at Porto since leaving boyhood club Real Madrid in 2015, but he suffered a heart attack in a training session in May 2019.

Casillas has not featured for the club since and was added to the team's backroom staff in July, yet he was also included in their squad for the ongoing season and has not formally retired.

He did not announce an end to his playing career on Monday, but he thanked Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa for allowing him to pursue the RFEF opportunity.

He wrote: "Yes, I will stand for the presidency of the RFEF when the elections are called. Together we will put our federation at the height of the best football in the world: that of Spain.

"I have informed the president of my club, FC Porto, of this decision, to whom I can only express my deepest gratitude.

"We are working with the utmost respect in our candidacy. More than 23,000 voters await us in fair and transparent elections. 139 assembly members will decide.

"Thank you all for all the love I have continually received. Your support and your strength encourage me. Let's go for it! #IkerCasillas2020"

Luis Rubiales has been RFEF president since May 2018, although his tenure got off to a rocky start as Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup after agreeing to take the Real Madrid job following the finals.

Spain's coaching difficulties have since continued under Rubiales, with Luis Enrique appointed before stepping away as his daughter, Xana, battled bone cancer. She died in August.

Assistant Robert Moreno stepped up to the senior role but was later replaced by the returning Luis Enrique, with the pair - long-time colleagues and friends - falling out.

Rubiales has insisted the RFEF did not mishandle Luis Enrique's reappointment.

A date for the latest RFEF election, which would appear to see Casillas take on Rubiales, is yet to be confirmed.

Lionel Messi is unlikely to leave Barcelona and it would be a "nice story" if the Argentine legend were to finish his career at Camp Nou, according to Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero.

Reports emerged this month that Messi may be tempted to walk away from Barca after a public row with the club's sporting director Eric Abidal.

The timing of the rift with his former team-mate came at a difficult time for Barca, given Messi has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for free at the end of the campaign.

Manchester City were linked with an audacious move that would have seen Messi link up with ex-Barca boss Pep Guardiola, who denied he would try to press ahead with a deal, while Serie A champions Juve have also been touted with putting together a package.

The latter would of course see Messi line up alongside long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo but former Italy international Del Piero believes the Argentina superstar – a nominee for Sportsman of the Year at the 20th annual Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday – has little desire for a Barca exit.

Speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards, Del Piero told Omnisport:  "He [Messi] is a genius. 

"It's easy to nominate a player like him. He has had an important season. So that's why he has been nominated for this award.

"I don't think he is thinking about leaving the club. He's got a solid relationship with the club. Everything suggests he can stay there all his career. It's going to be a nice story."

Del Piero won six Serie A titles and the Champions League during a distinguished career at Juve, who he represented between 1993 and 2012.

Juve have been the dominant force in Serie A for almost a decade, winning eight consecutive league titles.

This season has been a thriller thus far in Italy's top flight, though, with table-toppers Juve just a point clear of second-place Lazio and three of Inter in third.

Del Piero thinks the battle for supremacy can only be a good thing for Italian football.

"Finally we have a title race [in Serie A] that can last for more than three or four months," he added. 

"We were used to seeing Juventus having a big gap in January. This situation is positive. 

"Inter have improved a lot and Lazio are having an incredible season. We are happy for this challenge in Italy."

Eden Hazard vowed Real Madrid will fight to the end in their pursuit of honours this season and was delighted to be back out on the pitch in the frustrating 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.

The Belgium forward managed 70 minutes on his first outing since November due to an ankle injury.

Madrid appeared to be headed for three points after Fedor Smolov's opener was cancelled out by Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos.

But Santi Mina earned Celta a share of the spoils in the closing stages to leave Madrid just one point clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

For Hazard, it was a great feeling to be back playing even if the result was disappointing.

"I felt good," Hazard said in quotes reported by Marca. "The first 10 minutes I was tired, but as the minutes went by I felt fine. I'm happy with my performance, but not with the result.

"I hope we'll improve in the next few games. When a team is winning 2-1 you try to see out [the match], but it wasn't to be.

"There's still a lot of games left and we're going to fight it out until the end."

Madrid's goal return of 46 this season is 11 fewer than title rivals Barca, who Los Blancos meet in El Clasico on March 1.

Hazard does not believe Madrid have an issue in front of goal, though.

"I don't think [we're lacking goals]; we had chances and deserved to score more goals," he added.

"We're working well and we're going to win a lot of games together; it's going to be good for us."

Zinedine Zidane moved to defend Marcelo and Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's "painful" 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo.

Marcelo was a surprise starter ahead of Ferland Mendy for Sunday's contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Santi Mina earned the visitors an 85th-minute equaliser after Toni Kroos' strike and a Sergio Ramos penalty had cancelled out Fedor Smolov's opener.

The Brazil full-back, a mainstay of Madrid's line-up for over a decade, has faced criticism at times this season, particularly over his performances defensively, but head coach Zidane had no issues with Marcelo's showing.

"I don't think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats," Zidane said.

"I'm happy with everyone for how they play and when they play."

Bale was mainly ineffective having been selected to start in a front three alongside Karim Benzema and the returning Eden Hazard.

Zidane, though, said the focus is on how the team as a collective can improve after they missed the chance to win a sixth straight LaLiga match.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane added.

On how he felt after conceding the late equaliser, the Frenchman said: "Painful to be brutally honest. I thought the team gave a very big effort to try to win the game. 

"After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it's not very good. 

"But I'm very pleased with my team, it wasn't easy for us. A first half where we conceded a goal after six minutes and then they closed themselves at the back, very defensively solid.

"The gap in the first half, we were trying to cross the ball too much, but in the second half we did it much better."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Belgium forward Hazard, who has been absent since November with an ankle injury.

Zidane was encouraged by what he saw from the former Chelsea star.

"I'm very happy to have him back and with the 70 minutes he played," Zidane said. 

"I think we know the player he is, and after three months out it wouldn't be easy for him to come back in and play a great game, but I'm very happy with his game and to have him back."

Pep Guardiola's future at Manchester City continues to dominate discussions – and it seemingly still remains unclear.

Talk around the Spaniard has intensified after City were handed a two-season Champions League ban by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play rules, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

But will Guardiola, who is contracted at the Etihad Stadium until 2021, stay or go?

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA TO STAY AT MAN CITY DESPITE BAN

Guardiola will remain at City next season whether they have their ban overturned or not, according to the Mirror.

However, Tuttosport reports the chances of the former Barcelona head coach leaving City are "70 per cent".

Guardiola has reportedly suggested previously he intends to honour his contract at City.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are making their move for Jadon Sancho. France Football reports the Premier League club have started talks with the Borussia Dortmund star, who has attracted interest from numerous European giants, including Manchester United.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are set to pay £23million (€27.7m) for Inter midfielder Matias Vecino at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

- After strong links during the close season, Bayern Munich's interest in Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane has cooled, according to Kicker. Sane tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August.

- Staying at Bayern and Kicker reports the Bundesliga giants are keeping tabs on Liverpool's interest in RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner. Werner has been linked with the European giants after scoring 20 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this season.

- Alexander Isak's form for Real Sociedad this season is leading to interest, but Mundo Deportivo reports clubs wanting the forward at the end of the campaign must pay €70m. Former club Borussia Dortmund reportedly have an option to buy Isak for €30m, but that only comes into play in 2021.

- Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu has impressed this season and the 20-year-old is on Atletico Madrid's radar, according to Marca.

Raheem Sterling is focused on Manchester City, according to his agent, amid reports linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

Speculation over the futures of several City players has intensified in the wake of the two-season Champions League ban handed to the club by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

Sterling, who is contracted at City until 2023, is reportedly a target for LaLiga giants Madrid.

But the 25-year-old forward's agent, Aidy Ward, said Sterling's focus was on the Premier League club.

"Raheem is solely focused on Manchester City and will not be distracted by any talk of transfers to any club at the moment," he told the Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Sterling, who arrived at City from Liverpool in 2015, has scored 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season but is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Eden Hazard made his return from a three-month injury lay-off in Real Madrid's 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, with Thibaut Courtois confident the forward will be key for Zinedine Zidane's side.

An ankle injury sidelined Hazard in late November, but he made his comeback on Sunday, winning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Madrid 2-1 up in the second half.

Madrid's run of five straight LaLiga wins was ended by Santi Mina's 85th-minute leveller, though, to ensure they only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

However, the return of Hazard, who has scored just once in nine league games since joining from Chelsea ahead of this season, was seen as an encouraging development for his compatriot Courtois.

"Little by little he will catch up again after three months," Courtois, who also played alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge, told Movistar.

"He is a player that is worth a lot to us."

Madrid surprisingly fell behind against Celta after Fedor Smolov scored his first goal for the club in the seventh minute.

The home side failed to muster a shot on target across the opening 45 minutes, but Toni Kroos' sixth goal against Celta – he only has 14 overall in LaLiga - levelled matters and Hazard then won a penalty that Ramos scored.

Yet more poor defending allowed substitute Denis Suarez to find fellow replacement Mina as Celta dramatically claimed a share of the spoils.

Asked about his emotions, Courtois replied: "Angry because we conceded a [second] goal.

"It was a difficult game because they started by scoring a goal early on. They defended well with 11 men and then I made a good save to keep the score at 0-1.

"Then in the second half, we scored two fast goals but in the end we've lost two points that are worth a lot at home.

"We defended well but Denis made a good turn and made space for Santi Mina, who put the ball away well.

"It's two points lost and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth."

Real Madrid's most memorable attacking moment during the first half of their title-race twisting 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo was Sergio Ramos launching into one of his driving runs in search of a goal, only to volley the ball into his own face when it arrived.

This botched attack had a claim beyond slapstick, given Zinedine Zidane's LaLiga leaders failed to muster a single shot on target before the break.

Indeed, there was nothing remotely as incisive from an forward line featuring Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale as the move Celta produced for their seventh-minute opener – Iago Aspas shifting smoothly into a pocket of space in front of a ramshackle Madrid defence and threading a perfect pass for Fedor Smolov to coolly slot home.

Hazard was making his first appearance since suffering a fractured ankle in November and, shortly after Ramos' party piece, showed signs of starting to shift through the gears.

In the 40th minute, Karim Benzema pulled out to the left channel and Hazard scampered around the outside, pulling the ball back from the byline for the on-rushing Bale to fire narrowly over.

It was link-up play to cheer Zidane as he tries to get his returning attackers up to speed ahead of the Champions League showdown against Manchester City later this month.

On this evidence, however, Hazard and Bale are playing for one spot. The ever-dependable Benzema is a guaranteed starter, fitness permitting, and Los Blancos missed the benched Vinicius Jr's dynamism for much of Sunday's contest.

Having set themselves a low bar in the first-half, Madrid improved considerably during the second period and hit the front thanks to a couple of sure things.

Toni Kroos' midfield scheming is not annotated with goals too frequently, but he dispatched Marcelo's pass to score for the sixth time against Celta. He has 14 LaLiga goals overall since joining Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014.

Ramos is, by comparison, somewhat more prolific from centre-back. A smart finish from an offside position showed his radar to be back in order following the earlier mishap and there was little doubt about the outcome when he stepped up for a 65th-minute penalty.

Ruben Blanco erred badly when Benzema and Hazard repeated their first-half link, with the Celta goalkeeper darting from his ground to needlessly bring the Belgium star down.

Blanco guessed correctly but Ramos' sprung from his staggered run-up to dispatch an unerring strike.

Hazard made way for Vinicius in the 73rd minute and enjoyed a warm ovation from the Bernabeu faithful – the sort of reception that sadly only seems to exist in the past tense for Bale nowadays.

As for the other grizzled survivors of Zidane's three consecutive Champions League final triumphs from 2016 through to 2018, they remain his dependables.

They will be asked to go to the well once more the next time Madrid emerge at their famous home ground, faced with a formidable but flawed City in a competition they know like the back of their hand.

It would be a brave person who backs against them but the sight of Celta producing a sting in the tail suggested the years could be taking a toll.

Substitutes Denis Suarez and Santi Mina combined as Aspas and Smolov had before for the latter to score – the lines of communication between Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane in the backline again appearing unhelpfully clogged.

The lead at the top of LaLiga from Barcelona was only a point at full-time, a situation roughly as comfortable as booting a football into your own face.

Of course, Ramos tumbled theatrically in stoppage time to try and win another penalty and Madrid will strain and scrap for everything until the end of the season. With 46 goals from 24 LaLiga games, don't expect them to blow too many teams away either. The Galactico grind is on.

Lionel Messi cannot diminish his reputation by leaving Barcelona because "he is the history" of the club, according to two-time World Cup winner Cafu.

Former Milan and Roma star Cafu, who is Brazil's most-capped player of all-time, says Messi "will always be Messi", regardless of which club he represents.

Speculation surrounding Messi's Barcelona future has intensified in recent weeks, amid suspicions he might consider a late-career move.

Messi reacted angrily to comments from Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal, who questioned the commitment of players during Ernesto Valverde's reign at Camp Nou.

The situation appears to have been defused for now, and Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni recently said he has no concerns about the future of his international captain.

Messi, 32, is a six-time Ballon d'Or winner and there could be a scramble among the world's richest clubs for his services if he decided he wished to seek another challenge.

Cafu admits he does not know what choice Messi will make.

"Nobody knows. It is difficult to say whether Messi will continue at Barcelona or if he will change teams," the former Champions League winner told Omnisport.

"Messi today is the man of Barcelona, he is the history of Barcelona. But if by his choice he decides to change the team, he will always be Messi and we will always be rooting for him."

Messi is Barcelona's record scorer, having netted over 650 times for the Spanish giants - more than twice as many goals as any other player.

He has racked up scores of individual records and accolades during a dazzling professional career, which has been spent in its entirety with Barcelona.

Cafu was speaking in Berlin ahead of Monday's Laureus World Sports Awards, at which Messi is a nominee for the Sportsman of the Year prize.

"If Messi was named Sportsman of the Year it is because he deserved it all year through football," said Cafu. "Playing ball, bringing joy, having fun and making Barcelona bigger and bigger."

Cafu savours his own role as a member of the award voting panel and academy at Laureus, which aims to improve the lives of young people around the world, saying: "It is an honour to be part of an institution as serious as Laureus."

Substitute Santi Mina's 85th-minute equaliser denied leaders Real Madrid a sixth successive LaLiga victory as Celta Vigo left the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-2 draw.

Los Blancos were stunned by Fedor Smolov's first goal for Celta in the seventh minute and the home side failed to register a single shot on target in the opening half.

However, they turned the game on its head within 13 minutes, Toni Kroos scoring again against Celta before Sergio Ramos slotted home a penalty after the returning Eden Hazard had been fouled.

Mina's late leveller meant Zinedine Zidane's men only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona, though, as their winning run came to an end.

 

 

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane recalled Eden Hazard to his starting line-up to face Celta Vigo on Sunday after the Belgium international recovered from an ankle fracture.

Hazard's last appearance for Los Blancos came in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in November, the injury limiting him to just eight LaLiga appearances and one goal since his €100million transfer from Chelsea.

The 29-year-old joined Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in Los Blancos' front three against Celta, with Isco dropping to the bench despite scoring in Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Hazard's return to fitness is well-timed given Madrid's tough run of forthcoming fixtures.

Zidane will take his side to Levante in LaLiga before a Champions League clash at home against Manchester City and then the Clasico versus Barcelona on March 1.

Manchester City's two-season Champions League ban could be about to reverberate through the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's future had been a topic of discussion prior to UEFA handing down sanctions for "serious" Financial Fair Play breaches and the loss of European competition has fuelled suggestions the Catalan could quit the club.

Media reports indicate City already have alternatives in mind, and their search for a successor looks set to pose problems for Premier League rivals.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PEP REPLACEMENTS

Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers are among the contenders to take over at City if Guardiola walks, according to The Telegraph.

The report states the pair "would be in the running" to become the club's next manager in the event their current boss decides to leave at the end of the season.

Ex-Tottenham manager Pochettino recently admitted he would "love" to return to the Premier League, telling the 'In The Pink' podcast: "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens."

The Argentinian has been heavily linked to City's cross-town rivals Manchester United, while Rodgers is tied to Leicester City until 2025.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus-linked Guardiola might not be the only big name headed for the Etihad Stadium exit. The Sun claims Real Madrid will launch an "all-out assault" in a bid to sign Raheem Sterling.

- City could potentially even be docked Premier League points for the same Financial Fair Play breaches that compelled UEFA to act, says The Guardian.

- Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, United have set their asking price for Paul Pogba at £130million, reports the Daily Star.

- As for potential arrivals, United are interested in Norwich City pair Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons plus West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, states the Daily Mail.

- Serie A side Milan are no closer to extending Gianluigi Donnarumma's deal beyond June 2021, according to Tuttomercato, and LaLiga title contenders Madrid are monitoring the situation.

- Sky Sport Germany continues to link former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac to manager-less Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, who saw Jurgen Klinsmann leave earlier in the week.

Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo picked Real Madrid over Barcelona when presented with an offer ahead of the NBA All-Star Game.

Antetokounmpo will lead Team Giannis against Team LeBron in Chicago on Sunday.

But the reigning NBA MVP faced a different test on Saturday, when he was offered Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts.

"We've got Real Madrid, who's the player though?" Antetokounmpo said, assessing his options.

"I love both of these players, [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, who used to play with Real.

"But I'll probably go with Real. There you go, Real."

Madrid can restore their three-point lead atop LaLiga when they host Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Quique Setien was unimpressed with Getafe's physical approach and referee Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez after Barcelona's 2-1 LaLiga win over Getafe.

Barca moved level on points with leaders Real Madrid, who face Celta Vigo in their game in hand on Sunday, courtesy of first-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto at Camp Nou on Saturday.

The Barca-linked Angel Rodriguez gave Getafe hope when he pulled one back in the second half, but the reigning LaLiga champions were not to be denied all three points.

Head coach Setien felt referee Cuadra Fernandez should have come down harder on what he deemed to be spoiling tactics from Getafe.

Asked what he was saying to the fourth official, Setien said: "I was complaining because many times you risk going out from the back and when you are fouled you have to start over.

"That hurts the pace of the game. I think they have made 30 fouls against 12, and we had one more [yellow] card.

"I think the referee had to be more severe. Sometimes you have no luck."

Setien was not interested in discussing why he did not shake hands with his opposite number Jose Bordalas.

"I want to talk about what happened on the pitch, that is where football is played." he said.

"We were nervous at the start, and Getafe made it very difficult for us with their press."

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