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Matthew Hill
LiveScore
Lionel Messi's free-kick helped Argentina past Ecuador
Lionel Messi's free-kick helped Argentina past Ecuador

LiveScore Daily is here to deliver all the big talking points from the world of football throughout the day. Keep refreshing this page for the latest stories in bite-sized chunks.

Messi magic

Lionel Messi's glorious free-kick helped Argentina sink Ecuador in their opening 2026 World Cup qualifier last night.

The world champions dominated possession but were unable to find a breakthrough until the final 15 minutes, when their talismanic captain bent into the top corner from 22 yards.

Messi told reporters: "Everyone always wants to beat Argentina and even more so now that we are the world champions. 

"We can't relax, we have to improve on what we've been doing.

"The objective is to qualify for the World Cup again. We really enjoyed what we did but we have to look ahead."

Lionel Scaloni's men next travel to face Bolivia on Tuesday evening.

Ranting Rodri

Manchester City midfielder Rodri believes European football's authorities must do more to "control" the exodus of players to Saudi Arabia's Pro League.

The Spaniard's old City team-mates Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte were among a host of top talents to sign lucrative deals in the Middle East this summer.

And the 27-year-old is concerned the trend will continue unless some form of action is taken by those in charge of the European game.

He said: "Evidently, European football loses with this situation and it is a very particular opinion of the players who decide to go out to these leagues.

"It is totally understandable due to the amounts of money they offer. I think it’s a personal issue for everyone to decide for themselves.

"We Europeans don't really like it. It must be controlled in some way, this drain of talent, because at first it seemed like it was just veterans in the twilight of their careers — but there are young people now who are leaving."

Rodri has had his say on the Saudi Pro League
Rodri has had his say on the Saudi Pro League

Van Dijk ban extended

Virgil van Dijk has been handed a further one-match ban for the incident which saw him shown a straight red card against Newcastle last month.

The Dutch defender, 32, was suspended for the win over Aston Villa after bringing down Alexander Isak in the Reds' 2-1 win at St James' Park the previous weekend.

But the heated discussions he had with referee John Brooks after the decision was made have now landed him further punishment.

An FA statement read: "The defender admitted that he acted in an improper manner and used abusive and insulting words towards a match official after being sent off in the 29th minute and the sanctions were subsequently imposed by an independent regulatory commission."

Virgil van Dijk has had a further game added to his suspension
Virgil van Dijk has had a further game added to his suspension

Big-Neym signings

Neymar believes his switch from Ligue 1 to the Saudi Pro League may have been an upgrade.

The Brazil ace swapped Paris Saint-Germain for Al-Hilal last month but has yet to make his debut for his new club due to injury.

However, the 31-year-old has been quick to rubbish suggestions that his move to the Middle East will impact his sharpness or condition when representing his country.

He said: "I assure you that soccer there [in Saudi Arabia] is the same. The ball is round, there's a goal.

"If you look at the names that have gone to the Saudi league, I don't know whether it is actually better than the French league or not. Everyone said the same when I went to France and it was the place I was hit the most in my life.

"I am sure that it won't be easy to win the Saudi championship. Other teams got stronger, have famous players. It will be very interesting and I am sure you will be watching."

Neymar has joined up with the Brazil squad ahead of their World Cup qualifiers
Neymar has joined up with the Brazil squad ahead of their World Cup qualifiers

Pepe's exit

Arsenal's former record signing Nicolas Pepe has moved to Turkish side Trabzonspor on a free transfer.

Ivorian winger Pepe, 28, joined the Gunners in 2019 from Lille in a £72million deal but failed to fire in English football.

He spent last season on loan with French outfit Nice and has now called time on his doomed Emirates spell for good.

Pepe, who scored 27 goals in 112 games for the North Londoners, told his new club's website: "I came here to become a champion and achieve success."

Captain Gundo

Germany have confirmed that Ilkay Gundogan has been made their new national team captain.

Boss Hansi Flick has handed the armband to the 32-year-old midfielder in place of Manuel Neuer, who is still facing months on the sidelines having broken his leg on a winter ski trip. 

Gundogan will form a leadership group alongside Bayern Munich ace Joshua Kimmich and all signs are that he will remain skipper even when Neuer returns to fitness.

Flick said: "The situation with Manu is that he has to get well again first. We hope he comes back soon but I'm not thinking about that at the moment."

Gundogan has started all four of his new club Barcelona's LaLiga games this term, having joined from Manchester City on a free transfer earlier this summer.

Worrall signs

Nottingham Forest have confirmed that their captain Joe Worrall has signed a contract extension until 2026.

The 26-year-old joined Forest as a youngster in 2011 and has gone on to make 220 appearances for his boyhood club in all competitions.

Worrall told the club's website: "I'm over the moon and just so pleased to extend my time with the club."

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