'Martian' Messi will win the Ballon d'Or, believes Menotti

César Luis Menotti

César Luis Menotti / Getty

Cesar Luis Menotti has praised Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi, claiming that the 25-year-old is from another planet.

The Blaugrana star has had an outstanding 2012, breaking record after record, and is on his way to overtake Gerd Muller as the most prolific striker over the course of calendar year ever to ply his trade in Europe.

Messi is also on the final shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, and could lift the award for a record fourth time if he beats the competition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta.

“Messi is a Martian, it is amazing what he has accomplished,” Menotti told Radio Xarxa

“There is no discussion, Messi is the best of the three [finalists for the Ballon d’Or]. He deserves the award because of his deep commitment to the team, his solidarity, cautiousness and respectfulness.

“When a goal is scored, he runs to hug his team-mates, he will not celebrate on the podium.

He then took the time to give his take on one of the other finalists, Cristiano Ronaldo, and commented on a possible move to Barcelona for Brazilian Neymar.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is individually significant, but he is a player who plays to win the game individually. When he does not, the team plays with 10 [men].

“If Neymar understands how to play in Barcelona, he has the conditions to be an important player. If a player does not understand that, he cannot play for Barcelona.”

Essien returns to Chelsea as injury cuts Madrid jaunt short

Michael Essien’s loan spell with Real Madrid has been provisionally terminated to allow the midfielder to return to Chelsea and receive treatment for an injury which has kept him out of action since November 11.

The Ghanaian is expected to respond better to rehabilitation with the west London club who have dealt with his complex injury problems in the past.

Real’s assistant manager, Aitor Karanka, has hinted that Essien’s failure to respond to treatment in Spain is the main reason for his return to Stamford Bridge.

“Essien is not injured but is suffering from an allergic reaction to a drug,” stated Karanka at a press conference.

The 29-year-old has struggled for sustainable fitness in recent years and only managed 14 appearances for Chelsea last season. However, the Liga side are optimistic that his latest problem can be quickly resolved and he can return to Madrid in the New Year.

I have an admiration for 'winner' Mourinho, reveals Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone - Atletico Madrid

Goal.com / Shinichiro Ema

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes that Jose Mourinho deserves credit for his work at Real Madrid, ahead of the clash at the capital this weekend.

The Portuguese tactician has recently faced criticism from the media and fans following poor performances by his team, but the Argentine trainer is adamant Real still have the right man in charge.

“I have admiration for Mourinho,” the 42-year-old told reporters.

“He is a winner and has shown that world-wide. I went to see him one week when he was at Inter. He is a trainer that I like,” he said.

But despite the praise, Simeone said his side can secure a positive result against the La Liga title-holders on Saturday.

“We know the people are excited and we will not move away from their feelings, but we are facing a powerful team – the reigning champions.

“I look at our opponents as the players they have, and not their position in the table. I hope our team will surprise in the first 15-20 minutes.”

Simeone also dismissed claims that Atletico are a one-man team, who rely too much on Colombia striker Radamel Falcao.

“We will think of the game as a team, as we have been doing. We don’t think individually, only as a group, and ultimately that empowers the individual.”

Atletico face Real at the Santiago Bernabeu on December 1 at 22.00CET.

Villas-Boas hits back as Modric looks to lure Bale to Madrid

Andre Villas-Boas has blasted former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric after the Croatian called on ex-team-mate Gareth Bale to join him to Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old revealed that he had spoken to Bale about his desire to one day win the Champions League, and insisted the Welshman’s presence at the Bernabeu would make Los Blancos “unstoppable”.

Modric’s comments prompted a response from Villas-Boas on Friday, with the Portuguese insisting the ex-Spurs man should focus on his commitments in La Liga instead of Bale’s future at White Hart Lane.

The 35-year-old said: “I think Modric should focus more on his club than ours.

“He has to worry about Real’s game against Atletico Madrid and about getting in to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“Obviously Modric is aware of Gareth’s performances because of his love for Tottenham and the fact that he is very connected with him and this football club, but it’s completely impossible.”

I have never insulted smaller opposition, says Di Maria

Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria has dismissed accusations by Alcoyano midfielder Julio de Dios that he was insulted by the Argentina star.

Los Blancos hosted the Alcoy side on Tuesday in the Copa del Rey, and after suffering a 3-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, De Dios claimed the 24-year-old labelled him as “failed”.

Di Maria, however, denied that he made the comments and stressed that he would never talk down to players from smaller opposition, and reminded reporters of his own origins.

“I have come to Real Madrid after struggling a lot since I was a kid,” he told AS. “I come from lower [league] teams myself and never in my life have I offended a friend. It never even occurred to me to do something like that.

“For me, opposing players are also partners. I come from the bottom, I come from a poor family and I have never underestimated an opponent.

“Every player, from the smallest to the biggest, have fought to the death for their careers. I feel really sad about the news that has come out in some media.

“I am offended as a player and as a person, because I have never forgotten about my roots. And no matter what happens in my life, I will never forget them,” he added.

The La Liga title-holder also said he was looking forward to the upcoming derby against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, adding that he was confident the club’s fans would support the side after sections of the crowd booed manager Jose Mourinho during the game against Alcoyano.

“We will give everything to achieve a victory that we could really use and give great joy to our fans,” he said.

“I am convinced that we will enjoy the support of our own [fans]. It is a special week because it is a derby with Atletico.”

Real Madrid kick off against Atletico Madrid on December 1, at 22.00CET.