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Can Robert Lewandowski claim to be better than Lionel Messi?

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can robert lewandowski claim to be better than lionel messi

Thomas Muller has lit the blue touchpaper ahead of Friday night’s Champions League showdown between Bayern Munich and Barcelona by suggesting Robert Lewandowski is the world’s best player – ahead of Lionel Messi.

Bayern’s Polish striker has enjoyed the best season of his career, scoring 53 goals in 44 matches including two in their 4-1 win over Chelsea last weekend which carried them into the last eight.

But Messi has also banged in plenty of goals during 2019-20 – 31 in 43 games – and will certainly be doing everything within his power to win a fifth Champions League title with Barcelona.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring against Napoli in the Champions League last-16

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring against Napoli in the Champions League last-16

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski celebrates one of his goals against Chelsea in the last-16

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski celebrates one of his goals against Chelsea in the last-16

Two of the deadliest forwards in world football -Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (left) and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (right)  go head to head on Friday night

Thomas Muller (right) wants his Bayern team-mate Lewandowski to prove he is the best

Thomas Muller (right) wants his Bayern team-mate Lewandowski to prove he is the best

Thomas Muller (right) wants his Bayern team-mate Lewandowski to prove he is the best

When Muller was asked whether Lewandowski is the best all-round attacker in the world right now, he said: ‘We’ll see that on Friday. Lewy will have to answer this question.

‘Messi also played very well today. But it’s up to Lewy and us to answer this question in Lewy’s favour on Friday.’

Bayern legend Lothar Matthaus went one step further and insisted that Lewandowski is actually the best player in the world, let alone the best striker.

But are they right? Sportsmail’s DAN MATTHEWS and ADAM SHERGOLD argue both sides of the coin.

MESSI IS STILL THE BEST – BY DANIEL MATTHEWS 

On the surface, the case for Robert Lewandowski is obvious.

The numbers tell their own story, after all. In 44 appearances this season, the Bayern Munich No 9 has scored (53) or assisted (eight) a staggering 61 goals.

Lionel Messi, meanwhile, is languishing behind on the, err, meagre total of 57. Slacker.

But let’s be clear: to measure Messi by statistics is to judge Steve Jobs on his choice of turtleneck.

Messi may not have scored as many goals as Lewandowski but he remains the master

Messi may not have scored as many goals as Lewandowski but he remains the master

Messi may not have scored as many goals as Lewandowski but he remains the master

To reduce his contribution to mere data is to strip the Barcelona talisman of everything that makes him so special: the artistry, the intangible genius that shows little sign of wavering well into his thirties.

They say there are no diagrams on the scoreboard: that a goal is worth as much if it comes from one yard or 30.

But try telling that to Jerome Boateng, whose ankles and pride are still bruised from Bayern Munich’s last meeting with Barcelona.

In that semi-final first leg in 2015, the defender’s skeleton was rearranged as Messi edged into the box, went inside then out and left Boateng in a heap.

Messi famously left Bayern defender Jerome Boateng floored during their 2015 encounter

Messi famously left Bayern defender Jerome Boateng floored during their 2015 encounter

Messi famously left Bayern defender Jerome Boateng floored during their 2015 encounter

Let’s not pretend all goals are created equal. And so let’s not pretend that Messi has been overshadowed by Lewandowski just because the striker has shone as Bayern won an eighth-straight Bundesliga.

The true test for Hansi Flick’s side is not whether they can win the domestic double, or whether they can canter past an overmatched Chelsea side running on empty.

Bayern and Lewandowski’s season will instead be defined by nights like this, when the spotlight burns brightest.

That is not to say Lewandowski is a flat-track bully – rather he has already proven himself a modern great. As striker’s go, he is currently the world’s best.

But with Bayern now many people’s favourites for the Champions League, one question remains: does their resurgence under Flick show the value of Lewandowski’s stunning season, or help to explain it?

Messi was certainly at his best as Barcelona overcame Napoli to reach the quarter-final stage

Messi was certainly at his best as Barcelona overcame Napoli to reach the quarter-final stage

Messi was certainly at his best as Barcelona overcame Napoli to reach the quarter-final stage

Remember, for years Messi faced the ludicrous accusation that his numbers were inflated by the quality around him.

Then this season, amid the chaos and civil war at the Nou Camp, Messi’s genius has remained undiminished. And club football’s greatest prize remains within his grasp.

Should Messi upstage Lewandowski and lead Barcelona to another European title, would people still feel the Bayern striker was robbed of the cancelled Ballon d’Or?

This battle is so finely poised. Over the past eight Champions League campaigns, only Cristiano Ronaldo (with a ludicrous 47) has scored more knockout goals than Messi (21) and Lewandowski (22).

But remember: even if Messi draws level or moves ahead in that race on Thursday night, it will be his brilliance rather than any statistic that sets him apart once more.

WHY LEWANDOWSKI HAS BEEN BETTER – BY ADAM SHERGOLD 

Sorry, Leo. As much as I love and appreciate you, I’m inclined to agree with Thomas Muller. For this season at least.

Robert Lewandowski has scored 42, 43, 41 and 40 goals for Bayern Munich in the four seasons before this one.

To surpass those majestic totals, to score 53 goals (and counting) in a season that was disrupted for three months, a season that saw Bayern apparently in crisis when they changed their manager in November, means he certainly has a claim to be the best in the world.

Lewandowski has elevated his game to another level this season, scoring a stunning 53 goals

Lewandowski has elevated his game to another level this season, scoring a stunning 53 goals

Lewandowski has elevated his game to another level this season, scoring a stunning 53 goals

Messi often provides us with moments of wonder but when it comes to cold, hard goalscoring on a metronomically regular and reliable basis, there is none better than Lewandowski.

Bayern have racked up 147 goals this season and Lewandowski has over one in three of them, scoring on average every 73 minutes.

It’s his sheer consistency that takes the breath away. He scored in each of Bayern’s opening 11 Bundesliga games, all but one of their matches he played in post-restart and every single Champions League game he’s played in as well.

There simply hasn't been anyone deadlier in opposition penalty boxes than the Polish striker

There simply hasn't been anyone deadlier in opposition penalty boxes than the Polish striker

There simply hasn’t been anyone deadlier in opposition penalty boxes than the Polish striker

And it’s not as though Lewandowski fills his boots against the cannon fodder in the Bundesliga and Champions League while failing to turn up in the biggest games.

He netted against Bayern’s main title rivals RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund, scored twice in the Cup final against Bayer Leverkusen and played brilliantly in both legs of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea.

With this avalanche of goals, helping Bayern win the league, cup and, they hope, soon the Champions League, voices across the football world felt it was a travesty for the Pole that this year’s Ballon d’Or has been cancelled.

Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the second of his goals against Chelsea last weekend

Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the second of his goals against Chelsea last weekend

Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the second of his goals against Chelsea last weekend

And they’re absolutely right. Messi has scored 22 fewer goals this season and failed to win a domestic trophy. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 37 times but that’s again not as many as Lewandowski and Juventus flopped in the Champions League.

It simply had to be Lewandowski’s name on the golden ball and hopefully justice will be served if and when other accolades are handed out.

If Bayern overcome Barcelona on Friday night – and certainly if Lewandowski helps himself to a goal or two – then this debate will be settled once and for all.

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Everton ‘fended off Man United interest in Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a massive £80m asking price’ 

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everton fended off man united interest in dominic calvert lewin with a massive 80m asking price

Everton reportedly told Manchester United they would need to pay £80m if they wanted to sign striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

The Sun claim Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made the player a top target but hopes of a deal were ended abruptly when United heard the asking price.

Calvert-Lewin only cost Everton £1.5m when they signed him from Sheffield United four years ago.

Everton reportedly told Manchester United that Dominic Calvert-Lewin would cost them £80m

Everton reportedly told Manchester United that Dominic Calvert-Lewin would cost them £80m

Everton reportedly told Manchester United that Dominic Calvert-Lewin would cost them £80m

He has since netted 36 goals in 136 appearances for the Toffees.

Three of those came in Saturday’s 5-2 win over West Brom at Goodison Park. 

The hat-trick sees the 23-year-old leading the race for the Premier League Golden Boot, having also scored the only goal of the game in the opening day win over Tottenham.  

After the game, Calvert-Lewis said: ‘The manager is on me every day about one-touch finishes and being in the box – being in the right areas to put the ball in the back of the net.

Calvert-Lewin scored a hat-trick as Everton made it two wins from two on Saturday

Calvert-Lewin scored a hat-trick as Everton made it two wins from two on Saturday

Calvert-Lewin scored a hat-trick as Everton made it two wins from two on Saturday

‘It’s nice to know what I’m working on in training is coming off on the pitch.

‘That’s the biggest reward – my first hat-trick in professional football and in the end a good team performance.’

At the time Ancelotti said: ‘I think he is going to be at the top in England and in Europe.’

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Social media reacts to a wicked nutmeg from Daniel Podence on Kevin de Bruyne

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social media reacts to a wicked nutmeg from daniel podence on kevin de bruyne

Daniel Podence has received high praise on social media after he pulled off an audacious nutmeg against Kevin De Bruyne during Wolves‘ Premier League defeat by Manchester City

The winger displayed excellent skill to tap the ball through the City midfielder’s legs and cross perfectly for Raul Jimenez who headed past Ederson and into the net.

Although De Bruyne is not renowned for his defensive capabilities, Podence understandably won plaudits from football fans after he outwitted one of the most talented players on the planet.

Daniel Podence produced exquisite skill to nutmeg Kevin De Bruyne on Monday night

Daniel Podence produced exquisite skill to nutmeg Kevin De Bruyne on Monday night

Daniel Podence produced exquisite skill to nutmeg Kevin De Bruyne on Monday night

The Portuguese winger knocked the ball through the City midfielder's legs in the second half

The Portuguese winger knocked the ball through the City midfielder's legs in the second half

The Portuguese winger knocked the ball through the City midfielder’s legs in the second half

Podence proceeded to curl in an excellent cross which Raul Jimenez headed into the net

Podence proceeded to curl in an excellent cross which Raul Jimenez headed into the net

Podence proceeded to curl in an excellent cross which Raul Jimenez headed into the net

33459340 8757969 image a 29 1600732306237

33459340 8757969 image a 29 1600732306237

One person posted: ‘All of Kevin De Bruyne’s assists now belong to Daniel Podence.’ 

Meanwhile, another fan Tweeted: ‘Daniel Podence just sent Kevin De Bruyne for a Belgian waffle. Lovely assist from the pint-sized wizard.’

One person even accused the Portuguese of ‘sending De Bruyne back to Chelsea’. 

De Bruyne once again displayed his outstanding talent at the other end of the pitch as City kicked off their season with a win at Molineux, playing a part in all three goals scored by Pep Gardiola’s team. 

Wolves striker Jimenez (L) powers the ball beyond Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson

Wolves striker Jimenez (L) powers the ball beyond Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson

Wolves striker Jimenez (L) powers the ball beyond Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson

33459338 8757969 image a 31 1600732323955

33459338 8757969 image a 31 1600732323955

De Bruyne played a pivotal role and scored a penalty as City began their season with a 3-1 win

De Bruyne played a pivotal role and scored a penalty as City began their season with a 3-1 win

De Bruyne played a pivotal role and scored a penalty as City began their season with a 3-1 win

The 29-year-old was taken down by Roman Saiss in the first half before picking himself up to score emphatically from the penalty sot. 

The Belgium international then played anther incisive pass to Raheem Sterling who set up Phil Foden with a tap in to double the visitors’ lead.

Podence missed two opportunities to half the deficit, first shooting wide from the edge of the box and then putting too much weight on his lob over Ederson. 

12 minutes of normal time remained when Jimenez headed in from Podence’s teasing cross, but City wrapped up all three points in stoppage time as Gabriel Jesus’ deflected beyond Rui Patricio after De Bruyne won back possession. 

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Pep Guardiola says he will play ‘mostly academy players’ in the Carabao Cup tie against Bournemouth

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pep guardiola says he will play mostly academy players in the carabao cup tie against bournemouth

Pep Guardiola vowed to play a significant number of Manchester City‘s academy in the Carabao Cup as injuries piled up before their season even started.

City were without seven first-team players for Monday’s impressive 3-1 win at Wolves to injury, Ilkay Gundogan joining the list after testing positive for coronavirus ahead of the game.

Guardiola’s squad have under 72 hours’ rest before facing Bournemouth on Thursday and the manager claimed he has no choice but to dip into the academy.

Pep Guardiola said he will play mostly academy players for the Carabao Cup tie on Thursday

Pep Guardiola said he will play mostly academy players for the Carabao Cup tie on Thursday

Pep Guardiola said he will play mostly academy players for the Carabao Cup tie on Thursday

Tommy Doyle was one of the Manchester City youngsters to make the bench against Wolves

Tommy Doyle was one of the Manchester City youngsters to make the bench against Wolves

Tommy Doyle was one of the Manchester City youngsters to make the bench against Wolves

‘We cannot pretend we can recover in three days and then another three days play again,’ Guardiola said. ‘We cannot expend the energy we did today (again) on Thursday against Bournemouth because of Sunday (against Leicester).

‘It is a lack of preparation, we have seven players out and they are not coming back soon. We will see how many players are available.

‘We would like to continue in the Carabao Cup but we don’t have players after this period, to be able to play every three or four days. We’re going to play mostly academy players against Bournemouth and try to keep the energy for the Premier League.’

Academy graduates Tommy Doyle and Adrian Bernabe were joined on City’s bench by 17-year-old Liam Delap on Monday. Delap, son of former Stoke defender Rory, is a highly regarded striker and looks set for a senior debut against Bournemouth.

Academy graduate Liam Delap (above) was also on the bench along with Adrian Bernabe

Academy graduate Liam Delap (above) was also on the bench along with Adrian Bernabe

Academy graduate Liam Delap (above) was also on the bench along with Adrian Bernabe

Guardiola’s fitness problems are mounting, with the Catalan suggesting that only Eric Garcia will recover in time for Leicester’s visit to the Etihad on Sunday. Aymeric Laporte is back training and should return, although Aleks Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Aguero and Joao Cancelo are facing weeks on the sidelines.

‘Most of them are after the Leeds game, the international break,’ Guardiola added. ‘After that they will be ready. Laporte was not injured but only had one training session. Eric had 16 stitches but maybe the next game he will be fit.

‘Unfortunately Ilkay got Covid. I’m concerned for the society, not Man City. The cases are increasing, they’re still there.

‘It’s less aggressive but it’s still there. Aymeric and Riyad passed it and now we have Ilkay. I think he feels quite well now but he has to stay at home. We tried to be prudent, be alert in our private lives, but it is there. We are no different to any human being in society.’

Ilkay Gundogan is one of seven players out of the game after testing positive for coronavirus

Ilkay Gundogan is one of seven players out of the game after testing positive for coronavirus

Ilkay Gundogan is one of seven players out of the game after testing positive for coronavirus

Aymeric Laporte is back training and should return for the game after also testing positive

Aymeric Laporte is back training and should return for the game after also testing positive

Aymeric Laporte is back training and should return for the game after also testing positive

City are on the hunt for a new central defender and have interest in Sevilla’s 21-year-old Jules Kounde. The LaLiga club’s sporting director, Monchi, claimed to have rejected a bid, with the Europa League winners wanting upwards of £60million.

‘There is no agreement with City,’ Monchi said. ‘It’s certain that in the last few days we have received interest from one club for Jules. They submitted an offer that was assessed by the board and it was rejected. If they come back, we will listen and we will respond.’

City will be encouraged by their opening-day victory yet Wolves were made to rue missed opportunities after half-time, with Daniel Podence causing problems to City’s back four but failing to take his chances.

‘It’s not about measuring the positives and negatives,’ Wolves manager Nuno Espirto Santo said. ‘We know how important moments in both boxes are. We were bad defensively in our box in the first half. We should’ve been more clinical. City have talented players but we caused them a lot of problems. There are lots of things we can improve on.’

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