Ernesto Valverde has no qualms with Gerard Pique's Davis Cup commitments but warned his star centre-back he will not play against Leganes if his focus is not on Barcelona.

Pique has spent a large portion of the week travelling to Madrid due to the involvement of his company Kosmos in the revamped competition of tennis' premier international team event.

LaLiga leaders Barca make the trip to rock-bottom Leganes on Saturday and Valverde has been speaking with Pique about his extra-curricular activities.

"I have talked with him about this issue and I see him as being focused," head coach Valverde said.

"If I don't think he's focused enough someone else will play. If he arrives in condition, he will be on the list. He has issues outside of football. Players are always blamed if they don't do anything else and only know football."

Asked if Pique has permission to travel to Madrid again on Friday, Valverde replied: "If he travels, you will see if we gave him permission. We have to leave him alone, Saturday we have an important game."

Valverde also insisted he is happy with the work of close-season signing Antoine Griezmann after it was suggested he performs better for France than for Barca.

Griezmann has four goals and three assists for Barca in 11 LaLiga appearances this term and Valverde says the forward is offering plenty to the team.

"I look at my team, what matters to me is how I see the team," he added. "I know there are many eyes on Griezmann but he is giving us many things in terms of work, goals and clarity of play. We think he can give us more."

Ousmane Dembele has had a stop-start season for Barca but was involved against Slavia Prague and Celta Vigo before the international break.

Valverde wants to see the exciting France forward get a long run of games under his belt.

"I think it's important he has continuity in his daily work and gets playing time," he said. "Since his first injury last season against Getafe, trying to get him back quickly has been counterproductive. 

"He's had several relapses or different episodes with different muscular injuries and hasn't been able to perform the way he would have wanted. 

"We hope we can start getting some regular rhythm."

It was the year of Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Midnight Cowboy, Kes and The Italian Job; Abbey Road, Let It Bleed, Dusty In Memphis and Kick Out The Jams.

OK boomer.

Woodstock was a totemic cultural moment in 1969 - but so too the first flight of the Boeing 747, the wedding and bed-in of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Stonewall riots and the first manned Moon landing, Neil Armstrong and all that jazz. And jazz. Miles Davis’ classic In A Silent Way split critics down the middle.

There was Monty Python's television debut but also the Manson Family murders and the ongoing Vietnam War. The US magazine Life revealed at least 12 million Americans had experimented with marijuana.

All very adult, magic meets toxic; spaceman versus off your face, man.

Little wonder then, that when Pele scored his 1,000th career goal on November 19 of that year he begged the world to please think of the children. The babes of US boomers may have been treated to the very first broadcast of Scooby Doo on CBS in September, but Pele knew the kids in Brazil were still being sold short as the end of the decade drew near.

"For the love of God, people," the 29-year-old Pele said in Rio de Janeiro, on that historic night. "Now that everyone is listening, help the children, help the helpless. That's my only wish at this very special time for me."

Tite has dismissed Lionel Messi's credentials as the greatest footballer of all time after insisting comparisons between him and "phenomenal" Brazil legend Pele have "no credibility." 

The Brazil coach and Messi exchanged words in Friday's game against Argentina, with Tite claiming the Barcelona forward told him to shut up during the friendly defeat in Riyadh.  

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of Brazil legend Pele scoring his 1,000th goal and, speaking ahead of his side's clash against South Korea in Abu Dhabi the same day, Tite says three-time World Cup winner Pele remains out in front when it comes to the question of whether he or Messi is best.

He said: "Pelé is incomparable. Anybody who wants to compare Pelé to any other athlete...do you know what I do? I hear but I don`t listen.

"It's as if this person doesn't know the history of this man's quality... this guy was phenomenal. Once I said that Messi is extraordinary.

"I meant he's extraordinary to the present time and among humans, with his creativity. Pele is out of normal patterns and I'm not saying this because I'm a Brazilian. You can't find a defect.

"If somebody comes to me and starts to make comparisons, for me it has no credibility."

The loss to Argentina meant Brazil are now five matches without victory, yet Tite remains philosophical over the Copa America winners' form.

He added: "I'm not desperate to win. I'm happy to be where I am. I'm aware of the pressure but I have no desperation. I don't have any of this. What I do want is to make a great game."

Tite has warned South Korea's threat extends far beyond just that of Tottenham forward Son Heung-min.

He added: "We know about Korea's strengths, on their important victory against Germany [in the World Cup] and we respect them. We know about their individual forces, not only Son, but others and the team as a whole."

Lionel Messi scored a stoppage-time penalty to secure Argentina an entertaining 2-2 draw with Uruguay in Tel Aviv on Monday.

Argentina fell behind when Edinson Cavani, who scored in Uruguay's 2-1 win over Hungary on Friday, notched his 50th international goal in the 34th minute.

That lead was cancelled out when Sergio Aguero headed home a set-piece delivery from Messi, before Luis Suarez restored La Celeste's advantage five minutes later with a superb free-kick.

Messi missed a penalty and scored on the rebound in a 1-0 win over Brazil three days ago, but he made no mistake from the spot on this occasion and clinched the draw in the 92nd minute.

Lionel Messi is in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the Spanish club's sporting director Eric Abidal has confirmed.

The Argentina international has spent 18 years with Barca but his future has been called into question after it emerged earlier this year he can leave Camp Nou for free at the end of any season.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is officially contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021, but Abidal is hopeful fresh terms can soon be agreed.

"They are already talking," he told Mundo Deportivo. "I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible."

Asked when he expects an agreement to be announced, Abidal said: "It will be known when it is known, but I am positive."

Abidal also confirmed academy product Ansu Fati is in line for a contract extension, having impressed in his breakthrough campaign.

"We are also talking to him," Abidal said. "He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives."

Lionel Messi was delighted with Argentina's win over Brazil, saying the rivalry between the South American nations was stronger than ever.

On his international return, Messi scored the only goal of the game in Riyadh as Argentina recorded a 1-0 friendly win.

The star tapped in a rebound after his penalty was saved by Alisson, while Gabriel Jesus earlier put a spot-kick wide for Brazil.

The win over Brazil was Argentina's first against their rivals since 2017 and Messi talked up the significance.

"The rivalry is lived more than ever and it is always good to beat Brazil," he said, via Ole.

"When you win, you work better. The ideas of the coach are carried out on the pitch in another way and it is positive for what is coming."

Argentina face Uruguay in another friendly on Monday as they continue preparations for the start of the gruelling CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying beginning in March next year.

Messi praised the defensive efforts of Lionel Scaloni's side, who stretched their unbeaten run to six games.

"There is little left for the qualifiers. There is a good team feeling," the Barcelona star said.

"On the defensive level we made a big effort."

Brazil head coach Tite said he was told to shut up by Argentina captain Lionel Messi in the friendly clash between the South American rivals.

Messi returned from a three-month international ban to lead Argentina past Brazil 1-0 thanks to his 13th-minute goal in Riyadh on Friday.

Argentina star Messi missed Argentina's previous four matches due to a suspension for accusing CONMEBOL of favouring hosts Brazil – who won their semi-final meeting – at the Copa America and he was in the thick of the action against Tite's Selecao.

Messi and Tite exchanged words in the opening half, with the Barcelona superstar seen putting his fingers to his lips as the Brazil boss complained to the referee.

"I complained because he [Messi] should have been shown a yellow card and he told me to shut my mouth and I told him to shut his mouth," Tite said. "And that was it."

Tite added: "I don't want to answer anymore on it. You need a strong referee because he'll swallow you… It should have been a card, I was right to complain."

Messi's goal condemned Brazil – who have struggled since lifting the Copa America trophy – to their fifth consecutive match without victory.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni lauded the attitude of his players who he feels "gave their lives for the shirt" in Friday's 1-0 win over bitter rivals Brazil.

Lionel Messi was back in the team for the first time since the Copa America after serving a four-match ban for accusing CONMEBOL of corruption.

He scored the decisive goal early on when pouncing on the rebound after seeing Alisson save his penalty a few moments after Gabriel Jesus had also failed to convert from 12 yards.

Otherwise it was a scrappy and disjointed affair, though Argentina looked considerably more threatening in the final third and were unfortunate to not add to the score in the second half.

Despite Argentina's wastefulness after the interval, Scaloni was left overjoyed with the mentality and attitude of his team.

"I liked the second half," Scaloni told reporters. "We made changes because we wanted to test for what is to come.

"The team responded – it goes beyond who plays. They give their lives for the shirt and really played well."

Argentina remain unbeaten in their five post-Copa America matches, while Brazil – who have also played five times since lifting the trophy – are winless in that period.

Lionel Messi scored on his return from a three-month ban as Argentina beat bitter rivals Brazil 1-0 in Riyadh on Friday.

Messi missed Argentina's previous four matches due to a suspension for accusing CONMEBOL of favouring hosts Brazil – who won their semi-final meeting – at the Copa America and he made a decisive impact in the friendly, billed as the Superclasico de las Americas, as the Selecao's winless streak reached five games.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner earned Argentina an early penalty and netted at the second time of asking after Gabriel Jesus had also spurned an opportunity from 12 yards.

Another couple of chances were crafted for Messi, but he failed to add to his tally and the match became extremely scrappy and disjointed after the break, with clear-cut chances at a premium.

A ferocious start saw both sides awarded a penalty inside the first 12 minutes and remarkably neither of them were scored, with Jesus missing the target after being tripped by Leandro Paredes, before Messi had his saved by Alisson.

But luckily for Argentina and the returning Messi, Alisson put the ball right back into the danger zone and the Barcelona star buried the rebound.

Messi went close to a second in rather more characteristic fashion, as he dribbled from inside his own half and got a shot away from the edge of the box, but his effort was a little tame and Alisson stopped it easily.

The second half was significantly untidier, though Argentina still looked more threatening, with Messi's long-range free-kick forcing Alisson to tip it over.

Lautaro Martinez should have wrapped things up 10 minutes from time when he blazed over inside the area, though Brazil – who handed Rodrygo Goes and Wesley debuts from the bench – were unable to punish the let-off and Argentina claimed victory.

 

What does it mean? Issues remain for incoherent Brazil

Since winning the Copa America, Brazil have been thoroughly underwhelming. With Friday's defeat, they have not won any of their five matches since lifting the trophy in July.

The most alarming element of the Selecao's performance was the anonymity of their attackers. Jesus struggled, Roberto Firmino offered precious little and Willian's impact amounted to little more than a couple of mazy runs that came to nothing.

Alisson one of few to match expectations

It was one of those games where there were not many standout performances to choose from. Alisson at least performed as well as one might expect, saving Messi's penalty – albeit parrying it straight back to him – and producing seven stops in total.

Jesus struggles to impose himself

Although he won Brazil's penalty, there was little to be impressed about in Jesus' display. He failed to hit the target with his spot-kick, while he was unable to make much of an impact up against Nicolas Otamendi and German Pezzella.

What's next?

It is on to Abu Dhabi next for Brazil, as they face South Korea on Tuesday. Argentina are scheduled to be in action against Uruguay in Tel Aviv, Israel the day before. However, La Celeste are yet to confirm their participation after a recent escalation in tension in nearby Gaza.

Lionel Messi was restored to Argentina's starting XI to face Brazil upon his return from a three-month suspension.

Messi has not played for Argentina since being sent off in the Copa America third-place play-off against Chile in July.

It was the Barcelona superstar's post-match outburst after the semi-final defeat to Brazil that resulted in his suspension, however, as he accused CONMEBOL of corruption and favouring Tite's Copa America hosts.

That earned him a lengthy ban and a $50,000 fine, with Messi missing games against Chile, Mexico, Germany and Ecuador.

But having been included in the squad once again, Messi was straight back into the starting XI for the contest in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Joining him in attack was Lautaro Martinez – passed fit after sustaining a head injury with Inter at the weekend – while Sergio Aguero, who like Messi has not featured for Argentina since the Copa America, was on the bench.

There were few surprises in the Brazil starting XI, with Roberto Firmino, Willian and Gabriel Jesus forming the attack in the absence of the injured Neymar.

Real Madrid winger Rodrygo Goes could earn his first cap from the bench.

 

Lionel Messi proves he is the best player in the world day after day at Barcelona and "everyone knows" it to be true, says Luis Suarez.

Uruguayan striker Suarez last month celebrated the fifth anniversary of his debut for the Camp Nou giants, and since his switch from Liverpool to LaLiga he has forged a devastating partnership with Messi.

This season is proving no different, with the duo contributing 14 LaLiga goals between them despite Messi having missed early games of the season with injury.

The debate as to who is the greatest player in the world between Messi and former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus, has rumbled on for over a decade.

But for Suarez, there is simply nobody better than Argentinian Messi.

"Messi has helped me a lot in my personal growth. We had an affinity from the beginning. From coexistence came friendship, and the moments I spent with him also helped on the pitch," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

"Everyone knows that he is the best in the world. He has proven it and continues to prove it day after day.

"He has shown me his companionship a thousand times. He helped me when I was fighting for the Golden Boot. The other day, at Eibar, he gave me a goal."

Despite heading into the international break at the top of LaLiga, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has found himself under pressure having seen his side drop 11 points from 12 matches this term.

Barca have a tricky period over the coming month, with Champions League fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, a trip to Atletico Madrid and the rescheduled Clasico with Madrid on December 18.

Suarez, though, is relishing what is to come.

He said: "A very nice month is ahead. We like those, both as footballers and also people. There will be a Clasico too.

"You have to be mentally and physically prepared. Maybe we won't win every game or have it easy, but we hope to do our best with the support of the fans.

"We have not had a simple league start. We gave away points that in other years we hadn't lost, but we know that other teams are also competing well."

Brazil boss Tite lauded Rodrygo for setting a strong example to aspiring footballers ahead of the teenager's potential international debut.

The 18-year-old Real Madrid forward could win his first senior cap when Brazil face old rivals Argentina in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Rodrygo was called-up after winning his maiden competitive start for Madrid and pressed his case for minutes with a sparkling hat-trick in the club's recent 6-0 hammering of Galatasaray.

The scene-stealing treble made him the second youngest player, behind Los Blancos great Raul, to score three times in a Champions League match.

But the exciting Santos product has made a positive impression on Tite beyond his footballing ability.

"I talked to him and said he had to be very proud of his behaviour. As a person, as an example," Tite said.

"I asked him to give a hug to his parents for the education they gave. Say thanks to Jair Ventura, the coach who launched him. He is an example for a lot of young boys who would like to be in his position.

"He must think I am a little crazy, because I was talking and I do not know him, this is our first meeting.

"But I saw that when he scored the first goal [against Galatasaray] he went to hug [Karim] Benzema, who assisted. When he completed the hat-trick, I saw the television camera was focusing on him and he didn't look at the camera. He took the ball and kissed it and stood there.

"He becomes an example for a number of boys. Football is a transformation agent, both for good and for bad. He's like that, and I ended up telling him to hug his parents. I don't know them, but they deserve it."

Brazil's date with Argentina could also mark the return of Lionel Messi, who has not featured for the Albiceleste since the Copa America.

Messi was effectively shackled by Brazil as they prevailed 2-0 in the semi-finals of that tournament, but Tite remains wary of the Barcelona captain.

"He is a different player, he has impressive technical qualities,” the Selecao coach said.

"We have different strategies. We never neutralise such a player, we reduce the qualities. But football is an essentially collective sport.

"A strong collective will improve a Neymar, Coutinho, Firmino, Willian, Otamendi, Messi, Aguero.

"We know that the group improves the individual. Of course, we are dealing with Messi. He is a distinct player."

Timo Werner acknowledges he has little hope of outscoring Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga this season, as the Bayern Munich forward's form can only be matched by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

RB Leipzig striker Werner has scored an impressive 11 league goals so far in 2019-20, yet he lags behind the remarkable Lewandowski.

The Bayern and Poland superstar has struck 16 times in the Bundesliga and leads the way among players in Europe's top leagues this season, with 23 goals in 18 games in all competitions – including in each top-flight and Champions League match.

Indeed, Werner believes only all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo can reach the extraordinary standards set by Lewandowski.

"It's hard [to be top-scorer]," Werner told a news conference on Thursday.

"When you score two goals against Hertha Berlin and then watch the game evening game, having scored four or three goals less than Robert Lewandowski this season, and he scores twice against Borussia Dortmund...

"Against whom is he not going to score? That's very hard.

"How he is playing at the moment, maybe only one or two players on the planet are on this level. That's the category of Messi and Ronaldo."

Werner was speaking alongside Germany team-mate Joshua Kimmich on international duty.

The duo each came through the Stuttgart academy before moving on to Leipzig, but Werner claimed he was not discussing a next move with Bayern's Kimmich, despite repeated talk of him switching to the Allianz Arena.

"We don't really talk about it at all," he said. "It was also a coincidence that I came to Leipzig when he was there. I don't imitate everything that Joshua Kimmich does.

"If he goes to Real Madrid, I'm not going to Real Madrid also. Leipzig was the perfect step for me as well as for him.

"He took the step to Bayern Munich relatively early, which was also a good step. Now I'm still a player at Leipzig. That was the right step for me.

"I don't know what the future will bring. But I won't imitate Joshua and go wherever he is."

Brazil legend Pele believes Lionel Messi is the most complete player on the planet and one of "two or three" on par with the greats of previous eras.

The former Santos forward and three-time World Cup winner named Barcelona captain Messi, Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar as the select few deserving to be discussed as the world's best.

Messi, 32, and Ronaldo, 34, have long dominated the game's most coveted individual awards but are reaching the latter stages of their highly decorated careers.

Selecao star Neymar became the most expensive player in history when he moved from Barca to PSG in 2017, but for Pele there is a clear standout among the trio.

"I think of Leo Messi," he told Gazzetta dello Sport when asked who he would most like to play alongside.

"He is a skilled player, gives assists, passes, scores, dribbles well. If we were in the team together, the opponents should worry about two players, not just one! Today, Messi is the most complete player."

However, when balancing the leading players of today compared to those of the past, he lamented a perceived lack of true stars.

"Once, you found two or three in every country with a great football culture," the 79-year-old said.

"Eusebio, Simoes, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Maradona, Garrincha, Didi. How many did I say? There were so many.

"Today we have two or three in all. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, I would say Neymar, who in Brazil has not yet managed to become a great figure."

That would change if Neymar inspired the country to glory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which will mark two decades since the South American nation's most recent triumph.

"I hope that at the next World Cup he is in good physical condition," Pele said.

"People criticise him, I even did it a few times, but we forget that he is a product of ours, of Santos. We always want the best for him. I talk about him often with his father.

"Technically, he is an excellent player."

Lionel Messi has earned his first inclusion in FIFA Ultimate Team's Team of the Week this season following his stunning hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo.

Barca – who went into the game having not won either of their previous two matches – appeared to be in a spot of bother on Saturday when Lucas Olaza cancelled out Messi's penalty.

But two stunning free-kicks either side of the break lifted a generally sloppy Barca and Sergio Busquets completed the scoring late on.

Messi is joined in the TOTW's attack by arguably Europe's deadliest striker in Robert Lewandowski, whose brace in the 4-0 crushing of his former club – and Bayern Munich's bitter rivals – Borussia Dortmund took him to a remarkable 16 Bundesliga goals from 11 matches.

Salzburg hotshot Erling Haaland is enjoying a similarly incredible campaign. The Norwegian youngster netted hat-trick number five of the season at the weekend, but he only takes a place among the substitutes.

Below, we examine the entire squad that is now up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus/Piemonte Calcio) – 87

RB: Ander Capa (Athletic Bilbao) – 82

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) – 86

LB: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – 86

RB: Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City) – 84

CM: Nicolo Barella (Inter) – 83

CDM: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) – 84

LW: Dimitri Payet (Marseille) – 84

CAM: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari) – 86

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 91

RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 95

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Ben Foster (Watford) – 83

CB: Sergiy Kryvtsov (Shakhtar Donetsk) – 81

LM: Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb) – 82

LM: Denis Bouanga (Saint-Etienne) – 81

RW: Patrick Herrmann (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 81

ST: Erling Haaland (Salzburg) – 82

ST: Rouwen Hennings (Fortuna Dusseldorf) – 80

RESERVES

CF: Henry Martin (Club America) – 80

LM: Victor Rodriguez (Seattle Sounders) – 79

RWB: Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin) – 79

ST: Cyriel Dessers (Heracles) – 76

ST: Christian Doidge (Hibernian) – 75

Page 1 of 16
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.