Lionel Messi edged out Virgil van Dijk to claim the Ballon d'Or for a record sixth time on Monday.

The Barcelona superstar climbed four places from his 2018 ranking as he beat runner-up Van Dijk and third-placed Cristiano Ronaldo to the most prestigious individual accolade in European club football.

Messi's win, announced at a ceremony in Paris, is his first since 2015 and moves him one ahead of long-time rival Ronaldo.

Luka Modric ended the pair's monopoly 12 months ago but even a Champions League triumph for Liverpool defender Van Dijk failed to keep Messi from reclaiming his crown.

The brilliant Argentina international continues to uphold near-unparalleled standards a decade on from his maiden Ballon d'Or victory.

Messi's winner against Atletico Madrid on Sunday was his 41st goal in 44 club appearances in 2019.

He has added 15 assists in that time and was LaLiga's top scorer last term as Barca cruised to the title.

In September, Messi was named The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2019, with Van Dijk in second spot and Ronaldo third.

Megan Rapinoe has added another award to her collection after the United States star beat Lucy Bronze and Alex Morgan to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin.

The 34-year-old became a World Cup winner for the second time in July, claiming both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot in France as her six goals helped Jill Ellis' team retain their trophy.

That led to Rapinoe being named The Best FIFA Women's Player in September and she has now succeeded Ada Hegerberg by winning the second ever Ballon d'Or Feminin.

England and Lyon right-back Bronze finished second in the voting while Rapinoe's USA team-mate Morgan was third.

Watford have sacked Quique Sanchez Flores less than three months after bringing him back for a second spell as head coach.

The Premier League club announced the decision on Sunday, the day after a 2-1 loss to fellow strugglers Southampton.

Watford surrendered a first-half lead at St Mary's and remain rooted to the bottom of the table with eight points from 14 games.

In a statement issued on their official website, Watford pledged to move swiftly to install Flores' successor.

"Quique is a man of great integrity and it was clear how much he wanted to have a positive impact, but ultimately results have dictated our decision," said chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury. 

"The appointment of a new head coach is imminent, and with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining, we will provide all the support necessary to make the coming months successful."

Flores, who presided over a creditable 2015-16 campaign, only returned to Vicarage Road in September after more than three years away.

He replaced Javi Gracia after a slow start to the season but was unable to rectify poor results.

The former Valencia and Atletico Madrid boss took charge of 12 games in all competitions for two wins, four draws and six defeats, including the humiliating 8-0 loss to Manchester City.

Former Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton is rumoured to be one of the frontrunners for the Watford post.

Watford have sacked Quique Sanchez Flores less than three months after bringing him back for a second spell as head coach.

The Premier League club announced the decision on Sunday, the day after a 2-1 loss to fellow strugglers Southampton.

Watford surrendered a first-half lead at St Mary's and remain rooted to the bottom of the table with eight points from 14 games.

In a statement issued on their official website, Watford pledged to move swiftly to install Flores' successor.

"Quique is a man of great integrity and it was clear how much he wanted to have a positive impact, but ultimately results have dictated our decision," said chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury. 

"The appointment of a new head coach is imminent, and with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining, we will provide all the support necessary to make the coming months successful."

Flores, who presided over a creditable 2015-16 campaign, only returned to Vicarage Road in September after more than three years away.

He replaced Javi Gracia after a slow start to the season but was unable to rectify poor results.

The former Valencia and Atletico Madrid boss took charge of 12 games in all competitions for two wins, four draws and six defeats, including the humiliating 8-0 loss to Manchester City.

Former Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton is rumoured to be one of the frontrunners for the Watford post.

Ousmane Dembele will receive treatment on his injured hamstring at a sports medicine hospital in Qatar, Barcelona have confirmed.

Dembele is expected to be sidelined until February by the injury to his right hamstring, which he sustained during the first half of Barca's 3-1 win over his former club Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old will be unavailable during a tricky run of fixtures for the LaLiga champions, who face Atletico Madrid on Sunday before matches against Mallorca, Inter, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.

Dembele's injury is the latest in a string of fitness issues he has suffered since his €105million transfer from Dortmund in August 2017, including three thigh problems, two damaged hamstrings and an ankle sprain.

A statement on the club's official website said: "Ousmane Dembele is to begin treatment on his right hamstring injury on Sunday, alternating between Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar and work closer to home at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

"The entire recovery programme is being supervised and run by the FC Barcelona medical services.

"The initial forecast is that the player will be out of action for around 10 weeks."

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is likely to be out for up to 10 weeks with a thigh injury, the club have confirmed.

The France international was forced off in the first half of Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League win over former club Borussia Dortmund.

Barca announced on Friday that Dembele has damaged his right hamstring and is expected to be out of action until February.

Dembele is due to miss a difficult run of matches for the LaLiga champions, who face Atletico Madrid, Real Mallorca, Real Sociedad, Real Madrid and Deportivo Alaves before the mid-season break.

He will also sit out the Champions League visit to Inter on December 10 and is highly likely to be unavailable for the revamped Supercopa de Espana, with Barca facing Atletico in the semi-final on January 8.

Dembele, who has started only three league games this season, has seen his Barca career blighted by injuries since he joined from Dortmund for an initial €105million.

The 22-year-old has had three previous thigh problems and twice damaged hamstrings, while he also suffered an ankle sprain in January.

Barca travel to Atleti on Sunday looking to secure their place at the top of the table.The champions are level on 28 points with Madrid after 13 games, with Atleti three points adrift of the leaders and one behind Sevilla.

 

Liverpool will be without Fabinho until the new year due to ankle ligament damage sustained during the 1-1 Champions League draw against Napoli, the Premier League leaders have confirmed.

The Brazil midfielder made way after 18 minutes of Wednesday's match at Anfield and must now sit out a potentially pivotal period of the Reds' campaign.

"Further assessment on the injury has discovered Fabinho will be out of action until the new year," a club statement read.

"The Brazilian will begin a rehabilitation programme with the Reds' medical team at Melwood as he works his way back to full fitness."

Jurgen Klopp's side will battle across four fronts over the next month, defending an eight-point lead at the Premier League summit.

A share of the spoils in midweek means they head to Salzburg on December 10 with qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League still on the line.

A scratch squad will take on Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup on December 17, a day before Liverpool begin their Club World Cup bid in Qatar.

Since joining for a reported initial fee of £39million in May 2018, Fabinho has established himself as a crucial part of Klopp's side – an integral performer in the holding midfield role.

Indeed, he is yet to finish on the losing side in a Premier League game he has started, having come on as a second-half substitute during January's 2-1 defeat to champions Manchester City.

Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday before welcoming Everton for the first Merseyside derby of the season next Wednesday.

Leicester City, who are second in the table, entertain the Reds at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day in what will be a first game back in England following their Club World Cup exertions.

 

Arsenal sack Unai Emery

November 29, 2019

Arsenal have sacked head coach Unai Emery following a seven-match winless streak, the Premier League club confirmed on Friday.

The Gunners lost patience with Emery following Thursday's shock 2-1 Europa League loss at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in front of a sparse crowd.

Emery leaves Arsenal languishing eighth in the Premier League, eight points adrift of the Champions League places.

The Spaniard's coaching team have also departed, with former Gunners midfielder Freddie Ljungberg promoted to take charge of first-team affairs on an interim basis.

Speaking on behalf of the Arsenal board and owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Josh Kroenke said: "Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand.

"We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success."

The statement added: "The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.

"We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach. We have full confidence in Freddie to take us forward.

"The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete."

Emery arrived as Arsene Wenger's replacement ahead of the 2018-19 season, but the former Paris Saint-Germain boss was unable to deliver.

Despite glimpses of improvement, Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League last season after finishing fifth.

They subsequently broke their transfer record by paying £72 million to prise Nicolas Pepe from Lille for the 2019-20 campaign, while Kieran Tierney and David Luiz also moved to the Emirates.

However, their arrivals have not resulted in an upturn of fortunes, with Emery's task made even harder by having to strip Granit Xhaka of the club captaincy.

Xhaka was withdrawn to widespread boos during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on October 27 and reacted by cupping his ear and mouthing obscenities to supporters.

The Switzerland international subsequently lost the armband and did not make a first-team appearance until the Eintracht game.

Mikel Arteta, Massimiliano Allegri, Nuno Espirito Santo, Patrick Vieira and Eddie Howe have all been suggested as potential replacements for Emery, as has former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Sergio Aguero will miss the Manchester derby with a thigh problem sustained in the win over Chelsea, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

Aguero was forced off with the injury in the 77th minute of City's 2-1 victory in the Premier League on Saturday.

Guardiola informed reporters after the match that he believed Aguero's injury was "bad" but could not provide any further details.

However, in his news conference to preview City's Champions League meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk, Guardiola confirmed Aguero will be out of action for several weeks, meaning the striker - who has scored nine league goals this term - will miss the clash with Manchester United on December 7.

"Yes," Guardiola responded when asked if City would be without Aguero for the derby.

"He will be out for a few games, don't know exactly [how long], a few weeks, but he'll be out."

Guardiola was unable to pinpoint Aguero's exact issue, but suggested the problem was a muscular one in the striker's thigh.

"Exactly where I don't know, his [thigh] tendon, at the front."

Gabriel Jesus is set to lead City's line in Aguero's absence, with the 22-year-old Brazil international, who has five goals in all competitions so far in 2019-20, confident he can grasp the opportunity to shine.

"I'm not happy because Sergio is injured. I don't like my friends being injured but I work here every day and I'm ready to play, because I want to improve so yes, I'm ready," Jesus said.

"It's not easy [to wait]. I'm a guy who wants to play, wants to work and improve. I don't feel happy because I want to play but I respect everything and keep working.

"I have to do it all of the time because I am at a big club with big players and a big manager so I have to work and improve as much as possible."

Despite playing second fiddle to Aguero, Jesus insists he has no regrets over moving to City in January 2017.

"When I decided to come to City I knew it was going to be hard because we have Sergio who is the top scorer of the club and scores every game, I knew this," Jesus added.

"I have a chance to play under Pep, with top players here at a big club so that's why I came, to enjoy it and to learn."

Sergio Aguero may have sustained a "bad" injury as Manchester City earned a comeback Premier League win at home to Chelsea, said manager Pep Guardiola.

City only had 46.74 possession against the in-form Blues, the lowest recorded by a Guardiola side in his 381 top-flight matches as a manager, but they collected a crucial three points.

N'Golo Kante had given Chelsea a deserved lead by squeezing a clever finish past returning goalkeeper Ederson, but Kevin De Bruyne's deflected shot levelled the score before Riyad Mahrez curled in what proved the winner.

City's comeback, though, was marred by a trio of injuries to key players as Rodri, David Silva and Aguero all had to be substituted during the second half at Etihad Stadium.

Aguero appeared to be in some discomfort as he hobbled off and Guardiola fears the striker could miss some time for the champions.

"I think Sergio will be bad, I think so... this feeling, tomorrow [Sunday] we will know," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"We will see tomorrow, the feeling is it is muscular. It is what it is, we have young players and we will try [to cope if Aguero is ruled out]."

Winger Juan Cuadrado has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract extension at Juventus, the Serie A champions have confirmed.

The 31-year-old Colombia international joined Juve initially in August 2015, in the first of two consecutive season-long loans from Chelsea.

A permanent €20million switch was finally secured ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Cuadrado has won the Scudetto in each of his four seasons in Serie A, along with three Coppas Italia and a Supercoppa Italiana.

The former Fiorentina man has 15 goals and 28 assists in Juve colours, although he has generally been more concerned with defensive duties this season.

Injury problems forced Maurizio Sarri to field Cuadrado as a full-back, and the majority of his 14 appearances in all competitions this term have come on the right-hand side of defence.

Cuadrado is the second senior member of Juventus' squad to pen fresh terms this week after Italy centre-back Leonardo Bonucci renewed until June 2024.

Tottenham have appointed former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho as Mauricio Pochettino's replacement.

Mourinho, 'The Special One', arrives at Tottenham, who sacked Pochettino just five months after the club's remarkable run to the Champions League final.

Tottenham opted to make a change at the end of the international break, with Spurs languishing in 14th position in the Premier League after 12 rounds.

"I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters," Mourinho said in a statement, having been appointed head coach until the end of 2022-23.

"The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me."

Mourinho was sacked by Premier League rivals United in December but the former Chelsea boss is back in management and London, where the Portuguese will be tasked with salvaging Tottenham's season.

The 56-year-old – a three-time Premier League winner during two spells in charge of London rivals Chelsea – saw his two-and-half-year tenure as United boss come to an end amid poor form and reports of dressing-room unrest.

Mourinho, who also won the treble with Inter in 2010 and led Real Madrid to LaLiga glory in 2011-12, most notably clashed with United star Paul Pogba prior to his Old Trafford exit.

The ex-Porto boss had been linked to Inter before Antonio Conte's appointment, while Mourinho was reportedly in the frame to move to Bayern Munich following Niko Kovac's sacking.

A Madrid comeback had also been touted amid Zinedine Zidane's initial struggles, but Mourinho will now prepare for Saturday's trip to West Ham.

Tottenham have appointed former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho as Mauricio Pochettino's replacement.

Mourinho, 'The Special One', arrives at Tottenham, who sacked Pochettino just five months after the club's remarkable run to the Champions League final.

Tottenham opted to make a change at the end of the international break, with Spurs languishing in 14th position in the Premier League after 12 rounds.

"I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters," Mourinho said in a statement, having been appointed head coach until the end of 2022-23.

"The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me."

Mourinho was sacked by Premier League rivals United in December but the former Chelsea boss is back in management and London, where the Portuguese will be tasked with salvaging Tottenham's season.

The 56-year-old – a three-time Premier League winner during two spells in charge of London rivals Chelsea – saw his two-and-half-year tenure as United boss come to an end amid poor form and reports of dressing-room unrest.

Mourinho, who also won the treble with Inter in 2010 and led Real Madrid to LaLiga glory in 2011-12, most notably clashed with United star Paul Pogba prior to his Old Trafford exit.

The ex-Porto boss had been linked to Inter before Antonio Conte's appointment, while Mourinho was reportedly in the frame to move to Bayern Munich following Niko Kovac's sacking.

A Madrid comeback had also been touted amid Zinedine Zidane's initial struggles, but Mourinho will now prepare for Saturday's trip to West Ham.

Mauricio Pochettino has been sacked as manager of Tottenham, the Premier League club have confirmed.

Pochettino lifted to new heights after taking charge in 2014, leading them to a second-place finish in the Premier League in 2016-17.

That was the second of four consecutive top-four finishes, meaning Spurs became a regular Champions League fixture on his watch and were beaten finalists in Europe's top competition last season, losing 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.

However, a run that featured incredibly dramatic quarter-final and semi-final triumphs over Manchester City and Ajax respectively served to distract from dwindling domestic form that has not picked up this term.

A laboured 1-1 draw against Sheffield United before the international break left Spurs 14th in the table, with three wins and 14 points from 12 top-flight matches.

"We were extremely reluctant to make this change and it is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste," said Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy in a statement that confirmed coaches Jesus Perez, Miguel D'Agostino and Antoni Jimenez would also leave the club.

"Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.

"It falls to the board to make the difficult decisions - this one made more so given the many memorable moments we have had with Mauricio and his coaching staff - but we do so in the club's best interests.

"Mauricio and his coaching staff will always be part of our history. I have the utmost admiration for the manner in which he dealt with the difficult times away from a home ground whilst we built the new stadium and for the warmth and positivity he brought to us.

"I should like to thank him and his coaching staff for all they have contributed. They will always be welcome here.

"We have a talented squad. We need to re-energise and look to deliver a positive season for our supporters."

Pochettino's success at Spurs came despite long periods of inactivity in the transfer market and more than a season-and-a-half as tenants at Wembley for home games as their new stadium was built.

Uncertainty over the future of some key first-team stars has lingered over their poor form this season, which arguably reached its lowest point when Bayern Munich subjected them to a 7-2 Champions League defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are all out of contract in June 2020 and, despite belatedly getting high-quality additions in the form of Giovani Lo Celso and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele, Pochettino was seemingly unable to wring any further excellence from a core squad that has been around for the majority of his tenure.

The struggles are of recent months are unlikely to affect Pochettino's stock in the game, with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern having all been touted as his next possible destinations.

Ex-Chelsea and Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is the early favourite to succeed Pochettino with bookmakers, who also consider Rafael Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti, Eddie Howe, Julian Nagelsmann and Massimiliano Allegri to be in the running.

Mauricio Pochettino has been sacked as manager of Tottenham, the Premier League club have confirmed.
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