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Lionel Messi not thinking about long-term future after claiming eighth Ballon d’Or

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Lionel Messi has said that he was not thinking about his long-term future as he sought to enjoy winning the eighth Ballon d’Or of his storied career.

Messi, 36, succeeded Karim Benzema as winner of the prize, awarded on the back of his performances last season, when he inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in Qatar.

“The last one I won was also thanks to what we achieved with the Argentinian national team in the Copa America (in 2021), but this one is much more special because it comes after we won the World Cup,” Messi said after collecting his award at a ceremony in Paris.

“That is the trophy everyone wants to win the most, and it was a dream come true for me, my teammates and my country.”

He dragged Argentina to a victory that crowned his remarkable career and saw off stiff competition for the Ballon d’Or from Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in particular.

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Haaland came second in the final voting, with Mbappe third and Kevin de Bruyne in fourth.

Messi scored seven times at the World Cup and was named the tournament’s Best Player after Argentina beat France on penalties in the final in Doha.

Yet Messi, who won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, also had an underwhelming final season at Paris Saint-Germain, before leaving to play for Inter Miami in the Major League Soccer.

He played down suggestions he could win another Ballon d’Or, possibly after the next World Cup in 2026, when he will be 39.

“I am not thinking about the long-term future. I am just enjoying the day to day at the moment,” he said.

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“We have a Copa America coming up in the United States, where I am now, in which we are the holders, so I am looking forward to coming into that in good shape… then just see how I am getting on from there.”

Messi admitted on his return to the French capital that his two-year stint at PSG had not turned out the way he imagined upon signing from Barcelona in 2021.

“Things didn’t turn out as I hoped but I enjoyed the city a lot, and my kids liked it a lot and found it hard to leave.

“It is a spectacular city and I was lucky to live here. Football-wise, it did not go the way I hoped but I prefer to remember the many good things,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Aitana Bonmati, herself a fellow World Cup champion, said her award was testimony to Spain’s football culture, after her triumph kept the trophy in the country for the third year in a row on Monday.

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Bonmati, a Champions League winner with Barcelona and World Cup winner with Spain, succeeds fellow Spaniard Alexia Putellas, who was also the 2021 winner.

“Spain has something unique. In recent years, we have achieved a lot with our clubs and the national team. It says a lot that we won the Ballon d’Or three times in a row. We are a country that lives football, and we work hard every day to be the best,” said the midfielder.

While she has now won the biggest titles in the sport, Bonmati still has the sparkle and motivation to reach new heights.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I’m nervous. I haven’t slept for a few days. Being at the great gala of world football is unique and to be valued,” the 25-year-old said.

“I play for a big club and for the national team. In both, I have the best players and coaches. With the club, we’ve been reaching the Champions League final for three years in a row, which is difficult and says a lot about the mentality we have. I’m confident… we’re going to win more titles.”

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AFP, Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Lionel Messi set to hang boots

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Messi Sets Record Straight Over Hong Kong Absence -

Inter Miami will be the last club Argentina captain Lionel Messi plays for, the 36-year-old forward said on Wednesday, adding he feels “a little bit scared” at the thought of the day he decides to retire.

Messi, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 2022, has a contract with the Major League Soccer side until 2025 following his arrival last summer after a spell with French champions Paris St Germain.

“Inter Miami will be my last club. I love playing football. I enjoy everything even more because I am aware that there is less and less left,” Messi told ESPN.

“I’m not ready to leave football. I’ve done this all my life, I love playing football, I enjoy training, the day-to-day, the matches… And yes, there’s always a little bit of fear that it’s all over.”

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is preparing with his national team to defend their Copa America title, with the tournament kicking off on June 20 in the United States.

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Argentina will take on Canada in the opening match before facing Group A rivals Chile on June 25 and Peru four days later.

-Reuters

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Bidding opens for Messi napkin that defined soccer great’s career

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A guest looks at a napkin, written on by Barcelona's Sporting Director at that time Carles Rexach on December 14, 2000, promising a contract to secure 13-year-old Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona, on display at Bonhams Auctions in New York City, U.S., March 6, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Bidding began on Wednesday for a napkin on which soccer club Barcelona penned a promise to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi – who went on to become one of the game’s greatest players – with early bids reaching almost $300,000.

The napkin was signed in December 2000 when Carles Rexach, then Barcelona’s sporting director, agreed with agent Horacio Gaggioli to recruit the Argentine teenager who went on to become the club’s all-time top scorer.

Bidding for the document, described by auction house Bonhams as “blue ink on a standard Spanish waxy napkin,” was at 220,000 pounds ($274,824.00) shortly after the sale opened, according to the auctioneer’s website.

The online sale closes on May 17 and has a guide price of between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds.

“It was never legally binding, but emotionally it represents the deep link or the beginning of the deep link, that Messi had with Barcelona,” said Bonhams Chief Marketing Officer Marc Sands.

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Messi helped Barcelona win 35 titles, making a record 782 appearances and scoring 674 goals. Messi left Barcelona in 2021 and now plays for Inter Miami.

“If you love football, you’ll know all about Lionel Messi and you will know that he defined football for generations. If you want a slice of that action, this is the thing to get,” Sands said.

-Reuters

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Maradona’s children wants body exhumed

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A fan of Argentine soccer superstar Diego Armado Maradona celebrates the idol's 35th anniversary of the "goal of the century", against England during the 1986 World Cup played in Mexico, in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Diego Maradona’s children filed a request with the Argentine Courts on Thursday to move the former football great’s body “to a much safer place” and for fans “to pay tribute” in a mausoleum.

Maradona’s remains lie in a private cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires where he was carried in November 2020 in a massive funeral procession. Only family members are allowed to enter the cemetery.

The mausoleum, called “Memorial del Diez,” is located behind the Casa Rosada, the seat of the executive branch of the Argentine government, and will be open to the public, Veronica Ojeda, mother of Maradona’s youngest son, told local media.

“All the heirs request by common agreement to authorise the transfer to his next destination of eternal rest (…) in a much safer place than the current one,” said the note presented to the court signed by Dalma and Gianinna Maradona, and Ojeda on behalf of Diego Maradona Jr.

“And so that all the Argentine people and the citizens of the world can pay homage to our father who was the greatest Argentine idol.”

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The relocation will take place around Oct. 30, the birth date of the 1986 World Cup winner with Argentina, one of the family’s lawyers told reporters.

Maradona died at age 60 in November 2020 from a heart attack. Fans of Napoli and of the Argentine national team worshipped him as the “god of football.”

-Reuters

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