Balotelli: I could beat Messi and Ronaldo to Ballon d'Or

The Nice striker has made another outlandish claim, stating that he could be named the best footballer in the world

Former Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli believes that he has the ability to win the Ballon d’Or.

The forward, who is currently at Ligue 1 side Nice, feels that injuries are currently holding him back from reaching his potential, but that one day, he could lift the prize.

Conte: Aguero’s Luiz tackle scared me

Cristiano Ronaldo is the favourite for 2016’s award, having been the only winner so far outside of Lionel Messi. While Balotelli believes these two players are the greatest at the moment, he claims he has a chance in the future.

“Ronaldo and Messi are in this moment the best and nobody’s like them. Impossible,” the 26-year-old told Xinhua.

“But if I had a good year, without injury, I think it’s not impossible to win the Ballon d’Or.

“Even if one day I won the Ballon d’Or, I think Ronaldo and Messi are the best because they won like four or five times.”

Having netted just one goal for Liverpool and one during his loan spell with AC Milan, Balotelli has refound his scoring touch at Nice, with six Ligue 1 goals so far this season.

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The Italy international is confident he can keep scoring, just as long as he stays healthy.

“Last season I didn’t play a lot, so I couldn’t really score,” Balotelli continued. “And I was injured, I’ve been out for a long time. So when I was feeling good, I played and I kept scoring.

“I had just some injury in the past which wasn’t a big deal. The problem was they keep coming. So when I feel good, I score.”

Aguero is not aggressive, claims Guardiola

The Argentine attacker will miss Manchester City’s next four games for a dangerous tackle, but his coach has defended his character

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Sergio Aguero is not an aggressive player despite his second lengthy ban of the season.

Scary Aguero tackle hurt Luiz, says Conte

Earlier this week, Aguero was handed a four-match suspension by the Football Association (FA) following his red card for a shocking tackle on Chelsea’s David Luiz towards the end of City’s 3-1 defeat on Saturday.

The Argentine, who has 10 goals from 12 Premier League outings this season, has already missed three games after the FA took retrospective action for an elbow on West Ham’s Winston Reid.

Despite those two high-profile indiscretions, Guardiola insists Aguero is not an antagonistic character.

“Score a a lot of goals – that’s my advice to him,” he said. “Sergio’s not a player to be aggressive.

“He accepts the punishment. You just have to accept it and try not to make it happen again.”

Kelechi Iheanacho is set to fill Aguero’s role at the pinnacle of City’s attack during his suspension and the 20-year-old has said he has his team-mates support.

“Before we played Celtic [he said] that it’s up to me now to fill that gap, to carry the team along,” he said. “He’s telling me I should do very well and they are words of encouragement from him. So I’m going to do it.

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“It’s going to be a great responsibility for me. I need to really work hard to help the team get these points we need in the Premier League.

Pablo Zabaleta, meanwhile, believes the Nigeria international is ready to fill the void left by Aguero.

Iheanacho has scored three goals in nine Premier League appearances this season, as well as two in two in the Champions League.

Tche Tche, Vitor Bueno and Gustavo Scalpa – 10 breakthrough stars of Brasileirao 2016

With the season set to come to an end this weekend, Brasil Global Tour takes a closer look at some of the players who have emerged as potential superstars


GOAL ANALYSIS


The domestic Brazilian football calendar comes to a belated end this weekend as the final round of fixtures will be played out one week late due to the tragic events of the Chapecoense air disaster.

It will be an emotional end to a long and gruelling season that has already tied up most of its business, with Palmeiras having claimed the league title, Flamengo, Santos and Atletico Mineiro securing Copa Libertadores football and America MG, Santa Cruz and Figueirense condemned to relegation.

There are still two matters yet to be decided, however, with Corinthians Botafogo and Atletico PR fighting it out for two Libertadores qualifying slots, and Internacional hoping a final-day victory can save themselves from the drop.


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It’s been a season of huge highs and unprecedented lows for the Brasileirao, and once again a year that has seen a number of players step forward into the limelight.

Below, Brasil Global Tour takes a closer look at 10 players who have emerged as potential stars this season.


WILLIAM POTTKER (PONTE PRETA)


The 22-year-old striker sits joint-second in the list of Brasileirao 2016’s top scorers, just one goal away from first-placed Fred. The young forward who came through the ranks at Figueirense and was nicknamed the ‘Majestic Emperor’ for his resemblance to former Brazil international Adriano, has his career back on track after a series of loan spells blighted the early years of his caeer.
 
Strong physically, quick and athletic, he likes to operate from wide positions, cutting inside to show off his deadly finishing and has been one of the revelations of the season at the less-fanced Ponte Preta, who sit tenth in the table and have secured Copa Sudamericana qualification. Corinthians, Botafogo and Santos have been linked with the nomadic youngster who looks to be on his way next year.


SASSA (BOTAFOGO)


Another 22-year-old forward, Sassa has found his feet at Botafogo this season. The striker has notched 12 goals to make himself a solid fan favourite with the Fogao. The sleeping giant of Rio football were promoted back to the top flight last term and were tipped to flirt with relegation this season, but Jair Ventura’s side have enjoyed a fine which could end in Libertadores qualification.
 
Sassa has hit the same number of goals this season as Gabriel Jesus and has similar attributes to Pottker. His fine form earned him a endorsement from club idol Tulio Maravilha and the some interested glances from a number of clubs in Europe and beyond.


KENO (SANTA CRUZ)


Santa Cruz haven’t had much to shout about this season, with the giant of Brazil’s Nordeste region having managed just eight victories in a campaign that left them suffering early relegation, but 27-year-old forward Keno has certainly impressed.

The journeyman forward proved the perfect foil to veteran Grafite up front – between them the duo hit more than half of the club’s 45 goals this season, a total far higher than all of those around them in the relegation zone. Keno’s pace has remained, but gone has his wastefulness in front of goal. Having found his shooting boots, he’s now being tipped with a move to champions Palmeiras.


VITOR BUENO (SANTOS)


For a club that has veteran Brazil international Ricardo and Colombian Jonathan Copete, that Vitor Bueno stands as Santos’ top scorer speaks volumes of his contribution this season. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has enjoyed the standout campaign of his young career to inspire Santos a title challenge that has ended with comfortable Libertadores qualification.

An inventive dribbler with a keen eye for a pass, he has also contributed five assists this season, eclipsing playmaker Lucas Lima as the team’s creative hub.


TCHE TCHE (PALMEIRAS)


While Gabriel Jesus received all the plaudits for champions Palmeiras this season, Tche Tche can claim to have starred right alongside him. The 24-year-old’s consistency saw him start 36 of the club’s 37 matches so far, 30 of which saw him complete a full 90 minutes.

The sheriff of Cuca’s midfield, he provided the base from which Palmeiras claimed their first league title in more than two decades as an on-field leader of the side, his excellent positioning providing his side with key interceptions at key moments of historic season for the club.


GUSTAVO SCARPA (FLUMINENSE)


With the departure of leading scorer and all-round leader Fred, Gustavo Scarpa assumed the role of protagonist for Fluminense this season. A classic, cultured midfielder of huge natural talent, nobody has bettered his return of 10 assists going into the final day of the season.

He’s also chipped in with eight goals of his own, leaving him Flu’s second-highest scorer behind Cicero. He narrowly missed out on a place at the Rio Olympics this year but looks set to represent his country sooner or later.


FELIPE VIZEU (FLAMENGO)


Felipe Vizeu was promoted to the first team this year and did not disappoint, with some Fla fans insisting he is already performing better than Peru international Paolo Guerrero and Brazil international Leandro Damiao, who are both ahead of him in the pecking order.

Big, strong and a serious threat in the air, the 19-year-old has proved this season that he is ready to battle with the big boys and, likely to secure more first team opportunities next term, 2016 has seen him emerge as a potential star for the Rio giants.


VITINHO (INTERNACIONAL)


One name stood out more than most in Internacional’s desperate struggle against the drop. Vitinho has become a vital cog in a team that could still mathematically go down for the first time if results go against them in the final round.

The 23-year-old, whose contract belongs to CSKA Moscow, is Inter’s top scorer, and no matter what happens at the weekend he will no have no shortage of suitors willing to snap him up at the end of the season. 


GIORGIAN DE ARRASCAETA (CRUZEIRO)


Cruzeiro are another club who have had little to celebrate this season, but the joy provided by playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta will have offered some consolation. A classic No. 10, the 22-year-old arrived from Defensor Sporting last term and, having settled, this was a breakout year for the Uruguayan international.

Only Dudu and Gustavo Scarpa have bettered his nine assists this term and the 22-year-old has also created two chances per-game for his colleagues. With eight strikes, he also his team’s leading scorer.


JORGE (FLAMENGO)


The 20-year-old has made the left-back position his own at one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, and is already attracting major interest from abroad, including Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. He announced himself to the the country by relegating Colombia international Pablo Armero to the bench, and this year has performed like a veteran.

He was another to narrowly miss out on a place in the Olympic team earlier this year but, having made 31 starts this season, the youngster may soon be looking to the senior squad under new coach Tite.

RUMOURS: Liverpool and Tottenham want Chicharito

The former Manchester United forward has impressed in the Bundesliga and the Premier League sides are ready to bid for him in January


Liverpool and Tottenham are preparing to compete for Javier Hernandez in January, according to The Mirror.

The former Manchester United forward has impressed at Bayer Leverkusen since joining in 2015, scoring 17 goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances in his first season and following up with five in 12 this campaign.

Both Premier League sides have concerns over their attacks heading into the next transfer window and are considering making a move for the Mexico international.

They will have to compete with Valencia, however, who are said to be prepared to spend big to secure Hernandez’s services to help them out of trouble in La Liga.


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Sanchez can be Arsenal's new Henry – Wenger

The Chilean has made an impressive transformation into a more attacking role, reminiscent of Henry after becoming an out-and-out forward

Alexis Sanchez can enjoy the same success as Thierry Henry at Arsenal following his transition to a centre-forward role this season, says Arsene Wenger.

Henry is a legend at the Gunners and became the club’s all-time leading goalscorer after manager Wenger converted him from a winger to a striker.

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Sanchez has gone through a similar swap this term having largely been utilised on the left of a front three since joining from Barcelona in 2014.

The Chile international has 11 goals in 14 Premier League outings this term, but Wenger admits he was not initially sure if the switch would prove a success.

“Sanchez was happy out wide because in his head he was a wide player. When I moved him, honestly it was not a problem. He accepted it very well,” Wenger told reporters.

“I had to persuade Thierry. I don’t know if it’s my greatest achievement. You see that the guy who plays wide can score goals and that he can score even more goals in the centre. I always saw this in Sanchez.

“Although I must honestly say I thought many times when I played him as centre-forward last year, or two years ago, that I was wrong. Because the few times I played him through the middle were not convincing. But this year it clicked very early in the season.

“He has developed very well as a centre forward because he has found a good mixture between coming short and going in behind. He has more freedom as well and he takes advantage of his short technique in the middle much more.”