Hull City snatched a 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic on Friday thanks to an own goal from goalkeeper Dillon Phillips in the final seconds of the game.

Darren Pratley's header had given Lee Bowyer's side a half-time lead before Jarrod Bowen equalised from close range two minutes after the restart.

Charlton restored their advantage when Naby Sarr tapped in Jonathan Leko's cross, which looked to have been enough to secure all three points.

However, Phillips parried Keane Lewis-Potter's header onto the right post and the ball bounced in off the keeper's head in the sixth minute of injury time, with what proved to be the final act of the match.

Hull move above Millwall on goal difference into 13th in the Championship, six points clear of Charlton in 17th.

Brazil, Colombia and Japan will rival Australia and New Zealand for the right to host the 2023 Women's World Cup.

A joint bid from Football Federation Australia (FFA) and New Zealand Football (NZF) for the first 32-team edition of the competition was announced in Melbourne earlier on Friday.

FIFA has now confirmed that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Colombian Football Federation (FCF) and Japan Football Association (JFA) all submitted bids prior to the December 13 deadline.

A proposed joint bid from North and South Korea was not included in the final shortlist, with the Korea Football Association (KFA) having withdrawn their application, citing diplomatic tension between the two countries.

An assessment of the bids will now follow, which includes inspection visits to each member association, likely in January and February of next year.

The eligible bids will then be presented to the FIFA Council, which will select the host at a meeting in Addis Ababa in June 2020.

"France 2019 was certainly a watershed moment for women's football, and now it is FIFA's responsibility to take concrete measures to keep fostering the game's incredible growth," said FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

"With the FIFA Women's World Cup generating an unprecedented interest across member associations, we are ensuring that the process to select the hosts is seamless, objective, ethical and transparent.

"By the time the FIFA Council announces the hosts, there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why that choice was made."

The United States won the 2019 World Cup, beating Netherlands 2-0 in the final in Lyon to defend the trophy they claimed in 2015.

James Milner has extended his contract with Liverpool to prolong his stay at the club beyond the end of this season.

Liverpool have not announced the exact length of the agreement but it is reported to be a two-and-a-half year deal.

The fresh terms for vice-captain Milner came on the same day the club renewed manager Jurgen Klopp's contract until 2024.

Milner, who turns 34 in January, joined the European champions in 2015 on a free transfer from Manchester City and came off the bench in their Champions League final win over Tottenham last season.

His previous deal with Premier League leaders Liverpool was due to expire at the end of the season but he will now remain part of Klopp's squad going forward.

"I've been lucky and privileged to play for this club for four and a half years now," Milner said. "It has been an amazing time seeing how the club is changing and developing."

The fresh terms for Milner capped a productive day for the Reds – who begin their Club World Cup campaign next week – after Klopp's long-term extension.

"Obviously the gaffer waited to sign his dependent on whether I signed mine, so that makes me a feel bit more important!" he joked.

Milner added: "We had discussions with the club and this was obviously the ideal for me, this was what I wanted to do – stay and play at the highest level as long as I can.

"Liverpool is an unbelievable place to be and we're a very, very good football team. I enjoy being part of this football club and hopefully we can keep improving."

Milner has played 198 games for Liverpool, 21 of those appearances coming this season.

"Obviously winning a trophy last year, it's easy to sit back or take your foot off the gas, and we've gone the other way," said Milner.

"You can see the drive in the squad to keep pushing and to try to play at the intensity that we play at every couple of days, which we are at the moment.

"We'll keep striving to keep improving and getting success for this club."

Diego Simeone has responded to calls for Joao Felix to be given a more important role with Atletico Madrid by insisting he too wants to see the player in top form in every match.

The 20-year-old forward, a €126million signing from Benfica in the previous transfer window, scored a penalty during a strong performance in the 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday that secured Atleti's place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It was Joao Felix's most promising display since he returned from an ankle injury that saw him miss six matches, in which Simeone's side were criticised for a lack of cutting edge in attack.

There are calls for the Portugal international to start Saturday's LaLiga match against Osasuna as the linchpin of the attack once more, as Atleti aim for what would be just a fourth win in 14 league games.

Simeone, too, is eager to unleash Joao Felix and see him maintain his level of form.

"I also want to see him every day and want to see him in the best form possible, no doubt about that," he told reporters on Friday.

"We know what we need to do to improve in LaLiga.

"We have a tough opponent, who have come up into the Primera Division in a very strong way, with great collective work.

"Beyond the criticism and the opinions, we're looking for routes to get us back to having balance. This balance is more clear now, and with more regularity across the 90 minutes, there are more chances to win."

Simeone also confirmed discussions are under way as to Atletico's plans for the January transfer window.

They are rumoured to be prepared to go back in for Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno, while Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Tottenham's Christian Eriksen have also been linked, as has Torino forward Andrea Belotti.

"As always, we're talking with [CEO] Miguel Angel [Gil Marin] and with [sporting director] Andrea [Berta] about what the team needs," Simeone said. "But I'm only thinking about Osasuna."

Atleti are seventh in the table after 16 matches, eight points behind both leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid, having played a game more.

Ezequiel Lavezzi has announced his retirement from professional football.

The 34-year-old said in a statement on social media that he is calling time on "the most amazing phase life has given me".

Lavezzi had suggested last month that he could end his playing career after Hebei China Fortune's final Chinese Super League match of 2019 against Wuhan Zall on December 1, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

The former Argentina international, who won 51 caps for his country and reached the finals of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 and 2016 Copas America, wrote on Twitter on Friday: "They were amazing years of this story.

"Years marked by learning, unique moments and lots of memories that will stay in my heart for good.

"I am forever grateful for those who have stayed by my side throughout this journey.

"With lots of joy, I say goodbye to the most amazing phase life has given me. I've been extremely happy!"

Lavezzi moved to Hebei China Fortune in 2016 after four years with Paris Saint-Germain, with whom he won four Ligue 1 titles, two Coupes de la Ligue, two Trophees des Champions and the Coupe de France.

He was previously part of a formidable attacking trio with Napoli, alongside Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik, and won the Coppa Italia in 2012 with a 2-0 win over Juventus in the final.

Lavezzi started his career with Rosario Central before spending a year with Estudiantes and three with San Lorenzo, where he won the 2007 Clausura title.

Al Hilal captain Mohammad Al Shalhoub is determined to make sure their maiden Club World Cup campaign continues into the semi-finals ahead of a debut clash with ES Tunis.

The champions of Asia and Africa meet at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday for the right to face Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo in the last four next week.

Al Hilal became continental kings for the first time since 2000 this year, beating Urawa Red Diamonds 3-0 on aggregate in the AFC Champions League final to avenge their 2-1 defeat to the same opponents two years ago.

The Saudi Arabian side boast a strong contingent of experienced players, including former Juventus and Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco, ex-Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis and Peru international Andre Carrillo, and it is hoped this core will help calm any nerves ahead of Al Hilal's first outing on club football's world stage.

Al Shalhoub also aims to put on a showcase of the developing quality of Arabic football when he faces a Tunisian side with which he is very familiar.

"We are very happy to be here. We consider this the natural place for us," he told reporters.

"We hope we will reflect the development of Arabic football and get through the first stage, which is very important for us.

"I always follow the Tunisian clubs and I know they are very strong teams. We know a lot about the clubs and the Tunisian players, who are highly capable. We know the next match will be a beautiful derby that reflects the development of football."

Al Hilal coach Razvan Lucescu hopes their lack of experience will be offset by the positivity of having won the AFC Champions League less than a month ago.

"It's true that experience is very important at this level, but at the same time, enthusiasm and motivation are also very important. After winning the Champions League of Asia, we are full of motivation," he said.

"We know Esperance are a physical team while having quality from midfield and upwards. But we have a lot of quality and motivation. We're waiting for this game."

Esperance reached their third Club World Cup after winning the CAF Champions League for the second year in a row in contentious circumstances, the Tunisians being awarded the trophy after the second leg was forced to be abandoned by Wydad Casablanca's protests over a disallowed goal in May.

Having been beaten convincingly 3-0 by Al Ain last year, Esperance are better prepared for the 2019 finals, according to head coach Moin Chaabani.

"This is the first game for us, and the ultimate goal for us is to achieve success in the next match," he said. "Al Hilal are a well-respected team. They have world-class players and very talented strikers.

"For Esperance, this is the second [consecutive] participation at the Club World Cup. Unfortunately, we did not win the first match and were knocked out. This time, we're more focused and ready to play a good match. The concentration is very high."
 

Players to watch

Al Hilal – Bafetimbi Gomis

Gomis has rejuvenated his career in recent seasons with Marseille, Galatasaray and now Al Hilal. The 34-year-old, a 12-time France international, scored 11 goals in 14 games to finish as the AFC Champions League's top scorer in 2019.

ES Tunis – Anice Badri

With four goals in six matches in the league this season, Badri is likely to be key to Esperance's chances of springing something of a surprise on Saturday.

Al Sadd coach Xavi attempted to ease the pressure on his team ahead of their Club World Cup quarter-final with Monterrey on Saturday.

Xavi's side squeezed past Hienghene Sport of New Caledonia in their previous match, with the unfancied OFC Champions League winners forcing extra time after a thrilling 1-1 draw.

Tournament hosts Al Sadd ultimately had too much for Hienghene, claiming a 3-1 win after the additional 30 minutes, though the performance appeared to show cracks in the Qatari club's armour.

There is no doubt in Xavi's mind what the outcome should be in Saturday's encounter with historic Mexican club Monterrey, who he considers to be of a higher level than Al Sadd.

"I'll tell my players that we have nothing to lose when we face tough teams," he said. "We are seen as the losers and we have to take advantage of that.

"The pressure is with Monterrey. They are a bigger name and have players at a higher level than we are.

"But everything is possible and if you want to achieve success, you have to try to be better."

CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey begin their campaign with Saturday's match, having beaten bitter rivals Tigres UANL in the two-legged final of their region's biggest competition in April and May.

But then-coach Diego Alonso was sacked in September after Tigres exacted their revenge in Liga MX.

Antonio Mohamed took over for a second spell in charge and remains unbeaten with nine wins in 12 competitive matches, allowing the Rayados to come into the Club World Cup with momentum.

Mohamed is relishing the opportunity to go up against Xavi, whom he admires, though his focus remains fixed on a potential match-up with Liverpool.

"If Xavi the coach is 50 per cent as good as he was as a player, he is going to be really successful," Mohamed said. "It's an honour to play against him.

"I know he was the perfect player on and off the pitch. He was very talented. We have followed his team and he is making them emulate Barcelona's style.

"They control the ball and this is a challenge for us. We will test our will, our ability and the possibility to have the upper hand from a tactical point of view.

"To play Liverpool, we have to win. We have to win, if we don't then the Liverpool match doesn't exist. By saying that we're coming for everything, we are preparing everyone to compete."

 

Players to watch

Monterrey – Rogelio Funes Mori

Funes Mori has begun to show the talent he was said to possess during his formative years at River Plate since joining Monterrey from Benfica in 2015. An underwhelming stint in Europe – which included a loan to Eskisehirspor – is well behind him and the former Argentina youth international is flourishing with the Rayados in another fine campaign. He heads into the game with six goals in his past four matches and is Monterrey's top scorer in Liga MX with 11, six more than Vincent Janssen.

Al Sadd –  Baghdad Bounedjah

In a match that had few positives for Al Sadd, given how they struggled for long periods against such an unfancied Hienghene side, Bounedjah did at least live up to his reputation. The sharpshooter opened the scoring with a well-taken volley in the first half and remained a threat, though he failed to add to his tally. Like Funes Mori, he has scored six times in his four most recent outings for club and country, though Bounedjah also netted an astonishing 39 in 22 Stars League matches last term.

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is confident Philippe Coutinho is "on the right track" after getting on the scoresheet in the midweek win over Tottenham.

Coutinho's impact at the Allianz Arena has been questioned since arriving on loan from Barcelona at the start of the season.

The Brazil international has scored four goals and provided five assists in 19 games for Bayern, who are seventh in the Bundesliga.

One of those goals came in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League victory against Tottenham, with Coutinho earning praise from stand-in boss Flick for his display.

"He played very well against Tottenham. It was important for him to do so," Flick said at his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with Werder Bremen.

"He is in a very good way and is on the right track. It's not easy to come to Germany and get a foothold straight away. He will show his quality again."

Coutinho could be used on the left wing against Bremen due to the absence of Kingsley Coman, who has been ruled out with a knee injury.

Alphonso Davies is also in contention to play in that position, but Flick is keeping his options open.

Asked whether Coutinho is in line to start, he said: "We will see.

"I have been very satisfied with Alphonso. He has done very well defensively. His pace makes him an asset for us at the back. 

"He is also very strong on the ball. I really like his development."

Bayern are also without Javi Martinez, Corentin Tolisso, Jann-Fiete Arp, Lucas Hernandez, Niklas Sule and Michael Cuisance for the visit of Bremen.

The reigning Bundesliga champions are seven points adrift of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach and Flick has acknowledged his side cannot afford another off day this weekend.

"We need to approach the game with focus. They can surprise us if we're not at 100 per cent," he said.

"We want to end the year with three wins. It's not easy, but that's the target we have set ourselves. Not everything is perfect. You can never achieve perfection.

"We have to work better together, put pressure on the opponent early on. We have a lot of possession, but it is important to avoid losing the ball in dangerous areas."

Ernesto Valverde has described Pedro as an "historic" Barcelona player after the Chelsea winger claimed he would like to return to Camp Nou.

Pedro told Ser Catalunya this week that he would love to go back to the club where he won 20 major trophies, including five LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues, between 2008 and 2015.

The 32-year-old has only played four times in the Premier League under Frank Lampard this season and, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, it has been suggested the Spain international could be allowed to leave next month.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Barca coach Valverde said of Pedro: "He's an historic Barca player - let's not kid ourselves. He's one of the players to win the most titles with this club, but he plays for another club now.

"We have to respect players at other clubs. We'll see what might happen in the future."

The futures of two Barca midfielders are also uncertain ahead of the opening of the transfer window, with Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal each linked with moves to Serie A.

Rakitic struggled for game time early in the season and even admitted his situation was causing him to fall out of love with football, although he has impressed in the recent run of victories over Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Real Mallorca and Inter.

"He's playing well, as is everybody else," Valverde said of the Croatia midfielder. "We're in a clinical time of the season and we've found some good form.

"When it's the summer window, people start asking what happens, then you get to breathe a bit and then it's the winter market.

"We have to deal with the challenges we have with the players we have. Rakitic has missed lots of games but he's playing more games now, and if he's doing that, it's because he's playing well."

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta confirmed after his side's defeat to Barca that Vidal was of interest to them, but Valverde was vague on his plans for the player.

"How can I respond to information that comes or doesn't come from us? This information came from Inter. They will know," he added.

"In our case, the market has not yet opened. Arturo is our player and we'll need him if we think it convenient."

Jurgen Klopp signed a new contract with Liverpool on Friday that keeps him tied down to the European champions for another four-and-a-half years.

The German coach guided the Reds to Champions League success last season and is on course to end the club's long wait for a maiden Premier League crown this term.

Now in his fifth campaign at Anfield, and with potentially at least three more to come, we look at the work Klopp has done so far on Merseyside.


FINAL HEARTACHE CAPS MIXED FIRST SEASON

Liverpool experienced two cup final defeats in Klopp's first campaign at the helm, losing on penalties to Manchester City in the EFL Cup and 3-1 to Sevilla in the Europa League.

Despite falling short on both occasions and enduring largely mixed results in the Premier League - beating City 4-1 away a month before going down 3-0 to Watford - supporters were willing to stay patient.

KLOPP REPAYS LIVERPOOL FAITH

Rewarded with a six-year extension ahead of his first full season at Anfield, Klopp repaid the faith shown in him by guiding the Reds back into the Champions League with a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League.

Liverpool's improving consistency saw them racked up 16 more points in 2016-17 than they had 12 months prior, providing clear evidence that things were on the up.

TOTTENHAM HUMBLING PROVES TURNING POINT

Klopp may be considered a Liverpool legend now, but a 4-1 loss away to Tottenham in October 2017 - making it three wins in their first nine league games in 2017-18 - led to questions being asked of the German.

Results quickly improved, but there was still the feeling Liverpool might be a little fragile at the back until, in January 2018, they spent a then club-record fee on Virgil van Dijk.

While the signings of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah thrilled Liverpool fans, this arrival would take them to the next level.

A STEP TOO FAR IN KIEV

Another final for Liverpool, another heartbreaking defeat - even as Van Dijk starred.

A Gareth-Bale inspired Real Madrid came out on top in the 2018 Champions League final, ending a magical run that had seen the Reds produce attacking masterclasses to overcome Porto, Manchester City and Roma en route to the Kiev showpiece.

Having come so close to glory, Klopp again made big moves in the transfer market. In came Brazil international goalkeeper Alisson - replacing final flop Loris Karius - as well as midfield reinforcements in Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.

REDEMPTION IN MADRID SOFTENS DOMESTIC BLOW

Despite accruing 97 points in 2018-19, Liverpool were remarkably pipped to the Premier League title by Pep Guardiola's City side.

The blow of finishing as runners-up with nearly a century of points was softened three weeks later, however, as goals from Salah and Divock Origi earned Klopp's men a 2-0 win in the Champions League final against Tottenham.

Buoyed by that first major European success in 14 years - and indeed the subsequent victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup - Liverpool have started 2019-20 in remarkable form and are firmly in contention for a clean sweep of silverware.

Jurgen Klopp saluted his players after adding the Premier League Manager of the Month award to the long-term Liverpool contract extension he signed on Friday.

The German claimed the prize for the third time this term in a quick reminder of why the Reds handed him a deal running through to 2024.

Klopp guided the European champions to four successive victories in November, including a crucial 3-1 win over title rivals Manchester City.

Liverpool sit eight points clear of second-placed Leicester City after 16 matches, with champions City 14 points behind the leaders.

"It feels really good," Klopp said. "But I don't take it personally. My players are responsible for that, obviously, because they have so far played an outstanding season."

Among the most impressive performers for Liverpool has been Sadio Mane, who was named Player of the Month.

Mane found the net three times and registered one assist in November.

Among the goals was a late winner in the 2-1 victory at Aston Villa, as the Reds came from behind with two strikes in the closing stages.

The Senegal international has been in fine form throughout the season, elevating himself to become arguably Liverpool's most crucial player in attack, with nine goals and four assists in his 15 league outings.

Mane's stellar record has helped the club charge to a 46-point haul that has them on track to to win their first league title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp is the best manager in world football and would be Liverpool's first-choice candidate if searching for a new boss in 2019, the club's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) said following his contract extension.

Liverpool confirmed on Friday that Klopp has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract to keep him at the club until 2024, as they surge towards an historic first Premier League title.

Klopp joined the Reds in 2015 and quickly began to oversee a steady improvement in their fortunes, reaching two finals in his first year.

Although they fell at the last hurdle on both of those occasions in the EFL Cup and Europa League, two years later Klopp guided Liverpool to a first Champions League final since 2007.

Another final defeat did little to deter them and they lifted European football's biggest prize earlier this year in Madrid, while they are coasting towards a first league title in 30 years having dropped only two points in 16 Premier League matches this term.

Klopp's commitment - which was announced shortly before he was confirmed as the Premier League's Manager of the Month for November - unsurprisingly left FSG's leadership team in triumphant mood.

"We feel this represents one of the big moments of our stewardship of Liverpool so far, as we believe there is no better manager than Jurgen," a statement on behalf of FSG principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon read.

"The decision also keeps with the club's overall strategy of building from a position of strength.

"It means Jurgen will oversee the ongoing transition from Melwood to the new Kirkby training base as the club continues to pursue a vision of being elite in all facets of the industry.

"It also provides us with continuity with the existing football operations management structure, overseen by sporting director Michael Edwards, whose input into the project cannot be overestimated.

"He has been – and will continue to be – as indispensably important as anyone else to the direction of Liverpool. In Jurgen and Michael, we are blessed with world-class leadership.

"This is a collective partnership that has seen the club reach and then re-establish itself as an elite performer at home and abroad.

"Back in 2015, we used the phrase 'ideal fit' when we appointed Jurgen. This continues to apply today and, if anything, the circumstances make it more pertinent. We consider him to be the best there is.

"If Liverpool were looking to appoint the most outstanding, elite manager for our current status today, Jurgen would be the first choice – no question. We believe this deal cements a relationship built on trust and mutual benefit: Jurgen has delivered for LFC, and LFC has delivered for Jurgen.

"Both parties have come to the conclusion that by continuing to work together and build on the work of the last four years, the opportunity exists to maximise each other's potential."

Jurgen Klopp has signed a new two-year contract extension with Liverpool, keeping him on Merseyside until 2024, the club confirmed on Friday.

The German sees the agreement as an indicator of where the club is heading, convinced Liverpool's development will only continue.

"For me, personally, this is a statement of intent, one which is built on my knowledge of what we as a partnership have achieved so far and what is still there for us to achieve," Klopp said.

"When I see the development of the club and the collaborative work that continues to take place, I feel my contribution can only grow.

"People see what happens on the pitch as a measure of our progress and, although it is the best measure, it's not the only measure. I have seen the commitment from ownership through to every aspect and function of the club you can think of.

"When the call came in autumn 2015, I felt we were perfect for each other; if anything, now I feel I underestimated that.

"It is only with a total belief that the collaboration remains totally complementary on both sides that I am able to make this commitment to 2024. If I didn't, I would not be re-signing."

Klopp has overseen a steady improvement since joining the club in 2015, making them top-four regulars again before building from that platform and restoring fans' faith in Liverpool's ability to challenge for major honours.

The Reds were beaten in both the EFL Cup and Europa League finals in the manager's first season, and they have shown immense progress from there.

In 2017-18, Liverpool reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2006-07, although they were defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid.

Klopp's men were not to be deterred and returned the following year, going all the way and winning 2-0 against Tottenham in the final in June, becoming champions of Europe for a sixth time.

And while Liverpool missed out on a maiden Premier League title in 2018-19 - chasing a first top-flight championship since 1989-90 - as they finished a point adrift of champions Manchester City, the Reds are well on course to put that right in 2020.

The European champions sit eight points clear at the top of the league table after 16 games.

Klopp insists all of the focus should not be on him, however, as he paid tribute to sporting director Michael Edwards.

"This club is in such a good place, I couldn't contemplate leaving," he continued. "I must also highlight the role of Michael Edwards in this journey so far.

"His input and collaboration has been just as important as anyone else's in getting us into a position to compete for the game's top titles.

"For anyone in football who aspires to compete in an environment where every element of the organisation is at its very best - from the support of the supporters to the vision of the owners - there can be no better place than this."

Klopp's assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders have also extended their respective contracts until 2024.

Steven Gerrard has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him as Rangers manager until 2024, the club have confirmed.

Liverpool great Gerrard, 39, confirmed earlier this week talks over a new deal were at an advanced stage and confirmation of an agreement arrived on Friday.

The former midfielder took charge at Rangers ahead of the 2018-19 season and led them to a second-placed finish, but they look set to run Celtic much closer this term and Gerrard is thrilled to see the club building towards success once again.

"I'm delighted to be extending my stay at this fantastic football club," Gerrard told the club's website.

"When Dave King [chairman] approached me about the possibility of extending my contract with Rangers, it was a very easy decision to make because I'm very happy and feel that we are building something special together at the club.

"I'd like to thank the board for the backing they have given me already in my time at the club and also most importantly, the Rangers fans who have given me and the team such tremendous backing both this season and last."

Although Rangers ended nine points adrift of Scottish Premiership champions Celtic last season, they improved on their third-place finish from the campaign before and are on track for a real title tussle in 2020.

After 15 matches, Rangers are just two points adrift of Celtic, with the pair running away from the rest of the pack, as Motherwell in third are seven points further behind despite playing two matches more.

Gerrard's contract extension comes as a major show of faith less than a week after losing 1-0 to Celtic in Sunday's thrilling League Cup final.

Rangers were the better side for much of the contest but failed to make the most of Celtic being down to 10 men for the final 27 minutes following Jeremie Frimpong's dismissal.

They followed that up with a 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the Europa League on Thursday, securing their progress to the knockout phase from a tricky pool that also included Porto and Feyenoord.

Lionel Messi can certainly be considered the best player of his era but Brazil great and former Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho does not think he is the greatest of all time.

Messi won a record sixth Ballon d'Or earlier this month, taking him ahead of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

While the Juventus star has shown signs of decline over the past year or so at 34, Messi – two years his junior – continues to sparkle in LaLiga with Barca.

Despite missing a chunk of the early-season action through injury, Messi already leads the scoring charts in Spain's top flight with 12 goals from just nine starts – Karim Benzema has 11 from 14.

The Argentina star's form has been particularly impressive over the past six weeks, netting 13 times in 10 games for club and country, most recently hitting a hat-trick in Barca's 5-2 triumph over Real Mallorca.

But Ronaldinho, who spent the best part of four years as Messi's team-mate, is uneasy about suggestions the forward is the greatest to ever play the sport.

Speaking at a charity event in Mexico, Ronaldinho said: "I'm glad for Messi because he's a friend, aside from the fact he's been a leader of Barcelona.

"I don't like comparisons because it's hard to identify who is the best in history. There's Diego Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo.

"I can't say that Messi is the best ever, but he is the best in his time."

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