Barcelona head to Bayern Munich on the final matchday desperately needing a positive result to secure their spot in the Champions League knockout stages.

Benfica, who face Dynamo Kiev in Group E's other clash, hold the head-to-head edge over Xavi's new side as Barca travel to Germany knowing they likely need a win to make it through to the next round.

Manchester United and Chelsea are already through their respective groups, while Juventus host Malmo with the Bianconeri's place in the last-16 sealed before the final matchday as well.

As Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo edge towards more records, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data heading into the games taking place on Wednesday.

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Blaugrana face thankless task to qualify

Bayern have won their last three Champions League meetings with Barca, which is already the longest run against the Blaugrana in European history by any side.

Julian Nagelsmann's team, who have averaged five goals per home game in this season's competition, have cruised through to the next round, while Barca could fall to their second-worst performance in terms of points if they fail to avoid defeat.

The visitors will have to deal with Lewandowski, who is the top scorer in the group stage with nine goals and the Poland forward could become the only player in history to net 10-plus times in the group stage on multiple occasions. Ronaldo (11 in 2015-16) and Lionel Messi (10 in 2016-17) are the only other players to have achieved this once.

Zenit v Chelsea: Blues edge towards more defensive milestones

Chelsea could become just the second English team, after Manchester United in 2003-04 and 2010-11 to win four consecutive games in the competition while keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.

Indeed, with a clean sheet the Blues and Thomas Tuchel could become the fastest team and manager combination to reach 10 shutouts in the competition, having already recorded nine in just 12 games since the German's appointment.

The defending champions have also had 14 different scorers, excluding own goals, the most of any team in the Champions League since Tuchel's Blues bow in Europe.

Manchester United v Young Boys: Ronaldo looks to repeat history

Ronaldo has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances since returning to United (six goals), while Bruno Fernandes boasts the most assists in the competition so far this term (five).

Portugal captain Ronaldo will be looking to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in a single campaign, having previously done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this in the competition’s history.

Worryingly for Young Boys, who never kept a clean sheet in 11 attempts in the competition, the Swiss side have lost their last six away games between 1986 and 2021, last tasting European Cup/Champions League victory in August 1960.

Juventus v Malmo: Bianconeri aim to match record home dominance

Juve have won each of their last five Champions League home matches, only registering more consecutive such victories in a run of six between December 2016 and 2017.

While the Bianconeri did suffer their heaviest defeat in the history of the competition against Chelsea, Juve have a perfect record against Malmo in their opening three games – only Barca have ever won their opening four games against a specific opponent in the competitions.

Meanwhile, Malmo have only managed one win in their last eight against Italian opponents in the European Cup/Champions League, with their lone triumph against Inter in September 1989.

 

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Villarreal:

21 - There have been 21 goals scored in Atalanta’s five games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (11 goals for, 10 against), at an average of 4.2 per game. Only one of these five games have seen a team manage to keep a clean sheet, with Real Madrid doing so in a 1-0 victory back in February.

1 - Villarreal have won just one of their eight visits to Italian opponents in major European competition (D3 L4), though it came in their most recent such outing, defeating Roma 1-0 in the Europa League in 2016-17.

Benfica v Dynamo Kiev:

4 - Since losing their first ever meeting with Dynamo Kiev in European competition (0-1 in November 1991), Benfica are unbeaten in four games against the Ukrainian side (W3 D1), with all four coming in the European Cup/Champions League.

60 – Dynamo Kiev have lost 60 per cent of their away matches in the competition, only Olympiakos (75) and Galatasaray (71) have lost a larger percentage out of teams to have played at least 50 such games.

Red Bull Salzburg v Sevilla:

5 – Red Bull Salzburg are winless in their last five fixtures against Spanish opposition in the Champions League and have only won one of their last 11 meetings against such sides.

3 – Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic has managed three goal involvements in his side's five goals in the competition, despite only starting two games – only for Barca in 2015-16 did he record more (four).

Wolfsburg v Lille:

5 - Wolfsburg have gone unbeaten in their last five games against French opponents in European competition (W2 D3) after previously going eight games without recording a victory against French teams across all competitions (D3 L5).

8 – Lille have claimed eight points from their opening five games and could equal, or improve on, their best ever return in a group stage in the competition - nine points in 2006-07, where they qualified with a second-place finish.

Robert Lewandowski has clarified his comments and expressed delight at Lionel Messi's praise after beating the Poland striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Messi claimed a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or last week, with Lewandowski having to settle for second and the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

The Bayern Munich forward may feel somewhat hard done by, given he scored 53 times in 42 games for the Bundesliga champions between the start of 2021 and the winner being announced by France Football.

That was the most of any player in Europe's top-five leagues across all competitions, with 2021 Copa America winner Messi down in joint-fifth with 32 goals.

Gerd Muller's long-standing record for the most goals (40) scored in a single Bundesliga season was also broken by Lewandowski, who netted 41 in 29 league games last term to make him favourite for the award that was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After accepting the award again, Messi made special mention of Lewandowski as he suggested the forward deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his 2020 performances.

Lewandowski appeared ungrateful for the praise, apparently saying to Polish channel Kanal Sportowy that he hoped Messi's words were "a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words," though he has since looked to clarify exactly what he meant.

"My statement, which I made in an interview with a Polish TV broadcaster, is currently being misinterpreted," Lewandowski told Kicker. "I never wanted to say that Lionel Messi's words were not serious or sincere.

"On the contrary. I was very touched and delighted by Lionel Messi's speech at the event in Paris, in which he expressed that, in his opinion, I deserved the Ballon d'Or 2020. I just wanted to express that I would of course be very happy if Messi's words were heard.

"I respect and appreciate Lionel Messi beyond measure and once again congratulate him on winning the Ballon d'Or 2021."

Robert Lewandowski has questioned whether winner Lionel Messi was sincere with his praise towards him after beating the Bayern Munich striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

Messi claimed the coveted accolade for a record-extending seventh time last week, with Lewandowski finishing second as he settled for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Lewandowski was somewhat unfortunate to miss out to Messi, having scored 53 times in 42 games for Bayern between the start of 2021 and the award being handed out.

That was the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions, with Messi – who won the Copa America with Argentina – joint-fifth on the list with 32 goals.

Poland international Lewandowski averaged a goal every 67 minutes over the same period. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the next-most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.

Lewandowski would also have been favourite to win the award last year had it not been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In his acceptance speech when collecting the award, Messi said Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his exploits in 2020.

"Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that [Lewandowski was] the big winner," Messi said. "Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d'Or 2020."

However, Lewandowski appeared unmoved by those comments from Messi and admitted to feeling upset about once again missing out on football's top individual honour.

"I felt sadness," he told Polish channel Kanal Sportowy. "I can't deny it. I can't say I was happy – on the contrary, I have a feeling of sadness. 

"To be so close, to compete with Messi, of course I respect how he plays and what he has achieved. The mere fact that I was able to compete with him shows me the level that I was able to reach.

"I'm not that enthusiastic about getting the 2020 award. I would like [Messi's statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words."

Robert Lewandowski was spurred on by Borussia Dortmund supporters chanting the name of Lionel Messi ahead of Bayern Munich's clash with Borussia Dortmund.

That was the verdict of Julian Nagelsmann, the head coach who saw his Bayern side prevail 3-2 in a thrilling Klassiker to move four points clear of their closest rivals at the Bundesliga summit.

Lewandowski scored twice for the leaders, the second of those goals a late penalty, in the same week he missed out to Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or.

Dortmund fans, who worshipped Lewandowski during his four seasons at Signal Iduna Park, taunted the striker by singing Messi's name while both sides were warming up.

The Poland international took revenge with his double, however, taking his tally against BVB to 26 goals in all competitions – his most against a single side.

Speaking after the game, Nagelsmann said: "All of this rather spurred him on. He scored the significant goals and paid the fans back after all the Messi calls in the stadium."

 

Bayern were 2-1 up at half-time in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash after Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman struck to cancel out Julian Brandt's early opener.

Erling Haaland hit back for Dortmund, who saw a couple of big decisions go against them in what could well be a defining moment in the Bundesliga title race.

Lucas Hernandez avoided conceding a penalty despite appearing to commit a foul on Marco Reus, shortly before Mats Hummels was deemed to have handled at a corner.

Lewandowski converted the resulting penalty, leading to strong comments being made by the Dortmund camp in regard to the performance of referee Felix Zwayer.

Despite the controversial conclusion to the game, Nagelsmann felt his side were good value for their seventh successive win against Dortmund in all competitions.

"I think we deserved to win, but I also understand the discussions over the two penalty situations," said Nagelsmann.

"It was a very tight game that was worthy of its reputation. We could have scored more in the first half.

"Dortmund did it well early in the second half, but we found our rhythm again and had good control."

Bayern ended the game with an expected goals (xG) return of 2.27 compared to Dortmund's 1.44, backing up Nagelsmann's assertion that his side deserved all three points.

Dortmund had more possession (53 per cent) and outshot Bayern seven to six in the second half, however, and Thomas Muller conceded the visiting side rode their luck in the end.

"Dortmund's first goal has probably helped us," Bayern stalwart Muller told Sky Sport. "We got into the gaps relatively easily afterwards, with the goals scored after mistakes.

"We should have taken the lead in the first half. In the second half, I don't know whether we deserved to win from the way we played.

"The first-half display was definitely better – we moved the ball well and won our challenges. Based on the second-half performance, we didn't deserve it. It was more of a fight."

Robert Lewandowski scored twice, including a late penalty, as Bayern Munich edged title rivals Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in Saturday's thrilling Klassiker to go four points clear at the Bundesliga summit.

Lewandowski lost out to Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or this week, but he continued to let his football do the talking, taking his goals tally against his former club to 26 – more than he has managed against any other team.

Both sides created at will in a gripping first half, but Dortmund – who led through Julian Brandt in the fifth minute – paid the price for costly mistakes as Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman ensured Bayern were 2-1 up at half-time.

A sumptuous Erling Haaland strike got Dortmund back on level terms, but after somehow not winning a penalty of their own, they conceded one themselves and Lewandowski converted to seal the win, setting a Bundesliga away goals record in the process.

A purposeful Dortmund start brought an early opener as Brandt – later withdrawn due to a nasty head injury – collected Jude Bellingham's lofted pass and finished emphatically having evaded Alphonso Davies.

But Bayern quickly hit back, Lewandowski clinically finding the bottom-right corner with his record-equalling 117th Bundesliga away goal after Thomas Muller charged down Mats Hummels' clearance attempt.

Several chances were wasted at either end thereafter, but Bayern managed to take a lead into the break.

Another botched Dortmund clearance – this time Guerreiro smashing into Hummels' midriff – saw the ball fall for Coman and he drilled home.

Dortmund restored parity again just after the interval, Haaland curling a gorgeous effort out of Manuel Neuer's reach and in off the right post.

They should have had the chance to lead a few minutes later but Lucas Hernandez mystifyingly avoided conceding a penalty when appearing to commit a blatant foul on Marco Reus.

Hummels was not so lucky, however, with a VAR check deeming him to have handled at a corner. Lewandowski squeezed his winning kick just inside the post for another away goal, an outright Bundesliga record for the Pole, and a valuable win for Bayern.

Jurgen Klopp has claimed the improvement he has seen in Nat Phillips reminds him of Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski.

The Liverpool boss managed Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund between 2010-2014, where the Poland striker scored 103 goals in 187 games before moving to Bayern.

Klopp was forced to rely on Phillips for much of last season after injuries decimated his defensive options.

The Bolton-born centre back - who also has some German football experience from a loan period at Stuttgart two seasons ago - became a regular part of Liverpool's backline after Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip had all been sidelined with long-term injuries.

While the Reds fell away from the title race in the second half of the campaign, with the help of Phillips, they were able to secure third place and Champions League football thanks to a late-season resurgence.

Phillips particularly showed his aerial prowess, winning 96 aerial duels in his 17 Premier League games. Only nine defenders won more, all of whom played at least 13 more games than the 24-year-old.

Klopp sees a lot of similarities in the improvements shown under him by Lewandowski and Phillips.

"People often ask me which player made the biggest improvements under my leadership, and I say Robert Lewandowski," he said.

"That's probably right, but not far off that is Nat Phillips, just in a completely different department.

"I remember when I saw Nat Phillips first. I spoke to him after the game and he's one of the smartest players I ever worked with. I told him, 'You know you are not the easiest on the eye, eh?'

"He improved in pretty much everything since, and he's not playing. Life is sometimes not fair and I can't blame him."

Phillips has been linked with a move away from Anfield in the January transfer window after making just three appearances this season, with Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip all back from injury and Ibrahima Konate signed from RB Leipzig at the end of last season.

"We cannot keep him forever, that's clear," Klopp added. "We needed him, just to be safe, for that half-year. We will see what happens in the window. He was fine doing it because he's a great guy.

"His development is absolutely insane. You saw it last year, you would have said 'Nat Phillips, oh my god, he plays in the last line?'

"People love him because of his heading but with his feet he is unbelievable. He's a late starter, but his development is unbelievable. I would sign him for any club except Liverpool, because we have him."

Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose has confirmed Erling Haaland is not fit enough to play a full part in this weekend's key Klassiker clash with Bayern Munich.

Haaland scored just seven minutes into his comeback from a six-week injury lay-off in last Saturday's 3-1 win over Wolfsburg.

That was the Norway striker's 50th Bundesliga goal, reaching the landmark in just 50 matches and becoming the youngest ever player to do so at 21 years and four months.

However, with just those 17 minutes of football to his name since sustaining a hip injury on October 19, Haaland will not be considered to play the whole game against Bayern.

"Erling himself knows his situation," Rose said at Friday's pre-match news conference. "He has had a good week of training behind him. 

"But we all know that we have to be careful a little longer. He will certainly not be ready for 90 minutes, so we will have to see how long he can go."

 

Haaland has averaged 1.12 goals per 90 minutes played in Germany's top flight, scoring 40 with his left foot, six with his right and four headers.

Since making his Dortmund bow in January last year, only Robert Lewandowski (70 goals in 56 games) has scored more Bundesliga goals than the ex-Salzburg man.

Indeed, no player in Europe's top five leagues has scored more goals in all competitions this season than Bayern striker Lewandowski's 25.

Despite his continued brilliance in front of goal, Lewandowski finished second to record-extending seven-time winner Lionel Messi at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

Rather than feel sorry for himself, however, Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann is backing Lewandowski to be extra fired up against Dortmund on Saturday.

"I've already said that he's in great shape and it's not impossible that he could win this thing again," Nagelsmann said at his pre-match news conference. 

"He can't change the past. He's working every day on the present and the future gets created with his work in the present. I think it could be possible that he wins it someday.

"And I'm sure that, when you look at his current numbers without mathematical talent like me, it looks good for this season.  

"Therefore, I believe that he can do it and that those who vote will vote for him next year and say that he deserves the Ballon d'Or.

"It is important to accept this disappointment but also to take energy and motivation for other big performances. And I'm confident that he has this drive."

 

Against no team has Lewandowski scored more goals in all competitions than against former side Dortmund (24, level with his record against Wolfsburg).

Dortmund have lost their past six competitive matches against Bayern, but they enter this contest with six wins in their previous seven leagues games and are just a point behind Bayern.

Asked how his side go about beating reigning champions and current pacesetters Bayern at Signal Iduna Park, Rose said: "We need to play well in every department.

"I believe that Bayern have a clear structure with the ball and develop a goal risk from it with a lot of force. It is difficult to grasp. 

"It will be important to eliminate the offensive quality around Lewandowski and the wingers and to keep Munich out of the penalty area as much as possible."

Thomas Muller said it was "definitely a disappointment". Jurgen Klopp was left confused. Lothar Matthaus "doesn't understand the world any more". Even Lionel Messi used his victory speech to suggest France Football issue a retrospective 2020 award.

Whatever your views on the Ballon d'Or this year, chances are you saw Messi beating Robert Lewandowski to the prize and thought it was at least worthy of discussion. Robbed of the chance to claim it last year when France Football cancelled it – hence Messi's magnanimous suggestion to the organisers – Lewandowski suited up for this year's gala having scored 53 goals in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than anyone else, with a new single-season Bundesliga scoring record in his pocket and yet another league title with Bayern Munich. And all after winning the treble the season before. And it was only good enough for second place.

Now isn't the time for Lewandowski to dwell on disappointment, though. There's the small matter of the Klassiker on Saturday: Bayern are only a point above Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, a real title race is on the cards again. Plus, Dortmund have fit-again Erling Haaland back among the goals – and ready to give chase to Lewandowski's goalscoring benchmark.

After the Ballon d'Or disappointment, and with Dortmund and Haaland breathing down his neck, this would be a good time for Lewandowski to start laying a claim for the 2022 prize...

 

Meisters at work

There are some great rivalries in the Bundesliga, but this game is truly a German institution.

Dortmund and Bayern have met each other 129 times – it's the most frequently played match in German professional football history. Bayern have lost more often to Dortmund than any other side (32 times); likewise, nobody has beaten BVB as often as Bayern (63 times).

Recent history has been firmly on Bayern's side (even ignoring their nine consecutive league titles since Dortmund's last one in 2012). The champions have won each of the past six Klassikers, and all of the previous three on Dortmund's home turf. BVB have only lost four in a row at home to the same team on two occasions: against Hamburg from 1982-84, and against Juventus from 1993-2015.

 

Perhaps things will be different this time. After all, Dortmund have won seven home games in a row at the start of this season, something they have never achieved before. Beating Bayern would see them equal their club record of 12 consecutive home league victories, and few would argue it's impossible: with 30 points from 13 games, this is their third-best start to a season in the era of three points for a win.

With just a point separating them in the table, former Bayern defender Patrik Andersson certainly sees it being a close encounter. "First of all, when you see that Bayern lost against Augsburg, now it's only one point... I think it will be a decider, for the moment," he told Stats Perform.

"And also, for Bayern, a really important game before the big clash against Barcelona. And now Dortmund, having no chance in the Champions League, it is also a really important game for them. So, yeah, always a big clash."

Consider, too, Julian Nagelsmann's record against Dortmund. The Bayern boss has only managed one win in 11 Bundesliga meetings with Dortmund, his points-per-game average of 0.64 the lowest he has against any opposition. And while Bayern are enjoying their best Bundesliga season for six years (31 points in 13 games), scoring 42 times in that run – the second-best return in their history – they have managed precisely zero clean sheets in nine away league games. The last time that happened was in a 12-game run in 2010-11, during which Louis van Gaal was sacked as coach.

And that's before we come to Haaland, and the man in whose wake he treads – a pair who scored five of the six goals in the previous league meeting of these sides.

 

Tor-mentors in chief

Since the start of last season, Lewandowski has scored 73 goals in 60 games in all competitions, more than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues. His nearest rival, with 55 goals in 50 games, is Haaland.

Lewandowski's tally comes from a figure of 61.43 expected goals, meaning he is outperforming his expected output by 11.57, the biggest such differential in those top European leagues. Behind him come Karim Benzema on 9.33, Son Heung-min on 9.26, and Haaland on 9.11.

Among players to score at least 20 times since the start of 2020-21, Lewandowski boasts the second-best shot conversion rate (28.7 per cent). Top of that list is Haaland, the only man with a figure of more than 30 per cent (30.4).

By all meaningful measures, these two are the best goalscoring number nines in Europe, and have been for some time.

 

Haaland, of course, missed around a month of this season through injury and only returned against Wolfsburg last week. Naturally, he scored, becoming the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 goals and the only man to hit that milestone in as few as 50 games. Take away his league goals in 2021-22, and Dortmund would have six points fewer.

Lewandowski has already plundered 25 in just 20 games this term, 14 of which have come in the league. Without those, Bayern would be five points worse off, and we'd be talking about Bayer Leverkusen's chances of a first Bundesliga title.

Dortmund need no reminders about their old striker's prowess, of course. Lewandowski has scored 24 times against his former club, making them his favourite opposition alongside Wolfsburg. Should he score this weekend at Signal Iduna Park, he would match Klaus Fischer's record of 117 away goals scored in Bundesliga history – and in 83 fewer appearances.

 

For Lewandowski, this match represents a quick opportunity to remind everyone not only why he should have won this year's Ballon d'Or, but why he should be favourite for next year's, too. Firing Bayern to victory would also bolster their chances of a remarkable 10th league title in a row, and put in his place the young pretender to his throne as football's greatest marksman.

And make no mistake: Haaland is coming for that title, and more besides.

Is Robert Lewandowski's time at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich coming to an end?

Lewandowski has called Bayern home since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

However, the 33-year-old Poland international is reportedly ready for a new challenge.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI SET ON MADRID MOVE

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has ordered his agent to finalise a transfer to LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Lewandowski has repeatedly excelled for Bayern, where he has broken numerous records, while he was unfortunate not to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Previously linked with a move to the Premier League, Lewandowski appears to be set on a switch to Madrid, where his former team-mate David Alaba now calls home.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Fiorentina want to sell Dusan Vlahovic abroad but the Serbia international is not interested in Arsenal as he eyes Juventus. Vlahovic has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Bayern. It comes as Sky Sport Italia says Fiorentina are close to signing Lille forward Jonathan Ikone.

- Interim United manager Ralf Rangnick will try to convince Erling Haaland to leave Dortmund for Old Trafford, per Bild. Rangnick and Haaland worked together at Salzburg. Haaland is a player in demand amid interest from Madrid, Barcelona, Juve, Bayern, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. Since Rangnick's arrival, United have also been linked with RB Leipzig pair Christopher Nkunku and Amadou Haidara, as well as Chelsea forward Timo Werner.

- Record reports Dortmund are keen on Benfica and Uruguay attacker Darwin Nunez amid uncertainty over the future of Haaland.

- Premier League champions City have scouted Bologna and Sweden sensation Mattias Svanberg, according to Nicolo Schira.

Thomas Muller believes Robert Lewandowski should have trumped Lionel Messi after the Argentina international claimed his seventh Ballon d'Or title.

Messi collected his record-extending seventh accolade after more success with Barcelona and Argentina, who ended a 28-year wait for a major trophy with their Copa America win, despite struggling at new club Paris-Saint Germain.

The 34-year-old has scored just once for PSG in seven Ligue 1 outings this term, while Lewandowski has netted 25 times in 20 appearances across all competitions this season for Bayern.

The Poland forward also registered 41 goals in just 29 league games for Die Roten last campaign to break Gerd Muller's 49-year record in a single Bundesliga season, but only finished runner-up at Monday's ceremony.

While coronavirus forced a cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d'Or, which Lewandowski appeared favourite for, Muller feels his team-mate was deserving of the 2021 award as well.

 

"From a Bavarian, Polish and also from a German point of view, the presentation of the Ballon d'Or yesterday evening was definitely a disappointment," Muller wrote in a post on his official LinkedIn profile.

"For some even a little more. Although I've been in the business for a bit longer and was therefore not really surprised at the outcome (it was similar with Franck Ribery in 2013), the whole thing formed or reinforced a thought in me: We have great players in the Bundesliga and we have to not hide us. However, further international successes are necessary for global recognition.

"This is also a huge motivation for me to put everything into the balance in order to bring the Champions League back to Munich and to show the football world what is going on. And above all, what German football has to offer.

"We have the next opportunity to do so next Wednesday in the Champions League game against Barcelona. Let's tackle it! 

"PS: With Lionel Messi, he is probably the best individualist football has ever produced. So congratulations to Lionel on winning the Ballon d'Or, even if I think that Robert Lewandowski would have deserved it more this time."

Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

"I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

"And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

 

Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

Lionel Messi "completely deserved" his record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or, according to Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino.

The PSG star has endured something of a slow start to the Ligue 1 season, scoring just once in seven games, but his prior exploits with Barcelona and Argentina were enough to secure another accolade.

The 34-year-old's performances for Argentina at the Copa America, helping his country to a first major trophy in 28 years, were likely what gave him the edge over Robert Lewandowski.

Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, who Messi claimed should have been awarded the cancelled 2020 Ballon d'Or, was once again in the running after breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season.

But Pochettino insists his Argentinian compatriot was the most deserving of the award for yet another outstanding year in which he has also managed 32 goals and 12 assists across 40 club appearances.

"Firstly, I want to publicly congratulate Leo and his family," Pochettino told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference ahead of the visit of Nice. 

"Winning seven Ballons d'Or is an extraordinary achievement. I hope he takes advantage of it and that it's the first day to work on getting the eighth.

"To have players with six and seven Ballon d'Or is something extraordinary and we are delighted to have him here every day. 

"We hope at the end of the year to also have collective trophies beyond the individual trophies."

Asked about the criticism of the Argentina international's victory, Pochettino responded: "Messi completely deserved it and there is no debate. 

"Of course, in other countries there may be criticism, but he completely deserved it."

Ahead of Wednesday's clash with Nice, PSG lead Ligue 1 by 12 points after winning 13 of their opening 15 games, a total surpassed only once at this stage in the competition by PSG themselves in 2018-19 (14/15).

The league leaders may be without Messi for the clash at Parc des Princes, though, after the former Barcelona forward, along with Leandro Paredes, did not train on Tuesday due to a stomach bug.

PSG will decide on the fitness of the pair on the morning of the Nice game, while they will definitely be without Neymar, who is expected to be out for six to eight weeks due to an ankle injury sustained against Saint-Etienne.

Bayern Munich great Lothar Matthaus "does not understand the world anymore" after Robert Lewandowski missed out to Lionel Messi for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

Poland international Lewandowski was considered the favourite to come out on top at Monday's ceremony in Paris following another impressive 12 months for Bayern.

The 33-year-old has scored 53 times in 42 appearances this calendar year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

He has averaged a goal every 67 minutes and also made history earlier this year by breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old record for the most goals in a Bundesliga season with 41.

Despite his impressive achievements in front of goal, Lewandowski finished second in the voting to Lionel Messi, who claimed a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or.

Matthaus, who won the coveted trophy in 1990, was among those to question the final standings, which saw Jorginho finish third, Karim Benzema fourth and N'Golo Kante in fifth.

"To be honest, after this vote, I don't understand the world anymore," he told Sky Sport. 

"With all due respect to Messi and the other great nominated players, nobody deserves it like Lewandowski."

Lewandowski, who also missed out on the 2020 award after it was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead had to settle for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Bayern director Oliver Kahn was also surprised to see Messi pip Lewandowski to football's top individual prize.

"Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d'Or just as much as his top scorer trophy because he has performed at the highest level for years," Kahn said.

"But congratulations nonetheless to Lionel Messi. 

"Even without the Ballon d'Or, Lewy has long since arrived as one of the Olympus of football greats. He will still be a Ballon d'Or contender in the years to come."

While Messi had a rather more mixed campaign at club level compared to Lewandowski, the Paris Saint-Germain forward did inspire Argentina to Copa America glory in July.

Messi scored 28 goals in 29 games in the first half of 2021 with Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to PSG, for whom he has scored four goals in his first 11 games.

Lewandowski took to social media on Monday to congratulate the superstar forward on his latest triumph, which takes him two clear of five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Congratulations Leo Messi and Alexia Putellas, winners of the #BallonDor2021, congratulations also to all nominated players," he tweeted.

"I won Striker of the Year Award and no player can win an individual award without the strongest team and loyal fans behind him. Thank you for your support."

Lionel Messi is not sure if his record will be broken after the Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina superstar won a seventh Ballon d'Or on Monday.

Messi claimed the coveted award for a record-extending seventh time during a ceremony in Paris, while Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski won the inaugural Striker of the Year award and finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting.

Many had backed Lewandowski to take home the prized individual honour, after France Football's 2020 Ballon d'Or was scrapped due to COVID-19 – the Bayern forward has scored 53 goals in 42 appearances in 2021, the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

But Messi added to his incredible haul after guiding Argentina to a drought-ending triumph at the Copa America – the country's first piece of silverware in 28 years, while he has netted 32 goals and supplied 12 assists across 40 club appearances for Barcelona and PSG this year.

"I don't know if the record is beatable, I just have to accept it," the 34-year-old Messi told reporters, with Cristiano Ronaldo next on the list after winning the award five times.

"But honestly, I don't know if this record seven Ballon d'Or's can be beaten. But seven anyhow is really impressive and I'm very happy to win it here in Paris.

"Concerning [Liverpool star] Mohamed Salah, like [Robert] Lewandowski he will have other opportunities in the years to come. Both players are really at the best at what they've managed so far. They will have other opportunities to win the trophy."

 

Messi scored four goals and provided five assists as he led the Albiceleste to their first Copa America title since 1993, involved in nine of the 12 goals scored by Argentina at the showpiece South American tournament.

"I had a pretty good year with Barcelona without titles, however I did win the Copa del Rey," Argentina's captain and all-time leading scorer Messi added.

"The Copa America was very important to help me win this Ballon d'Or. And yes, I am very proud to be the first PSG to conquer this Ballon d'Or. It's special to do so with another jersey and it makes me very proud.

"This trophy really is special. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment with the Argentine national team. It was indeed a special year for me and of course it helped me in this new stage in my life, this move to PSG and my family and kids.

"I know they enjoy the moment and I enjoy seeing them happy. Seeing my parents, cousins and brothers happy, too."

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi clinched a seventh Ballon d'Or, extending his record as the player to have won the individual accolade on the most occasions.

The 34-year-old enjoyed a fruitful year at club level, scoring 32 times in 40 appearances across all competitions for PSG and Barcelona, but it was his exploits with Argentina that were most impressive, claiming the first major international trophy of his career by winning the Copa America. 

Bayern Munich's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski came second to Messi, but became the first winner of the Striker of the Year award after outscoring every player in Europe's top five leagues, netting 53 times in 42 appearances across all competitions so far in 2021, averaging a goal every 67 minutes.

Messi's PSG team-mate Gianluigi Donnarumma claimed the Yashin Trophy, awarded to the best goalkeeper, and was named 10th in the Ballon d'Or voting.

Donnarumma starred for Italy as they won Euro 2020, making a number of crucial saves in the shoot-out victory over England in the final.

Barcelona and Spain youngster Pedri won the Kopa Trophy after featuring heavily for club and country despite only turning 19 on November 25, also being shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or and finishing 24th.

Another Barca midfielder, Alexia Putellas, picked up the women's top prize, having helped the Catalan giants' women's team to Champions League and domestic glory in 2020-21.

Finally, Chelsea had 11 players nominated across all categories, making them the inaugural Club of the Year winners.

Award winners in full:

Men's Ballon d'Or – Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
Kopa Trophy – Pedri (Barcelona and Spain)
Yashin Trophy – Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)
Club of the Year – Chelsea (England)
Striker of the Year – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
Women's Ballon d'Or – Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)

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