Tuesday Kickoff: Lionel Messi drops hints on his future; Socceroos rout Oman; and more

Tuesday Kickoff: Lionel Messi drops hints on his future; Socceroos rout Oman; and more

European Soccer

Tuesday Kickoff: Lionel Messi drops hints on his future; Socceroos rout Oman; and more

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LionelMessiBarcelona1-Elche2015 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Lionel Messi fanned the flames of the current Barcelona crisis on Monday evening by claiming he was unsure of his club future.

At the annual FIFA gala in Zurich, Switzerland, the gifted forward hinted that he was unsure of his future on the field, and couldn’t initially confirm that he’d remain at Barcelona next season. Messi finished second in the FIFA Ballon d’Or voting behind rival Cristiano Ronaldo and ahead of German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

When asked about what his future held, Messi said: “I don’t know if I’ll play for Newell’s (Old Boys) in the future, and I don’t know where I’ll be next year. Like Cristiano said, lots of things change in football and anything can happen.”

A little while later in the press mixed zone, Messi attempted to clarify his comments, though he blamed the media for “twisting” his words.

“No matter what I say, my words get twisted, which is why I often don’t speak at all. I’m in no way thinking about leaving,” Messi reportedly said, via Spanish publication Marca.

Despite the backtracking, rumors and speculation have increased exponentially, and reports in England claim that Manchester United have been alerted to Messi’s potential availability. The reports claim that only Man United could afford Messi’s reported €250 million buy-out clause.

Here are some more stories to kick off your Tuesday:

AUSTRALIA QUALIFY FOR KNOCKOUT ROUND WITH SECOND WIN

Australia’s AFC Asian Cup campaign is going exactly as planned.

The host nation completed a 4-0 rout of Oman today in both team’s second game of the tournament, ensuring Australia a place in the final eight of the competition. It’s the second consecutive four-goal performance from the Socceroos, who came back to beat Kuwait, 4-1, in the tournament opener.

Matt McKay, Robbie Kruse, and Mark Mulligan each scored first-half goals, with Mulligan’s coming via the penalty spot in the third minute of first half stoppage time. In the 70th minute, Mathew Leckie set up Tomi Juri to complete the rout.

CONCACAF HAND DOWN BANS, FINES TO CRUZ AZUL AND ALAJUELENSE

Nearly three months after a fight broke out following the final whistle of a CONCACAF Champions League match, the confederation’s disciplinary committee has levied some serious fines against the aggressors.

Both Mexico’s Cruz Azul and Costa Rica’s LD Alajuelense have been hit with multiple undisclosed fines for their participation in the fight, including fines to Cruz Azul for being a repeat offender and fines to Alajuelense for failing to properly secure the field.

In addition, Cruz Azul’s Mauro Formica and Alajuelense pair Patrick Pemberton and Kevin Sancho have all been handed six-game suspensions, which will be served in CONCACAF competitions.

MODRIC CLOSE TO COMEBACK

Luka Modric’s three-month spell on the sidelines could be coming to an end in the next few weeks.

The Croatian playmaker returned to Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training facility on Tuesday morning after completing physical therapy work in Antwerp, Belgium, and a scan on his injured left thigh showed that his recovery is going to plan, albeit a week or two later than originally hoped once the initial scans showed a tear, according to Marca.

Although he couldn’t play, Modric was on the bench to cheer on his teammates during the Club World Cup final when Real Madrid defeated San Lorenzo, 2-0. Manager Carlo Ancelotti recently said he hoped that Modric would be available to play in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, which begin for Los Blancos on Feb. 18.

QUICK KICKS

Liverpool are set to begin discussions with Martin Skrtl over a new contract. (REPORT)

Crystal Palace have signed Arsenal forward Yaya Sanogo on loan through the rest of the season. (REPORT)

Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande have confirmed the signing of Brazilian forward Ricardo Goulart, who is reportedly moving from Cruzeiro for a €15 million transfer fee. (REPORT)

Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand is considering his future after the club accepted his request to leave him off their winter training camp squad. (REPORT)

Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld is expected to miss three to four weeks with a thigh injury. (REPORT)

Hertha Berlin prospect Hany Mukhtar has agreed to join Portugal’s Benfica on a contract through 2020, for a transfer fee of €500,000. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? What do you think of Messi’s comments? Do you see him ever leaving Barcelona? Do you see Australia as favorites to win the Asian Cup?

Share your thoughts below.

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