Thomas Muller has suggested he would rather play with Bayern Munich team-mate Robert Lewandowski than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Muller was asked whether he would prefer to have Messi or Ronaldo as a colleague in a remote news conference on Wednesday.

The Bayern forward recognised his style of play would work better with Ronaldo than with Messi, yet he claimed Lewandowski would top both.

Former Germany international Muller has 18 assists in the Bundesliga this season, while Lewandowski has netted 29 times as Bayern march towards another title.

However, the World Cup winner did acknowledge Messi and Ronaldo are "outstanding" and cannot be compared to other players.

"Maybe in my past years I would like to play with Leo Messi, because in the first six or seven years of my career, I was more the receiving striker," Muller said.

"I got the ball in the box and tried to score. In the moment right now, in my very good shape at the moment, I assist many goals.

"Maybe now I need more a Cristiano Ronaldo to score the goals, but we at Bayern have Robert 'Lewan-goal-ski'! I think maybe right now he is the better option than Cristiano.

"I played against both [Messi and Ronaldo], I won against both, I lost against both.

"They are very, very good, they are special, they are not like normal very good players in the world of football. They are outstanding because they play always at the limit.

"Always, their whole 10 years, they score 50 goals each year. That's crazy.

"On my way to the World Cup, we won with Germany against both. On my way to several Champions League finals, we won against both.

"Every football player needs also the team, and that's why we love football so much."

Lionel Scaloni said playing alongside countryman Lionel Messi is better for Inter star Lautaro Martinez amid growing links to Barcelona.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for LaLiga champions Barca in the off-season following his exploits in Italy.

The Argentina international forward scored 16 goals in 31 matches across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As speculation grows over Martinez's future, Argentina head coach Scaloni discussed the 22-year-old.

"If he plays with Messi he is better, no doubt. Beyond that later he will have to fight for the position as he did in Inter," Scaloni told TyC Sports.

"We have to be calm. If he changes clubs, maybe he does not have to be the undisputed starter, and it will not affect us, as long as he has a number of minutes that allows him to be in force.

"He has a huge future but still has a lot to give."

With Martinez dominating headlines, Scaloni issued a reminder about Sergio Aguero's exploits for Argentina and Manchester City.

Aguero is City's all-time top scorer as he celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, while he is third on Argentina's overall goals list with 41.

"Talking so much about Lautaro, it is Sergio who is breaking all the records," added Scaloni. "That is why you have to go calmly and wait for the moment of each one."

Lionel Messi's enthusiasm is contagious as LaLiga leaders Barcelona prepare to return following the coronavirus pandemic, according to team-mate Jordi Alba.

Suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

Barca, who were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 rounds at the time of postponement, will return with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13.

Captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has provided plenty of motivation ahead of the league's resumption, with left-back Alba telling TVE: "He's a vital player of us and we should enjoy having him all the time.

"Seeing Leo with the enthusiasm he's come back with is contagious for the rest of the group."

Messi had topped LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 19, ahead of Madrid forward Karim Benzema (14).

"I see the team as having a lot of enthusiasm," Spain international Alba added.

"Mentally and physically we players have come back really well I would say, even better than we were before."

Meanwhile, defending champions Barca continue to be linked with former star Neymar – who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

On a possible return, Alba said: "He's clearly a unique player and he gave us a lot. He chose and looked for other goals."

Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona until at least 2021 after the exit clause in his contract expired, according to multiple reports.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had a stipulation in his existing deal, which runs until the end of next season, that allowed him to leave Barca for free at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

However, according to widespread reports, the Argentina international has not taken up the option, which needed to be activated at the weekend in order to take effect.

Barca captain Messi will now contest a 17th season at Camp Nou.

Speculation that Messi's time with LaLiga's champions was coming to an end gained traction in February amid a public falling out with sporting director Eric Abidal, who suggested a lack of effort from the squad was part of the reasoning for sacking coach Ernesto Valverde.

In March, the 32-year-old used the Barca's announcement that wages would be slashed by 70 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic to criticise people inside the club "that want to put us under a magnifying glass or try to pressure us into something that we were always clear we wanted to do".

Manchester City and Inter were reportedly monitoring Messi's situation at Camp Nou, though in April he branded rumours he was going to move to the Serie A club "fake news".

Messi is Barca's all-time leading goalscorer and president Josep Maria Bartomeu is keen to tie him down to another contract.

The attacker will be hoping to win a 35th piece of silverware with the Catalan giants when LaLiga resumes from June 11.

Barca sit two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga with 11 games remaining, while the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli is likely to take place in August.

Lionel Messi believes football will never be the same following the coronavirus pandemic.

While the seasons were brought to an end in France and the Netherlands, football in Europe's major leagues is gradually returning behind closed doors.

The Bundesliga resumed on May 16 and Messi and Barca will soon be able to recommence their quest to claim the title in LaLiga, which is poised to return on June 11.

In England, the Premier League will restart on June 17, with Italy's Serie A set to get going again on June 20.

However, the financial implications of the suspension and playing games without spectators in the stadiums will have a significant impact on clubs and competitions around the globe.

Speaking to El Pais, Messi said: "I don't think football will ever be the same. But beyond football, I don't think life, in general, will ever be the same, either.

"All of us that have experienced this situation will remember what happened in one way or another.

"In my case, it's with a feeling of sorrow and frustration for those that have suffered the most due to the loss of loved ones.

"I am sure that football and sport, in general, will be affected. Financially, because there are companies linked with the world of sport that will maybe experience some difficulties because of the coronavirus.

"But also professionally, because with the return to training and competing, what was normal before now is going to be different. It will be a strange situation for us as athletes but also for anyone that has to change their usual work dynamic.

"I am grateful to all of the people that are fighting to beat this virus in hospitals, health centres and care homes. Nearly all of us have doubts about how the world will be after everything that's happened.

"Beyond the lockdown measures and the whole situation, which caught us by surprise, many people have had a really tough time because they've been directly affected.

"People have lost family and friends and were not even able to say goodbye. There have been a lot of negatives to come from this crisis, but I don't think there's anything worse than losing your loved ones. That, for me, is hugely frustrating and unfair."

Roger Federer has eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to top the annual Forbes list of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

The Swiss maestro jumped four spots to sit top of the pile, earning $106.3million in the past year as he becomes the first tennis player to lead the way.

That eye-watering figure puts the 20-time grand slam winner ahead of football stars Ronaldo ($105m), Messi ($104m) and Neymar ($95.5m).

NBA icon LeBron James rounds out the top five, raking in $88.2m in a period when some sportspeople took wage cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Endorsements account for most of Federer's income, but he also undertook a tour of North and South America late last year to further boost his earnings.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100million a year for the tennis great."

Federer's rise to the summit comes after fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka was announced as the highest paid female athlete, her $37.4m putting the Japanese 29th overall.

Lionel Messi said he had been "extremely excited" to compete in the 2020 Copa America and the decision to postpone the competition until 2021 hit him hard.

The Argentina captain was set to take part in the Copa America for the sixth time in June and July before CONMEBOL announced its postponement in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi has been a runner-up in the competition on three occasions, in 2007, 2015 and 2016, and he will be nearly 34 by the time the 2021 edition kicks off.

"Pushing back the Copa America was a huge disappointment, but of course it was to be expected and was the reasonable thing to do," Messi told adidas.

"The Copa was going to be a big occasion for me this year, and I was extremely excited to compete in it again. It hit me hard when I learned it would be postponed, but I completely understood.

"We can't dwell on what we're leaving behind this year. It's better to look to the future. To getting back to the daily training routine, to seeing team-mates, to playing the first games.

"I'm sure it will be strange at first, but I'm very eager to start competing again!"

While Messi will have to wait for the return of international football, he is training with Barcelona in anticipation of LaLiga resuming in the coming weeks.

The Blaugrana's talismanic forward admitted the uncertainty of the global pandemic had affected him mentally.

"I don't think anyone could have seen something like this coming," he said.

"Some people warned that worldwide pandemics could happen from time to time. But I really never could have imagined it would unfold like it did, or the enormous impact it's having on virtually the entire world.

"Living or working with so much uncertainty is never easy, especially when faced with a situation as unheard-of as this one. That's why we'll need some time to prepare before competing again."

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi said resuming the 2019-20 LaLiga season will feel like "starting from scratch".

Barca were two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table when play was suspended in March, though the Spanish government has given the green light for the competition to return in the week commencing June 8.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner thinks it will feel like a different season, though he pointed out the benefit of the break offering a chance for players like Ousmane Dembele, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury, to recover.

In an interview with adidas, Messi said: "We all wonder when we'll get back to work, when we'll start training and competing again.

"When we start playing again, it will be like starting from scratch.

"We'll have some time to get ready before the league starts up, and we'll also get back key players on our team who were injured.

"Technically it will still be the same season, but I think every team and player will feel it's different."

Messi said his team-mates would need to prepare mentally for the prospect of playing in an empty stadium, an experience he faced when Barca played Las Palmas behind closed doors at Camp Nou in October 2017.

The Argentina international scored twice in a 3-0 victory that day, and Messi recalled the atmosphere that day as he warned of the challenges it can present.

"There is talk of finishing out the Spanish league's season without spectators, which brings a whole set of challenges," said the 32-year-old.

"The group preparation is the same as for any other game. But individually each person needs to prepare and visualise playing without fans, because it's very strange.

"I had to do it for a home game, and it was downright spooky. But it's normal that the league would resume this way after everything we've been going through. With all that's happening in the world, it's perfectly understandable."

Lionel Messi delivered a moment of history for Barcelona on this day in 2009, as Manchester United lost the Champions League final in Rome.

Arsene Wenger also has fond memories of May 27 from his Arsenal career, having achieved an unprecedented FA Cup feat at Wembley three years ago.

Shane Watson powered Chennai Super Kings to 2018 IPL glory, while back in 1995, the great Jonah Lomu scored the first tries of a famous New Zealand career.

Join us in looking back on some memorable moments from this day in years gone by.

 

1995 – Jonah Lomu scores his first tries for New Zealand

One of rugby union's all-time most famous faces made his mark on this day back in 1995.

Lomu scored his first two tries for New Zealand as they claimed a 43-19 win over Ireland in a Pool C clash at the Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg.

He finished the tournament as joint-top try-scorer on seven as the All Blacks reached the final, where they were famously beaten by hosts South Africa.

Lomu tragically died at the age of 40 in November 2015.

2018 – Shane Watson scores unbeaten century as Chennai Super Kings win the IPL

It is two years since a spectacular innings from Watson secured Indian Premier League glory for Chennai Super Kings.

Questioned for putting their faith in a squad of players approaching the end of their careers, it was fitting that Chennai's triumph would be sealed by 36-year-old Watson's unbeaten 117 from 57 balls.

Watson hit eight sixes and 11 fours to dominate the contest, the Super Kings easing to an eight-wicket win with nine balls remaining.

 

2009 – Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final

Barcelona became champions of Europe on this day 11 years ago, denying Manchester United a piece of history and securing their own place in the record books.

Holders United were looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues in the modern format but were dealt an early blow when Samuel Eto'o squeezed a 10th-minute shot past Edwin van der Sar.

A header from Lionel Messi – a goal he still considers the most important of his career – made it 2-0 in the second half as Barca won the treble for the first time in their history in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.

2017 – Arsenal beat Chelsea in FA Cup final as Wenger wins the trophy for a seventh time

Arsene Wenger became the most successful manager in FA Cup history three years ago when he lifted the trophy for a seventh time.

Premier League champions Chelsea were favourites, but a fourth-minute goal from Alexis Sanchez set the tone for the final.

Victor Moses' red card 68 minutes in made life tougher for the Blues and, although Diego Costa grabbed an equaliser, Aaron Ramsey struck what proved to be the winner three minutes later.

Aside from Wenger's feat – his 10th major trophy as Gunners boss – it was a final fondly remembered by fans for the performance of Per Mertsesacker, who was outstanding at the heart of defence.

Lionel Messi could emulate Michael Jordan's 'Last Dance' by winning the 2022 World Cup with Argentina, midfielder Lucas Biglia says.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has mostly endured disappointment at international level since winning Olympic gold in 2008.

Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2014 finals, when Argentina lost the final to Germany, before going on to lose back-to-back Copa America finals against Chile.

The Barcelona star will be 35 by the time of the next World Cup in Qatar, which is due to be held during November and December to avoid the harsh summer conditions.

Biglia played alongside Messi at senior international level for seven years until retiring after they were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by eventual winners France.

The Milan midfielder believes Messi can still taste glory on the global stage, though, having recently enjoyed the Netflix documentary on Michael Jordan's memorable sixth and final NBA championship triumph with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

"I finished The Last Dance the other day, it was excellent," Biglia told FM 94.7. "It got me thinking that, in a few years, hopefully we will be able to watch something similar with our own phenomenon.

"[We could] learn a load of things about his day-to-day. Because you see him train, you see him play but so many things happen on a day-to-day basis that you don't know about, as we see [with Jordan] in the series.

"The scene that I would like to see in the future is the one when Jordan is hugging the [NBA] trophy and crying. I would like to see that with Messi and the World Cup. That I would like to see. I know what it would mean for him and for the Argentine people."

Argentina's defeat in the 2016 Copa America final – the third time Messi has finished runner-up at the tournament – led to the Barca forward quitting international football for a time.

Biglia admits it has been tough to see Messi endure so much disappointment with his country given his overall success in the sport.

He added: "Why does a person have to suffer so much? In the last World Cup, to see how the elimination hit him, that's when you ask yourself, 'why?'. That stayed with me. Not just on the pitch, but off it.

"It hurts me to see him suffer so much and makes me ask myself why he has to suffer in that way. I pray to God that we can see him at the next World Cup in two years' time."

After the Bundesliga's successful return, LaLiga looks to be up next among Europe's top five leagues.

Spain's top flight has been suspended since March 12 after Real Madrid went into quarantine when a player on their basketball team tested positive for coronavirus.

A resumption date of June 8 has been approved, however, and a tense title tussle is back on the cards between the country's two grandest clubs.

Ahead of the big kick-off behind closed doors, we take a look at the story so far in this LaLiga campaign.
 

What is the state of play?

Madrid have won the domestic league title in just one of the past seven seasons, yet they are poised to push Barcelona all the way this time.

It is Barca who again have the advantage for now, though, holding a two-point lead over their bitter rivals, having reclaimed top spot ahead of the suspension when Zinedine Zidane's side lost at Real Betis.

Defeat in Seville represented a bitter blow for Madrid, who seemed to have seized the initiative by beating the Blaugrana at the Santiago Bernabeu the previous week.

The big two still have work to do in the Champions League - Madrid trail Manchester City after a last-16 first leg, as Barca-Napoli stands at 1-1 - but there is no third horse in the race positioned to take advantage.

It is all to play for in the race for Champions League qualification, as just two points separate third-placed Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in sixth.

Shot-shy draw kings Atleti upset holders Liverpool to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition, but must battle past Real Sociedad and Getafe to be assured of a return to the big time next season.

At the foot of the table, Espanyol, Leganes and Real Mallorca occupy the relegation places. Celta Vigo are a point clear of Mallorca in 17th.
 

What have been the big controversies?

Even by Barca's colourful standards, this has been a particularly tumultuous season.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January following a Supercopa de Espana semi-final reverse at the hands of Atletico, and sporting director Eric Abidal bravely picked a fight with the squad, including former team-mate Lionel Messi, by suggesting players were not working hard enough for the dismissed boss.

Messi fired back and claimed Abidal was "dirtying" the squad, with reports of discontent behind the scenes persisting ever since.

To make matters worse for Barca, club great Messi has a clause in his contract that could prompt a free transfer - although such a departure still seems incredibly unlikely.

Ivan Rakitic is among the Blaugrana stars who might well depart, reminding the club: "I am not a sack of potatoes. I will decide my future. I want to be where I am valued."

Sales are said to be required to fund potential big-money bids for Lautaro Martinez and ex-Barca forward Neymar.
 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

New head coach Quique Setien was not immediately able to arrest Barca's January slump and they ceded top spot to Madrid after a run of just two wins in six in the league.

However, the Catalan giants had been a picture of consistency since the January 25 loss at Valencia - until visiting Madrid.

A run of four straight wins was ended by Zidane's men, yet Barca were back on track when they beat Sociedad prior to the pause in play.

Madrid, by contrast, have taken just four points from their past four games, with the Barca game sandwiched between a pair of defeats. Los Blancos had previously lost just once in the league this term.

The suspension came at a frustrating time for Sociedad, meanwhile, after four wins in five - losing only to the leaders - moved the Basque outfit into the top four.

Wins for Leganes and Mallorca in their most recent fixtures ensured both sides retained survival hopes.
 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

The positive test for a Madrid basketball players may have prompted the season's suspension, but Valencia were the LaLiga club most prominent in early discussion of coronavirus.

Ezequiel Garay, Jose Gaya and Eliaquim Mangala each confirmed diagnoses, before Los Che revealed on March 16 that 35 per cent of those at the club tested had returned positive results.

Madrid still made the headlines, though, as forward Luka Jovic was criticised for breaching self-isolation measures on his return to Serbia.

Fifteen cases were soon confirmed at Deportivo Alaves, too, while Spain has become one of the worst-affected countries with more than 28,000 related deaths.

The country's leading players at least helped to limit the financial impact of the crisis with pay cuts, with Barca stars forgoing more than 70 per cent of their wages.

Andres Iniesta believes Lionel Messi is the best in the world and feels Barcelona should have won more Champions League crowns with the superstar captain.

Messi has established himself as one of the all-time greats in football – becoming Barca's leading scorer in their history and claiming a record six Ballons d'Or.

The 32-year-old's standing is often compared to Juventus foe and former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Barca great Iniesta – now playing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe – ranks former team-mate Messi as the number one.

"He makes the difference in every way," Spanish veteran Iniesta, 36, told Ole.

"He is as capable of scoring a hat-trick as he is providing a hat-trick of assists, if it looks good watching from the stands, it looks even better when you're close up.

"For me, he is number one because of that, he can make the difference at any moment, although he can't be the whole team."

Since emerging at Barca in 2004, Messi has helped deliver four Champions League titles, to go with 10 LaLiga trophies and other silverware.

Iniesta said Barca should have been able to celebrate more Champions League success with Messi at the forefront.

"With the team at Barcelona and with Leo there, Barcelona surely should have been able to win some more Champions Leagues," Iniesta added.

"Football is like this though; you play tough opponents who also have talent.

"It's important that when you do win things, you savour them."

Lautaro Martinez partnering Lionel Messi at Barcelona would benefit Argentina but it will be tough to sign him from Inter, Albiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni acknowledges.

Barca have reportedly earmarked Martinez as the long-term replacement to Luis Suarez, who is now 33, which would see him form a mouth-watering tandem with international team-mate Messi.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi himself last week talked up the talents of Martinez, though he was reluctant to discuss any potential deal being struck.

Martinez scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions this term prior to the suspension of Serie A due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scaloni thinks his burgeoning talent would only improve playing regularly with Messi, but says Martinez is already playing for a top team who have little incentive to sell.

Speaking to RTVE, Martinez said: "Lautaro today is the fashionable striker, the one who every big team wants.

"He is already with a big team, which competes equally with other teams and it will be very difficult to get him out of there.

"If Lautaro is lucky enough to go and play with a team-mate like Messi at Barcelona, for us, the more they play together, the better.

"Lautaro is a young player with an incredible future. He is strong and has a great desire to succeed.

"I don't want to interfere, but if he does change clubs, I hope he does well."

 

Getafe came close to signing Lionel Messi on loan and appointing Pep Guardiola as coach, according to the club's president, Angel Torres.

Torres has had an effective working relationship with Joan Laporta, who was Barca president between 2003 and 2010.

The Getafe chief attempted to make the most of those ties by bringing Messi to the club on a loan spell during his first few seasons with the Catalans' first team.

Ultimately, head coach Frank Rijkaard stopped the move from taking place.

"In Messi's first or second year [in the first team], we came really close to bringing him to Getafe on loan," Torres told Marca.

"In the end, [Frank] Rijkaard didn't agree to it and we were left with just our desire."

As well as a failed attempt to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Torres had also been keen to make Guardiola Getafe coach.

The intention was to swap him with Michael Laudrup, who was Getafe boss at the time, as Laporta was apparently unconvinced by Guardiola when he first stepped up from his role as B team head coach in 2008.

"One day, [former Barca sporting director] Txiki [Begiristain] was at a European draw in Switzerland and the idea was that Laudrup would go to Barcelona and we would get Guardiola as a replacement," Torres said.

"To start with, Laporta wasn't convinced by Pep at all."

Laporta's decision to stick with Guardiola paid dividends when Barca won the treble in his first season in charge, with Messi scoring the second goal in the 2-0 Champions League final victory over Manchester United.

Lionel Messi plays "different football to the others" and outranks Diego Maradona, Brazilian great Ronaldo and even US basketball superstar Michael Jordan in the sporting pantheon, according to Robert Prosinecki.

Barcelona and Argentina maestro Messi is "surely" the best footballer of all time, former Real Madrid and Barca playmaker Prosinecki claimed.

Prosinecki said in an interview with Stats Perform News that Messi, who has scored over 600 goals for Barcelona, still finishes top of the pile when the career of Chicago Bulls legend and six-time NBA champion Jordan is taken into account.

"It is different, basketball and football. But Messi is surely for me the best," said Prosinecki.

"He is a player who has made differences for many years in Barcelona. He has won everything he could win. He scored many goals and assisted many times too. He plays different football to the others."

Former Croatia midfield marauder Prosinecki knows some still look to Messi's fellow Argentinian Maradona when judging the greats, as well as two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo.

Prosinecki and Ronaldo were briefly team-mates at Camp Nou.

"Maybe some people will say Maradona, Ronaldo... I don't know," Prosinecki said. "There have been amazing players. They are from two different eras. For me he [Messi] is the best one."

According to Prosinecki's verdict, Messi and Brazilian Ronaldo are players that have shown themselves capable and willing to take on teams single-handedly.

"They are different to others. Ronaldo is surely one of the best," Prosinecki said.

"Some people would say Cristiano Ronaldo, but [Brazilian Ronaldo] didn't just play at Barcelona.

"He also had some amazing seasons at Inter. He used to beat rivals almost himself alone. Incredible. They are players who make differences. At Real Madrid too. Where didn't he perform?

"For sure he was a great player. However, if I have to say one, for me the best is Leo Messi."

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