Tag Archives: barcelona

She"s in safe hands! Fabregas posts photo of newborn daughter after making another Champions League semi-final

She's in safe hands! Fabregas posts photo of newborn daughter after making yet another Champions League semi-final

By
Gerard Brand

PUBLISHED:

17:09 GMT, 11 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:09 GMT, 11 April 2013

Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas admitted yesterday was the happiest day of his life.

No, it wasn't just the fact he had made it through to an incredible fourth Champions League semi-final, but more the fact his girlfriend Daniella Semaan had given birth to their first child.

Newborn: Fabregas posted this picture of his daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan grasping his finger

Newborn: Fabregas posted this picture of his daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan grasping his finger

Fabregas played 62 minutes last night as his side reached the last four of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at the Nou Camp saw them go through on away goals.

And it was the former Arsenal midfielder who made way for Lionel Messi with PSG leading 1-0, with the Argentinian changing the game for the hosts.

Game changer: Fabregas made way for Messi in the 62nd minute, ultimately changing the game

Game changer: Fabregas made way for Messi in the 62nd minute, ultimately changing the game

But even better news was around the corner, and he tweeted: 'Yesterday it was the happiest day of my life, our daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan was born. Both her and Daniella are doing very well.'

The 25-year-old then posted a picture of his newborn daugther grasping his finger, and he'll want to get his hands on his own prize at the end of May, having won just one of the four semi-finals he has been involved in with Arsenal and Barcelona.

Fabregas and his Barcelona teammates will discover who stands in their way of another Champions League final tomorrow, with the draw for the semi-finals taking place in Nyon at 11am BST.

Champion: If Fabregas plays in the last four, it will be his fourth Champions League semi-final appearance

Champion: If Fabregas plays in the last four, it will be his fourth Champions League semi-final appearance

Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas

Lionel Messi sidelined for at least one game after limping out of Barcelona Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain

Messi faces rare spell on the sidelines.. but Barcelona are better off in Europe without their star man!

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

10:17 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:15 GMT, 3 April 2013

It's a sight that has been thankfully rare over the years for Barcelona fans and the millions who appreciate his genius.

But Lionel Messi is facing a spell on the sidelines of up to three weeks after being substituted at half-time during last night's Champions League tie in Paris with a hamstring injury.

The club have confirmed that he has a thigh injury and will miss Saturday's match at home to Real Mallorca at the very least. Messi even took to his Facebook page to confirm his knock isn't as bad as first feared.

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Allaying fears: Messi posted this picture on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying his hamstring injury was not as serious as first thought

Allaying fears: Messi posted this picture on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying his hamstring injury was not as serious as first thought

Check up: Messi is accompanied by defender Jordi Alba as he walks to the medical centre at Barcelona's training ground. Initial scans on his hamstring injury suggest the damage isn't as bad as first feared

Check up: Messi is accompanied by defender Jordi Alba as he walks to the medical centre at Barcelona's training ground. Initial scans on his hamstring injury suggest the damage isn't as bad as first feared

Lionel Messi has his hamstring injury assessed at Barcelona's training ground

Rare injury blow: Lionel Messi (second left) watched the second half of Barcelona's 2-2 draw with PSG after suffering a hamstring injury

Rare injury blow: Lionel Messi (second left) watched the second half of Barcelona's 2-2 draw with PSG after suffering a hamstring injury

Deadly: Before going off, Messi opened the scoring with his 57th goal of the season

Deadly: Before going off, Messi opened the scoring with his 57th goal of the season

MESSI'S APPEARANCES

Goals scored in brackets

2004-2005: 9 (1)
2005-2006: 25 (8)
2006-2007: 36 (17)
2007-2008: 40 (16)
2008-2009: 51 (38)
2009-2010: 53 (47)
2010-2011: 55 (53)
2011-2012: 60 (73)
2012-2013: 45 (57)

Depending on his recovery, it could also
see him absent from the return with PSG next week and subsequent La
Liga matches that will see Barca secure the title.

For someone who is always target No 1 for brutish defenders, Lionel Messi is astonishingly resilient.

His untouchable scoring record and long list of accolades are testament not only to his brilliance but a good injury record.

In fact this season, the 25-year-old has played 3,193 of a possible 3,420 minutes in the league and Champions League – meaning he's missed just 227 minutes of action in these competitions.

Representing a club inevitably involved to the business end of competitions, Messi is used to playing in excess of 50 matches a season for Barcelona and up to a dozen more for Argentina.

Whereas other star players, particularly in the Premier League, are rested or rotated for less important games, Messi is as likely to start against Granada and Getafe than he is against Real Madrid.

But the physical toll rarely shows on his body, with the Argentine suffering only four injury lay-offs of note over his career.

Concern: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova talks to Messi during last night's quarter-final, first leg

Concern: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova talks to Messi during last night's quarter-final, first leg

Bloodied: Messi took a knock to the knee, which led to him being taken off at half-time

Bloodied: Messi took a knock to the knee, which led to him being taken off at half-time

Pain: Messi grabs the back of his right leg during the match at the Parc des Princes

Pain: Messi grabs the back of his right leg during the match at the Parc des Princes

Before last night, he had not had a muscle injury for three-and-a-half years, when a calf problem ruled him out of a Champions League tie with Inter Milan and a league Clasico with Real in November 2009.

He was an unused substitute in the Inter tie as Pep Guardiola decided not to risk him.

He missed league games against Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao in September 2010 with a stretched ligament, but returned for a trip to Russia to play Rubin Kazan the following week.

Prior to that, you have to go back to the 2007-2008 season when a 20-year-old Messi missed about 10 weeks of the season with a couple of injury scares.

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

While Barcelona's quarter-final tie with PSG is delicately poised at 2-2, Messi's team-mates won't be too concerned by his absence.

The statistics show that, in Champions League games since Messi broke into the first team in 2004, they have won 71 per cent of matches without him and just 56 per cent of games when he's been rested or injured.

This is probably explained by Barcelona's run to the trophy in 2006, when Messi played just six of the club's 13 games.

Golden Balls: Messi, four time Ballon D'Or winner, shakes hands with David Beckham before the match

Golden Balls: Messi, four time Ballon D'Or winner, shakes hands with David Beckham before the match

By contrast, in La Liga, Barcelona have won 76 per cent of games since 2004 with him in the team.

But when Messi is absent, they have won only half.

The injury will bring to an end his record run of scoring in 19 consecutive league games. His first-half goal against PSG also drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo and Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz as top scorer in the Champions League with eight goals.

In addition, defender Javier Mascherano was taken off on a stretcher after 84 minutes with a knee injury and will be missing for 'four to six weeks' according to Barca coach Jordi Roura.

Injury worry: Messi's compatriot Javier Mascherano was stretchered off late in the game

Injury worry: Messi's compatriot Javier Mascherano was stretchered off late in the game

Messi's absence turns the spotlight on Barcelona's misfiring strike force.

Spain's David Villa and Pedro, Chile's Alexis Sanchez, and midfielder-cum-forward Cesc Fabregas have managed only three goals between them in Europe, trailing way behind Messi, the Champions League's leading scorer for the the last four seasons in a row.

Sanchez is clearly lacking in confidence, as was seen with two poorly-taken chances on Tuesday, though he did win the penalty for Xavi to put Barca 2-1 up near the end.

Misfiring: Barcelona will rely on the out-of-form Alexis Sanchez for the second leg next week

Misfiring: Barcelona will rely on the out-of-form Alexis Sanchez for the second leg next week

Villa has failed to recover his consistency and sharpness since breaking his leg at the Club World Cup in December 2011, and Fabregas has been short of form in recent weeks.

Pedro, who was suspended on Tuesday, should have recovered from a calf injury for the second leg, but has yet to get off the mark in the Champions League this season.

Cristian Tello is another option. The little-used, young winger scored one and set up the second for Messi in their 2-2 draw at Real Zaragoza in La Liga last Saturday, and brings a directness and pace to an attack that at times lacks a cutting edge.

He has scored one goal in the Champions League this season.

Beckham pleased with draw against Barcelona

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Bayern Munich lead the race to sign Luis Suarez – Liverpool striker"s agent is Pep Guardiola"s brother

Liverpool want to keep Bayern target Suarez… but the bad news is that his agent is Guardiola's BROTHER

By
John Edwards

PUBLISHED:

11:57 GMT, 25 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:03 GMT, 25 March 2013

Bayern Munich are ready to play their trump card in a three-way battle to land Luis Suarez after it emerged that Pep Guardiola's brother is advising the Liverpool striker on his future.

Senior sources at Juventus confirmed their intention to join the bidding for 40million-rated Suarez, while Guardiola's old club Barcelona are also in the frame.

But Serie A leaders Juve have privately
admitted Bayern are in pole position, due to Guardiola's brother Pere
being Suarez's agent.

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Former Barca boss Guardiola has been
promised substantial transfer backing, after agreeing two months ago to
replace Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season, and has earmarked
Liverpool's prolific frontrunner as his main target.

Bayern's seemingly unassailable lead
at the top of the Bundesliga guarantees Champions' League football next
season, while Pere seems certain to nominate the Allianz Arena, should
Suarez seek his advice over choosing a new club in the summer.

Juventus have not given up on the
26-year-old Uruguayan, but there is an acceptance that they are up
against it, given the Guardiola family link and the amounts involved.

With prize money for a Champions'
League semi-final place estimated at 40million, senior figures at Juve
have calculated that they need to reach the last four, at least, to have
a realistic chance of financing a deal.

Bayern are standing in their way, in a
twist that should add extra spice to an eagerly-awaited quarter-final
showdown next month between the two biggest names in Italian and German
football.

Though Suarez has been installed as
Juve's priority target, coach Antonio Conte and director Beppe Marotta
have lined up Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez as an alternative, should
they lose out to Bayern or even Barca in the race for the top prize.

Liverpool still hope to hang on to
Suarez, but are mindful of his longing for Champions' League football
and wary of his agent's possible influence on what promises to be this
summer's most intriguing transfer battle.

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure this season's star performer for Rodgers

Gareth Bale to sign for Barcelona says Gerard Pique

We'd love to have Bale at Barcelona, says Catalan giants' defender Pique

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

11:26 GMT, 10 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:51 GMT, 10 March 2013

Gareth Bale has been told he would be a great fit for Barcelona by the Catalan giants’ defender Gerard Pique.

Pique, who has made 29 appearances for Barca this season, said the La Liga leaders’ dressing room is always awash with talk of English football, and Bale is a hot topic.

Bale has scored ten goals in his last eight games for Tottenham, and will face fellow Player of the Year contender Luis Suarez when Spurs travel to Liverpool in the Premier League today.

Perfect fit: Pique said Tottenham's Gareth Bale is an 'unbelievable player' good enough to play for any side

Perfect fit: Pique said Tottenham's Gareth Bale is an 'unbelievable player' good enough to play for any side

And his stellar performances have caught the eye of Barcelona, where Pique is a huge admirer.

‘He is an unbelievable player, a great player – he has with all the conditions to play in the team that he wants to,’ Pique told the BBC.

‘He's doing a great job at Tottenham, and we will see. We want to have all the best players in our team.

Sensation: Bale (centre), tearing through the Inter Milan on Thursday, has scored ten in eight for Spurs

Sensation: Bale (centre), tearing through the Inter Milan on Thursday, has scored ten in eight for Spurs

‘It’s true that maybe, because he’s really quick and with the power he’s got, he fits a bit better at Real Madrid, but he can play here too definitely.

‘The best players can fit in any team, no matter the style.’

Pique, who re-joined boyhood club Barcelona from Manchester United in 2008, said the Premier League is also a reason to poke fun at one of his team-mates.

Hot topic: Pique (left), challenging Cristiano Ronaldo, said English football is always discussed at Barcelona

Hot topic: Pique (left), challenging Cristiano Ronaldo, said English football is always discussed at Barcelona

‘Fabregas loves to talk about Arsenal – but we say they have no chance to win anything this year!’ he said.

Barcelona are currently 14 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid in the Spanish La Liga, but face a difficult task on Tuesday at the Nou Camp to overcome a two-goal deficit against AC Milan in the Champions League.

Mario Balotelli scores as Milan beat Genoa 2-0

A booking within 30 seconds of coming on and a second-half goal… just another day at the office for Balotelli at Milan

By
Sunni Upal

PUBLISHED:

22:40 GMT, 8 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 9 March 2013

Mario Balotelli came off the bench fire 10-man AC Milan to a 2-0 win at Genoa in a crazy Serie A match for the former Manchester City striker on Friday.

The Italian was booked within 30 seconds of coming off the bench in the first half to replace the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who had just given Milan the lead.

Balotelli then latched onto Cristian Zapata's pass to fire home the second goal with an hour played.

Scroll down for video…

On target: Mario Balotelli scored Milan's second goal in their 2-0 win at Genoa

On target: Mario Balotelli scored Milan's second goal in their 2-0 win at Genoa

Regular: Balotelli scored for the fifth time in as many games since his move to Milan

Regular: Balotelli scored for the fifth time in as many games since his move to Milan

It was Balotelli's fifth goal in as many matches since joining Milan. The former City forward was making his first appearance since the Milan derby two weeks ago.

Former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini was also booked for diving as he tried to win a penalty in the second half.

Blow: Balotelli replaced the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who earlier gave Milan the lead

Blow: Balotelli replaced the injured Giampaolo Pazzini, who earlier gave Milan the lead

Eventful: The former City striker was booked just 30 seconds after coming off the bench

Eventful: The former City striker was booked just 30 seconds after coming off the bench

Milan came under extreme pressure after
Kevin Constant was sent off in the 65th minute for lashing out at Genoa
defender Cesare Bovo, but their defence held firm as they strengthened their grip on third place in Serie A ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Milan now have 51 points, two behind second-placed Napoli and four ahead of Inter Milan and Lazio.

VIDEO: Watch Mario Balotelli's clinical finish against Genoa

Marco Tardelli says Juventus will have to break the bank for Luis Suarez

Splash out, Old Lady: Juve should break the bank for Suarez, says legend Tardelli

By
Sunni Upal

PUBLISHED:

12:09 GMT, 4 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:56 GMT, 4 March 2013

Juventus legend Marco Tardelli believes that Liverpool star Luis Suarez could be the missing piece of the jigsaw for the Italian champions and solve their attacking problems.

Juve are six points clear of Napoli in
Serie A and on course to retain their title but they are desperately
seeking a big-name striker to add to their squad.

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Prolific: Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick at Wigan on Saturday to take his Premier League tally this season to 21

Prolific: Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick at Wigan on Saturday to take his Premier League tally this season to 21

Hero: Luis Suarez celebrates his hat-trick goal during Liverpool's dominant win

Suarez's outstanding season continued at Wigan on Saturday as he netted a hat-trick in Liverpool's 4-0 win.

Tardelli admitted, though, that luring Liverpool's prized asset to Turin could be a step too far and Juve have been linked with moves for Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez and Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic.

Tardelli told Tuttosport: 'It's obvious that a striker who scores 20 goals a season would be a good addition for any team. Good players are not cheap, though.'

'Suarez would be ideal due to his power, technique and directness, but I'd say signing him could be a complicated matter. (Gonzalo) Higuain could be a more realistic option.'

Juventus host Celtic in the second leg of their Champions League tie this week having won the first leg 3-0 in Glasgow.

Tardelli added: 'Teams like Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have something extra, but the Champions League is a strange competition.

'If Barcelona and Real Madrid are eliminated in this round, things are different for the other teams. And at that stage, Juventus could go far with their great organisation.'

Suarez's three-goal haul on Saturday took him to 21 Premier League goals for the season as he leapfrogged Robin van Persie in the race for the Golden Boot.

VIDEO: Watch match highlights and Suarez's stunning hat-trick…

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Rio Ferdinand tweets that anyone comparing Gareth Bale to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo "doesn"t know football"

Think Bale is on the same level as Ronaldo and Messi You don't know football, says Rio

PUBLISHED:

09:36 GMT, 27 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

09:43 GMT, 27 February 2013

Rio Ferdinand believes anyone who compares Tottenham’s Gareth Bale to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Barcelona magician Lionel Messi ‘doesn’t know football’.

The Manchester United defender tweeted to his four million followers that Bale needs to keep scoring at this rate for three or four years for there even to be a debate.

He wrote: ‘People mentioning Bale in the same breath as @Cristiano + Messi really don’t know football! Bale been 1 of best 2 in PL this year but….

'Don't know football!' Rio Ferdinand has slammed those comparing Gareth Bale (below) to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, saying the last two are on a different planet

'Don't know football!' Rio Ferdinand has slammed those comparing Gareth Bale (below) to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, saying the last two are on a different planet

Best in the world Gareth Bale's spectacular strike for Spurs against West Ham on Monday led to comparisons with the greatest players in the world

Best in the world Gareth Bale's spectacular strike for Spurs against West Ham on Monday led to comparisons with the greatest players in the world

‘He is not on CR7 + Messi’s level yet…he carries on doing what he is doing for 2/3yrs then there can be a debate.

‘Bale showed me a clean pair of heals once this year so I’m in good position to judge! CR7 + Messi have been on another planet for 4-5yrs #consistent #KeepItClean’

Bale has already scored 15 goals in the Premier League this season — earning Tottenham an astonishing 15 points on his own.

Number one: Cristiano Ronaldo reminded us of his quality by scoring two goals for Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final with Barcelona last night

Number one: Cristiano Ronaldo reminded us of his quality by scoring two goals for Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final with Barcelona last night

Hot property: Lionel Messi has scored 49 goals for Barcelona already this season

Hot property: Lionel Messi has scored 49 goals for Barcelona already this season

Without him Spurs would be way off their quest for fourth place, languishing down in ninth position in the table. Statistics show manager Andre Villas-Boas has been given Bale free rein to roam the park and be selfish — he is making fewer passes and creating fewer goals than last season but scoring far more.

When Cristiano Ronaldo was Bale’s age at 23, he won the Ballon d’Or after scoring scored 31 goals for Manchester United at a rate of one goal every 89 minutes, with a shooting accuracy of 59 per cent.

So far this season Bale has scored 15 goals at a rate of one goal every 135 minutes, with a shooting accuracy of 57 per cent.

Manchester United and Arsenal won"t win Champions League = Roy Hodgson

That's harsh, Roy! England boss writes off United's chances of beating Real (and he doesn't fancy Arsenal either…)

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

13:56 GMT, 19 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:03 GMT, 19 February 2013

Roy Hodgson does not expect another English triumph in the Champions League this year, claiming his favourites for the title come from Spain and Germany.

Hodgson has picked Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as his top tips to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May, dismissing Arsenal and Manchester United’s hopes.

Speaking to an Italian newspaper, the England manager also said he had been impressed by the progress made at Juventus since their return to the top.

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

‘My favourites are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern,’ said Hodgson. ‘Juventus is working well, too.’

Juve are virtually into the last eight after winning 3-0 at Celtic in the first leg of their last-16 encounter but he does not rate the chances of Arsenal, who take on Bayern Munich at the Emirates tonight, or Manchester United, runaway Barclays Premier League leaders, who drew 1-1 with Real in Madrid last week.

‘Arsenal and Manchester United have been unlucky with the draw,’ said Hodgson, during a lengthy interview with Gianfelice Facchetti, son of legendary Inter Milan defender Giacinto, who died in seven years ago.

His views are in line with the fear that the Premier League clubs have lost their stranglehold having dominated Europe for a few years.

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

In 2008, three of the four Champions League semi-finalists were from England but this year, for the second successive season, only two have qualified for the last 16.

Despite this and his acceptance that there is a diminishing pool of homegrown talent in the Premier League, Hodgson told Gazzetta’s Extra Time that he was optimistic about the future for the national team.

‘The win against Brazil was very important,’ said the England boss. ‘I am confident we can improve. We are finding the right balance between the old and new generations.

Jack Wilshere is a fantastic talent for the future. He lost a year through injuries but he is fit.’

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

He also said England fans were pleased to see an Englishman at the helm after the years under Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson.

‘The fans are happy and I suppose it is because the English team have an English manager and optimism is good because we have some young players,’ said Hodgson.

‘We had good managers but I think in a country with such important football history as England, Italy or Germany, the fans are more critical with a foreign manager. I knew this was the reality because I was national team coach in foreign countries.’

Rafael Nadal inspired by Ronaldo

Nadal takes inspiration from Ronaldo after Brazil legend watches Rafa's winning return

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

16:52 GMT, 18 February 2013

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UPDATED:

16:52 GMT, 18 February 2013

Rafael Nadal is drawing inspiration from Brazilian football great Ronaldo to continue his successful return from injury.

With Ronaldo watching, Nadal took an important step on Sunday by winning the Brazil Open for his first title after a seven-month layoff to treat his left knee. Now he wants to repeat the Brazilian’s successful story of recovery from much more serious injuries.

Nadal said Ronaldo is “an example” to be followed because of his determination to rebound from a series of knee injuries that threatened his career.

Fan: Former footballer Ronaldo (left) watched Rafael Nadal with Brazilian mixed martial artist Anderson Silva

Fan: Former footballer Ronaldo (left) watched Rafael Nadal with Brazilian mixed martial artist Anderson Silva

Despite winning again, the Spaniard is still bothered by his knee and said he is far from fully recovered, although he hopes the victory in front of Ronaldo will mark a new beginning in his career.

'Ronaldo is an example to a lot of people because of all that he was able to achieve despite what he had to go through with all the knee problems in his career,' Nadal said. 'He is definitely an example to me. He’s an example of determination and hard work.'

Ronaldo ended his career as one of the world’s top strikers after overcoming three serious knee operations. The former Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan striker won two World Cups with Brazil and remains the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 15 goals.

Nadal said he has always admired Ronaldo, and as a kid proudly took a photo with the striker when he played for Barcelona in the late 1990s.

'He was unstoppable, one of the best players of all time despite all the bad luck he had with the knee,' Nadal said.

The Spaniard was out of action since last year because a torn and inflamed tendon in his knee, an injury that he says is improving but still bothers him from time to time. He downplayed his difficulties compared to Ronaldo’s, but said he now has a better understanding of what the Brazilian had to go through.

'I didn’t have so many problems, I never needed the surgeries,' Nadal said. 'But I can imagine how hard it must have been for Ronaldo with the complicated surgeries that he had to go through.'

Taste of victory: Nadal bites the trophy of the Brazil Open after beating David Nalbandian

Taste of victory: Nadal bites the trophy of the Brazil Open after beating David Nalbandian

Nadal beat former world No. 3 David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-2, 6-3 in Brazil on Sunday, winning his 51st career title and first since beating Novak Djokovic to lift his seventh Roland Garros trophy last June.

The Brazil Open was Nadal’s second tournament since his return. He played at the VTR Open in Chile the week before, losing the singles and doubles final. The final in Brazil was only his eighth singles match since the comeback. He withdrew from the doubles in Sao Paulo to rest his knee for the singles tournament.

Nadal looked far from his best in his first two tournaments and said that the knee injury still limited him physically.

'There are days that the knee still hurts and it’s very complicated,' he said. 'I need some time to keep improving and become more competitive again. Let’s see how it goes.'

Road to recovery: Nadal found some form in Sao Paulo yesterday

Road to recovery: Nadal found some form in Sao Paulo yesterday

The 11-time Grand Slam champion admitted that the level of the competition in Brazil was not as high as in other tournaments but said that it wasn’t bad either, giving him the perfect opportunity to put his knee to test.

Nadal will play another clay-court tournament in Mexico later this month and the goal is to be fully fit again by the time Roland Garros arrives in May, although his future schedule will depend on how the knee holds up. He had intended to play in Indian Wells in March, but on Sunday said that he won’t know whether he will make it until closer to the tournament.

'We are thinking day-to-day, week-to-week,' the 26-year-old Nadal said. 'We’ll see how I feel before making a decision on where I’ll be playing in the near future, it will depend on how the knee improves.'