The reason for AA going up a little later this week was, of course, widely forecast, but I still wanted to wait for it to be made official. Don’t count your chickens and all that. On Tuesday (or late on Monday if you’re in Argentina), Lionel Messi was named France Football‘s European Footballer Of The Year for 2009, claiming the coveted Ballon d’Or. He becomes the third Argentine to win the award, although not a few news sources are claiming he’s the first (Alfredo Di Stéfano and Omar Sívori had taken Spanish and Italian citizenship respectively by the time they were given the gong). And he’s won it by a record margin of votes. Just Javier Mascherano‘s luck. The Liverpool midfielder scores a goal for a change (sort of), and has to take second billing on HEGS…
From a possible 480 points in the voting for the award, Messi picked up an amazing 473 – the highest total ever – after being key to Barcelona’s historic treble of Spanish Primera División, Copa del Rey and European Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo, last year’s winner, was in second place but was a full 240 points behind. Messi told the press, with not a little historical inaccuracy: ‘It’s a great honour to win this prize and, what’s more, to be the first Argentine to do so [sic] makes me feel very proud. It’s very important for me.’ He went on to opine that, had the rules allowed non-Europeans to win the award before 1995 (Di Stéfano and Sívori only claimed it due to their European passports), ‘with the current rules, Maradona would have won it too.’ The irony, of course, is that Messi could’ve won it under the old rules too: having lived in Barcelona since he was 13, he holds a Spanish passport.
Anyway. There was some football actually being played at the weekend, too. Messi himself had a fairly unspectacular game for Barcelona against Real Madrid in the Camp Nou during El Clásico, though he did have a shot well saved by Iker Casillas late on that would’ve made it 2-0. For the visitors, Gonzalo Higuaín played but had a very quiet night. For the Argentine performance of the weekend in Spain you had to look to the capital, though. Sergio Agüero scored twice – brilliantly setting himself up by passing the ball to himself off the post for the second – and Maxi Rodríguez completed the rout as Atlético de Madrid thrashed Espanyol (managed by Mauricio Pochettino and with Juan Forlín playing the whole match) 4-0.
Atlético de Madrid 4 – 0 Espanyol (Agüero second and third, Rodríguez fourth)
In Italy, Saturday saw the Genova derby, which was won 3-0 by Genoa (over Sampdoria, for those who aren’t sure). Rodrigo Palacio was fouled or a penalty from which the first goal was scored, but was taken off at half time, and Hernán Crespo played the last nine minutes. Sunday’s matches saw two Argentines on the scoresheets: Diego Milito scored from the penalty spot in the 85th minute to give Internazionale a 1-0 win over Fiorentina, and Germán Denis put Napoli 1-0 up after half an hour away to Parma. The match finished 1-1, after another late penalty.
In England, Carlos Tevez was largely ineffective as Manchester City could only draw at home to Hull City – the Citizens’ seventh consecutive draw in the league, fact fans – but Javier Mascherano scor… well, he didn’t. He took a shot from a long way out which took a massive deflection and went down as a Joseph Yobo own goal, but he celebrated it all the same and Liverpool won for a change, 2-0 against Everton. Elsewhere, Franco Di Santo played the whole match without anything to show for it as Blackburn Rovers drew 0-0 with Stoke City. In the Championship, both Fabricio Coloccini and Jonás Gutiérrez played key roles in creating goals as Newcastle United beat Swansea City 3-0.
France saw Lucho González enter the fray in the 52nd minute and his Marseilles team lose 1-0 to a Lens goal deep into stoppage time. Gabriel Heinze didn’t play. Franco Sosa started for Lorient, who drew 2-2 with Grenoble. On Sunday Lisandro López got a 42nd minute equaliser, allowing Lyon to claim a 1-1 draw at home to Stade Rennes.
In Brazil there were Argentine goals in two matches. Maxi López scored Grêmio’s fourth as they beat Grêmio Barureri 4-2 in Porto Alegre; and Darío Conca got two for Fluminense in the Maracanã in a 4-0 win over Vitória.
Fluminense 4 – 0 Vitória (Conca’s goals third and fourth, but the first two are definitely worth watching as well)
And Tom Clark’s here as usual, to fill us in on matters Mexican.
In the quarter-finals of the Mexican liguilla, the Monarcas of Morelia, playing at home, overcame a 2-1 first-leg deficit to take down Santos Laguna 3-0 and go through to the semifinals on a 4-2 aggregate. Santos were missing two key Argentines, Matías Vuoso (suspended) and Daniel Ludueña (injured). The clinching goal came from Morelia’s Argentine defender Mauricio Romero after 84 minutes.
Monarcas Morelia 3 – 0 Santos Laguna (Romero’s goal last)