Lionel Messi insists there is no problem between himself and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe following Argentina's World Cup final triumph over France.

Messi finally won the biggest prize of them all in Qatar last year, guiding Argentina to their first World Cup title since 1986.

Argentina appeared to be cruising to victory when 2-0 up at half-time, but a quick-fire double from Mbappe near the end of the regulation 90 minutes took the game to extra time.

Messi's second goal of the game had Argentina back in control again, but as before, Mbappe levelled to complete his hat-trick with two minutes left, forcing a penalty shoot-out.

Argentina ultimately prevailed 4-2 on penalties to spark wild celebrations, some of which bizarrely seemed to revolve around Mbappe.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was said to have called for a moment of silence for Mbappe in the changing room afterwards, and then during Argentina's celebratory parade in Buenos Aires he was spotted carrying a doll with the PSG forward's face stuck on.

But Messi does not believe any of the controversy has impacted his relationship with his club-mate.

He told Ole: "We talked about the game, the festivities, how people experienced it in Argentina when I was on vacation, and the festivities we had. Nothing, nothing more.

"I was on the other side too, I lost a World Cup final too, and I didn't want to know anything about it, about what happened, and nothing related to the World Cup at that time.

"That's why I don't want to talk about it [to Mbappe] either, but the truth is that there is no problem with Kylian, on the contrary."

Some of Argentina's celebrations – most notably Martinez's behaviour – fed into a negative perception of the team in the eyes of some.

There was also the photo of their reaction to beating the Netherlands on penalties earlier in the tournament, with many of the Argentina players appearing to goad their opponents as they ran off to celebrate.

But Messi is adamant Argentina have been done a disservice, again explaining how their reaction to the Dutch was simply a response to apparent unsporting conduct from Louis van Gaal's team.

"It seems unfair to me that Argentina's lack of fair play was mentioned because it's not true," he continued.

"We always behaved in an exemplary manner, on and off the pitch. My team-mates were impressive.

"I think they talk because of what happened with the Netherlands, that it all started there. It was the Dutch who spoke and who wanted to destabilise our players when we were going to take the penalties.

"Everyone talks about what Argentina did after their victory but no one talks about that. It seems to me we should watch it back more carefully and see what happened, and then comment."

Raphael Varane has announced his retirement from international football, saying it is time for France's "new generation" to take over.

Varane, who made his France debut in March 2013, made 93 appearances for Les Bleus.

The former Real Madrid centre-back, who joined Manchester United in 2021, played and started in all seven games of France's successful 2018 World Cup campaign.

Despite heading into last year's World Cup with an injury, Varane featured in six of France's matches in Qatar, including in the final against Argentina.

On Wednesday, Varane shared an Instagram post confirming his retirement from the international stage.

"Representing our great country for a decade has been one of the greatest honours of my life," Varane wrote.

"Every time I wore this very special blue jersey I felt immense pride. The duty to give it [my] all, play my heart out and win every time we went on the field. I've been contemplating this for several months and decided it's the right time for me to retire.

"As a child, I remember following France 98, this team, these players who made us experience indescribable emotions. I dreamed of being our heroes and 20 years later I lived one of the best experiences of my life.

"We brought home the World Cup!! I will never forget it. I still feel every single one of the emotions felt on that day, July 15, 2018. That was one of the most amazing and memorable moments of my life.


"This victory that we won all together would never have been possible without the support of [coach] Didier Deschamps, every member of the management and staff over the years, and my team-mates who have defended our shirt in every game we played.

"But more importantly, this victory would not have been possible without every single one of you supporting us along the way. Even after the defeat in the final last year, you welcomed us as heroes when we returned. To each and every one of you, THANK YOU a thousand times!

"I will miss these moments with you for sure, but the time has come for the new generation to take over. We have a bunch of talented young players who are ready to take over, who deserve a chance and who need you."

Varane, who captained his country 20 times, is the fourth member of France's 2018 World Cup squad to retire from international football, after Blaise Matuidi, Steve Mandanda and former captain Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema did not make that squad but was set to feature in Qatar until injury derailed his chances. The Ballon d'Or winner announced his retirement following the tournament.

Deschamps said: "Raphael called me a few days ago to explain to me that he wanted to put an end to his international career. He is an intelligent boy, who knows how to take the time to reflect, weigh the pros and cons before deciding. 

"Without going into the details of our exchange, Raphael believes that he has reached the end of his adventure with the France team. I experienced a situation somewhat similar to his, I understand his arguments and respect his decision even if it may seem regrettable.

"Of course, I cannot turn this page without a certain emotion, given the ties we have forged since August 2012. Like Hugo Lloris, he will have been, barring injury, in all of my squads."

Football can feel like a Formula One race at times, with things moving so rapidly that if you blink for a second, you could miss something.

For example, few would have been able to predict six months ago that in January 2023, a player called Enzo Fernandez would be joining Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee of £106.8million (€121m).

Not even many Benfica fans knew much about the midfielder when he arrived from River Plate for a reported fee of €12m in July.

Fernandez had been making a name for himself in his home country, with a loan spell at Defensa y Justicia under former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo convincing River Plate to give him a chance, which he took.

After 52 appearances for Los Millonarios, interest from Europe saw Fernandez linked with some big names, and it was Benfica who took the plunge.

The Lisbon club will be pleased they did after making a profit of well over €100m after just half a season, with the midfielder not only impressing in the Primeira Liga and Champions League, but also starring for Argentina as they lifted the World Cup in Qatar last month, with Fernandez claiming the FIFA Best Young Player of the Tournament award.

Is he really worth all that money, though?

Chelsea clearly think so, and in Fernandez they have bought a player who will feel like a dream come true for head coach Graham Potter.

In his time at Brighton and Hove Albion, Potter delighted in building midfields that could dominate the ball, that could keep hold of possession while also making incisive passes to turn the opposition around.

Despite being one of the smaller clubs in the Premier League, Potter's Brighton averaged 54.3 per cent possession in league games in 2021-22 (only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea had more), while averaging 496 passes per game, and 59 passes into the final third per game (sixth in the league for both metrics).

Only Man City, Arsenal and, funnily enough, Brighton have a higher possession average than Chelsea since Potter took charge at Stamford Bridge in September, while only City have attempted more passes than the Blues, which will be where Fernandez comes in.

The man who only turned 22 earlier on January 17 is a passing machine, having completed 1,431 in total in just 17 Primeira Liga games, over 200 more than the player with the next most in the Portuguese top-flight.

It is not simply quantity over quality either, as Fernandez has also made 248 passes into the final third, at least 51 more than any other player.

Not only do they lead the league in terms of the table, but Benfica are also league leaders in averages for possession (66.0 per cent), passes per game (623) and passes ending in the final third per game (70.6). Their style enables Fernandez, but in turn, his ability allows them to execute it, which must have Potter salivating. 

Fernandez showed similar form in the Champions League as Benfica surprisingly won a group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, before going on to star in the World Cup as well.

Several big clubs had already taken a shine to him, but the astonishing figure shelled out for him by Chelsea was no doubt rubber-stamped after his performances in Qatar, with Fernandez leading all players in the epic final between Argentina and France for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His 10 tackles were the most of any player in a World Cup final since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15).

But is he better than what Chelsea already have?

In the Blues' midfield this season, Mateo Kovacic leads the way in terms of number of passes per 90 in Premier League games (69.0), ahead of Jorginho (61.7), with no other player to have played more than five games averaging even 50.

Fernandez has been averaging 84.18 successful passes per game in Portugal, though consideration must be given to the difference in strength between the Premier League and Primeira Liga. In fact, it is the second-most of any midfielder in any of Europe's top 10 leagues this season, behind only Manchester City's Rodri (84.58), and ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti (78.06) and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos (74.53).

There is also the Argentine's creativity to take into account, with Chelsea struggling to score goals this season having only managed 22 in 20 league games so far.

In league games, of those to have played more than twice, Conor Gallagher is averaging the most chances created from open play of Potter's midfield options at 1.59 per game, followed by Carney Chukwuemeka (1.38) and Mason Mount (1.24). Fernandez has averaged 1.62 per game.

When you consider that Potter already had Kovacic, Mount, Gallagher, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Denis Zakaria, Lewis Hall and Chukwuemeka to choose from, with Jorginho having departed for Arsenal on deadline day, you might think spending nine figures on another midfielder to be somewhat indulgent.

With the early promise and potential trajectory of Fernandez though, Chelsea have quite probably taken the next step in a long-term rebuild. Jorginho and Kante are both 31 years old and out of contract at the end of the season, and investing in the future rather than the past makes sense for a team that always wants to be challenging for the biggest trophies.

With great spending comes great expectations though, and the pressure will be immense on Fernandez to not just shine on the big stage, but to do so immediately.

Chelsea's newest addition could justifiably insist he has done just that with every challenge thrown at him in a short space of time, including the biggest challenge of winning the World Cup.

Enzo will no doubt back himself to prove he can live up to the price tag and be the Ferrari that Graham Potter needs.

Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) in January alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the window.

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

 

Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) this month alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the January transfer window.

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

 

Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

Lionel Messi wishes Diego Maradona had been able to hand him the World Cup trophy last month, but he has no regrets over the time it took him to lead Argentina to football's greatest prize.

Messi inspired Argentina to their fourth World Cup in Qatar last year, winning the Golden Ball award after scoring seven goals at the tournament – including two in the final against France.

The Albiceleste's triumph was their first in the competition since Maradona – who died in 2020 – produced his own series of talismanic displays to lead them to glory at Mexico 1986.

During an interview in Paris with Andy Kusnetzoff, Messi said he regretted the fact Maradona – who coached him at the 2010 World Cup – was not alive to witness his crowning moment.

"I would have liked Diego to give me the cup, or at least to see all this, to see Argentina as world champions, with everything he wanted and how he loved the national team," Messi said.

"I think from above, he – like a lot of people who love me – were strong."

While Messi had to wait until his fifth and likely final World Cup to lift the trophy, the legendary attacker says his triumph could not have come at a better time. 

"I think if I had to choose the moment, it would have been this one," Messi said. "It's at the end of my career, closing a cycle.

"I achieved everything with the national team as I always dreamed. I got everything in my career, individually. It was about closing my career in a unique way.

"I never imagined that all this was going to happen to me when I started, and getting to this moment was the best. I have no complaints and I can't ask for more.

"We won the Copa America [in 2021] and the World Cup, there's nothing left."

As well as producing several outstanding performances, Messi made headlines for taking on a more vocal role as Argentina's leader in Qatar. 

The Paris Saint-Germain star memorably celebrated a quarter-final goal against the Netherlands in front of Louis van Gaal before describing him as "disrespectful" in a post-match interview, while he also called striker Wout Weghorst a "fool" after the same game.

Messi admits he is not proud of some of his behaviour at the tournament, adding: "I knew what Van Gaal had said but it [the celebration] happened on the spur of the moment.

"I didn't like what I did, I didn't like what happened after. These are moments of nervousness and everything happens very quickly."

Graham Arnold will stay on as Australia head coach heading into the 2026 World Cup.

The Socceroos reached the round of 16 in Qatar last year, matching the achievement of 2006.

After losing to eventual finalists France in their opening group game, Australia beat Tunisia and Denmark to record their best performance at a World Cup finals. They lost 2-1 to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in a tight last-16 tie.

Arnold, who was caretaker manager of the national team between 2006 and 2007 and also took charge of Australia's Olympic side at the delayed Tokyo 2020 tournament, has now signed a new contract to keep him in place through to the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Football Australia chair Chris Nikou said: "What Graham and the entire squad achieved under the most challenging of circumstances during the last FIFA World Cup campaign was exceptional, and we are delighted that we have secured his services for a further four years.

"Football Australia is ambitious, where we expect continued progress and results from our senior and youth national teams, and through our discussions with Graham over recent weeks, we know our thinking is aligned on the future direction of Australian football and the Socceroos."

James Johnson, Football Australia's chief executive, noted Arnold had "contributed to some of Australian football's most iconic moments", but that "his exploits as the Socceroos head coach have propelled him into a league of his own."

Arnold said: "I love Australia and I love Australian football, and nothing in football can ever match the elation, pride and sense of achievement I and the entire set-up felt in Qatar. 

"The hunger to continue in the role has never been stronger and I know I have more to give to the Socceroos' programme and Australian football, where I want to deliver more smiles for our fans as we did in Qatar.

"I approach the next four years with a clean sheet, which is underpinned by a burning ambition to provide more opportunities to our leading emerging and established talent, whilst challenging for major titles starting with the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar next year."

Arnold explained he hopes Australia's performance at the World Cup convinces the country's government to allocate more funding to the sport and establish a permanent base for the Socceroos. 

"It's crazy to think the Socceroos don’t get any high-performance funding from the government," he told reporters.

"They don't have a home. How can you have a football culture if you don't have a home?

"Funding will help the programmes but the home of football is crucial. It's something as a sport we’ve missed out on. We've got nothing, nowhere to go."

Arnold has won 30 of his 51 games in charge of Australia, with his 59 per cent win rate the highest of any of the 12 coaches to have overseen the Socceroos on more than 20 occasions.

Marseille have struck a deal to sign Azzedine Ounahi after clubs from across Europe targeted the midfielder who dazzled in Morocco's World Cup semi-final run.

Ounahi was pivotal as Morocco became the first African team to reach the last four at a World Cup, catching the eye as the Atlas Lions saw off Spain and Portugal before falling to France.

The 22-year-old will leave Angers to join fellow Ligue 1 outfit Marseille for a fee reportedly of around €10million, having previously been linked with the likes of Napoli, Leicester City and Leeds United.

Both clubs announced a deal was in place on Saturday.

Marseille, who sit third in the table, said in a short statement: "Olympique Marseille announces an agreement in principle with Angers for the permanent signing of Azzedine Ounahi."

Ounahi has played 15 games in the French top flight this season, having also been a regular last season, and he will leave Angers just 18 months after arriving from minnows Avranches.

His arrival at Stade Velodrome could pave the way for Matteo Guendouzi to depart.

The France international is rumoured to be a target for Aston Villa and West Ham.

Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin are among four players handed a suspension by FIFA for their furious reaction to Uruguay's World Cup exit last month.

The Celeste failed to make it out of Group H in Qatar despite winning their last game 2-0 against Ghana, with South Korea advancing at their expense due to having scored more goals.

Uruguay were fuming when Cavani was denied a late penalty after going down in the Ghana area and the Valencia striker pushed the VAR monitor over after the final whistle, while several of his team-mates surrounded referee Daniel Siebert.

FIFA on Friday revealed Cavani and captain Godin have been hit with a one-match suspension, while they must also participate in community football service and pay a fine of CHF 15,000 (£13,140).

Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez and Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera have been banned for four games by the world governing body, while they have been hit in the pocket to the tune of CHF 20,000 (£17,520) and also ordered to do community football service work.

The FIFA disciplinary committee also found the Uruguayan FA was responsible for the discriminatory behaviour of its supporters at the December 2 game, as well as for the misconduct, offensive behaviour and violation of the principles of fair play shown by players.

That will result in Uruguay playing their next game with a partial stadium closure, with no fans allowed behind the goals at each end, FIFA said in a statement.

The Uruguayan FA has also been fined CHF 50,000 (£43,800).

Italy will be "hungry for revenge" following their World Cup absence when they meet Spain at the Nations League Finals in June, Roberto Mancini's assistant Alberico Evani has told Stats Perform.

The European champions missed out on a second consecutive edition of the global tournament last year after falling to a shock qualification play-off defeat against North Macedonia in March.

However, the Azzurri bounced back to top a competitive Nations League group containing Hungary, Germany and England as they qualified for the competition's final four for the second edition in a row.

Italy will face Spain – who beat them in the 2021 semi-finals at San Siro – on June 15 following Wednesday's draw, while hosts Netherlands will meet Croatia.

Evani, who was a World Cup runner-up as a player in 1994 before joining Mancini's backroom team in 2018, knows Spain will be tough opponents but hopes Italy can prove a point.

"We've struggled against them in the past because of their style of play," Evani said of the threat posed by La Roja. 

"We would have preferred to avoid them, but it's also nice to have to play against them, as we can see if we have improved. 

"We are the only two teams who reached the final four in the last two consecutive editions. Let's see if we can change the result. 

"We are hungry for revenge and to take back what we have left in London two years ago [when winning the delayed Euro 2020]. 

"We have the skills to do it and we are doing all we can to be competitive again, we are working to be in the best possible conditions in June."

Mancini recently called for coaches to be braver in giving top-level experience to young Italian players, something Evani is also keen to see. 

"We had a camp right before Christmas and we called up all these young players. There is a lot of quality, they are interesting players with big futures ahead of them," he said.

"We hope their respective clubs will let them play more and more so they can gain the right experience. We have the talents, I think the future is bright."

Evani was speaking less than a week after Serie A giants Juventus were issued with a 15-point deduction following an investigation into the club's past transfer dealings.

Italy won the 2006 World Cup amid investigations that saw several of Serie A's top clubs punished in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal, and Evani hopes the Azzurri can again find motivation from a crisis affecting the country's domestic league.

"Our country always find strength in hardships," he said. "We didn't qualify for the World Cup and we now have this issue with the entire Italian football system. Who knows, we might be able to find the right boost to reach new heights."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Kylian Mbappe should be confident of winning another World Cup but does not expect Argentina to do likewise after their disrespectful title celebrations.

Mbappe's France lost on penalties to Argentina in December's Qatar 2022 final despite their talisman scoring a hat-trick.

Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi instead added the final major medal he was waiting for to his collection.

Despite Mbappe matching Messi almost stride for stride, he was the subject of taunts from the Argentina players both immediately after the game and in their celebrations back home.

PSG great Ibrahimovic criticised the Albiceleste's lack of class and suggested it was "a sign" they will not repeat their win.

"I said Argentina will for sure win the World Cup, because if you want to remember the Qatar World Cup for the rest of history, who needs to win? Messi," he told France Inter.

"Messi is considered the best player in history. If you want to remember the Qatar World Cup, Messi needs to win. I was 100 per cent sure he would win.

"But I felt sorry for Mbappe, because if you score three goals in a final and don't win the World Cup, that is very sad.

"What will happen? He will win another World Cup, and he already won one, so I'm not worried about Mbappe. I'm worried about the other players in Argentina, because they will not win anything more.

"Messi has won everything and he will be remembered, but the rest, who behaved badly, that you cannot respect. That's coming from me as a professional football player at a high level.

"That is a sign you will win one time and you will not win any more. Mbappe will win again."

Fernando Santos has been appointed Poland head coach until 2026 following the end of his tenure with Portugal.

Santos, 68, was in charge of the Selecao for over eight years and guided them to success at Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League in 2019.

Despite those trophies, Portugal fans had become frustrated with the style of football Santos' team played in recent years, with there being a perception of him underachieving given the wealth of talent at his disposal.

Santos' Portugal contract was not due to expire until after Euro 2024, but he was removed from his role after the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco last month.

Roberto Martinez has since replaced him.

Santos has not wasted much time in taking a new job either, however, with Poland his third international position in succession after also coaching Greece for four years prior to taking over Portugal.

He will be only Poland's third non-native head coach after Portuguese compatriot Paulo Sousa, who had a brief spell in charge in 2021, and Leo Beenhakker.

Polish Football Association (PZPN) president Cezary Kulesza had essentially confirmed the hiring on Monday when he posted a photo of himself with Santos, the caption announcing a press conference for the following day.

Santos' first goal will be to secure Poland's qualification for a fourth successive appearance at the European Championship, with the 2024 edition to take place in neighbouring Germany.

He will then be tasked with leading Poland to the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States, after which his contract is due to end.

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe may have faced off against one another in the World Cup final in Qatar, but they line up in the same XI in FIFA 23's Team of the Year.

While Mbappe scored a hat-trick in the tournament's showpiece match, it was Messi's Argentina who lifted the World Cup for a third time with a penalty shoot-out victory following a 3-3 draw after extra-time.

The Paris Saint-Germain team-mates have both made FIFA 23's Team of the Year, though, with the selections made from over 10 million votes from fans.

Despite Argentina's World Cup win, Messi is the only player from Lionel Scaloni's team to be included, with Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema completing the front three after scoring 44 goals in 46 matches in the 2021-22 season to help Real Madrid to a LaLiga title and Champions League win.

Kevin De Bruyne finished third in the Ballon d'Or rankings and is part of the midfield, alongside the evergreen Madrid star Luka Modric and Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, with the latter playing a key role for England at the World Cup at the age of just 19.

The Madrid theme running through the line-up continues at the back, with Thibaut Courtois between in goal and Eder Militao at the heart of the defence.

Virgil van Dijk joins Militao, while Theo Hernandez and Achraf Hakimi, who enjoyed excellent World Cups with France and Morocco respectively, fill the full-back roles.

Richarlison felt Brazil's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Croatia was "worse than losing a family member".

Pre-tournament favourites the Selecao won Group G and thrashed South Korea 4-1 in the round of 16 to raise hopes they could be crowned champions for the first time since 2002.

But their campaign came to a halt at the quarter-final stage in Qatar, losing on penalties to Croatia after Marquinhos and Rodrygo were unable to tuck away their spot-kicks.

The loss sparked emotional responses from a number of players with Neymar, who had given Brazil an extra-time lead before Bruno Petkovic's equaliser sent the game to penalties, left in tears on the pitch as Croatia celebrated their victory.

Richarlison told ESPN: "It was a blow, I don't know. I think it's worse than losing a family member.

"It was difficult to recover. To this day, when I watch videos on my social networks, it makes me sad.

"But we have to move on. I'm still young, I think I still have one or two World Cups to go. I will keep working hard so that things start to flow again, the goals start to come out, which is what I know how to do on the field."

Despite the disappointing end to the tournament, it was a strong World Cup for Richarlison, who was Brazil's top scorer with three goals.

The Tottenham forward's bicycle kick against Serbia won the goal of the tournament award and has also been nominated for the 2022 Puskas Award, handed out by FIFA to the best goal of a calendar year.

"Our goal was to be champion. I scored a beautiful goal, but I think that goal, let's say, was not my goal," Richarlison added. "We went there to raise the cup. 

"But I'm also happy to have scored that great goal, even running for the Puskas. I was happy, because I think a lot of people started to know me more. It was very important in my career."

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson accepts Socceroos forward Garang Kuol is not the "finished article" but is thrilled to land the 18-year-old on loan from Newcastle United.

The Edinburgh club confirmed the temporary signing – subject to international clearance – of Kuol from the Premier League side on Thursday, reportedly beating several Championship clubs to him.

Kuol impressed with two cameos for Australia at the 2022 World Cup, where the Socceroos reached the round of 16 for the second time.

In September, the teenager agreed a pre-contract deal to join Newcastle in January from A-League club Central Coast Mariners, with the Magpies eager to loan him out for first-team experience.

The Egypt-born talent only debuted for Central Coast in December 2021 and made just 22 first-team appearances – netting seven goals – before joining Newcastle.

"It's fantastic news that Garang has committed himself to Hearts for the next six months," Neilson said.

"It's no secret that we were extremely interested in him and he came up for a look around last week. He was impressed with what he saw and what we're trying to do here, which is pleasing.

"We're getting a player who is by no means the finished article but there is a lot of talent there – you don't get called up to and play in the World Cup for nothing.

"He'll offer us new options going forward as we look to continue our good form and continue to make progress in the league and in the Scottish Cup, and we're really looking forward to working with him."

Kuol joins fellow Australians Kye Rowles, Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson at Hearts. All four were part of the Socceroos' World Cup squad.

"The gaffer also persuaded me to come here with the plan that he put to me for my development," Kuol said.

"Overall, the club has great ambitions and goals, and that was something I wanted to be involved in. I think it was a very good decision."

Hearts are third in the Scottish Premiership with 32 points from 20 games, 26 points behind leaders Celtic.

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