Nicknamed the "Flea," Lionel Messi has won FIFA's highest honor as the Worlds Best Player three times. And all at the tender age of 24.
Maxi Rodríguez rescued Liverpool from a shutout, but his goal was not enough to avert a 1-1 draw with Blackburn on Boxing Day in the English Premier League action on Monday.
The Argentine midfielder headed home a close-range shot to offset teammate Charlie Adam's own goal just prior to halftime at Anfield in Liverpool.
Uruguayan Luiz Suárez, who was given a warm ovation by the Liverpool faithful as he was in the starting XI even though he was slapped with an eight-match suspension for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. Suárez is free to play until his appeal is heard.
Suárez squandered four scoring opportunities, but could not put any of them away.
His near misses included blasting a free kick over the crossbar before sending the ball into the side netting in the 19th minute. A little later, the Uruguayan sent another effort barely wide.
Despite a fine performance by Suárez, the Reds were forced to settle for a scoreless draw against Wigan last Wednesday. Suárez set up Liverpool's best scoring opportunity as he earned a penalty kick on a shot that was handled by Wigan defender Gary Caldwell. Adam, who endured one tough week, had his penalty kick saved by goalkeeper Al Habsi, who dived to his left to knock away the attempt.
Imagine Manchester United scoring five goals in a match and Javier Hernández playing the full 90 minutes and not getting any. That’s what occurred as United trounced Wigan, 5-0, in an English Premier League Boxing Day match before a sellout crowd at Old Trafford.
Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov struck for a hat-trick to lead the hosts while Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-Sung also found the back of the net as United has won eight of its last nine matches.
United tied Manchester City on points with 45 apiece in 18 games, although City has a better goal differential 38 to 33). City played a scoreless draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Hernández, in his first start for ManU since he sprained an ankle on Dec. 3, did come close to scoring in the second half, but his attempt was saved.
Next up for United is Blackburn on Saturday, New Year’s Eve.
The Costa Rican international is better known for scoring goals rather than for creating them. But he turned playmaker at the perfect time for Fulham to give the London side a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
Chelsea had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute, but nine minutes later, Ruiz beat defender Ashley Cole crossed the ball from the right wing to U.S. international Clint Dempsey, who slotted home the goal. It was Dempsey's ninth goal this EPL season.
Sergio Aguero, David Silva
Despite having the likes of the always-dangerous Aguero and Silva in the lineup, Manchester City could not muster a goal in a scoreless tie at West Bromwich Albion. It was the second consecutive tie for City, which has a three-game winless streak (0-1-2). MC has been struggling so much that if could be out of first place by the time it takes on Sunderland on Sunday, because United plays on Saturday.
Aguero, an Argentine, set up Silva in the 25th minute, but the Spaniard fired a shot over the crossbar. In the second half, Aguero again set up Silva in the penalty area and his teammate sent his shot right to goalkeeper ben Foster, who handily caught the ball.
Coaching Carousel: Diego Simeone, Alfio Basile, Nery Pumpido
The coaching carrousel is going quite strong this holiday season in La Liga and in Argentina.
Simeone, a former Argentine international, who was named the new Atletico Madrid coach, vowed to snap the Spanish team’s slump.
"Now it is time to work, that is the most important thing. Words are no use,” he said. “It's deeds that matter."
Simeone replaced the fired Gregorio Manzano who was fired following a miserable run.
Basile, a former Argentine national coach, succeeded Simeone at Racing Club in Argentina. Basile won two titles with Boca Juniors during the 2005-06 Argentine season.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in the squad, the players in it. I have the right ones. Next year will be very good,” Basile told Radio Belgrano.
There were criticisms that Basile, 68, was old to still be coaching. “Those comments are idiotic. Tell that to [Alex] Ferguson, [Luis] Aragones. I’m up to date.”
Pumpido, who backstopped Argentina to the 1986 world championship, was hired to coach Godoy Cruz, replacing Uruguayan Jorge Da Silva. Pumpido guided Union de Santa Fe and Newell's Old Boys and also coached UANL Tigres in Mexico and Olimpia in Paraguay. Pumpido starts on Wednesday.
Before Barcelona polished off Hospitalet, 9-0, in a King's Cup mismatch last week, Lionel Messi went home to his native Argentina for the Christmas break. Of course, his Barca teammates did not need the world's best player.
In an interview with the Argentina Football Association, Messi said that he thought the Argentines could wind up as World Cup champions in 2014. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the tournament will be played in the Western Hemisphere and in South America. For the last two times the World Cup has been held south of the Rio Grande, Argentina has prevailed both times -- Argentina (1978) and Mexico (1986).
Fresh off yet another team championship -- the Club World Cup -- Messi spoke about his desires to win the World Cup to the AFA's website.
"I still have this dream and that is to be a world champion and lift the Copa America with the national side. And I know I'll do it, I am convinced I shall," he said. "I don't have to demonstrate anything to anybody. I would love to win a title with the national team but I am just another one in the group who wants to do the best for Argentine football, nothing more."
"They are two different things," he said. "Barcelona are the best team in the world - even non-fans admit as much. That is the result of years of hard work with the same teammates.
"It's more difficult with the national side and we've been through a lot of chopping and changing of coaches in recent years. But we are growing and I know we are going to achieve a lot."
Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.