Kaka labelled Lionel Messi a "genius" as he picked the Barcelona superstar over Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi – winner of a record six Ballons d'Or – and Ronaldo are regarded as two of the greatest ever players, with debate often centred on who stands alone atop the all-time list.

Kaka played alongside Ronaldo at Real Madrid, but the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner selected Messi as his preferred choice.

"I played with Cristiano and he's really amazing, but I'll go with Messi," Kaka said when asked who he would pick out of Messi or Ronaldo during an Instagram Live Q&A for FIFA's channel.

"He's a genius, a pure talent. The way he plays is incredible."

But on five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, Kaka added: "Cristiano is a machine. It's not just the way he's strong, powerful and fast; he's strong mentally.

"He always wants to win and play. To be the best. For me, that's the most incredible thing he has.

"In the history of sport, they [Messi and Cristiano] are definitely in the top five. We are very lucky to have been able to see both of them."

Barcelona should prioritise re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain over bringing Lautaro Martinez to Camp Nou, insisted former star Rivaldo.

LaLiga champions Barca tried to lure Neymar back to the club following his world-record €222million move to PSG in 2017, however, a deal did not materialise at the start of the season.

Barca are also reportedly determined to sign Inter's star forward Martinez as they eye a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

Rivaldo – who won a pair of LaLiga titles during his time with the Catalan giants – believes Neymar is ready to lead Barca alongside six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

"The rumours are growing about Barcelona's intention to sign Neymar and Lautaro Martinez in the next transfer window," Rivaldo wrote in his column for Betfair.

"Although the young Argentinian is a good player, I think that only Neymar is a certain bet to claim a place in the starting XI side by side with Messi.

"Looking at the last few years we have seen many valuable players who didn't manage to play alongside Messi - failing to perform under the expectations.

"But Neymar - like Luis Suarez - is one of the few players in the world that doesn't feel pressure on the pitch, always playing with plenty of personality.

"He never gets frightened and it would be a safe option for the club while Martinez is a young, talented forward that perhaps in two or three years may become a good signing.

"For now I think the club should prioritise Neymar. I'm a fan of his qualities and personality and I know that sometimes I'm liable to criticism as some Barcelona fans didn't like the way Neymar decided to leave the club.

"But the truth is that he is a different player now who should be a nice help to Messi and co. in trying to win another Champions League."

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking, passing and defensive numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of the goalkeepers.

We have analysed five metrics for keepers to have featured in at least 10 league games this season, giving us a good summary of those most in need of some improvement.

The metrics include goals conceded, save percentage and drops.

It's time to name and shame...

 

THE WORST GOALKEEPINGING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals conceded: Jiri Pavlenka (53)
Worst save percentage: Roman Burki (53.62 per cent)
Most drops: Alexander Nubel (6)
Worst passing accuracy: Tomas Koubek (54.89)
Worst keeper sweeper accuracy: Leopold Zingerle (0 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals conceded: Diego Lopez (46)
Worst save percentage: Juan Soriano (55 per cent)
Most drops: Simon Unai, Aitor Fernandez, Marko Dmitrovic, Diego Lopez (3)
Worst passing accuracy: David Soria (40.79 per cent)
Worst keeper sweeper accuracy: Simon Unai (33.33 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Liverpool have reportedly put their plans to sign Timo Werner on hold, while Paulo Dybala's future could be clearer soon.

Werner, 24, was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool from RB Leipzig, but the coronavirus pandemic may have changed that.

Meanwhile, Dybala's future is set to be clear shortly.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PUT WERNER PLANS ON HOLD

Liverpool have put their plans to sign Werner on hold and also stopped contract talks due to coronavirus, according to The Daily Mail.

There is uncertainty over the financial statuses of sporting clubs around the world due to coronavirus and Liverpool are waiting until there is greater clarity.

Star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and defender Dejan Lovren are among the Liverpool players out of contract in 2021.

One club seemingly not prepared to wait are Juventus, with CalcioMercato reporting Dybala is getting closer to a contract extension with the Serie A giants.

 

ROUND-UP

- Luka Modric is going nowhere. AS claims the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2021, at Real Madrid. Just what Madrid's midfield looks like next season remains to be seen. Sport says Madrid will let James Rodriguez leave and bring Martin Odegaard back from his loan spell at Real Sociedad. It also reports Takefusa Kubo will be used as part of a deal to bring back Odegaard.

- Talk about a deal that would see Neymar return to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann join Paris Saint-Germain remains alive. According to Sport, PSG would welcome Griezmann while they attempt to re-sign Kylian Mbappe to unite the France team-mates at club level.

- One player unlikely to be at PSG is Edinson Cavani. Tuttosport reports Napoli are thinking about bringing the forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season, back to the Stadio San Paolo.

- Marc-Andre ter Stegen's future remains unclear. Sport claims Barcelona and the goalkeeper are no closer to renewing a contract that will expire in 2022.

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is seemingly happy on loan at Roma, but whether he stays remains to be seen. The Daily Express says Arsenal have rejected two bids – the last one around €11.4million (£10m) – from the Serie A club, who may instead turn to Chelsea's Pedro.

- As they plan a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Chelsea have told Willian he has no chance of getting a three-year deal, according to the Mirror. Willian is out of contract at the end of the season.

Luis Suarez defended Barcelona players and said they were the first who wanted to reach an agreement over a pay cut.

Barcelona players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut earlier this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement confirming the move on Monday, Barcelona star Lionel Messi took aim at senior figures at the club for putting players under pressure over something they always knew they would do.

Suarez said players were hurt by reports they were unwilling to accept a salary reduction.

"A lot of hurtful things have been said about the squad's salary cuts," the forward told Sport 890 on Thursday.

"People have said that the players didn't want to accept them, then it was said that players from other areas of the club had reached an agreement, when the reality is that we were waiting to try and find the best solution for the club."

Suarez added: "It hurts when people say things like that because we were always the first people that wanted to reach an agreement, as we know what the club's situation is.

"No player in the squad refused a wage cut. A mutual agreement was reached between the players and the club. The captains spoke to the president and nobody refused it."

More than 52,900 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 10,300 in Spain.

Atletico Madrid players will accept a 70 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus crisis to protect the salaries of 430 non-playing staff, the LaLiga club have confirmed.

Atleti's measures mirror those taken by Barcelona and Real Madrid in response to the State of Emergency declared in Spain, where the death toll attributed to COVID-19 has surpassed 10,000.

A club statement on Thursday confirmed they would present a Temporary Employment Regulation File (ERTE) to enshrine a 70 per cent decrease in wages for players with Atletico Madrid B and Atletico Madrid Women, along with Diego Simeone's squad.

Additionally, all first-team players have signed an internal agreement that maps out two different scenarios depending on how the 2019-20 season concludes.

The statement read: "The filing will mean a 70 per cent reduction in the salaries of technicians and players of the men's first team, the women's first team and Atletico de Madrid B, while the declaration of the State of Emergency lasts.

"From the outset, the club's objective in studying possible measures to deal with this delicate situation has been to minimise its effect on the salaries of its employees as much as possible. 

"The agreement reached with the first team will also allow [for] supplementing the salary of 430 employees affected by the ERTE, a complement from which only players and coaches from professional teams are excluded. 

"To make this possible, the first squad will contribute half the necessary amount and the members of the club's management committee, made up of the chief executive and the directors of the different areas, the other half. "

Atletico lie sixth in the standings of a suspended LaLiga, while their final outing before football's continent-wide shutdown was a thrilling 3-2 extra-time victory over Liverpool at Anfield – sealing a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 4-2 aggregate triumph.

Real Madrid great Goyo Benito has died at the age of 73, the club confirmed on Thursday.

Benito came through the youth ranks at Madrid and went on to make 420 first-team appearances across 13 seasons.

The moustachioed defender was a six-time LaLiga champion and won the Copa del Rey on five occasions, with Los Blancos claiming doubles in 1974-75 and 1979-80.

Benito made his debut in 1969 and was part of the generation that succeeded Madrid's so-called 'Yeye' team that dominated Spanish football during that decade.

He suffered disappointment in the 1981 European Cup final against Liverpool and retired after lifting the Copa del Rey the following season.

Benito made 22 appearances for Spain and is one of only two Madrid players, alongside Pirri, to receive the club's Laureate distinction.

A club statement read: "Real Madrid, its president and board of directors express their deep regret at the passing of Goyo Benito, one of the great legends of our club's history.

"Real Madrid wishes to share its condolences and sends its affection to his wife, Paula, and children, Patricia and Ruben, all of his family and loved ones. These condolences are also offered on behalf of madridistas from all over the world.

"Real Madrid supported Benito right throughout his battle against the illness that he suffered from for over more than a decade.

"The Real Madrid family is today in mourning as we remember one of the great defenders in our club's history."

Barcelona are prepared to use Antoine Griezmann in a deal to land Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar, 28, has constantly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, but ended up staying at PSG during the last close season.

It seems Barcelona will pursue the Brazil international again and they may be prepared to offer Griezmann in a deal.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TO OFFER GRIEZMANN TO PSG IN NEYMAR DEAL

Despite it proving such an ordeal to sign Griezmann in the first place, Barca will try to use him as a makeweight in a deal to land Neymar, according to Sky Sports.

The report says the Spanish giants are prepared to let Griezmann go just one season after signing him from Atletico Madrid, as they reportedly also target Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Barca will try to sell the forward elsewhere if PSG are not interested, the story claims, with the Frenchman underwhelming since his switch to Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are apparently preparing for a battle with Germany. The Mirror reports Germany see Jurgen Klopp – contracted at Anfield until 2024 – as a successor to coach Joachim Low.

Manchester United remain interested in Erling Haaland. ESPN claims the Premier League club are again ready to compete for the forward's services with Real Madrid if the Norway international decides to leave Borussia Dortmund.

- Will Gareth Bale remain at Real Madrid? The Mirror suggests the Wales international is ready to fight for his place at the Santiago Bernabeu despite his differences with coach Zinedine Zidane.

Saul Niguez is apparently wanted in the Premier League. AS says Man United are willing to pay around £71million (€80m) for the Atletico midfielder, who has a release clause of £132.5m (€150m).

Barcelona may be prepared to sell players this close season, but Arthur will not be among them. Sport reports the Spanish champions see the midfielder as a key player. Meanwhile, it is also claimed Gent star Jonathan David has been offered to the Blaugrana.

Juventus have reportedly secured the futures of two players. Rai Sport understands Blaise Matuidi has extended his contract with Juve until 2021, while Marko Pjaca – who is on loan at Anderlecht – has agreed to a deal until 2023.

Barcelona look like a team "without a soul" this season due to some laboured performances and questionable decisions behind the scenes, according to Marc Muniesa.

The Catalans were two points clear at the top of LaLiga with 10 games remaining before Spain's season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao but remain favourites to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals after drawing the first leg of the last-16 tie with Napoli 1-1 in Italy.

However, questions have been repeatedly raised about Barca's unconvincing standards this season, even after Ernesto Valverde was dismissed in January and replaced by Quique Setien.

Antoine Griezmann has struggled to reach top form since a €120million move from Atletico Madrid, while injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele have left Setien short of options in attack.

Muniesa, who progressed through Barca's youth academy before joining Stoke City in 2013, thinks the 2019-20 season has dome some damage to Barca's wider image.

"Everything that's happened has been a bit bizarre, with Valverde's sacking, people putting on pressure from outside about the play... it looks like a team without a soul," the defender told Sport.

"It's very difficult to do what Pep [Guardiola] did or Luis Enrique, who played a little more on the counter-attack. Now, with injuries to Dembele and Luis Suarez, there aren't as many solutions up front.

"Griezmann is not at the high level expected of him and Messi is a bit on his own. The best news is Ansu Fati, who's a footballer who has no fear.

"The football issue was a bit more complicated because the investment in wages is the most important thing at the club and it's normal that it would take a bit longer."

Barca have taken steps this week to manage the financial implications of the football season being placed on hold.

The first-team squad have taken a 70 per cent pay cut and provided further financial aid to ensure Barca's non-playing staff are able to take home their full wages over the coming weeks.

The decision took time to be announced but Muniesa thinks it was an admirable move on the part of the players.

"Everyone wanted to do it in their own way. The players, in the end, have set a great example for many people by helping club employees to keep their whole wages. I think it's very positive - a great step taken by the squad," he said.

Borja Mayoral expects to receive clarity over his Real Madrid future after this season but accepts matters are not solely in his hands.

The striker has been on loan at Levante since August 2018, scoring eight goals in 54 LaLiga appearances in that time.

Mayoral, who was previously with Wolfsburg for the 2016-17 campaign, is approaching the final year of his contract with boyhood club Madrid.

While he is staying calm over his future, particularly with football seasons mostly on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, the 22-year-old hopes to have more concrete ideas about where he will be playing in the coming months.

"I try to focus on the present," he told AS. "There are still matches [to play this season] and hopefully the competition will resume. Now, I think about finishing LaLiga in the best possible way. Then there will be time to think about what follows.

"Ultimately, I'm calm because I have one year left with Real Madrid. I've had two years at Levante and it's true that this summer I think a different decision will be made regarding me.

"But, as I say, I'm facing it in the best possible way, with all the excitement. What will come will come. I'm really happy, and calm above all, which is what is important.

"I've not been contacted personally [by Madrid]. My agent handles that more, but I don't think they've been contacted.

"I also think that everything will return to normal when this happens, and there will be more conversations about my future.

"I'm young, I know I have a lot of potential to give yet. In the end, if a player is expensive, it's because he's good and because he's loved.

"In the end, as I've told you before, it doesn't just depend on me, it also depends on Real Madrid and what they want to do with me."

Mayoral, who still has friends and family in Madrid, revealed it had been a challenging time during Spain's nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread.

"I have a lot of friends there and my whole family are from there," he said. "I'm constantly in contact with them to ask how they are, with my grandparents, too, who we know are risk factors. I try to speak with them almost every day."

Dani Ceballos recognises he faces an uncertain future at Arsenal and wants to "be important for my new team".

Spain midfielder Ceballos is on a season-long loan at the Gunners from Real Madrid, a deal which is due to expire on June 30.

With nearly all of European football on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, it remains to be seen when or even if the season will be finished and what the situation is for players like Ceballos if the campaign heads into July.

Ceballos has had a hit-and-miss time at Arsenal, missing chunks of the season due to injury, but had worked his way into Mikel Arteta's plans before the Premier League ground to a halt.

And the 23-year-old is unsure how things will pan out.

"I finish my contract on June 30 but I would have to [continue to] play for Arsenal [when football returns]. I don't know how [that would work with his loan technically having finished]," he told El Chiringuito de Jugones.

"It would be irresponsible from my side to talk about my future. The most important thing will be to be important for my new team. 

"I came to Arsenal to be an important player but in the last month that all disappeared [due to coronavirus stopping football]."

In January, it was reported Valencia were interested in taking over Ceballos' loan, while he has also been linked with Sevilla.

However, the latter move is not one that particularly appeals given he used to play for Sevilla's fierce rivals Real Betis.

"I knew about Valencia's interest in having my services. There was also talk of Sevilla and Betis," he added.

"When they connect you with these teams it is for a reason. I am very Betis and it would be difficult for me to play for Sevilla. 

"I would only play for Betis, it is my team and the one that gave me the opportunity to be a footballer. I did not get to speak with Julen Lopetegui to sign for Sevilla."

Neymar, Lautaro Martinez or both? Barcelona may have a decision to make this close season.

Neymar has been linked with a return to Camp Nou, while the LaLiga giants are also reportedly interested in Inter star Martinez.

Barcelona could be forced to choose between the two in the next transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR, MARTINEZ OR BOTH? BARCELONA'S BIG DECISION

Barcelona want both Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and Inter's Martinez but know it will be difficult to land the duo, according to Sport.

It reports landing Martinez is shaping to be easier as Inter are willing to accept players as part of a deal.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games for Inter this season, while Neymar has netted 18 times in 22 appearances for PSG.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could be turning to an old target. ESPN reports the Premier League club are prepared to make a bid for Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt if the Serie A giants are open to a sale this close season.

- Harry Kane's future at Tottenham seemingly remains unclear. But The Daily Mail says Spurs are confident of keeping the forward, who said on Monday he would not stay at the club just "for the sake of it".

- It looks like Jadon Sancho to Liverpool will not be happening. The Mirror claims the Premier League leaders are not targeting the Borussia Dortmund star, leaving United and Chelsea as the English clubs still in the chase.

- Where will Philippe Coutinho end up next season? Sport reports Leicester City are interested in a loan deal for the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona. Staying at Camp Nou and Sport says Barcelona are considering a move for Layvin Kurzawa, who is out of contract at PSG at season's end, as a back-up to Jordi Alba.

- Edinson Cavani is also out of contract at the end of the season at PSG, but CalcioMercato reports the Uruguayan striker will not be joining Atletico Madrid, the club he has been linked to.

- With Alexis Sanchez set to return to Manchester United from his loan spell at Inter, The Sun reports the club will be forced to pay the attacker a £1.1million loyalty payment.

LaLiga could return behind closed doors in July, according to Mediapro chief executive Jaume Roures.

The league has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to more than 8,400 deaths in Spain and more than 42,100 globally.

Roures, the chief of one of LaLiga's broadcast partners, hopes it is back underway in July.

"I hope football returns in July and I say July because, among other things, everyone's health must be guaranteed," he told Cadena COPE on Tuesday.

"It will return without an audience, surely, but before that they have to do a pre-season. After so long at home, they can't go out and play as if nothing happened."

Barcelona held a two-point lead over Real Madrid when the LaLiga season was stopped.

While Roures believes it could resume in July, he warned a positive test for COVID-19 from a player after that would see the campaign ended.

"If once LaLiga resumes a player tests positive for coronavirus, they will have to throw in the towel and say goodbye to the season," he said.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk labelled Barcelona great Lionel Messi his toughest opponent.

Van Dijk and Messi went head-to-head last season, when Liverpool produced an incredible second-leg comeback to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

The Netherlands international paid tribute to Messi, a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner who is regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time.

"There are some difficult strikers out there, but probably Leo Messi," Van Dijk wrote on Twitter when asked who his toughest opponent was.

However, Van Dijk also credited Sergio Aguero, having faced the Manchester City forward regularly in recent seasons.

Asked who the hardest player to mark was, the defender replied: "Aguero."

Van Dijk said he was "feeling fine" and would be ready to go when the Premier League season, which is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, resumes.

Liverpool held a 25-point lead atop the table when the season was stopped.

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking and passing numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of the defence.

We have analysed nine metrics for defenders to have featured in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose defending could use some improvement.

The metrics include success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges, errors leading to shots and goals and how many times a player has been dribbled past by an opponent.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges we have only included players who have completed 20 actions in each category, which accounts to two per game.

The below therefore provides a good indication on where improvement is needed, and there are a few surprising names…

 

THE WORST DEFENDING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most tackles lost: William (29)
Worst tackle success: Alexander Hack (40.91 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Robin Koch (3)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: William (32)
Most duels lost: Stefan Lainer (125)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Robin Koch and Sven Bender (56)
Worst aerial success: Christian Gunter (22.86 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most tackles lost: Pervis Estupinan (34)
Worst tackle success: Nacho Monreal (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Joseph Aidoo and Sergio Ramos (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Marc Cucurella (35)
Most duels lost: Marc Cucurella (167)
Worst duel success: Daniel Carrico (40.3 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Didac Vila (55)
Worst aerial success: Xavi Quintilla (25.71 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most tackles lost: Boubacar Kamara (33)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Sofiane Alakouch, Timothee Kolodziejczak and Stefan Mitrovic (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Wesley Fofana, Alexander Djiku and Malang Sarr (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Arturo Calabresi (42)
Most duels lost: Issiaga Sylla (161)
Worst duel success: Colin Dagba (40 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Pablo Martinez (59)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Calum Chambers (38.46 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Jan Bednarek, Tyrone Mings, John Egan, Davinson Sanchez and James Tarkowski (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Benjamin Mendy (37.38 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Max Aarons (26.09 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most tackles lost: Matteo Darmian (32)
Worst tackle success: Andrea Cistana (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jhon Chancellor, Fabio Lucioni, Jose Luis Palomino, Alex Sandro (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Stefano Sabelli (40)
Most duels lost: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (126)
Worst duel success: Hans Hateboer (40.63 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Mattia Bani (57)
Worst aerial success: Jeremy Toljan (28.00 per cent)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch and Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan and Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

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