?Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic showed off his footballing skills in style, as he and his teammates tried to kick footballs into a basketball net, as part of a Gillette challenge posted on ?YouTube.
In the video below, Croatian star Rakitic along with a host of other Barcelona talents including Luis Suarez attempt to net baskets with their feet from three different ranges.
Rakitic wins the day, however, when he apparently nets first time from the ‘impossible’ range of in the stands on the mid-court line.
The Croatian, aside from his outrageous foot basketball technique, has become a key part of Barcelona’s success in recent years and has three assists so far this season in 16 outings.
Barcelona travel to the Bernabeu on Saturday to face Real Madrid in what is expected to be a fiercely contested Clasico.
The Catalan giants will be looking to extend their lead at the top with a win against Los Blancos on Saturday, which would see them go 14 points ahead of their rivals.
Barcelona stretched their current unbeaten league run to 23 games on Sunday evening thanks to a classy 4-0 win over
Barcelona hit the post, Paulinho scores the rebound. Twice in the same game. Much to be said for being in the right place at the right time…
— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) December 17, 2017
Messi is the first player to miss (at least) 3 La Liga penalties for Barcelona in a single calendar year since Samuel Eto’o (3) in 2005
— MESSISTATS (@MessiStats_) December 17, 2017
It was a measured opening inside a fairly sparse Camp Nou, with the hosts, as expected, seeing the majority of possession, and it took until just the third minute for the first clear chance of the evening.
Following steady possession Barca turned up the tempo and carved open a fairly attacking Deportivo line-up, allowing injury returnee Andres Iniesta to open his legs on right-hand side of the area before squaring a simple cross across the face of goal.
The Spaniard’s set up looked destined to find a blue and red shirt, which it did, however rather remarkably Messi, who picked up the golden shoe award for his 2016-17 season haul before proceedings began, lifted his attempt uncharacteristically over the top of Ruben’s crossbar and allowed the visitors a huge let off.
Just a few moments later Depor found more fortune, this time thanks to the linesman, who spotted Paco Alcacer had strayed into an offside position before teeing up Suarez for the simplest of tap-ins, keeping the scores goalless.
That is the way things stayed for a short period, but only down to the goalkeeping heroics of the visitors’ shot stopper, who made three smart saves in the matter of a few minutes.
Ruben was able to halt Messi on two occasions, however it was the 33-year-old’s fingertip block against substitute
Messi’s 200 assists with Barcelona:
142 — La Liga
026 — Champions League
025 — Copa del Rey
004 — Spanish Super Cup
002 — European Super Cup
001 — Club World Cup #Messi200
— MESSISTATS (@MessiStats_) December 17, 2017
But the Spaniard could do nothing to keep his side level shortly afterwards, as a combination of Iniesta’s sublime lock-picking pass from deep, Messi’s perfectly timed run – which got the better of Depor’s offside trap – and the 30-year-old’s cushioned squared cross into the path of Suarez for a tap in finally gave Barca their deserved lead.
The hosts then came within a lick of paint to doubling their advantage, as a quick breakaway afforded the little magician the chance to bear down on goal before attempting to feed his Uruguayan teammate.
Instead of taking the effort on himself, Suarez’s quick return pass to his fellow South American on the edge of the area allowed the Argentine to dispatch his effort which cannoned back off the crossbar and allowed
Barcelona have now hit the post 23 times this season. That’s insane. #fcblive
— totalBarça (@totalBarca) December 17, 2017
But with just seconds remaining in the first-half, Barca again found themselves subject to a goal-line dispute, as for the second time this season, and third this calendar year, it appeared Ernesto Valverde’s side were wrongly refused a legal goal.
Admittedly, unlike the duo previously, replays were not completely conclusive, however with the angles on offer, Suarez’s rabona finish from close range did appear to cross the line.
But, as has become a trend for Barcelona, the officials said no, leaving the hosts with a two-goal advantage going into the break.
However, less than two minutes into the second-half Suarez did grab his second goal of the evening.
Following simply sublime and intricate build-up play in the centre of the park, Sergi Roberto was found in space on the right-hand wing before whipping in a first-time, inch-perfect low cross towards the back post which was met by the 30-year-old talisman, allowing a simple finish from close range to put the game to bed.
But three did not seem enough for the hosts, nor Messi, who with 20 minutes to go rattled the woodwork for the third time of the evening after bending a superb free-kick round the Depor wall and beating custodian Ruben at full stretch.
Again, just moments later it looked to be confirmed it was not going to be the Argentina international’s night in front of goal, as the usually so clinical attacker was denied from the penalty spot by a strong left-hand of the ageing visitors’ custodian after Suarez was hacked down inside the area by Federico Valverde.
However, with 15 minutes to go Barca did notch their fourth of the evening, as for the second time of the night Paulinho was on hand to finish from close range following a rebound off the post – this time coming from Jordi Alba’s attempted slotted effort from the left-hand side of the area.
Did Barcelona do some sort of wall-passing exercise in training? Another ‘assist’ off the woodwork
— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) December 17, 2017
That is the way things stayed and Barcelona now hold a six-point gap over Atletico Madrid following Valencia’s slip up earlier in the weekend heading into the first El Clasico of the season.
Last night’s 1-0 win over Gremio saw Real register their fifth trophy in the calendar year, a feat which the team have never reached before.
Ronaldo’s 30-yard free-kick eight minutes inside the second-half ensured that the trophy would be coming back to Spain for the fourth consecutive season, and the Portuguese couldn’t be happier to be the man to make it happen.
Reported by Spanish publication ?Marca, Ronaldo said: “I’m happy I scored the goal, very happy. I’m having a great season. Real Madrid had never won five titles in a year and we wanted it, it’s a record.”
Not only did the victory ensure Real’s record-breaking fifth trophy of 2017, but it also saw Madrid become the first ever side to win the Club World Cup in two consecutive seasons, while also winning the trophy for the record-equalling third time.
After Real’s recent endeavours, recently crowned Ballon d’Or victor Ronaldo deems his side worthy of a guard of honour, starting on Saturday when Madrid face up against arch-rivals Barcelona in an eagerly anticipated El Clasico.
“It would be nice and I would like Barcelona to give us a guard of honour,” said Ronaldo in the post-match press conference. “I hope we win that game too so that the league is still alive for Real Madrid. We have to enjoy every moment because we don’t know what will happen in the future.”
Though Ronaldo hasn’t been in his typical startling form so far this campaign, the 32-year-old has assured he still has the same hunger for the game and has no plans of hanging up his boots anytime soon.
“I talk on the pitch, I try to give my best and for people to enjoy my football. I don’t lack motivation to continue playing and training because I enjoy football. It’s what I like the most.”
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“All the managers in the world, it doesn’t matter how good you are, if your players don’t understand what you are looking for or what you want, it makes no sense” (Pep Guardiola).
With 21 major honours – including two UEFA Champions Leagues – to his name, Pep Guardiola has become one of the most successful and influential managers of the last decade.
The aforementioned success is derivative of the current Manchester City manager’s unrivalled ability to bring out the best in his players, and nurture the talents of fledgling and faltering talents alike.
Below is a list of seven players – past and present – who thrived under the guidance of Pep Guardiola…
7. Pedro (Barcelona 2008-2012)
Promoted from Barcelona B to the first team by Pep Guardiola in the Summer of 2009, Pedro became one of the current Manchester City manager’s most effective offensive players during his tenure in Catalonia.
In his first season under the guidance of Pep, the La Masia graduate became the first player to score in six different competitions in a single calendar year, and helped his side win La Liga with a then record 99 points. In the 2011 UEFA Champions League final, the Spanish international opened the scoring in a 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley.
Cited by many as the perfect ‘pet project’ for Guardiola, he was able to make Pedro a hugely effective wide player with a keen eye for goal. Pedro’s fluctuating form in recent years at both Barcelona and Chelsea without the guidance of Guardiola, is a testament to how Pep was able to maximise the winger’s potential between 2008 and 2012.
6. Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich 2015-2016)
“I have a lot to thank FC Bayern and the coach [Pep Guardiola] for. I don’t know if I’d have been playing for the France seniors so soon without the faith they showed me.” (Kingsley Coman to Bundesliga).
Hailed as a generational talent and a future ‘can’t miss’ attraction, Kingsley Coman signed for Italian giants Juventus. It seemed to be a perfect fit. In 2014, fellow French prodigy – Paul Pogba – was becoming an indispensable member of La Vecchia Signora’s starting line-up.
However at Juventus, it was difficult to see what all the fuss was about regarding Kingsley Coman. The French youngster showed flashes of brilliance during his solitary Serie A campaign; but only flashes. While the prodigal talents of Pogba flurried; Coman floundered.
With only one professional goal under his belt, Kingsley Coman was signed by Bayern Munich on an initial loan deal in August 2015. Within two months of his arrival in Bavaria, Pep Guardiola had made Coman into the player that so many had expected him to become.
5. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City 2016-present)
Like Kingsley Coman, Raheem Sterling was a prodigal talent who was seemingly floundering. After bursting onto the scene during Liverpool’s 2013-14 title challenge – during which Sterling scored an impressive nine goals from a wide position – the English youngster had been largely considered a player with a turn of pace, but very little else.
Sterling’s poor form continued into his first season at Manchester City in 2015-16. Despite being valued at an astonishing £44m the 23-year-old proved to be hugely underwhelming in first season at the Etihad.
Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the Northwest however, we have a seen a new Raheem Sterling. A young man with a keen eye for goal; a knowledge of where and when to attack space, and a maturity on the ball. So far this season, Sterling has arguably been Manchester City’s most effective offensive player. Scoring a career best 15 goals already, it seems as though the sky’s the limit for Sterling under the tutelage of Guardiola.
4. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich 2013-2016)
“He [Pep Guardiola] had a very big impact on me; one of the biggest in my career, especially with the ball. I am more comfortable and confident to open the game and start the game.” (Jerome Boateng to Newsweek).
It is difficult to believe that once upon a time Jerome Boateng – arguably the best centre back in the world – was a failed full back at Manchester City, ostracised from a squad that he simply was not good enough to be a part of.
Although Jerome Boateng had turned his career around prior to Pep Guardiola’s arrival in Bavaria, the Spanish manager undoubtedly added a new dimension to Boateng’s game. Once considered a purely physical talent, under the guidance of Guardiola, the 29-year-old became one of Europe’s most composed and technically proficient centre backs.
Once a squad player at Manchester City, the German international is now the leader of the Bayern Munich dressing; largely thanks to Pep Guardiola.
3. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich 2015-2016)
“It’s the trademark of a good coach that he’s never satisfied, and that he always tries to improve you. He always wants to get the maximum out of you. After the match, he told me a few things I should have done better.” (Joshua Kimmich to Bavarian Football Works).
It was one of the defining images of Pep Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich. The Spaniard stood in the centre circle of the Westfalenstadion passionately exclaiming to youngster – Joshua Kimmich – that he can be one of the best centre backs in the world; that he has everything. The conviction with which Pep Guardiola uttered these words proved to be the catalyst for Joshua Kimmich’s transformation into one of the most complete young footballers in Europe.
Now considered to be the heir to Philip Lahm in both the national team and at Bayern Munich, the 22-year-old has taken the chance Guardiola gave to him and has ran with it.
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City: 2016 – present)
Kevin De Bruyne’s talents were already explicitly clear by the time Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad Stadium. The Belgian international had already set the Bundesliga alight with mesmeric performances at Wolfsburg between 2013 and 2016.
Winning the 2015 German Footballer of the Year and propelling VfL Wolfsburg to second in the Bundesliga table, the trequartista was already considered by many to be one of Europe’s most outstanding offensive talents.
Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola however, Kevin De Bruyne has become a much more complete central midfielder. The 26-year-old has thrived in his new role as a deep lying central midfielder, becoming the driving force behind Manchester City’s astonishing start to their 2017-18 English Premier League campaign.
With a number of man of the match performances already under his belt in the league this season, De Bruyne is now widely considered to be the best player in England.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona 2008-2012)
“Pep immediately transmitted an enormous amount of pride in our work, ambition and hunger. He won our confidence from the first day because we could see that things were being done correctly and then when results started to flow the confidence grew with them.” (Lionel Messi quoted by Manchester Evening News).
Like Kevin De Bruyne, Lionel Messi had already gained notoriety as one of the best players in the world. Utilised as a right winger by previous manager, Frank Rijkaard, the Argentine international was an integral member of Barcelona’s starting XI and widely considered to be a generational talent.
It was under Pep Guardiola however, that Lionel Messi developed into arguably the greatest footballer of all time. The key to Messi’s development proved to be the Spanish manager’s decision to move the Argentine into a central role, known as the “false nine”. In this new role, the Argentine international blossomed into one of the most potent goal-scorers of all time, and a five time Ballon d’Or winner.
?Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has insisted he will not rush big-money summer signing
“[Dembele’s] been doing a lot more with the group this week, but he hasn’t completed a full training session yet”, Valverde told his pre-match press conference on Saturday, as quoted by Spanish news outlet ?SPORT.
Barcelona have to give the world champions a guard of honour before El Clasico? I mean, they are “More Than A Club”, honour, integrity and all that stuff, so…
— Deji Faremi (@deejayfaremi) December 17, 2017
“Next week we will increase his work load, but the plan is same as before. January is when we hope he will come back.
“It would be premature, risky, even, to bring him back [early]. Our idea at the moment is to leave it until January.”
Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City have the longest winning runs in their individual leagues. They all have one thing in common. Pep it!
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) December 16, 2017
With Real not featuring in this week’s round of La Liga fixtures due to their Club World Cup success on Saturday, Barcelona have the chance to stretch their advantage in the title race to 11 points over Zinedine Zidane’s side when they take on