Paris Saint-Germain are anticipating talks with Lionel Messi’s father, Jorge, in the French capital before the end of January to conclude an agreement over a new contract for the World Cup winner, ESPN’s Julien Laurens reports.
PSG and Messi’s father reportedly had positive discussions prior to Argentina’s victorious run in Qatar. An agreement in principle was then reached in December for the 35-year-old attacker to extend his terms until 2024. However, Laurens now understands the structure and length of the contract are yet to be determined.
Messi reportedly prefers to stay at the Parc des Princes despite interest from Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami and Thursday’s links with a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia. Al Hilal – cross-city rivals of Cristiano Ronaldo’s new club Al Nassr – are willing to offer Messi a deal worth $350 million per year to bring him to Riyadh, according to Mundo Deportivo’s Fabio Marchi.
But Messi won’t be joining Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, sources told Laurens, and both the player and PSG remain positive about reaching an agreement.
The artful Argentine returned to club action in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Angers. Messi orchestrated and finished a beautiful team move for Les Parisiens’ second goal of the game.
Wales superstar and five-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale announced Monday that he’s retiring from club and international football.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” he announced on Twitter.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realized my dream of playing the sport I love. It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life. The highest of highs over 17 seasons that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”
The 33-year-old ends his illustrious career as one of Britain’s most decorated players after spells at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, and Los Angeles FC.
At Real Madrid, he was a member of five Champions League-winning teams and played an important role in helping the Spanish giants win La Liga three times, as well as other major trophies.
He’s also Wales’ all-time leading scorer with 41 goals in 111 appearances.
Bale was under contract at LAFC until this summer but decided to hang up his boots just over a month after playing for Wales at the 2022 World Cup. It was Wales’ first World Cup appearance since 1958.
“My decision to retire from international football has been by far the hardest of my career,” Bale said in a separate statement, adding, “My journey on the international stage is one that has changed not only my life but who I am.”
After making his professional debut with Southampton at 16, Bale moved to north London, where he developed into a global superstar at Tottenham.
His career continued to blossom after a transfer to Real Madrid in 2013 that was worth a then-record £85.3 million – over £5 million more than the fee Los Blancos paid for Cristiano Ronaldo four years earlier.
Bale lived up to the billing over his first few years in Madrid before his relationship with the club and fans soured.
He was eventually loaned back to Tottenham last season before joining LAFC midway through the 2022 Major League Soccer season. He scored a header in the 128th minute of extra time during the MLS Cup final to send the game to a penalty shootout, which LAFC won to capture the league title.
Brazilian legend Pele, who won the World Cup a record three times and officially scored 767 goals across one of the most celebrated sporting careers of all time, died Thursday. He was 82.
Pele was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2021 and began undergoing chemotherapy that month. He was recently admitted to Hospital Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo to receive treatment for a respiratory infection. The medical center, where Pele spent the last month, said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the aforementioned cancer.
“All that we are is thanks to you,” his daughter, Kely Nascimento, wrote on Instagram. “We love you endlessly. Rest in peace.”
Nascimento announced Dec. 21 that her father’s health was worsening and that he’d spend Christmas at the hospital to receive “elevated care.” Several family members joined Nascimento at the medical facility as Pele’s cancer advanced and his condition deteriorated.
A funeral is planned for next week.
Santos, the club where Pele spent the majority of his iconic career, said the casket carrying his body will be transported to Vila Belmiro Stadium on Monday and placed in the center of the field, where fans will be able to pay their final respects. A procession will take place Tuesday through the streets of the city before a private burial that will be attended only by family.
Widely considered one of the greatest soccer players ever alongside Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, Pele enchanted fans and opponents for nearly two decades. He helped revolutionize the sport with his elegant playing style, his mesmerizing on-ball skills, and his previously unrivaled scoring ability before becoming one of soccer’s most beloved global ambassadors.
Pele, dubbed “The King,” helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958, 1962, and 1970. His best performance came at the 1958 tournament where, as a 17-year-old, he scored six goals, including two in the final against host nation Sweden. He was hampered by injuries when Brazil retained the title four years later but was again a talisman for his country in 1970, scoring the opening goal and setting up Carlos Alberto’s memorable marker in the 4-1 victory over Italy in the final. The image of an overjoyed Pele being carried by his teammates after the final whistle remains one of the most indelible in the history of the sport.
Pele is Brazil’s joint-leading scorer with 77 tallies in 92 international appearances. Neymar equaled his idol during the World Cup in Qatar.
“Pele changed everything. He transformed football into art, entertainment,” Neymar said on Instagram. “Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pele is eternal!”
Pele bagged the majority of his goals for Brazilian club Santos between 1956 and 1974. Santos claim Pele scored around 1,000 goals in his career, but several hundred of those came in unofficial friendlies. His official scoring record, a topic of much debate over the years, is listed as anywhere from 650 goals to 1,281, depending on the source and which competitions and matches are counted as part of the tally.
His goals were only part of the story, though. Pele’s exciting style of play and imagination on the pitch made him one of the most dazzling players to ever grace world football.
His talent was evident from a young age.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in the city of Tres Coracoes in the south of Minas Gerais state, Pele grew up playing on the streets in Brazil before joining Santos’ youth squad at 11 years old. His ascent through the ranks was meteoric; Pele made his debut for Santos’ senior team when he was 16, developing into the global icon who would eventually transcend the game and become the player most often associated with the phrase “The Beautiful Game” – “O Jogo Bonito” in Portuguese – that is part of the sport’s lexicon.
He joined the upstart North American Soccer League in 1975 and played for the New York Cosmos for two years, helping to propel the sport in the United States. Pele called an end to his career in 1977 after playing in an exhibition match between Santos and the Cosmos in New Jersey.
He split the game between his former clubs, playing one half for each. Some 77,000 spectators were in attendance, including Muhammad Ali, one of the only other athletes in history whose celebrity spanned the globe the same way.
It’s officially time to start looking ahead. With 2022 coming to an end, here are five things we expect to happen in world soccer in 2023.
Editor’s note: This story was published before Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr was confirmed by the club.
Canada wins Women’s World Cup
Never before have fans enjoyed two World Cups in such quick succession. Just seven months after the completion of an enthralling men’s tournament in Qatar, the women descend on Australia and New Zealand to take center stage in July. And similar to Lionel Messi’s satisfying triumph with Argentina, the Women’s World Cup will also feature a storybook victory for one of the sport’s most iconic players. Christine Sinclair, playing in her sixth – and likely final – edition of the quadrennial event, will captain reigning Olympic champion Canada to its first World Cup title.
The transformative impact of the gold medal-winning performance in Tokyo and the newfound pedigree that comes with it can’t be overstated – Bev Priestman’s team has forever graduated from title hopeful to bonafide contender. Canada, ranked No. 6 in the world, will also bring the most talented and complete squad the nation has ever assembled for a major tournament. Those merging factors will result in Sinclair, the most prolific player in international football history, capping her legendary career with a World Cup trophy. The Canadian soccer wave will continue unabated in 2023.
Haaland rewrites record books
Erling Haaland is on a mission. Breaking the Premier League’s single-season scoring record isn’t enough – he wants to obliterate it. And the 22-year-old is well on his way. Haaland already has 20 tallies to his name in just 14 league appearances during his maiden campaign with Manchester City. Nobody has ever reached that mark faster, so that’s one record down. He scores goals with machine-like efficiency and ruthlessness, which will serve him well as he chases down and eventually smashes the benchmark for most markers in a Premier League season. In a 38-match campaign, that record currently belongs to Mohamed Salah, who found the net 32 times in 2017-18. Andy Cole and Alan Shearer each scored 34 goals in the Premier League’s 42-game era. Both standards are set to fall.
“I kind of recharged my batteries, and to watch other people score and win games in the World Cup kind of triggers me and motivates me and also irritates me,” Haaland, who didn’t play in the World Cup, said of his recent break. “I’m more hungry and more ready than ever.” That is absolutely terrifying. His insatiable scoring drive will lead City to their fifth Premier League title in the last six seasons.
Mbappe powers PSG to Champions League glory
Paris Saint-Germain – at long last and after obscene levels of investment over the years – will finally capture the elusive Champions League title so desperately craved by the club’s Qatari ownership, and Kylian Mbappe will be the catalyst. Despite winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup and scoring an unforgettable hat-trick in the final, Mbappe was overshadowed by Lionel Messi. At club level, though, the Frenchman is the leading light. The heartbreak of just missing out on the World Cup victory will become additional fuel for Mbappe, who will hit another stratosphere of superstardom in 2023.
Led by their incandescent forward, PSG will get over the hump in the Champions League, knocking off Bayern Munich in a rousing last-16 tie before eventually taking down Manchester City in the final. The most explosive player in world football will parlay that success into the first Ballon d’Or of his career. It’ll be the first of many. The only question remaining is whether or not he’ll win them at PSG or Real Madrid, where he clearly envisions himself at some point very soon.
Ronaldo fades into background
Cristiano Ronaldo remaining unsigned says it all. The Portuguese superstar has been a free agent for over a month after engineering his exit from Manchester United with a now-infamous incendiary interview. The 37-year-old has been pining for a switch to another top European club to play in the Champions League, but to date, no interest has materialized from teams of that caliber. If the suitors were there, Ronaldo would have put pen to paper already. Instead, the lone contract on the table is from Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, who have reportedly submitted an eye-watering offer worth £175 million per year.
Without any other admirers, a clearly declining Ronaldo will have no choice but to follow the money. In joining Al Nassr, he’ll fade into sporting irrelevance, becoming a largely forgotten figure. Being one of the most famous people alive, Ronaldo will always hold a certain level of celebrity and influence, but from an on-pitch perspective, joining the Riyadh-based club will remove him from the typical everyday conversations in which he’s featured so prominently for over a decade.
Infantino tightens grip on world football
When Gianni Infantino succeeded ex-president Sepp Blatter as the head of FIFA in 2016, the Swiss-Italian administrator vowed to clean up world football’s disgraced governing body. “We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA. And everyone in the world will applaud us,” he said at the time. Well, about that. Instead of applause, he’s been the subject of widespread ridicule and disdain. If anything, Infantino has largely continued along the tarnished path of his predecessor.
That is set to continue. Barring an unlikely resignation or forcible ouster, Infantino will be re-elected for his third term as FIFA chief in March. He’s already overseen significant changes to the sport, including an expanded 48-team men’s World Cup and super-sized Club World Cup. He also tried and failed to implement a biennial World Cup, an idea that was widely panned. What radical ideas does he have left up his sleeve? Expect Infantino to attempt to hatch another harebrained scheme in 2023.