Figo: Raul wanted to retire at Madrid but was forced out

Former Portugal international Luis Figo believes that Real Madrid icon Raul wanted to retire at the Santiago Bernabeu side, but was forced out against his will.

The experienced attacker, currently under contract with Al Sadd, left the Spanish club for Schalke in the summer of 2010, but Figo believes that his former team-mate would much rather have stayed put.

“Raul wanted to end his career at Real Madrid, but it was not to be. He was forced out at Madrid. I hope he’s happy in Qatar,” Figo stated to Al Jazeera.

The 39-year-old then went on voice his opinion that Cristiano Ronaldo could win the Ballon d’Or this year, but added that it is impossible to pick a favourite between the Blancos star and Barcelona ace Lionel Messi.

“I believe Ronaldo can win the Ballon d’Or this year because he has won La Liga. I don’t know why he’s unhappy. You’d have to ask him. I generally don’t get involved in other people’s business.

“Messi or Ronaldo? It really is impossible to say who is the better player between the two of them.”

Figo also briefly looked ahead to Sunday’s Clasico, and stressed that La Liga is by no means decided just yet.

“The eight points that seperate Barcelona and Real Madrid are not too much to overcome. The league is not decided yet.”

Sunday’s encounter at Camp Nou is scheduled to kick off at 19:50CET.

Real Madrid the best team I have ever faced, says Sana

EXCLUSIVE
By Floris Koekenbier

Ajax attacker Tobias Sana has voiced his admiration for Real Madrid in the aftermath of his side’s 4-1 Champions League Group D loss to the Liga champions on Wednesday.

The Eredivisie giants were unable to cause an upset against Jose Mourinho’s men, and the 23-year-old stated after the final whistle that los Blancos are arguably the best team he’s ever locked horns with.

“Everything is going so quick when you play against Real Madrid. They are by far the best team I have ever faced. They have someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is simply amazing. There’s not much you can do against him,” Sana told Goal.com.

“Their first touches, the way they pass, it’s all close to perfection. The level of play in the Champions League can’t be compared to the Eredivisie. Xabi Alonso passes the ball over 70 yards wherever he wants to. [Karim] Benzema’s goal was another example of how good they are.”

The winger then went on to admit that he was at fault for Madrid’s opening goal as he lost possession in midfield.

“I take full responsibility for the first goal. I lost possession in a dangerous position and they took advantage of it,” the Swede continued.

“The coach had already warned us against it, yet it still happened to me. It’s a tough lesson, but we’ll benefit from it on the long term.”

Sana will be looking to get back on track at the weekend when Ajax take on Utrecht at the Amsterdam ArenA.

Poll: Who is the best goalkeeper in the world?

POLL

Manchester City had Joe Hart to thank after a stunning performance in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund ensured the Premier League champions were able to salvage a point at the Etihad Stadium.

His performance has led international team-mate Wayne Rooney to state that Hart is the best in the world, but is he really the top goalkeeper?

Juventus veteran Gianluigi Buffon has long been considered as one of, if not the best in the world, but after a long career has he been overtaken?

Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas is also another standout option, having represented the Spanish champions almost unchallenged for over a decade, as well as holding off extremely strong competition for the No.1 spot in the national team.

Petr Cech was considered perhaps the best in the world before the incident which saw him suffer a broken skull, but the Chelsea man is now a Champions League winner and has impressed so far this season.

Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer is considered among many as the next top goalkeeper, and proved in the Champions League final that he is actually quite handy at scoring penalties as well as saving them, but is he the best?

Or is there another keeper out there that you think is staking a claim to the crown of best in the world?

HAVE YOUR SAY

So who do you think is the best goalkeeper in the world? Let us know your opinion by voting in our poll, leaving a comment below, or getting in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

Casillas laughs off 'snitch' accusations

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has dismissed rumours that he has been leaking information from the dressing-room to the press.

Spanish newspaper El Confidencial suggested that Casillas was the one who informed Marca about Sergio Ramos’ decision to wear Mesut Ozil’s jersey under his own in the second half of their 5-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend to support the Germany international.

However, the shot stopper has now moved to make it clear he would do nothing of the sort.

“According to some article I’m a snitch. Yes, of course, I am a snitch!” Casillas sarcastically retorted on his official Facebook page.

“And by the way, I am also the one behind the Faisan [ETA tip-off] case. And that’s not all, I was also the snitch in the Watergate case…

“The things you have to read… Laughable.”

Ramos wearing Ozil’s No.10 under his own jersey was by some seen as an act of rebellion against head coach Jose Mourinho, but the defender insisted via Twitter that he was only supporting his team-mate.

Champions League Team of the Round: Messi & Ronaldo make the cut

The second week of the Champions League was every bit as thrilling as its predecessor a fortnight ago, as Celtic and Montpellier staged dramatic comebacks and were rewarded for their battling efforts. All of Spain’s representatives – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga – cantered to victories during the course of the two days, while the same could be said for three of the four English clubs; Chelsea’s 4-0 triumph over Nordsjaelland a particular highlight.

However, disappointment lay in store for Juventus, who are still without a win on their return to the competition, and Bayern Munich, following their spectacular collapse against BATE in Minsk. Goal.com is now here to present you with the definitive list of stars from the round.

Starting at the back, Manchester City No.1 Joe Hart edged out Christian Abbiati for the goalkeeper’s jersey by the slightest of margins by denying Borussia Dortmund’s attackers time and time again in a thrilling 1-1 draw.

In front of him is Mikael Lustig, who takes the right-back berth following his rampaging performance down the flank for Celtic, sending in a cross to put the side on their way to an eventual success in Russia. Leonardo Bonucci was arguably the pick of the Bianconeri‘s stoppers, and along with a thunderous drive to earn the team a point, his inclusion at centre-back is justified. Partnering him is Douglao, whose reading of Braga’s 2-0 win at Galatasaray proved hugely influential, and on the left is Eliseu, after the Portugal international produced a pair of sumptuous strikes.

A surplus of midfielders stood out on matchday one, but it was a tougher call this time around. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dominant performance than Manuel Iturra‘s against Anderlecht. The Chilean bossed the middle of the park and was the driving force behind Malaga’s emphatic win. Cesc Fabregas‘ renaissance as a Barca player is also continuing thanks to another cultured showing against Benfica, capped off by a fine strike to seal all three points at the Estadio da Luz. And serving as the pinnacle is Mario Gotze, whose mesmeric movement in and around the box did not give City defenders a minute rest, making him worthy of filling our central attacking role in behind.

However, despite the wildcard nomination of Colombian prodigy James Rodriguez, a match-winner for Porto down the left-hand side against PSG, the two heavyweights returned to our chosen XI this week.

On the right flank is Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at his devastating best for the Blancos in Amsterdam, netting a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory. And last but not least, Lionel Messi is tasked with leading the line. The Argentine may not have scored again, but nonetheless put in a masterful performance, providing assists for both of his side’s goals in Lisbon.