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Ancelotti: Ronaldo “Sure Bet” for 2014 Ballon d’Or



Cristiano Ronaldo says Real are still “growing” after his record-equalling 22nd La Liga hat-trick helped the Spanish giants thrash Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Ronaldo opened the floodgates in the third minute and Benzema doubled the lead shortly before half-time. Each completed their braces with 20 minutes remaining before Ronaldo completed the rout in front of 77,987 fans at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The win helped them leapfrog city rivals Atletico Madrid into fourth place and within four points of leaders Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo Celebrates Goal vs Athletic Bilbao. Image: Getty.

Cristiano Ronaldo Celebrates Goal vs Athletic Bilbao. Image: Getty.

“We’re still getting better. It’s the start of the season, we have room to improve and we are growing. It was a very good game, we scored five goals and didn’t concede any,” said the 29-year-old.

The Portuguese superstar has been chief-orchestrator of Real’s rebirth after two defeats in their first three games.

Their early days wobble culminated in a 2-1 home loss to Atletico in the Madrid derby, but the Carlo Ancelotti side have reeled off six wins on the troth, scoring 27 goals in the process.

The understanding between Welshman Gareth Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo was further highlighted in the mauling of struggling Athletic, who have now secured only one point in their last five league games and are 18th in the table.

Bale provided for Ronaldo’s opener within 2 minutes of kick-off, when his smart ball from the right was headed past Gorka Iraizoz by the forward. Benzema grabbed the hosts’ second from Luka Modric floated corner.

Ronaldo slot in Real’s third after a nice partnership between Benzema and Bale ended at his feet. The ex-Manchester United stalwart later squared for Benzema to tap in the fourth. Ronaldo’s rounded up scores deflecting Pepe’s short into the corner- though the ball appeared to have come off his arm.

Ronaldo added: “Benzema, Bale and I are used to working together and we connect very well. As Ancelotti already said in the press conference, we are getting better in some aspects, such as set-pieces.

“Benzema is the best striker in La Liga for me and one of the best in the world. He deserves it and we’re very happy with him. He is a team player and Benzema and Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) are doing a great job. We’re very happy with them.”

On the partnership between Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo, manager Acelotti added: “The trio up front played fantastically. Cristiano scored three, Karim two and Bale provided assists and worked hard. When they play like that, it is fundamental to the team. The midfielders played well too and worked very hard.”

Who else for the Ballon d’Or?

Ancelotti thinks Real’s inspirational forward is the surest “bet” for the 2014 Fifa Ballon d’Or after scoring his 13th goal in six league games and his 17th of the season in all competition.

The reigning Fifa Player of the Year’s hat-trick against Athletic increased his 2014 goal haul for the European champions to 41 after 37 appearances while his assist for Benzema’s brace was his 11th.

He has so far managed 3 goals plus an assists in five international caps following Portugal’s disappointing run at the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

Ronaldo’s third treble in four league games this season tied him with Real legend Alfredo Di Stefano and ex-Athletic striker Telmo Zarra in the record for most La Liga hat-tricks.

The Italian boss said: “There’s little doubt this year, I think. I don’t think there are any bets because I don’t think there’s any doubt this year.”

Ronaldo claimed his second Ballon d’Or in January, defeating four-time winner Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery, after banging in 66 goals in 56 games in 2013 in all competitions for club and country.

Voting for the 2014 awards have already began. Ronaldo is nonetheless expected to be up against stiff competition from Barcelona talisman Messi, who has managed 39 goals and 17 assists in 34 appearances at club level and 10 goals plus an assist in 5 appearances for World Cup finalists Argentina.

(Messi vs Ronaldo stat provided by Stephen Greig of Tangled in Design as at 21:44 GMT)


Talented Nigerian Players of the NFL



The NFL is quickly becoming one of the most popular leagues for Nigerian athletes. Over the last few years, we have seen some immensely talented players from Nigeria, or with Nigerian ancestry, come into the league and take over. While all positions in the sport of American football have benefited, notably there has been a focus on defensive positions from these athletes, with linebackers and defensive ends rising to prominence. Here are some of the most talented Nigerian athletes in the NFL that you need to know.

Jeremiah Attaochu

Jeremiah Attaochu is a 6’3”( 1.91m) outside linebacker who is currently playing for the Denver Broncos. He was a member of the 2014 draft, selected in the 2nd round as pick #50 overall. Attaochu played briefly for several teams like the 49ers and the Jets as he gradually tried to find the perfect fit. Recently, Attaochu has been re-signed by the Broncos on a one-year $1.5 million contract. Clearly, the Broncos liked what he brought to their defensive line.

Since Peyton Manning left the Broncos, the squad has been testing new offensive schemes, but their defense remains very strong. All-star player Von Miller has recently been placed on the injury list, so Attaochu will be called on to perform his best. With his aggressive tackling and limitless gas tank, Attaochu certainly helps bring the Broncos favorable American football odds. The team’s main division rivals are the Kansas City Chiefs who have one of the strongest offenses in the league. Heading into the 2020 season, defense is a priority for the Broncos.

Jeff Okudah

Okudah was born in Texas, USA in 1999 to Nigerian parents, making him one of the youngest players on this list. In the most recent NFL draft, Okudah was one of the most in-demand athletes and was selected #3 overall by the Detroit Lions. In the buildup to his NFL debut he quickly became known as the best cornerback in the entire country, and has proven to be yet another exceptional Nigerian athlete to gr3aduate from Texas universities.

This is excellent news for the Lions, who certainly need all the help they can get on defense. Okudah made his NFL debut this past Sunday, playing against the Green Bay Packers and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. All things considered, Okudah played well and showed that he can perform at the professional level.

Emmanuel Ogbah

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Ogbah has come a long way on his journey to becoming the standout outside linebacker that he is. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 as the #32 overall pick. After two years with the squad, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he really came into his own as a linebacker.

Ogbah played a big role in the Chief’s 12-4 record while he was active during the 2019 season. His standout performance was during week 3 versus the Baltimore Ravens, when Ogbah sacked quarterback Lamar Jackson 1.5 times. Unfortunately, a pectoral injury ended his exceptional season at game 10, but his efforts ultimately helped the Chiefs get to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Afterwards, Ogbah signed a two-year $15 million dollar contract with the Miami Dolphins, where he currently helps round out their defense.

Noah Igbinoghene

This young athlete is an exceptionally talented cornerback. He was recently drafted in the first round as #30 overall by the Miami Dolphins. Though he was born in the US, he is of Nigerian descent and lived in the country for part of his life in his earlier years.

Notably, both of his parents were talented athletes in their own right. Igbinoghene’s father not only competed in the Men’s Triple Jump in the 1996 Olympics, but also won a bronze medal at the 1990 Commonwealth games. His mother was a track and field star, and was part of the relay team that won a bronze medal for Nigeria at the 1992 Olympics.

NFL analysts gave the Dolphin’s an A+ for the Igbinoghene pick, saying that he was the right player for their team and helped the Dolphins patch up a weakness on defense. He played well against the Buffalo Bills this past weekend, ultimately blocking many passes that came his way.

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Barcelona Sell Luis Suarez To Atletico Madrid



Barcelona have sold striker Luis Suarez to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid.

The transfer was confirmed on Wednesday evening, with Suarez reportedly crying as he left Barcelona’s training grounds for the last time the same day.

“FC Barcelona would like to publicly express their gratitude to Luis Suarez for his commitment and dedication and wishes him all the best for the future,” the statement said.

The club said a “farewell event” would take place for Suarez on Thursday before a press conference.

Suarez leaves Barcelona after six successful years. He scored 198 goals – making him Barcelona’s third top scorer, and won 13 titles.

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Messi and Ronaldo miss out on UEFA Men’s Player of the Year nominations



No Messi or Ronaldo in UEFA Men’s Player of the Year nominations for first time in 10 years as De Bruyne & Lewandowski battle it out.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is also in the running for the award, with a new winner set to be announced at the start of October.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been left off the final shortlist for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award for first time in 10 years, with Kevin De Bruyne and Robert Lewandowski set to battle it out for the individual prize.

Ronaldo, who currently plies his trade in Italy with Juventus, has picked up the accolade on three occasions and also has a total of nine nominations to his name, while Barcelona superstar Messi has won it two times and made the final shortlist in six of the last 10 seasons.

Both men have stood out as the best players of their generation for well over a decade, but as they continue to advance into their thirties, an inevitable changing of the guard is beginning to take shape.

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