Is Lionel Messi really better than Diego
Maradona? Was Johan Cruyff a more
complete footballer than Alfredo Di
Stefano? And is it right that when most
people nowadays hear the name ‘Ronaldo’,
they immediately think of Cristiano rather
than a certain Luis Nazario de Lima?
These are just some of the questions Goal
is hoping you can answer for us in our
new, interactive series: the Legends World
That’s right, we are pitting the most
famous figures in football history against
one another in a knockout tournament to
determine the greatest player of all time –
and the best thing about the competition
is that the victor will be decided by you!
Our panel of experts from across the globe
has, after many, many hours of
deliberation and debate, selected 16
participants and paired them off to create
eight knockout matches – which we want
our readers to vote on to determine who
goes through to the quarters, last four and
then the final.
First up, on Wednesday, March 23, Messi
will take on his former Barcelona team-
mate Ronaldinho, Dutch deity Cruyff will
challenge Real Madrid icon Di Stefano, AC
Milan legend Paolo Maldini will tackle
Franz ‘Der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer and
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo
will lock horns with the ‘real’ Ronaldo.
The following day, Pele, ‘the King of
football’, will go toe-to-toe with the
immortal Eusebio, Michel Platini and
Zinedine Zidane will vie for the right to be
called France’s finest No.10 ever, Ferenc
Puskas will face off with fellow striking
sensation Marco van Basten before we
conclude with a battle of the bad boys
between Maradona and George Best.
Who will come out on top? Who will win
the inaugural Legends World Cup? It’s up
to you to decide!
LEGENDS WORLD CUP SCHEDULE (All
Wednesday 23 – Last 16:
Lionel Messi v Ronaldinho (0900)
Johan Cruyff v Alfredo Di Stefano (1000)
Paolo Maldini v Franz Beckenbauer (1100)
Ronaldo v Cristiano (1200)
Thursday 24 – Last 16:
Pele v Eusebio (0900)
Michel Platini v Zinedine Zidane (1000)
Ferenc Puskas v Marco van Basten (1100)
George Best v Diego Maradona (1200)
Friday 25 – Last 16 Results
Saturday 26 – Quarter-finals:
Messi/Ronaldinho v Cruyff/Di Stefano
Maldini/Beck’ v Ronaldo/Cristiano (1000)
Pele/Eusebio v Platini/Zidane (1100)
Puskas/Van Basten v Best/Maradona
Sunday 27 – Quarter-final Results
Monday 28 – Semi-finals:
Messi/Ronaldinho/Cruyff/Di Stefano v
Pele/Eusebio/Platini/Zidane v Puskas/Van
Tuesday 29 – Semi-final Results
Wednesday 30 – Final:
? v ? (0900)
The fearsome Blaugrana attacking trident were at it again on Wednesday with a goal each, while Elneny’s wonder-strike proved too little,
late for Arsene Wenger’s charges
Two-third of Barcelona’s MSN were on target at Camp Nou to ensure easy passage to the Champions League quarter-finals, as Neymar and Luis Suarez hit in each half to secure a 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
The aggregate margin in favour of Luis Enrique’s team was 5-1 but Lionel Messi’s first-leg brace at Emirates Stadium did not discourage the Premier League side from playing with plenty of enthusiasm in Wednesday’s return.
All three of Barca’s esteemed forward trio were on target this time around, with Neymar punishing slack defending after 18 minutes.
Mohamed Elneny and Alexis Sanchez wasted chances to equalise before the break but a splendid finish from the former allowed him to chalk up a maiden Arsenal goal on the grandest of stages six minutes into the second half.
That superb effort gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope, with Arsene Wenger’s men requiring two more goals in a little under 40 minutes, but they were ultimately undone by the remainder of Barca’s fearsome three-pronged attack.
Suarez provided unforgettable fireworks and Messi added a late third to keep Barcelona on course to retain their European crown and leave Arsenal – out of the FA Cup and adrift in the Premier League title race – to reflect on a sixth successive last-16 exit.
Danny Welbeck scuffed an early chance wide via his standing foot and Arsenal were encouraged by an uncharacteristically untidy start from their hosts.
Mesut Ozil left Sergio Busquets on the seat of his shorts and advanced to send a shot whistling past Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s right-hand post.
Barcelona offered a glorious demonstration of their quality in the 17th minute when Neymar expertly picked out Messi with a raking pass.
Messi’s first touch was exquisite but Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina similarly pulled a save out of the top drawer.
Jeremy Mathieu was allowed a free header on the bounce from the resulting corner and a short and sharp spell of Barcelona pressure ended with the opening goal.
Hector Bellerin allowed Neymar to sprint through goal-side of him and the manner in which he collected Suarez’s pass and slotted home came with frustrating ease for Wenger.
A heavy touch meant Elneny allowed a 38th-minute opening to pass him by and Sanchez headed a Bellerin cross wide when he should have punished his former employers.
The industrious Alex Iwobi – a surprise starter – had an early second-half strike deflected into the side netting by Dani Alves before Arsenal pulled level on the night in wonderful fashion.
Sanchez cut a low pass from the left into Elneny’s path and the midfielder steered a crisp side-footed shot into the top-right corner.
Barca emerged from their latest slumber with a lightning combination between Neymar and Messi – the Brazilian’s backheel setting up his team-mate to force Ospina into a low save – although a timely recovery tackle from Javier Mascherano prevented Welbeck from ramping up the unexpected anxiety inside Camp Nou.
But where Arsenal lacked precision to go with their enthusiasm, Suarez contributed decisively with his 43rd goal of the season – and arguably his best – in the 65th minute.
Alves hung a cross towards the back post where Suarez contorted himself and sprung acrobatically to send a spectacular volley beyond a helpless Ospina
His opposite number Ter Stegen made a double save from Sanchez and substitute Olivier Giroud, before Messi’s impudent dink underlined the gulf in penalty area class two minutes from time
The Argentine has now scored nine goals
against the Gunners as his fine finish
rounded off a 3-1 win at Camp Nou on
Another game and another record set by
Lionel Messi – this time at the expense of
The Argentine capped off a 3-1 victory on
Wednesday evening with a stunning
scooped finish from close range, although
the goal of the night was Luis Suarez’s
sublime effort to put Barcelona 2-1 up.
But Messi’s goal was his ninth against
Arsenal in the Champions League – and no
other player in the competition’s history
has scored more against a single
The Argentine has scored at least 20 goals
in La Liga for the eighth season – and no
other player in the history of the Spanish
top flight can match that
This time the Argentine struck twice in a
4-0 win over Eibar to take his tally to 21
goals in La Liga this season.
It’s the eighth campaign that Messi has
scored 20 or more goals in the Spanish
top flight – and no other player can match
Cristiano Ronaldo is close behind with 20-
plus goals across seven La Liga seasons,
while Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas,
Quini and Telmo Zarra all struck 20 or
more times in six seasons.
Hugo Sanchez and former Valencia striker
Mundo scored 20-plus goals in five La
Barca’s outstanding attacking trio have
now netted 100 goals between them this
term and they are well on course to
improve on last season’s tally of 122 for
the Catalan club
Barcelona’s brilliant trident cannot stop
scoring. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and
Neymar have now netted 100 goals
between them for the Catalan club in
2015-16 and are well on course to
improve on last season’s tally of 122. The
best are getting even better.
Neymar was missing through suspension
as Barca beat Eibar 4-0 on Sunday, the
Brazilian back in his homeland to
celebrate his sister’s birthday. But in his
absence, Munir El Haddadi opened the
scoring for the Blaugrana , before Messi
netted twice and Suarez the fourth to bring
up yet another milestone in a record 36th
unbeaten game for Luis Enrique’s side.
This time last season, Barca’s MSN trio
had scored 75 times and the three
forwards would go on to convert 122 as
the Catalans claimed a treble of Liga,
Copa del Rey and Champions League
Now, the three South Americans are in
with a chance of leading Barca to an
unprecedented second successive treble,
while they are well on course to smash
their tally in front of goal from the
Earlier this season, Luis Enrique was asked
if Messi, Suarez and Neymar were the best
front three the club had ever had and said:
“They form the best trident in Barca’s
history and I would even dare to say the
best in the history of football.”
Messi dropped deep to spray passes all
over the pitch early on against Eibar, but
scored a memorable goal as he ran from
midfield past several defenders and slotted
a precise shot past goalkeeper Asier
Riesgo and into the corner. It was a
moment of magic that had many of the
Basque side’s supporters on their feet.
The Argentine attacker added another from
the penalty spot as he dinked a spot-kick
straight down the middle and Suarez
scored with six minutes remaining with a
goal so typical of him: a mixture of power,
physique, strength and technique as he
nutmegged a defender and shook off two
more with his body before converting with
a low angled finish.
That was the Uruguayan’s 42nd goal of
the season, while Messi now has 35 in
2015-16 (despite spending almost two
months on the sidelines through October
and November) and Neymar has netted 23
Suarez sat out the first two months of last
season due to his ban for biting Italy’s
Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, but
ended the campaign with 25 goals from
his 43 appearances. This term, he has
played two games fewer than that so far,
yet he has scored 17 more already.
Messi, meanwhile, is making up for lost
time. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has
hit 22 already in 2016 and is scoring at
virtually the same rate that saw him net a
record 91 in 2012. Back then, he had 24 to
his name at this stage.
In those days, however, Barca were much
more reliant on one man to score the
majority of their goals and that is not the
case any more. Overall, Messi hit 58 in 57
appearances in 2014-15 and he should
come close to that mark if he stays fit for
the remainder of the current campaign. He
may even beat it, while Neymar (despite a
dip in form in recent weeks) could better
his own tally of 39 from last season.
In total, Barca have 10 league games left,
as well as the final of the Copa del Rey
and up to six more matches in the
Champions League, so with the way the
trio – Messi and Suarez especially – are
converting at the moment, they seem
certain to set a new goals record in the
“Today we played even better than we did
against Rayo,” Luis Enrique said in
reference to Thursday’s 5-1 win in the
capital. “And I thought we were
spectacular in that game.”
“These players are so good that when they
are at this level, it is very difficult to stop
That is true of the entire team right now,
but especially of Messi, Suarez and
Neymar. One hundred goals up and many
more to come, the trio have also improved
other areas of their game including key
passes, dribbling and their link-up play
So while it may have seemed impossible
last season, MSN 2.0 is already an
upgrade on last season’s treble-winning
version. And the bad news for everybody
else is that they have the potential to be
even better still.
The Portugal international has criticised
his fellow players by claiming that the
team would be top of La Liga if they were
at the same level as him
Cristiano Ronaldo has slammed his Real
Madrid team-mates after Saturday’s derby
defeat to Atletico Madrid, claiming they
would be top of the table if others were on
the same level as him.
Antoine Griezmann’s second-half strike
sealed a 1-0 win for Atletico which has left
Zinedine Zidane’s side nine points behind
La Liga leaders Barcelona, who also have
a game in hand.
And in an explosive interview after the loss
at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo blamed
his team-mates for Madrid’s failing title
challenge and believes criticism directed at
his own performances is unfounded.
“If everyone was as good as me, maybe we
would be first,” said Ronaldo.
“I do not want to belittle anyone but when
they are not the best it is difficult to win. I
like to play with Karim, Bale and Marcelo.
“I do not mean that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez]
and [Mateo] Kovacic are not good, they
are very good, but to win a competition
you need the best and that has been our
main problem this year.
“I don’t know if it was poor preparation in
the first half of the season but we’re
having a lot of injuries and that hurts us.
“We had more chances and we deserved to
win but football is like that.
“From what the press says it seems like I
am doing sh*t but the numbers and
statistics do not lie. They are there.”
The European champions took the steam out of Arsenal in a performance more about efficiency than style, knocking out the Gunners late in the game thanks to their star strikeforce
Abracadabra: That is the word Luis Enrique used to describe how he motivates Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in the build-up to Barcelona’s Champions League last-16 tie against Arsenal. “That’s what I tell them and the magic sparks,” he said.
It took a moment of magic from Barca’s front three to break down Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, but this performance was about much more than wizardry.
Barca, playing their seventh game this month and their fourth in the past nine days, looked tired in the first half of this match. But they knew Arsenal would work extremely hard to press and contain, so they waited patiently and took the steam out of their opponents with two hammer blows late on.
There was a sense that Arsenal needed to take their chances in this one because Barca rarely fail to score. So when an early opportunity was cleared by some last-ditch defending and later, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved from Aaron Ramsey, Gunners fans surely feared the worst.
Right at the end of the first half, Luis Suarez (who hit a post later on) headed wide for Barca, while Neymar will feel he should have done better with only Petr Cech to beat in the second half. Luis Enrique’s men were creating chances, yet the pretty play from previous Barca visits here was conspicuous in its absence.
Not that it mattered. Barca were brilliant in the 2-2 draw at The Emirates under Pep Guardiola in 2010, somehow failing to win it despite a first-half masterclass overseen by the Catalan coach. They then lost 2-1 the following season in another game they should have won. They did, however, claim victory both times with resounding victories in the second legs at Camp Nou.
Pep’s Barca always sought perfection and often attained it. On occasions, though, Guardiola’s great team could have played percentages and ground out results instead. That is exactly what the current crop are doing under Luis Enrique.
“I liked everything I saw,” Luis Enrique said afterwards. “We are a team that play like nobody else against sides who leave no spaces at all. We dominate all facets of the play and that’s fantastic.”
And he added: “Everybody who understands football knows you need a first half like that to have a second half like the one we saw. If they get tired, you know there will be more space.”
That is exactly what happened and it was fitting that when the goal finally arrived, it was all about the MSN trio. Neymar picked up an Andres Iniesta clearance, played a one-two with Suarez and found Messi in the area. The Argentine attacker, who had never netted against Cech, paused for a second and then finished off the move like a true matador.
Arsenal could consider themselves a little unfortunate to be behind, but they must have known it was coming. They should have taken their chances and couldn’t – and the trident were waiting to produce their moment of magic.
It came after 71 minutes and with only seven remaining, Barca made it two. This time, Messi was brought down by subsitute Mathieu Flamini and coolly slotted home the spot-kick to make it 2-0. Game over.
When the Argentine attacker scored four against Arsenal at Camp Nou in 2010, Arsene Wenger famously described the forward as a “Playstation”. The fantasy from that display may have been missing on Tuesday, but Barca’s best player showed he can be efficient just like his team. And that’s what makes Barca, on course for a second straight treble, even better than they were back then.
In pure technical terms, the Blaugrana reached their zenith in the Guardiola era. Under Luis Enrique, however, they are ruthless and incredibly effective. And when all else fails, there is the game’s greatest forward line to win matches – just like the MSN did again on Tuesday.
The Frenchman compared his side’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona to the loss they suffered at the Emirates Stadium against Monaco last season at the same stage of the competition
Arsene Wenger accused his Arsenal players of naivety after they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday and suggested they had failed to learn from past mistakes.
Lionel Messi struck twice in the second half for the defending champions to secure a significant advantage going into the second leg at Camp Nou in a month’s time.
Arsenal had chances of their own to take the lead at the Emirates Stadium, however, and Wenger was left to rue the way his side were subsequently caught on the break.
“We were naive,” he told BT Sport. “Similar to Monaco [in last season’s last 16], when it looked like we could win this game we gave it away.
“That [second goal] makes it realistically very difficult, if not impossible [to come back]. We have to go there and fight.
“It is difficult because I thought in the last 20 minutes there would be room to score. We had the chances but didn’t score.
“They are lethal. One thing we couldn’t afford to give them was counter attacks because they are very dangerous. That’s exactly what we did. We pushed too far in their half and got caught. That’s down to their quality as well.
“It’s too easy to blame I think you have to respect the effort the players put in. What is frustrating is that it looked like they might tire.
“I knew in the last 20 minutes we would have a chance to win the game if we don’t make any mistakes and that’s the frustration of the night.”
Zinedine Zidane’s side were held to a 1-1
draw at Malaga on Sunday and are now
nine points behind Barcelona in the title
race, leaving the Primera Division out of
reach once again
Real Madrid can kiss goodbye to La Liga
for another year. Zinedine Zidane’s men
dropped two more points in the Primera
Division on Sunday and now need a
miracle to catch Barcelona. It isn’t going
Barca beat Las Palmas in a hard-fought
match on Saturday and after their 2-1 win
in Gran Canaria, goalscorer Luis Suarez
said: “These are the games that win you
And 24 hours on, those seemed like wise
words. While Barca came through their
tough test, Madrid flunked theirs with a
1-1 draw at Malaga. It was Zidane’s third
away match in La Liga, all in Andalucia,
and those have yielded one last-ditch win
(at Granada) and two ties (at Betis and
Malaga). Simply not good enough.
Madrid have not won La Liga since Jose
Mourinho’s second season in Spain in
2011-12. The Portuguese’s successor
Carlo Ancelotti then claimed four trophies
including the Champions League, yet failed
to bring back the Primera Division title to
the Santiago Bernabeu in his two
campaigns in charge and there will be no
championship this time around either.
The title triumph in 2011-12 is Madrid’s
only Liga win in the last eight years and in
that same period, Barca have claimed the
Primera Division no less than five times
(three under Pep Guardiola, one with Tito
Vilanova and another coached by Luis
Enrique). And the Catalans are well on
course for a sixth in the current campaign.
Barca lead Madrid by nine points and even
if Real were to draw level, it would be
insufficient unless they were able to thrash
the Blaugrana at Camp Nou in the Clasico
clash in April and overturn the goal
average from their 4-0 loss at home to the
Catalans in November.
With just 13 fixtures remaining, it is
mission impossible and Atletico are also
adrift after the weekend action. Diego
Simeone’s side were held at home by
Villarreal in a goalless game on Sunday
and are now eight points off the top.
Having lost both home and away to Luis
Enrique’s men, they too would need to
beat Barca’s points haul to claim La Liga.
It’s a tough ask to say the least.
For Madrid, it is yet another failure in a
desperately disappointing season. Thrown
out of the Copa del Rey for fielding the
suspended Denis Cheryshev against Cadiz,
Real parted company with Rafa Benitez in
January and Zidane claimed he would
fight for the two trophies on offer.
But several weeks later, only the
Champions League is realistically left and
the team’s troubles in La Liga over recent
seasons represent a sorry state of affairs
for the world’s richest club.
Against Malaga, Cristiano Ronaldo headed
the visitors into the lead and Madrid were
somewhat fortunate because he had been
in an offside position when the Toni Kroos
cross came in. And minutes later, the
Portuguese saw a penalty saved by Carlos
Kameni in a miss that proved to be costly
as Raul Albentosa levelled in the second
period and Real had no reply.
Asked afterwards if La Liga is lost for
Madrid, Zidane said: “Not at all. It will be
difficult because we dropped two points
but we will never give up. There are 39
points left. We had a difficult game and we
could even have lost. You (the journalists)
think La Liga is lost, but neither myself
nor the players think that.”
It was the right message, but surely not
even the most optimistic of fans really
believe this stuttering side can make up 10
points on Barca in the final 13 rounds of
the championship. There is just no way it
“We have to be positive because all of the
games we have played up until now have
been phenomenal,” Zidane added.
Whether fans and president Florentino
Perez will agree with that assessment is
unclear, but the truth is the Frenchman
has come in mid-season with limited
coaching experience to try and lift a team
already struggling under Benitez.
That was never ideal and the 43-year-old
needs to be given time to try and turn this
situation around. For now, however, it’s
the same old story for Real Madrid:
another season, another disappointment in
La Liga – and another reason for
Florentino to take a long, hard look at this
Villarreal have issued a permanent ban to the supporter who threw a banana at Dani Alvesin Sunday’s La Liga clash with Barcelonaat El Madrigal.
The Brazilian picked up and ate the fruit thrown at him from the stands as he prepared to take a corner, before later issuing ironic thanks to the offender after Barca came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
Villarreal have since confirmed they have revoked the fan in question’s season ticket and underlined their commitment to combatting racism and discrimination.
“Villarreal CF wants to communicate that the club deeply regrets and condemns the incident that happened yesterday [Sunday] during the match against FC Barcelona in which a fan threw an object onto the field of El Madrigal,” a statement on their official website read.
“Thanks to the security forces and the invaluable assistance of the Yellow crowd, the club has already identified the author and has decided to withdraw his season tickets, permanently banning his access to El Madrigal stadium.
“Once again our club would like to express its firm commitment to promoting respect, equality, sportsmanship and fair play both on and off the field and our absolute rejection of any act that is contrary to these principles, such as violence, discrimination, racism and xenophobia.”
Sunday’s incident prompted Alves’ Barcelona and Brazil team-mate Neymar to begin a ‘We’re all monkeys’ social media campaign to show his support for the 30-year-old, posting a picture of himself eating a banana alongside the caption.
Two own goals and a Lionel Messi strike secured a valuable comeback for Barca on Sunday, with the victory keeping their slim title hopes alive at the end of a difficult week for the club in which former coach Tito Vilanova lost his battle with cancer.