Remembering When Ronaldo And Batistuta Tore A European XI Apart

Football is packed with “what if” moments.

“What if” Steven Gerrard didn’t slip in 2013?

“What if” Ronaldo hadn’t suffered a series of serious knee injuries? How good would he have been?

“What if” Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi played in the same team?

That last one is something people like to debate the most. Imagine if two of the most lethal attackers of all time played in the same team. How many goals would they score? Who could possibly stop them?

Well, unfortunately, we’ll probably never know. But back in 1997, we had something similar, when FIFA put on an exhibition match packed with ridiculous talent.

It was December, seven months before the World Cup in France, and the day of the group stage draw for the upcoming tournament. FIFA had told each of the 32 participating countries to send one player to represent their nation; 16 to form a ‘Europe XI’ and the other half to form a ‘Rest of World XI’.

Everyone got involved. England sent Paul Ince (who would miss a penalty in last-16 defeat to Argentina during the tournament). France sent none other than Zinedine Zidane. Japan sent Hidetoshi Nakata, while Nigeria nominated Nwankwo Kanu (who wore his traditional number 4 shirt).

Future Watford and Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic was also called up, while presumably Gordon Durie won the argument/fight in the Scottish camp over who they were sending.

It looked like it would be a very well balanced match, until the Rest of the World team revealed who they would have as a strike partnership. Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta and Brazil’s Ronaldo. Holy shit.

Remember, this was Ronaldo of Inter Milan, before serious knee injuries took their toll and stopped him from being an absolute freak of nature for longer. Gabriel Batistuta was arguably the second best striker in the world at the time (behind Ronaldo), so pairing them was borderline unfair.

There probably wasn’t a defence in the world that would have fancied their chances against those two, but Europe’s was about as good as you could get. They paired Alessandro Costacurta and Fernando Hierro at the back to try and contain the South American pair.

Hierro was Spain’s captain and played almost 500 times for Real Madrid. Costacurta was a partner of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi at AC Milan and one of Italy’s finest ever defenders. Ronaldo and Batistuta had their work cut out.

The match started, and Europe were the first ones to strike. A mistake at the back allowed Romania’s Marius Lacatus to pounce and put Europe 1-0 up.

But then it became the R9 and Gabigol show.

First, Ronaldo picked the ball up deep and spotted the run of Colombia’s Antony De Avila, before sliding him in. That made it 1-1.

Five minutes later, De Avila returned the favour, giving it to Ronaldo and allowing him to have a go at Hierro one on one. The future Bolton Wanderers defender didn’t stand a chance, as the Brazilian dropped a shoulder to go inside, pushed it onto his left foot and smacked it into the far corner beyond the reach of Germany’s Andreas Kopke. 2-1.

Ronaldo was having fun, and it was time for Batistuta to join the party. The Argentine hung back for a layoff on the edge of the box as Ronaldo advanced down the right, before smashing a first-time finish past Kopke to make it 3-1. Only 30 minutes had passed.

Three soon became four, and it was the best of the lot. Surrounded by three players after receiving a pass from Batistuta from close range, Ronaldo flicked a pass back to the Fiorentina striker and he slammed in a fourth. 4-1 with 36 minutes gone.

They weren’t done there. Ronaldo then added his second goal six minutes later after a ridiculous pass from Batistuta convinced Kopke he could become a sweeper keeper and beat Ronaldo to the bouncing ball. He didn’t, and Ronaldo nodded it around him before passing into an empty net for 5-1.

The only reason the Rest of the World XI stopped scoring was because at half-time their manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira, substituted Ronaldo. He’d clearly decided that two goals and three assists in 45 minutes was enough. 

Derby County’s Deon Burton was the man to replace him, which is 100% the highlight of his career. Burton was Jamaica’s representative at the match – yes that’s right, Jamaica were at the 1998 World Cup! They didn’t disgrace themselves either, finishing third in a group containing Argentina, Japan and Croatia, although Batistuta did plunder a hat-trick against them in a 5-0 win. Must have been something Burton said to him.

With the score at 5-1, Europe got stronger in the second half and managed to reduce the deficit to 5-2, thanks to Zidane taking the mick out of Paraguayan goalkeeper Ruben Martin Ruiz Diaz before scoring.

The match was actually cut slightly short so the draw could start on time, but everyone got what they wanted. They got to see 45 minutes of two of the best strikers in the world partnering each other, and boy did they deliver. The instant understanding despite being from rival South American countries (and Italian clubs) was telepathic, and left fans wondering just how good a club could have been if they’d had those two as a regular strikeforce.

It’s hard to imagine something similar happening these days with players protected by clubs, agents and all the rest, but imagine how good it would be to see a European XI take on a World XI purely for the fun of it. 

De Bruyne, Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Europe XI vs a ROW team who could include the reforming of Barcelona’s dreaded MSN trio – Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

We’re salivating at the thought of it. Get it done FIFA, it might just make up for the years of highly questionable decisions that have come from your leadership.

Check out the highlights here:

Manchester City mourn Glyn Pardoe

Pardoe spent his entire playing career with City between 1962 and 1976, and scored the winning goal in the 1970 League Cup final.

Manchester City wrote on Twitter:

‘Everyone at City is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Glyn Pardoe. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his friends and family at this difficult time.’

Pardoe remains the youngest player to turn out for City, having made his debut against Birmingham in April 1962 at the age of 15 years and 341 days.

The left back went on to make 380 appearances for the club during their successful period in the late sixties, winning the title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1970.

Everton linked with Schick

Schick is currently on loan at RB Leipzig, having enjoyed an impressive Bundesliga and Champions League campaign with the German outfit.

7 goals in 10 starts this season along with consistent performances has seen the Czech international attract interest from a host of clubs.

Everton are said to be one of those sides, with Premier League football and a world class manager in Carlo Ancelotti undoubtedly a huge benefit in trying to lure the player to Goodison Park.

However, RB Leipzig do have a €29m option to buy clause in Schick’s loan contract from Roma, and it’s likely Die Roten Bullen will qualify for the Champions League again next season, thus tempting Schick to stay.

It is claimed though that due to the current financial impact of coronavirus on football finances, Roma may be willing to let Schick leave for a cut price €24m.

Manchester United set to lose Odion Ighalo

The striker’s deal from Shanghai Shenhua ends on May 31 and the Chinese Super League club have been reluctant to extend it.

United are keen to keep him for the rest of the season, with the Premier League intending to resume next month.

While the deal is not completely dead, Shanghai have not been open to agreeing a new one, with their season due to start in June after it was delayed from February due to coronavirus.

Ighalo scored 4 goals in 3 starts and made 8 appearances in total since he was drafted in during the January transfer window.

Darren Eadie: I want to build Norwich City’s relationship with non-league

Eadie, who turned out more than 200 times for Norwich, is currently co-manager of 7th tier outfit Leiston.

The 44-year-old will be looking to use his contacts in East Anglia to allow a platform for promising Canaries stars to gain some valuable senior game time.

Speaking to the Non-League Nosh podcast, Eadie said:

“I have always been a big advocate of Norwich’s academy because I was in the process at some point and became a product of it so I know the benefit.”

Manchester United give green light for Dean Henderson to stay at Bramall Lane

Reports claim that Manchester United have given the green light for the goalkeeper to stay at Sheffield United when the Premier League season resumes.

Henderson’s future has been a topic of much speculation this season, with his performances for Chris Wilder’s side leading many to feel he is ready for a crack at David De Gea’s number 1 shirt at Old Trafford.

Henderson’s loan from Manchester United was due to expire on June 1, but the 23-year-old has received permission to continue playing for the Blades until the final 10 games of the season have been completed.

The only caveat, as with many loan deals, is that Henderson will not be able to feature against his parent club when the two sides meet.

Saints considering Celtic swap deal

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster and midfielder Olivier Ntcham are the players in question, with Forster, a Celtic favourite and already on loan in Glasgow, making his move to Scotland permanent.

That would then allow for Frenchman Ntcham to arrive on the south coast, as both clubs look to act shrewdly in what could be a financially unscrupulous market.

24-year-old Nthcham is said to have been on Saints’ radar since January, acting as a replacement for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who is almost certain to leave St Mary’s.

It’s claimed Ntcham wants to test himself at a higher level in order to put himself in contention for selection for the French national team.

Spurs chasing Moron

The 26-year-old, who has bagged 9 goals in La Liga this season, is under contract at the Spanish club until 2022.

Moron and his entourage are aware of the interest, and as will likely be the case with the uncertainty of the current market, Betis are trying to tie their asset down to a new deal.

However, in order to persuade the Spaniard to pen fresh terms, they may have to reduce his release clause from €60m to €50m, as reported by website La Razon.

This reduced release clause could open the door for Spurs, who are said to be willing to pay €50m for the frontman – but €60m is a step too far.

You could argue that there isn’t much point in Betis renewing Moron’s contract if they are aware of strong interest from outside.

La Razon claim that AC Milan and Napoli are also interested in the striker.

Jose Mourinho has been scouting the Spanish market for talent – in January, Spurs were keen on Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose, but nothing materialised.

It is claimed that Loren Moron would be Tottenham’s second-choice option should a move for Willian Jose not come to fruition.

Watford youngster heading for Vicarage Road exit

Bennetts has been a part of the Hornets’ academy setup since the age of 8 and played a key role in the Watford U18 side which reached the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup last season.

The London-born talent, who has been invited to play for Nigeria at international age group level in the past, signed professional terms at Vicarage Road in the summer of 2019, making his senior debut in the FA Cup third round against Tranmere Rovers in January.

It’s understood Watford hold an option to extend the deal for a further 12 months.

However, the report suggests that Bennetts has asked the club not to trigger the extension, instead allowing him to move to pastures new.

Rice to remain at West Ham

That’s according to the latest reports, which claim that the Hammers have had no enquiries whatsoever regarding the England international.

Rice has been linked with some of the Premier League’s big hitters in recent times, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all said to be keen.

It’s understood Manchester United have no interest in Rice at all at this stage – a standpoint likely influenced by the impact of coronavirus on football finance.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has reportedly sent scouts to watch the 21-year-old, but has opted to cast his net in other areas.

Chelsea remain the most likely option if a transfer was on the cards, but that too is doubtful, with the Blues well stocked in the defensive midfield position.

Wolves eye Reading starlet available for free

That’s according to the latest reports, which claim the 19-year-old won’t be signing a new contract at the Madejski Stadium.

Loader’s current deal expires at the end of June, and it’s suggested the Royals have withdrawn the extension offer tabled in December due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

That could pave the way for Wolves to swoop for the attacker, who has turned out 12 times for Reading in all competitions this season.

Wolves have been keen to secure young talent from the EFL in recent times, with 17-year-old Rochdale defender Luke Matheson signing for the club in January.

Watford player with Covid-19 revealed as Adrian Mariappa

Following the first round of Premier League testing this week, Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan was also one of those to return a positive test.

Mariappa, though, was among three Hornets staff to test positive, and the 33-year-old says he has no idea how he caught the virus.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mariappa said:

“Ever since I got my positive result back on Tuesday, I’ve been scratching my head to work out how I might have got coronavirus.

“It was a big surprise because I haven’t really left the house apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids.”

The Jamaica international was disappointed the results have ended up revealing his identity.

Mariappa conceded:

“I’d have preferred if everything had been kept private.”