Argentina's World Cup triumph has moved them up to second in FIFA's world rankings, but Lionel Messi's Golden Ball-winning exploits were not enough for top spot.

La Albiceleste defeated France on penalties in a thrilling final that ended 3-3 after extra time at Qatar 2022, ending their 36-year wait for the sport's biggest prize.

But despite it proving fifth time lucky for talisman Messi, it is Argentina's closest rivals Brazil who top the world rankings at the end of the year.

The Selecao were knocked out in the quarter-finals following a penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia, but Tite's side hold on to their place at the summit.

It ends a run of four consecutive years when Belgium have ended the calendar year as the world's top-ranked nation in men's international football, with the Red Devils dropping to fourth.

Their descent allows France to move a place up the ladder, to sit third behind Argentina, while England round out the top five in an unchanged position.

A shock loss to Morocco sees Spain slip down the list to 10th, with the African nation in 11th, while Croatia enjoy a major bump to go seventh at Denmark's expense.

Indeed, Denmark suffer one of the biggest drops, down to 18th, with the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal rounding out the rest of the upper echelons.

Other countries enduring slides down the rankings after poor World Cups include Germany, Uruguay and Wales, but there are boosts for Japan, Australia and Cameroon after impressive performances.

Lionel Messi is currently holidaying in his homeland after Argentina's World Cup victory.

But the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's club future is a hot topic, having put off any contract talks until after the event.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of this season, with former club Barcelona consistently linked.

TOP STORY – MESSI AGREES TO STAY WITH PSG

Lionel Messi has agreed to a one-year contract extension with PSG, according to Le Parisien.

The 35-year-old had put off contract talks until after the World Cup, which concluded on Sunday with Messi lifting the title with Argentina.

The report claims Messi and PSG have reached an agreement in principle, with the deal to be sealed once the Argentine returns to France.

ROUND-UP

– CBS's Ben Jacobs claims PSG will not let Kylian Mbappe exit the club in January and any off-season move will only be permitted at the right price. Mbappe was heavily linked with Real Madrid previously, but the move did not materialise, as he ultimately re-signed in May with the Parisians until 2025.

Barcelona have lost interest in Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, moving on from the idea of attempting to sign the 32-year-old on a free transfer in the off-season due to his age, claims SPORT.

Manchester United are interested in Aston Villa's Argentina World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, claims Football Insider. That comes with David de Gea's future at Old Trafford unclear.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that Chelsea are on the verge of reaching agreement on a deal for Vasco da Gama's 18-year-old Andrey Santos. The Daily Mail claims the deal is worth £18m.

Tottenham will rival Bayern Munich in pursuit of Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer, according to GiveMeSport. Spurs are looking for a successor to veteran Hugo Lloris, while Bayern have lost Manuel Neuer to injury.

Christophe Galtier believes Kylian Mbappe's return to Paris Saint-Germain training just three days after a World Cup final defeat is a "strong signal."

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium, twice converting from the spot while also firing home a superb volley as the game ended 3-3 after extra time.

It was Mbappe's team-mate Lionel Messi who ultimately lifted the trophy, though, after Argentina won the penalty shoot-out 4-2.

While Messi returned to Argentina to celebrate, Mbappe was back in PSG training on Wednesday as he attempts to overcome his Qatar heartbreak.

The forward will turn his attention back to the remainder of the season, with PSG holding a five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 and facing a huge Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich in the round of 16.

Galtier feels Mbappe's decision to get stuck back in with PSG instead of taking extra days off shows what he is made of. 

"I'm very happy to see him," Galtier told PSG TV. "Kylian had a great World Cup. This return is also a strong signal to everyone.

"A player who may have been disappointed not to lift the most beautiful of trophies, even if he was top scorer at this World Cup [with eight goals].

"He wanted to get back in contact with the group very quickly and prepare for the deadlines which are coming up very quickly. 

"We are very, very happy to see him."

Achraf Hakimi, who enjoyed an excellent World Cup as Morocco got further than any African nation in history, also returned to training with the Ligue 1 champions on Wednesday.

PSG return to competitive action against Strasbourg on December 28.

Pep Guardiola believes Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the greatest player of all time, describing arguments in favour of Pele or Diego Maradona as "sentimental".

Messi has long been considered among the best ever, but both he and Cristiano Ronaldo trailed Pele and Maradona in the eyes of some while neither had won the World Cup.

That changed on Sunday, when Messi led Argentina to glory at Qatar 2022, matching Maradona's achievement from 1986.

However, in the eyes of Manchester City manager Guardiola, who coached Messi at Barcelona, there was never any doubt.

"Everyone has their opinion, but nobody can doubt he's there with the greatest of all time," Guardiola said. "For me, I've said many times: he's the best.

"It's difficult to understand how a player can complete what he's done in the past 50 or 70 years.

"The people who saw Pele or [Alfredo] Di Stefano or Maradona, the people can say 'my favourite', but these opinions are sentimental.

"On the other side, if he wouldn't have won the World Cup, the opinion about what he has done for the whole of football and my opinion of how he is as a player wouldn't change absolutely anything.

"But it's normal that it depends if you win [how] you are evaluated. Of course, for him, it's the final cherries on his incredible career."

Messi was joined in the Argentina side by City striker Julian Alvarez and Nicolas Otamendi, who spent five years at the Etihad Stadium between 2015 and 2020.

"We are incredibly happy for him [Alvarez] – congratulations," Guardiola added. "For him, for Nico Otamendi, personally for Messi, for Argentina the country, for a well-deserved champion.

"For Julian, he is with us, and we are delighted. He played a lot, and his contribution was amazing to the team for the way we played. We have a world champion in our team."

Guardiola confirmed Alvarez would now enjoy "a break", but City's other World Cup stars have started to return ahead of Thursday's EFL Cup fourth-round tie against holders Liverpool.

"The players that were at the World Cup are in a better condition than the players who were here, that's for sure," Guardiola explained.

"Sergio [Gomez], Erling [Haaland], Riyad [Mahrez], Cole [Palmer]... the rhythm they miss a little bit compared, for example, to Manu Akanji and Rodri and Aymeric [Laporte] and Nathan [Ake].

"They came back and we saw them so good, perfectly. That's normal. They compete, they train every day, while we had holidays."

Kylian Mbappe returned to Paris Saint-Germain training on Wednesday, three days on from France's World Cup final defeat.

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in Sunday's showpiece match against Argentina, becoming only the second man to net a World Cup final treble.

But it was only enough to earn a 3-3 draw and take an out-of-sorts France team to a penalty shoot-out, where they lost 4-2 despite Mbappe again converting his spot-kick.

Mbappe now owns the record for the most World Cup final goals, having also netted once in France's 2018 success, and took home the Golden Boot ahead of PSG team-mate Lionel Messi.

Messi and Argentina were still celebrating their Qatar 2022 triumph back at home this week as Mbappe made a swift return to club duty, having celebrated his 24th birthday on Tuesday.

PSG are back in competitive action next Wednesday, taking on Strasbourg in Ligue 1 as they attempt to stretch a five-point lead at the top of the table.

Ethan Mbappe, Kylian's younger brother, has been involved with the PSG first team for their mid-season friendlies, appearing on the bench for Wednesday's game against Quevilly-Rouen.

Cristiano Ronaldo will look to resolve his club future following his World Cup disappointment with Portugal.

Ronaldo spent time training with his former team Real Madrid last week, having parted ways with Manchester United.

The 37-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or appears to have run out of options in Europe, and seemingly Saudi Arabia beckons.

TOP STORY – SAUDI GIANTS EXPECT RONALDO DEAL BY END OF 2022

Al Nassr are hoping to complete their move for Cristiano Ronaldo by the end of the year, reports Marca.

Ronaldo is said to be in Dubai and waiting to travel to Saudi Arabia, with a two-and-a-half-year contract offer on the table worth €200million.

The report claims Ronaldo will spend Christmas with family in Dubai, with Al Nassr awaiting his arrival before the close of the year.

ROUND-UP

– Paris Saint-Germain are eager to renew Lionel Messi's contract in the next few days, reports Goal. Messi's contract expires in mid-2023, and he is free to talk to clubs outside of France from January 1. Messi's former club Barcelona have shown tentative interest in the Argentina World Cup winner returning to Camp Nou, while Inter Miami have also been linked.

– Bild claims Newcastle United could be preparing a January bid for Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram. Gladbach reportedly want £10.5million (€12million) for the Frenchman, although the Magpies may offer below that.

– Atletico Madrid and Arsenal are targeting Brighton and Hove Albion's World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, according to AS.

– Mexico international goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is set to join Serie A club Salernitana as a free agent from America, according to Fabrizio Romano, who says Ochoa will fly to Italy on Thursday to complete the move.

– Chelsea are on the verge of winning the race for Vasco da Gama's 18-year-old Brazilian sensation Andrey Santos, reports talkSPORT.

Argentina were unable to complete their World Cup victory parade as their bus was held up by huge crowds in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.

It was estimated that millions of people had flocked to the streets to welcome their World Cup heroes home, hoping to get a glimpse of Lionel Messi and the trophy.

But the sheer number of supporters in attendance made for dangerous scenes after a national holiday was declared two days after the victory over France in the final in Qatar.

Social media footage showed members of the public attempting to jump into the Argentina bus as it made its way along the planned route.

Attempts to continue were eventually abandoned, with a helicopter tour the alternative following a lengthy pause in proceedings.

Gabriela Cerruti, a spokesperson for the presidency of Argentina, posted on Twitter: "The world champions are flying over the entire route in helicopters because it became impossible to continue on land due to the explosion of popular joy.

"Let's continue to celebrate in peace and show them our love and admiration!"

AFA president Chiqui Tapia had already confirmed the team would not be able to reach the iconic Obelisco.

"They don't let us get to greet all the people who were at the Obelisco," Tapia wrote. "The same security agencies that escorted us don't allow us to move forward.

"A thousand apologies on behalf of all the champion players. A pity."

Lionel Messi believes Diego Maradona "encouraged us from heaven" as Argentina beat France in Sunday's World Cup final.

La Albiceleste ended a 36-year wait to win their third World Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over the reigning champions at Lusail Stadium.

The teams drew 3-3 after extra time, with a Messi double and Angel Di Maria strike cancelled out by a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick as a gripping tie went all the way to spot-kicks.

However, Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni failed to convert their penalties as Argentina won the shoot-out 4-2 to earn Messi his first World Cup in dramatic fashion.

The win was especially emotional with the World Cup in Qatar the first since Maradona, who famously led Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup, passed away in November 2020.

After losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany because of a 113th-minute Mario Gotze winner, Messi was glad the same fate did not befall Argentina against France.

Messi released a message on Instagram, saying: "I always dreamed of being a world champion and I didn't want to stop trying, even knowing that maybe I would never give up.

"This cup we got is also from all those who did not make it in the previous World Cups we played, like in 2014 in Brazil, where they all deserved it for how they fought until the same final, worked hard and wanted it as much as I did.

"It's also from Diego who encouraged us from heaven.

"And of all those who spent the time always supporting the national team without looking so much at the result but the desire we always put into it, also when things didn't go as we wanted.

"Many times failure is part of the journey and learning and without the disappointments it is impossible for success to come.

"Thank you very much from my heart! Let's go Argentina!!!"

Messi's latest Instagram message came after his photo holding the World Cup trophy became the most popular post in the social media platform's history, amassing 65 million likes.

He followed that up by uploading a picture on Tuesday of him in bed holding the famous trophy, which was liked over 40 million times in the nine hours after it was posted.

After the country's government declared Tuesday a national holiday, Messi and his team-mates landed back in Argentina and were greeted by mass crowds of adoring fans.

The mentality of Argentina's World Cup-winning defender Lisandro Martinez can help Manchester United end their five-year trophy drought this season, according to Scott McTominay.

Martinez initially struggled after swapping Ajax for United in July, but the defender has since emerged as a key part of Erik ten Hag's new-look team, who sit fifth in the Premier League.

Martinez appeared in five of Argentina's seven games in Qatar – starting twice – as Lionel Messi led the Albiceleste to their third title, which was clinched with a penalty shoot-out win against France.

Addressing United's fans ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup last-16 tie against Burnley, McTominay detailed his first conversation with Martinez after Argentina's triumph, saying the Red Devils must adopt a winning mentality to challenge for silverware.

"Success will always be winning trophies and that's the most important thing at this football club," McTominay said.

"With the manager that we've got now, we've got a really good opportunity to start that journey, especially this year. 

"We've got a really good chance to implement ourselves and really start pushing. I feel like this is the year where we can go for it and that’s firmly reiterated by all the coaches and in the squad.

"I messaged Lisandro the other day and said congratulations and he said, 'we go for the next one'. He's just won a World Cup, so that shows the mentality that is in the group."

Martinez is not the only Argentine to impress for United this season, with teenage winger Alejandro Garnacho scoring twice since breaking into the first-team squad.

Garnacho scored a stoppage-time winner in United's most recent Premier League game at Fulham, and McTominay believes there is no limit to the 18-year-old's potential if he remains grounded. 

"He's a hell of a footballer and if he keeps his feet on the ground and keeps learning and keeps wanting to work hard, then he can do what he wants in football," he said.

"He's such a talented player and we've got to keep him humble and keep him working hard as well."

Pele is the greatest of all time for Peter Reid, though the former England midfielder knows there is not much to choose between the Brazil legend, Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi.

Argentina's World Cup success in Qatar has surely cemented Messi's place as the greatest player of his generation, though whether the 35-year-old will go down as the best of ever is open for debate.

Messi has now matched his late compatriot Maradona in dragging Argentina to World Cup glory, with the late, great former captain lifting the trophy at Mexico 1986.

Reid played for England against Argentina in the famous 'Hand of God' game in that tournament and was left in Maradona's wake for the mercurial number 10's second goal of the match, which has been immortalised as 'The Goal of the Century'.

Reid, though, quipped Pele – a winner of three World Cups – was his pick.

"Erm, Pele," Reid joked when asked by Stats Perform who was the best out of Messi and Maradona. "They're all icons of the game."

 

Reid is pleased to see Messi finally get his hands on the only trophy that had been missing from his collection.

"Yeah, I think he's been an absolutely outstanding footballer and it was the one major trophy that he hadn't won, and I think he's a credit to himself on the park and off the park," he said.

He added of the tournament: "I thought there was some great games, I thought the best team won it and I still don't know the penalty rule. I haven't got a clue what a penalty is these days, but I did enjoy it, I've got to say."

It was a similar story for Liverpool great Ian Rush, who enjoyed his experience in Qatar supporting Wales.

"I was out there and from a Welsh point of view it was a privilege to be there, 1958 was last time we qualified so no matter where the World Cup was going to be, I was going to be there because it's the first time I have gotten the chance to see Wales playing at the World Cup," Rush told Stats Perform.

"But I enjoyed it and I really enjoyed the World Cup out there. The people were very friendly. It's the icing on the cake for Messi to get his hands on the World Cup."

Tom Brady has expressed sympathy for Kylian Mbappe after his remarkable hat-trick was not enough to win the World Cup final for France.  

Mbappe became just the second man to score a treble in the tournament's showpiece game – after Geoff Hurst in 1966 – as Les Bleus forced a penalty shoot-out at the end of an epic 3-3 draw with Argentina.

The forward's eight goals in Qatar won him the Golden Boot, but he was unable to get his hands on the trophy for a second time as the Albiceleste triumphed on spot-kicks.

Speaking on the Let's Go podcast, seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady said Mbappe's World Cup final heartache was proof no sportsperson was "entitled" to victory.

"Man, losing sucks. That's just the reality. There's not a lot of explanation," the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback said.

"I have a lot more empathy for guys who are putting in a lot more time and energy and things aren't going their way. 

"That could be not just a football player. That's anyone in their job. That could be the guy working at UPS. That could be the guy working in the military. That could be the guy working in the sales office.

"That could be Kylian Mbappe, who scored three goals in the World Cup final, and you know what? The team didn't win. That's life. 

"You're not entitled to winning. No one is guaranteed winning. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. 

"The sun came up today, and you're going to try and make this the best day you can."

 

Lionel Messi's Instagram message celebrating Argentina's World Cup win has become the most popular post in the social media platform's history, with 56 million likes.

Messi finally won international football's greatest prize after Argentine edged out France 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium.

For the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, it is the final rubber stamp on his status as the greatest footballer of his generation, and arguably the greatest of all time.

Now, Messi has another record to his name, with his post in the wake of Argentina's success surpassing the previous high-water mark held by the World Record Egg, which gained 55.9 million likes.

"Thank you very much to my family, to all who support me and also to all who believed in us," the 35-year-old wrote in his caption.

"We demonstrate once again that Argentines when we fight together and united we are capable of achieving what we set out to do.

"The merit belongs to this group, which is above individuals. It is the strength of all fighting for the same dream that was also the dream of all Argentines... We did it!!!"

Messi, who was named the World Cup Golden Ball recipient for the second time, scored twice in Sunday's final, and netted the first successful penalty of his side's shoot-out.

Bayern Munich are looking at Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez as the potential solution to their goalkeeper issue, as Manuel Neuer is expected to miss the second-half of the season through his skiing injury.

Martinez, 30, had an interesting journeyman career before arriving with Villa in 2020, having been contracted to Arsenal, but loaned out to Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves, Getafe and Reading.

In his first two seasons with Villa, Martinez kept 26 Premier League clean sheets, earning his Argentina debut in June 2021.

His ascension to La Albiceleste's number one saw him earn the 2021 Copa America Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper, and he followed it up with another Golden Glove after securing the World Cup title in a penalty shoot-out.

Neuer's leg fracture leaves Bayern without their first-choice goalkeeper, and with only a four-point gap atop the Bundesliga, they are reportedly desperate to secure a replacement in January.

 

TOP STORY – ARGENTINA WORLD CUP HERO TARGETED AS BAYERN'S NEUER REPLACEMENT

According to Media Foot, it is "out of the question" for Bayern to leave the January transfer window without a new goalkeeper, and Martinez's World Cup exploits have him at the top of the list.

He remains under contract with Villa until 2027, giving the Premier League side plenty of leverage in negotiations, and after signing him for £17million, will likely have their sights set on a significant profit to part ways with their world-class shot-stopper.

However, he is not the only keeper the German giants are keeping a close eye on from the World Cup, with Sky Sports Germany reporting they also are investigating Croatia's Dominic Livakovic and Morocco's Yassine Bounou.

That report states Bayern will try to tempt 34-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach's Yann Sommer to the club on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, but that will not address their immediate pressing need.

ROUND-UP

– Sport is reporting Barcelona are in advanced negotiations with Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante on personal terms, as he is able to leave Stamford Bridge on a free transfer after the season.

– Journalist Ekrem Konur claims Sevilla are the latest club to enquire about 22-year-old Angers midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who impressed for Morocco in Qatar.

– According to GiveMeSport, Chelsea are in the race to land 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund phenom Youssoufa Moukoko when his contract expires at the end of the season, while Si Phillips adds they will also try to sign out-of-contract Manchester United prospect Alejandro Garnacho.

– Sky Sports is reporting Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and multiple Premier League clubs have taken a liking to 27-year-old Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic after his performances at the World Cup for Croatia.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, 20-year-old Italian midfielder Ibrahima Bamba will likely leave Vitoria Guimaraes in January amid interest from Atalanta, Club Brugge and unnamed Premier League sides.

Didier Deschamps thanked fans after France landed back in Paris following their "cruel" World Cup final defeat to Argentina on Sunday.

Les Bleus were looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, but they were beaten 4-2 on penalties by Argentina after an enthralling 3-3 draw.

Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped France recover from 2-0 and then 3-2 down, but Aurelien Tchoumeni and Kingsley Coman failed to convert in the shoot-out as Deschamps' men fell to a heartbreaking defeat.

Nevertheless, the team were greeted by a mass crowd as they returned to Paris on Monday, and Deschamps expressed his appreciation for the support after such a crushing loss.

"It is our duty with the players to thank all these French men and women who supported us and gave a lot of strength to this France group," he told TF1. "We shared fabulous emotions even if the ending is cruel and hurts.

"We must not forget all that this group did while having a lot of difficulties before and during the World Cup. They experienced fabulous emotions during this month of competition."

Captain Hugo Lloris echoed his head coach's sentiments after missing out on becoming the first man to skipper his team to two World Cup trophies.

"After the pain of yesterday, [the reception is] a little comfort," Lloris said. "The most important thing is the recognition of the supporters, even if as an athlete we would have liked to have this gold medal and bring the cup back to France."

France now turn their attentions to the 2024 European Championship in Germany, where they will be looking to win the tournament for a third time.

Lloris compelled his team to carry their strong mentality from Qatar into their next competition, adding: "Despite what happened before and during the tournament, we showed resilience, we remained a group. We have to keep that going for the Euros."

Striker Olivier Giroud, who surpassed Thierry Henry as France's all-time record goalscorer in Qatar, added: "We're going to give each other a big hug and go on vacation to recharge our batteries, because there is a season to finish.

"It is always difficult to leave a group with which we spent a month and a half. We are like a family, like brothers."

Xavi and Joan Laporta paid tribute to Lionel Messi following his long-awaited World Cup triumph, the latter stating "historical justice has been done."

The former Barcelona star led Argentina to glory in Qatar as La Albiceleste defeated reigning champions France 4-2 on penalties following an enthralling 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner finally added the sport's biggest prize to his collection following a glittering career that has also seen him win 11 league titles, four Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and the Copa America.

And the Paris Saint-Germain forward's achievements were by saluted by Barca head coach Xavi with his former team-mate also empathising with Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde, who were on the losing French side.

"It was an extraordinary final for the spectator, one of the best matches I've seen in my life," he said at the premiere of a new Prime Video docuseries entitled 'FC Barcelona, A New Era.'

"I think Argentina were better and deserved it. I feel sorry for Dembele and Kounde. But we must congratulate Leo Messi, who now has his World Cup, something that could not be missing in his career."

Blaugrana president Laporta added: "He deserves it, he is the best of all time, historical justice has been done.

"We would have been happy if our Kounde and Dembele won it, but I think all of us who love and are grateful to Messi for what he has given us are happy for him."

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