Messi makes mischief as Valencia go all English

Tim Stannard assesses the fallout from the Ballon d'Or — and explains why Valencia have got eyes rolling...

There was some serious stealing of thunder at the Ballon d’Or awards on Monday night. Cristiano picked up his third gong and celebrated with a fine impersonation of a hippo in labour. Either that or it was a warning bleat from a stagehand minion not to remove his mini platform behind the podium to boost him those extra inches, a job normally performed by his tippy toes.

Then there was Leo Messi being all twisty and turning by telling Barcelona TV that he was Barça for life, as well as teasing everyone else that “anything can happen in football” and that maybe he wouldn’t spend the rest of his career at the Camp Nou.

Messi then left the huge Easter egg at the end of the night with the revelation that the wee one had José Mourinho as one of his top coaches of the year, despite those Clásico wars a few years back when Messi was a Murder Death Kill target for a since-deprogrammed Pepe.

Throw in the Instagram Chelsea story and LLL gets the impression that Messi is about to make one of the worst career moves in the history of football since anyone jumped from Arsenal to Barça, or the Argentine is simply having a laugh at everyone’s expense. If it is the latter, then LLL salutes you.

Nuno's new deal

While that was rumbling on in Zurich getting the world’s media into a tizz, and pretty much everyone on the planet doing some kind of Ronaldo war cry, Valencia were “going English” as AS put it, by handing coach Nuno a contract until 2018. In the history of Mad Mestalla, housing its fifth manager since 2012, this is quite a move.

On Monday, Nuno spoke of a wonderful day, but was then given a fun reminder that he had no chance in Hatfield of seeing out the next three years by losing to Espanyol in the Copa del Rey a day later — a whopping chance of Valencia winning something shiny this season chucked out of the window.

Espanyol now have that golden ticket in their Catalan hands, and are very excited indeed about the prospect. “If we beat Valencia, then we can beat anyone!” woop-wooped goalkeeper Pau after the 2-0 win which gave the Pericos a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Athletic angst

It looked like being another charge of the mid-table minnows in the second of Tuesday’s clashes, after Levante almost pulled off a miracle against Málaga. The Valencia side were 2-0 down in the second leg — 4-0 on aggregate — before knocking in three late goals to give the visitors quite a scare.

Wednesday has a couple of heavyweight clashes stashed down its sock with Athletic in awful, awful form and trying to make matters worse by blowing a 4-2 first leg lead against Celta Vigo in San Mamés.

The Basque bumblers have now lost their last three league games — including the weekend’s home defeat to Elche — although Ernesto Valverde has quite the defence as they sit jammed in mid-table just above Getafe. “Apart from Barça and Madrid, no team has been superior to us,” boasted the Athletic coach in a bit of media management that even Leo Messi would be proud of.