Ballon d’Or finalists

The Ballon d’Or for 2015 will be awarded on Monday with Lionel Messi tipped to win the prize for a fifth time.

AFP Sports looks at the finalists in all the categories:

Ballon d’Or:

Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona), Neymar (BRA/Barcelona)

Women’s Ballon d’Or:

Carli Lloyd (USA/Houston Dash), Aya Miyama (JPN/Okoyama Yunogo Belle), Celia Sasic (GER/FFC Frankfurt)

Coach of the Year:

Luis Enrique (ESP/Barcelona), Pep Guardiola (ESP/Bayern Munich), Jorge Sampaoli (ARG/Chile national team)

Women’s Coach of the Year:

Jill Ellis (USA/United States national team), Mark Sampson (WAL/England national team), Norio Sasaki (JPN/Japan national team)

Puskas award for best goal:

Alessandro Florenzi (ITA/AS Roma), Wendell Lira (BRA/Vila Nova), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)

Photo Credits : AFP

Meet the world’s richest footballers

Goal.com released its annual list of the world’s richest footballers from all leagues for the year 2015.

Here is the list of the top ten as released a fortnight ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the richest footballer in the world, according to the 2015 annual chart of the game’s wealthiest active players.

The Real Madrid star had topped the list in 2014. His fortune is as a result of bonuses, endorsements, commercial deals and also the sum he received from winning the 2014 Ballon d’Or. He is worth £152.3

christiano
Cristiano Ronaldo Image courtesy of Express.co.uk

Lionel Messi with an overall personal wealth of  is £145m place second. He continues to generate huge amounts off the field through both commercial tie-ins and property moves, which have seen him build up an extensive portfolio.

lionel-messi-hd
Lionel Messi – Image courtesy of op-5.no

Neymar comes in at number three, he’s still benefitting from a huge chunk paid for the forward’s transfer from Santos in 2013. He is worth £97.9m

Neymar
Neymar – Image courtesy of sites.duke.edu

Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic came in fourth and is worth  £76.1m

Manchester United and England striker  Wayne Rooney is estimated at  £74.6m comes at number five.

Brazilian star Kaka, about to start his career with Orlando City in Major League Soccer, is sixth in the rankings on £69.6m.

Samuel Eto’o the only African footballer at the top ten is worth £63.1m is placed at number seven.

Samuel+Etto
Samuel Etto – Image courtesy of www.taringa.net

Spanish footballer Raul Gonzales comes in at number eight and is worth £61.6m

Ronaldinho the Brazilian footballer is placed at number nine and is worth £60.2m.

Former England midfielder Frank Lampard, currently playing for Manchester City ahead of his move to New York City in the MLS, is placed at number ten with a personal fortune of £58m.

 

Ronaldo returns for depleted Real in Madrid derby

World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo returns for a Real Madrid side otherwise stricken by injuries and suspensions as they look to beat Atletico Madrid for the first time in six meetings this season on Saturday.

Ronaldo completed his two-game ban for kicking out at Cordoba defender Edimar as the European champions sneaked past Sevilla to open up a four-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table on Wednesday.

However, victory came at a cost as World Cup star James Rodriguez broke a bone in his right foot that will keep him out for two months, whilst centre-back Sergio Ramos will also be sidelined due to a hamstring problem in the coming weeks.

Left-back Marcelo misses out at the Calderon too after his appeal against his fifth yellow card of the Liga campaign was dismissed on Thursday.

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti is short of defensive options with Pepe also out with a rib injury, but he insisted he has confidence in the inexperienced pairing of Raphael Varane and Nacho in central defence.

“What we lose above all is experience, but sometimes enthusiasm is a good thing,” said Ancelotti.

“The two of them (Varane and Nacho) give me a lot of confidence. Ramos and Pepe are among the best defenders in the world, but I am not worried.”

Atletico have bounced back from their heartbreaking Champions League final defeat at the hands of Real last season to beat them in the Spanish Supercup and Copa del Rey over two legs this season, as well as winning 2-1 at the Bernabeu in La Liga earlier in the campaign.

However, defeat this weekend would see them fall 10 points behind the league leaders and all but end their defence of the title.

“I think it is important because the last games against Atletico weren’t good, so we have to change this bad run,” added Ancelotti.

“It will be a very difficult game, but we want to do something different.

“The motivation is so big for this game being a Madrid derby we don’t need the motivation of leaving Atletico 10 points behind.”

In contrast to the visitors, Diego Simeone has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the first time since November and defender Diego Godin insisted their desire to beat their cross-city rivals hasn’t been diminished by recent success.

“We want to win, we always want to win and even more so against Real Madrid,” said the Uruguayan.

“It is a different game and just because we have won the previous games doesn’t mean we will win this one.

“We need to prepare well, continue with what we have been doing and that will help us get closer to the result we want.”

Barcelona will be eager to capitalise should Real slip up when they travel to face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The Catalans have been in scintillating form since their last visit to the Basque country ended in defeat to Real Sociedad at the beginning of January, winning eight games in a row and scoring 29 goals in the process.

However, they have failed to win in any of their previous three trips to Bilbao, including a 1-0 defeat on their first visit to the new San Mames last season.

Elsewhere, Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal continue their fight for the fourth and final Champions League place.

Villarreal have the easiest task on paper when they host relegation threatened Granada on Saturday.

Sevilla make their second trip to the capital in five days as they travel to Getafe, whilst Valencia are away to Espanyol on Sunday.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid (1500), Villarreal v Granada (1700), Levante v Malaga (1900), Real Sociedad v Celta Vigo (2100)

Sunday

Cordoba v Almeria (1100), Getafe v Sevilla (1600), Espanyol v Valencia (1800), Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona (2000)

Monday

Elche v Rayo Vallecano (1945)

Photo Credits : AFP

Hitzfeld warns Guardiola to keep Bayern’s stars happy

Bayern Munich resume their Bundesliga campaign at second-placed Wolfsburg on Friday having been warned to keep their star-studded squad happy in order to maintain their iron-grip on the German league.

Bayern have an 11-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table and are set to break last season’s record when they claimed the title with seven games to spare.

Their gifted squad was trimmed over the January winter break as Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri signed for Inter Milan and Danish teenager Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg joined Augsburg on loan.

But competition for places in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern squad remains intense with ex-coach Ottmar Hitzfeld warning there is a “risk of explosion” from any potentially disgruntled stars.

“Not every player accepts the decision to leave them on the bench,” Hitzfeld, who coached Bayern in two different spells, told German magazine Sport Bild.

“It gets dangerous in the second half of the season — that’s when those who sat on the bench without complaining now start to grumble.

“That’s when there’s a risk of someone exploding.”

Guardiola has the unenviable task of trying to give all his stars game time, but is relaxed on the matter with Bayern set to face Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League’s last 16 next month.

“All the players in our squad can play together, there is no problem” said Guardiola.

With a mid-week round of Bundesliga matches to follow after this weekend, Bayern face Wolfsburg, Schalke 04 and VfB Stuttgart in a busy seven-day period.

Midfield star Bastian Schweinsteiger is now fully fit and the Germany captain is set to claim a defensive midfield berth alongside Spain’s Xabi Alonso.

Schweinsteiger, 30, has a contract until June 2016, but says he is under no pressure to extend.

“I have no pressure,” he told Sport1.

“Bayern and I know each other very well. I feel very good and I aim to play for three or four years at the highest level.”

Guardiola, who led Bayern to the German league and cup double in his first season last year, is also under contract until 2016.

Schweinsteiger wants the Spaniard to stay and Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists they plan to persuade their star coach.

“There is only one Plan A and that’s called ‘Guardiola’,” he told Kicker.

“When him and his family feel good, he’ll stay.

“If not, then we’ll have to deal with that calmly.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Andres Iniesta wins the 2014 Golden Foot Award

Barcelona and Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta has won the 2014 Golden Foot Award.

The award is given to football players who are at least 28 years old and its previous winners include Roberto Baggio (first recipient of the award in 2003), Pavel Nedved (2004), Andriy Shevchenko (2005), Ronaldo (2006), Alessandro Del Piero (2007), Roberto Carlos (2008), Ronaldinho (2009), Francesco Totti (2010), Ryan Giggs (2011), Zlatan Ibrahiimovic (2012) and Didier Drogba (2013).

Iniesta fought competition from players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to become the first from his country and club to win the award.

The midfielder will have a mould of his footstep, creating by placing his feet in a pool of gold, placed along the “Champions Promenade” along Monaco’s seafront.

The winner of the Golden Foot award is voted for via an online poll and it can only be won once in a players’ career.

A panel of journalists select the ten nominees every year, based on achievements on and off the football pitch.