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Messi back in training with FC Barcelona after ending departure saga

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FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi reported for training on Monday for the first time since requesting to leave the club in September.

Messi had failed to turn up to the club’s tests for COVID-19 eight days ago and been absent from all subsequent sessions ahead of the new campaign after giving the club an official notice that he wished to leave.

But the club’s all-time top scorer finally appeared at the Joan Gamper training ground ahead of an evening session, his first under new coach Ronald Koeman, after taking a test for the novel coronavirus at his home on Sunday.

Messi, 33, revealed last Friday in an interview that he was staying at FC Barcelona for the coming season as he did not wish to face a court case with the club where he has spent his entire career over a disputed release clause in his contract.

The Argentine claimed in an official letter that he was free to leave the club unilaterally and without a transfer fee owing to the clause.

But FC Barcelona and the league’s organising body responded by saying the clause was no longer valid and that the only way to free him from his contract was by paying a release clause of 700 million euros (827.68 million dollars).

Messi, however, will be free to leave free of charge next June unless he pens a new deal with Barca.

FC Barcelona, who will be looking to reclaim the La Liga title after surrendering it to Real Madrid last season, are sitting out the first two weeks of the new campaign which begins on Friday.

This is due to the fact that they reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

Koeman’s side will instead play pre-season friendlies against Gimnastic de Tarragona on Saturday Sept. 12 and Girona on Sept. 16, before their first league game at home to Villarreal on Sept. 27.

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Cristiano Ronaldo wins The Best FIFA Special Award

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Cristiano Ronaldo has been honoured by FIFA for becoming the all-time leading goalscorer at the international level.

The Manchester United star has now scored 115 goals for Portugal, breaking Ali Daei’s previous record of 109.

Ronaldo received a special in-person award and was also named in the FIFPRO Men’s World11 for 2021, at what was largely a virtual ceremony for FIFA’s The Best ceremony in Zurich on Monday.

“It’s a dream. First of all, I have to say thank you to my teammates, especially in the national team during the last 20 years that I used to play with. I never thought of beating that record,” Ronaldo said.

“I have to say thank you to my family, my wife, my kids – soon I will be a father again! I’m really proud, it’s a great achievement to be the top scorer of all time.”

Asked how he is maintaining his fine goalscoring form at the age of 36,he insisted that he is as motivated as ever to even score goals and win trophies.

“It’s a passion, I still have a passion for the game, not just to score goals but to entertain myself,” Ronaldo added. “I’ve played football since I was five or six years old so when I get to the pitch even in training I still enjoy it and my motivation’s still good.

“I’m 37 soon, I feel good and motivated. I keep working hard since I was 18 and I continue. I have that passion and want to continue.

“People ask sometimes how many more years I’m going to play and I say I hope to play more than four or five years. It’s all about mentally, because physically if you treat your body good, it’ll treat you back.”

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AFCON: Okocha names most important player in Super Eagles

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Former Nigeria captain, Austin Okocha has singled out Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi, for special praise.

Akpeyi is currently part of the Super Eagles’ squad at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 35-year-old who has made 19 international appearances, is behind Francis Uzoho and Maduka Okoye in the pecking order after his recent injury concerns.

However, Okocha believes Akpeyi has an important role to play in the team.

“Daniel is a very important player for the squad. He only lost his place through injury. This shows how strong the whole squad is, because once you miss out because of injury, it’s always difficult to get back for a goalkeeper.

“We believe we have a great squad and we have people like Daniel we can rely on if needed.

“I am happy that we have a happy competition in our goalkeeping department and it is a plus for any coach,” Okocha said in an interview with Amakhosi’s media team.

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AFCON: Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, reacts to loss to Super Eagles

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Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, has said his team’s poor performance in the first half of the Africa Cup of Nations encounter with Nigeria caused Pharaohs’ loss.

He said this during a post-match interview.

According to him, Pharaohs were no where to be found on the pitch in the first half.

He said, “The performance in the first half was very poor and this is the truth, we were not on the field. We started playing in the second half and there was no reason for this failure and loss against Nigeria.

“We lost this match but there are 6 points we must get against Sudan and Guinea Bissau to qualify.”

A sweet 34th minute belter, intelligently struck by Kelechi Iheanacho and off a brilliant headed pass by Taiwo Awoniyi, earned Nigeria a first-ever opening match win over Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations as Cameroon’s northern town of Garoua dazzled in green and white on Tuesday night.

Former U-17 World Cup winner Iheanacho ran hard at the North Africans’ defence a number of times in a pulsating first half clearly dominated by the three-time African champions at the Stade Roumdé Adjia. But it was the dimunitive winger Moses Simon, who plays his club football in France, that threw the Egyptians’ rear into jeopardy several times with his dancing, taunting and inexhaustible bag of tricks, and it was his penetrating pull-out from the left that resulted in the game’s only goal.

The Eagles played with gusto, zest, immense confidence and go-go spirit – not seen for such a long time, and with Olaoluwa Aina and Zaidu Sanusi firm at both wing backs, Kenneth Omeruo and William Ekong surefooted in the central defence, Wilfred Ndidi and Joe Aribo disciplined and focused in the middle, the Pharaohs were literally at sea.

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