Messi Almost Joined Espanyol in 2005 – Pochettino

Messi Almost Joined Espanyol in 2005 – Pochettino

Messi Almost Joined Espanyol in 2005 – Pochettino
Barcelona star Lionel Messi was "very close" to joining Espanyol in 2005, according to Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Messi, 31, was still in the early stages of his senior career at the time, but ended up staying at Camp Nou and developing into one of the best players of all-time.

Pochettino – then in the latter stages of his playing career at Espanyol – said Messi almost joined the club after impressing against Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy.

"I started to hear about him when I was at Espanyol – a small guy playing in the academy in Barcelona," Pochettino said ahead of his team's clash with Barca in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"He arrived when he was 13 years old, going from Argentina to Barcelona. Then I heard he was so close to signing for Espanyol – very close – in the season Barcelona played against Juventus under [Fabio] Capello in the Joan Gamper Cup.

"Because he was so fantastic in the Joan Gamper, Capello praised him afterwards and they changed the decision and kept Messi at Barcelona.

"So if you look back in history, maybe if he didn't play in the Joan Gamper that summer, maybe today he could have been the biggest star in Espanyol and Espanyol could be Barcelona."

Griezmann Scores 8,000th Champions League Goal
Antoine Griezmann created a little slice of Champions League history on Wednesday as he scored the competition's 8,000th goal playing for Atletico Madrid.

The France striker has had a year to remember, taking Atletico to second place in La Liga before spearheading his nation's charge to the World Cup title.

And, after Diego Simeone's charges struggled in their Champions League group opener, they were back to their best on Wednesday to down Club Brugge 3-1.

As usual, Griezmann was among the goals, hitting 28 minutes in to cancel out an early lead for the Belgians before doubling his tally in the second half.

That goal, moreover, was the 8,000th in the history of the Champions League, while Koke went on to seal Atletico's victory by making it 3-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Griezmann therefore enters a distinguished group of players who have netted milestone goals since the European Cup was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League in 1992.

Sarri : Morata Needs to Shed More Tears
Alvaro Morata's emotional response to scoring his first Chelsea goal since the middle of August was welcomed by Maurizio Sarri.

Morata missed an early sitter in Thursday's Europa League tie at home to Vidi, but made amends with the winner in the second half.

It was the first time Morata, whose first season in English football was disrupted by a back injury, has scored since a 3-2 win over Arsenal in the Premier League.

"I don't know," Sarri replied when asked if Morata had cried after scoring. "But if after a goal he wants to cry, I hope to see him cry very often.

"Really very happy for him. It's very important for him to score. I think it's very important for him to play a very good match. He played a very good match.

"It's very important for him to play for the team, like this evening. I think Alvaro can restart from this performance."

Mourinho Says 'Many Reasons' for Poor Form
Jose Mourinho says there are "many different reasons" why Manchester United are struggling this season and admits it would be unacceptable to go five matches without a win.

The United boss held a three-minute press conference on Friday morning where he only answered questions about Saturday's game against Newcastle.

When asked why United are struggling this season, Mourinho replied: "For many different reasons."

United have gone five games without a win just once since 1999, and when it was put to Mourinho that such a sequence for a club of United's size is not acceptable, he said: "Yes, I accept [it is not good enough]."

Arsenal Punish Wasteful Qarabag
Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi scored their first competitive Arsenal goals as the Gunners resisted heavy pressure and claimed a 3-0 win at Qarabag in the Europa League.

Smith Rowe's second-half goal made him the club's youngest goalscorer since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netted in September 2011 to cap off a mature performance, and the Gunners extended their winning run to eight matches as Guendouzi finished Qarabag off.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave Arsenal a somewhat fortuitous early opener, though the first half finished with Qarabag well on top and only the heroics of Bernd Leno kept the visitors ahead.

But Smith Rowe eased Arsenal's worries early in the second half and, although the hosts remained a potent threat, they were seen off by the Gunners, who have six points from two Group E outings.