Lionel Messi not winning Ballon d’Or would be ‘madness,’ says Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry says it would be “madness” if Barcelona star Lionel Messi is denied the Ballon d’Or trophy on Monday.

Thierry Henry says it would be “madness” if Barcelona star Lionel Messi is denied the Ballon d’Or trophy on Monday.

Along with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca teammate Neymar, Messi is a finalist for the award, which will be announced on Jan. 11.

Messi, who led his club to a historic Treble last season, has been named world’s best player a record four times in his career. And Henry, who played with the Argentine from 2007-10, has declared it would be an injustice if the Blaugrana No. 10 did not add to his collection this time around.

“All we can do is enjoy what he does because what he is doing is not normal,” Henry told Barca’s official website on Thursday.

“We used to say that a player who got 23 to 25 goals in a season was an incredible striker, but Messi does that in three months.

“We had incredible players in that [Barca] team [that Henry played in] and whenever you did not know what to do, you always looked for Messi.

“I think it would be madness if he does not win the Ballon d’Or. He deserves it because the team won another Treble.

“But what I do not understand is why Suarez isn’t there.”

Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final last year and look the early favourites to lift the trophy in 2016, which would make them the first side in the Champions League era to repeat — a feat Henry believes will happen.

“In a single game, Bayern [Munich] can win it and you have to be careful with PSG too,” he said.

“You never know what might happen, but I think Barca can win it again.”

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Swiss authorities arrest Hawit, Napout in FIFA corruption case in Zurich

FIFA vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout have been arrested in another pre-dawn raid of the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on suspicion “of accepting bribes of millions of dollars,” the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) has announced.

FIFA Logo

The luxury establishment used by FIFA officials was swooped upon for the second time this year, with interim CONCACAF president Hawit of Honduras and CONMEBOL chief Napout of Paraguay detained on orders issued by the FOJ on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The FOJ confirmed in a further statement on Thursday that the pair are both opposing extradition to the U.S.

Suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter has not been arrested as part of this latest raid.

A statement from the FOJ said: “On the instructions of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), a further two FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich today. They are being held in custody pending their extradition. According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.

“The high-ranking FIFA officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.”

FIFA has acknowledged the latest controversy, saying in a statement: “FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice. FIFA will continue to co-operate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. FIFA will have no further comment on today’s developments.”

The governing body’s executive committee is currently midway through a two-day meeting.

Hawit was appointed interim president of CONCACAF, the confederation of countries from North and Central America and the Caribbean, after his predecessor Jeffrey Webb was arrested in a similar raid in May. Napout is the president of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation.

CONCACAF released a statement on Thursday saying that it “continues to cooperate with all government authorities in their investigations” before adding: “Today’s developments only strengthen the confederation’s resolve in continuing to enact significant structural and governance changes to the organisation, including substantial amendments to its statutes and fundamentally changing how it conducts business.”

CONCACAF Press Release

The FIFA corruption scandal first broke in May when seven officials, including Webb, were arrested by Swiss authorities on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, plunging football’s world governing body into meltdown.

Authorities in Switzerland and in the U.S. are investigating current and former senior football officials on charges that include racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

 

‘It’s like something out of a mafia movie’ – Wenger, Prince Ali and the world reacts to Fifa corruption scandal

Tuesday’s shocking news sparked outrage throughout the footballing fraternity with some figures even likening Fifa to the mafia

'It's like something out of a mafia movie' - Wenger, Prince Ali and the world reacts to Fifa corruption scandal

The football world was rocked on Tuesday when Swiss police swooped to arrest and detain, pending extradition to the United States, seven football officials on federal corruption charges related to Fifa.

These included current Fifa vice president and Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb, as well as Conmebol president Eugenio Figueredo.

An international law enforcement collaboration resulted in morning raids at the Hotel Bauer au Lac in Zurich where officials were staying ahead of the 65th Fifa congress which will decide the Fifa presidency on Friday.

The arrests, together with further news that Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, led to outrage throughout the footballing fraternity.

The controversy was only further exacerbated when world football’s governing body’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter de Grogorio addressed the press. He insisted that not only was it FIFA who initiated the proceedings and was the damaged party, but that there would be no re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and no postponed re-election of the Fifa presidency.

HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who is challenging Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency, was one of the first to react to the news.

“Today is a sad day for football,“ he lamented in a press release.

‘A sad day’ | Prince Ali (right) is set to take on Blatter for Fifa presidency on Friday

A statement from Europe’s governing body Uefa read: “Uefa is astonished and saddened by the events which have taken place earlier today in Zurich and is now waiting for additional information.

“An informal meeting of the Uefa Executive Committee will take place this afternoon in Warsaw prior to the Uefa Europa League final.”

The Chairman of the English Football Association Greg Dyke was also deeply disheartened: “We should stress this morning’s developments are very serious for FIFA and its current leadership.

“As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead The FA will be voting for him. However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances.

“Clearly things are changing very quickly and our delegation to the Fifa congress in Zurich, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do about it with our colleagues in Uefa when we meet tomorrow [Thursday] morning.”

Mafia | Delaney said the Fifa raids are like something from a gangster film

Football Association of Ireland CEO John Delaney was absolutely scathing in his criticism of Fifa.

“It seems like something out of a mafia movie,” he told RTE Radio One.

“Nothing would surprise me with Fifa, that’s the sad thing. When you wake up this morning and hear those events, it’s shocking and very saddening.

“The awards of World Cups are always covert and then there are independent reports that we don’t get to see. We’re told we’d get redacted versions and we don’t get those.

“There is always controversy around Fifa and it’s governance and the one person who has always been at the head of that is Sepp Blatter and he has to take some responsibility for that and that’s why I said yesterday that we wouldn’t be voting for him.”

England legend and BBC presenter Gary Lineker was even more damning of the governing body and Blatter.

“There can’t be a more corrupt, deplorable organisation on earth than Fifa. The house of cards is falling. Time for change!,” he tweeted.

“If Blatter had even a crumb of dignity remaining, he’d walk away now, creep back to his lair, sit in his armchair and stroke his cat.”

The president of France’s LFP Frederic Thiriez told Europe 1 that he was “deeply shocked and saddened at how these arrests would send out a terrible image of football.”

As the political world attempted to make sense of the scandal, Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas told Bild: “The fans have a right to demand that light will be shed on these events thoroughly. Corruption must not have any space in football.”

Former DFB president Theo Zwanziger told Rheinische Post: “It’s a big cesspool. The problem won’t be solved if Sepp Blatter gives up the presidency. The problem is Fifa’s system. There are too many people who enrich themselves.”

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger commented on the scandal in his pre-FA Cup final press conference.

“Fifa? It’s embarrassing. You wonder what the FBI is doing in there,” he remarked before stressing that he didn’t wish to add any more until the “whole inquiry is finished.”