Barcelona star Pique open to joining Ramos in Spain's Olympic team

The former Manchester United centre-back says that it is a possibility he will travel to Japan and play for his country once more

Barcelona star Gerard Pique has revealed that he is open to representing Spain in the Olympics alongside Sergio Ramos.

Pique confirmed his retirement from international duty after the World Cup in 2018 following jeers and whistles from Spain fans due to the centre-back’s support for Catalunya’s bid for independence.

The defender announced his intention to do so as long ago as 2016 and followed through after La Roja were knocked out by hosts Russia in the last 16.

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Watch the Throne: Diego Maradona receives hero's welcome as Gimnasia thrash former team Newell's Old Boys (VIDEO)

Diego Maradona was handed a rapturous reception by former team Newell's Old Boys as he returned as Gimnasia boss, even being given a 'throne' to watch the game in what was a 4-0 win for the World Cup winner's team.

Maradona played just five times for Newell's Old Boys in 1993 a year prior to his controversial return to the Argentina national team ahead of the World Cup in the USA but, despite his brief stay, the club made sure to pay tribute to their Old Boy – even awarding him the aforementioned leather-bound seat with 'D10S' stitched into it before the game's start.

Also on rt.com Dance like Diego: Maradona celebrates first win as Gimnasia boss with dressing room boogie (VIDEO)

Gimnasia, the team Maradona has been in charge of since September, went into the game at the foot of the Argentine top division, but claimed the biggest win of Maradona's tenure, winning the fixture by four clear goals and perhaps making some people within the club regret the extent of their welcome.

So popular is Maradona in the region that legions of fans congregated and chanted his name outside Maradona's hotel in Rosario ahead of the game. At one point Maradona joined them from his balcony, dancing and singing along with the crowds.

At the game itself, Maradona appeared emotional after he was greeted by Newell's captain (and former Liverpool player) Maxi Rodriguez who presented him with a banner declaring Maradona 'Dios', or 'God'.

And all of it was a happy birthday for Maradona, who turned 59, as his team inflicted what was just Newell's second defeat of the season, which makes one wonder if their hero will get quite the same welcome the next time he arrives in Rosario.

Also on rt.com 'Horrible': Gimnasia fans horrified as club unveils eerie Diego Maradona mascot (PHOTO)

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Messi eclipses Ronaldo's club goal tally after scoring twice for Barcelona

(CNN)In their ongoing battle to break records -- and outdo each other -- Lionel Messi went one up on Cristiano Ronaldo. Or make that two up, actually.

When Messi scored twice in Barcelona's 5-1 thrashing of mid-table Valladolid in La Liga Tuesday, the Argentine moved past his longtime Portuguese rival on club goals with 608 in 695 games. All have come with Barcelona.
 
Ronaldo has scored 606 goals for Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus in 813 matches.
 
After the game at the Camp Nou, the softly spoken Messi didn't discuss his goal-scoring record but Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was happy to gush about the 32-year-old.
 
"He's got this talent nobody else has," Valverde told reporters. "He can get past anybody.
 
"It's not just a question of an individual move. We have these times in training, you think he's going to pass to the left or right, but he passes somewhere you can't anticipate. You only see it with this type of player."
 
Messi gave Barcelona a 3-1 lead with a trademark curling free kick into the top corner -- it was his 50th career free kick goal -- and made it 4-1 after he danced into the box and rifled a shot past helpless keeper Jordi Masip. His sumptuous through ball to Luis Suarez accounted for one of his two assists on a night when Valverde's men reclaimed top spot in La Liga ahead of Granada following a seventh straight victory.
 
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner -- Ronaldo has five, too -- has now scored in four straight games after he missed four games with a calf injury and later sustained a thigh issue.
 
When he found the back of the net against Slavia Prague in the Champions League last week, Messi became the first player to score in 15 consecutive Champions League seasons. Another milestone.
 
"He's feeling better every day," said Valverde. "He's getting back into form after his spell out of the team. He scored a goal the other day in Prague and could have scored another. You could see he was a little bit fresher."
 
Perhaps helping in that respect was an unanticipated break over the weekend.
 
Lionel Messi scored twice in Barcelona's 5-1 win over Valladolid Tuesday.
Lionel Messi scored twice in Barcelona's 5-1 win over Valladolid Tuesday.
 
Barcelona was due to face bitter rival Real Madrid in "El Clasico" but the derby was postponed until December 18 due to the possibility of unrest stemming from lengthy jail terms given to Catalan separatist leaders.
 
As for Ronaldo, he can overtake Messi again Wednesday when Juventus plays Genoa in Serie A. A win would see the reigning eight-time league champion replace Inter atop the division.
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Pulisic is Chelsea hat-trick hero as Man City close on Liverpool

Christian Pulisic hit the first hat-trick of his career as Chelsea crushed Burnley 4-2 on Saturday while Manchester City overcame a sluggish start to beat Aston Villa and increase the pressure on Liverpool.

Away from the top end of the Premier League table, pressure is mounting on Everton boss Marco Silva after the Merseysiders' fifth defeat in their past six league games.

US international Pulisic, who was without a goal for Chelsea since his £58 million ($74 million) move from Borussia Dortmund, had not started a Premier League match for Frank Lampard's young side since August.

But he made an emphatic case for himself at Turf Moor with a "perfect" hat-trick -- scoring with his left foot, right foot and head.

The 21-year-old capitalised on some indecision from Burnley to drive into the penalty area, producing a stepover before steering a low left-footed shot into the corner of Nick Pope's net midway through the first period.

The former Dortmund winger doubled his tally for the Blues with a second goal just before half-time, benefiting from a big deflection off Ben Mee, and grabbed his third with a second-half header.

Willian added a fourth for rampant Chelsea in the 58th minute to take the score to 4-0 and despite late goals for Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeil, the visitors avoided further shocks to win 4-2.

"It's my first professional hat-trick so I nearly forgot the match ball," Pulisic told the BBC. "Luckily my teammates helped me out.

"I just want to be on the field, help the team and make an impact. I didn't think it would be super easy. But I have come on a few times the past few weeks and was happy to start today. It was a special day."

Lampard defended his cautious handling of Pulisic.

"He had a week's break this summer," the Chelsea boss told Sky Sports.

"He arrived for a big price and wanted to come straight back in but at the same time why am I going to throw him in? So I have to do it in the right way and get the best out of him. I'm delighted for him."

The victory consolidates Chelsea's position in the top four. They have 20 points, the same number as third-placed Leicester, whom they trail on goal difference.

In the early kick-off, a frustrated Pep Guardiola watched his side recover from a tepid first half to defeat Villa 3-0 and close the gap on Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders to three points.

"The first half we played football but we don't play in the way we should play," Guardiola said, after second-half goals from Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.

"We were better in the second half. I don't know if it was because of the early goal. In the second we play in the way we normally do but we have to try and play 90 minutes. We played just 45."

Liverpool are under pressure to beat Tottenham at Anfield in Sunday's clash between last season's Champions League finalists.

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Real Madrid suffers shock defeat; Cristiano Ronaldo just keeps scoring

Real Madrid lost its first league game of the season as coach Zinedine Zidane's reboot of the club continues to malfunction.

Despite missing a number of star players, his side was the heavy favorite going into Saturday's match against newly-promoted Mallorca, but was given a rude awakening as the league minnows held on for a shock 1-0 win.

Lago Junior scored the game's only goal as Real Madrid was forced to play the closing stages with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola was sent off for two bookable offenses.

New signing Eden Hazard missed the match after the birth of his child and the likes of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were absent through injury.

Despite this being Real's first domestic loss, Zinedine's team has failed to impress this season and is yet to win a game in this year's UEFA Champions League group stages.
"The problem is that we have to show every three days that we're good. That's the difficulty. We don't do it," Zidane said after the match.

"I won't say that I'm worried because I don't like the word, but if we want to win something this season, we need consistency."

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Boca, River play out draw in feisty derby

Bitter rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors drew 0-0 in a heated Superliga Argentina encounter on Sunday in which both teams were lucky to finish with 11 players.

Referee Fernando Rapallini showed 10 yellow cards, seven of which were for Boca Juniors, in a match dominated by River Plate at their Monumental stadium.

The hosts had 17 shots to five and enjoyed 64% of possession but were unable to find a way past goalkeeper Esteban Andrada, who made a number of fine saves.

The result left Boca second in the standings with 11 points from five matches, two points behind leaders San Lorenzo. River remained 10th, five points behind the leaders.

In other matches on Sunday, Rosario Central drew 1-1 at Colon, Atletico Tucuman secured a 1-0 home win over Arsenal de Sarandi, Talleres beat Aldosivi 2-1 in Cordoba and Newell's Old Boys romped to a 4-1 home win over Huracan.

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Reno 1868 FC adds Cuban import Luis Javier Paradela Diaz on P-1A visa

Reno 1868 FC has acquired Cuban forward Luis Javier Paradela Diaz to a 2019 loan contract. Luis Paradela, born in Cuba and a current Cuban citizen, most recently played for Universidad San Carlos in Guatemala. Paradela becomes the first Cuban athlete to sign in the United States for a pro sports franchise on a P-1A Athlete visa.

A P-1A Athlete classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to the United States solely for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition as:

* An individual athlete at an internationally recognized level of performance;

* Part of a group or team at an internationally recognized level of performance;

* A professional athlete; or

* An athlete or coach, as part of a team or franchise that is located in the United States and a member of a foreign league or association

Based on current available information culled by Reno 1868 FC, Paradela is the only Cuban athlete in the United States who is actively in consideration to represent Cuba for soccer in men’s national team selection.

“With our partners at the San Jose Earthquakes, we’ve sought to identify the best talent worldwide for Reno 1868 FC," Reno 1868 FC president Eric Edelstein said in a news release. "Huge credit to our Operations Manager, Robert Ritchie, and our legal partners at Pabian Law for shepherding Luis through this unique process. We are happy to have Luis and look forward to him being a part of our club.”

The 22-year-old has logged 637 minutes with the Cuban national team across nine appearances, including three starts in the 2019 Gold Cup. In the CONCACAF Nations League Qualifiers in late 2018 to early 2019, Paradela recorded five goals and three assists, including three goals and three assists in an 11-0 win over Turks and Caicos Islands.

“He’s a versatile player," Ren 1868 FC head coach Ian Russell said in a news release. "He can play up front or wide, he has speed and he’s strong. He looks to be a good addition as we close the year. He’s young and he’s already scoring international goals, he’s got experience playing against some good teams.”

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Coach Belmadi Assures Algeria can win Afcon 2019 Tournament

Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi said in El Cairo that he believes his team can win the African Cup of Nations (Afcon 2019), even if no one else thinks the same.

We have been saying for some time now that we are here to do what nobody believes we can do. We believe in it, to be a bit ambitious is free of charge, even if the bar is set very high, said Belmadi said at a press conference.

The strategist highlighted that while many coaches avoid saying their team is favorite, he boldly aims to win the first Afcon crown for the Desert Foxes since 1990.

On Sunday, Algeria beat the Guinea team 3-0 in the round of 16, which was possibly the best performance of any team participating in the competition so far.

The North African team, pit in the quarterfinals against the winner between the Ivory Coast and Mali, scheduled to play this Monday, has won all its matches in the tournament without conceding even one goal.

We may not reach our goal, but we will do everything possible to get there, said Belmadi.

The 43-year-old coach was appointed last August, which brought an end to an agitated period during which Algeria changed coaches six times in two years.

Despite having one of the most talented squads in Africa, they were eliminated in the group stage in the previous Afcon in 2017 and could not qualify for the World Cup last year.

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