Happy Wednesday everybody. Welcome back to the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. I'm Mike Goodman and I hope you're enjoying your international break. Usually the first few days of the break are pretty slow as everybody gets on a plane and jets off to their respective home countries. Lucky for us, Lionel Messi went out to dinner and, believe it or not, that's a major news story. Plus, the NWSL season kicks off on Friday, and Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from football. So there's much to discuss.
And of course, there's still Champions League action with the women's quarterfinals taking place. So, let's get to it.
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📺 Top picks
All times U.S./Eastern.
Concacaf Nations League: Suriname vs. Mexico, 8 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
All times U.S./Eastern.
UEFA Women's Champions League: Lyon vs. Chelsea, 1:45 p.m.
UEFA Women's Champions League: PSG vs. Wolfsburg, 4 p.m.
Euro Qualification: Italy vs. England, 3:45 p.m.
Euro Qualification: Portugal vs. Liechtenstein, 3:45 p.m.
⚽ The Forward Line
Lionel Messi went out to dinner, and it caused a major scene
Superstars, they're not like me and you. Lionel Messi went home to Argentina and decided to have a nice dinner out. Unsurprisingly this caused a major scene. You've probably seen the pictures by now, but if not, they're pretty dramatic. None of this is surprising exactly. He was already the biggest soccer star in the world, and then he went and won a World Cup for Argentina, something that hadn't been done since Diego Maradona in Mexico in 1986, and well, you pile famous on top of famous and you get dang-near-causes-a-riot-when-he-wants-a-burger famous.
But it does raise questions about Messi's future. As of now he's out of contract with PSG at the end of the season. And the more that time goes by and he doesn't put pen to paper in Paris, the more likely it starts to seem that he could end up elsewhere. And while there's no galaxy in which Messi's life can be "normal" there are certainly degrees of difference in what the experience will be like depending on where he ends up.
We've seen this before with superstars. Thierry Henry famously came to MLS to play with the Red Bulls in New York because it offered a little bit of anonymity. All the way back in 2014 he said, "It's great not to be recognized. I feel comfortable in this town, and I feel like I can be myself." That, of course, doesn't mean the same would hold true for Messi. Nobody, not even Thierry Henry, not even David Beckham when he came to MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, not anybody is Messi.
The question isn't so much can Messi live a normal life, but would it be relatively more normal than what life looks like in Paris, or in Barcelona (should his old club somehow magically make the money appear to facilitate his return)? It's hard to say, but Roger Gonzalez analyzed the question, and here's what he came up with.
- Gonzalez: "Getting mobbed probably isn't happening much at all in Columbus, Colorado or Portland. Those places all have dedicated soccer fans, but simply being in areas with less population would already make a massive difference. I think he could maybe even get away with it in bigger places like Washington D.C. and Seattle as well."
But, as Gonzalez notes, those aren't the places where Messi would end up in MLS. He'd likely be ticketed for Miami and, well, we've already seen what happens there, and this was before he completed soccer with his World Cup victory.
🔗 Midfield Link Play
Mesut Ozil calls it a career
Mesut Ozil's career has finally come to an end. Now, you may be thinking that his career had been over for quite some time, and I can't really blame you for that. He's spent the last three years being hampered by injury while playing in Turkey, first for Fenerbahce and then for Istanbul Basaksehir. He's the walking embodiment of the old saw about how everything ends badly or else it wouldn't end.
But it's worth remembering that at Arsenal and Real Madrid and Werder Bremen before, this man was a passing genius. For a six-year stretch from 2007-2013, he averaged an assist every other match. In 2015-16, he had an insane 19 assists, one off the single-season Premier League record held by Kevin De Bruyne and Thierry Henry. Truly, he was a passing legend. But all legends come to an end.
And now let's get to some links:
🔗 Antonio Conte might be on the way out, but that won't fix Spurs writes, Chuck Booth.
🔗 Check out all the major storylines of Euro qualifying, courtesy of Jonathan Johnson.
🔗 Yet another 15-year-old prospect signs in the NWSL, this time with the San Diego Wave.
🔗 Elsewhere in women's soccer, Herve Renard looks set to jump to the women's game with the France.
🔗 Erling Haaland has pulled out of Norway international duty with a groin issue.
🔗 AS Roma set a women's soccer attendance record in Italy during their Champions League quarterfinal loss to Barcelona.
🔗 For more on the status of Messi's contract, don't miss Fabrizio Romano's Here We Go transfer notes.
🔗 Arsenal Women lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, getting shutout 1-0 despite taking 26 shots.
🔗 Attacking Third: Preseason rankings and predictions with kickoff only days away!
🔗 House of Champions: Fabrizio Romano says even Carlo Ancelotti can't survive not winning at Real Madrid
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: The crew chat about how to replace the injured Tyler Adams.
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: ADVANCE.
💰 The Back Line
💵 Best bets
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend's best bets.
- Concacaf Nations League: Suriname vs. Mexico
💰 THE PICK: Under 3.5 goals (-155) -- Suriname aren't a good team obviously. But they're ranked 12th in Concacaf which isn't total pushover territory. Their three Nations League matches far have constituted a 3-0 loss in Mexico, a 3-1 loss at Jamaica and 1-1 home draw with Jamaica. Don't expect any miracles, but Mexico aren't exactly a high-scoring squad and Suriname are good enough to keep this performance respectable.